I am a right-wing, Christian, conservative, Republican, opposed to the ‘Dream Act’ and any other form of Amnesty — even I think Steve King should apologize

kingIs it just me? Am I the only republican in Iowa besides, Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson

who thinks Steve King’s recent comments on immigration were out of line? Maybe it is because I am a brown-Hispanic, but I think Congressman Steve King’s recent comments on the Dream Act were unnecessary and inappropriate. They lacked the level of civility and decorum that I expect from my guys in Congress. I heard the congressman defend his statements on the Jan Mickelson and Simon Conway shows on WHO radio yesterday. I heard the entire interview from Newsmax and I still think the congressman was out of line. King was speaking about the so-called Dream Act and the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

Let me start by saying, I agree with King. I oppose the Dream Act and I oppose the Gang of Eight immigration bill. I strongly oppose any Path to Citizenship for anyone, who at any time under any circumstances entered the United States illegally. My problem with the Congressman is not with his votes or his position on immigration, my problem is with what he said, and the way he said it.

Here is an excerpt from what Congressman King said,

Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. …

For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert … Those people would be legalized with the same act

I know that the Congressman has been on the border and spoken to the Border Patrol but where did his numbers come from. I agree that not every youngster brought into this country illegally is a valedictorian. In fact only a very small number of children born and raised in this country grow up to be valedictorians (unless they attend Cedar Rapids Washington High School which graduated 67 valedictorians in 2011!) But is the ratio of valedictorians to drug mules really 1:100? And if so, how does the congressman know? Further the depiction of illegal immigrants as being 130 pounds … with calves the size of cantaloupes is bordering on racist. (To be fair, many of King’s critics have also used loaded terminology to describe the resident’s of King’s western Iowa congressional district.)

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not a very politically correct person. In fact I will sometimes write or say something outrageous for effect. However, whenever I do so, I do it knowing that I am deliberately violating some societal norm. Listening to Congressman King defend his statements, I am not sure that he understands why they were objectionable. Rather than apologizing, or saying (like Rush Limbaugh) that he was being absurd to illustrate absurdity — King doubled down and said his critics did not listen to the entire interview.

I listened to the entire interview, and as an Iowa Republican, I expect better.

I believe the jury made the right decision — but I’m not celebrating (part 2 in a 3 part series on the George Zimmerman Trial)

stand-your-ground-250x250This post is the second in a series on the George Zimmerman trial. The first post really wasn’t about the trial at all, rather it gave opportunity to insert my thoughts, perceptions and experience into the current debate on race. In this post, I want to focus on the trial, the verdict, and the law. In my next post, I will discuss some of the aftermath of the case. As I said previously, I think that both my liberal and my conservative friends may be surprised at my comments.

When the verdict came in my Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up. Most of my online friends are white conservative Republicans many with libertarian-leanings. A large number would self-identify as evangelical Christians and many are gun owners as well. While I agree the jury returned the correct verdict, I was surprised at the level of glee (I am not sure how else to describe it) in the posts. They were celebrating the same way I did in the summer of 1978 when, while detassling and listening to a transistor radio, I heard the that the Supreme Court had overturned racial quotas in collegiate admissions in the landmark Bakke case! (I know, I was a political geek even then.)

Many of the status updates I saw were ecstatic, some examples:

Justice!

Restored my faith in the system!

Amen!

This rambling post is my response to the verdict. I will discuss: The Facts, The Non-Facts, The Law,  The Verdict, and The Conclusion.

By way of disclaimer — readers should be aware that the author is a Christian, conservative, libertarian-leaning Republican of mixed race who holds an Iowa Non-Professional Permit to Carry Weapons, but has never owned a gun.

The Facts

The facts in this case are relatively straightforward. But, in the homage to Bill Clinton, I want to clarify “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” By fact I mean statement that is demonstrably or verifiably true. There can and are true statements regarding this case that cannot or have not been verified. For example some of George Zimmerman’s statements to police describe events for which there were no witnesses. While these may be true, I will in this discussion put them in the Non-Fact category since they are not verifiable.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black high school student. Martin was staying at the home of his father’s girlfriend who lived in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Martin was serving a suspension from school after drug residue had been found in his backpack. On the night of the shooting, Martin was returning to his father’s girlfriend’s house carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Watermelon Fruit Cocktail Juice. Martin was wearing a dark hoodie. Martin was unarmed on the night of the shooting. Martin’s social media posts and other electronic communications indicated that he had been involved in fights. Martin’s drug and fighting history was not admitted into evidence in court.

George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic was a  29 year old part-time college student. Zimmerman had applied unsuccessfully to join the Prince William, Virginia Police Department and took courses towards an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Zimmerman was captain of the neighborhood watch. On the night of the shooting, Zimmerman was armed with a Kel-Tec Pf9, 9mm handgun.

On the evening of Feb 26, 2012, Zimmerman was driving through the neighborhood and he called 911 to report a ‘suspicious person’. [911 transcript]

The dispatcher asked Zimmerman if the guy is ‘white black or Hispanic.’ Zimmerman responded, ‘He looks black.’

As Zimmerman continued to talk to the dispatcher he says, ‘… he’s running!’

The dispatcher and Zimmerman discuss which way Trayvon is running.

The dispatcher asks, ‘Are you following him?’

Zimmerman replies, ‘Yeah.’

The Dispatcher says, ‘OK, we don’t need you to do that.’

Zimmerman says, ‘OK.’

Police found Zimmerman standing next to Martins body. Martin had been shot in the chest at close range. Zimmerman had injuries to his face and the back of the head.

Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin.

A witness made a 911 call in which screams from a struggle and a gunshot are heard.

A witness saw Martin on top of Zimmerman delivering repeated blows.

The Non-Facts

There are a number of assumptions in this case that many people believe are facts. While they may be true, they are largely unsubstantiated so I list some of them in the Non-Facts section.

George Zimmerman is a racist. [Well, everyone’s a little bit racist :)]

Trayvon Martin was not a racist.

George Zimmerman singled out Trayvon Martin because he was black.

Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman therefore Zimmerman acted in self defense.

George Zimmerman attacked Trayvon Martin, therefore Martin was killed while defending himself.

Martin purchased Arizona Tea and Skittles to make Purple Drank.

The Law

In this case, the prosecution asked for 2nd Degree Murder. Florida law defines 2nd Degree murder as:

The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual …

The judge in her instructions gave the jury the option of finding Zimmerman guilty of Manslaughter as well. Under Florida law, Manslaughter is:

The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776  …

The chapter 776 reference above includes Florida’s Stand Your Ground law 776.012

… a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or (2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

This is further clarified by 776.013(3)

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

The Verdict

I believe that the jury made the correct decision. I was really surprised when the prosecution chose to try Zimmerman on 2nd Degree Murder. Apparently the judge was as well since she added the option of manslaughter in her instructions to the jury. Even without the no duty to retreat provisions of the law, I do not believe that a case could have been made for manslaughter. If Martin had attacked Zimmerman, Zimmerman may not have had an opportunity to retreat so Stand Your Ground would not even apply. Based on the lack of eyewitnesses there was insufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman of anything.

The jury made the right decision — George Zimmerman should have been found not guilty.

The Conclusion

As I said before, I think a correct verdict was handed down by this jury. It was a decision consistent with the facts and Florida law. Was it justice? Since only George Zimmerman knows what really went on that night I have no idea.

On the other hand, I do think that George Zimmerman made a poor decision to exit his vehicle and that resulted in the confrontation that left Martin dead. A poor decision but not an illegal one. Zimmerman was under no legal compulsion to heed the dispatcher’s advice and not follow Martin. Part of any reasonable training on carrying a concealed weapon is the advice to not provoke conflict. Deadly force should be a last resort and while one is carrying a weapon, unless one is under imminent threat, every effort should be made to avoid potential conflict that could necessitate using it.

Zimmerman is not a hero as some of my conservative friends have suggested. Nor do I think he makes a good poster boy for Stand Your Ground. Even so, I definitely am a supporter of Stand Your Ground (and related Castle Doctrine) laws. As the Florida law says, and person who reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony should be free to use force, up to and including deadly force, to protect themselves if they have not initiated the confrontation, there should be no duty to retreat. In Iowa (since this is an Iowa political blog) Republicans have an opportunity to take over the Iowa Senate in 2014. If we do so, we need to enact a Stand Your Ground law.

What about race? What if Zimmerman decided that Martin looked suspicious because he was black? My answer is that it changes nothing in this case. He would have broken no law if he called because he saw a black teenager after midnight in his neighborhood. The issue at hand in this case, under Florida law was, did Zimmerman reasonably believe that he was under imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. And if so, had he the initiated the conflict by attacking Martin or otherwise breaking the law which would have exempted him from the protections of Florida 776.013.

It is likely that the Martin family will file a wrongful death lawsuit against Zimmerman. They have already settled a similar suit against the homeowner’s association on whose behalf Zimmerman was acting as neighborhood Watch Captain. I believe that if such a suit is filed, the Martin family should and will prevail.

Finally, the racial angle. This case has divided public opinion along racial lines. Since I am of mixed race, my opinions are mixed. Of course, the usual suspects (including President Obama

, whose son — if he had one — would look like Trayvon) are using this incident as a cause célèbre to incite anger in the black community.

As I look at Facebook and Twitter, many of my friends are gleefully posting every news story they can find of black-on-white or black-on-black violence. In my opinion their actions are just as bad as those of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

As I said, the jury reached the correct verdict — so why am I not celebrating? One life lost, one life destroyed, two families devastated. Racial tensions increasing across the country. I see little here to celebrate. I am naive enough to want to live in a color blind world. I may lack the eloquence of Martin Luther King, but:

I want to live in a world where the only time I need to worry about the color of my skin is to determine whether I am tan enough to wear a salmon colored shirt — sadly I am not 🙁

Once again, a rambling post. My next post will be on the aftermath of the trial. In particular the federal response and the possibility of federal hate crime or civil rights prosecution.

 

I have four sons and one of them looks like Trayvon Martin, I on the other hand look like George Zimmerman (Part 1 in a 3 part series on the George Zimmerman trial)

DSC_4313This post is the first in a three-part series on the George Zimmerman trial.This is really a post about race. From the beginning, the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman was about race. Had Martin and Zimmerman both been black (or white Hispanics) no one outside of Florida would ever have heard about the case. At NBC, the today show edited the 911 call made by Zimmerman to make it look like he was profiling Martin because of his race. In the edited audio, Zimmerman tells the 911 operator:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black.”

What actually occurred was an exchange between Zimmerman and the 911 operator.
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
911 Operator: “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?”
Zimmerman: “He looks black.,”

Zimmerman only brought up Martin’s race when prompted by the dispatcher. Whether Martin was targeted or profiled because he was black, only Zimmerman knows. By selectively editing the 911 call, NBC news did much to make this look like a racial issue.

Further clouding the issue is the characterization of George Zimmerman as a white Hispanic. The two terms don’t really go together, white speaks to race and Hispanic speaks to origin.

Race in America is complicated. The picture above is me and my four sons. By background, my father was from Jamaica. His father was from mainland China and his mother was Jamaican quite possibly by way of Africa. Racially he appeared to be black with a hint of Asian features. My mother is from Guam, Guam is a Pacific island in the Micronesian chain. So racially, I am of mixed race, African (not African-American), Jamaican, and Chamorro (the name for people from Guam). But it gets more complicated than that.

The Census Bureau defines Hispanic as:

… Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

By that definition, I am Hispanic too! Guam was colonized and held by Spain until the Spanish-American War. Guam’s culture has been heavily influenced by Spain, the language (Chamorro) has strong Spanish/Latin influences. The dress, culture and religion have all been shaped by Spanish rule. My mother even has a Hispanic maiden name — Cruz. Yes, I am the guy that gets to check almost all of the boxes on the forms. (In reality, I never check any of the race/ethnicity boxes!)

Race in America is confusing. When my father came to this country as a young college student in the late 1950’s the DOT had no idea what to put on his Driver’s License, there was no check box for Jamaican, so they chose Caucasian. My father was a professor at UNI and I remember another professor saying in the press that he was the only black faculty member. I guess he was … since my dad was Caucasian!

My kids have is even worse than I do since I married a white girl. We are a mixed marriage, still relatively uncommon in Iowa. Coincidentally, my neighbors have a mixed marriage too — one Norwegian and one Swede — at least that passes for a mixed marriage in Minnesota where they’re from 🙂

My wife is of German/Polish/Scottish/Irish descent. Predominantly German with names like Schuler, Miller and Krause. So my kids are a little bit of everything. If you take a close look at the picture you will see that my boys and I run the gamut from dark dark brown/black to white with me being a bit brown in the middle. My son Jonathan, the whitest of the boys, is in the Army and his drill sergeant looked at his name tag and said”

Chung, are you adopted?

Last year I played in a ping pong (we call it table tennis because we’re Asian) tournament with three of my sons. Two of the boys won medals and when the tournament director paged us, all four of us went to the registration table. She looked at us and said, “Chung? Are you all related?”

brothersIn my own family it is also complicated. These are pictures of me and my brothers. (I am the good looking rather mysterious guys in the shades.) We also run the gamut. I am the lightest skinned of my brothers. Brian (in the middle) is the darkest and James (on the right) is in between. I recall an incident a few year ago when I was at the gym and I asked someone whether my brother (Brian) was riding an exercise bike. The person I asked said no, the only person in the room is African-American. Of course it was my brother Brian. One day Brian asked me whether African-Americans greeted me on the street.  I said no, I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. He told me that since he looks black he is randomly greeted by other black people based on the color of his skin. (Sort of like the secret handshake of motorcyclists

.)

This whole race thing is confusing. In addition, race and the perception of race is in my opinion also a matter of self-identification and cultural upbringing. While my parents were brown (mom) and black (dad), I grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. My parents were university professors and we grew up in a middle class neighborhood surrounded by families of educated professionals. Our neighborhood was probably as racially and ethnically diverse as any in a community like Cedar Falls. We had three black families (if you count us) all college educated professionals and an Indian  family. I went to Price Lab School, a laboratory school connected with the UNI College of Education. In order to provide a more racially integrated environment, black students (they weren’t — or is it we weren’t — African-American in those days) were bussed in from Waterloo.

Growing up, I never really thought about race. But I thought of myself and my family as being just like my friends and their families, all of whom were white. If pressed, I would probably have thought of myself as white — after all, my father’s driver’s license said Caucasian. When I was in high school, my dad’s cousin came to live with us for a while when she attended college. She is from Jamaica and related to my father on his mother’s side of the family. She is Jamaican African with out any Chinese background. On day I was at a friend’s house and his mom (a white non-Hispanic) said,

David, who was that black girl over at your house the other day?

It took me a minute. Black girl? What black girl? Then it hit me, she was talking about my cousin. I guess she was black. I told his mom, “Oh, you must mean my cousin Sharon from Jamaica!”

His mom then reassured me that,

We never thought of you as being black.

Fortunately I was raised in a time when young people were to be respectful of their elders and I did not make a sarcastic comeback like, “That’s OK, I never thought of you as being white”, or “Hmm … neither did I”

In defense of my friend’s mother, she is a sweet lady and treated all of her son’s friends like her own children regardless of race. She was however, a product of the times and circumstances in which she grew up. I share this not to criticize her but rather to share that until I was in high school I really had never bothered to consider my own racial identity.

When my eldest son was born I filled out the demographic information on his birth certificate. In the race section i listed all of the various races that applied (sort of all of the above). After we left the hospital, the form was returned to me, I had forgotten to sign it or something. I took a look and they had replaced my son’s rich heritage with the single word: CHINESE. I signed the form but before returning it,

… in an act of civil disobedience, I took a bottle of white out (yes, it really is called white out!), removed the word Chinese form the race box and replaced it with the single word … HUMAN. To this day I am certain that my son is the only official HUMAN born in the state of Iowa.

Personally, I do not think that the Zimmerman/Martin case was about race.

If race is the lens through which we must view everything in our society, then I don’t know how to view the results of this case because.

I am a white Hispanic (at least a light brown one) — I am George Zimmerman

I am African-American (well African-Jamaican) — I am Trayvon Martin

At the end of the day I am not George Zimmerman and I am not Trayvon Martin. Those racial and ethnic characteristics describe me but in a fundamental way — they do not define me. In the next two posts in this series, I will share my thoughts on the actual case and its outcome. Stay tuned, I think both my liberal and conservative friends will be surprised.

The District Executive Committees — Blowback

gopIn this post, I want to address the formation of District Executive Committees within the Republican Party of Iowa. As reported by my friends at TheIowaRepublican.com, county leaders from Iowa’s Third Congressional District met to form a District Executive Committee. Despite statements to the contrary, the actions taken at the Tuesday night meeting were done in compliance with the Constitution of the Republican Party of Iowa. The Third District joins the Fourth District, who formed their District Executive Committee in order to replace Tim Moran when he retired from the SCC. The Fourth District meeting was an expression of open rebellion against the current RPI leadership. TheIowaRepublican.com has an article and video of this meeting it is political theater at its finest 🙂

After the formation of the 4th District Executive Committee in February, I communicated with the other three 1st CD SCC members and we agreed to try to help initiate formation of a DEC in our district after all of the counties held their office elections (in or by April). That effort is ongoing and in the next few weeks both the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts are going to form their own District Executive Committees.

There has been a lot of conflicting information about the formation of the District Executive Committees in recent days and I want to offer my thoughts on the issue.

Correction: I went back to my sources who attended this meeting in person. RPI leadership DID NOT ‘… with legal counsel whether it would be appropriate to take legal action …’

My sources tell me that they:

1) discussed the issue with legal counsel

2) would take action

I made the inference that action meant legal action.

    1. The current leadership of the Republican Party of Iowa has asserted that the actions of both the fourth and third districts violate the RPI Constitution. I agree with the members of both districts that their actions are proper and in line with the RPI Constitution.
    2. Some have stated that RPI somehow disbanded the District Executive Committees. During the two decades that I have been involved with RPI, I can not remember a time when we had active District Executive Committees. We may have had them but as a newcomer to the party I do not remember them and I have attended every County, District and State Convention but one in the last twenty years. (I was at a funeral.)
    3. I missed the last SCC meeting — I spent the day waiting in the emergency room. But I heard from attendees that RPI leadership has discussed with legal counsel whether it would be appropriate to take legal action against the District Executive Committees. Today there are only two but in a few weeks there will be four of these rogue committees. I cannot begin to express how shocked I am that our state party would even consider taking action against our county leadership.
    4. The districts (and counties) are taking this action because they believe that the current RPI leadership has been tone deaf to issues that concern them. The reaction of RPI’s leadership to the concerns of the counties has been to become defensive and double down.

To paraphrase Ron Paul. The formation of the District Executive Committees is a form of blowback. Like it or not the actions of the last caucus to convention cycle have caused the rank and file within the party to lose confidence in the party leadership. Soon all four districts will have established District Executive Committees on their own. The current leadership at RPI can either try to work with these committees or they can declare them illegitimate and try to circumvent them or worse make good on their threats and fight them in court.

Like a Republican in the Iowa Senate, I know that on the State Central Committee I am part of a small minority. The current leadership has enough votes on the SCC to ignore me and the few others who hold opposing views. So even though they are unlikely to listen I would encourage the RPI leadership to recognize and work with the newly formed District Executive Committees. The 2014 elections will likely shape the direction of this state for decades to come — no faction of our party is strong enough to win on its own. If we canot put our own house in order we are heading for certain defeat.

On the Public Sanction of Homosexual Unions

Words have meaning. Like former Republican National Committeewoman Kim Lehman, I don’t like the term gay marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman. At the core of the core of the current debate is the public sanction of homosexual unions. With that sanction gay couples will be able to avail themselves of benefits that have previously been reserved for married couples. Further, many in this culture allow the law to define their view of morality. For example when abortions were illegal, many people would never have considered going outside the law to seek one. Since Roe v. Wade abortion has become commonplace in our culture. Therefore, if the law sanctions homosexual unions, general cultural and social  acceptance is sure to follow. Consider Iowa, immediately after the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum decision, which opened the floodgates for legitimizing gay unions, voters took the unprecedented step of failing to retain the three justices who appeared on the 2010 ballot. You would have to be living under a rock to miss the fact that public opinion in Iowa has changed almost 180 degrees. While purists might argue about what the Supreme Court actually did in Varnum — the reality is that Iowa now issues marriage licenses to homosexual couples and tacitly (or explicitly) sanctions their unions.

As a Christian and a leader in the Republican Party, I do not believe that the government should sanction homosexual unions, but my position is a little more complicated. I should probably begin with a disclaimer.

I am a born-again Christian, a Sunday School teacher, a sometime preacher, a deacon in a Baptist Church and I believe so strongly in traditional marriage that I am trying to arrange marriages for my four daughters (just kidding about the last part — but if you have sons, we should talk)

At the 2012 State Republican Convention, I ran for the male seat on the Republican National Committee. (The idea that we must be so politically correct as to have a male and female seat will be the topic of a future post.)

As I was outside the hall shaking hands and kissing babies, a fellow came up to me and said, “I remember you, you’re the gay rights supporter.”

I am, to put it mildly, a big guy of Asian, African and Pacific-islander ancestry — so I stick out pretty conspicuously at Iowa Republican gatherings 🙂 I assumed he must be talking about me. But how did he get the idea that I was a gay rights supporter? I asked him about it and he reminded me that after the US Supreme Court struck down state anti-Sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas in 2002, there was an attempt to put a plank into our state platform supporting anti-Sodomy laws. I had argued (rather eloquently — if I recall correctly) against the plank on the convention floor. I did so, not because I am a supporter of homosexuality — I believe it is a sin, a violation of God’s moral law — rather I spoke against the plank because I do not believe that it is the government’s job to regulate sex between consenting adults. I would have been just as strongly opposed to a plank call for laws criminalizing pre-marital, or extra-marital sex — even though I believe that these too violate the moral law of God. I explained that while I believe that homosexual relations are a violation of God’s law, I do not want to put the government in the position of enforcing it. Apparently he accepted my reasoning and promised to vote for me.

So, does that mean that I think the government can’t legislate morality? Not at all, I hope morality is precisely what the government legislates. Murder, rape, theft, assault and abortion are also violations of God’s moral law and I am completely comfortable with the government legislating in these areas. In the case of sodomy (and other issues as well), I want my government to stay silent. But in the case of homosexual unions, the gay community is asking the government to sanction something that is contrary to God’s moral law, and this I oppose.

So, where do I stand on the public sanction of gay unions? I oppose it. I do find the modern libertarian position on the issue appealing but not totally compelling. That is the idea that the state should be out of the marriage business altogether. Perhaps allowing for religious marriages (of various sorts) and civil contracts or unions.

I know that I have rambled quite a bit in this post. I have probably contradicted myself a time or two but in conclusion I want to convey something that gets to my core beliefs. My core beliefs as a Christian, which in turn shape my beliefs in every other part of my life including my politics.

Like Rush Limbaugh, I believe that public sanction of homosexual unions is inevitable. Whether the Supreme Court rules this year or it happens gradually — we have already lost.

As a Christian I should not be surprised, the picture that the Bible paints of moral decay in the last days is coming true before our very eyes. And while I may be called to fight against the tide, I am not sure that I should expect to reverse it.

This last thought is a summation of what I think is the core issue in this debate.

The real problem with marriage in our culture is not how the homosexual community treats it. The real problem with marriage in our culture is that we in the church have failed to honor it an uphold it as we have been instructed.

Christians in this country have not honored marriage the way God intends. Divorce among Christians is just as common as it is among non-believers. In the Bible we are told that the marriage relationship is a picture of the relationship of Jesus Christ to His Church. Looking at the state of Christian marriages today, it is no wonder that non-believers want nothing to do with Jesus or His Church.

As for me, I will continue to be an opponent of public sanction of homosexual unions. But if I could change one thing about marriage — it would not be stopping homosexual unions. I would see that all the marriages in my own local church were strengthened to the point that they would reflect the sacrificial love that God showed for us in sending his son.

I am OK with pointing a finger at the world about homosexual unions, but at the same time, mindful of Matthew 7:1-5, we must point the finger at ourselves and make sure that we in the Church are honoring God’s design for marriage as well. The Great Commission to which I and all Christians are called, is not to make the world follow God’s law. The Great Commission is to make disciples who will in turn desire to follow God’s law.

Why does Kevin Hall hate Liberty?

libertyThe liberty movement in Iowa has had an interesting ride. The movement reached its peak in 2012 at the State GOP convention. While the liberty candidate (Ron Paul) did not win the straw poll on caucus night, liberty slates swept the four district conventions and earned supermajorities on all the state convention committees and the State Central Committee. At the district nominating conventions they managed to win the majority of district delegate seats to the national convention. And at our State convention, their slate of National convention delegates was approved and they managed to re-elect a sympathetic Steve Scheffler to the RNC.

As regular readers of this blog know, I ran against the liberty slate for SCC (I won), for state convention rules committee (I lost) and for national committeeman (I lost). The liberty movement has done a good job of associating themselves with name ‘Liberty’. From the Campaign for Liberty, to the Iowa Liberty PAC they have adopted Liberty as their label. They have been so successful that (statists, RINOs, the establishment, etc.) non-liberty folk are often referred to as “hating liberty”. As in:

Why does Kevin Hall hate liberty?

In recent days, the liberty movement has faced some setbacks. It really started with the Fourth District Executive Committee and their revolt against RPI and Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt. It has continued with liberty candidates losing county chair elections in several counties, including the liberty strongholds of Story and Jefferson. Most recently liberty-leaning SCC member Kris Thiessen lost her bid for re-election as Clay County Chair. TheIowaRepubican.com notes that this is the first time that a sitting SCC member has ever lost a re-election bid as a county chair.

The problem is that when the Liberty Folk took over, they were not gracious winners. Their strategy was scorched earth. In victory, and they did win, they were more Scipio Africanus than Douglas MacArthur. Roman General Scipio Africanus is credited (apocryphally) with not just defeating Carthage but with destroying the city and salting the land to make it unusable. MacArthur, after utterly defeating the Japanese, was gracious in victory, he could have humiliated the Emperor and by proxy, the nation. For example he could have imprisoned Hirohito, tried him as a war criminal, and ridden his white horse through the capital. Instead, MacArthur oversaw the re-building of Japan.

To paraphrase the spiritual leader of the movement Ron Paul:

The blowback experienced by the liberty folk and RPI seems to confirm that, “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

When Steve Scheffler’s group (Christian Coalition, Iowa Christian Alliance or Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition) was in the driver’s seat, they worked with all of the Caucus campaigns and sent a delegation to the national convention that represented more than just the Christian Right. The 2008 delegation included people like David Roederer — prominent Republican but definitely not a Christian Right guy. The liberty folk could have learned something from the Steve Scheffler.

So where does that leave us as a party? It sounds like the blowback will continue. Every time RPI does something, even something good, like getting Rand Paul to headline the Lincoln Dinner in Cedar Rapids — I get calls from county leaders and grassroots activists complaining. The first, second and third districts are planning on constituting District Executive Committees. I think this is a great idea and am helping to facilitate the effort in the 1st CD now that officer elections are almost over. I am concerned however, that many view theses committees as a way to push back against RPI.

So in this internecine conflict who is right and who is wrong? The answer is that there is blame to be placed with both the liberty folks and the statists, RINOs or establishment.

As a member of the Republican State Central Committee, I firmly believe that we at RPI must do some soul-searching. We must recognize that we have a credibility and trust problem with our county organizations. The problem is not that RPI is controlled by liberty folk — the problem is that the liberty folk who control RPI have not been able to convince our county organizations that they (we) can help them to elect Republicans.

We find ourselves in the position that when our Executive Director Steve Bierfeldt (with 4th District SCC member Chad Steenhoek and National Committeeman Steve Scheffler) went out on behalf of RPI to help facilitate the election of an SCC member and essentially said:

I’m from RPI and I’m here to help you!

The result in the 4th CD was open rebellion. I do not believe that Bierfeldt, Steenhoek or Scheffler went to that meeting with the intention of taking control. But the level of distrust is so high that as soon as the notifications were sent out, the participants were looking for a conspiracy. It was not helpful that Bierfeldt continued to assert himself once it became clear that the committee was not going to cooperate with him.

The current leadership of RPI promised to focus more on issues. They have kept their word. RPI has been very focused on issues. I was skeptical, but I think that RPI has pulled this of quite well. But now, RPI must work on establishing credibility with the county organizations and their leadership. Of course this problem is not new to RPI, we have always struggled in this area. But the problem is worse now than at anytime in my memory.

There is too much at stake in 2014 to continue to fight the battles of the 2012 caucus to convention season.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

DSC_0275This week SCC member Mark Doland was sworn in as a Mahaska County Supervisor. Mark won the seat by a razor thin margin in a special election. The election is notable because, newly-elected GOP Senator Ken Rozenboom who held the supervisor seat previously, publicly endorsed Mark’s Democrat opponent in the last days leading up to the election. Doland had initially intended to run against Rozenboom for the Senate seat but withdrew. At the time Doland endorsed Rozenboom and publicly expressed interest in the supervisor seat.

The endorsement came only a few days before the special election. There was some informal discussion on the SCC about how to respond to a GOP senator endorsing a Democrat supervisor candidate against a GOP challenger. Given the timeframe, it was not possible to call a special meeting of the SCC. So the party leadership responded and AJ Spiker made a robo-call into Mahaska County urging Republicans to get out and vote for Doland.

… AJ Spiker chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, and I’m calling to urge you to vote for Mark Doland, the Republican candidate running for Mahaska County Supervisor. The election is tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29th and the Republican in this race, Mark Doland supports the conservative values of less government and lower taxes. So, please come out tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29th and vote for Mark Doland the Republican candidate for Mahaska County Supervisor.

This message was paid for by the Republican Party of Iowa, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

When ballots came in, Doland had a 16 vote lead. After absentee ballots were resolved Doland won by a 21 vote margin. In a race this close, the robo-call very likely made a difference. If not putting Doland over the edge, at least padding the margin so there was no recount.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that I have been getting calls and Facebook messages from Republicans demanding to know whether I voted for RPI to spend money in this county race. The people who contacted me are upset because they feel that county races are not in RPI’s purview, and that since Doland is on the SCC it was somehow unethical for RPI to get involved in his race. None of the people who contacted me expressed any concern about Rozenboom endorsing the Democrat in the race. Some expressed concerns that this was just another case of Ron Paul supporters in the SCC funneling money to one of their own. (Doland actually worked on the Bachmann campaign.)

I was at a county central committee meeting this week and a couple of the attendees asked me about factions within our party. I said that the factions were as divided as I can remember.  To my fellow Iowa Republicans, let me make this plea:

The caucuses are over, 2012 is over. In 2014 we will have an open US Senate seat and possibly two open US House seats, we will have a governor’s race along with all the other statewide races. The entire Iowa House will be up for re-election along with half of the Iowa Senate. This is not the time for in-fighting. A robust primary season in 2014 will be healthy for our party — if when it is done, we come together to turn Iowa red. 2014 will be all hands-on-deck, the staked are too high, we must work together to win.

The decision to get RPI involved in this race was made by the RPI leadership, the SCC could not have met the 10-day notice requirement to meet and act between the Rozenboom endorsement and the election. AJ Spiker is entirely responsible for getting RPI involved in the Mahaska County race.

In the end, the Republican Party of Iowa did something that everyone says we never do. RPI provided support to a GOP candidate in a county race. That support may just have helped put our candidate over the top. RPI’s actions were meaningful and relevant and resulted in a GOP victory. Instead of celebrating, some Republicans across the state are complaining.

The grassroots of this party choose the candidates and the leadership works to see them elected. It’s time to take off the tinfoil hats. I have and will be critical of our leadership when they deserve it but I will praise them when they succeed as well. AJ, thank you for your leadership — a job well done!

[The photo in this article was originally displayed without attribution. The copyright is now displayed. The photographer is Ken Allsup of the Oskaloosa News, used with permission.]

Republican Insanity

2012 Republican National Convention: Day 2The election of 2012 was a crushing national defeat for the national Republican Party. A defeat like this forces us to do some soul-searching. Why did we lose? Was it our message, our messenger(s), our ground game? Some have suggested that we abandon our core principles, change with the times. Others have said we need to re-frame our message to make it more attractive to women, minorities and youth. Others have said that we are not conservative enough and we need to double down on our core principles.

Unfortunately, serving on the Republican State Central Committee does not give me clairvoyance. What I do know is that we need to change. We cannot carry the failed strategies of 2012 into the crucial 2014 mid-terms.

… doing the same old thing the same old way doesn’t sound like a winning option.

It’s time for a new day, a re-birth at the RNC. The above quote is from our newly-elected RNC chairman. The only problem is the newly-elected chairman, this champion of change, this leader who will help us put the past behind us is non other than Reince Priebus. Priebus is the same RNC chairman who oversaw the train wreck of 2012.

The Republican National Committee unanimously re-elected the chairman who led our party to the defeats of 2012. The only announced challenger, couldn’t even find enough support to be formally nominated.

I have heard the arguments, Reince is a great fundraiser. He put the party back on a positive footing after the disastrous term or Michael Steele. Reince was great to work with here in Iowa.

No matter what good qualities he may possess, the job of the RNC Chairman is to win elections. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, after all, despite the 2012 losses in Iowa, we overwhelmingly re-elected A.J. Spiker too.

As Einstein supposedly said:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

RPI, the SCC and the elections of 2014

senateIn Iowa politics, we refer to the non-presidential years as off-years. The reason is that  Iowa’s First in the Nation Caucuses are the main event. Several Republicans seem to be jockeying for position leading up to the 2016 caucuses, we’ve heard from Jindahl, Rubio, and Huckabee. Rand Paul went on a trip to Israel, arranged by the American Family Association, with National Committeewoman Tamara Scott and RPI Chairman AJ Spiker. But last week, everything changed. When Tom Harkin decided not to seek a sixth term in the Senate. Politicos have been waiting anxiously for the retirement of both Grassley and Harkin. For Harkin to step down at a time when his seat will be up for election in the sixth year of a Democrat president’s term is a dream come true for Iowa Republicans.

There are a number of intriguing scenarios, including a potentially competitive governor’s race, two open US House seats and the open US Senate seat. No matter who decides to run or which scenario plays out, 2014 will certainly be an intense political year.

Watching the blogs and commentators, a common sub-theme has been the question of whether SCC members will remain neutral in the inevitable primaries. I can tell you with certainty, that SCC members will not recuse themselves from the 2014 primaries.

RPI has no rule preventing SCC members or officers from endorsing candidates or even taking paid positions on campigns during primaries.

Five members have, in the past, served concurrently in RPI leadership positions and as paid staffers for campaigns:

  • National Commiteeman Steve Scheffler (Steve has said he will not take a paid position in the future)
  • RPI Chairman AJ Spiker
  • RPI Co-Chairman David Fischer
  • RPI Finance Chairman Drew Ivers
  • SCC Member Wes Enos (Wes has said he will not take a paid position in the future)

At both the 2002 and 2012 state conventions, delegates rejected amendments to the RPI constitution calling for some form of neutrality for RPI members in primaries. (While I was a co-author of the 2012 amendment, I believe it over-reached. I still believe that the grassroots would support a move to prevent party leaders form getting paid by campaigns in primaries, though I digress.)

The SCC Organization Committee is considering a proposed amendment to the RPI bylaws. The purpose of the amendment it to keep RPI neutral in primaries, however the amendment specifically calls out the right of members to support candidates in primaries. The last line of the proposed amendment is:

… This section shall not preclude any member of The Republican Party of Iowa from individually supporting candidates in Primary races.

Some have read this post (pictured below) on the party’s Facebook to say that SCC members will remain neutral in primaries. What this actually says is that the party will remain neutral — members will not.

gop-facebook

To be honest, I don’t really have much of a problem with SCC members endorsing primary candidates. I have promised that I will not do so, but I set that standard for myself and promised my district that I would honor it. My daughter is a 1L at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, she says that I am naive because I hold myself to a higher standard than those around me, even if it gives them an advantage.

I do however have a problem with party leaders taking a paycheck from primary candidates. I think it sends a message that this party can be bought — maybe it can. (And yes, I had a problem with Matt Strawn taking a paycheck from Strong America Now who was trying to influence the 2012 caucuses.)

So the question isn’t whether SCC members will interject themselves into the 2014 primaries — rather the question is, which members and who will be paying.

The RPI Chairman Race

This Saturday, the State Central Committee will meet in Des Moines to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa. There are no last minute candidates, at least not yet. The race has come down to two well known, experienced members of the State Central Committee, current RPI chairman AJ Spiker and current co -chairman Bill Schickel. Like the Iowa State bowl game, it is a rematch of the last chairman race when Matt Strawn stepped down. AJ won that contest by a single vote over Schickel.

In a previous post I wrote about the role of the RPI chairman and said;

… the single most important job an SCC member has is to elect a chairman for the Republican Party of Iowa.

The RPI chairman is elected by a majority vote of the State Central Committee. As I prepare to carry out this most important of my duties, I decided to take the opportunity and share some of my thoughts on the issue. I will start by saying that as an SCC member I have gotten to know Bill and AJ and I like them both.

Let me start by stating that as RPI chairman, AJ Spiker is not responsible for the Iowa GOP’s dismal electoral performances in 2012. On the other hand, he and the team he assembled (as well as the SCC) did not exactly lead the party to victory either.

We had the same situation in the recent past with Ray Hoffman when was RPI chair during the electoral train wreck of 2006. When the SCC chose to elect Hoffman to another term, I was so angry that I couldn’t talk to any of my friends on the committee for weeks. The re-election of Hoffman and the secrecy that surrounded it were key factors in my deciding to run for SCC.

Ray Hoffman was not the reason we got swept in 2006 and AJ Spiker is not the reason we got swept again in 2012. But, having lead the party to defeat, it was then and is now, time to search for new leadership.

Therefore, I am publicly supporting Bill Schickel for RPI chairman. My support for Bill is likely a Quixotic effort. I believe that the coalition of evangelicals and libertarians that elected AJ and swept our conventions in 2012 is strong enough to carry the day and re-elect AJ. I guess, it shouldn’t be a surprise, it sounds like the RNC will also re-elect Reince Priebus.

Whatever happened to the captain going down with the ship?