Unlike many political observers, I have spent the bulk of this campaign season focused not on Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party nomination for president, but on the people who are supporting him, seeking to understand what is motivating them to essentially turn the political establishment, especially the Republican Party, on its head.Read More
As I write this, the Republican primary in my home state of Virginia is in the books, and Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul who has flipped the political establishment on its head with his improbable run for the presidency, has won. His performance on "Super Tuesday" was not as dominating as perhaps Mr. Trump and his supporters had hoped, but it did make the path to the nomination much more difficult for his opponents. It seems that now would be a good time to consider the long-term implications of this current political season, at least from my limited vantage point. Donald Trump's ascension marks the end, in my opinion, of several coalitions which have held sway over American politics and culture for decades.Read More
The Republican National Convention this year devoted a significant portion of its prime time schedule to women and minority speakers, many of whom are the equivalent of rock stars in conservative circles. I expected liberals, from the bottom of the barrel to the top, to respond to the presence of these speakers, but even they caught me by surprise with the shrillness, ugliness and unhinged anger they showed. Mia Love, the Republican nominee for the 4th Congressional District seat in Utah, brought down the house in Tampa with her personal story. The daughter of Haitian immigrants and a first-generation American, she spoke compellingly of how her parents came here with practically nothing but a hope that America was truly the land of opportunity:
Let me tell you about the America I know. My parents immigrated to the U.S. with ten dollars in their pocket, believing that the America they had heard about really did exist. When times got tough they didn't look to Washington, they looked within. So the America I came to know was centered in personal responsibility and filled with the American dream. The America I know is grounded in the determination found in patriots and pioneers, in small business owners with big ideas, in the farmers who work in the beauty of our landscape, in our heroic military and Olympians. It's in every child who looks at the seemingly impossible and says, "I can do that." That is the America I know!
She is on the verge of possibly becoming the first black Republican woman ever in the U.S. Congress. I imagine back in the days I was growing up, my parents would have pointed to Ms. Love with pride and held her up to me and my siblings as a role model.
Today's liberals, however, attack her with some of the vilest language imaginable, calling her a "house nigger" and a "dirty, worthless whore" among other choice phrases.
Similar language was used against Artur Davis, an honors graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, and a former U.S. congressman from Alabama. Dr. Condoleeza Rice, of course, is a veteran of the racially-charged language hurled at blacks who don't adhere to the standard script which white liberals and the black orthodoxy have written for them.
The attacks on the women who spoke at the convention were no less vile, and I can't repeat the language used against them here. Among their number were the two women I previously cited, one the first black mayor in Utah history and the other a former U.S. Secretary of State, the first Latina governor in U.S. history, the first Indian-American woman governor in U.S. history, the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor and governor of Oklahoma, and the first to be elected to the U.S. Congress from Oklahoma since the 1920s, a former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, the first female attorney general in New Hampshire who is now a sitting U.S. senator from that state, the highest ranking Republican woman in the U.S. Congress, the attorney general for the state of Florida, and an entrepreneur running to become the lieutenant governor of Delaware. Clearly, these are serious and accomplished women, and role models for young girls everywhere – right?
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz called them "shiny packaging."
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was equally dismissive of the minority speakers, including fellow Hispanics like Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and Governor Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico, sneering, "You can't just tout out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect the people are going to vote for your party or your candidate."
David Cohen captured some liberal media malevolence in a recent op-ed article on white liberals' race-based condescension:
During the convention, several white liberal reporters seized the opportunity to anoint themselves as guardians of racial correctness. With Hurricane Isaac bearing down on the Gulf Coast, Yahoo News' Washington bureau chief David Chalian proclaimed that the Romneys "were happy to have a party with black people drowning." (He was fired, presumably for voicing what other reporters were thinking.) MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell accused Sen. Mitch McConnell of racism for joking about the frequency of President Obama's golf outings. Tiger Woods is half black, you see. O'Donnell's colleague, Chris Matthews, implied that GOP Chairman Reince Priebus was racist for allegedly "foreignizing" President Obama — by likening his policies to those pursued in Europe. You see, "Europe" equals "foreign" equals "the other" equals "black." In the fevered incoherence of Matthews' brain, the dots are all connected.
Of course, in Chris Matthews' fevered mind, mentioning Obama's Chicago background is racist, too. If their foolish accusations hadn't effectively neutered all charges of racism going forward in the minds of most Americans, one could laugh at their obsession. Unfortunately, they have done real harm to those who could face legitimate racism in the future, and for that, they deserve our scorn and condemnation. If they do it for ratings, they are reprehensible. If they do it because they want to influence the political calculus in their favor, they are unfit to be called journalists. If they do it because they believe it, they are deluded.
David Cohen's piece captures my sentiments on this topic extremely well:
No decent person believes that the color of your skin should limit what you're allowed to achieve or what you're allowed to earn. So why do some liberals believe that the color of your skin should limit what you're allowed to think? When people of color refuse to think the way they're 'supposed to' think, when they follow their conscience to conservatism, do they forfeit their right to be treated with dignity and respect? The obvious moral answer is 'no,' but some liberals don't seem to get that. And it is particularly troubling when white liberals attempt to enforce racial groupthink in communities that are not their own.
They are blind, however, to their condescension and, yes, their latent racism. What else do you call the presumption that because I am black, I must think, speak and act a prescribed way in order to be authentic? Is there some great liberal god out there with a certificate of ownership that has the names of all black people on it, and which demands our loyalty without question or deviation? Is it not "soft bigotry" to presume that we as individual human beings, unique in form, mind and soul, not only believe the same things, but are somehow morally deficient if we do not? Did these angry, foaming liberals ever sit still and listen to a conservative woman or conservative of color recount their own story of how they came to the conclusions they did, and how they exercised the freedom of conscience which liberals claim to revere, but only when you reach the conclusions they want you to reach?
How many of you have pets at home? Pet owners know they can get their pets to do silly things for treats. They will perform for you if they think there's a chance you might toss them something to eat. Since modern American journalism has devolved into a performance, I can only presume that we will put a stop to nonsense like this once we stop feeding them with attention, as difficult as it is to let the demagoguery go unchallenged. They neither own me, nor do I answer to them, so I don't owe them my time or attention. Maybe it's time for the rest of America to leave them alone to stew in their own hateful juices.
Note: I had the honor this past Saturday of speaking as part of a panel at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, DC, on the topic, “Building Bridges to African-Americans.” I had prepared some remarks to share, but the discussion went in a slightly different direction than I expected, so I’m sharing them with a wider audience instead. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak on a topic that is close to my heart, building bridges – in the metaphorical sense, of course! I’ve always believed that, in life, we build either bridges or walls and, depending on the situation, there is a time and place for each. As people of faith, we are called to guard our hearts, and defend ourselves against the evil that is prevalent in this fallen world, but we are also commissioned to build bridges to reach people and, in word and deed, show them God’s love so they, too, may ponder his mercy and grace, and seek a personal relationship with Him.
That’s why when we speak of building bridges to black Americans – and you’ll forgive me for not using the term ‘African-American,’ because I don’t like it for a variety of reasons – I’m thinking beyond this year’s election, although I’ll address that urgent topic as well as the bigger picture.
You see, there is little you can do in the next few months to build a bridge to the black community that they’d be willing and eager to cross. The emotional connection of racial identity that most blacks have with this president is too strong and, while all empirical evidence suggests they should be livid with him for failing to make their lives better, that feeling of pride and solidarity because the family that lives in the White House looks like them is too compelling to overcome.
So what can you do between now and November to reach the black community? There are a few things you can do tactically that might peel away some votes or at least give some people a reason to stay home on Election Day.
The president’s endorsement of redefining marriage has caused the first measurable rift between him and the ironclad support he receives from the black community, with a recent poll suggesting he could lose North Carolina as a result. Nationally, his approval rating among blacks is down from 86 percent to 77 percent. That doesn’t mean those who now disapprove will vote the other way, but they might be disinclined to vote.
With black unemployment at 14 percent, and less than half of blacks between the ages of 18 to 30 having full-time jobs, his decision this week to halt the deportation of an estimated 800,000 young illegal aliens, and grant them legal work status, will simply add to the pain of joblessness and underemployment in the black community.
It also adds to the growing perception that he takes the black vote for granted, as he makes special concessions to every other interest group in the liberal universe in the hope of securing their votes.
If you talk about the importance of family and children having a committed mother and father in the home, if you talk about putting Americans back to work first, and you ask the hard question, “Has having a black man in the White House really made your lives better?”, maybe you can chip away before the election in November at that monolith called the black vote, which has been solidly reliable for liberals since President Johnson’s landslide election in 1964.
But what happens after that? I know what’s happened in the past, and that cannot happen this time if we are serious about building bridges to the black community.
In 2001, as a member of the Bush Administration, a memo came from the White House asking black political appointees to take part in an initiative to win more blacks to the conservative cause. I enthusiastically indicated my interest, my name was passed on - and I never heard from anyone on it again. In February, I missed out on a black conservative forum hosted by Rep. Allen West of Florida - and I’m pleased to be able to attend his second such forum on Monday – but I’m told that a Republican National Committee representative was invited to the first forum, but didn’t show up.
You see, Republicans have been building pontoon bridges rather than permanent bridges to the black community. They expect an immediate return on their investment and, when they don’t get it, they bail out. That’s no way to build a coalition with a community that has been trained and conditioned to distrust Republicans and conservatives.
For my part, it’s disappointing because I believe that a return to individual liberty, self-reliance, family, civil society, entrepreneurship, and faith isn’t just a matter of political advancement. It’s a matter of life and death. Ultimately, my desire to build bridges to the black community is so lives can be saved, because the policies of yesterday and today, however well-intentioned they may be, have emasculated us, demeaned me, constrained us, or killed us.
The only direction we can go from here is up, so my admonition to you if you’re to be bridge builders to the black community is to step up, keep it up, and call for back up.
If you don’t step up, then nothing will happen. You can’t be afraid to engage the black community on issues where you may find common ground. Whether it’s sanctity of life, preserving the definition of marriage, helping entrepreneurs start businesses and create jobs, or reforming education so all children, especially black children who are trapped in substandard and violent schools, can get off to the right start, find a way to connect.
After that, keep it up – stay connected. Don’t treat people like quarterly financial statements, where you change course if you don’t get the immediate profits you expect. This is a long-term project, and you need to be there not just during an election year, but year in and year out, building trust and showing that you care.
Finally, call for back up. I don’t know if it’s the emergence of Barack Obama, or the radical nature of his agenda, but black conservatives are more visible and more vocal than ever before. It’s really frustrating to the liberals because we are exposing their failures and their condescending, patronizing treatment of the black community, and they want to shut us up, but we just won’t go away. Let us be an integral part of the solution; we may not be treated any better, but our chances of getting in the door to start the conversation might be slightly better than yours!
So abandon the pontoon bridges and start building bridges that last by stepping up, keeping it up, and calling for back up. Let’s try to make breakout sessions like this a novelty five or ten years from now.
The Old Testament Book of Esther describes a turning point in the story of the Jewish people held in captivity, where Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, challenges Esther, who by this time was chosen as the pagan king’s new queen. If she so chose, she could live a life of indulgence while her people suffered. Mordecai warned her of the gravity of the moment in which she found herself:
Mordecai sent back this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that you will escape there in the palace when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?”
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I am willing to die.” ~ Esther 4:13-16
The question I find I’m asking myself as I watch the GOP candidates for president slog their way across Iowa, New Hampshire and now South Carolina, which holds its primary next Saturday, is “Are either of them elevated for just such a time as this?”
Speaking for myself, I wonder if these men are big enough, yet humble enough, for the moment.
I believe this is the most consequential presidential election of my lifetime. The world is in the midst of a grave economic crisis, the threats of transnational terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are real for all nations and, more specifically, our nation is facing crushing debt which now exceeds our gross domestic product, and a generation of decline where our children and grandchildren will not have better lives than our own.
When we examine our history, we have had men and women who rose to the occasion, and did extraordinary things in extraordinary times. In my opinion, the convergence of so many people of exceptional vision, courage and wisdom on the American continent in the 18th century was providential, and their act of rebellion against the greatest empire of its day changed the world.
Of note, these were not “old” men, as we tend to think of them. The average age of America’s founding fathers in 1776 was 43.8 years. Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, was 33. James Madison, who would go on to become the “father of the Constitution” eleven years later, was 26.
The average age of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was 42, and four of the most influential – Alexander Hamilton, Edmund Randolph, Gouvernor Morris and Madison – were in their thirties. Granted, they had experienced greater sacrifices in service to the nation than many of today’s 30 and 40 year olds, were well educated, and had significant political experience as well, but their combination of youthful vibrancy and gravitas set America on a path to greatness.
Contrast that with the current field of presidential contenders, whose average age is 61, the youngest being former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 51, and the oldest being Congressman and medical doctor Ron Paul, who is 76.
I don’t want to disparage them for their age, because they all seem to be healthy and energetic. I wonder, however, if their perspective allows them to empathize with the challenges this generation faces, and the need for dramatic change, or if they are wedded to safe, incremental and ultimately small ideas that won’t work. I wonder if they have the vision to grasp the fundamental decisions we have to make on what we expect from our government and ourselves, decisions without which we cannot move forward to find solutions.
I also don’t want to denigrate their personal achievements, because all of them are accomplished men in their own right. Yet, when measured against the profile of our founders and the great American presidents who proved to be big enough for the moment, something is missing. They have plenty of ambition to be president, but what else is there?
Esther declared, “If I must die, I am willing to die,” and the men who signed the Declaration of Independence essentially signaled they were willing to die for the cause of liberty, because their names were sure to be known to the crown, and their heads would be highly prized trophies for the empire. They were also humble men who saw public service as a calling and a sacrifice and did not desire the power over their fellow citizens, nor the trappings that come with such power. They subordinated their own desires to the significance of the moment, and that made all the difference.
As this campaign progresses, I am looking for those qualities in our next president. I am looking for leadership that understands the extent of the global crisis in which we find ourselves, has the vision to know we have big decisions around which we must all coalesce, is willing to sacrifice their political career, if necessary, to make the tough choices we need, is humble enough to seek the consent of the people, and is persuasive enough to achieve consensus and general unity among us.
Our founders were up to the challenge of their times, and their character was revealed in the crucible of war and the struggle for liberty. We have to settle for the rigors of a national presidential campaign to reveal the true character of the contenders for president, but is it no less critical that someone be “elevated…for just such a time as this?”
Note: This is the fourth of a series, “Brainwashed, Incurious, Hard-Hearted or Bamboozled?” The previous installments can be found here.
I have often recounted that my conversion to conservatism began in my late teens, after I left home and began to examine what I believed and how that compared and contrasted with the platforms of the predominant American political parties.
I concluded that the values instilled in me by my parents, who were and are lifelong and loyal Democrats, were more representative of the Republican Party than the Democrats. My parents responded to my question about this dichotomy with the statement, "Republicans hate black people," a statement at odds with history, my own personal experiences and even my parents' history since they grew up in a South that was Democrat and hostile to black freedoms and aspirations.
I decided I couldn't compromise my integrity in that manner, and reached my own conclusions. I've learned and experienced so much more since then, but nothing has caused me to deviate from my decision to live out my values in every area of my life, including the political arena.
What astonishes me is how vicious black people on the other side of the political divide can be toward their brethren who don't toe the party line. It makes me wonder about the values with which they were raised. After all, my parents were quite typical for working and middle class black families of that era, so I don't think their instructions to us were much different than what other black parents taught their children. If that is the case, then why do they seem unconcerned about the lack of intellectual coherence between the values with which they were raised and their political and philosophical allegiances? Or did they reject their parents' teachings when they got older?
I guess a good place to start is to present to you what my parents raised me to believe. I think you'll see why I was quickly confronted with the dissonance between what they taught me and what the political parties profess to believe.
I think the first and most important lesson my parents taught me is to put God first. This lesson was reinforced by my grandfather, who I write about in my book as a major influence in my life. He was a deacon at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana for as long as I knew him, and my great-grandfather was a deacon there as well. My grandmother and great-grandmother were deaconesses in the church. While we traveled often as a result of my father's military service, and I didn't spend a lot of time at Mount Calvary, it was there that I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of nine, and it was there that I was baptized.
Every conversation in my home referred back to the Bible or spoke to God's power, love and grace in our lives. They ingrained in me the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Nothing came before God.
The second lesson grew from the first; we are all equal in the sight of God. It always shocks me to see and hear the bitterness and hatred coming from people toward one another based solely on race, because that animosity simply didn't exist in our home. After I came of age, I learned that some of the adults in my life had done a great job of hiding certain prejudices they harbored in their hearts, but I never heard or witnessed them as a child, and so I grew up without a shred of malice or resentment toward anyone, believing that none of us are more worthy of glory or more deserving of shame when standing together before a holy God.
My experiences as a military dependent traveling around the world only reinforced this lesson, because my exposure to people of different races and backgrounds was broader than that of many of my peers, and with few exceptions, we lived in harmony with everyone. Even after I grew up and witnessed some of the evil that people are capable of inflicting upon one another, I remained steadfast in my beliefs because I was taught to measure people not in relation to one another, but in relation to God.
The third lesson is a derivative of the second, which stems from the first. In that regard, these first three lessons established what my pastor calls my "positional relationship" with God and mankind. The third lesson is best illustrated by one of my favorite Bible verses, Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." My father's way of putting it was more quaint but no less accurate; "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Try not to focus on the reasons why anyone would want to attract flies, or the fact that vinegar apparently attracts fruit flies! It's a metaphor for how human beings should respond to each other.
Incidentally, some would question whether or not I've fully embraced this lesson since I've become a political pundit, which often puts me in the position of criticizing policies and people with whom I disagree. In examining the life of Christ, He demonstrated a boundless compassion and love for everyday people. In Matthew 9:36, it's written, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
Like my Lord, I strive to show the utmost compassion for everyday Americans of all persuasions as they endure the trials and challenges of this life. In fact, I believe God has taken me through my own dark valleys so that I may empathize with those who are hurting and hopeless.
The religious and spiritual leaders of Jesus' day, however, were not spared His wrath:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” ~ Matthew 23:27-28
In Luke 12:48, he says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." The Bible is clear in both the Old and New Testaments that it is God that grants rulers, regardless of their sphere of influence, their authority, and they are expected to exercise that authority in accordance with His will. Jesus did not hide his anger and disgust for the leaders of His day because, in His words, they "shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces." For those of you who believe Jesus was a spiritual hippie speaking peace and love to everyone, I recommend reading the 23rd chapter of the Book of Matthew in its entirety.
Jesus did not tolerate those in authority who led the people astray, and His language was more harsh than what I typically use. He is entitled to speak as He wishes, of course - He is the Lord!
So with this strong spiritual foundation I inherited from my parents, they instilled in me the practices and principles that would ensure for me a good life:
Education is the key to success
My parents dreamed that I would be the first in the family to graduate from college, and they stressed education throughout my life. They admonished us to stay in school, get the best grades we could, and never stop learning. I never doubted that my destiny was to go to college and get my degree, and their support and encouragement shielded me when my peers accused me of “acting white” because I was studious, spoke well, and respected my teachers and school authorities. I got my bachelor's and master's degrees because they gave me a gift that continues to give, the love of lifelong learning.
Work is its own reward
My parents always worked, and worked hard. They emphasized to us that we owed our employers an honest day's work for an honest day's wage, and welfare was only for people who weren't able to work. Charity was for those who really needed it. Even now, with my father past retirement age and in declining health, he still puts in his hours at a local general store. I don't think he knows how not to work. The genuine devotion my father's employers have always had for him is directly attributable to the fact he shows up on time, works hard, never stole from his employers, and built a reservoir of good will and trust. Even at this late stage of his life, the owners of the general store made him a manager, and they trust him to mind the store while they are on vacation.
My parents, especially my mother, instilled in me the belief that only God comes before family. "Blood is thicker than water," my mother would say and, although sometimes that devotion to family led to my parents being exploited by their own flesh and blood, they never wavered on the importance of marriage, parenthood and children. in that order. We didn't need a politician to tell us what marriage, parenthood or children looked like. When someone was pregnant, we knew their unborn child was a baby, not a fetus. We knew that a boy wasn’t a father unless he took care of his children and their mother, and when someone said they were married, we knew that meant their children would have a mother and a father.
No one owes you anything
Life isn't fair. Jesus said, "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45)." Read the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Job to get the unvarnished truth of what it means to live on this planet. It doesn’t matter how good or wise or deserving you think you are, for the Lord promises that “in this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33).”
Jesus Christ was the only perfect man to walk this world, and he spent three years wandering the Holy Land as a homeless preacher - “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).” He was reviled by the authorities, and eventually by the masses who once adored Him, and for whom He professed His love, and they arrested Him on trumped-up charges, beat and spat upon Him, and executed Him.
He didn’t complain about the unfairness of the world, however. He simply overcame the world. My parents taught me that it didn’t matter what other people did – "If everyone else jumped off a bridge,would you do it too?" Your parents said it to you, too – you know they did! They taught me to do the right thing, regardless of what happened around me. Jesus taught his followers the same thing. When Jesus was describing to Peter the hard life upon which he was to embark in His name, Peter looked at John and asked, “Lord, what about this man?”, to which Jesus said, “…what is that to you? You follow me!” In other words, it doesn’t matter what other people do – mind your own business.
There were other lessons as well. I learned through my father’s military service a deep and abiding love for my country, and it was his example that led me to serve as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force. My parents were descended from people who farmed and hunted the land in southwestern Louisiana and east central Georgia, so from them I learned about our right to acquire and possess our own guns. As I recounted in my book, “In short, if you stripped away race, we would be considered a staunchly conservative family.”
I am so blessed to have had parents who not only taught me valuable lessons, but modeled those lessons for me. My parents have been married for 52 years, and in all that time, I watched them work and sacrifice to give us the best life possible, I watched them love their family, their friends and their neighbors, and I watched that love come back to them from so many people, black and white and everything in between. Everyone who knew my parents loved them, and they loved me, and still do. As the years have passed, my experiences have multiplied and my faith has deepened and broadened, the lessons my parents taught me are constantly validated, as is my decision to practice the politics that most align with my upbringing.
My mother has always been especially puzzled by my political alignment, so I used to walk her through a quiz where I’d ask her a series of questions about where she stood on specific issues. When I would tell her at the end that she had just agreed with the major planks of the Republican Party platform, she would always get annoyed with me!
Nowadays, when she asks me why I’m a conservative, I simply say, “Mom, you raised me that way.”