Jason Chaffetz

After a week of recess, Congress is back in session today. Today also marks the first day Congress is back in session without Jason Chaffetz. Mr. Chaffetz resigned earlier this year. Why he resigned is the real story.

It wasn’t a scandal, as too often it is when a member of Congress fails to finish his or her term. No, the reason for the resignation: money.

Mr. Chaffetz has come forward with details of a practice of which much of the American public is undoubtedly unaware. As is evidently the practice in both parties, if a Congressman desires to hold a leadership position or a committee chairmanship, he or she must commit to earning a certain dollar amount, a significant amount, of campaign contributions for his or her party.

Granted, the money isn’t coming from the Congressperson’s own pocket, but this could be reasonably interpreted as having the same ethical effect of a pay to play scheme. It prices those who should be leading our Congress – and it is OUR Congress – out of the leadership market. The ones who should be in charge in Washington are those who place a greater emphasis on solving legislative problems than financing future elections so they can stay in power.

I’ve previously written in this space about the need for Congressional term limits. This is exactly why term limits are needed.

Additionally, this practice raises two questions:

Who is making the decision to require this practice? Who is pulling the strings? Why doesn’t Congress prohibit this practice?

Because it’s about retaining power first and working for the taxpayers second.

And that’s backwards.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Voter ID Laws

Voter identification laws have been controversial for some time now. Courts have struck down voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina claiming the purpose behind such laws is to intentionally discriminate.

Generally speaking, those on the Left oppose such laws by claiming they are racist and aimed at voter disenfranchisement.

Generally speaking, laws requiring photo proof of identification prior to being allowed to vote are supported by the Right because of fears of voter fraud.

Is either side correct?

Because the term “hack the election” is such a hot topic right now, mostly in regard to Russia, let’s look at the facts about whether it’s possible for either of our political parties to cheat in our electoral process.

As far as the Left is concerned, there are
a plethora of places where photo ID is required in every day life by people of all races and income levels: opening a bank account; applying for food stamps, welfare, medicaid, social security, unemployment, employment; renting a car, buying a car, airplane travel, getting married, buying a gun, renting a hotel room, getting a hunting license or getting a fishing license. And yet, we don’t hear accusations of discrimination in these instances, do we?

What about the Right’s fears?

This week, a man named Andrew Spieles admitted to signing up eighteen dead people to vote. While eighteen is not a large number, it’s still wrong, and it’s proof that this sort of thing is taking place.

In Virginia, according to the Washington times, an audit conducted by a voter integrity group found 1,852 illegal immigrants voted in Virginia elections over a decade. Again, not a huge number but more proof illegal voting is occurring. And if it’s happening in Virginia, it’s likely happening elsewhere, too.

In fact, it seems that is exactly the case. A study, also reported in the Washington Times extrapolated a nationwide figure based on known data and estimated 5.8 million illegals may have voted in the 2008 election.

Confidence in the electoral process is paramount to remaining a free nation. There absolutely must be a focus on truth, fairness, and integrity by both political parties. A peaceful transition of power depends on it.

The idea that it is racist to require proof of identification prior to casting a ballot is ludicrous to me. In my opinion, not only should you have to show proof at your polling place that you are who you say you are, you should also be required to show proof that you are a legal citizen of the country.

Anything less is a disservice to the law abiding citizens of the United States.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

United We Stand

We are clearly a divided country and have been for well over two decades. However, should anyone doubt the USA’s ability to endure such strain, let’s look back for a lesson in history on the matter.

We been here before. Multiple times.

The Civil War is an obvious example – and the most severe – so I won’t elaborate here except to point to President Lincoln’s 1958 House Divided speech, in which he states: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

A key point to remember. We can’t endure permanently a divided nation. But it goes back farther than that.

At the country’s founding, an opinion was circulating that the new country should be made up of several confederacies, each having the same powers as the proposed national government. Essentially, three or four separate countries.

John Jay authored Federalist Paper No. 2 as an argument against this proposal, saying “the prosperity of America (depends) on its Union.” His reasoning? National security depends upon a strong central government.

And yet, political division in the United States goes back even farther than that, so far that it outdates the country itself.

As Jay writes: “It is not yet forgotten that well-grounded apprehensions of imminent danger induced the people of America to form the memorable Congress of 1774. That body recommended certain measures to their constituents, and the event proved their wisdom; yet it is fresh in our memories how soon the press began to teem with pamphlets and weekly papers against those very measures. Not only many of the officers of government, who obeyed the dictates of personal interest, but others, from a mistaken estimate of consequences, or the undue influence of former attachments, or whose ambition aimed at objects which did not correspond with the public good, were indefatigable in their efforts to pursuade the people to reject the advice of that patriotic Congress. Many, indeed, were deceived and deluded, but the great majority of the people reasoned and decided judiciously; and happy they are in reflecting that they did so.”

So, we’ve been divided before, and we’ve been okay. We’ll be okay this time, too, provided we continue to reason amongst ourselves based in truthful information. Facts matter. Truth is not relative. We must continue to honestly debate ideas.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

The Cause of Truth

“A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

Does this sound like us?

These are the words of Alexander Hamilton as written in Federalist Paper No. 1. Mr. Hamilton is speaking of the Constitution and the divisiveness the arguments for and against its adoption might bring.

Heated political discourse is not new to this country. We’re living in a time of great political division, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not something to be worried about, but it is necessary to affirm a few key principles.

The utmost being that our founding documents, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, should guide our discussions. Our policy discussions should occur within this framework.

The second being that when possible, we look for and adhere to our founders’ intent when disagreements arise over legislative details. A great source for this are the Federalist Papers.

Hamilton writes: “My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth.”

If our arguments are offered in a spirit that won’t disgrace the cause of truth, we have nothing to fear.

That’s my goal in this space: daily fact based analysis of the day’s happenings. Others may be louder or more bitter. We should focus on truth, civility, and persuasion.

This is the greatest country on the planet, this great experiment in self governance. Be proud to be an American.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Less Rhetoric…

When I began this blog, it was due to the realization that too much of our public discourse isn’t discourse at all. It’s two sides talking at one another with neither side really listening.

You know what I’m talking about. We see it on the cable news shows. We see it from our celebrities. And now, we even see it amongst our politicians.

After yesterday’s shooting, calls to tone down the rhetoric are abundant. Bernie Sanders gave a nice talk from the floor of the Senate whereby he denounced violence in the strongest of terms. Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi did the same, acknowledging the need to work together.

Despite the current tension, however, these issues aren’t new. They’re just new to us. The history of the United States has seen plenty of rough stretches.

The 1960s saw the assassinations of a President, his brother and Presidential candidate, and a key leader in the civil rights movement.

A decade earlier, we went to war with one another because our differences were split geographically.

In 1804, this young nation saw its Vice President kill a former cabinet member by way of a duel. (Imagine that happening today!)

And you know what? We made it through each of these periods. We’ll make it through this as well.

What will it take to do so?

What are the important things for every American to take away from this week?

Our national conversation should be based, number one, in truth. Look for facts, and calibrate your political opinion to the truth.

Secondly, be willing to admit you are wrong. Don’t become so emotionally invested (or financially invested, if your name is Al Gore) in your opinion, that you are unable to adjust your stance as you acquire new information.

Listen to your political opponents. Seek to understand their point of view, and then respond as appropriate. It is useless to voice your opinion if you are not hearing the opinions of others.

(A practical way to practice this: make a point to watch all three major cable news networks. All three cover issues differently. )

Then, be willing to compromise. Our legislative process and governmental system of checks and balances is designed to function slowly. Change should not be quick or easy, especially if your intent is to “fundamentally change America”.

Our founders did this, as Madison explains in Federalist Paper 10, to make it difficult for temporal passions to accomplish goals that lie in direct opposition to the “permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

It’s by design, so don’t be frustrated by it. It is through persuasion and compromise that we properly move the country forward.

Finally, value life and hate dishonest gain. We’ve gone away from this in recent decades, but it is essential to the concept of self government. Life, liberty, and the pursuit…

So that’s my two cents. I’m forever grateful to live in a place that protects my freedom to speak out. It’s not North Korea, and we take that fact for granted.

The United States of America is still young, still an experiment in self government, and still that shining city on a hill upon which the rest of the world will gaze. A republic.

Can we keep it?

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Steve Scalise Shooting

What do we know about today’s shooting?

Senator Rand Paul: “I think we’re lucky that Scalise was there because this was his security detail, without them it would have been a massacre.”

Senator Jeff Flake: “He had a lot of ammo and I think he must have been secured behind the third base dugout for awhile.”

Representative Ron DeSantis said he was asked by the shooter, “Are those Republicans or Democrats out there practicing?”

Seriously.

Senator Bernie Sanders says suspect “apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign.”

And while I’ve never heard Senator Sanders call for violence, the political atmosphere this year is out of control and reaching a boiling point.

The President is not perfect. There are many of his actions with which I disagree., but the anti-Trump venom being spewed by those in our nation who refuse to deal in factual knowledge are fueling these fires.

Refusing to accept the results of the election.

Constantly promoting impeachment.

Calling themselves the “Resistance”.

How many Resistance folks spoke out against those who grossly leaped over lines of decency such as Madonna, who said she gave “serious thought to blowing up the White House,” or Kathy Griffin and her beheaded Trump doll?

Not nearly enough.

The irony is that for years, decades even, the Left has made accusations like this against Right leaning talk radio hosts, saying that they are fueling hate.

Today it became clear that the Left is fueling a great bit of hate themselves, and for what purpose?

Political power?

So the country can be molded to their personal vision?

This country is greater than you and me.

Let’s deal in facts, People.

Let’s respect one another.

Let’s hold our founding documents in reverence and respect and work within the system.

Let’s put a priority on truth and hold those politicians accountable who are found lying.

Newsflash: They all lie – including our current and former President.

Let’s drop the double standards and deal with the issues straight up – with integrity and intelligence.

But today, let’s pray for the hurt, the physically injured and our fellow Americans dealing with emotional pain that led to this tragic day.

We’ll pick up the pieces tomorrow.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Political Factions

Federalist Paper No. 10, authored by James Madison, is dedicated to the defense of the United States against factions, which he calls a “dangerous vice”.

Madison defines a faction as “a number of citizens…who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

He says factions are inevitable: “As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.”

So do we have an issue with factions today?

Class warfare comes to mind, in so much as we have politicians attempting to pit one segment of our population against the rest based on a single issue of wealth. One could argue that those who buy the false narrative of the rich not paying their fair share of taxes constitute a faction adverse to the aggregate interests of the United States economy.

Unfortunately, this has been true since the founding of our country. Madison: “But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”

Sounds like us, right?

This becomes especially true and dangerous if politicians are pushing such narratives for the sole purpose of obtaining or holding on to political power. Of course, political parties themselves represent factions who far too often give the appearance looking out only for the interests of their party and not the common good of the United States and her citizens.

Madison writes: “A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.”

It’s a problem, it’s existed since the nation’s founding, and it’s one that threatens our very democracy.

Madison again: “The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.”

So what do we do about it?

Fortunately for us, it’s a problem for which our founders prepared, having designed our Constitution with the tendencies of human nature in mind.

They knew trust in a single politician is not the answer: “It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”

They knew a majority rule democracy is not the answer: “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”

Okay. So what DO we do about it?

According to James Madison: “There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.”

We’ve already established the causes of factions to be the fallibility of man and the liberty to exercise it. We can’t control one, and removing freedom would create a problem worse than the cure. So, we’re left with controlling its effects.

James Madison: “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”

He elaborates: “The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.”

Examples: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.”

A republic, Madison explains, by keeping politics local and within divisions, prevents popular movements from spreading quickly. This aids in keeping factions in check.

How do we differ from Federalist Paper No. 10?

Unlike the Constitution James Madison defends in Federalist Paper No. 10, we elect our Senators, since 1913, by direct vote rather than by state legislatures. Our population has also grown considerably, so each politician represents a greater number of citizens. We also live with a 24-hour news cycle in the age of social media. News travels fast, and inaccurate information spreads quickly.

It is therefore as important as ever to ensure as much political activity as possible is managed at the local level where citizens know their representatives and can more easily have their ear. We should keep the electoral college in place to prevent a few large cities from controlling our presidential election. And, most importantly, we should individually make certain our opinions, decisions, and communications are deliberate and based in factual knowledge.

By these means, we can still, even in our age, control the effects of political factions.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Voter Turnout in America

Growing up, I listened for years to everyone from teachers to the media cry about how low voter turnout is in America.

In college, I watched as MTV’s Rock the Vote attempted to educate and motivate young people to voice their opinion at the polls.

It was sometime after college when I realized that both of these were wrong. Rock the Vote was not a good thing, and America’s low percentage of voters is not necessarily so bad.

Don’t get me wrong. Every American should participate in our political process. It’s a privilege to do so.

The truth, though, is that we don’t. So many of us take the concept of self-government for granted. Our lives are comfortable, so we don’t bother.

And that is fine. It’s part of the freedom we enjoy as Americans – the freedom to not participate.

But if we tune out, we can’t expect to learn everything there is to know about what’s going on in a matter of days. There is just too much misinformation, too much propaganda out in the public domain.

The founding fathers feared swift movements based on popular incomplete knowledge. They called them factions, and In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison defined them this way:

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

The dangers of such movements can be severe. Madison continues:

“The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.”

To properly perform our civic duty of casting a ballot, one must first follow the facts, pursue truth, and then – and only then – form an opinion.

Are you not doing this? Do you consider yourself uninformed on various issues of a particular race. If so, you have a responsibility NOT to vote. In fact, not voting becomes your civic duty.

And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with that. Live your life. It’s a free country. Enjoy it.

But should you decide to engage, do it from a critical thinking, fact-based perspective.

Test everything. Hold on to what is true.

-John Anchor
@JohnAnchorBLOG

Ben Carson

A story was in the news yesterday that reveals a lot about what we, as a nation, think about the topic of personal responsibility.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson said this:

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. You take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world — they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

When I heard those words, spoken by a man who grew up in poverty and went on to become one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons, I heard words of encouragement speaking to how far a good attitude, hard work, and personal responsibility will take you in life.

The rest of the media, apparently, heard something different.  Here are a few of the criticisms:

New York Daily News – “Ben Carson somehow reaches new levels of stupidity with latest commentary on poor”

CNN – “Secretary Carson, you should know better” 

Charles Blow – “Can we take Ben Carson back to the vendor and get a refund? Something is broken…”

George Takei – “Ben Carson says that poverty is a “state of mind.” You know what else is a state of mind? Always being a blithering idiot.”

Despite the criticisms, what Dr. Carson said is true.  Americans can rescue themselves out of poverty.  They do it all the time according to statistics.

“By age 60, 53% of Americans will have experienced at least one year in the top 10th income percentile, while 54% of Americans will experience at least one year of poverty by the same age.”

Our economic classes have a fluidity about them that critics don’t acknowledge. That’s not to say it isn’t more difficult to escape if you are born into poverty. It is to say that escaping poverty happens frequently.

One criticism called Dr. Carson’s statement “a convenient, intellectually lazy argument.”  An argument can be made that it is actually the other way around. Riding the assumption of perpetual dependence is akin to saying,”Vote for me! I’ll take care of you! The other party doesn’t care about you!”

Criticizing Dr. Carson because of his words is a politically convenient argument.  We shouldn’t stand for it.

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG

Sean Hannity

A decision on whether to accept the validity of a story should be based on available facts, not on the number of individuals who believe the story or even the trust one places in certain individuals or media outlets who do not believe the story.

Additionally, all Americans should be free to discuss ideas openly without fear of consequences.  The manner in which we find truth is through the exchange and evaluation of ideas.

We’re losing this.

Sean Hannity is one of the last media members to discuss the Seth Rich story.  (Fox News has retracted its report, and a thorough review of the known facts can be  found here.)

Because of his stated desire for a truthful solution to the unsolved murder of the DNC staffer, Media Matters has called for a boycott of Hannity’s advertisers.

This is wrong.

I get it.  The insinuations are extremely serious, and a matter like this doesn’t need to be investigated in the media, but calling for a boycott because you don’t like the political position a host is taking on an opinion-based show violates the intellectual freedom that is such an important part of a democratic society.

Look at what happened to Ann Coulter a few weeks ago with UC Berkley. Invited to speak by a conservative group on campus, her speech was cancelled following the threat of violence by students opposed to her political views. 

The idea that it is somehow acceptable to silence a person because you don’t agree with them goes against the very foundations of our country.  

Most of our founding fathers adhered to the views expressed by the French philosopher, Voltaire. Evelyn Hall, as an illustration of Voltaire’s beliefs, wrote the following words in his biography, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death  your right to say it.”

One of the tenets of Fascism is the forcible suppression of opposition.  It’s ironic, is it not, that those advocating for the suppression of speech today mistakenly think they are doing so in the name of democracy?

-John Anchor

@JohnAnchorBLOG