"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy." John Adams (1780)

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Parties' Platforms on Guns

Here is what the three noteworthy political parties say about Second Amendment issues in their platforms.

Libertarian Party

1.9 Self-Defense
"The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights—life, liberty, and justly acquired property—against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition."

Republican Party of Iowa

"4. We strongly believe in the constitutionally protected natural right of individuals to keep and bear arms, as recognized and protected by the Second Amendment, and we support the repeal of existing laws that infringe upon those rights. We support the addition of “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” provisions to Iowa law."

Democratic Party of Iowa

Gun Safety

 We support:
 248. President Obama's executive orders on gun control
 249. universal background checks
 250. requiring registration, licensing, education/testing & liability insurance
 251. banning assault weapons
 252. gun-free zones
 253. closing "gun show loopholes"
 254. right to prohibit firearms on one's property
 255. temporary confiscation of firearms from individuals under DANCOs
 256. guardians' accountability for minors' inappropriate gun access
 257. nationwide database of gun ownership
 258. hand gun regulation

 We oppose:
 259. "Stand your ground"
 260. open carry

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election 2016: The Good, the Bad and the Trumpy

Well, the most contentious election of my lifetime is in the books. Let's take a look at how it affected  three political parties.

The Libertarian Party
Governor Gary Johnson

Governor Gary Johnson received 4,123,115 votes nationwide, or about 3% of the total. That was less than the 5% needed to qualify for public campaign funding assistance, but it was the highest third party presidential vote total since Ross Perot in 1996.

In Iowa, Johnson got 58,796 votes (3.8%). This obviously passed the 2% threshold to secure major party status from the state of Iowa. This will present many advantages to the party. They explain in a recent press release:

“'Voters ask us why they don’t hear about Libertarian candidates until late in an election,' said Campaigns and Elections Chair James Schneider. 'Our candidates have been campaigning for months, but they have not been allowed to file their candidacy papers until August – and often the media and polls do not acknowledge a candidate until papers are filed.' As a Political Party, Libertarians will now be able to file for office before primary elections [in June]."

Besides the presidential race, the party ran Chuck Aldrich for U.S. Senate and Bryan Jack Holder for U.S. Representative District 3. By my unofficial count the Libertarians had 6 candidates for Iowa Senate, 12 candidates for Iowa House and 3 candidates for county offices. There are also 6 Libertarians currently holding office in the state.

The party will continue to grow and build its organization throughout the state in preparation for its first primary election in 2018. If your willing to help, either as a candidate or volunteer, please contact james@lpia.org or keith@lpia.org. Oh, and don't forget to change your voter registration to Libertarian.

The Democrat Party
Going into the final stretch the presidential race appeared to be Hillary Clinton's to lose and lose it she did! Given the high unfavorability ratings of both candidates, I don't think this can be seen so much as an endorsement of Trump as merely a repudiation of Clinton.

Polling from the final days of the campaign showed that most voters thought Trump would be terrible, but Clinton would be slightly worse. Add in the fact that Hillary and the Democrats are quickly becoming personae non gratae in much of flyover country and add months of leaked emails showing that she's corrupt and dishonest and you've got a recipe for electoral defeat.

Obama won Iowa with 822,000 votes in 2012. If Hillary could have held onto those votes she would have beat Trump's 798,000 votes. Instead, Hillary ran off 172,000 Iowa Obama voters and ended the night with 650,000 votes.

Hillary apologists have blamed third parties, FBI director James Comey, the bigoted electorate and other things for Hillary's defeat. But think: Her name was booed during an opening prayer at her own party's convention. People were chanting "Lock her up!" at her own party's convention. If large  factions of her own party hate her, why on Earth should independents and cross-over voters line up to support her? If the Democrats had nominated a candidate that wasn't universally reviled, that candidate could have mopped the floor with Donald Trump (who is largely reviled). It's natural for the Democrats to spend some time crying in their beer. But, in the long run, unless they're willing to really examine the shit stains in their own laundry bag they'll probably keep losing big elections.

Before I let go of the Democrats, let me make one final point: The party really needs to get it's mind right on Second Amendment issues. One big reason voters in rural America lean Republican is because of the Democrats' support of gun control. This even helped the Dems lose control of the state senate in Iowa, where Iowa Firearms Coalition's PAC set up a special fund for the sole purpose of flipping that house.

Supporting the right to keep and bear arms needn't be a partisan issue. I recall during a Democrat primary debate, Jim Webb spoke in defense of the Second Amendment. Most of the other Democrats acted like he was from Pluto, except Bernie Sanders from Vermont who at least acknowledged that "the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states." (Then Hillary and the DNC torpedoed his campaign.)

Of course Hillary always says she supports the Second Amendment but also supports every imaginable restriction or ban upon gun ownership, so what the hell? Gun owners don't care that she now calls it "common sense gun safety" rather than "gun control." Trump might call it a "romantic interlude" when he's shoving someone down a couch; that doesn't change what it is.

The Republican Party
It was a pretty good election for the GOP despite (or perhaps because of) low voter turnout. Trump took the Whitehouse and the party retained its control of the U.S. House and Senate. While Hillary's numbers were down 172,000 in Iowa compared to Obama's, Trump got 68,000 more votes in Iowa than Romney did in 2012. (Romney: 730,000 Trump: 798,000)  The GOP retained the Iowa State House and took over the State Senate. (Republican Terry Branstad still holds the governor's mansion, which was not up for grabs this year.)

A lot of folks are freaking out over Trump's election. I listed some of my problems with him here, namely that he'll ride roughshod over the Constitution and continue to swell the national debt. Also he'll be an aggressive nativist on immigration and totally anti-free trade. If you want a list of his personal faults, flip on a TV.

But there are some rays of hope for libertarians. He's promising a lot of nice-sounding Republicany-type stuff: term limits on Congress, reducing the federal workforce, reducing federal regulation, canceling Obama's unconstitutional executive orders, and perhaps eliminating the federal Department of Education. Ironically, Trump may be less hawkish than his opponent from the supposedly dovish Democrat Party. Lastly, I have fewer visions of my gun being pried from my cold, dead hands under a Trump administration

I'm not too optimistic, but we'll see what happens. Trump is the president; I don't have to like it, but I do have to deal it. Whatever happens it promises to be interesting and entertaining. Buckle up and try to enjoy the ride, folks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Constitutionalists/Fiscal Conservatives: Dump Trump; Vote Johnson!

If you believe in limited government and strict constitutionalism, as I do, voting for statist poster child Hillary Clinton is probably a nonstarter. But you've heard the Republican Party mouth some pretty words about those principles in the past, so you might feel that voting for their candidate Donald Trump is your only option. I hope you don't and I hope you'll consider voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, Governor Gary Johnson, instead. (No, it's not wasting your vote, I'll explain why in a minute.) First, why shouldn't you vote for Trump?

Our $19+ trillion nation debt is killing us with higher costs of living, slower wage growth, reduced fiscal flexibility, interest payments eating up more and more of the federal budget, and is a ticking time bomb. Trump (like Hillary) would only make it worse. When Clinton proposed $275 billion in new federal infrastructure spending, Trump said he would double those spending hikes (outbidding his own previous proposal). A recent analysis said that Trump's tax plan would jack the national debt up another $7.2 trillion over 10 years. Fiscal conservatism?

And how does Trump view the Constitution? Last December he vowed that, if elected, he would sign an executive order mandating the death penalty for cop killers. Killing a police officer is terrible, to be sure; but that doesn't give the executive branch authority to create brand new capital crimes out of whole cloth. Many of us decried Obama's use of his “pen and phone” to try to circumvent the Constitutional legislative process. Trump would make Obama look like a piker.

Even though most of Trump's ideas involve gorilla-stomping all over the Constitution, constitutionalists are told they MUST vote for Trump because he says he'll nominate originalist judges who will defend the Constitution. It seems counter-intuitive to me that Trump would nominate judges that would thwart his own agenda at every turn. It seems more likely he will merely lead the party (and the country) further from its Constitutional moorings.

Someone who knows plenty about the federal courts and the Constitution is Alan Gura. He is the litigator who led America's gun owners to victory in two landmark Second Amendment cases before the United States Supreme Court: DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. Here is what Gura thinks about supporting Trump because of his potential Supreme Court nominees:

I have no illusions about what Hillary would do to the federal bench. Sad! But there is something deeply contradictory about the notion of electing a power-hungry strongman on the theory that he'll appoint judges that respect and enforce constitutional limits on government. Did Hugo Chavez appoint great judges? Did Putin, Mussolini, or Erdogan? Would it have mattered had they sort-of kinda suggested that they would?

As much as I care about the courts, worrying about jurisprudential doctrine is a luxury for people living under basically free and stable governments, for people who have access to food and toilet paper. And absolutely nothing in Trump's history suggests that he'd honor his proposed judge list or otherwise pick decent judges, while each of his proclamations indicates that the Supreme Court would be among the least of our concerns under his regime. True, the Trump gamble—that he'd be a figurehead who'd delegate authority to responsible people, or be resisted by the bureaucracy and media (or, laughably, by that stiffest-spined creature, the Republican Congress), while hewing to a judicial selection principle anathema to his personal brand—might pay off. Should Trump win, I'd at least delight in Hillary's loss, and fervently hope that he'd prove me wrong on every count. But I wouldn't bet my country on it.”

What about Governor Gary Johnson? He was a successful entrepreneur who became a two-term Republican governor of heavily Democrat New Mexico. During his time in office he vetoed over 750 bills, cut taxes 14 times (and never raised them), balanced the budget and left the state with a billion-dollar surplus. His VP candidate, Bill Weld, was also a two-term Republican governor in a blue state (Massachusetts). According to the Cato Institute: “Weld cut spending, balanced the budget, improved the state’s bond rating, and cut numerous taxes. Even with a Democratic legislature, Weld has a stunningly successful fiscal record.” Now as Libertarians, the Johnson/Weld Team would bring those same small government principles to DC. Johnson has said one of his first priorities would be submitting a balanced budget to Congress.

So fiscal conservatives and other advocates of limited government could certainly support Gary Johnson. But since it's nigh on impossible for a third-party candidate to win, isn't that wasting your vote? I don't think voting your conscience should ever be considered a “waste.” If you need more though, how about this: If we can help Governor Johnson get 2% of the vote here in Iowa then the Libertarian Party will become officially recognized as a “major party” by the state. That means Libertarian candidates would no longer have to waste time and resources gathering signatures in each race just to get on the ballot. If we can help Governor Johnson get 5% nationally, the party would get similar recognition from the federal government. This all would mean a more active and competitive third-party in future elections.

As we know from the private market, competition is a good thing. With a little competition from a stronger third-party maybe the two old broke down parties might have to run candidates for high office that people WANT to vote for, rather than candidates they HAVE TO vote for. But that will never happen as long as they can reliably harvest your vote no matter how God-awful their candidates are. Vote for a change: vote Gary Johnson for president.

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