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SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MID-TERMS
So, the midterms are finally over. For months, those of us who like to watch American politics were expecting an epic to the death struggle that would vindicate the winner and devastate the loser.
But, as the Fates would have it, that is not what happened. At the time this article was written, the Democrats held 225 seats in the House of Representatives compared to the Republicans 197 seats (with thirteen seats still to be decided). And in the Senate, the Republicans held 51 seats to the Democrats 44 (with two seats being held by other parties and with four still undecided).
What we got was less an Alien versus Predator fight to the death and something more akin to two schoolboys getting into a schoolyard brawl with each claiming victory because they’d managed to bloody the other’s nose.
For months we’d been told that the Democrats would end up dominating both the House of Representatives and the Senate as the American people voiced their disapproval of the Trump Presidency. But that didn’t happen either. The Republicans may have lost their majority in the House of Representatives (and, indeed, many moderate Republicans did not do so well), they managed to gain a definitive majority in the Senate.
As Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary put it: “anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight’s not going to get it.”
Several factors played a role in determining the outcome of the election.
The first thing to note is that the results of the election were not a signal of approval for far-left Democratic policies. It was moderate Democrats who won seats, not radically progressive ones. This would suggest that as many Americans reject radical identity politics as those who feel dissatisfied with the Trump Presidency. And it would suggest that the Democrat’s best strategy for winning the next Presidential election is to put forward a moderate candidate with a moderate platform.
The second thing to note is that the Republican’s triumph in the Senate had as much do with demographics as it did with politics. The electoral map made Democratic Senate seats more vulnerable than Republican ones. That said, however, it also turns out that the Democrats failed to take advantage of an advantageous news cycle. Had they nominated more moderate candidates rather than radically progressive ones they would have found themselves a lot more successful.
The third thing to note is that voter motivation played an enormous role in determining the outcome of the election. One of the reasons the Republicans lost the House of Representatives was because the Democrats were more motivated to vote than they were.
Actually, this was recognised early on. Bill Stepien, the political director for the White House, urged President Trump to motivate his base by making the election a referendum on his own performance. Clearly, Stepien recognised that President Trump has a special talent for rallying his supporters. And, as the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro noted, every district Trump visited ended up voting Republican.
The fourth things to note is that the Democrats managed to do better in the suburbs than the Republicans did. The Democrats managed to win suburbs all the way from the eastern seaboard to Nevada and even managed to expand into Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Richmond. As Liesl Hickey, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014, said “Republicans have lost the suburbs. I don’t know if they’ve lost them forever, but we’ve definitely lost them for now.”
That the outcome of the midterms will have political implications should be obvious to everyone. On the negative side, a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will make it difficult for the Republicans to enact their legislative agenda over the next two years. It puts Trump’s immigration and economic policies in danger. It puts his administration’s goal to build a border wall, deregulate business, and cut taxes in jeopardy.
But, on the more positive side, however, the outcome of the midterms may inspire more transparency from the Executive as President Trump negotiates trade deals with Japan and the European Union. And as much a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives puts the Republican agenda in jeopardy, a Republican-controlled Senate creates a roadblock for the progressive agenda indicative in the Democrat’s more radical policies.
And there are the long-term implication, as well. The Republican’s control of the Senate will make it difficult for the Democrat’s to gain control over it in 2020. However, it also revealed the necessity for the Republican Party to expand its conservative base, especially in lieu of the 2020 Presidential election. In the 2000, 2004, and 2016 Presidential elections, a switch of only 150,000 votes would have nullified all of them.
The midterm election resulted in a victory for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It did not deliver the much-prophesied blue wave for the Democrats and it didn’t allow the Republicans to retain control of Congress. What the midterms produced was a balanced, moderate Congress. The manner in which people choose to interpret the results of this election will depend largely upon their political orientation. Both Democrats and Republicans have the choice to see the results as either a triumph or a defeat. And exactly how they react will determine how well their party does at the next Presidential election.
Who knows what will happen at the next Presidential election. Two years can be a lifetime in politics.
The War On Christmas
In 2015, the then-Presidential candidate, Donald Trump (1946 – ) called for a boycott of Starbucks after the famous coffee shop chain failed to include the words “Merry Christmas” on their annual Christmas cups. “Did you read about Starbucks?”, Trump asked a rally in Springfield, Illinois. “No more ‘Merry Christmas’ on Starbucks. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.”
Two years later, Donald Trump, now President of the United States, doubled down on his pro-Christmas message. Speaking at a Christian Public Policy conference, the President stated:
“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct.”
“You got to department stores and they’ll say, ‘Happy New Year’, or they’ll say other things and it’ll be red, they’ll have it painted. But they don’t say it. Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
The sentiment that there is a War on Christmas designed to push the religious holiday out of public consciousness carries a great deal of validity. Since 2000, the Becket Institute has listed the biggest Christmas scrooges in American public life, giving the worst offenders an ‘Ebenezer award.’
In 2000, city manager of Eugene, Oregon, Jim Johnson was given the Ebenezer Award after he issued a five-page memo banning Christmas trees from any “public space” in the city.
In 2011, the Ebenezer Award was given to the United States Post Office after they enforced a policy preventing people from singing Christmas carols on Government property. This decision stands in direct contradiction to Benjamin Franklin’s (1706 – 1790) (their founder) commandment to “always live jollily; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.”
In 2014, the City of Sioux Falls was given the Ebenezer Award after they threatened to repaint and censor snowploughs that featured artwork celebrating the religious nature of Christmas.
In 2015, the Ebenezer Award was given to the Department of Veteran Affairs after they banned their employees at their Salem, Virginia facility from saying ‘Merry Christmas.’
The problem is not unique to the United States, either. During an interview with 2GB Radio, Peter Dutton (1970 – ), Australia’s minister for immigration and border protection, became incensed after a caller informed him that there had not been any Christmas carols in a performance at his grandchild’s school. The caller informed Dutton that the school in question, Kerdon State High School, had replaced the lyric “we wish you a Merry Christmas” with “we wish you a happy holiday.” Dutton replied: “You make my blood boil with these stories. It is political correctness gone mad and I think people have just had enough of it.”
I believe that the drive to remove the more traditional and religious aspects from holidays like Christmas and Easter is indicative of a larger attempt to abolish the influence of Christianity on society and culture.
The problem with this, needless to say, is that it is akin to chopping down a tree and still wishing to enjoy its fruits. It is not possible to enjoy the fruits of Western culture and civilisation when its ideological origins and overarching philosophical-cum-theological structures have been removed. Christianity and Western civilisation are inextricably linked. The poet, T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) wrote in Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1943) that “to our Christian heritage we owe many things besides religious faith. Through it we trace the evolution of our arts, through it we have a conception of Roman Law which has done so much to shape the Western world, through it we have our conception of private and public morality.”
The War on Christmas is an attack on the very fabric of Western Civilisation. Christmas symbolises the central axiom our culture was built on: that the Universe was constructed to have a natural and moral order. The War on Christmas is not merely an attack of Judeo-Christian belief, nor is it merely an attack on Western culture, it is an attack upon truth itself. And the truth cannot prosper while those who believe it are unwilling to defend it.
MASS SHOOTING IN LAS VEGAS
Fifty-nine people are dead and around five hundred are dead after a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday. It is the deadliest shooting in US history.
The gunman opened fire from his thirty-second-floor hotel room during a performance by country music star, Jason Aldean, at the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival – an event attended by twenty-five thousand people. Witness reports suggest that the gunman used at least one automatic weapon in the attack. Fifty-four-year-old Steve Smith of Phoenix commented that the gunfire “just kept going on.”
It took an hour for Las Vegas police to break into the gunman’s hotel room after being alerted to the attack. There they found an arsenal of weapons, including ten rifles, and the gunman dead from a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The gunman responsible has been identified as sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada. While police are yet to finalise a background check on Mr. Paddock, it is known that he was a wealthy property owner who resided in the local retirement community. A regular at Las Vegas casinos, Mr. Paddock possessed no significant criminal record and was not known to have links to any militant group.
Mr. Paddock’s brother, Eric, told the Daily Mail that his family was “shocked” by the action’s of his brother and there had been “absolutely no indication” of what he was capable of. “Something happened, he snapped or something”, Eric Paddock commented.
Reactions to the mass shooting have been quick and immense. Jason Aldean stated on Instagram:
“Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont [sic] know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate.”
President Trump stated in the Diplomatic Room of the White House that the shooting “was an act of pure evil.” The President also released a memorandum calling for flags to be flown at half-mast.
WHITE HOUSE REVEALS NEW TAX REFORM PLAN
President Trump unleashed a new plan for tax reform in a speech at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
The plans are the product of discussions between White House Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, the House Ways and Means Chairman, Kevin Brady, the Senate Finance Chairman, Orrin Hatch, House Speaker, Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and White House economic policy chief, Gary Cohn. Their purpose will be to strengthen the middle class, grow the economy, and engender economic recovery by broadening the tax base, closing loopholes, and fostering growth.
According to a press release by the Treasury Department, the reforms will mean that less of the earnings of middle-class families will be subject to Federal income tax, and will reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three: 12%, 25%, and 35%. It will also increase child tax credits and repeal the death tax and alternative minimum tax.
For business, the reforms seek to reduce the corporate tax rate to 20% and limit the taxation imposed on small and family-based businesses operating as sole proprietorships and small businesses corporations to 25%.
The reforms have received support from both politicians and numerous free-market groups. The Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan, said on Capitol Hill:
“This has been a long time coming. Instead of a source of pride, our tax code has become a constant source of frustration. It’s too big. It’s too complicated. It’s too expensive. Today, we are taking the next step to liberate America from our broken tax code.”
Similarly, the House Freedom Caucus, which is comprised of Congress’ most conservative members, said in a statement:
“President Trump has delivered a forward-looking tax reform framework that will let hard-working Americans keep more of their money, simplify our system, end carve-outs for special interests, and will help make our businesses competitive abroad. The Freedom Caucus looks forward to sending a final bill based on this framework to President Trump’s desk as soon as possible.”
WHITE HOUSE RELEASES REVISES TRAVEL BAN
President Trump has issued another executive order to extend and broaden the travel band that expired on Sunday.
The new travel ban will be more impervious to challenges from the Supreme Court, and will require foreign governments to improve their identity management, issue more secure passports, identify serious criminals, and provide information on known or suspected terrorists.
The new travel makes changes to the immigration policy the US has with different countries. The travel ban on Sudan has been lifted. North Korea, Chad, and Venezuela have been added to the list of banned countries (although this ban only extends to North Korean and Venezuelan government officials). Libya, Somalia, Iran, Syria, and Yemen will remain.
The White House has stated that the new travel ban has created a new “baseline for information sharing to support visa and immigration vetting determinations.” President Trump stated:
“Following an extensive review by the Department of Homeland Security, we are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States. We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country. My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”
IS THIS THE END OF THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL?
President Trump stated Wednesday that he had made a decision concerning the Iran Nuclear Deal. In an unusual twist, however, the President refused to announce what it was.
White House National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, has refused to comment on whether President Trump planned to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. McMaster told NBC’s Today show:
“I’m not saying anything yet about it, but when the announcement is made, it will fit into a fundamentally sound and broad strategy aimed at addressing Iran’s destabilizing behaviour and prioritizing protecting American vital interests.”
Seven Democrat senators have written to President Trump demanding evidence that Iran had violated the agreement by October 6th, the certification deadline. They wrote:
“If you are aware of any information that would suggest that Iran is no longer complying or that would lead the president to conclude that the continued suspension of sanctions is no longer in the vital national security interests of the United States, we request that you provide a written report containing such information.”
Similarly, the Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, has expressed the opinion that the US should remain in the deal, despite opposing it two years ago. The senator stated in an interview Wednesday that he believed the Iranians had been complying with the terms of the deal and that the Trump Administration should be focused on curtailing Iran’s ballistic missile program. Paul told Politico:
“Most of the complaints about Iran don’t have anything to do with the agreement. They complain about ballistic missiles and other things, but that’s not part of the agreement. I think while the agreement’s not perfect, my main concern has always been compliance. But if they’re complying with it, I think we should stay in it.”
A decision to leave the Iran Nuclear Deal does have its supporters, however. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, commented that the Iraq Nuclear Deal had been ineffectual in safeguarding against Iran’s growing power. Macron stated:
“We need the 2015 accord. Is this accord enough? It is not, given the growing pressure that Iran is applying in the region.”
Similarly, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has stated that Iran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, its ballistic missile test, and its other non-military action undermined efforts to create stability in the Middle East. Tillerson stated on Wednesday night:
“Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region. That’s why we talk about Iran defaulting on these expectations because those expectations clearly have not been met.”