It’s Tough to Give the GOP the Benefit of the Doubt

Here we are, six months from whence the primaries for the 2016 election of our next President will be taking place, and I’ve yet to find some candidate to get behind. In the past, that person was pretty much self-evident and I could step into the ballot box on Election Day with a clear conscience as to whom I was voting for. Recently, however, it has been a difficult road when it comes to picking that one candidate.

When it comes to the Democratic side of the equation, it looks more like the Republican side has looked like for most of my life. In the past, the GOP normally had a hierarchy that ran as such:  if you lost to a Republican who became president in the previous election, the next time the office was open without a Republican incumbent, it was your turn to take the nomination. This has happened in the Republican Party for virtually the last 50 years.

In 1968 it was Richard Nixon (defeated by Kennedy in 1960, won nomination in 1968); 1980 brought us Ronald Reagan (a half-hearted try in 1976 to topple incumbent Gerald Ford, who took over after Nixon resigned) and 1988 brought us George Bush (or Bush I, lost to Reagan in 1980). In 2000, George Bush (Bush II) was an outlier in that he didn’t show any interest in running in 1996, but John McCain (defeated by Bush II in 2000) and Mitt Romney (defeated by McCain in 2008) picked up where he left off.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats normally throw a donnybrook when it comes to choosing their own nominee for President of the United States. 1968 saw a reluctant Hubert Humphrey step up after the incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, decided not to run for a second term (by law, he technically could have; he served the remainder of John Kennedy’s term from 1960 and only was elected once himself in 1964) and another bright star from Camelot, Robert Kennedy, gunned down in Los Angeles just as it looked as if he were to win the nomination. 1972 saw six different candidates enter with George McGovern capturing the hearts of Democrats over Humphrey, George Wallace, Edmund Muskie, Henry Jackson and Shirley Chisholm. This occurrence of multiple choices – and viable ones, not half-assed efforts – has repeated itself pretty much every time over the Democratic Presidential nominations since…except for this one, where it seems the parties have flip-flopped.

There’s very little choice in 2016 if you examine the Democratic nominees. While everyone might grouse over Hillary Clinton and the Titanic-load of baggage she has, the other candidates lack the ability to forge a way past her as Barack Obama did in 2008 (there’s also the instance that this is the Democratic Party’s payback to Clinton for being a “good soldier” in losing to Obama in 2008, something as shown previously to be something the GOP did often). Even the person most likely to have some power to go against Clinton, incumbent Vice President Joe Biden, doesn’t seem to have the heart for a drawn out campaign battle (understandable after the death of his son). Anyone thinking that Clinton won’t be the nominee when the Democrats hit Philadelphia next summer would be considered out of their mind, even with the problems hovering over her.

The 2016 GOP field is the one that is reminiscent of the Democrats in the “come one, come all” approach they’ve used in throwing the door open and allowing anyone to come to the party. In total there are 17 candidates as of September 2015 and, in theory, there should be something there for anybody in the election even if the candidate themselves aren’t viable. The actions of the candidates since the campaigning has begun full bore this summer hasn’t exactly shown that “something for anyone” feel and makes it very difficult to give any member of the GOP the benefit of the doubt going forward, however.

Over the past week, there were a couple of instances where members of the Republican Party could have made great inroads into showing that they were someone who could lead all citizens of the U. S., not just those from one party or the other. First there was the shameful assassination of a police officer in Houston, TX that, instead of being a chance to not only unify people behind law enforcement but also a chance to have a moment of commiseration with their Democratic opponents, some members of the conservative movement chose to attack. These attacks were picked up on by some of the Presidential nominees who, in trying to make inroads into Donald Trump’s lead, came up just short of insinuating that the “Black Lives Matter” groups were the spearhead for the number of police shootings.

If you are going to piss off about 35% of the population (and their supporters), that seems to be the way to do it. Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly stated, “Every time there is a controversy about an officer shooting a black person, they’re out there stirring the pot.” Conservative radio “host” (I’ll be nice here) Rush Limbaugh has out-and-out called the “Black Lives Matter” organizations “hate groups.” Meanwhile, some on the GOP slate of candidates are following this lead with their rhetoric as a way to get back in the good graces of the Trump-mad acolytes. (And this doesn’t count Trump’s previous insulting of the Hispanic community, which he continues to do; count another 15-20% of the electorate out there the GOP can’t count.)

While there have been some tremendously stupid rallying cries heard during these “Black Lives Matter” rallies (anytime you advocate for the killing of a segment of society, your rally should be shut down), there has actually only been one proven and one possible case where a black person gunned down law enforcement individuals due to prior grievance against law enforcement’s treatment of blacks. In December 2014, two New York officers were executed in their squad car by a maniac who actually stated that was his goal (the proven case) and the Houston case mentioned previously, where Shannon Miles “allegedly” (I say that for legal reasons; when you have videotape, it’s tough to debate) executed Deputy Darren Goforth while he fueled his squad car (the possible case). That is two out of the 85 deaths of law enforcement officers in 2015, not exactly an indicator of rampant incitement of the masses against law enforcement.

Second, there was the controversy regarding Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue ANY marriage licenses due to her religious objections to same-sex marriage. If there was a point for the GOP to demonstrate that they weren’t beholden to religion or religious groups, the opportunity to point out that Davis was violating her duties and should be jailed or fined was the one to take. Instead, the GOP fumbled over itself trying to placate the Religious Right.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was the worst, calling Davis’ jailing the “criminalization of Christianity” and the latest attack in the “War on Christianity,” insisting he will go to Kentucky next week to hold a rally/campaign stop at the jail where she is currently incarcerated. Senator Ted Cruz stated he stood with Davis “unequivocally.” There were some surprises such as former Senator Rick Santorum, who stopped short of criticizing Davis’ arrest but commended her stand on her “principles” and Scott Walker, who hemmed and hawed on both sides of the issue, as did Trump. No one on the GOP slate, however, held up following the U. S. Constitution, a familiar battle cry for the Republicans, instead kowtowing to the small religious wing of their party.

If they were to have shown some chutzpah, the GOP had a chance here to capture someone in the center, the “independents” that have to be captivated in order to win an election. If the GOP candidates had just stepped away from the religious question – as they are supposed to do with the separation of Church and State in the U. S. Constitution – they would have stated outright that Davis was violating the laws as they are on the book. They could have said, “Despite (my) personal feelings on the issue, the law of the land is the Constitution and, as such, she has to follow it.” How many did that? Exactly zero.

Instead of demonstrating that they are a party with 21st century ideas and people who can bring those ideas to the forefront, the candidates for President from the GOP instead fell back on mid-1900s (at the minimum) philosophy, when blacks “stayed in their place” and the addition of “In God We Trust” to our currency and the Pledge of Allegiance was allowed to fight off the “godless” Communists. Unless they can actually demonstrate that there are some original ideas left in the party, that there are those who can embrace the future and attack its problems with science, education and thought – and they have people who aren’t afraid to leave those that cling to the past with the intent on bringing it back – the GOP will not encourage me to pull the handle for them.

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It Works Both Ways in “Black Lives Matter,” But Not In Every Other Case

Since the shooting of Houston, TX, Deputy Darren Goforth, allegedly by Shannon Miles and for some unknown reason(s), the rhetoric on both sides has ramped up drastically. Harris County, TX, Sheriff Ron Hickman, Goforth’s boss, stated it plainly on CNN when he said, “This rhetoric has gotten out of control. We’ve heard ‘Black lives matter,’ ‘All lives matter.’ Well, cops’ lives matter, too. So why don’t we just drop the qualifier, and just say ‘Lives matter,’ and take that to the bank?”

While Sheriff Hickman’s comments might be construed as not being acceptable (and, as a member of law enforcement, personal feelings aren’t supposed to be a part of the job), it comes on the heels of a “Black Lives Matter” protest in Minneapolis, MN, this weekend that were just as reprehensible. Although the particular “Black Lives Matter” group was offered a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, the organizers refused that opportunity to connect with people and instead decided to hold their protests on the streets in front of the fairgrounds. This allowed the protesters to say things such as “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” All of this supposedly helpful bullshit comes on the heels of the Virginia shooting of two newspaper reporters by a former coworker, who supposedly was a homosexual male and supported the politics of President Barack Obama.

There is so much that is wrong in the current climate of discussion that it is difficult for anyone to wrap their heads around the subject. One of the main issues, however, is that no one wants to admit that the prescribed norms work both ways and should be applied equally to both sides. With that application, the outcome isn’t the same in every case, however.

The Texas case is tragic in that, on the surface, it does seem to be spawned by the anti-law enforcement sentiment that has festered throughout at least 2015 if not for the past 100 years itself. Lacking any information from the authorities, we are only left with conjecture as to why Miles decided on Friday night to cold-bloodedly gun down Goforth as he filled his squad car with gas. The same thing was seen in December 2014, when two New York City police officers were senselessly executed by another black man (who subsequently committed suicide), supposedly in response to the decision by grand juries in Missouri and New York not to indict police officers in the deaths of two black men.

In the Texas case, we could start with not escalating the situation any further than it already has been. Sheriff Hickman didn’t need to step in front of the microphones outside his office and toss gasoline on the fire by implying that the “Black Lives Matter” movement had something to do with the execution of his officer. He could have just as easily said, “We currently have no information on any motive or reason for my officer’s shooting.” Instead, he chose that moment to inflame conditions even more than they might have been. In a volatile state such as Texas, where very widely divergent viewpoints often don’t meet with genteel outcomes, it is something he should have thought about.

That doesn’t let the “Black Lives Matter” protestors off the hook, though. To actually chant for the execution of police officers – which has also been alleged in several other protest marches throughout the United States during “Black Lives Matter” events, among other violent acts – is downright wrong if not borderline criminal. If an individual can be charged with “voicing a threat” against another person, then what is the charge that should be put on those whose basic statement is “kill a cop?” (Let’s not get this wrong, I do believe in freedom of speech. That’s why I don’t have a problem with Body Count’s “Cop Killer” (an artistic statement) but do have an issue with this situation).

Some of the spokespeople for the “Black Lives Matter” organization have come out and said not to paint the organization with a broad brush for the actions of one person or one part of the group. Law enforcement and police unions have said virtually the same thing – “Don’t judge us all due to the actions of one bad cop” (we’ll leave alone for the moment the systemic incidences of police abuse of power for now over the years). The answer is that it works both ways and for both groups, but neither wants to admit it.

Where it doesn’t work is in the senseless Virginia murders of reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. While there has been plenty of information that has come out regarding Vester Flanagan – including that he went to the voting booth in 2012 as an Obama supporter to the point of wearing a pin and advocating in line for him (we know this because this is one of the litany of things that WDBJ management reprimanded him for while he worked there) and that he was gay, among other much more important things such as his emotional volatility in the workplace – the case has slowly slipped into the background because Flanagan killed himself and there will be no charges brought (unlike the Texas case). What is ridiculous is some of the statements over social media that try to show that it should go both ways and, in this case, it shouldn’t.

Some on social media have advocated for the “banning” of the rainbow flag that has become the banner of the LGBT community (and was seen on many a Facebook profile following the U. S. Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage a right), positing that it was the banner of “hatred” much like which happened when Dylan Roof used the Confederate Banner Flag as his “reason” for executing nine people in a Charleston, SC church. They also have demanded contrition from President Obama because one of his supporters – somehow like the illegal immigrant in San Francisco who killed a woman and, according to anti-Obama people, LOVED Obama – gunned down two people.

Unlike the “Black Lives Matter” situation where a) both sides could tone down the rhetoric and b) both sides should chastise their not-as-eloquent members, these accusations laid down in the Virginia case are completely ludicrous. First off, there is no indication that Flanagan’s sexuality was the hell-bent reason behind his decision to kill Parker and Ward. An argument can be raised that Flanagan was looking to do the same thing as Roof – incite a “race war” (Flanagan’s manifesto talked about how Roof’s actions pushed him to commit his crime) – and it should be discussed that Flanagan and Roof are cut from the same cloth. That’s about the point where the similarities end, however.

To suggest that the rainbow banner used by the LGBT community is a “flag of hatred” (never has been shown to be) like the Confederate Battle Flag (plenty of examples where it has been used as such) is about the most illogical thing there is…it’s called an association fallacy, one that basically says because you did one thing one time for one situation, you should always do that when similar situations arise. Thus, those that are frothing at the mouth to ban the rainbow flag merely show their idiocy rather than any practice of rational thought.

Situations such as Virginia and Texas – and even the issues between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to protect (and who knows how many other aspects of society) – have to be judged on a case-by-case basis. In every case, both sides should be held to the same burdens of representation and held to a certain criteria that is used against both schools of thought equally. You cannot hold one to a separate, higher standard without applying the same principles on the opposition. After exercising this mantra, however, the answer aren’t always going to come out the same way every time.