Cruz v Sanders: The Debate America Needs

“May you live in interesting times.”  This apocryphal saying sums up the state of politics in America in 2016.  It is a time of upheaval, and as Tocqueville reminds us, the most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.  Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, elucidates our circumstances succinctly when he states that, “Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not the disease, and they’re not a symptom of the disease.  They’re the beta test of a cure from the perspective of the people.”  While Trump represents the outlier on the right, he is not the ideological antithesis of self-described Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.  That honor belongs to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

History is peppered with pivotal moments like these, but it is often difficult to recognize their gravity until they have faded into our collective rearview mirror.  In 1858, on the eve of America’s Civil War, we had the Lincoln-Douglas debates in which a young upstart Republican challenged an incumbent Democrat Senator on a subject of great import; slavery in America.  At issue was whether a country founded on the principle that “all men are created equal” could continue to promote or even accept the subjugation of certain men in seeming contravention to that principle.  Lincoln lost to Douglas in that election, but his nomination as the Republican standard bearer in the Presidential election in 1860 was the catalyst that set in motion a most bloody resolution to that question five years later.

In 1940, Friedrich Hayek and John Maynard Keynes debated the much drier but equally important subject of state intervention in the economies of nations upon the roof of the chapel of Kings College London during the Blitz.  Keynes generally believed that the animal spirits of capitalism should be restrained by government central planning to protect citizens.  Hayek believed that such government intervention inevitably led to the very fascism that the allies had been forced to confront in World War II.  In the aftermath of the war, this dynamic shaped the new world order as the capitalist west faced off against the collectivist Soviet Union for the next half century.  We know which idea eventually won the day.

In 1968, conservative stalwart William F. Buckley and liberal firebrand Gore Vidal held televised debates during the Presidential nominating conventions that were the embodiment of the political tumult of the time.  On substance, the debates touched on the Vietnam War, free speech, police brutality, and the rise of the counter-culture.  But they were best known for the very obvious and deeply personal hatred each had for the other which was a microcosm of the violence and strife occurring throughout the late 60s and early 70s.  Nixon and the Republicans came out on top.

These were all pitched battles in the continuing war of ideals which seems to flare up every few generations.  In 2016, we again face such a moment.  As I’ve written previously, while I do not discount Donald Trump’s rise or the legitimate rage of his supporters, he is an unserious candidate.  He is the dog that caught the car, a caricature of what every liberal believes every conservative to be.  He does not represent conservative ideology any more than a person who occasionally abstains from eating meat can profess to be a vegan.  Ted Cruz, by contrast, wears his ideology on his sleeve, as does his counterpart on the left, Bernie Sanders.

I will state publicly that I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders.  Contrary to Hillary Clinton, the pantsuit-wearing weather vane that has about as much principle as an interest-only loan, Mr. Sanders unapologetically believes in his ideas, and that genuineness is at the heart of his tremendous base of support.  But alas, history and economics bear out that his ideas are not only unworkable, but contrary to the identity of our country.

Given the leftward jolt America has experienced under Barack Obama, hope and change has given way to entropy and rage.  It’s time for the battle of ideas to be fought once again; a trial by intellectual combat.  Senator Cruz and Senator Sanders represent the reddest and bluest ends of the political spectrum, who better to articulate the fundamental ideals of their respective parties.

It has been said that a lie travels around the world before the truth can get its pants on, a phenomenon undoubtedly amplified by the advent of social media.  Perhaps this is why the timeless truth of the benefits of liberty has been lost in the noise.  However, I am confident that same interconnectedness can also be harnessed to proliferate the ideals of our founders with such unparalleled rapidity, focus, and reach, that the resurgent specter of statism can be slain once and for all.  The global microphone has been built, we need only the right messengers.  Let the pretenders be cast aside.  Let our champions be Senator Cruz and Senator Sanders.  And let the fate of our Republic be decided in one fell swoop.  No pressure, Ted.

On a Muslim President: Carson, Cruz, and Paul are all right

Over the past few days, Presidential candidate Ben Carson has caught a lot of heat for comments he made during an interview where he stated that he would not support a Muslim as President.  Never mind that this “nontroversy” is a complete hypothetical ginned up by the mainstream media as “gotcha” journalism and distracts from the actual issues facing this country.  Most of us that pay attention are used to the Left using the Alinsky-esque dog whistle of divisiveness whenever their policies come into question because they don’t stand up to the scrutiny of logic and reason.  But it also represents how low some will slither in order to try to destroy a decent man.

The discussion in the Democrat strategy room likely went something like this; “How can we attack the soft-spoken, black, Republican, pediatric neurosurgeon without looking like racists?  I know!!  Make HIM racist!!”  So off they marched, set-up in hand, to try to discredit this man.  Except it may have backfired because they didn’t think that someone that had spent 22 hours straight surgically separating the brains of conjoined twins could be articulate.  Todd Akin this was not.

I happen to agree with Dr. Carson that Islam, in its most rigid form, is incompatible with our constitutional republic for the very simple reason that ours is a system that holds dearly the separation of church and state, where in Islam, church IS state.  As someone who has spent a decade traipsing through the region, I’ve seen varying degrees of religious rigidity as law, from straight up Shari’a in Saudi Arabia to iron-fisted strongmen using state power to co-opt the sermons of imams at Friday prayer and keep the masses in line (i.e., angry at the west and not at their own despotic rulers for their dire lot in life).

Because Islam is viewed by Muslims as version 3.0 of the Abrahamic religions (seen as an improvement over Judaism and Christianity but borrowing heavily from both), it is a deeply entrenched part of daily life.  It doesn’t just give broad guidelines on how to live your life like the  ten commandments and let the details get sorted separately.  It specifically outlines everything from doing your banking, disciplining your wife, what foods to eat, how to treat those of different faiths, how many times a day to pray, etc—all clearly outlined as directives from Allah.  I believe that this specificity/inflexibility is part of the conundrum of Islam and how it can be expected to coexist with our democratic system.  In short, laws of man can be changed; laws of God cannot.

Dr. Carson is also right that the Constitution is, and should be, the supreme law of our land.  Our founders, mostly Christians of varying flavors, created a secular Constitution mirroring the Christian fundamentals by which they lived.  Further, they were mainly familiar with Christianity and the harmless animism of the Native Americans at the time.  Thomas Jefferson may have owned a Qur’an, but had he spent any time in today’s Middle East, he would have found Islam profoundly antithetical to the idea of liberty and the individual rights espoused in our founding documents.

Enter Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the two most constitutionally literate candidates in this election, who pointed out that Article 6 of the Constitution states that there shall be no religious test for office.  They are also right.  There should be no test precluding anyone from office based on religion.  However, once elected, should this hypothetical Muslim President begin doing things in contravention to the Constitution, that’s where we can use the built-in remedy in our system called impeachment.

In sum, I don’t have a problem with a Muslim President, provided he or she respects the primacy of our Constitution over the Qur’an.  If one does not or cannot, don’t run for the office.  I believe Dr. Carson’s wariness is well founded though.  If a spineless Congress cannot assert itself against the unconstitutional actions of our current Executive, one wonders if they ever will.