Steve A. Stone
Dear Friends and Patriots,
This missive is long in coming. I’ve contemplated it for almost a year. I commit it to you now with some sense of regret and reluctance, but the time for any hesitation is over. There are things that need saying, and I’m long overdue in saying them.
For several years I’ve been uncomfortable as a Republican. The party is filled with people who live as true Republicans; people who embrace the party’s ethos, platform, and symbols. They are people who would never think of voting in any election for a candidate who didn’t have that (R) after their names on a ballot. I was one of them for decades, and deep in my heart I may still be. But, I can no longer ignore the truth that love of the Republican Party is a one-way affair.
I’m not certain when my disenchantment began. I joined at a time when true conservatives began to show real strength in the party and the party’s ideological shift to more conservative philosophic stances began to take hold. I do recall in the 1960s and even into the 1970s the party had what it called its “liberal wing.” They were people known as Rockefeller Republicans, progressive Republicans. There were others who were slightly less “liberal,” known for a time as Nixonians. I was something a bit different. For a decade and a half I was a Goldwater Republican. I identified with principles articulated by Barry Goldwater, principles that included minimal taxation, a smaller and less intrusive government, emphasis on individual freedom and Natural Rights as articulated in our founding documents, and environmental conservationism. By 1980 I was still a Republican in my party affiliation, but had discovered Ed Clark’s Libertarian Party. It was Mr. Clark who led me to understand the true meanings of freedom and liberty and converted me to libertarianism. Though I never left the Republican fold I’ve been a libertarian at heart ever since. Ed Clark impressed upon me the dangers that were waiting for Americans who didn’t comprehend the value of the gifts our founders secured for us by their own courage, efforts, lives, and blood.
I parted company with Mr. Clark over a couple of issues. I’ve never been a proponent of abortion upon demand; which I believe he did support. I’ve never been an advocate for open borders, which was another of his party’s platform planks. While we were in almost perfect alignment on our understanding of the principles of freedom and liberty we were not so perfect when it came to application of those freedoms. It’s easy to convince oneself that being a philosophic purist is possible and morally correct, but it’s true that principles often collide and choices should be made. A purist stance may sound reasonable until closely examined. When the cracks in a purist’s logic begin to appear, it’s time for some moderation of beliefs to find the point where colliding principles can coexist in the same mental space without causing undue distress. One of the major flaws in the philosophy of most libertarians is their insistence that philosophic purity is morally superior to seeking to find the nexus between competing principles. The cognitive dissonance created by attempting that trick is something to avoid.
To clarify, taking a position for abortion upon demand is to deny the existence of any rights of the unborn. It’s to deny the existence of the unborn as living humans. I never could go to that place. Similarly, to advocate for open borders is supportive of the yearning and rights of all people to be free, but doing so often conflicts with the rights of people to form into sovereign nations. While everyone has the right to pursue freedom, if doing so can negatively affect the right of a nation to form and maintain a cultural identity that reflects the will and intent of the majority of its citizens, what is the morally superior position to hold? I maintain it is the nation’s rights over the individuals, just by dent of sheer numbers. Is it wrong to consider the rights of millions superior to the rights of a few when a nation’s very cultural identity is at stake? I know where I stand. It’s not with the Libertarian Party. It’s with the Republicans.
My problem with the Republican Party is not with its philosophy, but with the way it chooses to exercise that philosophy. Far too often the party’s actions indicate a lack of seriousness with regard to its published ethos. We’re supposed to be the party of Small Government, yet the only time in living memory the government shrank was under President Clinton’s administration. We’re supposed to be the party of Low Taxes, yet only one Republican administration in modern times truly lowered our aggregate tax burden. We’re supposed to be the party that advocates for individual freedoms, consistent with our Constitution’s supposed guarantees, yet Republicans in Congress routinely allow those freedoms to be incrementally eroded for the sake of legislative compromise. Our legislators make great pretense when it comes to their beliefs, but the truth is almost always borne out when the votes are examined. The majority of elected Republicans fall short when their actions (votes) are considered in light of the party’s ethos.
I’ll discuss a very few topics to illustrate my point. I’ll discuss the Second Amendment, secularism, education, and property rights. I’ve dwelled on each of those topics before, so much of what I’ll say is nothing new, but is put in a different context. In this case the context is how Republican politicians vote against both the will and the rights of citizens.
The Second Amendment has words that couldn’t be made clearer, even though the syntax appears to be a tad archaic. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Amendment acknowledges the security needs of the individual states. It acknowledges the right of states to maintain militias. It clearly indicates an understanding that to raise a militia pre-supposes the presence of arms among the citizens of the states. Then, in the most powerful clause of the Amendment, proclaims the right of the citizens to “keep and bear Arms” to be inviolable. It seems to be what it was intended – an ironclad statement of the rights of citizens that cannot be diminished. Yes, that was the original intent, but the intent has been eroded over time, and with the complicity of Republicans.
Today we have infringements upon our rights. We cannot own automatic weapons without special federal permits that often require years to obtain. We cannot own explosives. Today we can’t own “bump-stocks,” which is indicative of Republican cooperation in parsing the logic of gun-control. After all, the bump stock is not a weapon, so what’s the big deal? In California, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Jersey there are magazine restrictions that prohibit more than10 rounds in a weapon at one time. Colorado and Vermont also have magazine restrictions. We can still “keep and bear arms” but have constraints on which arms and on their capabilities.
There are 21 states that have passed Constitutional Carry laws, which eliminate any licenses, fees, permit requirements or other constraints on a citizen’s rights to own, possess, and carry a firearm. That means 29 states still maintain some constraints. My own state, Alabama, is on that larger list. Any citizen in Alabama who isn’t under any form of judicial constraint may openly carry a weapon in the state, but is required to obtain a permit to carry concealed. Many of the other 28 states have similar constraints. The rationale most often tendered is “… requiring permits allows for background checks, which keeps guns out of the hands of criminals.” Yes, that’s what they will tell you, even though simple inductive and deductive reasoning, coupled with a cursory examination of crime statistics will quickly reveal that all such laws do is keep permits out of the hands of criminals. Guns? No, the criminals have them aplenty. And, it appears murder, aggravated assault and aggravated robbery don’t require permits, so what’s the real point?
The point is the same as for all abusive practices of government – to exercise power and to obtain money. The power is in the ability to deny a permit to someone who has not had any judicial constraint placed on their rights. Money is obtained by permit and administrative fees that are a source of funds that can very easily be understated, and expended without serious oversight.
Alabama is a Red State, with a Republican governor and a Republican super-majority in both houses of its legislature. There are 44 Republican Sheriffs in Alabama and 22 who are Democrats. And, yet, Alabama has maintained constraints on the Second Amendment rights of its citizens. Who would you blame for that? I find no rational way of not blaming Republicans.
Today it appears Alabama is poised to join the ranks of Constitutional Carry states. Alabama HB 272 appears to be poised to become law, after being considered by both houses of Alabama’s legislature. It could happen within days. If so it would fully restore the intent of our Constitution’s Second Amendment. A lot of Alabama’s Sheriffs aren’t all that happy about it, but they’ll adjust. The question in my mind today is – what took so long? With a supermajority Republican government in a Red and Deep South State you would expect Alabama might have been among the first 10 states to ratify Constitutional Carry, not #22. It proves one point – strict adherence to Constitutional principles is never a given. Too many Republicans have different priorities.
Another topic on my mind is the still-increasing tide of secularism in America. It’s undeniably true. There’s something of a war on religion in our country. Not all religions, mind you. There’s no governmental war on the followers of Shinto, Tao, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, or Scientology. No, those and many others are all acknowledged religions in America and their adherents’ First Amendment rights to practice those religions as they see fit are likewise acknowledged. But, there is still a war going on – a war against Jews and Christians. When it comes to religion, in America it’s the atheists who seem to command the greatest attention and the chosen targets of groups like the American Atheist Organization, Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Humanist Organization, Secular Coalition for America, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the various socialist and communist organizations are predominately any public expression that has Jewish or Christian origins.
Several years ago the Mobile County Commission moved its public hearing room. An issue was made of a sign which was donated for use in the new chamber. It was a simple, but bold sign that bore a rather common motto. It shouldn’t have been controversial, but a coalition of atheist groups determined to stop the sign from being displayed. A series of public hearings were held and the matter was openly debated. Eventually the three county commissioners voted on the question. The vote was 2-to-1, with the one Democrat commissioner voting against displaying the sign. What was the controversial motto? IN GOD WE TRUST. Yes, that’s right. The atheists were campaigning against the display of our national motto. Maybe you aren’t aware that many cities across the nation have removed that motto from public display – giving in to the demands of atheists and secular humanists who constantly campaign against any expression of faith in any public place. They’ve been all too successful in their efforts. One of their current campaigns is to remove IN GOD WE TRUST from all our currency. That effort may yet prove successful. After all, if we shift to an all-digital currency there won’t be any mottos to be seen.
The questions of secularism get right to the heart of what created America in the first place. Weren’t most of the first settlers of this land people who left Europe to find a place where they could worship as they wished without government interference? Isn’t freedom of religion the cornerstone of our entire national ethos? Isn’t that the idea in having it be part of the First Amendment? Is it, or do we now have to ask, was it? I’m no longer sure on that point. I’ve become more and more convinced that the politically and judicially sanctioned tyranny of a tiny, but loud minority has altered that ethos. Despite being a nation renowned for having the most churches per capita in the world, with the highest percentage of regular church and temple attendees, we seem to have a government that sides ever-more with the atheists and secular humanists. Where have the Republicans in Washington, and even our own states, helped us there?
A few short years ago Alabama elected Roy Moore to be the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Immediately the secular humanists, atheists, the ACLU and the SPLC launched attacks on him. When he placed a granite monument in the lobby of the Supreme Court building he was sued to have it removed. The monument was funded by Judge Moore’s supporters. If you read about it you’ll most often hear it characterized as “the Ten Commandments” monument, though only the top panel of the cubic-shaped monument featured the Ten Commandments. The sides of the monument were engraved with quotes relating to the importance of God taken from the Declaration of Independence, Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, and various writings of our Founding Fathers. Moore stated the granite monument depicted "the moral foundation of our law" and in his opinion reflected the sovereignty of the Judeo-Christian God. A US District Court judge, Myron Thompson, ruled the monument’s presence in the Supreme Court lobby was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and ordered it to be removed. Judge Moore refused the order. He then lost an appeal to the US Court of Appeals of the Eleventh Circuit, and was again ordered to remove the monument, with the threat of a $5K/day fine for every day it remained. He refused a second time. The other eight Alabama Supreme Court justices voted to remove the monument, fearing the imposition of the threatened fine. The following day, a judicial ethics commission, assembled by Alabama’s governor, suspended Moore and filed a complaint against him with Alabama's Court of the Judiciary. On November 13, 2003, the Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from office for purposefully defying the federal court's order to remove the monument. Secularists and their interpretations of our Constitution won that battle. All of America lost. We are still losing, and the Republican Party does not stand up for us.
For more than a decade my first political priority has been to boot governmental controls from the process of educating young people. Education should never be mixed with politics, but today it’s not just mixed, but completely controlled. Most schools around our nation have adopted common standards, known as National Educational Standards. While the concept of common standards appears laudable, the reality is not. The original need and intent was to ensure equality of educational experiences all across the country. Children who are in the Eight Grade should all learn the same things at roughly the same time. Such standardization has been a demand of parents for many decades, especially those who served in the military. But, once our government decided to act on the demand the whole idea was hijacked and re-purposed. The creation of common standards was too great an opportunity to pass up. Instead of concentrating on the best examples of educational excellence and constructing standard templates from those models, the creators of today’s National Educational Standards used their efforts to impose ideological training on school children. It’s all extremely sophisticated in the way it’s done, but the intent and effects are undeniable. I won’t get into a long dissertation on this, but will characterize K-12 educational standards today as anti-religious, anti-free market, anti-American, amoral (if not immoral), anti-science, anti-common sense, and even anti-education. Instead of an academic education, the standards promote a peculiarly socialist orientation. The intent is to “socialize” the young, not to educate them.
Why do I bring up education among my list of grievances against the Republican Party? Because they’ve done almost nothing about it other than pass some meaningless and toothless resolutions. They’ve taken far too little action.
I will use Alabama as an example once again. Two years ago the Alabama legislature passed a bill that officially ended Alabama’s participation in Common Core Standards. Our governor signed it into law and even today will tell anyone that Common Core does not exist in Alabama; she made sure of that. But … that’s just a snow-job. Common Core exists in Alabama, as do all the National Educational Standards. How did that happen? How was the will of the people circumvented? Why is Alabama once again a cellar-dweller in all categories of education? It was easy. The state made a few cosmetic changes to the wording of the standards and re-named them. Voila', no more Common Core. No more National Standards. And, yet … they are as alive today as ever.
Recently there was a bit of a fuss made over educational standards and the snow-job passed off by Republicans as educational reform. Our governor’s Chief of Staff stated the real problem of the new standards wasn’t the standards – it was the teachers. The teachers aren’t smart enough to teach to the new standards. What is the answer? Alabama just announced the creation of a new educational task force that has the mission of training and certifying all the state’s K-12 teachers so they’ll fully comprehend the standards and how to apply them. Does that sound like a sensical approach to you? And, are you wondering why they’d ever sign up for such a shell-game? The answer is easy to comprehend – it’s all related to federal educational grants tied to the use of National Educational Standards. When it comes to games involving money and power it’s never wise to trust a Democrat, but the Republicans are showing us nothing better. Not in Alabama. Not in any state that’s still using the National Educational Standards. This game has to end.
The last part of today’s diatribe involves the truth that we, as Americans, no longer have Constitutional property rights according to the “guarantees” of Amendments Four and Five. We just don’t! There are so many laws and regulations on the books that have the effect of taking property that they cannot be counted. The police can take from you. Sheriffs can take from you. County and city governments can take from you. States can. Almost any agency of the federal Executive Department can. Nothing that you believe is yours is safe from confiscation. Today, we are not owners of anything. Today we are “allowed” to possess things for as long as no part of government wants to remove it from our custody. You may not acknowledge the truth of it. You most certainly don’t like it. You equally as certainly don’t want it. But, the truth is the truth. Americans no longer have property rights. We only think we do, and governments are happy to let you live with the notion as long as it suits them. When the time comes when it no longer suits them – you’ll know.
Think for a moment about an advertisement you hear on radio – the one for Home Title Lock. Have you ever thought about the whole notion of home title theft? What makes that possible? The advertisement states that titles are available as open-source data off state-run databases. Really? Do you get what that says? It says state governments facilitate property crimes by allowing anyone to see and to copy titles off public databases. Does that sound like the peoples’ right “ … to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects …”? While it’s true the Fourth Amendment was designed to prevent governmental abuses and theft, the mere fact they would set up openly accessible databases that would facilitate real property theft indicates either criminal negligence or criminal intent. Why are no foolproof safeguards attached to the title registries? Why does such a crime as home title theft occur at all? It has to be because the states are refusing to safeguard our property rights. It has to be because they don’t acknowledge them. Why have Republican office-holders done nothing to help us? Is it because they, too, covet what we have? You decide.
I won’t linger much longer. You’ve suffered enough from me this time. I just wanted to share some thoughts with you, thoughts regarding why I’m a most reluctant Republican. I find it strange that so many of the more powerful people in the Republican Party don’t even try to live up to the party’s platform. It tells me the brotherhood of politicians in the capitals of our nation’s states and in Washington creates bonds between Democrats and Republicans that are far stronger than between either brand of politician and their constituents. It tells me that, in the main, the differences between politicians are far more nuanced than most would ever believe. It tells me that I can’t trust a Republican any more than I can a Democrat. Less, really. I don’t expect anything good from a Democrat. I used to hold a little trust that to be a Republican was an affirmation of an ethos. No more, though. Today, I have to admit it – I have no trust left in me for any politician.
Steve© Steve A. Stone
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.