The discussion (or what vaguely passes for discussion) of issues in the Republican presidential campaign is mostly characterized by, on one side, contentless sloganeering, and on the other side by waffling, retreating and reversal.  Nowhere to be found is a serious discussion of healthcare (repeal Obamacare and then what?), immigration (Who will build that wall?  Migrant workers?), the economy (We would have made it better?  Yeah, like last time). the environment and a host of other topics that have a real and potentially devastating impact on the American people.


That void of serious discussion should tell you something.  It should tell you that no one wants to discuss the real issue, the issue that is at the center of each one of this nation’s core problems.  Look closely at the problem of health care, immigration, the economy and the environment, and you will see that they all involve one question:  what is our obligation to others?  The question on health care is whether we should all chip in to provide health care for everyone.  The question on the economy is whether the rise in the economy should benefit all.  The question on immigration is whether we Americans have an obligation to those who want to come to America.  The question on the environment is whether we owe it to each other and to those yet unborn to provide a habitable planet.


The real issue, the only issue, in this campaign is whether to choose policies based on self-interest or policies based on responsibility for others.  That would be an interesting discussion if it hadn’t already been resolved for Americans.  Listen closely:


“We hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;”


If you are an American, or if you espouse the American ideal, you have as your defining value the unalienable rights of every human being.  That is not a pronouncement of your own rights but of the rights of every human being you encounter.  It is a declaration, not of license, but of responsibility.


So the real issue in this campaign is whether or not the American ideal will survive.  There are those, and Trump and Cruz are included, who would put aside the American ideal in support of self-interest and demagoguery.  Those, like Bush and Kasich, who appear to want to follow policies that promote the rights of all, are either too cowed by the Trump types to step forward or perhaps even too indoctrinated by the radical right to even believe it themselves.


Be all of that as it may, there really is only one serious question.  What is our ideal?  What is it that motivates and gives direction to all our policies?  Who, really, are we?  Either we are the Americans of our birth, committed to the inherent rights of every human being, or we are just another bunch of self-seekers, tied together only by the need for the power of numbers.  All the rest is just a utilitarian calculus.  We will (or will not) provide basic medical care to all people as we do or do not feel that every human being should have that care.  We will (or will not) install a tax plan that places the burden on those who can best afford it and that generates sufficient income to provide adequate education for all, adequate repair of roads and bridges and adequate funds for health care and Social Security, all as we do or do not feel that the income of each is earned in part for the benefit of all.  We will (or will not) commit to an aggressive policy of repairing the environment as we do or do not feel we owe any obligation to those who come after us.


Perhaps this is the best that we can say about the whole tawdry Republican carnival show is that, by the very emptiness of the blatherings of the Trumps and Cruzes, we will all be driven to this defining query:  do we as a nation define ourselves by the unalienable rights of every human being, or are we really just all in it for ourselves?



It is interesting to watch the many conservative pundits repeat over and over that Trump will not be the Republican candidate for president, as, over and over, Trump’s poll numbers keep him in a double-digit lead across the nation.  It says here that they brought it on themselves.


For years now, maybe even decades, the Republican political strategy has been to insist that its constituency refrain from thinking.  Remember when Donald Rumsfield was asked about the problems with the invasion of Iraq and he said we should be more worried about the world series?  Remember when the Republican party sent people out to disrupt discussions on Obamacare and told them to make sure that they prevent rational discussion?  Ever notice that, when they once again reject a suggestion from the president, all the objectors use exactly the same language?  The whole fabric of Republican approach is to put aside reason and march around shouting slogans.  “Obama is coming for your guns!”  “Welfare is for freeloaders!”  Blah, blah, blah.  Don’t think; shout.


Well, now they have a candidate who is simply living by their rules.  Trump is a master at making big, bold statements, completely devoid of either content or reason, but absolutely wonderful as a slogan.  “Make the military really, really, really strong.”  “No more illegal immigrants.”  “Everyone will have a job.”  He has even put phrases, magic words, out to signal that he is going to make one of these vacuous pronouncements.  Any time you hear him says, “Believe me,” or “Trust me,” or “No doubt,” or “To be fair,” you will know that he has laid down another inane, or impossible, campaign slogan.


All of these slogans are easily refutable by rational discussion, but the Republicans have opposed rational discussion for so long that they can only respond by either coming up with one of their own or denouncing Trump’s with an equally inane pronouncement.  The party of No has become the party of reasonless No, so all it can say in response is:  No.


Trump may very well win the Republican nomination.  He may also be undercut at the convention by devious maneuvering.  If the Republicans pull that, Trump would have every right, and he would no doubt have every inclination, to run on his own.  No matter what happens, the upside will be that the policy of irrational commitment will be dealt a death blow.  And that, my dear reader, is the best possible outcome.  There is a place, and there is a hugely critical need, for the voice, the reasoned and thoughtful and prudent voice, of rational conservatism in America.  That voice has been shouted down by its own people for so long that it is in danger of dying out.  That voice will save this nation from revolution against the fascistic tyranny of the shouters.  That battle does not look good at the moment.  All the rational conservatives who are running for the Republican nomination are on the low end of the polls.  Let us pray their time will come.  In the meantime, listen for Trump’s magic words.  Works every time.