Party, Principle or Pragmatism? What Drives the Tea Party?

Party, Principle or Pragmatism? What Drives the Tea Party?

With the inauguration of our new President just hours away, our nation is approaching new, unchartered water.  Of course, the same could be said of the era we were entering eight years ago. But just as there were troubling reasons why Obama was elected then, so there are gnawing explanations as to why Trump was elected in November.  

As George W. Bush was quick to sacrifice many of the values that historically characterized conservative orthodoxy, his popularity plummeted and contributed to the election of the most “progressive” President to ever lead our nation. And with the election of Barack Obama, the political polarization that gained steam during the Bush years skyrocketed under Obama.  

But as Republicans over the last eight years continued to say one thing and do another, particularly when they controlled both houses of Congress, voters grew more and more frustrated with the Party of Lincoln.  Consider that while there were 17 Republican candidates for President, ultimately the 16 “Party-faithful” candidates were rejected in favor of Trump, someone whose political credentials were questioned by many.  One could ask then whether the victory in November was that of a Party or a personality?  And will the coming Trump era see Party, Principle or Pragmatism prevail?

As someone who has consistently voted for Republican candidates, I have always favored principle over party.  So in 2009, as the tea party movement was launched, I took an active role, with millions of other Americans, in expressing my grievances with both parties. Since then, while certainly much of our movement’s protests were focused on Obama’s policies, a considerable amount of our ire was directed towards Republicans as well. The party of conservatism had, for the most part, lost its compass. 

But then Trump appeared.  

And everything changed…

The truth is there is little evidence that Trump is a conservative Republican, in the purest definition.  Not only does his multi-decade track record affirm this reality, but many of the policies he campaigned on are at odds with long-standing Republican positions and orthodoxy.  I won’t take the time to recite the myriad of examples but these articles here and here reference several of his most glaring departures. 

What we do know about Trump though, is that since his Presidential announcement in June 2015, the billionaire candidate attracted:  1) Republicans disgusted with the Republican Party, even though they had consistently supported the GOP, and
2) Democrats tired of the failed policies of the Democratic Party, for which they had voted for in prior elections.

So with Trump’s rise to the Presidency we witnessed a powerful new constituency, the Pragmatic voter. No longer was Party the driving factor for many. Nor was Principle the overriding variable for others. Rather, Pragmatism ruled the day. 

But with the election now over, and Trump stepping forward to lead, versus merely tweet, his words will soon morph into policies, laws and regulations. As this occurs, it will be telling to see if the millions of voters who supported Donald Trump will remain enamored, enthused and engaged.  

More specifically though, I am eager to see how tea party members will respond to our new President. As a movement that has for the most part been known for its allegiance to Principle and the Constitution, will its members continue to overlook Trump’s policies that might violate both?  Will the tea party devolve into simply a pragmatic political force?  Or will the movement that became the rallying cry and impetus for one of the greatest political victories in the modern era, embrace the spirit of the original Tea Party in 1773, standing on principle first and foremost?

On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”  Thomas Jefferson

The Russian Hacking: Liberals, Media & Their Grand Hypocrisy

The Russian Hacking: Liberals, Media & Their Grand Hypocrisy

Over the last several weeks the media has been consumed with the Russian hacking story, suggesting that the nation that has been our adversary for the last century somehow sabotaged our free elections and contributed to the defeat of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump.  Of course, the Clinton camp and its supporters have been pushing this story since Hillary’s defeat in November.  

Everyone should be concerned about allegations of our elections being corrupted in some manner, whether that corruption comes from a nation state or from some other sinister effort.  But it is the height of hypocrisy when certain groups become incensed when their candidate loses but they dismiss electoral malfeasance when their side wins.  By certain groups, I am referring specifically to liberals, Democrats, and their willing supporters/accomplices, the main stream media.  

First let’s address what the specifics of the Russian “hacking” episode actually was.  There has been a steady drumbeat of reports from media sympathetic to Hillary Clinton, inferring that the Russian hacking interfered in and impacted the results of our election.  To be clear, there is no evidence that any potential hacking changed the outcome whatsoever.  Furthermore, the hacking was not in any way related to voting machines or anything that occurred on election day.  

The incident in question stemmed from the hacking by Wikileaks of emails accounts for a number of Democratic leaders, including the Democratic National Committee.  Those emails, leaked months ago, exposed the sinister efforts of leaders in the Democratic party to undercut Hillary’s main challenger, Bernie Sanders.  But the media, rather than focus in on the corruption of the DNC and Hillary, chose to focus on the actual hacking event itself.  So Hillary gets a pass, but a foreign entity doesn’t.  And consider that had Hillary won, the wrongdoing by the Democratic party would have gone literally unchecked by nearly every main stream media outlet. 

As I’ve considered the sudden concern by Democrats and the media over election tampering or illegal activity, I’m reminded that these are the same people that have ignored or scoffed at other blatant scenarios that are unquestionably impacting elections, and regularly resulting in illegal votes being cast on a growing scale.  Here are just a few of the more obvious examples of the utter hypocrisy of Democrats and the media regarding the integrity of the electoral system:

Voter Registration

Democrats have consistently resisted any idea of requiring voters to register.  Contrary to their allegations though that voter registration is a malicious scheme by Republicans and conservatives to disenfranchise voters, particular minorities, the truth is that registration is designed to protect the integrity of our electoral process.  Why is it we never hear complaints by Democrats, the media or other organizations about the reality that government issued ID’s are required to travel, cash checks, check into a hotel, or to even visit the White House.  But when one of the foundations of our Constitutional Republic, the voting booth, is at issue, Democrats put up a level of resistance not known since the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae?  (As a little reminder, comedian Ellen DeGeneres was recently barred from entering the White House because she failed to bring along her ID, as she noted in a recent tweet.)

Sanctuary Cities

Presently, the cities in America that are known as sanctuary cities are under the control of Democrats.  To be clear, a sanctuary city is one where the city’s officials ignore federal law and shelter illegal aliens from federal prosecution.  So as you weigh the sincerity of Democrats’ outrage over the Russian hacking scandal, consider that these are the same folks and Party that not only routinely defy the law and enable illegal aliens to remain immune from federal prosecution, but following Trump’s election, many Democrat officials in sanctuary cities have doubled down on this illegal tactic.  Of course, the tactic is ultimately about the following issue, which directly undermines our electoral process.

Voting by Illegals

While there is no evidence that Russian hacking resulted in any votes being defrauded, there are numerous reports that voting by illegal aliens is occurring.  While the numbers vary widely, with some alleging that as many as 3 million illegals voted in this most recent Presidential election, it should not matter if there are 3000 or 3 million.  Yet, whenever the topic of illegals voting is raised, most liberals and Democrats brush it aside as far-fetched or unthinkable.  

Consider this though.  For every illegal vote that occurs, one legal vote is marginalized.  So if you arrive at the polls at the same time as an illegal voter, and you both sit down in voting booths adjacent to each other, it’s highly likely that your vote, particularly if you are a conservative, was just cancelled out by the illegal in the booth next to you.  Yet, many Democrats not only turn a blind eye to any such happenings, but they knowingly enable it.   

The Popular Vote

If the allegations that Russian hacking impacted the results of the 2016 Presidential election really held any merit, then there’s one statistic that should totally discredit the theory.  Democrats have been quick to continuously howl that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, suggesting that Bill’s wife was really the choice of the majority of Americans.  In so doing, Hillary, the media, and her supporters have sought to infer that she is the pick of Americans.  

The fact that Hillary won the popular vote would suggest that the Russian hacking was a failure.  Had they succeeded in their quest to enable a Trump win, the popular vote would have turned in Trump’s favor.  Yet it did not.  But why confuse people with the truth?  Instead, liberals, bolstered by the “public outreach” arm of their party, the media, have repeated the lie of the Russian hacking story with such consistency and deceit, that once again, many of the American people have bought their lie, hook, line and sinker.

Big Lies

It was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, who said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  Democrat leaders have learned this strategy well enough.  And the sad truth is that most Democrats are not really concerned about maintaining a fair and honest electoral process.  Rather, they are merely interested in insuring that whatever strategies they can use to gain an unfair and even illegal advantage remain intact.

Exit Your Echo Chamber To Make a Difference

Exit Your Echo Chamber To Make a Difference

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Have you ever found yourself in a deep cavern or in a valley surrounded by mountains? If so, you’ve probably played the echo game, where you shout loudly and hear your returning echo. We’ve all done it. And what we hear back is exactly what we yelled.

Nothing new. Nothing extraordinary. Just the same message we uttered moments earlier.

Imagine for a minute though that listening to your echo was the only form of communication in which you engaged. Not only would your subject matter be limited and grow redundant over time, but you would never learn anything new.  The content of your echo would be limited to the extent of your own knowledge and understanding.  Soon your mind would begin to atrophy from the lack of new knowledge or truths.  I call this the Echo Chamber syndrome.  

As I observe our society, and have pondered my own behavior at times, I have seen Echo Chambers dominating our culture, often amplified on social media.  They are formed based on one’s ideological, political or religious views.  Our nation has become so divided that we have segregated ourselves into subgroups whose values, views and perspectives are seldom at odds with our own.  

This Echo Chamber syndrome reveals several truths which are not only alarming, but are contributing to an increasingly divided and hostile culture.

1.  Echo Chambers eliminate the potential for any outside ideas or solutions.  We already know that yelling in a cavern returns the precise message as the one you uttered.  So if you’re looking for new ideas or solutions to the problems you are facing, you will get none.  Instead, the solutions within your Echo Chamber will be limited by your own ideological perspectives. Perhaps you’re ok with that, thinking that those outside your little tribe couldn’t possibly offer anything of value.  But if you possess that view, then you have just validated the next truth about Echo Chambers.

2.  Echo Chambers are elitist in nature and pose the ultimate example of arrogance and superiority.  As I’ve engaged with folks on both sides of the ideological fence, including conservatives and liberals. I’ve found that they share very similar attitudes.  First, they believe their perspectives are superior to all others.  Period.  No other view counts.  Second, folks on both sides of the ideological fence view anyone outside their belief system with skepticism and disdain.  Third, they posit that those who are outside the confines of their little chamber are inferior and not even worth getting to know.  It’s as if the other side has a contagious disease and we must not have any contact with them, at least not in the context of an engaging dialogue. But that attitude leads to the next truth about Echo Chambers.

3.  Echo Chambers reject the idea that we can “reason together” and find areas of common ground.  Individuals who spend their lives in an Echo Chamber indirectly affirm the idea that sharing time with those who have differing views is hazardous to one’s own ideology.  They believe that there is no common ground with millions of individuals on the “other side.”  Period.  So why waste one’s time even attempting to do so?  But embracing this flawed thinking leads to another sad truth of Echo Chambers.

4.  Echo Chambers discourage the forging of new relationships with those outside our little network.  If conversations foster relationships, which in turn grow trust, there is no wonder that our nation is so divided.  The mistrust is at an alarming level.  And yet, there is a rather simple solution to breaking down those walls of distrust.  Conversations.  And no I’m not talking about everyone holding hands and singing Kumbaya.  Conversations can oftentimes expose areas of absolute disagreement, but, if done in a respectful manner, simply having the dialogues can increase respect for each other.  As that occurs, relationships begin to form.  But without relationships, this next reality of an Echo Chamber, perhaps the saddest, will prevail.   

5.  Echo Chambers are completely ineffective for sharing truth to those without the truth.  If you believe you have the truth, whether it is the political ideology you embrace, or even the spiritual faith you practice, there is no greater way to hide that truth than to remain in an Echo Chamber.  Those in your little chamber already have the truth as you see it.  And so to remain in your little tribe results in many others never coming to know the truth.  This verse in Scripture reminds me of this reality: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:15)  If you want your truth to be heard, then get outside your Echo Chamber and share it with those who have yet to hear or understand it.

I can already hear some saying, “yeah but the ideas of the other side are not only wrong, they are dangerous.”  For a moment let’s assume that is correct.  The “other side” is no doubt comprised of a few leaders and many followers.  It’s likely that the leaders are incapable of changing their dogma.  But the followers are less assured and may be willing to entertain sound arguments, particularly if they are presented in a safe and engaging dialogue, that is shared within a growing relationship.  Those followers will never hear your truth if you regurgitate your message in your little Echo Chamber. 

So for the sake of expanding your understanding of truth, and your own mental growth, I encourage you to exit your Echo Chamber.  Begin making a difference by developing relationships that are based on mutual respect and honest dialogue.  As you do this, I believe it can break down the walls that have served to divide us all.  And who knows, you may even find that your perspectives were not so flawless after all.

Mark

The Drought Offers Common Ground: #PrayForRain

The Drought Offers Common Ground: #PrayForRain

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Photo credit: Derek Daniel http://bit.ly/2fFj186

Democrats/Liberals and Republicans/Conservatives can’t seem to agree on much these days. And probably a lot of the reason for that is because we are so focused on all the things that divide us, and many of those issues are in Washington. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have served to drive a wedge further into a division that was already deep to start with.

But, I believe that a time of crisis can, or perhaps should, drive us to find what unites us, rather than belaboring what divides us.

There is a dire crisis our community is facing. It is a crisis of rain, or lack thereof. We are facing one of the worst drought in years. This is a crisis that affects us all.  

Black. White. Democrat. Republican. Woman. Man. Rich. Poor. Gay. Straight.  

It matters not who you are, where you live, or the balance in your bank account. While Obama winds down, Trump revs up, and Hillary moves on, we have an urgent need for rain in our region.

So in this time of crisis, where neighbors’ properties are consumed, health is impacted, agriculture and farming are threatened, and first responders are working feverishly, can we as a community draw together? Can we begin to call out to God? Can we reach out to our friends, neighbors and co-workers, regardless of our backgrounds or political views, and drop to our knees, bow our heads and #PrayForRain?

Can we focus on that which we agree? Can we as Chattanoogans (or whatever town you live in) come together on this issue? Can you imagine if we all began doing this as a community? Singularly, then in small groups, in our churches, and perhaps even across our entire community? What if our elected officials, on both sides of the aisles, came together to pray? What if pastors of all denominations, including the black and white community, united in prayer? What if corporate executives and front line workers began to pray together? What if those neighborhoods that are being shattered with violence came together to pray? What if broken families were reunited in prayer?

What if we are experiencing this drought to unite us in prayer? To turn our hearts and minds back to God. To seek God’s forgiveness where we have failed Him. To find God’s strength and direction to move forward. To break down the walls that have divided us for too long.

If so, then what could we expect, if we turn to God in prayer?

Perhaps we could see God smile as we work to unite versus remaining so divided. And perhaps God’s pleasure might be revealed as His tears of joy flowed down in showers of blessings.

I am reminded that God said in Psalm 133, “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” And just two verses later in the same passage we read this relevant description of unity: “It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion.”

Do we want unity that is like dew in this time of drought?  

Then why don’t we as a community draw together in unity to #PrayForRain?  

And as we do, perhaps the unity that so many of us seek will be revealed as we see God work in a mighty and powerful way, because we know that #PrayerChangesThings

Will you join me?

If so, then begin praying, and inviting others to join you. And share this article with others, using the hash tag #PrayForRain, as we acknowledge God’s omnipotence and seek His forgiveness and blessings in our community.

Mark

Photo credit:  Derek Daniel:  http://bit.ly/2fFj186