Dear Republican Politicians – Stop Virtue Signaling and Govern

I’m not sure which came first – the Dixie Chicks “Poor Us” documentary titled “Shut up and Sing” or Laura Ingraham’s book with the same title (both came out in 2006).  I suspect Laura (whom I had heard use it frequently) created the term and the Dixie Chicks appropriated it, but who knows.  The idea is that entertainers should do what they do best – perform – and not pontificate on political issues they know little about to ruin their entertainment for many fans.

I wish Republican politicians would shut up and govern/legislate.

I am so tired of congresscritters and Never Trumpers lecturing President Trump to make certain that people know how virtuous and moral they are, without a thought to how these words impede the implementation of conservative policies.

Democrats almost always have message discipline, and recognize how their preening for the press can have negative consequences for their legislative agenda.  They do not eat their own the way Republicans do.

We get it.  Trump is an inexperienced blowhard with a loose Twitter finger.  He’s the quintessential New York real estate developer whose every other word is puffery.

But if you put your fingers in your ears and hum, you see him doing things that “conservative Republicans” have talked about for years but have never done.  He has a real opportunity to make positive changes we have been promised for decades without result.  Yet if Republican politicians and pundits keep hammering him for every stupid thing he does or says, the agenda we want to see unfold will be stalled until, perhaps, Trump just gives up and goes along like a normal DC politician.

I believe in large part this is the goal of the Republican elite (both the politician and pundit classes).  President Trump is dangerous to their nexus of power, and their understanding of how things are done (which, I’m sure only coincidentally, keeps them in power, influence and money).  He’s Oh! so shocking to elites in Georgetown and Manhattan drawing rooms, who just two years ago invited him to their parties and laughed with him because he was so outspoken and outrageous.

You can disapprove of things the president says and does without sandbagging him if only you keep long-term goals in mind.

However, Trump critics are so into their faux outrage and virtue signaling (“Look at me!  Don’t confuse me with those ignorant Trump supporters!  I will pass judgement on every Tweet!”) that they never appear to consider the political consequences of their self-righteousness.  Many simply want him to fail because they find him personally distasteful, or he threatens their comfy world, or both.  Others compulsively (and reflexively) rush to the podium to show the world they are far better than this lout, heedless of what the consequences are to the Republic.

No president in history has been a perfect person; most hid their imperfections from the public (often with the help of a supportive press).  Trump and his team are no worse than any prior inhabitants of the White House, but his loose lips and braggadocio put his imperfections out there for all to see.  President Obama and the Clintons are smooth operators, but are much more flawed as moral individuals than Trump.  They are simply more adept at politics and hiding their true thoughts and feelings.

This is the real scandal as far as Democrats are concerned with the Wikileaks reveal of email.  The emails pulled aside the curtain of how Democrat elites really think (as the Sony email leaks did for the movie biz elites who are forever lecturing us on tolerance).  No one argued (after initial weak protestations) that the emails were false; the irony of the Russian investigation is that the Democrat elites are outraged and believe it unfair that people could see how they really talk among themselves.

Trump appears incapable hiding his beliefs or feelings, no matter how mercurial they are. The scandal is that he is not adroit at hiding what he really feels.  Honesty has no place in DC politics.

What is more important – showing your distaste for the president, or getting tax reform passed?  What is better for the country’s future – publicly registering your disagreement with every slip or dumb thing the president says, or healthcare reform?  What is better for posterity (our children and our children’s children) – showing that you are a greater moral and civil exemplar than Trump, or rolling back the administrative state and restoring ordered liberty?

But he’s so unpresidential!  No, he is reshaping what is “presidential,” just as his predecessors in the last 40 years have done. When he is gone, after disrupting the system, we may have a return to more traditional presidents, but hopefully they will preside over a leaner, less intrusive government.

What is more presidential than talking about – and then trying to implement – programs that defend the American way of life as it was understood for 200 years?  What is more presidential than taking serious security and national defense?  What is more presidential than forthrightly defending Western Civilization, of which the US represents the culmination to date?  What is more presidential than reassuring our traditional allies in no uncertain terms that we will be there beside them with a muscular defense?  What is more presidential than telling European allies that we will aggressively work to ease the stranglehold Russia has over energy?  What is more presidential, as framed by the Founders, than trying to roll back the behemoth of regulatory tyranny that has grown under Republican and Democrat administrations?  What is more presidential than appointing judges and justices who do not view the Constitution and Bill of Rights as mere suggestions from a long-dead age?

I prefer this mistake-making buffoon to a silky-smooth Obama who inflamed racial tension, created a Chicago-style machine in the DC deep state and turned the federal agencies into political pawns through which he reached tyrannically into every American life. I cannot fathom why supposed conservatives seemingly pine for the Obama regime (after endlessly making fun of those who worshipped at the alter of his sharply-creased pants) who weakened the US in influence and power across the globe, thus endangering us at home.

All of the politicians and pundits who lament that Trump should think before he tweets then go on to attack him without considering the consequences (i.e., they write and speak without thinking).  Trump is actually getting things done that career politicians have been promising for 30 years and failing to deliver. Yet he is soooo uncouth, we must protest him at every turn.  Because morality and refinement.

The outrage from all corners drowns out any effort to point out the good things that are happening.

Conservatives tout their support for diversity of ideas rather than superficial things like race and national origin.  But when Trump comes along, suddenly his different way of speaking, tweeting and acting is beyond the pale.  So much for diversity, conservative style.  I guess the tent is not that large after all.

Republican politicians and pundits chortle over how Democrats do not understand that Hillary Clinton lost because she failed to connect with real folks outside coastal urban areas. Then, they attack Trump repeatedly from their high horses, demonstrating their own lack of understanding of Trump supporters.  They express disdain for those ignorant masses who defend Trump in the face of his self-inflicted wounds that elites must stridently denounce.  It reminds me of lines from a favorite movie, White Christmas (1954).  Danny Kaye says to Bing Crosby, “Alright.  They didn’t go to college; they didn’t go to Smith.”  Bing responds, “Go to Smith?  She couldn’t even spell it.”

I don’t expect better from intellectually moribund publicity hounds like Senator John McCain (and his Mini Me, Lindsey Graham, always just a step behind in the rush to the cameras).

However, I have been disappointed with folks that I have respected and read for years, such as the many great conservative minds over at National Review.  Sadly, about the only one there who seems to get it is Victor Davis Hanson.  No one can question his academic and intellectual bona fides, but he is also a working farmer with close ties to the people who work the land.  It is hard to imagine the two worlds he traverses from his Selma, CA farm to the halls of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.  Perhaps it is also Dr. Hanson’s classicist background that allows him to take a longer view than his colleagues. Intimately understanding the rise and fall of great civilizations gives him a better perspective.

Andrew Klavan of The Daily Wire is another lonely voice of sanity, of getting what “the folks” (as Bill O’Reilly used to say) understand but which is unfathomable to Republican elites. And the amazing Greg Gutfeld frequently shows similar insight (of course, his beliefs are heavily influenced by the antics of small animals and Inuit pop culture).

A poll that undoubtedly surprised the Washington Post 100 days into Trump’s presidency showed that not only would he win again, but he would probably win the popular vote.  The Post found that 96% of Trump voters would vote for him again, while only 85% of Hillary voters would vote for her again.

How can this be? Considering the incessant barrage of negativity and character assassination from the media, the Democrats (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the MSM), and Republicans, why would these people still vote for Trump?  It’s not for lack of trying to alienate them by both “loyal opposition” and “allies.”

Many would do it again because they voted against Hillary. Many would do it because they are Russian stooges (“Nyet! Nyet!”).  Sorry, I thought I was a journalist for a moment.

But I believe most would vote again for Trump precisely because he’s the same person revealed during his candidacy and now presidency.  While President Trump may be slightly more nuanced than candidate Trump, people got what they voted for.  Why would they change their minds?  And it is this very consistency that flies in the face of politics as usual that makes Trump supporters – from the rabid to the temperate (like me) – remain behind him.  There was no “elect this man to see what’s in him” (to paraphrase one of our  “master legislators“).  People aren’t turned off by Trump’s Tourette’s Tweets because this was what they voted for, rather than a politician who makes insincere promises the people know won’t be kept.

Trump voters knew who they were voting for, so are not shocked by him now; they got what they expected and voted for.  No wonder they are not turned away by Trump being Trump.

Republicans – get over your posturing and oh-so-sophisticated outrage. President Trump is what he is.  While I cringe every few days myself, I never lose sight of why Trump was elected and the great things he has done so far.  I doubt that Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz (my candidates in order) could have done as much as Trump has done because they are politicians. They know what you can’t do as presidentTrump doesn’t have that indoctrination, so he has the opportunity to achieve the goals conservatives and Republicans (I could Venn diagram that for you) have espoused for decades.

There is no genteel way to drain the swamp. There is no gracious way to roll back the administrative state.  There is no way to prioritize budget issues irrespective of provincial pork in a subtle manner .

Trump’s manifestly evident flaws are features, not bugs.

The Republican elites don’t understand this, but Trump voters do.  They are tired of decades (centuries?) of being told things can’t be done after the candidate promised change.  Real estate developer Trump is used to being told things cannot be done, but his ego causes him to say, “Figure out a way.  My mouth has written a check I intend to honor.”

Republican legislators need to understand what the Democrats know and practice – the accomplishment of goals is what matters in government, not posturing for immediate recognition and praise. Democrats have for decades gotten away with the most outlandish and egregious behavior, in part because of their protection from MSM scrutiny, but in part because of their audacity (of hope?) and chutzpah that allows them to ignore principled attacks.  Their actions are always in service to their goals.  Republicans wander aimlessly like puppies seeking a friendly word or pat on the head, while mouthing platitudes of how tough they are.

Donald Trump cares what others think and say about him, but he cares more for his own opinion of himself. He will counterattack or ignore his detractors, secure in his vision.

So far, his vision has been promoting conservative goals even though he is not an ideological conservative (Justice Neil Gorsuch anyone?  Scott PruitGeneral James Mattis?).  Trump voters, in their lack of Beltway sophistication, see signs of fulfilling campaign promises and this keeps their support no matter their reservations.

What Republicans don’t support the temporary travel ban that 60% of Americans support?  The renewed relations with Israel and unwavering support for other allies like Poland betrayed by the last president?  The outspoken support of law enforcement and the military?  The actions to cut federal regulations?

If President Trump achieves nothing beyond today, I will consider his presidency a success because he has, in his outrageous way, pierced the veil of network news and (hopefully) reduced their hold over Republican politicians. He has also thrown over the dumpster of political correctness.  You must drain the festering wound before it can heal.

Republican politicians and pundits have long noted and complained about the bias in all media, and the dangers of political correctness to free speech. Trump has not just complained but has exploded these issues so that regular people across America have felt the lifting of the oppression they have been weighed down with for decades.

Republican politicians (and pundits) need to pull their heads out of the illusion of propriety that only serves to preserve the status quo of corruption and stalemate. They need to spend less time showing how educated, refined, and sensitive they are and start keeping their eyes on the goals they have, until now, just paid lip service to.

Republicans – shut up and govern.


Why Trump: Relieving America’s Cognitive Dissonance

It is an overworked cliché today that pundits from across the political spectrum have miscalculated the staying power of Donald Trump’s popularity. My best friend’s long-time pal Steven Hayward posted a Thanksgiving mea Trumpa at Powerline. And I certainly never expected this staying power.

The original consensus view was that Trump would be a brief but entertaining flash in the political pan as he had been in previous campaigns. When he stuck around at the head of the class, there was a great deal of re-positioning and reconsideration. Now there is (for me and many others) the frightening prospect that Trump may actually win the nomination. Or serve as a Ron Paul spoiler (the pouty third-party “If I cannot have the nomination I’m gonna ruin it for the winner and let the Dems win” gambit). Or perhaps even more frightening, become the 45th president.

There have been hundreds of articles and posts analyzing his success. Most make some reference to his plain speaking and distinction from the political class, saying what the common folk think. I believe it goes beyond this; I believe it is rooted in the very psychology of many Americans in a way that it trumps (intended) normal reservations, logic and litmus tests that people usually apply when picking “their” candidate.

Plain speaking is one thing. Why do people stick with him when he makes stupid gaffes that would doom other politicians, or when he holds positions that would normally cause them to reject any other politician? So many Republicans have been sidelined in past races for a single slip up, sometimes a single word (macaca, anyone?). How is it that Trump survives gaffe after gaffe, sometimes growing stronger when critics say, “This time his doom is insured.”

Trump’s Rhetoric Relieves Many Americans’ Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a term coined by Leon Festinger to explain the mental discomfort felt when two contradictory ideas or thoughts are held in the mind at the same time. People who are not willfully blind or so ideologically conditioned as to be impervious to reality are confronted by such conflict by politicians and the media on a daily basis.

We are repeatedly assured by politicians and media personalities alike that terrorists calling themselves the “Islamic State” and shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they commit acts of barbarism have nothing to do with Islam. Indeed, we are told that people who equate ISIS and jihad with Islam are Just. Plain. Wrong.

We’re told it’s un-American to think this way. It’s Islamaphobic.

For many (most?) of us, that hurts our brains. But… but…but… we silently think. We don’t hate or fear all Muslims. Just the ones who want to kill us. Most of us have Muslim friends.

We are asked by our leaders to hold in our minds two concepts that are contradictory. Cognitive dissonance.

The Democratic National Committee puts out an ad quoting several Republican presidential candidates saying America is at war with “radical Islam” and then quotes President George W. Bush saying we are not at war with “Islam,” two different things which any rational person can differentiate. “It’s wrong to attack an entire religion and an entire people.”

Really? That quiet voice is saying in many heads. That’s not what I just heard. Inigo Montoya speaks up, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” They didn’t say “at war with Islam” – qualifiers matter, which is why we use them. Sorta like why we say “conservative” and “liberal.” Would President Obama be happy with saying “Americans hate Muslims” or is he more likely to say “conservative Americans hate Muslims?” Qualifiers matter. We can see the difference in the words they use but are expected to accept these two contradictory claims made with authority. We are being told left is right.

Cognitive dissonance!

When people are slaughtered in Paris, President Obama calls it a “setback” after saying that he has “contained” the group responsible for the terror attacks the day before.

Cognitive dissonance!

While people see their healthcare costs rise, their deductibles increase, they lose their doctor after being told (“period”) they could keep her, and in many cases their insurance plans get canceled, they hear from politicians that Obamacare has been a success.

Cognitive dissonance!

When many workers give up looking for a job and quit the workforce, resulting in the lowest workforce participation rate since 1978, they are being told by the current administration and a pliant press that the unemployment rate is falling and they should be happy the president is doing a good job.

Cognitive dissonance!

With the bodies of the dead still cooling in Paris after an Islamic terrorist assault, a new Islamic terrorist assault in Mali leaving another American dead, lockdowns in France and Belgium because of the threats, President Obama continued to warn Americans that the real imminent threat is climate change. He reserves his anger in press conferences for Republicans, not terrorists.

Cognitive dissonance!

When people across the political spectrum raise concerns that importing “refugees” from Syria into the United States should be slowed down because this could provide a convenient path for ISIS or Al Qaeda to smuggle in terrorists, President Obama and his supporters ridicule the notion. Even after it is revealed that one of the Paris terrorists apparently was a using a “refugee” passport and ISIS states it will be using the refugees to infiltrate terrorists.

Cognitive dissonance!

President Obama chides Republicans for being afraid of “women and orphans” as 26-year-old Hasna Ait Boulahcen blows herself up with a suicide vest during a Paris raid. In San Bernardino, a woman joins her husband slaughtering fourteen people. But we shouldn’t be afraid of women, we are mockingly told by our president.

Cognitive dissonance!

On one hand, we have the world as people experience it on a day-to-day level. On the other we have it as Democratic politicians and their media supporters present it.  In movies and TV shows it is more likely than not that the initial focus on a likely Muslim suspect will turn out wrong and it will be the right-wing nutcase who is really the terrorist, giving us the Hollywood elite’s invaluable insight into our preconceptions and prejudice.  How often does James Bond or the IMF go after Islamic terrorists these days?

The average mother cannot help thinking about whether she is more concerned about getting shot by a terrorist when she goes to eat dinner next Tuesday with her toddler, or if August is two degrees warmer on average in one hundred years from now. Which does she believe her government should be more focused on?

Yet while the world literally burns, our president and his surrogates and top leaders (as well as the Democrat candidates) are telling her the greatest threat we face is climate change.

Cognitive dissonance!

Our president and his media repeatedly tell us that terrorists want to kill us not for the reasons the terrorists proclaim (religious, cultural, historical, and political reasons) but because of jobs and climate change.

Cognitive dissonance!

The government assures us they will “vet” an influx of tens of thousands of immigrants from Syria and other Muslim nations – but “vet” with whom? The Syrian equivalent of the CIA and NSA? We are wrong if we question how. FBI Director James Comey explained that the agency cannot vet people who are not in their database. President Obama isn’t explaining to anyone how the vetting will be done.

I’m reminded of the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Major Eaton tells Indiana Jones the government has “top men” working on researching the Ark of the Covenant. When Indie asks, “Who?”, the major repeats, “Top men.” Cut to the vast warehouse where the Ark will be buried forever, untouched.

We know that one of the San Bernardino terrorists passed three levels of government background checks to be allowed into the U.S. But that’s OK, we should still have confidence because we will have “top people” on the job vetting Syrians. Pay no attention to the fact that ISIS can apparently print their own Syrian passports and documents.

Americans are being fed statements from our government and press daily that contradict what we see around us and what makes common sense. They are constantly being asked, as Chico Marx did in Duck Soup, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

The frustration builds. The cognitive dissonance is built into the warp and woof of culture these days. Television, movies, theater, and magazines. Yoga is canceled because it is “cultural appropriation,” yet my latest copy of Smithsonian celebrates Lin-Manuel Miranda’s all-Black Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton and no one dare claim cultural appropriation there. When it’s Black actors portraying White historical figures, it’s brilliant and edgy.  What would the reaction be to a revered White actor portraying Crispus Attucks?  Somehow I doubt the Smithsonian would treat it the same way.

Cognitive dissonance comes from liberals who claim they support free speech by denying others the right to say things they disagree with. It springs from minorities crying racism at every term, then claiming they cannot be racists when they cast racial epithets because they lack power. Never mind that the President, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of HUD, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, two Supreme Court justices, as well as the U.N. Ambassador are all minorities. Congress is 8% Black, 6% Latino and 5.6% Asian. It’s hard to compare these to their population percentages because of those pesky “White Hispanics” and other crossover designations, although Blacks are about 13.2% of the population. But having the presidency and much of his cabinet being Black should help balance that out.

Cities are burning with race riots, police officers are being executed by Blacks, Black Lives Matter demonstrations are making headlines, and race relations are at a two-decade low. But President Obama says he has improved race relations during his presidency.

Cognitive dissonance.

And along comes The Donald. Here is someone in politics who doesn’t even pretend that the other side has any credibility at all. They are idiots. They are morons. How can they expect any intelligent person to believe this crap? On Fox News Sunday (excuse me, Faux News Sunday for my liberal friends) today he said the label “losers” was not strong enough for the politicians in Washington.

And people who have been struggling with their cognitive dissonance, wondering if there was something wrong with themselves, can heave a sigh of relief and say, “Hell, yes. Finally, someone is saying what I was too afraid to say.”

“I’m not crazy after all.”

He legitimizes their feelings, their frustrations at being force-fed through every media a topsy-turvy world that contradicts so many values they took for granted ten or twenty years ago. The definition of marriage, the role of America in the world, even what it means to be a man or a woman.

Trump is the therapist who reassures the patient that they are not insane. He relieves the pressure on the brain without the awkward and messy trepanning procedure. His role is more than just that of politician – it is one of psychic rescuer.

For decades Americans have been conditioned to be politically correct, and to be sensitive to other cultures, the feelings of others, to not judge.

Discrimination – in the broadest sense so essential to survival (fire hot – don’t touch!) – became something to be avoided to the point of absurdity. Reality became user-defined (choose to be a man, woman or other), and people had to set aside common sense; disparate outcomes were not because of difference in abilities or effort or dumb luck but because of institutional racism or other factors unrelated to the individual who failed.

One was required to be willfully blind to the fact that you had to have proportional racial representation on the faculty but not the basketball squad. We could allow for ability in one but not the other, and ironically for an academic institution is was in the field of sports where ability was the determinative factor for allowed discrimination, not academics.

And along comes Trump who cries BS (literally) and a lot of people say, “Thank you!”

They will forgive him a great deal because for the first time in decades someone on the national stage in politics has clearly, passionately and without a thought to how it would play out on page one or the lede on the evening news, cried “This is crap!”

And that’s a good thing, a great thing. Many times over the last few months Trump’s over-the-top pontification has smashed open the Overton Window, allowed for the conversation to happen over policy issues that were somewhat constrained (over immigration, refugees, military strategy, taxation, etc.).

But like the boy in The Emperor’s New Clothes, identifying the problem doesn’t mean having a solution. The Overton Window refers to politically acceptable options; Trump often sets a parameter beyond the acceptable, allowing more rational heads to grapple with the issue and come to a more measured policy. Even Trump usually backtracks and softens his rhetoric.

But is that what we want in a president? President George W. Bush was accused of being a “cowboy” (as was Reagan before him) but Trump makes them look like Caspar Milquetoast.

I believe one real secret to Trump’s effectiveness, which differentiates him from the other top-tier candidates, is that he doesn’t care about the press, he uses the press.

Republicans treat the mainstream media the way a battered spouse does her abuser – she tries to be nice in the hopes that this will avoid further abuse. In my practice I represent abused spouses, and the problem is not the victim, but the abuser. No matter how well you treat the abuser they will find an excuse to batter again. The victim’s conduct is not at fault. It’s about power and control.

No matter how Republicans pander to the MSM, they will always have their words twisted and distorted. They will always be covered unfairly. They will always be ambushed. They will always have unfavorable coverage, and be the subject of negative editorials. Time for Republicans to say “Screw ‘em!” and control their press more effectively, or just ignore the consequences. Don’t pander any more. Mock the press, don’t meet the press.

Say what you want to say. Have your plans prepared before you shoot off your mouth but address the concerns of the people, not the press. Don’t worry how the press will receive it and distort it, think of how the people will hear it. Town hall your message, don’t focus group it with groups gathered by “experts.” The “experts” are generally wrong, fighting battles from several campaigns back (which they lost…).

Americans are living in a Through the Looking Glass world. Trump has capitalized on that as no other politician. But candidates have to stop talking in generics and platitudes that the press cannot take issue with; they have to take stands with details that will alienate some people to rally others.

If Cruz or Rubio would get their acts together to recognize how hungry the American people are to be told by politicians that their candidate understands that up is not down and not just generic “values” but specifics are what they stand for, then I believe Trump’s support would erode quickly when more stable, thoughtful and credible candidates began treating our national cognitive dissonance.