Bob Schwartz

Tag: Republican Party

Politics and People of Conscience

Conscience of Conservative

There’s talk of Barry Goldwater in the context of the current election cycle. I’ve written about him before—as it turns out, a few times, here, here, and here. It’s not that I’m a fan of conservative politics; it’s that I’m a fan of conscience.

Goldwater’s unlikely and iconoclastic nomination for President at the Republican National Convention in 1964 was predicted to be a disaster. It was, as he was crushed by Lyndon Johnson in the election. On the other hand, his political philosophy lived on in the party—coming into full flower with Ronald Reagan and, more than fifty years later, is still the touchstone of conservative Republican politics.

Goldwater’s famous book was a manifesto called The Conscience of a Conservative. Focus on that word “conscience.” It means principles that are grounded in the deepest part of your beliefs, principles that are often difficult to stand by. On one side is the temptation of expedience. On the other is being criticized for standing in the way and being outcast. Or in Goldwater’s case, for leading the party into a (temporary) black hole.

In both parties right now, conscience is being tested.

Paul Ryan and others are speaking their mind about Donald Trump, even in the face of calls for unity over conscience, for party above principle. Other Republicans, seeing the same candidate, admit he is flawed in ways they have trouble abiding, but a unified party has a shot a victory, while a splintered one has none.

Among Democrats, even some Hillary Clinton supporters, in candid moments, admit that they have deep reservations about her on fundamental grounds of honesty, integrity, and transparency, but say that winning is everything, and that she is the path to victory—whatever her shortcomings.

We shouldn’t indict those who compromise their conscience, in politics or elsewhere. Each of us does it or has done it, and we live with it. Maybe sleeplessly sometimes, but we live with it. What we should do is praise those who manage to know their conscience and follow it, often at a price. This is what we try to teach our children. This is what we should suggest to our politicians.

Some Disingenuous Republicans Are Waiting for Trump to “Change His Style”

Republicans who honestly support Donald Trump are entitled to do so. This is America and it’s a free country. But some disingenuous Republicans are saying that they are holding off support to see if Trump “changes his style.” Which is a dishonest and cowardly position.

You can support Trump because you like him and think he would be a great President—the greatest ever. You can support him because you dislike the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

You can oppose Trump because…well, so many reasons.

But waiting for Trump to change his style is absurd. Not because he can’t or won’t—though he probably won’t—but because his problem is substantive, not stylistic. It is about who he is. And everybody on the face of the earth knows who he is, because he has been compulsive about telling us for years, especially during this campaign.

So if you hear about some politician waiting for Trump to change his style, don’t believe it. It’s just another skittish and not particularly brave politician blowing in an ill wind.

Donald Trump, You’re No Barry Goldwater

Donald Trump is now being compared to Barry Goldwater in 1964, an unfavored Republican candidate for President who lost big yet did not destroy the party.

I wrote recently about how the Bernie Sanders phenomenon is like the Goldwater one: a philosophical wing that will eventually take over the whole party—as Goldwater conservatism took over the Republicans.

To compare Goldwater and Trump, following are excerpts from their literary masterworks: Goldwater’s erudite and principled The Conscience of a Conservative, which is for many still the Bible of the modern conservative movement, and Trump’s Trump: The Art of the Deal, which is still…something.


The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberals, on the other hand,—in the name of a concern for “human beings”—regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society’s political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel “progress.” In this approach, I believe they fight against Nature.

Surely the first obligation of a political thinker is to understand the nature of man. The Conservative does not claim special powers of perception on this point, but he does claim a familiarity with the accumulated wisdom and experience of history, and he is not too proud to learn from the great minds of the past…

So it is that Conservatism, throughout history, has regarded man neither as a potential pawn of other men, nor as a part of a general collectivity in which the sacredness and the separate identity of individual human beings are ignored. Throughout history, true Conservatism has been at war equally with autocrats and with “democratic” Jacobins. The true Conservative was sympathetic with the plight of the hapless peasant under the tyranny of the French monarchy. And he was equally revolted at the attempt to solve that problem by a mob tyranny that paraded under the banner of egalitarianism. The conscience of the Conservative is pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being. Today, therefore, he is at odds with dictators who rule by terror, and equally with those gentler collectivists who ask our permission to play God with the human race.

With this view of the nature of man, it is understandable that the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order: it is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper bounds.

The Conscience of a Conservative
Barry Goldwater


I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.
Most people are surprised by the way I work. I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops.

There is no typical week in my life. I wake up most mornings very early, around six, and spend the first hour or so of each day reading the morning newspapers. I usually arrive at my office by nine, and I get on the phone. There’s rarely a day with fewer than fifty calls, and often it runs to over a hundred. In between, I have at least a dozen meetings. The majority occur on the spur of the moment, and few of them last longer than fifteen minutes. I rarely stop for lunch. I leave my office by six-thirty, but I frequently make calls from home until midnight, and all weekend long.

It never stops, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is. And if it can’t be fun, what’s the point?

Trump: The Art of the Deal
Donald J. Trump

Impeaching Donald Trump As Nominee

The majority of the Republican Party has finally decided to take on the very loud, engaged and energetic Trump minority. To do it, they’ve devised the strategic approach of all those who are behind the curve and in the hole: they are gambling. Here is the strategy you may not hear about from many of the talking heads.

The Republicans aren’t sure they can stop Trump from getting the numbers he needs to secure the nomination by the time of the convention. They hope so. But whether he does have the numbers or whether it is instead a brokered convention doesn’t matter.

The point of the current movement is only partly to deny Trump the numbers. It is partly—mostly—to build a case to deny him the nomination, whether he has the numbers or not. Just walking into the convention and offering opinions about how bad Trump is and how bad he is for the party and the country won’t do.

Instead, they are going to essentially put him on trial. They are going to impeach him as a nominee. At that point, they will have evidence from Republican leaders of all kinds, from experts of all kinds, from friendly foreign leaders of all kinds, etc. Mostly, they will have Trump’s own words and behaviors. When it is all over, when all the evidence is in, a majority of the party will agree to convict and to disqualify him from any possibility of nomination.

A minority of the party will protest. The result will be that Trump, after threatening to sue (which is what he does), will walk, take his supporters with him, and run as an independent candidate.

This is where the gamble comes in.

The Republicans have to be confident that they have somebody to run who can beat Trump and the Democratic nominee (likely to be Hillary Clinton) in a three-way race. If they lose that gamble, both alternative outcomes are disastrous for them.

If you think things are strange so far, just wait until you see the impeachment trial of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

You Can Stop Worrying About Trump Being the Republican Nominee. But You Can’t Stop Worrying.

New York Daily News - Trump for Prez

If you were worrying about Donald Trump being the official nominee of the Republican Party, you can stop worrying about that, no matter what the results of Super Tuesday voting.

I have predicted for months that the GOP would never allow him to be its standard bearer, no matter what the delegate numbers. Whether that means changing the nominating rules, or splitting the party, or whatever, that part isn’t as clear. But the party of Lincoln and Reagan was never going to be Trump’s to represent.

The party will find a way to deny him its blessing. And then Trump will execute what has always been his contingency plan: amass as much support and publicity as possible, and then run as an independent candidate. Or maybe run as the candidate of a portion of the split Republican Party. And then win the presidency with a plurality of votes.

That’s where your worrying shouldn’t stop. Forget all the talk about people flocking to Trump because of their frustration and anger about political gridlock and ineffectiveness. You don’t have to take a deep dive into the research to see that tens of million Americans want to roll back progress not to the Reagan years, but to the years before civil rights and other modern principles of tolerance and equality. (My sad favorite remains the Trump supporter wearing a baseball cap saying “Make Racism Great Again!”).

These people may not be your friends, but they are your neighbors and fellow voters. Whether there are enough of them to elect a President of the United States is an open question. It certainly would be easier if they had the passive imprimatur of the Republican Party. But it finally appears they will not. Which is a good thing.

Unless we do have a multi-candidate election. And one of them is Donald Trump. Because one of them will win.

Jim Wallis: Evangelical Voters Have Some Explaining To Do

Embarrasing to Be an Evangelical

Jim Wallis says that some Evangelical voters should be embarrassed.

Wallis is President and Founder of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners. It is impossible in short form to explain what treasures Jim Wallis and Sojourners are. So please visit the links to read the descriptions.

Wallis is a stubborn reminder of what he believes Jesus would expect from American Christians, in the face of some of their shortcomings, hypocrisy and grandstanding. No matter what your own faith preference, he is admirable as a brave and insistent conscience for America.

Please read today’s piece, “It’s Embarrassing to Be an Evangelical This Election:
The So-Called ‘Evangelical Vote’ Has Some Explaining to Do.

Saturday Night Political Comedy and Science Fiction

Manchurian Candidate

There were two moments of comedy from Saturday night politics, one spontaneous, one planned. And a weird science fiction scene in between.

Comedy. The chaotic opening of the Republican debate was described by Politico as a “train wreck.” But a really funny train wreck:

As Gov. Chris Christie walked out on stage, moderators David Muir and Martha Raddatz called out Dr. Ben Carson. A camera backstage showed Carson starting to walk out, but he stopped himself once he heard the moderators announce the next candidate, Ted Cruz.

Cruz walked out, and Carson stayed put as a stage manager tried to wave Carson on stage. He didn’t move. Donald Trump then walked up next to Carson as his name was called, but also stopped next to Carson.

Marco Rubio was called up next, walking past both Trump and Carson onto the stage, as did Jeb Bush. John Kasich initially didn’t make it out onto the stage at all.

The moderators thought they were done. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates.”

But they weren’t. “Dr. Ben Carson, please come out on the stage. He’s standing there, as well. Dr. Carson.

“And Donald Trump,” they added.

Then Carson chimed in. “I can introduce Kasich?”

“Yes, yes, we’re going to introduce Ohio governor John Kasich,” the moderators said.

All that was missing from the botched introductions was the candidates colliding with each other and falling all over the stage. Keystone Cops style (that’s for you, Mitt Romney). This hilarious mess didn’t quite make the endless hours of blah blah that followed tolerable.

Then there was this bit of absolute weirdness at the debate:

Science fiction. Chris Christie attacked Marco Rubio for giving the same canned speech every time, no matter what the question. Rubio responded by giving the exact same speech he had just given. Later in the debate, Rubio did it again, word for word. And then again.

It was like a sci-fi movie where a robot is running for President and the mission is to push him to the point of meltdown. The only way we did know that Rubio was not a robot is that later on he began to sweat. Aha!

Or maybe it was like The Manchurian Candidate, where Christie would show Rubio the Queen of Diamonds from a deck of cards, and Rubio would walk off stage in a hypnotic trance.

Comedy. Bernie Sanders went on Saturday Night Live with his doppelganger Larry David. SNL concocted a bit in which Larry David was the captain of a Titanic-type ship that was sinking. The captain was trying to jump ahead of the women and children getting into the lifeboats. Bernie appeared on deck as a radical immigrant who had had “Enough! Enough!” of the privileged one-percent pushing ordinary people around. The happy ending is that the ship has hit not an iceberg but the Statue of Liberty. Bernie did a charming and self-effacing job of delivering his lines with comic gusto.

John Kasich Will Reunite Pink Floyd

Ohio governor and Republican candidate John Kasich has said that if elected President, he will try to reunite Pink Floyd.

“And if I’m President, I am going to once and for all try to reunite Pink Floyd to come together and play a couple of songs. And since we have so much trouble in America with our finances, I’m going to (ask the band to) start with a little song they created called Money.”

This is obviously meant to announce that Kasich is down with whatever the kids are/were listening to (he said his favorite concert of all time was seeing them on “The Wall” tour). And it is probably better than Marco Rubio’s professing his love for Wu Tang Clan.

The ability to reunite Pink Floyd may not be a qualification to be President. But if he can also resurrect the late great Syd Barrett for the concert, I think we’ve got our new Commander (Concert Promoter) in Chief.

Bernie Sanders Is Barry Goldwater

Bernie Sanders for the Democrats is what Barry Goldwater was for the Republicans.

In the short run that might make the current generation of Democrats unhappy. In the long run, they should ask the Republicans how that turned out.

This is how it turned out. An unlikely, marginalized, and idealistic candidate tried to remind a party of its deepest philosophical roots. He won the party’s nomination for President, against all odds and against the wishes of many in the party, who believed he would lead them to total and inglorious defeat. Which he did.

Barry Goldwater also won. It is understandable that the Republican Party lionizes Ronald Reagan as its hero, model and godfather, since Reagan went on to serve two inspiring terms as President. But it was Goldwater, that embarrassment to some in 1964, who inspired Reagan himself and that first young generation of modern Republican conservatives (including Hillary Clinton, who began her political involvement as a Goldwater Girl).

We don’t know how the Bernie Sanders adventure turns out, either in the upcoming caucuses and primaries or at the convention. He is just as unlikely, marginalized and idealistic as Goldwater, and maybe less likely to win the nomination.

But in the long run, progressives who have been sidelined by the siren song of unwavering pragmatism—politics as the art of the possible—may be the winners. A new generation of genuine and fearless progressives may be born, even as the unlikely messenger is pushed aside.

In the words of Barry Goldwater, and as Bernie Sanders might also say:

“And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

It May Not Be Politically Correct to Talk About It, But Is Donald Trump Mentally Healthy?

Donald Trump says he saw something that nobody else did: people in Jersey City cheering as the Twin Towers fell on 9/11.

From the Washington Post:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he saw people cheering the Sept. 11 attacks across the river in New Jersey — a claim officials strongly deny.

Trump first told the story Saturday at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama, as he pressed the need for greater surveillance, including monitoring certain mosques, in the wake of the Paris attacks.

“I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering,” Trump said Saturday at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama.

Trump repeated the assertion Sunday in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” as Stephanopoulos explained to Trump that police had refuted any such rumors at the time.

“It did happen. I saw it,” said Trump. “It was on television. I saw it.”

“There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down,” he said.

“I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it,” he added, “but there were people cheering as that building came down, as those buildings came down. And that tells you something.”

It comes down to two possibilities.

One is that Trump is just saying stuff and making up stuff for political benefit. Pretty outrageous stuff, but it’s been working for him so far. There have long been internet rumors to this effect, but every possible objective source—police, news media, even Republican politicians—deny it ever happened. But it is a rumor that is a definite winner among certain constituencies.

Or. There is something creepily genuine about Trump’s profession of belief in this. He saw it on television, he says, even though it was never on television. Which means that maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump has a problem. A psychological one. People do and say all kinds of things that cross all kinds of lines—ethical, moral, criminal—without having mental illness. On the other hand, it would not be that surprising for someone who has skated for so long on the edge of saying whatever is needed—very successfully and profitably—to cross a boundary to the place where things that never happened do appear to have happened. All evidence to the contrary.