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Entries in Mitt Romney (3)

Tuesday
Sep182012

Is a Vote for a Third Party or Independent Candidate a Wasted Vote?

Ever since I declared that I had decided to vote for neither Obama nor Romney in this year's election, I've received mixed reactions. I should say that most people have been supportive of this decision (at least to my face), but I've also heard a few criticisms as well. Most of them go along the line of one or more of these statements:

"You're wasting your vote."

"A vote for anyone else is really just a vote for _______."

"This election is too important; this is not the time to vote for someone else."

These sentiments are merely evidence of how deeply entrenched the two-party stranglehold on our country has become. These reactions are forms of manipulation to maintain the status quo of the current two-party system. And I don't necessarily mean that anyone making one of these statements is consciously trying to manipulate a vote, but it is reflective of the two-party system's attempt to protect its own position. In other words, these ideas come straight from the top and have been filtered down into the collective conscience of voters throughout our nation.

After reflecting on this, I've come to the conclusion that telling me I'm "wasting my vote" is just about the most un-American statement a person can make. Our ancestors successfully rebelled against Great Britain over two centuries ago because they had neither representation nor any vote in regard to whom their governing authorities would be. The only wasted vote is the vote not cast. To tell me that I have to vote for either this person or that person and no one else is really only one step removed from the kind of totalitarian system we rejected by fighting the Revolutionary War. 

Recently, on his FaceBook page, independent presidential candidate T. J. O'Hara gave the following response to the mindset that a vote for a third party or independent candidate is a wasted vote. I encourage you to seriously consider his words:

We have been conditioned by the Parties to believe that an independent (or third party candidate) cannot possibly "win." The Parties create that belief to preclude the introduction of legitimate competition.

Then, they paint their opposing candidate as nearly satanic to create a sense of fear. Next, they leverage that fear by telling you that you have to protect yourself by voting for the "lesser of two evils" ... that to do anything else would be to "waste" your vote.

Essentially, they are telling you to surrender your vote to them because of a fear THEY created, rather than to vote your conscience for the candidate whom you truly believe offers the best solutions for our country.

Now, ask yourself: "Which is the greater waste?"

The Parties traditionally have depended upon fostering an emotional environment rather than a rational one to control the public's voting behavior. They count on their constituents to passively "do as they're told" and for frustrated independents to ultimately “fall into line.”

Interestingly enough, the United States was given birth by a handful of individuals who went against the odds. By signing the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers were effectively challenging the greatest power on Earth at that time. I, for one, am happy that they had the courage to challenge the political paradigm.

The question for every American on November 6th will be: "Do I have that type of courage, or will I just fall into line and do as I'm told?"

I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein: "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

If you care enough about our country to do something, please visit http://tjohara.com/participate to find out how you can make a difference.

While I don't know if I would ever find a candidate with whom I agree 100% on every issue, that's not actually what I'm looking for. Rather, I'm at a point in my life that I want merely to find a candidate I can support with good conscience as opposed to voting for "the lesser of two evils." I should not be limited to only two choices and neither should you.

Every election will be important. If we were to wait for a time when it would be "okay" to vote for an alternative candidate, we would never end up making a true vote of conscience. But if enough Americans would join in and vote by conscience and not by party loyalty or or for some sake of a strategy just to keep someone else from being elected, we might eventually see a break from the two-party stranglehold that we currently experience and finally have the nation pay attention to a variety of serious and meaningful choices. 

Hopefully...in my lifetime.

As always, your thoughts, questions, comments and/or rebuttals are welcome below.

Tuesday
Aug282012

A Third Way: Saying "No" to Obama AND Romney on November 6

As opposed to an elephant (GOP) or a donkey (Dems), the owl is the symbol of the Modern Whig Party.In the early days of this blog, in posts that aren't currently online but hopefully will return soon, I used to write a lot more about politics. I've moved away from that in recent years because I don't know if we've ever been so divided politically. And in recent years, I see those who call themselves Christian reflect values that belong more to a political ideology than a biblical worldview. 

Nevertheless, it's an election year; and as I have usually done in the past, I'll write at least one political post as well as make a few predictions for the November presidential election.

As with the previous election in 2008, I'm not overly thrilled with either of the two "primary" choices this time around. But at least in the last election, I was able to make a choice and cast my vote. This time around, though, I don't believe that I can vote for either of them in good conscience. I won't go into all the details of that sentiment, but many people I talk to seem to have it, too, for various reasons. 

As I've stated before, I'm neither a Democrat or Republican. In the late nineties, after the fallout of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, I decided I didn't want to belong to either party. I became an independent. I did that in spite of the fact that my college political science professor stated in class that independent voters tend to know least about the issues. After taking his class, I think he knew least about the issues. 

Plus, I had biblical reasons for not belonging to any party: there were political parties of a sort in Jesus' day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Herodians, etc.), and he did not choose to affiliate with any of them. What party would Jesus join? Well, probably none of them!

But I think I've actually found a party that I like: the Modern Whig Party. Although they are not yet overly organized or influential, I like what they stand for--from what I've read so far. There is no Whig ideology that they feel they have to keep to. They're willing to listen to voices from all sides and make pragmatic decisions. Both Democrats and Republicans have become extremists it seems, refusing to compromise with each other on important issues and ultimately becoming caricatures of themselves. The Whigs are willing to implement solutions to our country's problems regardless of who came up with the idea. If there's any veracity to the idea that "the truth is usually in the middle," the Modern Whig Party is willing to be politically more moderate than either the Democrats or the Republicans who continue to grow further and further apart, while accomplishing very little. 

Oh, I know what some of you are going to say: third parties are for those on the fringe; don't vote for candidates, vote for judges; voting for a third party is throwing away your vote. Well, those defenses usually come from deep within the two major parties who are trying to maintain the status quo. Much of politics these days has become a means to manipulate the average person, and the above rhetoric goes a long way to doing that. 

Here's my answer to those ideas: (1) I see a lot of fringe elements in both of the major parties these days. (2) I can't in good conscience vote for a candidate with whom I've got fundamental disagreements because these individuals will ultimately appoint judges with whom I've got fundamental disagreements. (3) A vote of conscience is never a vote thrown away.

Plus, since Kentucky is a "red state," the electoral college (which I believe is a system no longer necessary in a modern technological world) determines that unless I vote for Romney, my vote doesn't matter anyway. 

I promised you some predictions. Both are pretty obvious at this point, but here they are: (1) Romney will win Kentucky where I live, but ultimately (2) Obama will be re-elected, although with less enthusiasm than the first time around. Barring some major last minute scandal, that's where things stand, like it or not.

Thus, I feel even greater freedom than ever to vote my conscience. Therefore, I am currently planning to write in T. J. O'Hara as my choice for president. O'Hara has the endorsement of the Modern Whig Party and seems to have some really practical, and outside the [Washington] box, ideas. And more than likely, when I go to vote, I will also change my affiliation from independent to Modern Whig Party.

I like their ideas, I like their historical ties, and I even like that owl.

If you're uncomfortable voting for either Obama or Romney this year, I hope that you will also consider voting for a third-party candidate. I recommend O'Hara, but if not him, vote for one of the others. I would really love to see a higher than normal vote for candidates outside the major two parties this time around. Within my lifetime, I'd like to see our nation have more choices when it comes to solutions to the problems we have, rather than limiting ourselves to two extremes that refuse to work together. 

Tuesday
Aug142012

Paul Ryan's Beliefs: Will Voters Believe in "Train Up a Child" or Redemption? 

Guest post by Gary Moore, Founder, The Financial Seminary 

Presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has just announced his running mate will be Congressman Paul Ryan. Of course, many religious conservatives will now attempt to sanctify Ryan's well-known economic views while many religious progressives will attempt to demonize them. They will both have theological justification.

Perhaps like America itself, Mr. Ryan is a complicated, some might say conflicted, individual. He is a Roman Catholic. But he is also one of the most visible disciples of atheistic philosopher Ayn Rand, who literally aspired to be remembered as history's greatest enemy of religion, and particularly Christianity. His association with Rand is so strong, the progressive New Yorker magazine's website announced the appointment with the headline, "Ayn Rand Joins The Ticket." The Financial Times said the election is now "a clear choice between Franklin Roosevelt and Ayn Rand." Both had reason to do so.

Mr. Ryan has said Rand was the reason he first entered public service. He has also said that if he "had to credit one thinker, one person, it would by Ayn Rand." He added, "I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism." Ryan has long had his staff read Rand's opus Atlas Shrugged, which the Library of Congress has deemed second in influence only to the Bible. Ryan has even given copies as Christmas presents. That's more than a bit conflicted. Due to Christianity's ethic of "neighbor as self," Rand judged our faith to be incompatible with capitalism. She taught capitalism is based on "the virtue of selfishness," the title of one of her books. She therefore said she would shape capitalism into a secular, materialistic religion for our nation's post-Christian elites who were maturing during the sixties and seventies. Those elites are now running Wall Street and Washington and most of us on Main Street simply can't understand what they are thinking.  

Socially and politically conservative Christians aren't always aware that Rand was actually only the last in a long line of far right-wing economic philosophers from Ludwig von Mises to Milton Friedman who rejected Christian ethics. Dr. Friedman famously argued the only social responsibility of a corporation is to make money for shareholders. Those philosophers were essentially utilitarian, willing to accept capitalism might hurt the marginal as it enriched even more. That and Rand's rejection of charity as a moral duty combined to essentially negate the traditional teaching that the needy were reflections of the divine face of Christ. Rand's teachings and life also argued for abortion rights, open marriage and the use of street drugs, which many libertarians advocate but most conservative Christians resist. 

For such reasons, I have written numerous books and articles questioning Rand's philosophies during the past twenty years. They include a feature article in Christianity Today (September 2010). You can read more of my writings about Rand at www.financialseminary.org. In addition, you should know that I was a life-long member of the GOP before re-registering as an independent due to Rand's radicalizing influence on the GOP, and its Tea Party wing in particular. That's critical as she herself commanded her disciples to be "radicals for capitalism." Another irony of life in the GOP was that Jack Kemp once invited me to join the board of advisors of his think-tank Empower America. That was roughly the same time a young Mr. Ryan was a staffer there. Yet the  reason Jack invited me was that I had written a book that contrasted Rand's views with the views of Christianity. I had even coined the phrase "stewardism" to differentiate her approach from my understanding of political-economy within a Judeo-Christian framework.

Still, despite her radical worldview and absolutist teachings, I expect Rand's ghost will further fog this election, as well as our faith. My previous article for Christianity Today suggested too many of the religious right have confused Rand's teachings with the teaching of Christ. Diametrically opposed though they are, Glenn Beck also promoted both approaches until recently learning they are incompatible. So progressives' focus on Ryan's devotion to both Rand and Christ may encourage many to finally look to the Bible to clarify our thinking. Too many of both progressive and conservative Christians will then quote it in the typically self-rationalizing ways that partisan politics encourages. The reason is the Bible assures us that when we "train up a child," he or she will remain faithful to what they have been taught. Yet it also assures us that redemption is possible and people can change. Those two teachings must be held in tension when considering Mr. Ryan and his financial plan for your future. As with most politicians, and the rest of us, he seems to be a person whose views are "growing." So for what it's worth, this political science graduate turned Wall Street financier who has spent the past twenty years comparing Christ and Rand believes Mr. Ryan and voters need to answer three questions before November.

The first question is, "How would you regulate Wall Street?" That's more important than ever as while Governor Romney has shown tendencies for political moderation, he's also a product of the Street. His selection of Ryan might signal to Wall Street financiers, who channel lots of time, talent and particularly money to Washington, that they have less to worry about from the current backlash towards "the 1%" than many had assumed. 

The reason is The Economist magazine has called Rand "the heroine of America's libertarian right." Libertarians differ from conservatives in that conservatives aspire for government that is limited by our traditional ethic of "neighbor as self" and traditional virtues such as prudence, patience and charity. Most libertarians however demand a new age of revolution and reducing government until it can be drowned in their bathtubs, to use the imagery of anti-taxer Grover Norquist. He has had GOP congressmen sign pledges of no new taxes regardless of how many wars we must finance, how many retired boomers need health care, and how much money the SEC needs to regulate a Wall Street that too often believes greed is good.     

Yet The Economist also explained that Rand's worldview found economic expression in Washington in what many now call Reaganomics, a time of significant deregulation, particularly of Wall Street. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, was one of Rand's very closest disciples. Not only was he highly instrumental in deregulating Wall Street's sub-prime mortgage brokers last decade, he was equally instrumental in deregulating the savings and loan industry a couple decades ago. Many economists believe both resulted in short-term economic booms, particularly in the job creating building sector, but longer-term busts. Greenspan himself testified before Congress that "the flaw," as it's now called by many, in his worldview was in believing the only regulation businesspeople need is economic self-interest. That refers to Rand's teaching that "the productive" are so naturally good, they are humanity's saviors. Not exactly John Calvin's "total depravity" of the unredeemed human heart.     

The second question for Mr. Ryan is, "What is the proper role of government toward the needy?" Rand's most famous statement on that subject might be found in The Virtue of Selfishness. It says we can help our neighbors in emergency situations like shipwrecks, as long as we are not endangering ourselves, but that does not mean we have any responsibilities for anyone when back on shore. Rand practiced charity toward no one. Obviously, that strikes at the heart of the economic teachings of Moses, who we should remember was both government and prophet in the theocracy of his time. As the intellectual leader of the GOP's effort to roll back governmental care for the poor, Mr. Ryan has often been criticized by Catholic leaders who teach God's "preferential option for the poor." Ninety faculty members of Georgetown University have written a letter to Mr. Ryan complaining his budget proposal was more reflective of Rand than Christ. Another church leader tried to offer the congressman a Bible in which the teachings of Moses and Jesus concerning the poor had been highlighted. The congressman declined the gift.  

The third question for Christian voters is therefore, "What, if anything, do those biblical teachings mean for our capitalist culture?" Moses clearly made it Law to round the corners of the fields, leave the second harvest in the vineyards, bring the full tithes to the storehouse for the needy, and so on. Of course, many conservative Christians believe that Law died with Christ. Yet Christ himself said that Law would endure forever. After forty years of contemplation, I believe this apparent contradiction is at the very heart of the tension between the idealism of religion and the pragmatism of politics. The Moses who led God's children out of Egypt clearly understood political freedom to be necessary to the abundant life. Yet it's been estimated by even evangelical theologians that Moses mandated 25% of a person's annual gain be shared with society. That's about the level of total taxes in America today. Yet Moses did not have to build interstate highways, explore space, maintain an army the size of America's, and so on.

In essence, Christ freed his disciples from the Law by teaching us to live in a state of grace. So Saint Paul said we are to give as our loving hearts dictate. Yet neither Christ nor Saint Paul intended to do away with the law, or even taxes to Caesar (Romans 13). Neither aspired to free non-believers to live in a state of selfishness. They understood the "liberty" often advocated by modern libertarians unaccompanied by traditional morality can quickly become the near anarchy we've witnessed in both Washington and on Wall Street lately, as well as result in the concentration of wealth that threatens our land.  

As Saint Paul explained the paradox, we can only live in freedom from the external constraints of government when we live as slaves to Christ's love for Virtue and neighbor as self. It's possible the still young congressman has matured in his faith until he has nuanced that paradox of Christianity. He has recently renounced the atheism of Rand and her atheistic teachings. Yet it should be noted that he did so only after progressives made a political issue of his conflicted dedication to both Rand and Christ.

Still, we should keep all the political propaganda, and particularly its misuse of religion, in perspective. Perhaps our rich young ruler of a nation also wants to keep its wealth and religion in separate compartments, even if it still causes us to go away sad. Perhaps it is indeed true that a competent atheist is better than an incompetent Christian, as nice as a competent Christian would be. But my studies and experiences with politics have never suggested America's salvation will be assured by a politician. With very rare exceptions like Moses, David and perhaps Lincoln, politicians usually just reflect the moral condition of the electorate, not shape it. It usually takes a far higher power than politics to shape loving hearts and holistic minds.       

****

Gary Moore is the founder of The Financial Seminary and has written six books on the morality of political economy. His latest is Look Up America! Financial Insights for Tea Partiers Looking Right, Occupiers Looking Left, and All Americans Looking at a Lower Standard of Living for Their Children

As always, your thoughts, questions comments and rebuttals are welcome in the comments below.