Monday, September 9, 2019

The Questions to Ask

This was the array of candidate materials
from the last primary election. They're just
beginning to trickle in for 2020.
We’re 177 days away from Primary Election Day (here in Texas—other states may vary), looking beyond this November's election, which locally includes only ballot propositions and possibly school board positions. 

2020 is a presidential election year, plus there may be senators, governors, and other officials on your ballot. And all across the US there will be congressmen on the ballot, since their term is two years.

That means, as a voter, you have a lot of homework to do. I’ve tried from time to time to offer advice on getting the right information from candidates. For example, from the Spherical Model website[i], there are these qualifying questions you might ask a congressional candidate who has to decide on policies in order to make laws:

·       Is the policy being debated something that an individual has the right to do, and therefore has the right to delegate to his/her government?  For example, a person has the right to protect his own life and property. He can, therefore, combine resources with his neighbors and hire a government entity, such as a sheriff, to do that job for him. Similarly, the several states can combine to delegate the power of defending the nation to a national government entity. Conversely, a person does not have the right to take his neighbor’s excess grain production, for example, and bestow it on himself, because his neighbor was more prosperous in a particular season. He can, of course, ask his neighbor for charity, but he cannot coerce the neighbor to give. That would rightfully be considered theft. Therefore, the person cannot delegate the redistribution of wealth to the government to do for him. 
·       Does the policy infringe in any way on the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights? Does the policy infringe on the free exercise of religion or try to establish a particular sect as a state religion? Is political speech hindered? Does the policy infringe on the right of citizens to bear arms? Does the policy constitute an illegal search or seizure? Does the policy deprive a person of life, liberty, or property when the person has not committed a crime for which that deprivation is the just sentence? Does the policy try to claim for government a power that was not specifically granted in the Constitution? etc. If the policy infringes on the God-given rights, then government cannot take that power without usurping power from the people.

·       Is the idea being debated a proper role of government, some aspect of protection (including defense, protection from interstate crime, enabling international and interstate commerce, standardized weights and measures and currency, the judiciary that guarantees the protective laws), as enumerated in the Constitution? If not, then accepting the idea is outside the Constitution and below the northern 45th parallel.
A couple of weeks ago at a townhall, my representative, Dan Crenshaw, mentioned two important questions he asks when deciding on policy:

1.       Is this law going to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens?
2.       Is it going to have the effect you want it to have? 
Let’s add to that something we say here often at the Spherical Model:

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.
There are some additional guiding questions for asking candidates, divided into the Political, Economic, and Social spheres. It’s a good idea to know your own answers to these questions before you ask them, so you know whether the candidate is a good match to you, and you know you’re not easily swayed by nice sounding words from people who are skilled at that kind of thing, which is how they got into politics.

The three spheres of The Spherical Model

Political Sphere—for preserving or regaining freedom

·       What do you believe is the proper role of government, and what are the limits?
·       Do you have favorite portions of the US Constitution, and/or any portions that you think ought to be changed, clarified, or improved?
·       When the US Supreme Court makes a ruling that you believe is at odds with the Constitution, what do you think the executive and/or legislative branches should do in response to the ruling?
·       What do you believe is the proper balance between public safety and individual freedom, and what do you believe government needs to do to reach that balance?
·       Who are your favorite examples of a good president—since 1900—and what about them do you admire?
·       How do you define extremists, and what views do you think are examples of extreme?
Economic Sphere—for preserving or regaining prosperity

·       What do you believe is the optimum percentage of GNP that should be taken in taxes?
·       What do you believe is the government’s role in contributing to economic health? For example, if there is a sudden recession (as we were hit with in 2008), how should government react?
·       What do you believe is government’s role in the distribution of income discrepancy between the poor and the wealthy?
·       What do you believe should be government’s role in charitable help to the poor and suffering?
·       What do you believe are the purposes and limits of the commerce clause of the Constitution?
·       What do you believe is the role of the Federal Reserve, and how/whether it is benefiting the economy?
Social Sphere—for preserving or regaining civilization

·       What do you believe about the connection between moral values and the law?
·       Which institution is most responsible for raising a generation that will benefit society, and why: schools, government, churches, nonprofit organizations, sports teams, families?
·       Which constituency’s desires is public education best accountable to, and why: US government, state government, local government, teachers, students, parents/taxpayers?
·       What do you believe should be government’s role in homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, and school choice?
·       What do you think is government’s role in defining marriage, and why?
I wrote that list in 2013, at this time of year, when we were starting to have the occasional candidate forum to prepare for the 2014 primary. There were a few additional questions I suggested that were issue based, rather than strictly under the above categories. These questions have held up surprisingly well, which may mean we haven’t made much progress. Again, know your own answers to these questions ahead of time:

·       What are your feelings concerning Obamacare, and what do you think should be done?
·       What do you believe are the motivations of people who support traditional (man/woman) marriage and family?
·       What are your beliefs about border security and immigration?
·       What do you believe is the proper role of government concerning climate?
·       What do you see as the US role in the world, and what is your view of the UN?
·       What are your opinions on national debt, national deficit, tax increases and/or cuts, and national budget?
Here’s an additional clue: you won’t find a major Democrat candidate answering these questions in a way that leads to freedom, prosperity, or civilization. Not a single one of the 20+ Democrat presidential candidates qualifies. I don’t know what you might find among Democrats at a very local level, but their platform basically weeds them out. So then the problem comes down to which Republican candidate can be trusted to understand how to get toward freedom, prosperity, and civilization. At least that simplifies things.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw
screenshot from his Facebook
video August 10, 2019, 12:18 PM

How do these conversations go? You want evidence that your candidate fully understands the principles undergirding our Constitution—that it’s their native language. Here’s an example.

About a month ago, Rep. Dan Crenshaw faced a number of constituents about an issue that needed some further elucidation, because a general term, “red flag laws,” has become incendiary—probably with good reason. And yet, all of us want to figure out how to prevent mass shootings by deranged individuals. We probably shouldn’t use that term at all. And maybe we don’t even need a new law, but some policy for enforcing existing laws. Anyway, he posted a video on Facebook that explained in a way that you will want your candidates (whether already your representatives or not) to do. Fully, and calmly. So emotion doesn’t overtake rationality. Here’s part of his response[ii]:

At its heart, what we’re talking about is the ability to confiscate weapons when there is clear evidence that violence is about to be committed. It’s that simple. And it isn’t that controversial.
What is controversial is how that due process is protected, and I think that’s where a lot of these concerns are. Making sure that due process could not be abused is at the heart of any conservative solution to the supposed “red flag laws,” and our version of what those would look like.
I have laid out specific safeguards that would have to be in place for us to support any type of “red flag law.” Among them would be clear and convincing evidence, punishment for false accusations, right to attorney and cross-examination, and limited standing so that not just anybody can accuse you. For instance, not just a neighbor, not just an ex. It has to be somebody with standing. Maybe a family member, or maybe only police officers. We’ve got a great study by Cato Institute that lays this out exactly.
Here’s the thing: I understand your fears about bad “red flag laws.” “Red flag law” is a general concept; there can be good ones, and there can be bad ones. You should be against the bad ones, as I am.
The whole purpose of what the President did and what I am doing in trying to start a conversation about this is so that we take control of the narrative and propose solutions that actually do protect due process rights, and ensure that we aren’t on the sidelines when Democrats are proposing blatantly unconstitutional laws that would not protect due process.
Last thing is this: no one is saying this is definitely the solution. It’s a conversation. I haven’t come out in support of any particular bill or state law. It’s a conversation that conservatives have actually been having for a very long time; it’s not new at all. And it definitely doesn’t deserve the emotional reaction it has gotten. We are better than that. Let’s be better than that.

[i] From the article “The Political World Is Round,” the last section, “The Principles of the Freedom Zone.” 
[ii] Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Facebook video post, August 10, 2019, 12:18 PM.

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