November Surprises

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After two years of brutal politics, the Presidential election of 2016 has been decided, but I would not say it is in the rear view mirror just yet.  Donald Trump has won, surprising even Republicans with the strength of support he had in blue states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  The surprise was even greater among non-Republicans who formed their opinions based upon numerous polls showing Clinton with a comfortable, if small, lead.  Many of our citizens who supported Clinton were sure that she was going to win and were shocked and dismayed by her loss.  Some have since turned to protest and a few to violence. Even the more civil responses from her supporters indicate a deep distrust of the President elect and those that voted for him.   This is like a cut that would normally heal, but may fester for a long time instead.  What should be the Whig response to this? 

We must always take a stand against violence.  It is never an acceptable response to attack innocent people because of political disagreements.  In some cases people have been beaten because they were identified as Trump supporters (or on the other side attacked for being a religious or racial minority).  Whether they were Trump supporters or not was probably not important to the hooligans that did the beating.  They wanted to send a message and discourage people from supporting causes they did not like.  This action is not compatible with democracy.  Everyone who wants to live in a free country, where we can go to vote without fear of physical intimidation, should be outraged and vocal.  If you think this violence is acceptable because you did not like the candidate or his supporters, consider that next time it could be your candidate and you getting beaten.  Violence breeds violence until someone breaks the cycle.  It must not be allowed or taken lightly.    

We of course should also seek to be among the first responders to break the cycle of violence.  Those in the center of politics have generally been able to understand the positions of the left and the right and negotiate a working solution between them.  In this case the right sees sore losers acting on their political frustrations.   This assessment is not even remotely complete though.  We can let the police deal with the violence and law breakers.  We also, however, need to short circuit the underlying problems so that our young do not feel the need to take to the streets in response to elections and political discourse.  We need to analyze what other causes exist for this behavior and come up with positive actions for dealing with them now and in the future.

First, there must be analysis that goes deeper than labeling violent people as “sore losers” or “social justice warriors” and being satisfied with that as a complete analysis.  The most glaring contributor to the rage seen is the awful rhetoric generated in today’s polarized two party politics.  Election rhetoric has always been meant to paint an exaggerated contrast between the two major parties.  Each side strongly encourages its faithful to believe the worst about the other party, its candidates, and its supporters.  In today’s political environment, however, this is becoming increasingly dangerous.  The stakes of losing an election like this are portrayed as being far too high.  A second factor was the very sudden shift in expected outcomes.  At 7 pm on Tuesday, Clinton supporters had confidence from the polls that she would win.  She would have a few point advantage in the popular vote and the firewall of blue states would do the rest.  They would regain Senate control, appoint a liberal Supreme Court justice, and retain the Presidency.  Just six hours later, the dream turned into a nightmare.  The Republican Party now has control of a significant majority of states, both houses of Congress, and the Presidency.  Assuming Trump appoints a conservative to the Supreme Court, the conservatives would have a 5-4 advantage.  Given this, great fear for the survival of the left’s vision for the country is to be expected.  We are not just seeing poor losers of a political campaign.  We are also seeing people who fear their nation has been taken from them with only a few hours to process the results.   We need to clean this wound with honesty.  Fears must be turned into positive rather than negative actions.

One of the left’s strong fears is that they are now in the minority while the rest of America has become a nation with large numbers of racists, misogynists, and/or ignorant voters.   The widely held belief that the majority of Trump’s support came from this “basket of deplorables” is perhaps the most hurtful (to both sides) and least accurate of the fear mongering coming out of the campaign.  As those of us near the political center understand, this was an election where the candidates were both very unpopular with the majority of voters.  In the end, the party loyalists voted for who they liked while the rest of us desperately wanted a primary do-over.  There are, however, elements in this country that want to divide us with fear using lies about our neighbors.  They are grasping at straws and straw-men.  They should be repudiated and would be if our leaders and media would do their job.  Ask Clinton supporters to verify this for themselves rather than just taking the word of those who want to motivate them to vote for Democrats.  Have them find those who voted for Trump and ask them why.   Have them carry on a conversation with them and see that they are just like everyone else. 

Another fear on the left is that sweeping changes are about to come.  They fear the rights and progress gained for America will be set back to 1973 and the Supreme Court will be changed to prevent it from rolling forward again for another generation.  While the Republicans are more powerful today than they have been since before FDR, they are still politicians.  Both major parties are much more strongly motivated to keep from angering voters and their donors than to make those sweeping changes.  For example: the Republicans and Democrats have both had control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency in recent years.  Did either touch the sacred cows of gun control or entitlement reform?  No, they did not.  They could have, but they like being re-elected.  The signature changes they did make were the Iraq war and the ACA.  Both could be said to have resulted in power being removed from their parties.  The real power still rests with the voter and when a party or candidate does not represent the voters they will find out quickly they are not the boss.  The Republicans may be able to get a few changes in without serious consequences, however, because of special circumstances.

There will be a strong attempt to repeal the ACA.  The repeal is likely but not a certainty.  It will take 50 Republican Senators and 218 Republican House members to repeal it, but only two Republican Senators or 21 Republican House members to defeat a repeal attempt.  The ACA is vulnerable because of the partisan way it was implemented, its many flaws, and the high premiums and deductibles people are now paying.  The political fallout for killing an unpopular law will not be high enough to stop this.  Hopefully, something will be put in its place that is well thought out and meets a little of everyone’s desires for a health care act.  A straight up repeal will cause even more disruption and will probably backfire on Republicans.  President elect Trump has already said he would prefer to replace it instead of just repealing it.  It is therefore in everyone’s best interests to take the positive action of encouraging their representative and Senators in the next congress to support a thoughtful replacement for the ACA.  The plan should include a graceful transition, honest dialog with the voters, and ample time for each member of congress to read and discuss the bill.  Whigs believe that openness, dialog, and respect for each stakeholder is a better way to pass major legislation.  Let’s send the message early and often so that it comes through loud and clear.    

The Trump Supreme Court nominations are another real fear.  If President Trump nominates conservatives to the court, the fear is that he could break the court’s balance in favor of conservatives for decades.  There is reason to hope for liberals.  Trump first gets to fill the vacancy left by Justice Scalia, a very conservative Justice.  If Trump replaces a conservative with a conservative on the court, we will have the same evenly divided court we had before with Justice Kennedy as the swing vote.  If Trump gets to fill a second spot replacing a liberal, then he definitely could break the political balance on the court.  The fear of the Supreme Court being unbalanced politically brings a great deal of concern to everyone.  This raises the threat of violence after unpopular court decisions or appointments.  Shouldn’t the most important court in the land be politically neutral and judge on the merits of the law instead?  A positive action would be for all of us to write President elect Trump and our Senators for the next Congress and urge them to see that moderates are appointed to the court.  This will remove the constant fear that no matter who we elect to any office, an unbalanced Supreme Court will reverse old or set new precedents we cannot accept.  If the majority of justices are politically moderate, this cause for concern is eliminated.

Making some effort to stop illegal immigration will also happen as it was a signature element of Trump’s campaign.  I doubt we will see a wall built from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is too politically controversial for a realistic chance of it happening.  There are not enough conservative Republicans in conservative districts to get the wall funded for example.  Instead I think it more likely that we will see an increase in the armament and numbers in our border patrol along with tighter enforcement of existing laws.  Positive action again includes making your representative and Senators for the next session aware of your preferences and that you will be watching their vote. 

Of course, the final thoughts on this subject would have to include how Whigs would handle a similar situation differently.  We have too much respect for our fellow citizens and their safety to call them names or to use fear to motivate them to vote for our party.  We are moderates like most of America and focus on serving our constituents rather than ideology or party.  This would make it very likely that any change we proposed to solve problems would have popular support.  Neither would we be paralyzed into inaction by the threat of losing votes after we had identified a good solution.  We would never appoint extremists to the Supreme Court so an unbalancing appointment would not happen.  We are also in favor of openly and honestly discussing what we plan to do to give the American people time to suggest improvement.  We would never vote for a bill without reading it or insisting on a complete discussion.   Our goal is to serve our constituents first rather than get our office holders reelected or build party power.  It makes a big difference in the choices your elected officials will make.

Dale Ritchie is the National Chair of the Modern Whig Party   


Showing 14 reactions

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  • commented 2017-01-29 04:09:18 -0500
    Thank you, Hank Thayer!
    Your approach is both do-able & logical.
    Everything you put forth depends on “valid compromise” an art form certainly missing in the past few years among the Republicans and Democrats.
    I submit the following video as a way forward…it comes from an idea used within the World Baha’i Faith, enjoy:
    https://youtu.be/8VH-4qHd3OQ

    respectfully,
    Jules
    MWP Supporter in Ohio
  • commented 2017-01-28 22:50:04 -0500
    What now? Donald Trump is the President of the USA. He is unlike any other President. Even Jacksonian Democracy does not explain Trump or give a clue to how he will govern. Right now the hard core of the GOP is crowing. And the far left is protesting and posting apocalyptic comments. OK, let them have their excitement.
    The rest of us should keep in mind that the purpose of government is to govern; to make and enforce laws, to set policy, and to respond to the will of the people. And, in spite of what some people in government and the media seem to think, governing involves compromise. So what is needed is a sober assessment of what you most want, what your opponents most want, and what each of you is willing to give up to get what you want. Put another way, what is needed now is some sober politics.
    Many people view politics as the problem. They think that “RESISTANCE!” is what is needed. But they are mistaken. The decline of politics is the problem. The failure to compromise is the problem. For example, if the GOP had not been so fixated on stopping the ACA, or “Obamacare” as they called it, they might have gotten better results. The complaints about the ACA by small business owners are legitimate. Their premiums had gone up drastically to help subsidize insurance for the indigent. Of course they are angry about the ACA. The problem is that the indigent need insurance. The question is how to pay for it. If the GOP had been willing to work with the Democrats, and protect the interests of small business owners, they might have crafted an ACA that actually worked. Further, if the Democrats had been thinking, instead of watching the GOP flame out over Obamacare, they might have pointed out that Toyota and Volkswagen do not have to pay for expensive insurance for their workers, but Ford and GM do, so we are putting our own industry at a disadvantage.
    Politics may seem grubby, but it isn’t. It is the practice of addressing problems and finding solutions that everyone can accept. It is not necessary for everyone to be thrilled with the solution, they just have to agree that it is fair enough and will work. Sure, “RESISTANCE!” is exciting, but it is ill defined and generally ineffective.
    So what to do? Step one: remember, Trump is a deal maker. He is not an ideologue. Some on the left want to make him out to be some kind of crazed right wing fanatic. He isn’t. Like Don King, the boxing promoter, he is flamboyant, loud, and appears to be foolish. He is also very crafty and probably a lot smarter than he lets on. Further, he is not really all that conservative. He has come down on both sides of many issues. These two facts represent opportunity.
    Talk to your Senators and Representatives. Tell them what you want them to stop, and what you can accept. For instance, are you horrified by the prospect of another Pro-Life Justice on the Supreme Court? Are you willing to accept the reopening of several open pit coal mines in West Virginia and a relaxation of automotive fuel economy standards in exchange for a better Supreme Court pick? Tell your servants in congress. They may be able to cut a deal. It’s worth a try.
    There is more, but I am out of self-allotted space, so I will pick it up again next week. And remember, don’t despair, it’s unseemly.
  • commented 2017-01-26 16:35:44 -0500
    Right on, Eric….oppose, resist….I love the Demonstrations, the Marches….reminds me of the era of Viet Nam (1973) when the opposition and the resistance made all the difference.

    respectfully, Observer Jules
  • commented 2017-01-26 16:04:47 -0500
    In hindsight, reading this on 1/26/17, I can’t help but feel this was incredibly naive.

    I agree vehemently with our party’s guiding principles of respect, cooperation, fact-based consensus, etc. This new administration does not, and makes no efforts to hide its contempt for actions and philosophies that we as Whigs hold paramount.

    I would go so far as to say that not only do I agree with Brandon’s sentiment below, but in my opinion, should we do anything less, we would be betraying the values we hold dear.

    As long as Trump continues to govern in a manner inconsistent with our ideals, i believe our only option is to respectfully (where applicable, there’s an argument to be made that you can respect the Office without respecting the man) and legally resist him and those that ascribe to his political philosophy with every ounce of conviction we can muster.

    I’ve heard for years from friends that I’ve tried to recruit that we Whigs aren’t firm on anything – I suggest that opposing this unfit and uncouth President be our line in the sand.
  • commented 2016-12-30 16:55:47 -0500
    In my opinion the Whig Party needs to focus on bringing America back to the Center….
    Enough of this ’far left— far right" divisiveness.
    Be a Centrist if you dare!
    ….or be part of the continuing problem.in America….namely, the huge ONE Party monopoly……known as the Republi-Crats.

    Be Centered, stay Centered…Be a Modern Whig !

    Observer Jules
  • commented 2016-12-09 04:51:02 -0500
    Hello, I’m John and I’m a Democrat, but I do agree with a lot of what the Modern Whigs are saying. The Republican Party and Democratic Party are touching much on hard-leaning politics on the right and left. The Republican Party needs to stick to the center-right and the Democratic Party to the center-left. Though I never really cared much on bringing a multi-party system here in the United States because I think having a lot of parties encourage party purity/radicalism (something the plagues the Libertarian Party and Green Party) and discourages moderates from being elected, I think we might need a third major party in this country. To bring up a centrist party that could help provide more flexibility to our nation and help bring down tensions between the Republicans and Democrats.

    My suggestion to the Modern Whigs to get more support is that I think you should put more effort in Maine. It’s a battleground state, strong third party potential, and it has just passed ranked choice voting.

    I’m a Democrat and I support the revival of the Whig Party.
  • commented 2016-11-19 06:51:07 -0500
    Hi Philip,

    Just wanted you to know I thought your post was not inappropriate. I agree, except the whole country part. I do feel there is a large portion of the country pulling far right and left. But I feel there is portion of this nation that is looking for a better choice. But something is holding them back from standing up a third party, a better choice. I hope the modern whigs can help in this area. 2020 will be here before we know it and a new party if focused can gain those areas of America in the congressional elections.

    I know I’m one of those Americans looking for a better choice than what we have been presented.
  • commented 2016-11-19 04:22:43 -0500
    My remarks were flagged for not being civil. I don’t know why. Please tell me what was offensive. Thank you.
  • commented 2016-11-19 00:49:32 -0500
    That was well thought out. I think we have become a nation of extremes with no place for moderate thinking. Some are accused of being too liberal and others too conservative.
    I have been picking through the Congressional Districts and found a few that were unopposed. I believe there should always be a choice for the voters. I believe that Modern Whigs should hep provide a choice. One reason there is always a poor showing for any third party is that voters are afraid they will waste their vote if they vote for the person they actually want. Approval Voting would help eliminate that fear because they can vote for who they want and another choice(s).
    Violence should never be the reaction to results of an election.
  • commented 2016-11-18 08:51:06 -0500
    Good Evening,

    This was a well written response for the Modern Whig Party. Look forward to learning more of the Modern Whig Party.

    Respectfully,
    Jeffrey S. Hartsfield
  • commented 2016-11-15 14:19:25 -0500
    Brandon,
    I understand what your saying and agree with a lot of it. However, I don’t know if we should entirely disassociate ourselves with President Elect Trump for a few reasons. 1) He does have a large following of supporters and if we distance ourselves from him entirely, it would almost be as if though we are distancing ourselves from his supporters. Instead, there are certainly things he has said that we must distance ourselves from because we do not support some of those negative statements. 2) He has not yet taken office and we do not know exactly how he will be as a President, what his ACTUAL policies will be and if what he actually does in office agree with our policies or not. 3) As a centrist party that strives to have a pragmatic approach, dialogue is needed to express why or why we do not support some things President Elect and his administration attempt. The Whig Party of old became the Republican Party yet we are not that party and in order to stay true to our roots, I agree with you that we still need to current founders as well as the forefathers that cooperated to create this great nation. We cannot accept the negative aspects of his Presidential campaign, statements he has made or if those become his actual policy because we are a Party that accepts all members of our society. This is certainly an opportunity for us to show the country who we are and why it is so important for them to learn more about us.
  • commented 2016-11-15 12:49:41 -0500
    Brandon Zicha, I agree with you vehemently. This is the reason I recently joined the Whigs. I noticed you have a blog. I’m starting one as well. Is there anyway I can pick your brain?
  • commented 2016-11-13 13:50:25 -0500
    I think that the strongest action Whigs can take is a coordinated action at the state level. But, overall, we would be idiots (I think) and betraying our historical tradition not to brand ourselves as anti-Trump just was we were Anti-Jackson. Thankfully, Democrat’s on attachment to far left socialism on their progressive fringe and cultural progressivism more widely would mean that we should be able to easily differentiate ourselves while holding to this position. We can both capitalize and stand by principles of Republican Liberty by standing up for long-term undocumented immigrants, African-Americans unfairly treated by our structurally biased police force, LGBTQ individuals, and other targets of the current administration.

    Strategically, this puts us in a higher profile position – able to capitalize on Trump’s attention seeking.

    I would be very careful with strong statements against the violence. I think it is right to repudiate it, but we must also keep in mind that we would be doing the same if it was our rights and our families that the victorious President had vowed to break apart. Indeed, that is one of the purposes of the 2nd Amendment… a point I just recently raised to a family member.

    Other than that, more broadly – this is the moment. David Brooks recently argued that we needed a centrist party that stands for the open ‘Globalist’ society, but also is focused on civic and community values and socio-cultural development. I think that could be the MWP. Many have argued (and I think that they are right) that the left and right are clearly fragmenting. To break through the noise I suggest putting the principle of Republican Liberty as non-domination at the center of our policy thinking. It’s an inspiring concept, speaks to and resolves much of the social left-right divide, and harkens back to Whig roots in Civic Republicanism.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/12/opinion/the-view-from-trump-tower.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-brooks&action=click&contentCollection=opinion®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/republicanism/#LibNonDom
  • commented 2016-11-13 10:36:51 -0500
    I think that the best response the Modern Whig Party can have right now is to empathize with those who feel disenfranchised. I do not mean to condone the violence. Peaceful protest is about the only way the politicians get the message that the populace is not content with how they are running the country. It is being reported that over 40% still did not vote. We need to find those who did not vote and find a way to get them involved. We must also educate both sides of our centrist, protagonist approach to what is going on and how we are representative of everyone. We must use this time to of unrest to help bring peace and hope to everyone that there IS a choice, there IS representation and there IS a Party that listens to the people and not corporations and lobbyist. This is our time to shine and we need to start using social media to reach those that are not happy with what is going on. We must search and find people that share our values and do everything we can to help them get into local offices, state offices and then federal. The Whig Party was the strongest party of its time and we can be that again. We can help to make America stronger than it has ever been by bringing the nation together.