Thursday, April 14, 2016

Poll dancing in Colorado

Once upon a time, in a sleepy little upper Midwestern state named Iowa, a caucus was held. It was a wonderful day. The people of Iowa have long loved their peculiar way of engaging of presidential politics. On this particular occasion they held their non-binding straw-poll to indicate their preferences for the various candidates. Rick, and Mitt, and Ron, each did pretty well and took the top three slots respectively. Mitt got some momentum by being declared the winner of the poll on election night, but the final count showed Rick up by over 30 votes. After the dust settled between the two top-dogs in Iowa, Rick had his victory, Mitt finished strongly as a very close runner up, and Ron had his respectable 3rd place finish  - with 22 out of 28 delegates.

Those Iowans sure were silly way back in 2012. But the voters, and the media all took such things in stride in those days. The RNC, however, was another story all together. They were not amused. They set out to replace this caucus chaos with some establishment order, and replace it they did. Never again would a straw-poll say "Rick" and the delegate election say "Ron". With the firm conviction that insurgents never win straw-polls the rule was handed down: "If you hold a straw-poll, your delegates can't support some anti-establishment hack (Ka-ron paul-choo!)." And in their nice upper-Midwestern way, the Iowans said "OK".

Coloradans, on the other hand, told the RNC to stuff it. Coloradans don't want the establishment telling them how to run things in Colorado. They want their delegates to do crazy things like vote for candidates that are still in the race on the first ballot at the national convention. For instance, if a hypothetical candidate named Marcio Rubo fell out of the race early, but refused to release his delegates prior to the national convention, Coloradans don't want their delegates to be forced to vote for Marcio over someone that could actually win on the first ballot at the convention. Coloradans want the ability to adapt to a situation that may change between March and July. 

The best kept secret of the past two months is that Colorado voted on March 1st. Watching the news one could be forgiven for leaping to the conclusion that a few GOP execs got together and hand picked all of Colorado's delegates this past week. That would be news to the over 60,000 Coloradans that caucused and picked delegates back in March. But mainstream media mogul, and presidential candidate (meaning a candidate for president, not a candidate who is presidential) Donald Trump has been deprived of delegates for the minor offense of putting no effort whatsoever into trying to win delegates in Colorado. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Donald Trump's abortion checkbox

The biggest problem with Donald Trump's awkward answer to Chris Matthews' abortion question is not that he took a particular position that people may agree or disagree with. The problem is that his answer makes it reasonably clear that he hadn't spent ten seconds in serious thought about abortion from a governmental perspective before Matthews asked the question. Republicans are supposed to be pro-life, so Donald Trump is pro-life. Box checked. 
"What do you mean there's more to it than that?"
In a rare display of a willingness to consider the broader ramifications of his actions, Trump issued two clarifications of his initial answer within hours - eventually getting to what has been the general pro-life position on the question for over a century. Unfortunately, the toothpaste isn't going back in the tube that easily. There are reasons that having statesmen that approach the office of the presidency with certain level of sobriety is a good thing.

There are profound differences between the world of "reality TV" and the world of "reality reality". In the real world, the statements of presidents and even presidential candidates have real influence beyond the scope of their individual agendas. My suspicion is that Mr. Trump's position evolved so quickly because credible people in the pro-life movement converged on the Trump campaign in a panic in response to Trump's off the cuff remarks about legally punishing women that seek abortions (in the hypothetical eventuality that abortion were to be outlawed). But that's just my guess.

What isn't a guess is that at the same time Trump was in the process of walking back his initial statements, his apologists were rushing to the defense of what they perceived to be a position statement consistent with his no-nonsense, politically-incorrect-charm; to the point that many are now expressing regret over his capitulation to political correctness in modifying his original comment. The messaging that Trump's initial comment was refreshingly honest commonsense truth has snowballed through talk radio and social media over the past couple of days. Unfortunately, what Dr. Jeffress and other Trump mouthpieces have missed, and Trump may have surprisingly picked up on, is that defense of this argument is damaging to the pro-life movement, is directly at odds with forty plus years of post-Roe messaging, disagrees with over a hundred years of history, disregards intentional legal precedent, and legitimizes the pro-abortion crowd's long running claims that pro-lifers should be distrusted because they don't care about women.

It really would be nice if we could stop for a nanosecond to wonder if there might be a reason that what Trump said is not the typical position of the pro-life industry before leaping into damage control mode on behalf of a politician. The rush to circle the wagons around Donald Trump comes with a price. Abortion issues extend beyond legal or political issues. These are issues of the human condition, and of culture. Today abortion is legal, and pro-life efforts have to continue to reduce the prevalence of abortion in that context. Everyday in America thousands of people get up and go to work at a job where one of the challenges they face is convincing women that someone cares about them and their unborn baby. Convincing desperate women that they are not facing their situation alone is a more difficult task today than it was before Donald Trump responded to a question for which he had no appreciation of the magnitude.

On Friday we were treated to two more abortion positions from the Trump campaign; bringing his total number of positions on this issue to five in one week. In an interview with CBS on Friday Trump clarified that his position is that abortion laws "...are set, and I think we have to leave it that way." A Trump campaign spokesman later "clarified" further by stating that Trump just meant the laws should be left that way until Trump is in office. So all of you folks that were expecting Trump to take executive action before he takes office should just keep that in mind.

So in one week Trump has breathed new life into the democrat's "war on women" charge, sown distrust for pro-life activists in the minds of women they want to help, and spurred a broad spectrum of Trump apologists to take to the airwaves with counter-productive messages undoing forty plus years of pro-life messaging. Then he makes it all some sort of demented April fools joke by settling on the position that "...the laws are set" and he'll just leave it that way. But hey, he's pro-life. Box checked!