May 19, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service scandal now devouring the Obama administration — the outrageous use of the federal taxing authority to target tea party and other conservatives — certainly makes for meaty partisan politics.
But this scandal is about more than partisanship. It’s bigger than whether the Republicans win or the Democrats lose.
It’s even bigger than President Barack Obama. Yes, bigger than Obama.
It is opening American eyes to the fundamental relationship between free people and those who govern them. This one is about the Republic and whether we can keep it.
And it started me thinking of years ago, of my father and my uncle in Chicago and how government muscle really works.
Because if you want to understand The Chicago Way of things in Washington these days, with the guys from Chicago in charge of the White House and the federal leviathan, there’s one place you start:
You start in Chicago.
My father and uncle ran a small business, a supermarket on the South Side. Uncle George worked in the front, my father in the butcher shop in the back. My uncle had been a teacher. My father had plowed his fields with a mule.
They were immigrants who came here from Greece with nothing in their pockets but a determination to work, and the belief that here, in America, no other power could roll in with tanks and put their boots on the necks of their children.
My father and uncle, like the rest of the family, valued education and books and free political debate. And so at large extended family Sundays, we’d all sit around the dinner table, many uncles and aunts and cousins, young and old.
There were conservatives and socialists, Roosevelt Democrats and Reagan Republicans and a few bewildered, equivocal moderates in between, everyone squabbling, laughing, telling stories.
No matter whose house we were visiting, the TV was never turned on after dinner. Instead, we’d have coffee and fruit and dessert and argument. We had different views, we loved each other, and even strangers who showed up were expected to join in, to debate education, the presidency, social issues, the war, drugs, bluejeans, long hair, baseball, everything.
Uncle Alex was the uncle who told us young people how best to make our points. He ran a snack shop in the Bridgeport neighborhood — the legendary home of Chicago mayors and Democratic machine bosses.
“Don’t wait for a ticket,” he’d say, and puff on his cigar, always in a white shirt and tie, on those family Sundays. So we’d just jump in when we could, like the rest.
One Sunday, I must have been 12 or 13, I decided to ask what I thought was an intelligent question that was something like this:
We talk politics every Sunday, we fight about this and that, so why aren’t you politically active outside?
Why don’t you get involved in politics?
There was an immediate silence. The older cousins looked away. The aunts and uncles stared at me in horror, as if I’d just announced I was selling heroin after school.
You could hear them breathing. No one spoke. I could feel myself blushing.
Someone quickly changed the subject to some safe old story. It could have been the one about how our grandfather named the family mule — a white, big-headed animal — after President Truman. My sin seemed forgotten.
But I couldn’t forget it. I couldn’t understand how we could argue about politics over baklava and watermelon and coffee, but not put it into practice.
We could support a political candidacy, we could donate or work for one or another politician that we agreed with.
This is America, I said.
“Are you in your good senses?” said my father. “We have lives here. We have businesses. If we get involved in politics, they will ruin us.”
And no one, not the Roosevelt Democrats or the Reagan Republicans, disagreed. The socialists, the communists, the royalists, everyone nodded their heads.
This was Chicago. And for a business owner to get involved meant one thing: It would cost you money and somebody from government could destroy you.
The health inspectors would come, and the revenue department, the building inspectors, the fire inspectors, on and on. The city code books aren’t thick because politicians like to write new laws and regulations. The codes are thick because when government swings them at a citizen, they hurt.
And who swings the codes and regulations at those who’d open their mouths? A government worker. That government worker owes his or her job to the political boss. And that boss has a boss.
The worker doesn’t have to be told. The worker wants a promotion. If an irritant rises, it is erased. The hack gets a promotion. This is government.
So everybody kept their mouths shut, and Chicago was hailed by national political reporters as the city that works.
I didn’t understand it all back then, but I understand it now. Once there were old bosses. Now there are new bosses. And shopkeepers still keep their mouths shut. Tavern owners still keep their mouths shut.
Even billionaires keep their mouths shut.
One hard-working billionaire whose children own the Chicago Cubs dared to open his mouth. Joe Ricketts considered funding a political group critical of Obama before last year’s campaign. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, made it clear that if the Cubs wanted City Hall’s approval to refurbish decrepit Wrigley Field, Ricketts better back off.
It happened. He backed off. It was sickening. But it was and is Chicago.
And now — with the IRS used as political muscle and the Obama administration keeping that secret until after the president was elected — America understands it too.
Earlier today, 16 Republicans voted to bring a bill to floor of the United States Senate that they had not read. That is not because they are lazy. It is because the bill was not available for ANY United States Senator to read because it had not been written completely. For all these Senators know, the bill to curtail our second amendment rights might contain riders funding or expanding the powers of Obamacare. It will likely contain earmarks for other special interest spending, something that is not unheard of in Washington, DC. If the TARP bill contained a $2 million earmark for the makers of wooden arrows which everyone agreed was the cause of our economic recession, anything is possible. Yet, here we are in 2013 passing bills so we can find out what is in them.
While I commend Senator McConnell for voting with the minority, today’s vote demonstrates both his weakness and his lack of conviction for preserving the Constitution. I could never imagine 16 Democrats abandoning Harry Reid to vote their ‘conscience’, in part because it would imply they have one. The very first thing Harry Reid did after the vote was take to the floor of the United States Senate and thank his good friend, John McCain. Perhaps McCain and his good friend Lindsey Graham, up for re-election in 2014, are the new leaders of the Republican Party.
The GOP needs to do a lot of soul searching if it wants to regain majority status. Considerable effort has been expended blaming the Tea Party movement for recent electoral losses. I beg to differ. Our legislators read bills before voting on them!
Karl Rove published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed that Republicans lost the 2012 Presidential election, in part, because Democrats maintain a significant data advantage over Republicans. While this may be true, Rove’s contention is that with its own “army of computer engineers, mathematicians and social scientists” Republicans will be able to win elections they would have lost otherwise. As a practicing mathematician, I can tell you that Rove has no idea what he is talking about.
Rove’s contention is the following: By hiring an “army” of mathematicians and data analysts as Obama did in 2012, the RNC or the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee can sift through voter files in order to rank and track likely voters. This is what marketers attempt to do when they sell soap. Unfortunately, politicians are not soap and no ad in Field and Stream of Mitt Romney and his lovely wife wrapped in white bath towels hopping out of the shower holding bars of Dove will make voters more likely to vote. The reason is simple. Voters HATE politicians. We hate them. We do not trust them. When people knock on our door or call us on the phone asking for our vote, we lie just to get rid of you. It is not accidental that 5 out of 6 Americans think Congress is doing a lousy job. So what would a mathematician tell Karl Rove if he asked for my advice about how to improve upon his 1.3% success rate in the 2012 elections? I would tell Karl to do some principal component analysis.
What is that? In short, it is a statistical tool to identify the most significant drivers of a physical process, in this case an election result. In other words, all other things being equal what is most important to voters to ensure that enough of them get out the door to vote for a candidate. I will save Karl the time and expense of hiring an “army” of mathematicians and answer the question for him. When voters are dissatisfied, if the opposition presents a stark contrast with the status quo and is believable, they win. That is how Obama won in 2008 and why Romney lost in 2012. When there is more than one election on the ballot, results are often driven by the result at the top of the ticket. It is just that simple. You do not have to be a mathematician to appreciate this fact. Rove does and is using his op-ed to deflect criticism.
A few facts. Obama lost 5% of his 2008 vote in 2012 yet still managed to win. This was, in part, because many voters were uncertain that the philosophical father of Obamacare, someone who spent the latter part of his campaign praising government run health insurance, would provide a significant enough contrast to Obama.
By campaigning as the 41st vote against the Obama agenda, Scott Brown increased turnout in Republican leaning counties by 77% to become the first Republican to represent Massachusetts in the United States Senate since Harry Truman was President. Two years later after embracing parts of the Obama agenda, Brown lost handedly to a more authentic liberal.
Karl Rove contends that “personal messaging” will help Republicans sway potential voters. Rove believes that was a source of Obama’s success. How many “independents” did “Republican” Linda McMahon’s door hangers sway when they asked voters to elect her to overturn the President’s health care law while simultaneously asking voters to re-elect the President? Apparently not many as McMahan lost in 2012 by the same 12 point margin that she lost by in 2010. Voters recognized a pander and we’re not swayed.
For all his years in politics, it is apparent that Karl Rove has never spent election day in an urban inner city neighborhood. Obama won re-election because he out-hustled Romney in urban neighborhoods where the vote favors Democrats. This was old-fashioned Democrat machine politics pure and simple. Republicans would do well to copy the Democrat model for election day grassroots organizing and focus efforts there. They should have local poll watchers maintain their own voter lists and deploy an “army” of volunteer election lawyers and poll watchers as the Democrats do.
Rove concludes “erasing the GOP’s data deficit is no substitute for effective messages and strong candidates.” I agree. While Rove wants to focus his efforts on helping Republicans “deliver those messages better,” I believe that our efforts would be better spent on delivering a more effective believable message that contrasts with the Democrats. In a country where conservatives outnumber liberals in 47 out of 50 states, you would think politicians would pander to conservatives to try and win elections. Clearly, there is a disconnect. You do not need to be a mathematician to appreciate that a believable message is the meat that gets your supporters to the polls. Everything else is gravy.
— FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks) March 21, 2013
“Every Republican officeholder and candidate in the country should have two words tattooed on their hands; growth and opportunity.”
Those are the reasons U.S. Senator Ted Cruz gave for introducing his ‘Restore Growth First – Defund Obamacare’ amendment to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. Cruz seeks to frame the conversation emphasizing that restoring economic growth from the current average of 0.8% to the historical average of 3.3% will go a long way toward solving our unemployment problem, balancing our budget and preserving our military strength. Cruz understands that Obamacare will accentuate our economic difficulties. Attendant issues are forcing employers to cancel coverage as a result of rising premiums and limit employee hours to escape coverage mandates. As such, Cruz proposes to postpone funding Obamacare at least until our economy begins to grow again.
Yet, Cruz is a realist understanding that when there are 55 Democrats in the U.S. Senate “emphatically in favor of Obamacare,” the likelihood of passing such legislation is slim. Nonetheless, Cruz is pressing on as part of a broader effort to turn the conversation to issues that benefit Republicans, and Americans! Cruz wants Obamacare to be part of a broader conversation about tax and regulatory reform and the burdens government is placing on small business. Cruz is offering his amendment in no small part so that an amended continuing resolution will return to the House of Representatives and force Republican leadership to revisit their decision to re-authorize the Obama-Pelosi-Reid budget of 2009 that the federal government is continuing to operate under. Cruz understands that visiting these issues at every availability will shift the topics of conversation from gun control and immigration to those of interest; not only by grassroots activists who have been leading the fight against Obamacare but also unaffiliated less partisan voters.
GOP House “Leadership” caused a stir over the weekend when they suggested they would continue passing legislation without the support of a majority of their caucus. Republicans across the country would do well to follow the advice of the Pied Piper. Republican politicians and political operatives might be pleasantly surprised to discover that when you distinguish yourself from your political opponents by word and by deed, people will follow.
— FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks) March 11, 2013
Lessons For Republican Politicians and Political Operatives
Like the emperor in the Hans Christian Andersen fable, our modern day emperor parades before his subjects shrouded in a cloak of fantasy. He tells us the economy is “built to last” and yet it does not grow. He tells us HE “created six million new jobs” when the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms hardly any have been created and nearly 10 million of his subjects have left the workforce.
The emperor sows the seeds of resentment by proclaiming that he wants to raise taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” and forgets to tell everyone earning a paycheck that their payroll taxes will rise. He does this, in part, to offset tax breaks for favored “millionaires and billionaires” and sweeps tax increases on health insurance, medical devices, income, investment, retirement and death under the rug.
The emperor promised that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” Apparently, the emperor forgot to tell Universal Orlando, one of many businesses cancelling health insurance coverage for part-time workers or converting full-time staff to part-time staff to avoid the requirement of providing health insurance coverage. The emperor forgot to tell his subjects that many will be forced to ‘trade up’ to more expensive health insurance plans that include many “free” preventative services often omitted from the less expensive catastrophic health insurance plans they are currently enrolled in.
The emperor tells his subjects that “we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings” when he knows that the inclusion of his 2009 “temporary stimulus” in the federal budget baseline is largely the reason the country is running trillion dollar annual deficits. The emperor claims to advocate a “balanced approach” to balancing the budget, yet strains to find $44 billion in spending cuts notwithstanding that his own auditor finds $125 billion in annual waste.
The emperor seeks to distract us by foisting ‘immigration reform’ to the top of the national agenda. He promises to secure our nation’s borders ‘this time’ despite testimony that “the Department of Homeland Security no longer uses control of the actual border as a measure of how well the Border Patrol is doing its job.” In fact, the emperor just busted 2000 criminal illegal aliens out of jail in an effort to “save money.”
Yet, the subjects re-elected their emperor largely because his opposition did not push back forcefully enough and expose these myths. What happens when Republicans in Congress raise taxes in the dead of night? Or when a swing state Republican governor signs the largest tax increase in his state’s history into law? Or even worse, Congressional Republicans and Republican governors across the country agree to fund a dramatic expansion of Medicaid under the emperor’s unpopular health insurance law, and a Republican United States Senator and a self-proclaimed fiscal hawk makes a campaign contribution to a liberal Democrat who supports the emperor’s legislative agenda? Republicans dilute their opposition to the emperor’s message of higher taxes, increased regulation and an ever more expansive federal government. As a result, more voters, especially those in states without clear partisan majorities, become less inclined to support Republican candidates since they do not see them supporting clearly articulated principles.
This brings us to Dr Benjamin Carson. Dr. Carson is a world renown pediatric neurosurgeon. He is not a politician or political operative. Nonetheless, the speech that he delivered to a room full of the country’s political elite received dramatic acclaim including over 500,000 views on YouTube, approximately the same number who viewed the emperor’s recent address to Congress.
In a calm and rational tone with the emperor seated two chairs to his right, Dr. Carson spoke of the dangers of moral relativism and political correctness. While the emperor speaks of throwing good money after bad in failing public school systems, he promotes his charitable foundation which builds libraries in schools that have none. He also describes the virtues of family, hard work and personal responsibility crediting all three for his resultant success. While the emperor promotes the expansion of government to ease the burdens many face in life, Dr. Carson promotes personal responsibility teaching that overcoming such obstacles makes people stronger. While the emperor promotes the dramatic growth of the welfare state through his unpopular health insurance law, He articulates the virtues and the feasibility of free market solutions. Dr. Carson admonishes the emperor for all the debt he has accumulated and reproaches the emperor for the seeds of envy that he sows. Dr. Carson expounds on the biblical origins of the fairest system of taxation, one in which everyone pays at an equal rate.
He does not claim to have all the answers and readily admits that several of his ideas might need “tweaking.” Yet, without imposing ideological rigidity or seeking to craft solutions that protect political interest groups, Dr. Carson has lowered the mask on the carnage the emperor has wreaked over the past four years. The author of a book titled “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great” presents an optimistic and specific vision about how to restore America’s greatness. He does not seek to tear us down and divide us like the emperor, nor does he craft solutions with an eye toward being able to point fingers and ascribe blame as some political strategists do. Like a scientist and a surgeon, he seeks to solve problems and heal a nation.
Washington politicians denigrate the Tea Party movement as uncouth. Yet, it attracts millions of followers because many do not feel their voices are represented in our nation’s capital. Dr. Carson spoke to half a million of us. Imagine how many more would listen if our nation’s leaders started whistling his tune.
— FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks) March 5, 2013