Rhyming History

Mark Twain is supposed to have said that history does not repeat but it rhymes. Whether or not Twain actually said it, the meaning of this expression is that while historical events do not repeat themselves precisely, there are certain patterns to history. People are people, whatever the differences in geography or culture, and people tend to react to similar events in similar ways. With this in mind, I would like to consider certain historical events with which the current political situation is starting to rhyme in some ominous ways.

The first rhyme begins on January 30, 1933, when German President Paul von Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. Hindenburg did not like Hitler very much. Hindenberg was an aristocratic Junker of the old Prussian mode and a monarchist and he despised Hitler as a demagogue and a plebian rabble-rouser. The Nazis, while short a majority, had become the largest party in the Reichstag and it was impossible to form a governing coalition without them. Hitler’s price for such a coalition was to be named Chancellor. Hindenberg had done a creditable job as a Field Marshall in charge of the German military in World War I, but by 1933 he was old, he was 85, tired, and perhaps a bit senile. He succumbed to the pressure to make Hitler Chancellor, against his better judgment.

Hitler was not yet a dictator, though. The Nazis held only three cabinet posts and there were new elections for the Reichstag coming up in March. Most observers felt that Hitler could be contained. Then, on  February 27, a fire broke out at the Reichstag building. A Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was found on the scene and arrested. While many then and since have suspected the Nazis of starting the fire themselves, the historical consensus is that van der Lubbe was indeed the arsonist. Nevertheless, the Nazis were swift to take advantage of the incident, citing the fire as evidence of a widespread Communist conspiracy to overthrow the Weimar Republic and institute a Soviet regime.

Is history repeating itself, or rhyming?

The Nazi press spread stories of an imminent Communist takeover inciting panic among the German population and the following day  President von Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree, giving Hitler emergency powers, suspending the civil rights of the German People, including freedom of speech and the press and the right to peaceably assemble. The Communist Party was banned and those Communists not already in custody are rounded up and arrested. A month later, on March 24, the Enabling Act was passed, giving the Chancellor the power to rule by decree. Hitler was now a dictator and only President Hindenberg’s prestige and control of the German army stood in the way of absolute power for Hitler. This last barrier was removed when Hindenberg died on August 2, 1934. Hitler combined the offices of president and chancellor and assumed the title of Fuhrer and Reichskanzler.

Does all of this begin to sound familiar? Substitute Democrats for Nazi, Conservative for Communist, and Capitol riot for Reichstag fire and I could easily be talking about the current political situation. There is no Hitler to be found anywhere, thank God, and no one is actually talking about establishing a dictatorship, yet, but it is clear that the Democrats are using last week’s riot at the capitol to justifying attacking our most basic civil rights, with the aid of their Big Tech allies. Conservatives are already being purged from social media platforms, and who can tell what the coming Democratic Congress will enact. Prominent Progressives are openly talking about the need to “reprogram” Trump supporters, people are losing their jobs for backing the wrong side, and Democrats are talking about the need to rein in media “misinformation”.

I have long opposed comparing any politician or political party to Hitler or the Nazis. No one in mainstream American politics, I have said is anything at all like some of the worst people in human history. I might have to revise that position. If the Democrats are going to make use of the Nazi playbook, line by line, then I am going to start calling them what they have revealed themselves to be, Nazis or Fascists.

Meanwhile, if history continues to rhyme in this fashion, I am afraid we are in for some very dark times.

 

To Open or Not to Open

To open or not to open, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to suffer to open up

And suffer the slings and arrows of COVID-19

Or shelter in place against a sea of viruses

And by opposing end them.

Okay, so I am no William Shakespeare. Still, the question remains, how long must this quarantine and sheltering in place last? We cannot remain closed down indefinitely. Small businesses and the people who they employ are suffering badly. Before too much longer, they will not be able to reopen. Every day that we remain closed down presents a greater risk of a recession or even a depression occurring later in the year. Yet, if we open everything too soon before the pandemic has run its course, we run the risk of suffering a second wave of coronavirus resulting in more sickness and deaths. Shutting the economy down again late this summer could do more damage to the economy than keeping things shut down a little longer this spring. This is not an easy decision, no matter what some people who are not in the position to make the actual decisions and be responsible for the consequences might believe. I wouldn’t want to be the person who has to decide.

Hamlet pondering on whether to reopen Denmark after the coronavirus pandemic

You wouldn’t think that responses to the coronavirus epidemic would be along partisan lines, but then what isn’t along partisan lines these days? I have noticed that Democrats and leftists generally seem to be in favor of extending the lockdowns for as long as possible and seem to favor stricter guidelines for social distancing, while Republicans and conservatives generally seem to want the lockdowns to end as soon as possible. Perhaps the Democrats tend to be more concerned with the population’s health while the Republicans are more concerned with the nation’s economy. Or maybe Republicans have actual jobs and would like to get back to the business of providing for themselves and their families. I think everyone not on the fringes is starting to get a little frustrated.

Out on the fringes, the lunatic right seems to believe that the Wuhan virus is some sort of false flag operation by the government to impose socialist tyranny on the country. All of the lockdowns and shelter in place orders are just to prepare the sheeple to follow the government’s orders no matter how negatively they affect their lives and circumstances. When the blue-helmeted UN ‘peacekeepers’ arrive in their black helicopters after the disputed election of 2020, most people will be conditioned to do as their told and offer no resistance to the invaders. I wish I were making all of this up.

On the other hand, the idiot left does seem to be taking advantage of the disruptions in everyday life to push their agenda. Now is the perfect time for work stoppages, rent strikes, gun safety measures, freer access to abortion, a wealth tax, open borders, and who knows what else. None of this has anything to do with the pandemic, though I imagine that a country in the sort of economic collapse that would ensue if the left’s policies were adopted might find it more difficult to protect its citizens from disease.

Some governors, especially in the Blue States seem to be enjoying the power which the crisis has given them. They seem to relish having the power to decide which jobs and businesses are essential and telling people how they can interact with one another, setting up snitch lines, getting the police to note the license plates of people who have dared to attend religious services, threatening the Jews, etc. I wonder if these governors will ever reopen their states. They seem to be having too much fun unleashing their inner authoritarians. Besides, if we end up in a Greater Depression, it might cause Trump to be defeated in the upcoming election. Tens of millions of Americans permanently out of work and without hope is a small price to pay for defeating the bad orange man, and it is a lot easier to set up the new socialist America if people have to depend on the government for every necessity. We can’t have a free people who rely on themselves. That’s racist or something.

For my part, I think there has been a lot of overreaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese coronavirus just doesn’t seem deadly enough to justify the lockdowns and the general panic. Still, better safe than sorry and I would prefer to err on the side of doing too much than too little. After all, when this crisis started, we had no way of knowing how bad it might get. The Chinese government has not been too helpful in providing the information we needed. I think we need to start opening things up now, not just because of the economy, but because I sense the American people are getting impatient and frustrated. I think the nation’s governors are going to have to plan to start opening things up right now before people start simply ignoring them and opening up on their own. Already we read of protests. That’s the signal for our leaders to get out and lead, or we’ll just start leading ourselves.

Biden His Time

Now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out, Joe Biden is the last man standing. I hardly expected that to be the outcome. I thought that Bernie would stay in longer. Actually, I was hoping that Bernie Sanders would stay in longer, at least long enough that we would have an actual choice here in Indiana. One of the disadvantages of living in Indiana is that our primary comes so late that the contest has already all but been decided before we vote. I don’t think it is fair that the people in Iowa and New Hampshire and the states that have their primaries on Super Tuesday get to pick the party nominees, while other states get no choice at all. Maybe state primaries should be on some sort of rotating schedule so that other states can get the first choice.

Joe Biden

My guess would be that Bernie Sanders was not really running to be president but to move the Democratic Party further to the left. He must believe that either Biden has moved far enough to the left to suit him, and is unlikely to move to the center as president, or that it does not matter much what Biden says or does since he won’t be the one making the decisions. He may be right. Joe Biden has never been know to be particularly smart, and it seems that he is suffering from some sort of dementia. Perhaps, Joe Biden is meant to be a figurehead. Those Democrats who have dropped out and endorsed Biden may be hoping for cabinet positions or be the real power in a Biden administration. If so, many of them, especially Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, are surely extreme enough to suit Bernie.

If this is the case, then the Democratic Party has completed the transition from a center-left party made up of a coalition of the White working class and various racial and ethnic minorities to a hard-left, Socialist Party dedicated to fundamentally transforming the United States from a constitutional republic based on individual freedom and the rule of law to a socialist utopia based on the preeminence of the state above all else. This transition, begun with the McGovern campaign back in 1972 has proceeded slowly as the radicals have climbed their way into the Democratic Party power structure and was somewhat delayed by the relatively moderate New Democrats such as Bill Clinton, but greatly accelerated by the rise of the radical Barack Obama has transformed the Democratic into a totalitarian party with no place for dissenting moderates. Even such past luminaries as Roosevelt or Johnson might find it difficult to fit into the contemporary Democratic party. John F Kenedy might be more comfortable as a Republican today. Even George McGovern, who was not, in fact,

These old Democrats, whatever their faults were patriots who loved their country and respected the institutions that made it great and free. They may have been liberals, but they were not radical enough to want to destroy those institutions, just reform them to make them better. Even though many of their policies were wrong-headed, they were sincerely interested in expanding opportunities to the disadvantaged. The contemporary Democratic Party seems to be led by virtue-signaling coastal elites and tech moguls, environmentalist wackos, and the genderqueer obsessed. They seem to be more about restricting opportunities rather than expanding them, keeping the disadvantaged down in their place rather than lifting them up. They seem to hate America and want nothing more than to tear down every institution and constitutional check as merely in the way of their goal of obtaining absolute power to remake the country as they see fit.

It is all a shame, really. The was some good in the Democratic party of old. There is nothing good in this new, neo-Bolshevik party, no matter who is the nominee. The Democrats need to be defeated this November. A Democratic president with a Democratic Congress would be a disaster for the country and for the cause of freedom in the world It is not going to be enough for Trump to win, the Democrats need to face a shellacking big enough to make them reconsider their leftward drift into Socialism. It won’t happen. I’m afraid that the days of 49 state landslides are over and even if the Democrats face a defeat on the scale of McGovern’s or Mondale’s, they will likely simply blame Biden for being too moderate and double down on the crazy.

Can Biden win? As the presumptive Democratic nominee, he certainly has some chance of being the next president. Biden is not a very impressive candidate, even when he was younger, and as I’ve mentioned, he seems to be deteriorating fast. There are a lot of people on the left who really hate Trump, though, and many of them would vote for a head of lettuce if that is what it takes to deny Trump a second term. On the other hand, there were a lot of people on the right who really hated Clinton and Obama and who voted for the uninspiring Bob Dole and Mitt Romney, yet Clinton and Obama both won reelection. Joe Biden is a good deal weaker as a candidate than either Dole or Romney. I suppose much will depend on who is selected to be Biden’s running mate. Whoever it is might be seen as the real candidate who might be expected to take over if Biden is obliged to resign.

There has been some speculation that Biden will be replaced by a more suitable candidate at the Democratic National Convention, perhaps Hilary Clinton or New York governor Andrew Cuomo. I don’t see how the Democrats are going to be able able to pull that off. Joe Biden has the most delegates pledged to him and as the only candidate still in the race, will have a majority by the time the primaries are over. It seems to me that the Democrats would have to discard their own rules for nominating a candidate to ditch Biden. Maybe they will, but I wonder if a candidate nominated under such unusual circumstances would really be a stronger candidate than Joe Biden. I guess we are just going to have to bide our time and see what happens.

The Election of 1888

The election of 1888 was all about tariffs. There were other issues, to be sure, and the usual amount of mudslinging, but it was mostly about tariffs. Tariffs may not seem to be an issue to get especially excited about, but in those days before the income tax, tariffs were the major source of revenue for the federal government. Moreover, many people believe that high tariffs were essential to protect American industry for foreign, particularly British, competition. President Grover Cleveland had come out in favor of lower tariffs in his message to Congress in December 1887, arguing that the high tariff was an excessive and unjust level of taxation that hurt consumers. Some of the president’s advisors had fretted that his stand on lowering the tariff would hurt his chance of reelection, But Cleveland simply replied, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”

The Democrats held their national convention in St. Louis, Missouri from June 5-7. Grover Cleveland was nominated for a second term by acclamation, the first Democratic president nominated to run for a second term since Martin Van Buren back in 1840. Since President Cleveland’s Vice-President, Thomas A. Hendricks had died on November 25, 1885, the Democrats needed to select a new Vice-Presidential nominee. They picked Allen G. Thurman from Ohio after only one ballot. Allen G Thurman had had a long and distinguished career in politics, serving in the House of Representatives from 1845 to 1847 and was the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court from 1854 to 1856. Thurman was a Senator from Ohio from 1869 to 1881 and was on the commission to resolve the contentious election of 1876. Thurman was also known for opposing land grants to railroad companies and was said to have left the Senate as poor as when he had entered it.

The Republicans met in Chicago from June 19-25. James G Blaine was the front runner, but he withdrew, deciding that he was too controversial to defeat Grover Cleveland. Instead, the Republicans nominate Benjamin Harrison from Indiana on the seventh ballot. Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison. He had fought in the Civil War helping to raise a regiment and rising to the rank of brevet brigadier general. After the war Harrison worked as a lawyer and became involved in Indiana politics, serving as a senator from 1881 to 1887. The Republicans went on to nominate Levi P. Morton from New York for the Vice-Presidency. Levi P. Morton had served in the House of Representatives from1879 to 1881, as Minister to France from 1881 to 1885 and the Governor of New York from 1895 to 1896. As the American Minister to France, Levi Morton had officially accepted the gift of the Statue of Liberty and had placed the first rivet in the statue.

 

The Greenback Party had faded away, but there were some minor party candidates. There was the Prohibition Party nominated Brigadier General Clinton B. Fisk for president and John A. Brooks for Vice-President and ended up getting 249,819 (2.2%) votes.

 

The Union Labor Party nominated Alson Streeter and Charles E. Cunningham and got just 146,602 (1.31%) votes.

 

The campaign was mostly about the tariff question with Cleveland and the Democrats supporting lower tariffs and Harrison and the Republicans in favor of higher protective tariffs. It wouldn’t have been an American election, however, if there weren’t at least some personal attacks. The Republicans accused Cleveland of abusing his young wife, Frances Folsom who he had married in the White House in 1886. She denied the story, assuring everyone that Grover was a kind and considerate husband. The Democrats retaliated by accusing Benjamin Harrison of being anti-Catholic, anti-labor, and wanting increased immigration from China to force wages down. The Republicans accused Cleveland of being pro-British and wanting to adopt the British system of free trade to assist British manufacturers at the expense of American industry.

The Murchison Letter was an election dirty trick worth mentioning. “Murchison” was a California Republican named Charles Osgoodby who wrote a letter to the British Minister to the United States, Sir Lionel Sackville-West. In this letter, he pretended to be a former British citizen named Charles F. Murchison, who wanted to know which candidate would be better for his old homeland. Sackville-West was imprudent enough to reply that, in his opinion, Cleveland would be the better candidate for British interests. The Republicans gleefully published “Murchison’s” correspondence with Sir Sackville-West, probably costing Cleveland the Irish vote and the state of New York. Sir Sackville-West ended up getting fired for his interference in American politics.

The Murchison Letter

It was a close election, but in the end, the Republicans turned out to be better organized and better funded than the Democrats. Cleveland won the popular vote with 5,534,488 votes (48.6%) to Harrison’s 5,443,892 votes (47.8%), but Harrison won in the electoral college with 233 votes to Cleveland’s 186. As the election of 1884, the results were regional with the Republicans sweeping the North and the Democrat winning the South, along with Massachusetts. Only two states switched sides from 1884, New York and Indiana. If Cleveland had won those two states he would have been reelected.

The Election of 1888

So, Grover Cleveland left the White House in March 1889, but he would be back.

Bernie Could Win

It may be too early to make predictions, but it looks like Bernie Sanders will end up being the Democratic nominee for president in the upcoming election in November. This prospect has Republicans giddy with glee and establishment Democrats dismayed, as they foresee a result similar to the election of 1972. In that election, the Democrats nominated the very left-wing George McGovern who then went on to lose to Nixon in one of the most lopsided defeats (520-17 electoral votes) in the history of American presidential elections. It is easy to imagine that the openly “democratic socialist” aka Communist, Sanders will suffer a similar humiliation.

I am not so sure. This is not the same country as it was in 1972 or 1984 when Reagan won by an even more lopsided 525-13 electoral votes. We are more evenly polarized these days and people seem to be more loyal to their political tribes and less willing to vote for the other side’s candidate. Elections seem to be won more at the margins and there is less likelihood of the kind of massive landslide that occurred in those two elections. I cannot imagine California going red and voting for Trump, no matter how insane the Democratic candidate might be. I doubt if Sanders will make much headway in the deep red south. I do not think Trump is going to carry forty-nine states no matter what happens in the campaign. I am also not so sure that Sanders is doomed to be defeated. I do believe that Trump is likely to be reelected. He has the advantages of the incumbent and the economy is doing well, but nothing is absolutely certain. Bernie Sanders could win. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Bernie Sanders is actually the Democratic candidate most likely to defeat Trump.

The next President?

Donald Trump’s main advantage has been the enthusiasm of his supporters, and detractors. No one seems to be neutral or apathetic in their opinion about Trump. The people who do like like Trump, really hate him, and the people who support Trump really, really love him. It is this enthusiasm that won him the presidency in the previous election. Hilary Clinton had many advantages and ought to have won the election, but no one really liked her all that much. Her support among Democrats was lukewarm. She was too much a part of an increasingly unpopular establishment. People voted for her as the least bad option, not because they were excited about another Clinton presidency. In contrast, the people who voted for Trump were excited about his promise to Make America Great Again. They voted for him because they wanted him to be president.

Of all the Democratic candidates this year, only Bernie Sanders really generates the same kind of excitement that Donald Trump does. No one really likes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Pete Buttigieg. Their supporters are not excited in the same way that Bernie’s are. If any of the other candidates become the nominee, Democratic voters will be voting against Trump. If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, they will be voting for Sanders. Voting for a candidate generates more excitement than voting against a candidate. Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat who generates the kind of enthusiasm that Trump gets from his supporters. I think that Sanders is the only candidate who might be a  threat to Trump.

It is disturbing that Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner and has at least some chance of being the next president. Judging by his campaign promises, a Sanders presidency would have the most extremist left-wing agenda in the history of the United States. He will ban fracking and the export of American oil, remove any limits on accepting refugees and leave the borders wide open. He wants Medicare for all to be paid for with massive tax increases on the wealthy and deep cuts to military spending. Because of the urgent climate emergency (and the fact that even a Democratic Congressional majority might balk at some of his more extreme plans), Bernie won’t have time to enact his proposals by legislation or permit the usual democratic give and take. He plans to act by executive orders, bypassing Congress and the constitution. In effect, Bernie Sanders plans to govern as an autocrat, ruling by decree. Bernie Sanders has never met an enemy of the United States he didn’t like and has expressed his admiration for some of the worst tyrants in the world. A Sanders presidency would be a gift to our enemies, especially Putin who would benefit greatly from the increase in the price of oil from an American ban on fracking.

It is even more disturbing that almost the entire field of Democratic candidates are competing to see who can out-Bernie Bernie and move furthest to the left. There don’t seem to be any moderates in the race, except for Michael Bloomberg, who has authoritarian issues of his own. Maybe some of them, perhaps Joe Biden for one, are not being entirely sincere and plan to pivot to the center, but the fact that they feel the need to even pretend to be so extreme is worrisome. As it is, the only difference between Bernie Sanders and the rest is that he is honest enough to openly run as a socialist.

The election of any of the current field of Democrats would be a disaster for our country and the cause of freedom. The danger is not just that we would have a socialist president, but that the Democrats will continue their movement to the extreme left. Trump and the Republicans in down-ticket races need to win by a large enough margin to thrash the Democrats and move them back towards the center.

To make that happen, the Republicans cannot be overconfident or think that running against Bernie Sanders will be an easy victory. The adage, “Be careful what you wish for” applies here. Bernie Sanders probably has as good as, if not better chance of winning as any other Democratic candidate. Don’t get cocky.

Over the Edge

While I was writing on how close we, as a country are, to stepping off the edge of a cliff into the abyss of political confusion, the Democrats in the House of Representatives took us a step closer by voting to impeach Donald Trump. This attempt at removing the president from office is foolish because there is no conceivable way that the Democrats will get the sixty-seven votes needed to convict the president and remove him from office. Given that at present there are fifty-three Republican Senators, it is unlikely that even a majority of the Senate will vote to convict. The most likely outcome of this farce is that the Senate will vote to acquit Trump with at least one or two Democratic Senators defecting. Trump and his supporters will announce that he has been vindicated of any wrongdoing, and Trump will campaign on the basis that the impeachment was nothing less than a coup by the swamp he had been trying to drain. Trump will make the 2020 election between himself as the tribune of the people fighting against the deep state elite which tried to unseat a duly elected president on specious charges and he will win, if not by a landslide, then by a comfortable margin. Already, the Republicans are setting records in fundraising.

If the only outcome of the Democrats’ attempt to impeach the president was to reelect the president they are trying so desperately to get rid of, it would not be a serious matter, more amusing than anything else. This impeachment is a serious matter, however, because of the dangerous precedent, the Democrats are setting. This attempt at impeaching the president is not motivated by any particular wrongdoing discovered. The Democrats have been stating their intention to impeach Trump even before his inauguration. The telephone call between President Trump and President Zelensky is only a pretext. This impeachment, unlike previous presidential impeachments, was done solely for political purposes, to undo the results of the 2016 election. Politics did play a role in the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, to be sure, but these two men actually did commit violations of the law. Donald Trump is a victim of a witch hunt, an unceasing pursuit to impeach him for anything. The impeachment of Donald Trump could best be described as an attempted coup.

Since this impeachment is being done simply to remove a president the Democrats do not like, what is there to stop the Republicans from retaliating by impeaching the next Democratic president? Some Republicans are already threatening to do so. Why shouldn’t they, since those are the new rules? And, what is to stop the Democrats from replying in kind against the next Republican president? Do we really want to have a situation in which every president from here on out is impeached the instant the opposition party takes control of Congress? What happens if a president really does commit a serious crime or abuse of power? Would anyone take an attempt to impeach him seriously? Why should they, if the last five times the president was impeached were simply politics? What happens if a president impeached on specious grounds in convicted, and simply refuses to leave the White House? Half the country might back him in the ensuing constitutional crisis.

There is a way to remove a president you don’t like. It is called an election. The Democrats would have done better to have prepared to make their case to the voters that Trump should be removed from office next November. Instead, they chose to take that decision away from us and to take the country a few steps closer to the edge. We really don’t want to go over that cliff.

 

The Best President You’ve Never Heard Of

I doubt if many Americans could name even one American president from the nineteenth century, except for Abraham Lincoln. Thomas Jefferson was the first president of the nineteenth century, but he is better known for being the writer of the Declaration of Independence and in these days of educational malpractice for owning slaves. Andrew Jackson might also be remembered, if only because he appears on the twenty-dollar bill. Grover Cleveland still has his moment of fame for being the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. I doubt many Americans would even recognize names like John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison.

This historical ignorance may be forgivable when you consider that the presidency did not play so prominent a role in the nation’s affairs as it has in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These were the days in which the president was simply the chief executive rather than the elected monarch he is today. Presidents simply didn’t do as much as they do nowadays. Still, the nineteenth-century presidents were not simply do-nothing presidents. Some of these presidents accomplished a great deal during their terms in office. A few of these presidents could be counted among the worst, including the worst president ever. Others could be counted among the best American presidents. James K. Polk was one of these. He was the best president you have never heard of.

James K. Polk

So who was James K. Polk? That was the question many people were asking when the Democrats nominated Polk as their candidate in 1844. Polk was a dark horse who had seemingly come out of nowhere to secure the nomination as a compromise candidate after the convention was deadlocked between the supporters of Lewis Cass and Martin van Buren. Polk was not really that unknown, however. He actually had been active in national politics for some time being of Andrew Jackson, gaining the nickname “Young Hickory”, a reference to Jackson’s “Old Hickory.

Andrew Jackson

James Knox Polk was born on November 2, 1795, in Pineville, North Carolina. Growing up, James Polk adopted his mother’s stern Presbyterianism, becoming a hard, disciplined worker and a teetotaler his entire life. The Polk family moved to Tennesee in 1806 and it was in that state that Polk met his wife, Sarah Childress who he married in1824.

Sarah Childress Polk

He also began his political career as a Democrat who supported his fellow Tennesseean Andrew Jackson in the election of 1824. The two men developed a close friendship and Jackson supported Polk’s political career throughout his life.  Polk served as Representative from Tennessee from 1825 until 1839, becoming the chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee from 1833 to 1835 and Speaker of the House from 1835 to 1839. He went on to serve as Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841. Polk was not, then a complete unknown, yet he did not have the resume that a potential president was expected to have. Previous presidents had served as Vice-President, Secretary of State,  Many presidents have since previously served as governors but so far no other Speaker of the House has become president. Polk went on to win the election of 1844, running against the much better known Whig candidate, Senator Henry Clay. It was a hard-fought and bitter election, but Polk won by a narrow margin, campaigning on a platform of manifest destiny and national expansion.

As president, James K. Polk accomplished more in his single term than many presidents have in two terms. He was a tireless worker, overseeing the operations of the federal government himself, relying only on his wife and nephew to assist him. James K Polk had four goals as president; reestablish the independent treasury system established by Jackson and Van Buren and ended by the Whigs, reduce the tariffs, settle the border of the Oregon Territory, and resolve the border dispute with Mexico. Polk accomplished all four of these goals by the end of his term, presiding over a successful war with Mexico and expanding the boundaries of the United States across the continent from sea to sea.

The first two items on Polk’s agenda were policies long supported by the Democratic Party. The Whigs, representing the interests of north-eastern industrialists had enacted high tariffs to protect the emerging American industry from foreign competition. The Democrats, which tended to be strongest in the agricultural South and West favored lower tariffs to discourage foreign retaliatory tariffs against American agricultural exports. Accordingly, President Polk had his Treasury Secretary, Robert J. Walker, draft a lower and more consistent set of tariff rates which narrowly passed Congress.

The Democrats also opposed any creation of the sort of central bank that the Whigs supported. Polk had assisted his mentor, Andrew Jackson in killing the Second Bank of the United States, and as president, Polk reestablished the Independent Treasury system that Jackson and Martin Van Buren had favored. In Polk’s system, the U. S. Treasury Department kept the public acted as a sort of central bank, keeping the federal revenues in its own facilities and managing the money supply. Polk’s Independent Treasury system lasted, with modifications until the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

President Polk’s foreign policy was less partisan than his domestic policies. A policy of national expansion was popular throughout the United States and both parties backed the doctrine that it was the manifest destiny of the United States to spread from sea to sea. At the time of Polk’s accession to the presidency, the borders of the United States with Great Britain in the Pacific Northwest and Mexico in the southwest were not clearly defined. President Polk promised to resolve the disputes with both nations, by war if necessary.

The Oregon Territory in the Northwest extended north to the line of latitude 54º40′. Both the United States and Great Britain claimed the territory, but since it was originally sparsely settled, except by the Indians who didn’t count, neither side had pressed its claim and the territory was jointly administered since the Treaty of 1818. As the territory was settled, this arrangement became untenable and it became obvious that the conflicting claims would have to be settled. Polk and the Democrats had campaigned on the slogan “54º40′ or fight!”, arguing that the entire Oregon Territory should go to the United States. If Britain was unwilling to cede its claim to the territory, then America should go to war. In fact, Polk had no intention of going to war with Britain. Relations with Mexico were rapidly deteriorating, making war increasingly likely, and Polk did not wish to fight two wars at the same time. For their part, the British did not want a war with the United States, and the two nations quickly agreed to divide the territory along the existing border between the United States and Canada at the 49th parallel in the Oregon Treaty.

54 40 or fight! Or not

President Polk would perhaps have preferred to resolve the disputes with Mexico over the boundaries of Texas and the Southwest with diplomacy offered to buy California and New Mexico, but the Mexicans, already humiliated by the annexation of Texas, were in no mood for negotiations. The ensuing Mexican War was Polk’s most controversial legacy and has been widely seen, then and since as an unwarranted act of aggression by the United States and attempt to expand slave territories. Whether or not Polk’s actions in provoking that was a subject for another post, but it cannot be denied that Polk proved to be a capable commander in chief appointing excellent commanding generals like Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott and prosecuting a successful war. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, America gained the Southwest, including the present-day states of California, Arizona, and New Mexico, bringing the United States of America to its present continental boundaries, except for the strip of land bought from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

President Polk declined to run for reelection in 1848. He had promised to serve only one term and he had accomplished everything he had intended as president. James Polk died on June 15 at the age of 53, just three months after he had left the White House. The cause of death is generally given as cholera, but Polk had been exhausted from his tireless work as president, and the true cause of death was overwork.

A president who kept all his promises and accomplished all his goals we could use a president like James K Polk again. He doesn’t deserve to be one of the forgotten presidents.

 

Undoing the Industrial Revolution

CTV News reports that former Vice-President Joe Biden has promised to end fossil fuel use.

Joe Biden is looking voters in the eye and promising to “end fossil fuel.”

The former vice-president and Democratic presidential candidate made the comment Friday after a New Hampshire environmental activist challenged him for accepting donations from the co-founder of liquified natural gas firm.

Biden denied the donor’s association to the fossil fuel industry before calling the young woman “kiddo” and taking her hand. He said, “I want you to look at my eyes. I guarantee you. I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.”

The activist, 24-year-old Rebecca Beaulieu, later said she appreciated that Biden took her question seriously, but that he was not satisfied with Biden’s plan to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050.

Essentially, Joe Biden and the other Democratic presidential candidates are promising to undo the Industrial Revolution. Our economy and civilization depend on the use of fossil fuels. There is simply no alternative to their use, except for nuclear power, which they’re also against if we want to maintain our current level of prosperity.

For most of history, the only available sources of power were human and animal muscles. These sources, supplemented by water and wind beginning in the Medieval Period do not provide much power. The amount of work that can be done with muscles, human and animal, is sharply limited. As a result, the great masses of people, in any society, lived in poverty, with barely enough to survive. Only a very tiny elite could live in any degree of comfort.

This situation only changed when humans learned to harness the power of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels could unleash far more energy than could be obtained through the power of muscles, energy to power machines that could do more work and produce more wealth than would have been conceivable before. Unlike wind and water mills, which were only usable at particular times and places, factories powered by fossil fuels could be placed anywhere convenient. The resulting industrial and technological revolution, along with the development of free-market capitalism, something else the current crop of candidates is campaigning against, allowed a higher standard of living than could ever be possible previously. For the first time in history, ordinary people could live lives of comfort. The difference between rich and poor in the developed world is no longer one of kind, whether a person has enough to eat or sufficient shelter from the elements, but of degree, how nice that house, car or food. At the present time, we are living in a world in which the greatest health problems of the poor stem from having too much unhealthy food to eat. We may be within a generation of eliminating poverty worldwide, thanks to fossil fuels.

What if Joe Biden and the other Democrats have their way? What if the use of fossil fuels is severely curtailed here in the United States, and elsewhere in other to combat climate change? Could renewable sources of energy make up the difference? No, they could not. Renewable sources of energy; wind, water, and the rest simply do not provide enough energy to maintain our current use of power, not by orders of magnitude. Nonrenewable sources are only available in limited times and places, necessitating the storage or long-distance transmission of energy, which can be difficult and expensive. Nuclear power could make up the gap, but the people who want us to stop using fossil fuels also dislike nuclear power.

A world in which fossil fuel use was eliminated would be a world in which energy was much more expensive than it is at present. As a result, all the necessities of life would be much more expensive. It would be a poorer world, a world in which a small elite could live comfortably while the majority of the population would be struggling to survive. It would be a step back to the bad old days. Even if it were conceded that man-made climate change was the dire threat to humanity’s continued survival and well-being, a concession I am not willing to make, surely the cures proposed by the Democratic candidates are far worse than the problem. I do not believe that any crisis can be resolved by crippling the most productive and innovative economy in the world. It may not be the intention of those proposing such radical solutions to global warming to create a neo-feudal world of impoverished masses lorded over by a tiny elite, but that would be the inevitable result.

There will come a time when advancing technology will make the use of fossil fuels obsolete. This time will come only if people are free to innovate in a prosperous economy. It will not come by stifling innovation with overbearing government fiats in a crippled and impoverished economy. That is just what the Democratic candidates are proposing.

Trump’s Tempestuous Tweets

It has become a familiar story. Once again President Donald Trump has used Twitter to express what was on his mind before thinking very deeply on whether the world needs to read those particular thoughts. Once again Democrats, the party of racism and national division have come forward to denounce Mr. Trump’s tweets as racist and divisive. Sadly, once again, too many Republicans, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney have taken the opportunity to stab a fellow Republican in the back by echoing the criticisms of leftist extremists who hate them every Republican, even the ones they happen to be using at the moment.

Why do Republicans do this? They are always so quick to denounce their fellow Republicans for allegedly uncivil, inappropriate, or racist statements, that are only uncivil, inappropriate or racist by the definitions that progressives are using. Nothing any Democrat ever says or does is ever considered uncivil, inappropriate or racist by definition. Democrats always stand by each other no matter how vile their statements or actions are. It is as though Republicans are always agreeing to play the game in which their opponents set the rules and appoint the referees. Why not defend Trump by pointing out that what he tweeted was not racist, at least by the definition that normal people use for the word racism,

The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or

ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

which is notably different from the leftist definition

Any statement that might disagree with leftist orthodoxy on race, or really any subject.

Maybe we should look at what Trump tweeted before condemning him for racism.

 

 

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Where did he mention race? I don’t see any reference to anybody’s race at all. Trump’s tweets may be racist in the demented minds of the left, but then, they think everything is racist and should be disregarded.

I do have one problem with Trump’s tweets, though. These tweets were directed towards “The Squad“, that group of four extreme left-wing Democratic Congresswomen who manage to make Nancy Pelosi look like a moderate. The problem is that only one of the four is actually from another country, Ilhan Omar, from Somalia. The other three are native-born Americans, so they have no other countries to go to unless you count their ancestral origins. This makes the tweets factually inaccurate, as well as giving the tweets a somewhat xenophobic tone that perhaps might better have been avoided.

The Squad, or the Axis of Evil in American Politics

 

On the other hand, I believe Trump is stating a larger truth here. These four women, Colin Kaepernick, and many, many others of the left should be getting down on their knees and thanking God every day that no only do they live in the greatest and freest nation on Earth but also that they have been able to take advantage of opportunities that would not be available to them at any other time and place. These people have gained success in this country that simply would not be possible anywhere else in the world and they repay all the advantages the country that gave them so much with the worst kind of ingratitude and scorn.

They hate America. These are not patriots seeking to correct their country’s problems. These are people who despise their country. They believe America is flawed from beginning to end. The United States was founded on the principles of slavery and White supremacy. Its history is a history of genocide and oppression against people of color. Contemporary America is a mean country that builds concentration camps to house undocumented immigrants, permits the police to shoot African-Americans with impunity, and has an unjust economic system that takes from the poor to give to the rich. How could they not loathe such a horrible country? I would hate America too if I were as uninformed as they.

The question, then, is why are these people still here? Why do they continue to reside in a country that is so hateful to them? There are many places in the world where their talents could be put to good use. Why don’t they go there? Why doesn’t Ilhan Omar return to Somalia, if the United States is so oppressive? Why doesn’t Alexandria Occasio Cortez immigrate to Mexico or Venezuela? And, why do we put up with these ingrates, anyway? Why are we electing people who hate America to Congress where they can act to undermine the country and act as a fifth column for our enemies.

Trump is right. He may be obnoxious, xenophobic, or racist, but he is right about the Squad and leftists in general. If they truly believe America is a land of racism and oppression, they should go elsewhere.

Midterms 2018

This is it. The 2018 midterm elections are today. Today the voters decide which party will have control of Congress for the next two years. At stake, President Trump’s agenda. If the Democrats manage to get a majority in both houses of Congress, Trump’s agenda will be stalled and his administration subjected to endless investigations, and possibly an attempt at impeachment. A democratic victory will be interpreted by the mainstream media as a rejection of Trump and his policies. A Republican victory will be a vindication of Trump and his policies, though I would hardly expect the mainstream media to acknowledge that.

Historically, the opposition party makes gains during the midterms, sometimes very large gains. In 1994, the Republicans gained 54 seats in the House of Representatives and 10 seats in the Senate, giving the Republicans a Congressional majority for the first time in forty years. In 2010 the Republicans won 64 seats in the House and five in the Senate. This doesn’t always happen, though. In 1998, the Democrats gained a few seats even though the Democrat., Bill Clinton was president. This was undoubtedly due to the Republican attempt to impeach Clinton that year. In 2002, the Republicans gained seats due to the aftermath of 9/11.

So, what is going to happen today? I don’t know and neither does anyone else. For whatever it is worth,here are my predictions. It doesn’t look like there is going to be a massive blue wave that is going to sweep the Republicans out of power. It seems likely that the Republicans will maintain their majority in the Senate and may possibly gain a seat or two. The House is less certain. It really could go either way. I think that the Democrats will gain seats in the House, perhaps enough to get a majority. If they do get a majority it will be by the thinnest of margins. We will see how accurate I am. Keep in mind, that I, like nearly everyone else, thought Hilary Clinton would be the president today.

If there is no blue wave, the Democrats have only themselves to blame. They should be confident of a massive victory right now. They had all the advantages going into this election and all they had to do was to be a responsible opposition party and craft a platform that would appeal to the moderates and independents. They could have highlighted Trump’s personality flaws while promoting Trumpian policies on immigration, trade and the economy. Instead, the Democrats decided to go right off the deep end. They decided to cater to their most extreme left wing base and adopt socialist ideas anathema to most Americans in flyover country. They loudly proclaimed the ridiculous meme  Trump was a Hitler clone and we were all in danger of an imminent Fascist dictatorship, while ignoring the simple fact that most Americans are better off than they were two years ago. They have made it clear that they care more about the interests of illegal aliens than American citizens and they have taken the side of millionaire athletes who disrespect the flag. Where Trump says, “Make America Great Again”, they say, “America was never great”.

The Democrats have become the party of the mob, of antifa, of rioting. They have encouraged violence and incivility against their opponents and have tried to censor speech they do not like. Worst of all, they have become the party of the busybodies, the scolds who want to tell the rest of us what size Big Gulps we are allowed to drink, what words we are allowed to use, and generally how we ought to live our lives because we are just ignorant deplorables. Is it any wonder that they are struggling when they should be coasting to victory? Is it at all surprising that groups that have traditionally been strongly democratic are starting to walkaway and exit the Democratic party?

I hope the Republicans win these midterm elections, not just for partisan reasons, but because the Democrats need to be punished for their recent excesses. They need to undergo a period of introspection to understand how and why they have managed to alienate millions of Americans. I don’t think they will, though.  If they do poorly, they will blame it all in Russian collusion or assert the system is rigged and undemocratic, and the old standby, the voters are racists.