Sunday, April 24, 2016

The 2016 Pennsylvania Primary Election


           The 2016 Primary Election on Tuesday, April 26 will be historic, as it is the first contested presidential primary among Republicans since 1980, with the possibility of a contested Convention for the first time in 40 years, and includes a candidate who is a native Pennsylvanian.  

           There are also contests of particular interest to conservatives for Attorney General, United States Representative and state legislative offices, as well as ballot questions.

For the Republican nomination for U.S. President, there are three major candidates remaining.  One of them is a native of the Keystone State who resided here until he went to college in neighboring Ohio while his family continued to reside in McKees Rocks, Allegheny County.  The only Pennsylvanian ever elected President was Democrat James Buchanan in 1856. 

In the interest of full disclosure, John Kasich of Ohio, then a U.S. Representative, came to Reading in 2000 to address the Berks County Republican Committee, interviewed me and endorsed me for State Representative.  His political committee sent me a generous donation.  Neither Kasich nor his campaign has ever asked me for anything in return.

Pennsylvania Republicans also elect Delegates to the Republican National Convention and Alternate Delegates in the Primary.  Pennsylvania will send 71 Delegates to the Convention, which includes 17 elected at-large who are bound to the candidate who receives the most statewide votes.  Three Delegates are directly elected from each of the 18 Congressional Districts, for a total of 54.  Officially unbound, some candidates for Delegate are personally committed to particular candidates.  Others are uncommitted, as there would be several weeks of significant developments between the primary and the Convention in July, while others promise to vote, at least on the first ballot at the Convention, for the candidate who receives the most votes in their Congressional District.  The same is true for the candidates for Alternate Delegate.

            To be nominated for President or Vice President, one must receive a majority vote of the Delegates.  Therefore, no candidate is eliminated unless someone attains a majority in the balloting by the Delegates at the Convention.  It is possible that no candidate will win a majority on at least the first ballot.  Delegates bound to certain candidates, including to a number of candidates who have suspended their campaigns, would then be free to exercise their good judgment as to which candidate would best represent the GOP and its conservative platform and could be elected to office. 

            Conservative Pat Toomey is uncontested for renomination for U.S. Senate, but there are contests in several Districts, including the 16th, which includes Reading, for U.S. Representative around Pennsylvania

            There are nominations for statewide executive offices on the ballot for state Attorney General, for which there is a contested primary between two qualified conservatives, Treasurer and Auditor General.  Nominations for all state House seats and half of the seats in the state Senate are on the ballot.  There are contests in some of these districts. 

            There are conservative candidates for many of these offices, or at least relatively more conservative candidates to choose. 

            There is also a Constitutional referendum, as well as local questions on the ballot of interest to conservatives.  

           The 2016 Pennsylvania Primary is the most significant in decades.  Conservatives should make plans now to vote on Tuesday, April 26 to choose the candidates who best represent the Republican Party and its conservative platform and who are likeliest to be elected in the General Election.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hans Dietrich Genscher and Patricio Aylwin, in Memoriam


           Two center-right world leaders who advanced liberty have recently died.

Hans Dietrich Genscher, long-time German Foreign Minister, known as the architect of German reunification, died at the end of last month at age 89.  He was Interior Minister from 1969-1974, and Foreign Minister from 1974-1992 for all but a few-week period in 1982.  The last ten years in Cabinet, Genscher was also Vice Chancellor.  He served as President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1991.  A master diplomat, Genscher helped craft the Helsinki Accords between the Soviet and Western blocs for human rights during d├ętente, skillfully negotiated with the Soviets the reunification of East and West Germany on terms favorable to the West and spearheaded the recognition of the breakaway Republics of Yugoslavia.  He advocated for a Cold War museum.

            Patricio Aylwin, who peacefully led Chile’s transition from military dictatorship to a fully-representative republic, died earlier this week at age 97.  The longtime leader of the Christian Democratic Party and Senator from 1965-1973, which included a stint as President of the Senate from 1971 to 1972, he peacefully opposed the Communist dictatorship of Salvador Allende and later the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, always supporting democratic measures.  Aylwin participated in the 1988 plebiscite and the subsequent negotiations that ended the dictatorship.  He was elected President the following year and served from 1990-1994.  Aylwin is credited with transitioning Chile towards liberty, representative government and civilian rule and also with helping Chile to prosper.    

           May Germany and Chile continue to enjoy freedom, peace and prosperity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Political Party Convention Delegates Are Supposed to Exercise Their Good Judgment


After seventeen major candidates had declared their candidacies for the Republican nomination, and with three of them remaining, it is likely that no candidate will obtain the required majority of the delegates to the Republican Convention to avoid a contested convention.  Conventions are the appropriate manner for the leaders of parties to select the presidential and vice presidential nominees that best represent the party’s platform and are capable of being elected to office. 

Presidential primary elections did not start to become common until the 1950s.  I note they are an expense to the taxpayers, unlike caucuses or county, state or territorial conventions.  Under certain state or territorial party rules, they do allow some unbound delegates. 

In fact, contested conventions have been the usual way Republicans have chosen their nominees.  Seven times the candidate with the plurality of committed delegates did not become the nominee.  For example, William Seward did not win the GOP nomination in 1860; instead Abraham Lincoln, a former one-term United States Representative, secured the nomination at the Convention and became the first Republican President.  A number of dark horse candidates have won their party nomination after multiple convention ballots, were elected to the presidency and served successfully in office. 

            The liberal media has decreased coverage of party conventions because they regard uncontested conventions as not producing any news.  A contested Republican Convention would attract much media attention to the GOP.

            Convention Delegates are a check on populism, like Presidential and Vice Presidential Electors were originally intended, as the President and Vice President are not popularly elected.  The Electoral College is modeled after the College of Cardinals that elects the Bishop of Rome.  At the time of the founding, it was regarded as unseemly to seek political office, just as it would be to campaign for the papacy.  “The office seeks the man, not the man the office,” was the credo.  In fact, no one campaigned for President for the first 52 years of the Republic, until the 1840 election.  Electors are appointed by State Legislatures (Article II, Section 1).  Those who were elected originally were elected directly, not as an anonymous slate based on voter preference for the presidential and vice presidential nominees, whose names appear on the ballot.  Some States continued to appoint Electors.  The first election in which all Electors were popularly elected was 1868.  Electors were not necessarily bound, unlike how many States bind them today, by the preference of the electorate, but were to exercise their good judgment.  Electors were directly elected, not chosen as a slate through voter preference for the names of parties’ presidential and vice presidential nominees, as is the current practice.  It is important to note if no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President (voting by State delegation among the candidates with the three highest totals of electoral votes), as the Senate elects the Vice President.
           
            Alas, between the all-but-direct election of Presidents and Vice Presidents nowadays the direct election of Senators (the Seventeenth Amendment), there is no longer any meaningful federal check on populism.  The only check that can be exercised is through the parties’ nomination processes. 

            The opinions of a party’s general membership ought to be considered, but in many States, voters do not register with a political party.  Even in some of those that do, Democrats and others are allowed to vote in Republican primaries.  It is like members of a club voting for the leadership of a rival club.  Either these non-members vote for a candidate for the nomination of the opposing party they agree with more or engage in party raiding, meaning choosing the candidate to be the nominee of the opposing party they think would be easiest for their party to defeat in the General Election.  Even in those States with closed primaries, voters may switch parties only 30 days before the primary.  The current Republican front-runner has benefited from an unusually large number of votes during the primary season from non-Republicans and is attracting party-switching.  Furthermore, there is no loyalty required even of those that do register with a party; they simply check a box on their voter registration form to be legally eligible to participate in that party’s primary.  Thus, liberals and other non-conservatives may register Republican and vote in GOP primaries. 

            With a primary season lasting months, a person legally may vote in the primary or caucus in more than one State, let alone illegally.  Indeed, fraud affects every election to some degree or another.

            Early voting in primaries has also influenced the outcome of the nomination process this year.  Those who vote early always deprive themselves of the information learned through a full campaign through election day, but this year early voters have cast thousands of ballots for major candidates who suspended their campaigns before election day.

            Voting is a privilege, not a right.  There is a difference between the right to be represented, which belongs to all, including minors, non-citizens and felons, and the privilege to vote, which is intended to be an informed, rational choice.  However, in some States, those who are mentally incapacitated may vote, even though they are not legally permitted to make any financial or even health decisions for themselves.  Among the electorate also are those who are too insane, ignorant, foolish or immoral.  All such individuals are manifestly incompetent to elect anyone to office, especially to choose the Commander in Chief of the United States.  Voters also may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they cast their ballots, especially when voting by absentee ballot or online.  Furthermore, there is always a more-than-negligible amount of voter error in any election.

            In short, elections do not necessarily reflect that rational, informed will of moral voters.  Even if they do, elections in a representative republic are intended to produce a choice of leaders who will, as Seventeenth Century British Member of Parliament Edmund Burke counseled, exercise their good judgment, based upon more complete information, as a check on populism.  

           Political parties are not obligated to include most of their voters directly in their process of selecting presidential and vice presidential nominees, or even in the selection of convention delegates, as Delegates ought to exercise their good judgment and serve as checks on populism and oppose candidates who does not agree with significant parts of the party’s platform, and instead favor candidates who can be elected to office.     

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Update on Pennsylvania’s Budget: Balanced without a Tax Increase


Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a liberal Democrat, allowed the Commonwealth’s balanced budget that had been passed by the Republican-led General Assembly a few weeks ago to become law without his signature. 

The 2016 budget, which attracted bipartisan support, increased education spending by hundreds of millions of dollars, but, in a significant victory for conservatives, did not raise taxes.   

The budget was nine months late because Wolf had vetoed or line-item vetoed earlier budget bills because of his insistence on tax increases for even more spending, even though the Commonwealth’s spending on education was already at record levels and despite the lack of any demonstrated correlation between higher spending and performance.  In fact, Pennsylvania has demonstrated the opposite.  The budget does not address pension reform or privatization of wine and liquor, both of which would save the state money or add extra revenue.  There remain hundreds of millions of dollars in other savings to be realized through the elimination of corporate welfare and the closing of tax loopholes, as well as through more welfare reform.  Pennsylvania has some of the highest corporate taxes in the world and has one of the most burdensome inheritance taxes. 

The Commonwealth’s fiscal situation remains uncertain, however, because Wolf vetoed the state fiscal code.  Also, despite his line-item veto of education funds, he had appropriated money from the Treasury for public schools, against the state Constitution, and now is threatening to veto the bipartisan school funding bill. 

Wolf did sign legislation into law requiring fiscal analysis for public employee union contracts. 

Like United States President Barack Obama, Wolf has proposed a budget for 2017 that would dramatically increase spending and require higher taxes.  

It is necessary that conservatives continue to advocate for fiscal responsibility through spending cuts to avoid any tax increases.  They should particularly work for pension reform, which would help not only the Commonwealth, but its counties, municipalities and school districts, as Pennsylvania’s unsustainable public pension obligations are well over $50 billion, which is causing a fiscal crisis for every state government body.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Accomplishments of the Current Republican Congressional Majority


           The Republican majority in the United States Congress has achieved a considerable amount since gaining the majority in January of 2011, despite a liberal Democratic President and robust minority in the Senate.

            Sometimes, all a majority can do when the Chief Executive is a member of the opposite party and that party enjoys the power of the filibuster in the Senate is to block bad proposals.  The Republican congressional majority has certainly blocked its share of liberal measures, but it has also forced the liberal Democrats to make numerous concessions on a wide range of issues, from security, foreign policy and veterans’ affairs, to taxes, regulations, abortion, drugs, as well as domestic spending cuts.  In addition to legislation, the GOP majority has become a party to successful federal litigation against President Barack Obama’s constitutional violations and used its power to hold hearings effectively to expose wrongdoing and make fixes.  Many of the concessions the Republicans wrought came from budget deals. 

            Among the major liberal proposals the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and Senate has blocked were the following: cap and trade, union card check, legalization of illegal aliens who earn college degrees, federal funding of universal pre-kindergarten, ending the embargo on Cuba and closing the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay and transferring the terrorist detainees to the American homeland.

            The Republican congressional majority obtained critical funds to renew the American nuclear force, won Purple Hearts and concomitant benefits for victims of Islamist attacks in the American homeland, imposed sanctions on the Hezbollah Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization, authorized lethal arms sales to Ukraine and reauthorized the International Religious Freedom Act.  They also won aid for the September 11 rescue workers.

The Republican congressional majority has attained hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts, including for domestic spending.  They have accomplished this feat by minimizing tax increases.  The GOP majority in Congress obtained the permanent extension of most of the George W. Bush income tax cuts, except on the highest earners.  A major accomplishment in regard to taxes was the permanent fix of the Alternative Minimum Tax by indexing it to inflation, instead of causing anxiety for millions of taxpayers caught by the AMT every year.

In regard to the federalization of health insurance (Obamacare), the majority Republicans in Congress protected health savings accounts, thereby essentially extending another Bush income tax cut.  They also prohibited the reimbursement of health insurance companies for their losses because of Obamacare.  The Republicans also completed the “doctor fix” for reimbursements. 

Among regulatory matters the Republican congressional majority addressed were the following: the expedition of the granting of permits for off-shore oil drilling, some curtailment of federal land-grabbing powers, a prohibition on federal funds to phase out incandescent light bulbs, a prohibition of the listing of a species as endangered, a weakening of a regulation to reduce the salt content of school lunches and the easing of banking regulations in regard to derivatives.  They also obtained an increase in campaign contribution limits.

A banning of federal needle exchanges and the prohibition of federal funds for abortion and marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia were among the GOP congressional majority’s other domestic accomplishments.

The Republican congressional majority has become a party to federal litigation when Obama has violated the Constitution, winning a unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court that he had abused his power to make recess appointments and blocking in federal courts Obama’s usurpation of federal immigration laws by establishing a legalization regime through executive actions.  In addition, the GOP majority has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in other cases.

The Republican congressional majority has made effective use of its power to hold hearings, such as in regard to Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service.  Its hearings in regard to the scandalous treatment of veterans by the Veterans Administration led to legislation to hold the VA more accountable. 

These accomplishments of the Republican majority in the House and Senate disprove the liberal Democratic argument that the GOP in Congress has been obstructionist and disproves the argument by other critics that the Republican majority has failed to accomplish much or win many concessions, despite the challenge of liberal Democratic control of the office of President and the ability of the liberal Democratic minority in the Senate to filibuster Republican initiatives.  

See also the following posts: Conservative Analysis of the Congressional Lame Duck Session, from January of 2011, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2011/01/conservative-analysis-of-congressional.html, Conservative Analysis of the Fiscal Cliff Tax Deal, from January of 2013, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2013/01/conservative-analysis-of-fiscal-cliff.html, Conservative Analysis of the Two-Year United States Budget Deal, from December of 2013, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2013/12/conservative-analysis-of-two-year.html, and Conservative Analysis of the United States Federal Spending Authorizations, from December of 2014, http://williamcinfici.blogspot.com/2014/12/conservative-analysis-of-united-states.html.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Seven-Year Blog Visit Report


           In the seventh year that Statcounter has tracked pageviews to my blog, another 290 visits were recorded, using my usual strict measure (not counting my own visits, counting only pageviews at least one hour apart as separate visits and not counting any visit for which the page is not identifiable or any obviously non-human visits). 

There was a dramatic increase in the number of visits to my blog homepage.  Among the interesting visits this year were visits from the Smithsonian Institute and St. Lucia.  Statcounter has tracked over 6,400 visits to my blog since 2009.  As noted in previous reports, Blogger has been tracking far more pageviews, especially over the last few years, but Statcounter’s more specific information provides more helpful feedback and sometimes Blogger does not track every visit that Statcounter does.  

Thank you for visiting my blog.  Please continue to visit regularly, post pages of my blog to other websites, or to post comments.