This is the second installment of a two-part interview, to read part one click here.
Governor Branstadâ€™s legacy-minded education reform proposal has struggled to draw support since its release on October 3rd, and you can count Mr. Landon as one of those lacking in enthusiasm.
A core tenet of Landonâ€™s philosophy is local control. The benefit he sees in applying this principle to education is that the parents of each child, and the teachers in the actual class room, will have their voices better heard and their concerns more directly dealt with,
â€œMy first reaction (to the governorâ€™s plan) is that it drives us towards more state control and more mandates on levels of performance. I think that we are going to have to reform the system, but I think that instead of less local control we need to focus on more local control. I think we need to make sure that the families, the school teachers, and the administrators all have their say on how this should be done. I really believe that parents and school teachers, the people who are in that sector, know the best for their kidsâ€.
The Democrats failure last session to construct Iowaâ€™s insurance exchange program in accordance with Obama Care means that a nasty, brutal fight awaits next year. By all accounts this will be one of the three most high-profile issues debated by the Iowa Legislature in 2012, and one that ultimately drew fellow candidate Stacey Rogers (R-Ankeny) into the race. Landon, for one, would have voted no last year on SF 404 and sounds ready to engage in the fight,
â€œWhat would guide me is local control. The rights of District 37 residents and the rights of Iowans have to come first. Anything thatâ€™s done has to be for their benefit and their economic interests. And frankly, I view Obama Care as unconstitutional from the get-go. I am not in favor of taking care of this through the government because they (the people) will not be taken care of the way they should be.â€
On Illegal Immigration
â€œI am a proponent of legal immigration. It is probably not that big of an issue in this particular district, but there are areas in Iowa where it is. As a state issue I would say that the Federal government, like in so many other things, has failed. I am against the taxpayer having to pay for the upkeep of people who have come here illegally.â€
Barring an unexpected Federal resolution to this problem Landon indicated a willingness to possibly engage at the state level, â€œIf the Federal government wonâ€™t do it and they are going to continue to let the border be porous, from the standpoint of public safety and who is going to protect the taxpayer, there has to be a process that protects you the citizen.â€
On Varnum (Gay Marriage)
â€œThat should have been decided by the voters. That is a monumental shift in society and voters need to have their say. If a constitutional amendment is the only way for voters to get their voice heard on it, then we need to do it.â€
On The Tea Party
In response to a question seeking his thoughts on the Tea Party and if he would consider himself a â€œTea Party-ishâ€ candidate, he answered, â€œI havenâ€™t found anything in their platform that offends me or that I take issue with. I am for individual rights. I think people can make their own decisions and government would be well advised to pay attention to that. Having said that, I am part of the process and a consensus builder, I just donâ€™t think you can go out there as a maverick and get a whole lot done. What I want is for Lincoln and Douglas townships to flourish and for Ankeny to flourish. The only way I can do that is by being an effective voice, and the only way to be an effective voice is to be a part of the process.â€
Race Analysis and Summary
The contest for the Republican nomination in House District 37 will be of elevated importance as the probability is high that the nominee will ultimately be the Representative. Due to the fact that the district has a 2,400 advantage in registered Republicans over registered Democrats in what is already shaping up to be a Republican wave year, it is likely that the nominee may run un-opposed. Even more likely is that if the Democrats do choose to field a candidate they will not bother to recruit a top-notch challenger or commit substantial resources to the effort.
In what could end up being a crowded field of Republicans, John Landon is a serious contender who will be in it for the long haul. He appears both fired up for the race and ready to put in the time and work that will be required to win the seat. The major pillars that his candidacy will be built on are: less intrusive government, more local control, simplicity in legislative solutions, sensitivity to Iowaâ€™s taxpayers, and a vehement opposition to unfunded mandates.
In particular, emphasizing that the failure to make budget cuts leads to higher taxes and a crusade against unfunded mandates could garner wide-spread appeal in District 37.
As his background suggests he is clearly positioned in the race as the â€œbusiness candidate.â€ While often times the â€œbusiness candidateâ€ moniker is attached to folks who have had professional success, itâ€™s worth noting that the business-like way Mr. Landon breaks down large issues as he thinks through them suggests that he would translate these skills to governance should he be elected.
Though we are early in the process, as Republicans begin to look at the field they will find much to like about John Landon as a person and as a candidate.
The Des Moines Registerâ€™s Opinion Section on Sunday, July 3, 2011 featured a â€œProgressives Trifectaâ€ of half-truths and sophistry:
- Richard Doak â€“ What if the founders were around today?
- Donald Kaul â€“ My favorite 4th of July speech
- Dean Baker â€“ Keep Social Security safe from politicians who want to save it
This week I will focus my comments on Richard Doakâ€™s imaginary view of our founding fathers.Â I will cover the other articles in due time.
Richard Doak â€“ He begins with â€œThis Fourth of July finds the country caught up more than usual in the mythology of America.â€.Â This opening argument is a fundamental tactic of the Progressives, i.e. to undermine our most cherished institutions by equating them to something less (mythology).
- He asserts that â€œa factionâ€ of the Supreme Court claims to discern the â€œoriginal intentâ€.Â Every Justice is required to faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent â€¦ under the Constitution.Â How can a Justice fulfill that oath without trying to understand the original intent of the founders?Â Every decision requires a majority, not a faction (minority).
- He says that â€œTodayâ€™s congress and courts are more intent on freeing the rich from taxationâ€¦â€.Â According to The Heritage Foundation, the % of Federal Taxes paid by the top 10% of income earners has increased from just fewer than 50% in 1980 to about 70% at the end of 2008.Â In 2008, 49% of U.S. households paid no Federal Income Tax. The reality is that for decades congress has been intent on freeing everyone but the rich to pay taxes.
- He asserts that â€œThe Constitution, written in 1787, created a strong central government and a unified national economy.â€.Â He then creates the straw man that â€œpolitics are occasionally roiled by calls for a return to a weak central government and stateâ€™s ability to veto federal actionsâ€ as existed under the Articles of Confederation.Â I have attended every major Tea Party event in Iowa over the past 3 years.Â I canâ€™t recall anyone calling for a return to the Articles of Confederation.Â Â Most Tea Party supporters simply want the country to operate under the Constitution as properly amended.
- He offers several rights, including guaranteed health care, implying the founders would have included them had they thought about them.Â At the time the Constitution was written, there was substantial discontent over the welfare of the common man, both in the United States and Europe.Â The French Revolution occurred in 1789.Â The Articles of Confederation were introduced by James Madison that same year and ratified at the end of 1791. It is disingenuous to imply that the founders had no opportunity to think about social justice entitlements.Â It is more likely that they considered such matters to be the province of individual states.
- Finally, he offers up the U.S. Post Office as a shining example that the founders were pragmatic and had no favoritism of private sector solutions vs. government solutions.Â Â They just wanted to do â€œwhat works bestâ€.Â Â I canâ€™t think of a better argument for limited government and the need to repeal Obamacare.
This morning I am considering “what ifs”.
My father often jokes that had I been born 5 hours earlier, he would have named me Ulysses instead of Arthur. Â That is, I could have been a 4th of July baby with the initials “U.S.”. Â I have been forever thankful that my mom stuck it out long enough to prevent that impediment on my life.
Sometimes I daydream about what would have happened in my life if I had been named Ulysses instead of Arthur. Â I believe I would have developed a very similar personality, but I suspect (mixing my current personality with the name) that I would have found myself running for public office at some level and leveraging my “U.S.” initials as a brand of patriotism.
But today I want to consider some “what ifs” that actually matter. Â Such as what if Washington’s Continental Army completely disintegrated during the march across New England? Â Or was decimated at New York? Â Or never made it across the Delaware? Â As much as we may honor today the patriots who spent their time articulating a fantastic message of freedom from the tyranny of the British King, our standing as a nation would have been seen as a quaint colonial uprising if it had not been for the hard work and sacrifices of the soldiers who fought for our freedoms.
It is entirely likely that the British Realm would have dominated the world in greater glory in the past 235 years. Â The great world wars of the 20th century may never have happened. Â Freedom for slaves may have occurred on a larger scale in the earlier part of the 19th century (recall that the British Kingdom led the world in abolishing slavery, not the United States).
It is hard to deduce the path of technology over the same time period… American inovation has been a factor in developing better processes and our freedoms have been a factor in developing better education and allowing dreamers to work out their dreams. Â And the urgent needs of war (though not a goal of a nation) have certainly led to some valuable inventions. Â I tend to believe that we would, if still a British colony, have a world without iPods or even computers, or televisions, or many of the modern conveniences that we enjoy today. Â We would probably still be populated heavily along the coasts, lacking efficient transportation, and Native Americans could still be holding much of the land in the midwest.
Spain and France could still be holders of large parts of the American continents.
Of course, the Founding Fathers could not have comprehended all that they initiated by standing up for the basic rights of man. Â They were dreamers, and some were fortunate enough to see parts of their dream come to fruition, but despite everything we may think about our current state of affairs, those men who sacrificed everything would doubtless be proud to see what their work has wrought.
Generation upon generation have looked upon the Revolution and subsequent creation of a republic as the cornerstones of our incredibly open society. Â The Constitution is a bulwark that has carried us through our darkest days, and provided over 200 years of bloodless changes in power. Â We should be proud of our ability to work things through as a nation in peace.
We may have concerns today about how the Constitution has been misunderstood by some, abused by others, and ignored at times when it should be the guide for how we make decisions. Â The frustrations grow when it becomes more apparent that our government, which was built to serve the people, appears to be served by the people. Â We must guard against this at every turn.
But the Founders would be proud to see that so many do remember their words, seek faithfully to carry on a free society, and flourish in our freedom. Â What we have today in the United States is more than I think they could have hoped for. Â No matter what one may think about the current state of political affairs, the dream of America continues to burn brightly. Â To the Founders we should be appreciative that they stuck through to the end, and that they sought the hand of Providence in what they did. Â While the structure of our government may be secular, our goals are tied to the will of our Creator who is the provider of the very rights we seek to defend.
â€œThe Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its bounds.â€ – Barry Goldwater
Evidenced by the fact that I recently finished re-reading Barry Goldwaterâ€™s The Conscience of a Conservative on a kindleâ€”much has changed since it was first published in 1960. However, by the staggering parallels that its content has to the political realities of 2011, one could say that not much has changed at all.
Anyone who chooses to invest the few hours necessary to read this book will become apprised of the historical context in which the political and ideological battles of our generation fit into the course of our Countryâ€™s history. Indeed it becomes clear that the rise of the Tea Party is not the first attempt to reconfigure our relationship with government, but is merely the continuation of a movement first given voice to by Barry Goldwater 51 years ago.
Written with eloquent clarity, its importance rivals, and perhaps even trumps, the documents surrounding our Nationâ€™s founding in importance based on its remarkable relevance to our day. While the theory behind the writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Federalist Papers, and Common Sense are inarguably still viable, Goldwater is able to make his case specifically against things that did not exist in the 18th century, but did both in the 1960â€™s and today. In fact, if you replace the word Communism with Terrorism, the entire list of topics that he addressesâ€”a growing federal government, National debt, the welfare state, The United Nations, the erosion of personal freedoms, and labor unionsâ€”all remain the exact flashpoints of our modern day political struggles. Here are just a few of the many examples.
â€œNow it would be bad enough if we had simply failed to redeem our promise to reduce spending; the fact, however, is that federal spending has greatly increased during the Republican years. Instead of a $60 billion budget, we are confronted, in fiscal 1961, with a budget of approximately $80 billion.â€ â€“ Barry Goldwater
It is slightly comical, and certainly sad, to read Goldwater bemoaning the entire federal spending for a year approaching, in his mind, the absurd level of $100 billion. The reaction of his contemporaries to his concerns on spending were much the same fare that we are fed from our political leaders todayâ€”a set of recommendations from the Hoover administration claiming that the government could save the taxpayers around $7 billion a year just by eliminating extravagance and waste. Sound familiar?
This was useless lip-service then, just as it is now, and prompted Goldwater to lay down a far different doctrineâ€”â€œThe root evil is that government is engaged in activities in which it has no legitimate business. . . . The only way to curtail spending substantially is to eliminate the programs in which excess spending is consumed. The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its Constitutional mandate . . . and all that can be performed by lower levels of government, or by private institutions, or by individuals.â€
â€œGovernment does not have an unlimited claim on the earnings of individuals. One of the foremost precepts of the natural law is manâ€™s right to the possession and use of his property.â€ â€“Barry Goldwater
Unlike todayâ€™s Republican who largely pins their argument for lower taxes on the received benefit of spurring economic growth, to Goldwater the issue was far more a moral one. He asks, â€œHow can he be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth?â€ Not only does this argument seem superior to the present day Conservative one, so do his other thoughts on the subject.
While acknowledging that every citizen has an obligation to contribute a fair share to the â€œlegitimate functions of governmentâ€, he quickly does what politicians on the right nowadays fail to do effectivelyâ€”tie the size of governmentâ€™s rightful claim on our money to the definition of â€œthe legitimate functions of governmentâ€. Though it seems overly simple, telling a person what they have to gain financially by restricting government is much more effective than making broad Constitutional arguments. One canâ€™t help but think that advocates for eliminating federal agencies, and in general returning to only the expenditures authorized by the enumerated powers, would get much more traction by clearly making the connection that for every function of government that we can do without, you will keep more of your own money.
He also makes it clear that were he alive today he would be leading the charge for the flat tax, by calling our system of graduated tax rates â€œconfiscatoryâ€ and â€œrepugnant to my notions of justiceâ€.
The Welfare State
â€œThe effect of Welfarism on freedom will be felt later onâ€”after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.â€-B. Goldwater
Among the most poignant and impassioned arguments Goldwater makes are against the continued creation of the welfare state. Largely due to the fact that when he wrote the book the programs that make up our welfare state were not yet insolvent, massively-unfunded liabilities, the nature of his resistance is mainly on moral grounds and the effect that he envisioned it having on the recipients psyche. Just as it remains today, he predicted that the emotional impulse of voters and the temptation it presents to politicians would combine to make it a deeply entrenched and ever expanding problem.
Though in its infancy at the time, he saw the building of a welfare state not only as a political strategy by the left to move the Country in a Socialist direction, but as a corrosive practice that placed the individual at the mercy of the State. It was his sense that this relationship would, over time, sap the welfare recipient of the sense of personal responsibility required to be anything but dependent.
His position is not that there be no welfare, rather that it be administered either voluntarily from citizen to citizen or through local institutions and governments. Indicating that the political perils of this position were just as present then as they are today he states, â€œI feel certain that Conservatism is through unless Conservatives can demonstrate and communicate the difference between being concerned with these problems and believing that the federal government is the proper agent for their solution.â€
Reading The Conscience of a Conservative is in many ways bitter-sweet. Sweet in that it gives such clear voice to our foundersâ€™ ideals, freedom, and Conservatism; but bitter in the realization one is left with that had these battles been fought and won in his time, they would not need refighting now. Perhaps the most important thing the reader takes away from this book is a sobering reminder of how high the stakes are in the upcoming election. Armed with the knowledge of what has transpired from 1960 until now, one shudders to conceive of the consequences of not winning the battle this time around.
In further illustrating how worthwhile and relevant this book remains in 2011, let me close with what Goldwater sees as being the moment that Conservatism will defeat Liberalism:
The turn will come when we entrust the conduct of our affairs to men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power they have been given. It will come when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic. Who will proclaim in a campaign speech: â€œI have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, for I intend to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose upon the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is â€œneededâ€ before I have first determined if it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked f
or neglecting my constituentsâ€™ â€œinterestsâ€, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest was liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
Goldwater in 2012 indeed.