A speech?

Note: This is a draft of a 200-word speech that I wrote for a speechwriting class on the future of conservatism.

Ronald Reagan told us to “always remember that you are Americans, and it is your birthright to dream great dreams in this sweet and blessed land.” Another more recent Republican president told us that he had “abandoned free-market principles to save the free market.” One of these men is remembered as a great conservative president. The other is remembered as George W. Bush.
The future of conservatism lies in articulating a vision. Ideologies die when there is no direction. It is not enough for us to simply present a plan for the next four years. It is not enough to say that we will repeal ObamaCare, lower tax rates, and cut back on regulations. Those are policies. They are not a vision.
Progressives excel at presenting a vision. They are not afraid to propose new, controversial policies even if it loses them an election. They constantly push the boundaries of the political discussion. And so we are stuck on defense, forced to disagree with their proposals instead of presenting our own. We win elections, but the country moves leftward.
For conservatism to be more than just a response, it must stop being ashamed of itself. We must present a full-throated vision of freedom from an oversized government, a vision of a country where people are not blocked from achieving their full economic potential. For conservatism to have a future, it must first offer Americans one.


America’s Lukewarm Relationship With Democracy

This article has appeared in The Liberty Conservative. The Liberty Conservative does not include hyperlinks in its articles. A version with hyperlinks is included below.

Over the course of a month, a significant number of Americans, on both sides of the aisle, have openly questioned fundamental aspects of our democratic system. And that should concern you.

This problem flared up in earnest during the presidential debate, after Donald Trump responded to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about the importance of the defeated candidate conceding the election by saying that he would “keep you in suspense, OK?” Well, no, not okay; as Hillary Clinton correctly pointed out, the peaceful transition of power and acceptance of the winner’s legitimacy are crucial to keeping a democracy. However, rather than being turned off this rhetoric, Trump supporters seemed to coalesce behind this concept of “rigged elections.”

Yet following Trump’s surprising victory, the tables suddenly turned. Clinton supporters took to protesting the result, and some students even burned American flags. A petition to have Trump’s Electoral College delegates vote for Clinton garnered over 4 million signatures, claiming the popular vote is all that should matter (similar to saying the Cubs and the Indians each scored 27 runs in the World Series, so the Cubs did not really win.) Many others have called for abolishing the Electoral College altogether, calling it “anti-democratic” and “archaic.” Trump, of course, called for abolishing the Electoral College in 2012 when the system favored President Obama.

For clarification, the Electoral College ensures that a new president will have meaningful support across the country rather than simply running up the score in a few high-population areas, a requirement that is no less necessary today given the significant divisions that still exist across the country. Americans, however, are proving their tendency to support democratic systems when it helps them politically, and oppose democratic systems when it does not.

Another example of this is President Obama’s infamous declaration that he had “a pen and a phone” that he would use to push his agenda on immigration and energy through executive orders that entailed an unprecedented expansion of executive power. Already, some on the left have expressed concern at the powers that Trump will have as president following President Obama’s tenure in office. And the chances that many of the same critics of executive overreach under Obama are silent when it comes from a Trump presidency? Probably high.

The problem lies in the fact that partisanship is both intense and increasing. Many Americans care first and foremost about advancing their party’s interests, and concern for the stability of our democratic republic is only secondary. In thinking this way, however, they miss the very lessons they should have been learning over this election cycle. Adherence to the Constitution, and respect for our democratic traditions, are the only things keeping someone from trampling over your rights. No matter how intense our disagreements, or how much we want a policy enacted, there must be enough of a bipartisan majority that criticizes politicians who consider themselves exempt from democracy and Constitutional restraints. The alternative is the abrogation of our republic and Constitutional rights in favor of the tyranny of the majority.

Let’s Learn Something From All This: People Are Tired of PC Culture

Trump won because of a backlash against politically correct culture.

No, I don’t mean in the short term. In the short term, Trump won because his promises to shuffle up the political and economic status quo appealed to “Reagan Democrats” in Rust Belt states that Romney was unable to win because he embodied the status quo. Trump won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin and possibly Michigan because he promised (misguided) protectionist policies that appealed there. He also won because Clinton proved unable to inspire anything close to President Obama’s turnout in 2012 (Trump is actually going to end up with about the same amount of votes as Romney).

But step back, and look at the bigger picture. How was Trump even here at all? He survived a litany of scandals and political faux-pas, any one of which would have sunk your typical candidate. Just look at not-for-much-longer Senator Mark Kirk in Illinois and how quickly he was sunk by an admittedly dumb, but probably not malicious, comment about challenger Tammy Duckworth’s Thai heritage.

Trump was here because he took on the mantle of the warrior against political correctness early on, and used that shield throughout his campaign. By successfully painting the media and Washington politicians as peddlers of a culture of political correctness that stifled good ideas, he handed himself a get-out-of-jail-free card that he was able to use again and again throughout his campaign.

This backlash is the source of the alt-right movement. The alt-right movement embraces rhetoric that is, by any measure, pretty repulsive. But they embrace it because to them, it is an expression of their freedom, a counter to an increasingly oppressive media and political culture that slings terms like “sexist,” “homophobic,” and “racist” around at any person that looks at them the wrong way.

This is not to say that these terms never apply. They usually do apply to the alt-right. But they are so commonly used that almost anyone with conservative views gets called them fairly often, no matter how moderate or tame their language. Support the right to life? Sexist. Believe government should not have a role in defining marriage? Homophobe. Think people should have to provide identification before voting? Racist.

When this happens, the terms become meaningless. I assure you that every single person who supported Trump was called at least one of these terms long before Trump even came along, either directly or because of how a member of the media or Congress referred to someone with the same views. So when Trump came along, and was correctly excoriated in the press and called a racist, sexist homophobe, it did not mean anything. Trump supporters had heard it all before, and if anything, it endeared Trump to them even more. Sure, Trump took some slight hits among moderate demographics, but he always came back because the ground never fell out from under him.

I hope the Left learns something from all of this. It is the classic lesson of the boy who cried wolf. Democratic politicians made dramatic claims about how evil each Republican who came along was in order to win elections, almost always without any real cause. Democrats across the country found it easier to explain opposition to their views by simply dismissing Republicans as bigots and referred to Republicans as such. Republicans grew tired of the constant insults and embraced someone who was called everything they were, and yet stayed strong in the polls. The result was President Trump.  It’s too late to stop President Trump from happening, but hopefully this will spur Democrats and liberals to abandon this false understanding of what Republicans are. Racism, sexism and homophobia are problems, not political tools. This election will either cause the Democrats who took political correctness to an extreme to treat them as such, or they will continue to lose elections.

On Election Eve, I’m Concerned About the Long Game

I am voting for Gary Johnson tomorrow.

Now, before I go further, let me say that I think he is a deeply flawed candidate. Even though I prefer to think of myself as more of a classical liberal than a libertarian, he presents libertarianism in a completely incorrect manner. It is not “social liberalism, fiscal conservatism,” it is “social libertarianism, fiscal libertarianism.” Social liberals do not have all that much in common with social libertarians when it really comes down to it. I also think that he has said and done enough weird things that I would be concerned with having him in the presidency. That said, so have the other candidates, and he at least would support (mostly) policies I like.

I’m also voting in DC. Not Fairfax “DC” or Bethesda “DC,” actual DC. So my vote is not going to change anything. I would probably still vote for Johnson if I was in a battleground state, however. As much as people decry protest votes, I believe that politicians need to earn votes by being the best candidates, not merely the least bad candidates. I think that if you get into the habit of voting for the least bad candidate, you will never put any pressure on politicians to support policies you approve of.

The real reason I am not voting for the nominee of the Republican Party this November 8, however, is because of the long game. While it gets traction to discuss politics as if every election is a choice between prosperity and the apocalypse, the reality is much less exciting. The country will go on with Hillary as president. With Trump as president, we might get a (marginally) better president policy-wise, but we will mortgage the future of the Republican Party.

Every growing demographic does not trend towards Trumpism. Millennial voters, female voters, educated voters and minority voters are all being pushed away by Trump. The future of conservatism depends upon changing how the party is perceived. This election cycle has done a great deal of damage to our efforts to rehabilitate the image of the Republican Party. But not irreparable damage. Irreparable damage would be done by allowing Donald Trump to be the leader of the party for four, or possibly eight, years.

Let’s be clear. Donald Trump is not a Republican. Donald Trump does not believe in free markets, limited government, or fundamental conservative values like the sanctity of life. Donald Trump is a populist with an amateurish understanding of economics and a narcissistic compulsion to be seen as a great man. His proposals to cut off trade or essentially default on our debt are economically illiterate and ill-becoming of a Republican. His threat to punish women who get abortions betrays his unfamiliarity with the pro-life side, among so many other statements, seems to lend credence to the ridiculous Democratic narrative that there is a Republican war on women. He also has a habit of floating very liberal-sounding proposals.

I have no interest in voting for a populist Democrat who pays lip service to Republican ideals just to stop another Democrat from entering the Oval Office.

Instead, I encourage everyone to vote for Republicans in the Senate. As of writing, things are very tight in the race to hold the Senate. Vote for Republicans in the Senate, confirm a moderate nominee to replace Justice Scalia who is not another Justice Ginsburg, and play the long game. Expand the party’s control of the Senate in 2018, run a real conservative in 2020, and start enacting real conservative solutions like market-based healthcare reform, tax code simplification, and trade liberalization. There is a future to be found for the Republican Party even in the midst of this election. It just has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

Why I Don’t Support the North Dakota Pipeline Protests

Note: This article has appeared in The Daily Caller. However, hyperlinks were accidentally removed upon publishing. I have contacted The Daily Caller to rectify this situation, but in the meantime a version with hyperlinks is below.

Over the last few days, many Facebook users have been checking in at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota in order to show solidarity with those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline and to confuse police allegedly tracking protesters. I was not one of these people, and not just because there is no evidence to support that local police are monitoring Facebook locations. I was not one of these people because the Dakota Access Pipeline would be good for the economy, and a lot of the fears about the pipeline are overblown.

First, protestors claim that the pipeline will desecrate a burial ground, yet construction will not cross into the land of the Standing Rock reservation. Moreover, pipeline developers contacted the tribe and offered them the opportunity to survey the land, which the tribe rejected. Planners also made a total of 140 route changes to avoid “potential cultural resources.”

More importantly, those affected by the pipeline are allowing it to happen; 100 percent of affected landowners in North Dakota have signed voluntary easements allowing construction to move forward. Even many of the Standing Rock Sioux are tired of the protests and would like to see them end.

Additionally, fears of a substantial environmental impact are misguided. The Army Corps of Engineers concluded that any environmental impact would be “temporary and not substantial” and noted the developers’ efforts to avoid negative environmental impacts and cultural sites. Pipelines are also much safer than they are often made out to be, with 99.999 percent of crude oil and petroleum products being delivered with no issues.

Protesters also need to realize that the Dakota Access Pipeline is a good thing for the economy. The direct economic impact of the project is support for 8,000-12,000 jobs, an estimated $156 million in state and local tax revenue and an estimated $55 million in property taxes. Some may remember the remarkable economic boom North Dakota experienced just a few years ago from hydraulic fracturing. The state jumped from being ranked 38th in the United States in GDP per capita in 2004 to third in 2012. While the price of oil has dropped, and some have declared a fracking “bust,” North Dakota was second in 2015 with a per capita GDP of $66,507. Oil production supports good, high paying jobs.

Moreover, the benefits go beyond just the direct economic impact. A potential 7.4 billion barrels of oil remain untapped in the region, almost three times more than the amount the entire country imported in 2015, thus helping to promote energy independence. Lower oil prices also are an effective anti-poverty program. Because oil is a crucial input for most businesses, when oil prices go up, businesses spend more money on production costs and lose profits. When production costs are higher and profits are lower, prices go up, causing inflation, which affects lower-income Americans the most. Greater oil supply reduces energy bills, which also hit the poorest Americans much harder than the rich. Oil prices are also closely tied to the cost of food, which hurts the poor the most.

With all this in mind, it’s difficult to support the protests around the Dakota Access Pipeline. The environmental impact is temporary and negligible, all regulations have been complied with, cultural sites will remain undisturbed, and it offers economic benefits that extend well beyond oil tycoons’ bank accounts. The pipeline is, economically speaking, a slam dunk.

Andrew Wilford is an associate policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He graduated from American University in 2016 and is a Young Voices Advocate.

Time to start making the real conservative argument on climate change

Climate change is an issue that millennials care a lot about. This makes sense, of course, they are the group that stands to lose the most from climate change effects. What’s more, majorities of millennials believe in anthropomorphic, or man-made, climate change. So why do conservatives keep making these ridiculous statements about it being a hoax and mortgaging the future of the party?

Okay, fine. I didn’t exactly pull from the brightest bulbs in the conservative movement there, and I can’t stand Bill Nye either. And yes, there are issues with how the scientific consensus is being presented in the media today; for instance, that 97% figure that is so often repeated is probably a little bit off. But the point is that conservatives who know nothing at all about climate science should stop staking their entire argument on the very slim hope that all those climate scientists are wrong.

For the record, I believe that climate change is real, and I believe that it is caused by humans. I believe that because I am not a climate scientist, and real climate scientists are telling me so. Conservatives sometimes go into ultra-conspiracy territory on this issue, believing that all these scientists have been paid off as part of a scheme to create profits for green energy companies. Look, if they accomplished that…well, congratulations, they tricked me. Odds are they didn’t though. Could you imagine how absurd it would seem if our political opponents just ignored the economic consensus that, say, raising the minimum wage costs jobs– wait. Well, that’s how they feel about conservatives on this issue. They believe we see the truth as inconvenient, and easier to just ignore. Let’s stop ignoring, and start making the conservative argument.

There are two elements to this conservative argument. The first part is an acknowledgment that, while there is a near-scientific consensus that climate change is caused at least partially by humans, we don’t know how much we can do about it. Almost universally, the “solutions” progressives propose to tackle climate change would devastate the economy. The carbon tax Senator Boxer and Senator Sanders have proposed alone would kill a million jobs and shrink the economy by $2.5 trillion by 2030, and this is just one proposal. People also need to acknowledge that low-income Americans would suffer most from these proposals; higher energy costs cause inflation, raise utility bills, and make food more expensive, all of which hit the poorest Americans the hardest. To handicap our economy like this (and if you’re still buying into Jill Stein’s “it creates green jobs” argument, I encourage you to read up on the broken windows fallacy), we’d better have a damn good reason. And to be blunt, there’s reason to doubt that even drastically cutting down on carbon emissions would have any meaningful effect on global temperatures.

The second part to this argument is that, even in this situation, top-down control is not the best way to address an economic problem. The way you create new, superior technologies that benefit everyone is, and always has been, through investment. How do you invest when the economy is trapped in a self-induced death spiral?

The problem with progressive economics is, in this case and every other case really, is that it is what I like to call “snapshot economics.” It looks at one single moment in time, decides what the best solution to fix that problem tomorrow would be, implements that “solution,” and then pats itself on the back and walks away like a movie superhero walking away from an explosion. Free-market economics says that you should look at the big picture, and you should understand what the consequences of your actions will be. In this case, we should look at how the market has always responded to demand by providing us with superior technologies to fix the problems we face. The conservative solution to the climate change issue is really just conservative policy in general: pass meaningful tax reform that promotes growth, cut back on burdensome regulations, and promote specialization and innovation through removal of trade barriers.

Organizations centered on this approach do exist, such as the good people over at republicEn. It’s time to start demanding that conservatives abandon the intellectually lazy recourse of climate change denial, and instead start providing Americans with a meaningful alternative to the progressive vision of perpetual austerity for minimal results.