The Practical Case for Voting Trump in 2020

Donald Trump is abrasive, inarticulate and is the proverbial bull in the china shop. Everyone knows this and virtually everyone acknowledges it. For some, this is a positive and is characteristic of someone dead set against business as usual in Washington. For the rest, those points are definite flaws in the president. Those who support him choose to overlook those flaws because of his greater merits as they will say. Indeed, overlooking certain flaws great and small in one’s candidate is something all must do if they participate in politics so Trump’s supporters doing the same should not be viewed as anomalous. Regardless of if the president’s flaws are troubling enough to drop one’s support, his flaws have become more glaring with the passage of time.

            It is now 2020 and in a few months, America will go to the polls to re-elect Donald Trump or choose a new leader. The question before the 2016 Trump coalition is whether or not his flaws are enough to withhold their votes. The purpose of this article is by no means to vindicate the president by downplaying his negatives or to tear him down further by pouring gasoline on his trashcan fire. Instead, this is an exercise in exploring the political realities of the Trump coalition withholding their votes in November. What it comes down to is that few will call the president perfect, another Reagan or anything like that but staying home on Election Day will result in getting someone far worse than Trump ever thought of being.

            Any choice besides voting for Trump will only aid the leftists –something that conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals cannot afford. Writing in other candidates isn’t a viable path to victory. In most places, write ins are restricted or banned.[1] The states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, Wyoming, Oregon and DC allow voters to write in anyone at the top of the ticket. The states of Maine, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California and Alaska allow only write candidates to receive ballots if they have registered as a write in. The states of South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada and Hawaii do not allow write in candidates at all. In 10 states and DC, anything goes. In 32 states, only certain candidates can be written in. In the remaining 8 states, there aren’t write ins. There are plenty of better conservative leaders who could sit behind the Resolute Desk. While this is true, in most places the electorate won’t be able to vote for them. In the places where they can, it just splits the vote. History tells us when the vote is split, the election goes sideways at best. In the 1912 election for instance, a similar situation came about. Republican incumbent William Howard Taft was almost outshined by a resurgent and beloved Theodore Roosevelt at the convention. Almost is the key word. Taft got the GOP nomination so Roosevelt just ran on his own party’s ticket. The vote split and America got Woodrow Wilson and his accompanying vices. Republican voters were not content with “good enough” under Taft and had to go for “excellent” under Roosevelt. What they got instead was “worse” with Wilson. Today, the situation is much the same. Splitting the vote in places where one can between Trump and Ted Cruz or Rand Paul only courts the mess of 1912. The motives for voting for the alternative conservative are pure and admirable but their wages are defeat and Democrats.

            It is unlikely that many members of the 2016 Trump coalition will switch sides and vote Democrat in the next election. Indeed, some Democrats -especially union workers, did defect to the right last time and may revert back to their old proclivities in 2020. Laying that exception demographic aside, how many committed rightists can be expected to jump ship? The point is made all the more true when one factors in the real chance of the Democrats nominating a radical like Bernie Sanders. When the chance of Bernie presidency stares down the Trump coalition, how many are likely to defect? There will be some but that number will be able to be counted on a man’s fingers. It goes without saying how detrimental this sort of abandonment is to conservatism. Rightists actually voting for that which makes material the worldview antithetical to conservatism because of factional squabbles on the right is the height of shortsightedness.

            Of all of the ways in which the Trump coalition could drop the ball, staying home is the most pernicious. With writing in someone at the top of the ticket, presumably one will still make solid conservative judgements about down-ballot races. Voting for the Democratic choice for president out of spite or out of frustration for the dichotomous party system and lack of other choices will still allow someone to make conservative choice in down ballot races. There is only one thing that will prevent someone from making sensible choices in the lower races: staying home and sulking. If a man does not vote at all, he will not be able to vote for defenders of liberty in congress, the governorship etc. Here, the effect of one’s vote is magnified relative to the other two options explored. Staying home hurts the chances of conservatives running for president and numerous other positions. Animosity or disillusionment for Trump is understandable but for the conservative, is not giving him one’s vote really worth the damage done to a score of other races?

            Trump has problems that are widely acknowledged. Some parts of the 2016 Trump coalition may just withhold their votes because of this. While the motivation behind that is perfectly rational, all it will do is aid the left. If the conservative, libertarian or classical liberal seeks real victories, he must settle for imperfect choices. Donald Trump may not be the lexical definition of imperfect, but he is a good example of it. If America’s friends of liberty wish to see their ideas triumph, they must accept that less than perfect men carry their standard. This is an axiom of politics that is too often forgotten by idealists. Whether or not one wears a red Make America Great Again hat or not, he is what the conservative, libertarian and classical liberal coalition has today. Rightists can take him or leave him but the alternative may well be Bernie Sanders and he in turn may well be worse than Woodrow Wilson.

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The WWIII that Shan’t be

                Middle East tensions run high as the United States appears ready to square off with Iran. For the past few days, an escalating cycle of tit-for-tat violence has dominated the headlines. It began in earnest when Iranian backed militiamen assaulted the American embassy in Baghdad in retaliation for US airstrikes. The United States hit back by killing the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, -the terrorist arm of said government and sent 750 troops. Iran shook their proverbial fist and made their threats in the hours and days that followed. America upped the game by promising to send thousands of soldiers to the Middle East. It now seems that it is Iran’s move on how to proceed. Their choice could send the region over the precipice.

            Without a doubt, American-Iranian relations are strained to the breaking point. Without a doubt, the region is quite unstable. Without a doubt, there could be a state-on-state war. That being said, a spectacular hype has manifested one entirely out of proportion to the weight of the matter. Social media is abuzz with talk of another world war. Taking a look at what trended on the de-facto political social media network twitter is face palm inducing. Yesterday, the term “WWIII” was used hundreds of thousands of times. At one point the name of the long dead Austro-Hungarian nobleman whose assassination ignited the Great War trended on the same disappointing platform. Plenty of WWIII memes cropped up for the occasion as well.

            This article may be more of a harangue than a news piece but the hype about globe bestriding strife is entirely irrelevant so it must be debunked as such. It cannot be overstated that there will not be another world war as a result of the unfortunate situation of America and Iran. A regional war does seem to be in the making but just that –a regional war. War is war and people will suffer and die if one breaks out but a sense of scale must be maintained. The suffering and death inflicted by the world wars is on a scale that cannot be comprehended. Any war which might erupt between America, her allies and Iran could never compare to either of the world wars and certainly would not expand to be another in its own right. The conditions of the world’s politics and militaries are nothing like they were in 1914 or 1939. These two points, the discrepancy in the levels of suffering in a possible American-Iranian war and the real world wars and the obvious differences between the situations on the eve of those two terrible conflicts and today are the focuses of this brief article.

            To the point of the political and military conditions of the world now and on the eve of the world wars, one cannot find apt comparisons. The Great War will be the reference point for simplicity. In 1914 there were two international alliances, the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente. These countries were major powers that were more balanced than not. Today, there is no parallel and there hasn’t been since the fall of the communist bloc. NATO is a globe bestriding western alliance that though it has enemies in Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and elsewhere does not have a great organized international body against it. Russia will not come to Iran’s aid and neither will China, North Korea or anyone else save a few jihadist terror groups. In 1914 there was a rough balance between the major powers. That is not the case today. Today, Iran cannot compare in defensive technology to that of the superpower United States and her major power western allies. Indeed the Iranian state could defy America; much in the way an ant would defy a boot. Their only hope would be to retreat to the mountains and avoid complete annihilation until the Americans get tired of the war and leave. This is the case since Iran hasn’t a prayer of holding the cities and other strategic locations or beating the United States and her allies in a conventional, state-on-state war. Nothing is comparable between the military and political situations of 1914 and 2020.

            To the point of the discrepancy of suffering, as stated above the scope of the two sufferings does defy comparison. Scale in suffering is as important as scale in actual breadth to being a World War. The chapters on the two world wars are some of the most blood soaked in human history and this is the truest benchmark in defining what is a World War. Conceptualizing the suffering of World War is an exercise in trying to peer into the gates of Hell thrown open. World War is drowning in the mud at passendale while thousands of machine guns rake the land. World War is the damned-soul-shriek of air raid sirens sounding while the sky turns red from the firestorm engulfing Dresden. World War is freezing to death in Russian forests and plains and praying not to be mauled by wolves. World War is holding the ground against screaming Banzai charges in the dead of night at Iwo Jima. World War is entire divisions fed to the furnace in frontal assaults for a few miles of land. World War is tens of millions killed in ways that should not be fathomable. Almost nothing can generate that much suffering and if a war doesn’t come close to that scale of suffering which a regional Middle Eastern war simply wouldn’t, it should under no circumstances be conflated with World War.

It has been just over 100 years since the end of the Great War and history will not repeat 1914 in 2020.

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Things to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Today is thanksgiving, the day traditionally set aside to commemorate the feast between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in 1621. We live in a much different world than the first Thanksgiving revelers. Since then, their descendants rose up against British tyranny and proclaimed a new nation. Civil war scorched the land yet the republic came through. Captains of industry brought the world into a new age. America thundered onto the world stage after the triumph of the Great War then led the world the crusade against Nazi and Italian socialism and Japanese imperialism. When the dust settled, America fought the communists for a generation until the Soviet Union collapsed. Through war and strife, depression and downturn, victory and prosperity the United States prevailed. The same cannot be said for millions. This country has a lot to be grateful for, more so than is commonly recognized. If any of those things did not occur, America would be a much different place, and almost certainly for the worse. It bears enumeration just all that the American people have to be thankful for in regards to our collective history.

Americans should be thankful for the defeat of international communism

            The extent of the crimes of the communists is not commonly understood. At a scholarly level, the horror has been known and accepted for decades but this knowledge has not yet filtered down to the public. Perhaps the most authoritative source on the crimes is the The Black Book of Communism. Drawn up about five years after the Gotterdammerung of communism in the eastern bloc it remains the most complete source on the crimes even today. Within the first few pages, the death tolls of the various regimes are laid out, coming to a grand total of 100 million (100,000,000) deaths.

            Statistics speaking of deaths of the order of magnitude one would expect in a world war takes away some of the humanity involved. The cruelty, hatred and unadulterated evil of the crimes offend the imagination to even conceptualize. What conveys more weight than the raw numbers are the words of the people who ordered the killings. A particularly chilling example is found in a telegram sent by Lenin discussing an uprising by peasants and industrial workers which he delusionally thought was a kulak conspiracy.

“Comrades! The Kulak uprising in your districts must be crushed without pity. The interests of the whole revolution demand such actions, for the final struggle with the kulaks has begun. You must make an example of these people. (1) Hang (and I mean publically so that people see it) at least 100 Kulaks, rich bastards and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instructions in yesterday’s telegram. Do this all so that for miles around see, understand it, tremble and tell themselves that we are killing the bloodthirsty Kulaks and will continue to do so. Reply saying that you have received and carried out these instructions. Yours, Lenin. P.S. Find tougher people.”

 –Vladimir Lenin quoted in The Black Book of Communism

            Lenin’s coldness in the telegram sums up the attitude of the communist authorities in the countries they enslaved. The same coldness produced the same atrocities. The torture doled out by the Soviet Cheka and NKVD was mirrored from Romania to North Korea. Starvation was mirrored from Ukraine to China. Mass killings from Hungary to Cambodia.

            America played a key role in the death of communism. They were fought on battlefields in the mountains of Korea, the island of Grenada and the fields of Vietnam. By proxy, they were fought in Afghanistan, Angola and elsewhere. The arms race precipitated by the United States drove the Warsaw Pact into spending spiral which accelerated the decline. No matter how it is viewed, the United States played a major role in stamping out the bulk of communism from the world. This Thanksgiving, America should be thankful that the collapse came when it did and that the red tide never reached our shores.

Americans should be thankful for the republican mode of government we enjoy

            The United States was founded on the self-evident truths of the Declaration in order to secure the rights guaranteed to them as Englishmen. When the crown refused to treat the English colonists as citizens but instead as serfs, the rebellion began. Victory in the revolution meant victory for liberty. It meant that America would be “A republic, if [we] can keep it.” We have no nobles and no king. Our military is apolitical and swears allegiance to no party or politician. Our popularly elected legislators and executive magistrates run the country. Our people have enough guns to fight a war by themselves. Yes, Benjamin Franklin could have said that “we have seen the future, and it works” in reference to our Constitutional experiment all those hundreds of years ago. 

Unfortunately the rust of creeping government expansion, the will to surrender liberties for security and popular passions have made the foundations of our liberties creak and groan. We have lost ground but by and large, freedom still works in America. Though tarnished by the fallout of our own political sins, the republic remains.

One cannot say this about many countries around the globe. Freedom House is the most respected player in measuring the state of freedom around the world (hence the name). They empirically measure how countries are faring on the ground taking into account the actions of the police and military, laws being passed, what leaders are saying and the like. Their results have not been encouraging for some time. As per the most recent Freedom in the World report,

“In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region, from long-standing democracies like the United States to consolidated authoritarian regimes like China and Russia. The overall losses are still shallow compared with the gains of the late 20th century, but the pattern is consistent and ominous. Democracy is in retreat.”

-Freedom House

            While Freedom House is careful to say this is not a world-end catastrophe, the fact remains that freedom is losing. Gains are eroding in nations which made great strides in the last decade of the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st. Where democracy was well established, the losses are mounting with the same report stating that, “Of the 41 countries that were consistently ranked Free from 1985 to 2005, 22 have registered net score declines in the last five years.”

            Throughout her history, the United States has remained a stalwart symbol of freedom for the downtrodden of the world. While other nations rose and fell, America stood as a constant and unchanging society where men lived in freedom. Even when the yoke of tyranny ensconced most of the world, this nation was defiant. Still today, this defiance persists and this Thanksgiving Americans should be thankful for the same.

Americans should be thankful that our vote matters

            2016 was a contentious election. The news media portrayed a country torn between left and right; a country on the brink of violence in the streets and civil war. Three years ago, the right prevailed and Donald Trump became president in one of the biggest upsets in American history. Next year, he will be up for re-election facing an as of yet undetermined Democrat. Who will win is anyone’s guess. The beauty of it is that it’s all up to us. The American people are masters of their own destiny. Suffrage is universal for citizens over the age of 18 with some exceptions for felons. Anyone can run for office (socialist Eugene Debs once ran for president from federal prison and got hundreds of thousands of votes). Some states allow the voters to voter for literally anyone –even if the candidate didn’t file paperwork. In America, our vote matters and this is not something that can be said of all countries.

            Take Russia for example. Putin ran for his fourth six year term in 2018. Ran should be in quotation marks because the election was flagrantly unfair. His main opponent was disqualified by a criminal conviction that Freedom House calls “politically motivated.” The report on Russia from the same watchdog group calls into question the source of the funding of his campaign, irregularities in the vote counting among other abuses. Of course, rigging elections is not new to Russia. Their perpetually corrupt government has been doing it for a long time and likely will keep doing it for a long time to come. One way to look at it is if the Kremlin is powerful enough to meddle in American elections, imagine what it’s doing to Russian elections.

The same occurrence played out in July of this year when independent candidates running for Moscow city council positions were barred from doing so. Riots ensued. In typical Russian fashion, the regime clamped down with an iron fist. Putin’s thugs decked out in armor and batons took to the streets and cleared the demonstration. The sentences handed down to the political prisoners were excessively long with some going as long as four years. In response, new protests cropped up in September to demand the release of the imprisoned from the last protest. Police said 20,000 demonstrated in the 2nd round but anti-government groups said the number was 25,000. The number for the 1st round was reportedly around 60,000 and topped all Moscow protests in recent memory.

America has very stormy politics. This has been a constant since the beginning and there is no reason to think it will ever change and nor should it. Outside the Era of Good Feelings where the Democratic-Republican Party maintained a monopoly on power, government has been divided as a rule. With the exception of small aberrations like Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts, Wilson’s Espionage Act and Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, all of which were shot down within a few years, nothing resembling tyranny has happened on US soil. The events happening in Russia do not happen in the United States. There has been a checkered history with voting, particularly in the solidly Democratic south but those days are long gone. This Thanksgiving, Americans should be glad that their vote matters and what recently went down in Moscow would not happen here.

As a bonus thing to be thankful for, Hillary Clinton is not the president.

Disclaimer: The author is well aware the article is late and offer apologies.

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The Case Against Socialism by Rand Paul: Conservative Critique Book Review

A lot of good books came out in the last few months about politics and economics. This article starts a new type of article on The Conservative Critique: the book review. In the past, there have been reviews of several books on certain topics but those weren’t time relevant i.e. they weren’t new. For this new type of article, all books review are current and creating a buzz.

            The first book in this new series is The Case Against Socialism by Senator Rand Paul. As one can infer from the title, Senator Paul is no fan of socialism. He’s made this very clear before. Technically, he is a Republican but it would be more appropriate to call him a libertarian considering his staunch anti-war, pro-drug legalization and radically anti-surveillance views. He is harder on big government than almost all republicans, which makes him perfect to take on the ultimate incarnation of big government: socialism. The Case Against Socialism is him doing just that.

            Right at the outset, one has to understand what this book is and what it isn’t. Senator Paul is a statesmen and a physician by trade. While he certainly knows what he’s talking about, he isn’t a professor of economics or political philosophy. The Case Against Socialism is not intended to be a revolutionary debunking of socialism like Mises’s Socialism: an Economic and Sociological Analysis or Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Paul’s book does not slam the door on the socialist mentality and it’s not trying to. Instead, it is a distillation of the arguments of socialism’s opponents from the past into an easily readable form. Not many people will pick up a 500 page Mises treatise laden with German words and jargon but a fair bit more will pick up a simpler book with the same ideas in it. Inevitably, The Case Against Socialism will have an easier time reaching the general public than the more substantial books on the subject but the former will not be remembered like the latter.

            First, the structure of the book. This is a very non-threatening volume, as in it’s not hard to read. It is about 300 pages long, the print is decent sized and there is comfortable line spacing. For those not economically inclined, this is a good way to learn about the complex ideas surrounding socialism because it is explained without jargon. The book is divided up into six parts and just shy of 40 chapters with each chapter being like a talking point. Some examples of his chapter headings are, “Interfering with free markets causes shortages,” “Bernie Sanders is too liberal to get elected in Denmark,” “Socialism becomes authoritarianism” and so on. Senator Paul could’ve done better in making the book contiguous in theme. He skips around a lot talking about the Nazis and socialism in one chapter, fundamental principles of socialism in the next and the “green new deal” in the one after. He would have done better to lump all of the theoretical objections to socialism into one part instead of spreading them out over all of them with case studies intermixed. His rough chapter to chapter flow is a bit distracting but it is not a major issue.

            The reader will find his case studies very relevant. Everyone who follows international politics is familiar with the socialism caused catastrophe in Venezuela. Since it is an ongoing event, the analyses of it are still lacking. This commentary will not take the place of the exhaustive volumes certain to be written on it in the future but for the purposes of illustration, it is useful. Senator Paul makes frequent reference to the situation on the ground and how it connects back to the wider debate on socialism. To get a sense of the devastation, he shares some statistics in chapters one and two:

  • Due to the economic collapse and the scarcity of food that resulted from it, 75% of the country’s population has lost an average of 19 pounds.
  • 87% of Venezuelan households were impoverished as of 2017.
  • More than half a million have fled the collapsing socialist state.
  • Billions in public funds have been diverted to foreign bank accounts for the personal use of Maduro and his cronies.

These sobering numbers make the humanitarian plea for the end of the madness that created the infernal situation in the first place. Enemies of socialism traditionally trot out the lessons of history when discussing the matter and this is just the latest lesson. Perhaps the most famous use of the lessons of history attack on socialism is the Black Book of Communism. That volume amounts to a 900 page catalog of atrocities that reads like: “then 5,000 were shot here, then 10,000 were sent to gulags in Kolyma and then 750 were tortured in unspeakable ways…” Venezuela comes in front of a long line of socialistic failures that stretched the world from Havana to Budapest to Moscow to Beijing and Phnom Penh. Just like in those regimes, veritable parades of misery from Venezuela in the form of statistics, firsthand accounts and photos can be cited to decry that which made millions suffer.

Following in this tradition, Rand Paul does not content himself with unbreathing, uncaring numbers. He uses many firsthand accounts of the collapse to bring the numbers to life. Some of his quotations go as follows:

  • “Venezuelans today cannot eat. You see people eating from the garbage.”

 –Margarita Lopez Maya, professor at the Central University of Venezuela

  • “People are hunting dogs and cats in the streets and pigeons in the plazas to eat.”

 –Mayor of Chacao, a suburb of the capital Caracas

  • “We have no food. They are cutting power four hours a day. Crime is soaring.”

–Roberto Sanchez, unemployed construction worker in La Victoria

            There is something powerful that comes from personal testimony of suffering. That something cannot be captured in numbers and the inclusion of quotations to this effect humanize the deeply impersonal nature of raw stats. The only thing he could have done more would be to add pictures of the political unrest, abject poverty and borderline starvation in the country but alas, he did not.

            Rand Paul covered a lot of ground in his book. Because of this and the small scope of book reviews in general, nowhere near all of his material can be touched on here. For case studies, he also discusses Sweden and its economic history in great detail. He also touched on that Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Nazi Germany and others.

Since this is not exclusively a history book or one of theory, Senator Paul covers a few bits of political and economic theory too. Consider Part III of his book titled, “A boot stamping on the human face forever –socialism and authoritarianism.” Opening with a clear nod to the INGSOC tyrants of 1984, Paul makes the point that socialism is intertwined with authoritarianism (as can be inferred from the title). His wording on the opening page of Part III indicts the whole history of socialist experiments:

“Socialists want to argue that each case from Zimbabwe to Nigeria to Equatorial Guinea to North Korea is an anomaly or that none of these historical examples are ‘real’ socialism. And yet the ‘liberators’ time and time again call themselves socialists.”

-Rand Paul, The Case Against Socialism

The point he makes is that socialism inevitably devolves into tyranny or collapses. This is not a new argument either. Von Hayek articulated this argument best in The Road to Serfdom where he called it “the worst ris[ing] to the top.” In the coming chapters, Rand Paul combines a simplified form of Von Hayek’s theoretical criticisms and case studies of Nazi Germany and Maoist China where those criticisms played out like a symphony orchestra.

The Case Against Socialism in the end does what it’s intended to do: give a simplified version of complex ideas and a primer on the history of socialist experiments. It is clearly not meant to be a slam dunk discussion ender like Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism and it doesn’t have to be in order to be a worthwhile read. History won’t remember Rand Paul as master-scholar who wrote a landmark book on the subject of socialism. But it surely will remember him as a principled right leaning libertarian who made a difference in American politics time and again.

Photo credit: “Sen. Rand Paul: We Must Restore Congressional Authority on Declaring War” via TIME

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Good Things Trump Recently did that the Leftist Media Ignored

With the leftist media singularly focused on the issues of impeachment, taxes and an array of other scandals, they ignore lots of positives of the Trump presidency. The chief executive is not perfect and no one is saying he is. Plenty of scandals with his administration have merit including the current impeachment mess. While this is true, even broken clocks are right twice a day. Just like the broken clock, Trump is doing good things even in the midst of the web of scandals.

            Yesterday, he signed an executive order creating a task force on missing and murdered American Indians. In doing so, the president highlighted an often overlooked issue, that of significant numbers of American Indian women and girls going missing. During the press conference, Trump referenced a sobering statistic that “more than 5,000” went missing in a year. As of December 31, 2017, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database contained 88,089 active missing person records. What this task force will do in reality is make collaboration between different levels of government and law enforcement organs go smoother. Any practical affect this will have is unknown at this time.

            The only drawback of this endeavor was that the executive order was signed in the Oval Office –right in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson. The 7th president is remembered for two things: Jacksonian Democracy, the expansion of suffrage to most white men and the Indian Removal Act. Of course, the former is laudable but the same cannot be said of the latter which resulted in the Trail of Tears. For this reason, President Jackson and American Indians do not mix terribly well. Tribal leaders were present for this occasion in the Oval Office. Signing the executive order in the presence of American Indian officials with a large portrait of Jackson on the wall was a simple blunder that could have been avoided by signing it anywhere else in the White House. Diplomatic faux-pas like this make one wonder if anyone in the White House took a history course.

            On the counterterrorism front, Trump did some work. A day before the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the president signed an executive order reorganizing sanctions to better combat terrorism. One of the things this act does is expand the entities classified as terroristic in nature. According to the State Department,

“Today, the Department designated Hurras al-Din, an al-Qa’ida-affiliated group in Syria, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).  The Department has also designated as SDGTs 12 leaders of previously designated groups, including Hizballah, HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, ISIS, ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-West Africa, and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan.  In addition to these actions, the Department of the Treasury has designated 15 terrorists affiliated with ISIS, ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-Khorasan, al-Qa’ida, HAMAS, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force under the same authority.”

-State Department

            The other part of the executive order is the denial of the financial institutions of the United States to the blacklisted entities. Since more parties have found themselves on the blacklist, the logic is that financing their operations will be more difficult. Sanctioning terrorists isn’t new. America has been doing it to Islamic terror groups for a long time. In fact, the executive order Trump signed is really just an expansion of one Bill Clinton signed in 1995 (Executive Order 12947). Regardless of what someone thinks about Trump’s taxes, the mess with Ukraine or any of his other scandals, it is hard indeed to disapprove of fighting terrorism more efficiently.

            Building on that, Trump revealed on Tuesday that Mexican drug cartels will be designated as terrorist organizations. The same logic that applies to Middle Eastern terrorist groups applies to Mexican and Central American drug cartels. Regulations on commerce with the organization and material support of it will come into effect when the declaration comes down. The New York Times elaborated,

“Once a group has been designated as a terrorist organization, it is illegal for people in the United States to knowingly provide support for it, and its members are barred from entering the country. Financial institutions are also forbidden from doing business with the organization.”

-New York Times

            Beyond the economic implications of this counterterrorism move, Trump didn’t rule out the military option. In the original interview with former FOX News anchorman Bill O’Reilly, the president was asked if he would consider drone strikes in Mexico. Trump responded, “I don’t want to say what I am going to do, but they will be designated.” It is telling that force wasn’t ruled out in the interview. Whether this is precursor to further action against the cartels, even action of the military persuasion remains to be seen.

            The Trump administration is plagued by scandals and they do deserve lots of media coverage. While the press has a duty to cover those, they also should cover the genuine positives that the president has accomplished. In the midst of the constant negative pounding by the press, good things are happening –even if the press isn’t covering them.

Photo credit: President Trump Says Mexico Will Pay for the Wall. But His Tax Plan Means Americans Will” via Fortune

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