Populism + Nationalism = Donald Trump

The phenomenon of Donald Trump is unlike anything we have ever seen in American politics. Or is it? With Trump having been a charismatic public figure for the last 30 years, it would be incorrect to assert that any group "created" him. Nevertheless, you might say that the conditions for his political ascension were set in place by a group that some of us call the "ruling class", or "elites". Conservatives like myself, have looked at Mr. Trump's rise with puzzlement, not understanding how so many who proudly refer to themselves as "conservative" could support this man who so obviously is not. With the essential element of conservatism being human experience, we should know that the answers to questions like this are almost always found in history and philosophy. It is safe to say that everything that is, once was at a different time.

Over the years I have dismissed the left's accusations of racism and nationalism as simply the worst kind of politics. "Surely they do not believe what they are saying", I thought, and when they cited examples, I would always come back with something like "that is not conservatism, conservatism is....". I have come to believe though, that while yes, modern liberals obviously do exploit and prey on the fears of minorities for political gain, many if not most, really do believe what they are charging. With such an erroneous understanding of what conservatism truly is, we should not be surprised. It is not necessarily the modern liberal's fault for this labeling error though. Since true conservatives have needed a few of the "others" to form a voting coalition, they (conservatives) have not only allowed this false identification, but have encouraged it. This inflated the movement's numbers and led us to believe that conservatism was much more popular than it really was. Self-identification polling, by the way, reinforced this denial. In short, as the author of this piece recently pointed out, conservative Republicans tend to over-estimate the conservatism of their base. So therefore, the elites are not the only ones responsible for Mr. Trump's ascension.

Before I go too far in this analysis, let me go ahead and say that I do not view Trump or his supporters as racist. Sure, there are a few, but they are a really small minority and every constituency has them. These people are however, proudly nationalistic. Some are also quite patriotic. I realize that the left gets these two terms mixed up, but they are not the same. Patriotism is simply the love of country, whereas nationalism goes further, in that it blames the country's problems on other countries, or other nationalities, or specific groups. When a patriot speaks of "American exceptionalism", he is not talking about the superiority of a people, since Americans originate from all parts of the world. No, he recognizes that America is different because of liberty, the free market, and the civil society. The nationalist, on the other hand, is fiercely devoted to nationality, or in the American nationalist's case, country. He tends to support a protectionist trade policy, while being skeptical of foreign governments. In short, the Trump nationalist both loves his country and is angry, not only at some of his fellow Americans, but also at the foreign country's America trades with. Very few of these people are racist. They don't have any general animus against Asian Americans, or Mexican Americans or any race of Americans. Generally, Trump nationalists are decent, hard working people, who play by the rules, but have become angry at their situation and the people they believe is to blame for it.

The other ingredient in this movement is populism, and populism most assuredly is not conservatism. It's not even close. Most people who claim the philosophy of conservatism, either trace their intellectual roots to the writings of Edmund Burke, or the classical liberalism of John Locke or Adam Smith. Populism, on the other hand, is a left of center political and economic philosophy. The "populist movement" that began in the United States in the late 1800's, was a precursor to the modern progressive movement, also known as modern liberalism, which is the direct opposite of classical liberalism. Contrary to the small government and free trade policies of modern conservatives/classical liberals, populists advocated for a strong central government, and fiat money, in order to create inflation to benefit farmers. Though mostly an agrarian movement, they would later align with labor. As previously stated, many populist ideas were successfully co-opted and implemented by the progressive movement. The Federal Reserve Act, the graduated Income Tax, the direct election of Senators, and the removal of the gold standard, all originated with populism. All of this "progress", by the way, was opposed by conservatives.

When populism, or progressivism, is combined with nationalism, the result is fascism. Now before you accuse me of  any Godwin's Law violation, please try your best to get Hitler out of your mind. Fascism existed before Hitler, with people like Mussolini, and it exists today with men like Vladimir Putin. As noted by author Jonah Goldberg and others, American progressives were early supporters of both Italian and German fascism.

So to summarize, while Donald Trump is not a racist or a Nazi, he is indeed a fascist, and just like any other brand of progressivism, Trump's "good intentions" will require the existence of a powerful central government, with a powerful executive to carry them out. The implementation of his plans will necessitate force, and history shows that these policies will have very negative consequences for our economy, particularly the groups they are supposed to help. Trump's trade policies, for example, will result in the enormous inflation of prices on the every day goods that common people require. Also, other government's will respond to these taxes with tariffs of their own, which will result in a reduction of American exports.

Republicans and Trump supporters fail to understand why so many conservatives like myself, can not support him in the general election. It's not that he isn't conservative enough, like other moderate nominees from past elections that we have held our nose and voted for. It's that he isn't conservative at all. He does indeed fit the modern liberal's definition of the word, which as I noted above, is incorrect. But he most certainly is nowhere close to any true definition, be it Burkean, Lockean, libertarian, or social conservative. No, Mr Trump is a modern liberal, in every sense of the word. He is also a nationalist, a demagogue who stirs up the masses by blaming America's problems on the Chinese, the Mexicans, and the banks, and he has convinced American workers that free trade is their enemy, promising to expand on the oldest form of "picking winners and losers", tariffs. So please stop demanding that conservatives fall in line and get behind this man, just to stop Mrs. Clinton. You have to understand, we don't see him as being any different than her. They are two sides of the same coin, and equally as dangerous. A friend of mine, a Trump backer, who later became an ex-friend, not too long ago declared to me that "conservatism is dead!". That statement shocked me when I first heard it, but that is exactly what Trumpeters believe. They believe conservatism has failed, when in fact it has not been tried. If you are a conservative and expect our philosophy to be advanced under a Trump regime, you will be severely disappointed. You see, not only do Trump supporters not care that he is not adequately conservative, they are glad of it.


Missouri Protest a Pathetic Example of Our Times

When I first heard about the Missouri football players threatening to not play because of a certain "cause", my knee jerk reaction was that these young men should lose their scholarships. When you add up the total value of an athletic scholarship, which includes medical, use of world class facilities, coaching, room and board, food, tuition, and future earnings, the true worth of an athletic scholarship is difficult to measure, but obviously quite valuable. As for the few elite athletes who are able to play professional football, is there any better place to showcase their talent than a major college program in the Southeastern Conference? Not only that, but the University of Missouri is considered by most to be one of the more elite public institutions in the country. In the fourteen member Southeastern Conference, Missouri is one of only four members of the prestigious American Association of Universities, or AAU. I don't know the numbers, but it is probably a safe bet that the overwhelming majority of the student athletes who participated in this protest, were not candidates for academic scholarships. In fact, many likely did not even meet the minimum admission standards of MU. Bottom line, a scholarship is a privilege, something to be respected and valued. It is not something to be taken lightly. Some causes are good causes though, but letting down your coaches, your fellow teammates, your fans, your alumni, for something they have nothing to do with, is just not right. If your cause is such a serious thing that you just can't play for the University, then you should transfer. There is no shame in quitting a bad situation, but using your scholarship as a form of blackmail is not the way to go.

But what of this "cause"? What exactly was the reason for this walkout threat? Though I have read several articles, honestly I am still not sure. I see the word "racial tensions" in many of the articles, but what does that mean? What are the specific incidents? This commentary mentions the school President's lack of response to certain events. One of these alleged acts was a swastika made with human feces in a dorm bathroom. If this happened, and it is highly likely that it did not, was this not the act of an individual? What exactly did these students want the President to do? No person was charged. In fact, a police report was never even made. Should the President's reaction be to ban students from forming Nazi symbols with doo-doo? Oh and by the way, are not swastikas associated more with anti-Semitism than racism against blacks? One student activist, a young son of a millionaire, actually went on a hunger strike, demanding that the President resign and admit his "white privilege". In his letter to the school, he mentioned racial slurs against black students. No specific cases were cited, just a generalization. Again, what was the President supposed to do about that? Is it illegal to say the N word? Not in America, it isn't. I know that if many left-wingers had their way, the First Amendment would be repealed, but as of now, it is still the Law of the Land. So again, what is a University President supposed to do about that? In addition to the dookie swastika, the young man mentioned the removal of graduate student health insurance subsidies, and MU's cancellation of Planned Parenthood contracts. So this is what the football players were threatening a walkout in support of? Really? So essentially, all of this was over, well, nothing, absolutely nothing.

What an embarrassing moment for the University of Missouri, the state of Missouri, the students, the administrators, and the coaches. Not only did they empower a mob, but they set a horrible precedent that players, with the threat of not playing, can bring down a University President. Who knows how else they will use this new-found power? Maybe next time they'll demand the defensive coordinator be fired because he yells too much and that hurts their feelings. They showed that bullying works, and that you don't even need a specific reason to gain attention. All you need are vague claims. Worse, they once again bowed to the race hustlers. In this day and age, you don't even need proof to bring down somebody or to gain attention for yourselves, all you have to do is scream racism, and the fearful will cower, because nobody wants that charge. It matters not whether the charge is true. The charge itself is enough to destroy. Is this the type of world that Martin Luther King jr dreamed of, a world where the charge of racism is used to bully and destroy those with whom you disagree? We've all seen those videos of students like Vivian Malone and James Meredith walking dauntlessly in front of people screaming threats at them. Those individuals had courage, real courage. These pampered little babies at Missouri and other colleges and universities across the country, don't possess any courage at all. Jones and Meredith wanted equality. These adult children of today want something else, the "right" to get free stuff, which of course, is not really free. This is a pathetic time, a time when leadership is lacking. At some point hopefully, that entitlement shark will finally be jumped, and the taxpaying public will have had enough. For now though, I guess we'll just move on to something else.


VA Scandal Is Living Study on Big Government Bureaucracies

"For the lesson of the V.H.A.'s success story -- that a government agency can deliver better care at lower cost than the private sector -- runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today's Washington."- Paul Krugman, liberal economist, idiot.

Sometimes I wonder if the conservative/ libertarians are actually a minority in the Republican Party. Seriously, what is it that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner really believe in? Is winning elections, beating the Democrats, all they really care about? Do they even have a philosophy?

Apparently they do not, and just in case they do, that philosophy surely isn't small government conservatism, because if it were, if they really understood that the administrative state was out of control and had become the "fourth branch of government", if they really understood that government bureaucracies are always less efficient and effective than the private sector, if they really believed that, then they would stop with the politics of associating the VA scandal with Democrats, and instead focus on the fact that the VA is socialized medicine in it's purest form and is therefore evidence that socialized medicine does not work too well.

You see, when President Obama and the Democrats point out that the VA has always been a disaster, instead of stating that he made it worse, the GOP should agree. Yes that's right. Instead of going for the short term political gain, they should be pointing out that he is correct, that regardless of who runs the government agency, a government agency can never deliver anything, especially something as important as health care, as good and as efficient as the private sector. If anything should kill Obamacare and the idea for single payer, it should be the VA scandal.

But the Republicans in Washington do not seem to think this way. No, they are too worried about winning their next election. It's almost as if the conservative philosophy is a second language to them.

The irony of all of this is that they actually have it wrong. Just as being a good teammate in a team sport leads to great individual accomplishment, thinking big picture/long term, in this instance, will actually benefit them in the short term.They think they are acting in a way that will help them win in November, but they could not be more wrong. This is a majority conservative country just waiting for true conservatism, and when it does not appear, conservatives stay home.

I guess it's hard to think like a conservative though, when you are not one.


A Rare Criticism of Dr. Sowell

In all my years blogging at numerous websites, I have never, not once, criticized anything written by Professor Thomas Sowell. To a libertarian conservative, Sowell is a rock star. But his latest column on Ted Cruz could not be anymore wrong, not just wrong about Cruz, but wrong about the Republican Party, wrong about everything. It almost broke my heart to read it, and reading Ben Howe's (Red State) commentary on Sowell's article was even more painful, not because Howe was incorrect or unfair in his critiscism, but because he was right. Sowell, unbelievably made establishment/ ruling class Republican arguments. Shockingly to me, Dr Sowell sounded like one of "them", the GOP corporatists, the neo-statists, the ruling class.

Sowell wrote:
The most charitable interpretation of Ted Cruz and his supporters is that they are willing to see the Republican party weakened in the short run, in hopes that they will be able to take it over in the long run, and set it on a different path as a more purified conservative party. 
I'm not even going to touch the ridiculousness of what he wrote after that, but I do want to tackle the notion of purity in the Republican Party. It's not about purity, really. It's about the basics, and the ruling class GOP doesn't even come close.

Conservatives are often reminded of O'Donnell in Delaware and Murdock in Indiana. But you know, I welcome that conversation. The point is, if Lugar and Castle were nominated, and both of them went on to win, what would we have won? Seriously, are liberal Republicans better than liberal Democrats? In the Bush administration, we had the Presidency and both houses of Congress, and did the deficit go down? No, it went up like crazy, record deficits at the time. And you tell me all we need to do is elect more Republicans? What about the size of government under Bush, with the Medicare entitlement and the expansion of the administrative state? And you are still trying to tell me that we need to be quiet and focus on trying to "win", that we won't be able to accomplish anything until the GOP takes back the Senate? Are you serious? Are you on dope or something? Has it affected your short term memory?

Don't forget folks, the Tea Party movement did not begin as a reaction to Obama. The Tea Party movement came about because of Bush, and things like TARP, and the auto bailout.

We're going off the cliff folks, and if we hit that valley in ten seconds or ten minutes, does it really matter? I'm sorry, but these establishment Republicans need to be exposed, and if we lose an election here and there, so what? Lugar is vocally and monetarily supporting Democrats now, and Charlie Crist, not only is he a Democrat these days, but he spoke at Barack Obama's 2012 convention. And you tell me, we just need to elect more Republicans? Wrong answer my friend. We need to elect conservatives, and Republicans that are not conservative, well they need to be revealed.


Radical by David Platt- Book Review

So why would an unpaid blogger, writing on a website that nobody reads, take the time to criticize a book so roundly praised by "church leaders" as David Platt's "Radical". Well the answer is simple. I'm a Baptist. You see, we Baptists do not just follow and trust what out pastor, deacons, or other "leaders" tell us. No, we Baptists, who believe in the priesthood of the believer, actually tend to show up to church with our Bible's in hand, and believe it or not, when our preacher says something we do not agree with, well, we tell him that we think he is wrong. Knowing that all Baptist churches are autonomous and believe different things, we may even pack up and join another congregation from time to time, even going as far as to congregate with Methodists.

While I certainly love my church family and have the utmost respect for our young pastor, I do however, wish he had not exposed us to Dr. Platt's Bible Study, at least not the videos. In fact, I considered my first exposure to Platt's teaching to have been a form of child abuse. While sitting there with my 8 year old, Dr. Platt kept screaming over and over again "Hate your mother! Hate your father! Hate your Mom and Dad!" Now I know what verse he was preaching about (Luke 14:26), and I understand the context of that passage. But my 8 year old son was obviously confused, mainly because it took what seemed like a good half hour for the pastor to get around to that context, which he still did not explain very well. If his purpose was to shock, he did much worse. He made me quite angry. That evening I had to sit down with my son and discuss what happened to him that morning. After that day, I decided that I was not going to sit through another minute of these videos without first reading the book. After all, maybe I was wrong about this guy.

Well I did indeed read his book and in fairness, I found many good things in it. I certainly respect the man for his mission work and his passion, and I very much enjoyed the inspirational stories of believers from all over the world.  I found a few things, however, to be quite disturbing and in my opinion, not Biblical. Among those were: his emphasis on works and the questioning of other's salvation, his rejection and criticism of the traditional church, and his attack on the American dream and "materialism".

I Chapter 2, Dr. Platt scoffs "The modern day Gospel says 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore follow these steps and you can be saved.'" Well yes, count me as one who believes that! Perhaps us modern day Gospel types have read Acts 16:31, or Acts 2:21, or maybe Romans 10:9. Dr. Platt even goes so far as to call the Sinners Prayer "superstitious". The whole second chapter is quite shocking actually, as he tells how he fears that many people who think they are saved, actually are not. So much for "blessed assurance". No, according to most of Chapter 2, if you are not in a constant state of fear that drives you to tireless works, then you are not saved. Strangely though, he ends this Chapter by writing, "You might think that this sounds as though we have to earn our way to Jesus through radical obedience...." I was listening to the audio version of the book when the author made this statement, and I screamed out "YES, that's exactly what it sounds like!" He finally ended the chapter by referencing Ephesians 2:8, which seemed strangely out of place. I compare that chapter to hearing a speaker go into a long racist diatribe and then end his speech with, "But I'm not a racist." Maybe that is a poor analogy, but my point is, that regardless of the way the chapter ended, the reader in no way leaves it thinking that the author believes that anything less than exceptionally good works and obedience is required to get to heaven.

While reading this book, I thought about one of those old Billy Graham revivals and how Dr. Platt would likely scoff at such an event, where hundreds of people walk down front and recite that Sinners Prayer that he calls "superstitious". When Reverend Graham invites people to accept Jesus into their hearts, would Dr. Platt ask, as he does in his book, "Does Billy Graham really think that Jesus needs their acceptance?" Dr. Platt infers that everyone, yes every single believer, is called required to do global mission work. I crossed out the word called, because he doesn't believe global missions to be a calling, but that all, every single believer, is commanded to go to foreign lands, based on the great commission. But if missionaries are not answering a calling, are pastors, is anybody? This is strange and unbiblical to me. I believe that if one is led by the Holy Spirit, it is quite possible that he will never leave the city he was born in. Dr. Platt has done many great things as a missionary, but are we second class Christians because God has not asked us to do the same things? This type of thinking is common for a "radical" personality. The radical quits eating pork, and suddenly everybody has to quit eating pork. The radical gives up secular music, and suddenly everybody has to give up secular music. Dr. Platt has obviously been called to go to foreign lands, so obviously everybody is.

The most offending part of this book though, is the author's lack of understanding of capitalism and free markets, and his rejection of the American idea. In one of his anecdotes, he speaks of a "nationalistic" congregation and he continually shames Americans for being so rich, while the world is so poor. At times I thought I was reading something written by Jim Wallis. I thought to myself, this is not a book written for the religious right, but the religious left. It is not only anti-American, but anti-capitalist. This is the language of liberation theology or social justice, and it is a guilt that this American dreamer, this pursuer of happiness, outright rejects. We should not be spurning the American dream, as Dr. Platt teaches, but rather we should be embracing it, and exporting it. If we live in a mansion that requires a full time landscaper, a full time housekeeper, and a full time cook, are we noble for "downsizing" and putting those three people out of work? Perhaps we should all stop buying new clothing and instead shop at thrift stores. Being one who has worked in retail for the last 15 years, would that be helping people like me and my family? Of all of the charities Rockefeller and Carnegie created in their later years, none of those societal contributions compare to what the mass production of steel or the refining of oil did for this country, and yes they did these great things solely for the purpose of making a profit. As the great Adam Smith once wrote "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." But if the jobs these men provided, and their contribution to an improved American standard of living, still do not impress you as much as their charity, ask yourself, would that charity have ever been possible if the money was not first made?

These "poor" countries Dr. Platt speaks of, are poor precisely because they are not free, because the people there despise the wealthy and support demagogic dictators that exploit their envy. And why does this destructive economic mindset exist in these countries? Well obviously the Marxists have influence in the third world, but the Marxists would have gotten nowhere if the foundation for their class warfare was not first laid by religion. Now obviously I am not opposed to charity and helping the poor. I am aware though, that based on history, the best standard of living for the poor is found in countries where markets are free and people are allowed, even encouraged to make as much as they can, and to spend that money they make. It is no coincidence that these countries are also the most generous. In South and Central America, where liberation theology and socialism rule the day, poverty is a way of life.

In conclusion, perhaps my criticism is too harsh. Maybe my perception is completely wrong. Often times, one person can see things totally different than another. This could very well apply in this situation, because after praising "Radical", my pastor steps up to the podium and preaches a wonderful sermon, that to me sounds nothing like David Platt. But I read what I read and thus had to comment on it. Why? Because I'm a Baptist.

Other reviews of "Radical" can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.