I feel bad for Evan McMullin

It’s no secret that the Donald Trump candidacy has been a total disaster for the Republican establishment. Trump has defied party ideology, divided its constituency, revealed a great deal of ugliness lying under the party’s surface, and refused to bend to the will of consultants and donors. While there are innumerable things to despise about Trump, one can at least realize that he has been a great success in blowing up the bloated mess that is (or was) the GOP.

Add to this the fact that the wildly corrupt Democratic Party elevated Hillary Clinton, a woman who would be indicted on felony charges if not for her name, and a perfect storm has been created for a third party candidate to play a major part. And, in another unlikely turn, the Libertarian Party chose to nominate the most qualified, experienced ticket on the ballot, instead of a suspected murderer or Internet troll. While not perfect, the Johnson/Weld ticket has run an uncharacteristically competent campaign for the LP. Both are former governors with an actual track record of accomplishing what the GOP claims to stand for. They are the best choice in 2016, and it’s not close.

But the truth is that Trump is far from the only disaster that could befall the GOP elites this election cycle. Arguably, it would be even worse, and more damaging in the long-term, for this election to prove that a third party can be viable and break the GOP’s hold on limited government types. Were Johnson/Weld to do well, no longer would the party hacks be able to tell conservatives and libertarians that the GOP was their best and only option. They would lose the “lesser of two evils” moniker. And a well-directed Libertarian Party could be a force to reckon with, as it could also count on a significant swatch of otherwise Democratic voters who actually care about peace and civil liberties.

Enter Evan McMullin. A former spy and Republican insider, McMullin is the GOP elite’s choice for the “non Trump” position. Evan seems like a nice enough guy. I have no reason to think he is running for any reason other than a genuine sense of duty to party and country. Yet, Evan faces what would otherwise be obviously insurmountable barriers. He has almost no ballot access because of his late start. An enormous part of his campaign’s money and time will be spent suing and trying to co-opt small parties. And is it also obvious he is an unqualified nobody. Almost no one even heard of him until a few weeks ago. He has almost no time to build name recognition and organization. He, without any doubt, has zero chance of winning.

Yet despite all this, many conservatives have lined up to support him. Many long-time insiders have come onboard. For at least some part of the conservative/GOP landscape, he has become the choice for those who both hate Trump, and also hate the idea of the LP gaining a foothold. Evan is the non-Trump for the people who fear potentially losing a chunk of the electorate as much as the widely-expected dumpster fire that will be Election Day. His supporters would rather waste time and effort than support the legitimate effort of Johnson/Weld.

There is almost no logical reason for most disaffected conservatives to not support the Johnson/Weld ticket. Many conservatives disagree with Gary Johnson on important issues, like abortion, foreign policy, and the legalization of marijuana. Others don’t like that he doesn’t pay heed to the pet social issues of the day. Yet for those outside the hard-core hawk and social con corps, Johnson is a no-brainer. He’s by far the most competent and qualified, and practices what he preaches. And he has a chance to really change the system.

To be honest, while it’s hard to feel too bad for McMullin given the free national exposure he’s getting, I hate that the entire McMullin “movement” is a complete ruse to take the money and votes from people to support a candidate that no one thinks will go anywhere. A McMullin donation might as well go straight to the lawyers who will be suing to get him on ballots. By running this farce, it is clear that the GOP is in even worse shape than we thought. Left with a dreadful candidate and a flawed but far superior third choice, the elites would rather use some unknown guy as a pawn in a pathetic attempt to maintain control of the party.

I’m not against offering more choices. But politics is what it is. You can either jump onboard the Johnson/Weld train and have at least some chance of shaking up the system. Or you can support Evan McMullin, and make sure that consultants and politicos get paychecks. Seems like an easy choice to me.

The gun debate is over

Like clockwork, mass shootings in America trigger us to engage in the exact same debate about gun rights. It doesn’t matter if the shooter obtained his or her gun legally or not. Or if they showed clear signs of mental health issues in retrospect. Or if any gun law ever proposed would have done anything to stop it. All that matters is that someone decided to use a gun to shoot people.

Gun controllers begin with the same old refrain. How we allegedly have a “epidemic” of mass shootings. How we should ban “assault weapons,” whatever the hell that term means on that given day. Whether the Second Amendment should be repealed or severely curtailed. And why that damn heartless NRA so enjoys watching people get slaughtered.

The statements they make are frequently filled with falsehoods and ignorance. Almost none of them bother to actually learn basic concepts like the difference between semi-automatic and automatic. This fact is worn like a badge of pride, like they are somehow morally superior for not understanding these evil death machines. Gun owners of all stripes are mocked, ridiculed, and insulted, as is the country as a whole and our “gun culture”. Other nations are held up as beacons of peace and love.

In return, gun rights supporters raise important facts about the impracticality of banning guns, about how guns are more often used defensively, about how “assault weapons” are not an actual thing and are no more deadly than handguns. They point out how gun laws have done nothing to stop crime (see Chicago) and how they mainly serve to inconvenience and disarm law-abiding people but do nothing about killers. Examples are raised of gun laws preventing people from defending against stalkers and angry exes.

All of these facts bounce off the gun crusaders. When one feels one has moral righteousness on one’s side, why should anything matter, after all? Why would they bother to listen to a bunch of NRA-bought gun nuts who just think guns are “cool” and don’t care about stopping mass shootings? When gun rights supporters are portrayed as heartless monsters who will gladly watch children die, why should their opinions and facts have any bearing? Why care about people who have no morals?

So the same debate rages over and over again. We have marches and vigils and now Congressional “sit ins”. We have comedians and media figures shouting and ranting about how horrible it is that “normal” Americans can buy guns (note that no one questions if police should have them). Facebook is filled with well-meaning folks posting the same old deceptive talking points. And for a while we fight like dogs and hate each other.

Lately though, something has changed. Sometime in the past few months the proposal was raised to ban people on the “no fly list” from being able to own guns. Initially, the proposal was limited to the so-called “terrorist watch list” but it soon expanded to include every secret list the government maintains of supposed bad guys. Even at first glance, the problems with such a policy are nakedly obvious. For starters, the lists in question are not public, and there is no procedure for even knowing if you are on the list, much less for getting off it. The vast majority of the list is made up of Muslims who have done nothing wrong but having Arabic names. And this is not even getting to the issue of taking away a right by adding someone to a list.

There was a time when the ideas of secret lists and surveillance of innocent Muslims were things the left opposed. When the Bush era brought these new horrors into existence, they were widely derided as being unconstitutional and discriminatory. But suddenly, the subject of guns was brought into the mix. The secret lists once hated were now a tool to take away gun rights. And, far more importantly, a way to portray opponents as supporting the right of “terrorists” to buy weapons.

With alarming alacrity, the gun control movement has fallen behind this heinous proposal en masse. The gun controllers hate guns so much that they are willing to defend a proposal that spits in the face of due process and equal rights. Does it matter that no one even knows who actually would be prevented from buying a gun? Or the question of what to do if those on the lists already own guns? Or that the list is plainly biased towards Muslims? Not at all, because all that matters is that Guns Are Evil.

There comes a certain point where one side in a debate has become so unhinged, so utterly convinced of its righteousness that there is no point even talking to them. This is true of the hardcore “pro-life” movement that believes anyone not supporting a total abortion ban is akin to Hitler. On people who have so completely fallen off the ledge of reason, there is no saving them. There is no discourse. The only thing you can do is cut them off and try to work out something with the sane people.

The problem with the gun debate, though, is that pretty much the entire anti-gun side decided to jump off this cliff together. There are some stragglers, sure, who realize the implications of the “no fly, no buy” proposal and stay firmly on ground. But movements are not made of rational policy wonks. They are made of ignorant masses who follow the leader who is shouting the loudest and making them feel the best about themselves. When the leaders decide to jump off a cliff, most will follow them.

So the gun debate is pretty much over. Not that it really was much of a debate to begin with. It never mattered if policies actually would stop gun violence, just that they were “doing something.” There wasn’t much talk of finding solutions that would reduce gun violence while protecting rights. But now any hope of that is gone. The gun control side has gone off the deep edge, where nothing matters but hating guns and things like rights, reality, and logic are gone. The “no fly” law represents a jump into the abyss. A total abandonment of any good faith or honesty. A decision to check out of discourse and live in a fetid pit of hate and anger.

Maybe some will come back. Maybe those who are left are the serious ones who actually want to find solutions. But I wouldn’t bet on it. I’d bet on the “gun issue” going on forever and ever until all of us are old and gray. Not much will change in the actual legal landscape, barring a horrendous sequence of events that leads to SCOTUS overturning Heller (not impossible, but years away at least). What will change is the tenor of the debate and how it affects relationships and social interaction. It’s clear the gun control side has largely decided that they have no interest in understanding guns or gun owners. Hopefully, at some point, that will change and we can actually talk. But I’m not holding my breath.

With Rand out, who do libertarians vote for?

Yesterday brought news than many libertarians long thought was inevitable, but nonetheless wished wouldn’t happen – Rand Paul decided to give up his presidential ambitions. With Rand’s departure, there is no significantly libertarian candidate in the race. There are a couple others who have shown libertarian tendencies, but none of them were as clear about expressing it as Senator Paul. His removal from the race makes it hard for any libertarian to know who to support, if anyone.

First of all, to be sure, Rand is not a pure libertarian by any stretch, and became even less so in trying to win the nomination. He is definitely on the non-interventionist end on foreign policy, but in recent months has put forth very restrictionist views on immigration and has in general taken more hawkish stands than he ever did as a senator. Many of his long-time supporters, including myself, hated this pandering and saw it as selling out in order to pander to voters who, in all honesty, he never could win over. Rand did not run a great campaign in general, and this cycle turned out to be particularly hard for him to really stand out in.

But for all his flaws, Rand was the only candidate offering a real possibility at moving the needle. A President Paul would almost surely be less eager to intervene abroad, less eager to use the cudgel of government to force his will on the people, and more willing to adhere to the Constitution. He wouldn’t be perfect, but he’d be 1000 times better than anyone else running. If elected Dr. Paul would be a good ally for the goals of criminal justice reform and ending the War on Drugs. There would be letdowns, sure, but it would be a sizable improvement.

Without Senator Paul, there are scant options left in the main parties. The only two candidates remotely supportable by libertarians, in my view, are Ted Cruz in the GOP and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party. These two could not be farther apart on most issues, but both have some appeal. I can see former Paul backers going into either camp.

Cruz at least SOUNDS libertarian on some issues, even if many of his positions then go on to reveal egregiously un-libertarian tendencies (carpet bombing, for example). The biggest problem with Cruz is in his authenticity. It’s clear he is willing to lie, almost pathologically. And his social views are utterly terrifying. The best term I’ve seen for Ted Cruz is “Christian nationalist”. It’s clear Cruz thinks very little of non-Christians and would very likely favor discriminatory policies in office. Cruz at least would be better than others on privacy issues, and somewhat better on foreign policy, but again no one knows if anything he says is even true or how he really would act.

Bernie Sanders seems an odd choice for libertarians, given his claim of being a socialist. I’ve gotten more than a little guff from other libertarians when I suggest Bernie is not a terrible option. Clearly, many of Sanders’ views are utterly anti-libertarian – ultra high taxes, wealth redistribution, attacking free speech, government healthcare, and in general massively increasing the size and scope of government. But on other issues, he is far better than Hillary or anyone remaining in the GOP. He is very willing to discuss criminal justice reform. He is not a reflexive hawk and seems less eager to invade other countries. He voted against the Iraq War. And he’s, at least historically, decent on civil liberties and gun rights.

In truth, I think it really depends on where you fall in the libertarian world. Clearly, a “conservatarian” or right-libertarian is going to favor Cruz. Left-libertarians and those more worried about civil liberties and non-interventionism will be tempted by Bernie. Personally, I’m much more of the latter. The biggest issues to me now are criminal justice reform (specifically, ending the War on Drugs), ending mass surveillance, and preventing wars with Iran, Russia, and whoever else is the enemy of the day. Bernie’s better on all of those things. In addition, the things that Bernie is most noxious on also are those things he is least likely to get through Congress, especially if the GOP retains the Senate.

There are, of course, also the options of supporting a third party candidate like Gary Johnson, or not voting. Both are possibilities. Clearly, if it comes down to Hillary against Rubio or Trump, that’s the only option. No libertarian could ever support any of them. And since that seems like a likely scenario, I’d bet my money on once again filling the dot for Gary Johnson and hoping that the next four years will be less awful than feared. Libertarians really don’t have a great option without Paul, so I don’t think there is any one obvious path to take. For another cycle, we’re left without a standard-bearer who can really start to change things.

This doesn’t mean 2016 is a total failure or that there is nothing that can be done. There will be referenda and ballot initiatives, as well as other elections. It would be foolish to see failure in the Presidential race as a total defeat. Progress is being made in many other areas, and views are changing. We need to keep on fighting for change even if it’s on “smaller” issues or scales. So no one should be getting too upset about Paul leaving the race. He was only one element in an ongoing, generations-long battle we all must be committed to fighting.

Rubio vs. Rand gives me some hope for the future

During last night’s Republican debate in Milwaukee, we saw something we haven’t seen that much of during the roughly five hundred previous “debates” – an actual, well, debate. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, who are about as far apart on foreign policy as the GOP allows, exchanged some heated words.

The relevant parts of the transcript are here (important lines bolded by me):

PAUL:

Neil, there’s a point I’d like to make here…

(APPLAUSE)

….Neil, a point that I’d like to make about the tax credits.

We have to decide what is conservative and what isn’t conservative. Is it fiscally conservative to have a trillion-dollar expenditure? We’re not talking about giving people back their tax money. He’s talking about giving people money they didn’t pay. It’s a welfare transfer payment.

So here’s what we have. Is it conservative to have $1 trillion in transfer payments — a new welfare program that’s a refundable tax credit? Add that to Marco’s plan for $1 trillion in new military spending, and you get something that looks, to me, not very conservative. Thank you.

RUBIO:

So let me begin with this. I actually believe — first of all, this is their money. They do pay. It is refundable, not just against the taxes they pay to the government, but also the — on their federal income tax, it’s refundable against the payroll tax.

Everyone pays payroll tax. This is their money. This is not our money. And here’s what I don’t understand — if you invest that money in a piece of equipment, if you invest that money in a business, you get to write it off your taxes.

But if you invest it in your children, in the future of America and strengthening your family, we’re not going to recognize that in our tax code? The family is the most important institution in society. And, yes…

PAUL:

Nevertheless, it’s not very conservative, Marco.

RUBIO:

I do want to rebuild the American military.
PAUL:

How is it conservative?

RUBIO:

I know that Rand is a committed isolationist. I’m not. I believe the world is a stronger and a better place, when the United States is the strongest military power in the world.

PAUL:

Yeah, but, Marco! Marco! How is it conservative, how is it conservative to add a trillion-dollar expenditure for the federal government that you’re not paying for?

RUBIO:

Because…

PAUL:

How is it conservative?

RUBIO:

…are you talking about the military, Rand?

PAUL

How is it conservative to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures? You can not be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs that you’re not going to pay for.

RUBIO:

We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe. There are radical jihadist in the Middle East beheading people and crucifying Christians. A radical Shia cleric in Iran trying to get a nuclear weapon, the Chinese taking over the South China Sea…

RUBIO:

Yes, I believe the world is a safer — no, no, I don’t believe, I know that the world is a safer place when America is the strongest military power in the world.

PAUL:

No. I don’t think we’re any safer — I do not think we are any safer from bankruptcy court. As we go further, and further into debt, we become less, and less safe. This is the most important thing we’re going to talk about tonight. Can you be a conservative, and be liberal on military spending? Can you be for unlimited military spending, and say, Oh, I’m going to make the country safe? No, we need a safe country, but, you know, we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined?

I want a strong national defense, but I don’t want us to be bankrupt.

It began simply enough. Rand was attacking Rubio’s tax plan and his plan to increase military spending as not being very conservative. He was calling out Rubio for claiming to be a fiscal conservative, yet somehow doing the complete opposite when it came to military spending.

Rubio did not take this well, and his response was extremely telling. Instead of explaining how increasing defense spending to even higher levels was still conservative, Rubio resorted to name-calling and attacking strawmen, calling Rand a “committed isolationist” instead of offering any rebuttal.

The “isolationist” slur is nothing new. Hawks use the word all the time to describe any foreign policy that is even slightly less aggressive than the standard neoconservative line. Obviously, the claim that Paul is an “isolationist” is so wrong that it can be proven wrong with almost no effort. Rubio knows this. He knows that he is lying about Paul’s stance. But he is so taken aback by the challenge to his plan that he resorts to the political equivalent of “well you’re a giant doody-head!”

Rubio then goes on to recite every standard hawk line in the book. He states that the world is a better place when the US military is the strongest in the world – leaving aside the fact that we already account for ONE THIRD of world military spending while only having 5% of the world’s population. We have more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world’s navies combined, and can easily overwhelm any adversary. Even so called “rivals” like Russia, China, and Iran are so far beneath us that they pose no threat to the homeland. The biggest “threats” we face are forces like ISIS, Al-Qæda, and lone-wolf terrorists that will not be easily stopped by any military, no matter what the size.

Then Rubio lists all of the boogeymen we’re supposed to be scared of. The radical jihadists in the Middle East (ISIS) that we allowed to grow by overthrowing Iraq and who pose no threat at all to the United States. The Shia clerics in Iran who have seemingly been THIS CLOSE to building a nuclear weapon for over a decade, who have no intention or ability to attack us, and whose military we could crush easily. The Chinese taking over the South China Sea… which again doesn’t directly affect us, and who everyone knows we aren’t going to war with to stop anyway.

Rand then repeats the obvious – that we can’t afford to spend more on the military, and that the position of Rubio and those like him is not remotely conservative when it comes to defense spending. Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina then felt it was their turn to interject. Cruz claimed we could afford massive military spending if we cut some programs. Not sure of the math here, but it’s besides the point anyway – we can easily defend ourselves with the same or even much less spending. Fiorina added some gibberish about budgeting and tax reform. But the main firefight was over with for the time.

At the time and after the debate, I was stewing about Rubio dropping the “isolationist” slur. Here was the GOP establishment’s golden boy so unable to defend his position that he had to lie about his opponent’s stance. It was truly a pathetic moment for someone who many feel will be the standard-bearer for the party against Hillary. Marco simultaneously insulted anyone less hawkish then him and showed he can’t handle having this debate. His knowledge clearly is limited to the people he surrounds himself with – the same people who pushed the Iraq debacle.

But on reflection, I realized something different. The hawk wing of the GOP is very powerful in number and influence, for sure. More Republicans agree with Rubio than with Paul. But at the same time, they simply cannot defend their ideas when challenged. Rubio knows that $1 trillion of new defense spending is not fiscally responsible or necessary. He knows that in order to justify this, he needs to misrepresent opponents and exaggerate threats that don’t exist.

It recalled a similar exchange between Paul and Chris Christie at a previous debate. The topic of NSA spying came up, and Christie’s despicable response was to play the “9/11 card” that Rudy Giuliani became famous for. Again we saw a defense hawk so unable to defend his position that he had to resort to crass emotional appeals. Again, Christie may have “won” in the same way that Rubio “won” because he simply has more of the party on his side. But it showed how unable he was to defend the atrocious violations of liberty the NSA has done without trying to make Americans scared of terrorists.

Non-interventionists, or even people who simply want a less aggressive foreign policy, have a long way to go. We have many obstacles before us, both in the voting populace and in unscrupulous politicians. I don’t think anyone has any illusion that the US will become a nation of peace any time soon. But what last night showed is one simple thing – the people who favor the status quo are vulnerable. They’ve floated by for so long without being challenged and they know they can’t defend their ideas in an honest debate. We can beat them. It just takes people like Rand Paul who are willing to bear the inevitable slings and arrows and get people thinking. Rand’s position is not even slightly radical – he’s simply less anxious to spend and invade. But even that terrifies folks like Rubio.

There is hope for a peaceful future where the US minds its own business and seeks peace rather than war. This does not mean we don’t defend ourselves against real threats. But it does mean we always try peace and diplomacy first, keep our noses from where they don’t belong, and realize that our military is more than up to the task if need be. But to achieve this, we need to be forthright, bold, and fearless against our opponents. They can be beaten back – but it will require years of hard work. Peace is worth it.

Losing sight of the individual

Last week’s comments by Erick Erickson of RedState caused quite a stir – very understandably.  Many took the comments as a personal insult, especially those who had family arrangements other than the one Erickson was describing as “ideal.”  They saw the comments as denigrating their choices and implying that they were somehow creating a poor environment for their children.  Others, like myself, saw it as playing right into the Democrat “War on Women” meme, since Erick justified his comments using faulty science and references to the animal kingdom, as if those would justify anything.

But the real failure in all of this lies in the fact that this is even a debate at all.  In order for this debate to have any logical purpose, one must accept the assumption that men and women are, by their very nature, vastly different creatures.  From a biological point of view, they clearly are different.  And there are certain traits that TEND to be masculine or feminine.  Men tend to be more assertive, while women tend to be more nurturing.

However, these macroscopic differences pale in comparison to those between individual people.  One man might be more “typically male” – likes sports, video games, beer, and women.  But another male might be very different, and exhibit more “feminine” tendencies.  He might be more intuitive, more caring, and less competitive.  The same applies to women as well.  So while there may be general differences between men and women, they are just that – general differences.  They are not hard-and-fast rules that you can’t bend or break.

Both liberals and conservatives fall into a number of traps when discussing men and women.  To both sides, men and women fall into preset groups regardless of individual differences.  Liberals are largely animated by the “victim/victimizer” mindset and see aggressiveness, largely considered a “masculine” trait, in a very negative light.  They see women as perpetually treated as second-class citizens – sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly.  Look at the long-standing liberal belief that women make 73 cents for every dollar a male makes – despite this being proven to not be the case once all factors are considered.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to favor the idea that men should be strong, bold, and confident.  They tend to see women as largely in a supporting role – taking care of the children and the household, either staying home or working a less demanding job.  So it’s not shocking in the least that many defended the Erickson comments, since they reinforce the conservative idea of gender roles, largely based on Biblical guidelines.  This mindset also explains the inherent aversion conservatives often have to any “non-traditional lifestyle”, such as homosexuality.

So by even having this debate, we are accepting the idea that men and women have certain prescribed roles to play.  This may have some basis in biology and psychology, but when it comes to applying it to actual policy, it’s bunk.  Even if you could show that 90% of men and women acted a certain way, the law should still be primarily focused on the smallest minority of all – the individual.  That 10% of men and women who act differently than the norm are deserving of as much respect as those who are “normal”.  As long as their behavior causes others no harm, it must be tolerated.

Instead, conservatives like Erickson love to sit and tell those who don’t live a certain way that they are immoral and wrong.  In doing so, they put to a lie the idea that they truly care about “individual liberty”.  Someone truly concerned with the individual would never look down on anyone for not behaving in a certain set way.  They would see that person as a unique entity, not subject to play a defined role.  The individual should only have one duty in a free society – to seek happiness and fulfillment for himself without harming others.  How he does this is no one else’s business.

It’s a trap they always accuse liberals of falling into – seeing people as groups rather than individuals.  Yet when it comes to how men and women should act, they do the exact same thing.  It’s the year 2013, and it’s time to rid ourselves the notion that ladies must act some way and men another.  To hold on to such notions is to deny the special, unique nature of each person.

Why Americans are moving pro-gay marriage, but also pro-life

When talking about so-called “social issues” in politics, the subjects of same-sex marriage and abortion are very frequently mentioned in the same breath.  The assumption goes like this – if someone is on the conservative side, that person will both favor banning gay marriage and banning abortion; if that person is on the liberal side, he will support gay marriage and abortion rights.  However, in reality there is no fundamental reason that the subjects need to be linked.  It is entirely possible, and in fact quite common, for someone to be okay with gays marrying but find abortion to be objectionable.

And in fact, the polls show this to be the exact direction that Americans are moving.  Most people now favor gay marriage rights, and the amount of Americans calling themselves “pro-choice” has shrunk while “pro-life” has gained share.  This fact should not be the least bit surprising to anyone who understands the issues at hand.  Gay marriage will naturally become more popular because it is a message of inclusion; the arguments against it are weak and becoming weaker as more people realize it will not hurt them in any way.  And as for abortion, improved medical imaging, the survival of fetuses at increasingly earlier stages, and wider acceptance of contraception has rendered abortion less necessary and more morally questionable.

Yet it seems that in our mainstream politics, we are still largely defined by the idea that you must take a certain position on each issue based on your political side.  It’s part of our idiotic political culture that demands absolute fealty to one party’s positions and spits upon those who find themselves in between.  If a Republican finds himself supporting gay rights or anything other than the extreme, terrifying pro-life stance of Santorum and Bachmann, he is excoriated and called a “RINO”.  If a Democrat favors anything but totally unrestricted abortion, he is called anti-woman.  As a country we suffer from the ridiculous idea that people fit nicely into one of two camps, and those that don’t like either camp that much are thrown to the wild.

Instead, what we need to adopt are reasonable stances on both abortion and gay marriage.  Republicans and conservatives need to understand two things, lest they be thrown to the dustbin of history.

First, that abortion is going to be legal to some degree, likely for a very long time.  I realize that this is hard to accept, but it’s reality.  However, the pro-life argument is very strong and gaining ground.  Conservatives should not shy away from this.  The argument that unborn life is worth something is compelling and rational.  The huge mistake to make is to push too hard, and go too far, to such an extent that regular folks are repulsed.  Mandatory ultrasound laws (including those requiring invasive probes) are a disgrace, as are vague, poorly realized “personhood” laws.  The goal posts are moving – but they need to be moved slowly.

Second, that gay marriage is inevitable, and that arguments against it are becoming increasingly weak.  It was already incredibly hard to convince someone that their hetero marriage was “threatened” by Bob and Steve down the street being married.  So anti gay marriage rhetoric has increasingly become reduced to playing on people being uncomfortable with homosexuality and disgusting fear mongering about people being able to marry their dogs.  Ideally, the state should get out of  marriage totally; but if it is in the business, it must treat all parties equally.  One’s personal discomfort with gay sex has literally NOTHING to do with what public policy should be.

This is the direction that most Americans are moving.  It makes sense as the younger generations become more at ease with gay people and abortion becomes more seen as something to be avoided.  A smart leader understands these trends and steps ahead of them instead of lagging behind and playing to the worst of us.  The American public is increasingly growing tired of the games being played.  It’s time for us to act like adults and make the case for our positions.

The parsimony of hate

It is often said that love and hate are just two sides of the same coin.  Both are intense emotions that can cause people to react in wholly irrational ways.  Both twist our viewpoints and our perception of others.  And both can be utterly exhausting and draining.  The difference is that while love carries with it the possibility of great reward, hatred offers no such satisfaction.  It makes us wish ill on others; it destroys our compassion and our humanity.

Which is why the field of politics is often so frustrating to those of us who don’t swim in its murky waters everyday.  While I’m a long-time observer I am, by choice, limited in my role as a belligerent for any side other than that of liberty for myself and my fellow man.  There was a time when I drank from the kool-aid bowl that is conservative politics; I was a daily consumer of Rush, Beck, and Hannity.  I was daily instructed that liberals were anti-American and evil.  It made me feel like I was one of the Good Guys fighting to protect America.

But after a time, I began to see what was going on.  It finally took the election of Obama to make it all clear.  Feelings and opinions on both the left and the right switched overnight.  The left quickly became pro-war and didn’t give a wit about civil liberties.  The right became unhinged with disgusting conspiracy theories, aspersions about Obama’s religion, and opposition to his policies even when they mirrored those of his predecessor.  Government spending, which ballooned to gargantuan levels under Bush, suddenly became a national emergency.  It was clear that the right had its very own version of derangement, and it repulsed me.

Yet when one dips one’s toes into the political waters daily, it is still possible to become inured to the ugliness that often pervades that world.  Sometimes, though, there comes an event that brings out the worst in people.  Such an event happened yesterday with the sudden, tragic death of conservative icon Andrew Breitbart.  Now, to be entirely frank, I did not like this man and found his methods often very objectionable.  But he was by no accounts an evil man.  He did what he did because he felt it best for his country.  And above all, he was a friend, a husband, and a father.

One glance at much of the left-leaning world, though, and you’d think we was literally flying a blimp over the nation spraying toxic gas on innocent citizens.  The Twitter world was flooded with liberal-leaning folks openly celebrating his death.  Even supposedly “respectable” sites and magazines reacted to Brietbart’s death with glee.  After all, who cares if he left a wife, four children and countless friends?  He was on the other side!  He worked for the other team!

Of course, if one is honest, the right would react the same way were it a liberal icon like Michael Moore.  One only has to look at the comments of Rush Limbaugh this week towards a “feminazi” he disagreed with, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute”.  Those are nasty words to use for any woman, let alone one whose only crime is differing in politics.  And it’s hardly out of the ordinary.  This kind of language is used every day on both sides, usually against people that the speaker doesn’t even know.  Merely disagreeing is warrant to judge the person’s morality and worth.

And the emotion that strikes me the most when I see hate on both sides towards political opponents?  Deep sadness.  I am sad for my country that we’ve been told to hate those who disagree.  I am sad for my friends who have come to believe that liberals/conservatives are literally bad people who want to cause harm.  I am sad that I at one time bought into this poison (though I’m glad I left it).

Above all, I am sad that millions of my fellow Americans are wasting their hatred on each other simply because they play for the “other team”.  It’s a profoundly stupid reason to dislike someone.  If you are going to spend this kind of emotional energy on someone, they’d damn well better be someone who actually harmed you, not just voted for the other guy.  I hate criminals who prey on the weak.  I hate terrorists who blow up innocents.  And I’m supposed to feel that same way against someone for having the wrong letter after their name?

It’s awful and it has to end.  It’s tearing us apart and turning neighbor against neighbor, brother against sister, parent against child.  And it’s all in order to make us get out and vote for one wretched “team” over another.  Well, I’m long through with it.  I’m saving my hate for those who deserve it.  We’d all be better off as people, and as a nation, if we did the same.