Sunday, August 27, 2023

“Us vs. Them,’ mentality reigns in tribal America!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     In 1988, a Frenchman named Michel Maffesoli wrote, “The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society.”  Meffesoli predicted modern culture would decline to the point that society would look back on ‘the good old days,’ and form ‘tribes.’  These groups would engage in group think, reject ideas that weren’t consistent with the tribe’s dogma.  Maffesoli asserted tolerance for other tribe’s opinions would decline.  He predicted looking back at the principles from the distant past would guide tribes- individual thinking would be discouraged- an “Us vs. Them,’ mentality would reign.  Welcome to tribal America!  Three observations:

     First, tribes have no respect for a differing opinion.  That is true in the two major political Parties, in families, churches, civic organizations, or in social situations.  The First Amendment guarantees free speech, but many believe that it only applies to them and not to those who don’t hold their same views.  The First Amendment is used to justified attacking, insulting, or shouting down those who disagree with them.  Civility and respect for a counterview is seen as weakness.  That has occurred because of the decline of individualism. 

     Data from the General Social Survey (GSS), which has been run for a half century, show Americans in the past were more likely to meet people different than themselves.  That interaction created the opportunity for dialogue and promoted compromise (a dirty word in today’s culture).  GSS found the number of people who identify as conservative or liberal has changed little over the past 50 years.  But conservatives have migrated to the GOP and liberals to the Democrats.  The tribal mentality doesn’t allow for a liberal R or a conservative D. 

      Second, the general public is weary of the polarization in politics.  Fewer and fewer citizens engage in political activism.  They cite the nastiness, unkindness and foulness of those who disagree with them in their own Party.  According to Pew Research, 62% of Republicans view Democrats unfavorably and 54% of Democrats feel the same way about Republicans.  That is three times more than 30 years ago.   

     Political scientist Lilliana Mason makes the point that most modern-day voters pull the lever for a Party, not a candidate.  Elections have become about numbers- about growing the tribe, and not about solving problems.    

     Third, groupthink and tribalism discourage creativity, individualism and personal responsibility.  Standing alone on conviction or principle in modern tribes is not tolerated nor respected.   Tribes require complete solidarity.  Members who don’t conform face shunning and possible expulsion. The intolerance of the tolerant reins!

     The founders of the United States were willing to work together for a common good.  The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were a diverse group from varied backgrounds.  They negotiated, compromised and hammered out founding documents that have served the nation well for nearly 250 years.  In 1776, there was only one tribe- all pulling on the same end of the rope at the same time. 

     Ed Goeas wrote in his book, A Question of Respect, the political pollster wrote: “We Americans have an urgent decision facing us.  We must decide whether to build upon a foundation of mutual respect or live in a fractured society, where division rules the day.”  Until Americans actually respect other citizens right to have a different opinion (and be wrong), the country will stagnant.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Trump-less debate is an opportunity for the other candidates!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     The 2024 Republican presidential primary starts this week.  The first Republican primary debate will be aired by Fox News and held on Wednesday August 23rd, at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It will be moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum from Fox.     

     At least seven GOP candidates are expected to be on stage.  As of this writing, the participants will be DeSantis, Ramaswany, Haley, Scott, Burgin, Pence and Christie.  Former President Trump has announced he will not be there and will instead hold an exclusive interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.  He refused to sign a ‘loyalty’ oath (pledging support for the nominee) the RNC required for participation.  Former Vice President Mike Pence says he thinks Trump may show up at the last minute, but that is unlikely.    Three observations:

     First, Trump is not a good debater.  In the 2016 GOP primary debates, he was entertaining, insulting and loud toward his fellow Republicans.  He was scarce on substance and long on denigration during each forum. His positioning of himself as an ‘outsider’ was appealing and resonated with voters, who were sick and tired of politics as unusual and that strategy worked. 

     In 2020, Trump’s ‘debating’ with Biden hurt his campaign and many pundits believe was one of the primary reasons he lost.  Instead of letting Biden talk during the ’20 debates, he repeatedly interrupted him.  Instead of Americans seeing Biden as a weak communicator, they saw him as a bullied browbeat man who wasn’t given the chance to say much.  Trump failed to give Biden enough rope to hang himself- a missed opportunity. 

     Trump lacks the discipline to seriously debate.  In the 2016 GOP primary Houston debate, former Gov. John Kasich was presenting his well thought out and substantive plan to balance the federal budget.  The other debate participants responded to the plan-Trump choose to made fun of how Kasich was dressed.  While that may have worked in ’16, it probably won’t in ’24.     

      Second, minds are rarely changed by a debate.  That is why Trump’s team isn’t worried about him skipping the debate.  They know his supporters will support him regardless of his debate performance.  Debates rarely move the needle.  Parties conduct them because they raise a lot of money on debates.    

     Third, the Trump-less debate is an opportunity for the other candidates.  They are all dark horses.  Trump has a seemingly insurmountable lead, but the first primary is six months away.  Some of the candidates are virtually unknown and this is their chance to introduce themselves to America.  Each of those on stage want to be the viable alternative should Trump falter.  

     Thoughtful GOP primary voters should be listening for well-thought solutions for America’s fiscal issues.  They should not be as impressed by a well-delivered zinger, one liner or quip as they are with componence in budgeting.  America’s monetary house must be put in order or the country will fail.  Until voters recognize that, then the debates are little more than a spectacle.

     Pundits are predicting Tucker’s interview with the former POTUS will have twice as many viewers as the debate.  Even though he isn’t attending, Donald Trump will be mentioned many times during the debate.  Some of the candidates will tell the audience how much they are like Trump.  Others will tell you how much different they are.  The elephant NOT in the room on Wednesday will be addressed.        

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Hunter Biden is a lot more than a black sheep!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s financial dealings.  This comes on the heels of what appeared to be a resolution of charges just weeks ago.  Biden,53, has faced questions about tax evasion and a gun charge since 2018.  Hunter is the youngest son of President Joe Biden.  He is a Yale law school graduate. 

     Hunter served on the board of BHR Partners, a Bank of China private investment fund.  BHR helped finance the purchase of Tenke Fungureme Mine in the Congo, a cobalt operation.  Cobalt is the raw material used in electric vehicles and has been a point of contention between the U.S. and China in recent years.  BHR’s attempt to ‘corner the market’ for China on cobalt is an issue Biden hasn’t been held accountable for.  Three observations:

     First, President Biden knew who Garland was going to appoint.  In spite of mainstream media calling the special counsel appointment a ‘surprise,’ odds are the POTUS was consulted before the move.  The appointment of David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, as special counsel looks suspect.  Weiss, a Trump appointee, has been investigating Hunter Biden since 2018 on potential violation of tax and gun laws.  Weiss has been criticized for his patsy handling of Hunter.  Hunter was prepared to plead out the charges two months ago, but a Trump appointed judge threw a monkey wrench into that.  Some believe Garland is wagging the dog by appointing Weiss special counsel. 

     Second, the investigation does have risk for President Biden.  If an investigation balloons beyond the tax and gun charges Hunter faces, it could implicate the POTUS.  If it ever makes it to trial, the identity of ‘the Big Guy,’ referenced on Hunter’s laptop could be revealed.   The investigation could cast a shadow on Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign.  Some believe Garland appointed Weiss special counsel to help keep Biden from getting the nomination.  Not likely.

     Third, 2024 could be the year of the indictees.  President Trump has been indicted twice and faces a third indictment in Georgia.  Biden could be indicted if Weiss links Hunter’s misbehaviors to him. Does indictment or even conviction disqualify someone from being POTUS? 

     Richard Hasen, a University of California law professor, says a convicted felon could assume the office of POTUS.  “The Constitution has very few requirements to serve as president, such as being at least 35 years of age.  It does not bar anyone indicted, convicted, or even serving jail time, from running for president and winning the presidency,” Hasen said. 

     Democrats claim the only voters who care about Hunter’s crooked dealings are those who wouldn’t vote for Joe Biden anyway.  Matt Bennett, a Democrat Party operative says: “There are plenty of things that keep Democrats up at night when it comes to 2024, and this(Hunter Biden) is not one of them.  Billy Carter is not the reason Ronald Reagan won 49 states in 1980.” Sarah Longwell, a Republican consultant agrees saying that ‘every family has someone like this, a black sheep.” 

     Hunter Biden is a lot more than a black sheep and his dealings go beyond trying to sell a bad beer like Billy Carter did.   IRS whistleblowers told Congress there was ‘political meddling,’ into Hunter’s tax issues- probably by Weiss.  Hunter’s business dealings are more than shady. The newly appointed ‘special counsel’ should prove he isn’t a lackey stooge and can conduct a thorough investigation into both Hunter and Joe Biden’s financial dealings with foreign governments.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Time will reveal who faces doom from indictments!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     This week, former President Donald Trump was charged in federal court with four counts of conspiring to subvert American democracy in association with the January 6th attacks on the U.S. Capitol.  Jack Smith, the special prosecutor investigating January 6th, is relying on three criminal statutes; (1) conspiring to defraud the government, (2) conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and (3) conspiring to obstruct a congressional proceeding to prove Trump was trying to supplant democracy.

     In the indictment, Smith describes six of the former POTUS’ associates as ‘co-conspirators,’ but they are not named nor charged.  It remains unclear if they will eventually face indictment if they do not cooperate. 

     The former POTUS appeared before a federal judge in Washington DC on Thursday and pled not guilty to all charges.  An August 28th preliminary hearing is scheduled.  This was the third time in four months Trump has faced indictments.  The federal charges are the most serious with Smith’s star witness expected to be former Vice President Mike Pence.  Pence says Trump asked him to break the law and not certify election results submitted by certain states.  Pence contends the U.S. Constitution precluded that action.  Three observations:

     First, many losers of presidential elections have disputed the results.  In American history, at the presidential level, serious allegations by top officials the election was "stolen" were made in 1800, 1824, 1876, 1912, 1960, 2000, and 2020.  Trump isn’t the first to claim he was cheated.  Vice President Aaron Burr killed Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel because of Hamilton’s part in the outcome of the disputed 1800 election.  The award-winning musical Hamilton tells the story. 

     Trump’s opponents, the special prosecutor and the media claim Trump’s unwillingness to accept defeat is unprecedented, but that is not true.  What is true is none who claimed they were cheated have convinced a majority of the American public to buy into their conspiracy.    

     Second, Trump was indicted, not the American people.  The former POTUS zealously uses[S1]  the indictments for fundraising and campaign promotion.  He contends solicitors are after the American people when they charge him.  He professes he is merely a surrogate and being unfairly treated.  When the Clintons and Hunter Biden skirt serious charges and Trump is charged it is a valid point, but it’s a stretch to paint Trump as being a scapegoat.   Trump is being charged for his own actions.  A jury will determine whether those actions rise to the level of criminal.

     Third, the trials give Trump a unique opportunity.  The former POTUS can publicly present his case in regard to the 2020 election.  The defense is expected to cite Trump’s right to free speech as justification for his actions.  Former AG Bob Barr says free speech doesn’t give Americans the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.  But all true conspiracies were initially dismissed as fraudulent, so there’s that.  The challenge Trump’s team faces is proving to the jury their claims of a stolen election are fact. 

     In the musical, “Hamilton,” Aaron Burr sings about Alexander, “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?/Soon that attitude may be your doom.”  Burrs point?  Pride goes before a fall.  Time will reveal who faces doom from these indictments.