Wednesday, February 26, 2014

True Patriots: Changing the Gameplan


The Senate now stood at 49-49-2, 51-49 if caucusing independents are included, and the House at 229-206. It was unclear if, come January, the 114th Congress would become even more deadlocked than the last one due to how both houses came closer to a perfect division. After the defeat of Senator McConnell, Senator Cornyn of Texas was nearly unopposed to ascending to the position Minority Leader, except from a certain fellow Texan senator. Cruz's bid for Minority Leader received little support, not because there were not enough staunch conservatives to support him, but because it would appear very distasteful to take away the position from a senior member of the party and give it to a junior senator. The never ending world of politics expected to take a breather after the 114th Congress was inaugurated, but it was not to be, as speculation over who would become the next president fired up after a few events proved to shake up both parties.

The 114th Congress was ready to jump at change. John Boehner, representative from Ohio and Speaker of the House since the Republicans won it back in 2010, was voted to be replaced by a majority of House Republicans two days after the new Congress was sworn in. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia would ascend to fill his spot. In the month leading up to the swearing in of the 114th, many in the conservative wing of the GOP began pushing to change Congressional leadership. Many of these people were rather young in comparison to their peers, like Ted Cruz, but the Tea Party touted many of these people anyways because they were fresh and passionate voices who they thought could be an enormous boost to their movement. Although Cruz's attempt was ultimately futile, Cantor, who was noted as a strong conservative, was able to win the Speakership because he had experience to back him up with his conservative credentials.

With a reinvigorated Congress, the Republican Party decided to do something big that was previously attempted, but failed: a repeal of the ACA. At this point, a number of moderate to conservative Democrats had grown away from supporting the bill while many of the most liberal ones had abandoned the ACA in favor of a single-payer system. Speaker Cantor put a repeal high on his legislative agenda, and even though he knew the President was going to veto it, it was intended to be a gesture that the Obama administration would have to cater to Congress in order to get anything done. The vote for repeal was very narrowly passed along with a plan to give the private healthcare system subsides to encourage a decrease of costs on the consumer level. Initially, the Senate seemed to be opposed to this initiative. The Democrats had the numbers and were confident that the bill would not pass. However, Senator Manchin of West Virginia split ranks, giving a final 50-50 vote and allowing Vice President Biden to use his tie breaking powers for the first time in order to strike down the bill. Even though the bill did not even make it to the President's desk, it thoroughly put the Obama administration and most of the Democratic Party on edge.

The cards appeared to not be in the President’s hands, but he was determined to make something positive out of his last year in office. The president made massive strides in foreign policy, something that he could do without the help of Congress. Late in 2014, after a very long process of deliberating, a nuclear agreement was reached with Iran, where the country was not allowed to produce any nuclear weapons, but it was allowed to invest in nuclear energy, while the other nuclear powers agreed to make reductions to their nuclear arsenal. The post Cold War trend had been to decrease the size of nuclear arsenals, and even though that process had slowed down through the Great Recession, President Obama was determined to speed the process back up to create a “safer world for our children” and to show the world that the US was climbing into economic growth. This move was popular in the public eye, but many conservatives were opposed to cutting down our nuclear arsenal as it supposedly demonstrated weakness and the removal of America from its current status in the world. President Obama’s successor would ultimately not continue his program of nuclear reduction, and to this day, it is still a very contentious debate as to if the biggest national security crisis since 9/11 was preempted by Obama’s deal with Iran or his successor's discontinuation of nuclear reduction.

Amidst some of these big moves, the backdrop of the 2016 presidential race was beginning to form. As the cold of winter began to thaw into spring, the first presidential candidates came out from his political hibernation: former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. In his radio show and activities associated with FOX News, he hinted at a presidential campaign, and fueled speculation when he suspended those programs in 2014. Many of the early bird polling showed him in front, and there was evidence of a shadow campaign being made preparing for his entrance into the race. On April 2, 2015 (in order to avoid any April Fool’s confusion) Huckabee appeared in front of a rally in Little Rock, and gave the Republican Party a call to action to “return to its roots of Reagan and his truly American brand of conservatism.”  His speech was well received, and Huckabee continued to poll on top of his party.

On the other side of the aisle, Hillary made a few appearances on television throughout the first few months of 2015, making many people very excited about a potential run. Her so called shadow campaign was running very strong, and it appeared like many Democrats were simply ready to present her as their nominee. Polling centers, in the first few days of April, quickly pounded Hillary vs. Huckabee into the minds of American voters.

However, that was not to be. On April 11, 2015, Hillary Clinton was rushed to the hospital for extreme pains in areas in the face and head. It was quickly discovered that she suffered from an aneurism, and that even though it was severe, it was likely not threatening. Americans held their breath as the status of the Democratic Party’s standard flagbearer for 2016 hung in the balance. For days, Clinton stayed at the hospital and then at home to recuperate. Perhaps millions of get-well messages were posted across social media as Democrats hoped that her run was still inevitable. During an interview with a local New York reporter, Clinton finally stated that she felt that she was seriously considering a presidential run, but that she feels that under the light of recent health issues, she could not fully execute the office as the Democratic Party and the American People would have wished. With this, much of the shadow campaign and PACs that were raising funds for Hillary tried to find another candidate to hold onto. Would it be Vice President Biden or Governor O’Malley, who had experience and the respect of the establishment like Hillary? Perhaps, would it be somebody with passion and who excited the base like Hillary, like Senator Gillibrand of New York or Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado? Democrats hopes for 2016 quickly soured as the Republicans rebounded. In the days following Clinton’s announcement, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin announced their intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president.

As the US was gearing up for what was looking to be a very interesting election season, some of its allies internationally were having rather interesting elections of their own. Canada had just held an election where Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party rode a fairly significant anti-Harper wave to victory. After a disastrous election for the Liberals in the 2011 election, things only could get better for them, and with the election of Trudeau to party leader, they were excited for their prospects in 2015. PM Harper, who hoped to remain Prime Minister for another term, was beginning to grow more and more unpopular with the Canadian people as his policies were not speeding up the economy as quickly as the US had rebounded. Unfortunately for the NDP, under Thomas Mulcair, with a Liberal victory came a pretty big defeat down from their biggest federal victory as a party in 2011. The Greens managed to gain another seat in the Vancouver area, while the Bloc Qu├ębecois came back pretty strong after a poor performance for them in 2011.

In the UK, PM Cameron and the Conservatives lost their government to be replaced by a shaky Labor-Liberal Democrat coalition headed by PM Ed Miliband. Cameron had a pretty positive record of economic improvement and keeping the UK united by overseeing a decisive defeat of the Scotland independence referendum shortly before the election. However, many individual Conservative MP’s were becoming unpopular, and combined with the insurgent UKIP under Nigel Farage, Labour managed to gain a plurality. However, in order to form a government, they needed partnership with the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg, who had served as Deputy PM under Cameron. However, the LibDems forced Labour to make a number of concessions in order to form a coalition, and many people were unhappy with how they were “blocking government” while others were pleased that they were challenging the two party rule in the UK. Miliband barely was able to form a government, and it was a shaky coalition that many in the UK were fearful was going to fall any day.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

True Patriots: The Midterms


2014 was a midterm election which both parties looked upon eagerly. The Republicans thought that they had a chance to take back the Senate and turn President Obama into a lame duck for the remainder of his term, and the Democrats thought that they could take back the House from Republican gerrymandered oblivion. Neither of these things happened, however, and it is still questionable if the circumstances surrounding 2016 would have come out at all similarly had either of these scenarios come to fruition.

2013 was a hard year for the Obama administration. He hit rock bottom in terms of approval ratings at upper 30% to lower 40% around the New Year, and over the course of the year there was significant outrage over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which held the popular label Obamacare. The federal distribution website faced numerous technical issues, and the deadlines for applying for healthcare had to be pushed further and further back. Also, the president had to concede some minimum requirements for healthcare plans which would have stripped a number people of their current plans, which allowed a number of people to retain their plans for a longer period of time. The legislation was decried by many as overcomplicating the healthcare process, and house Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare ad nauseum. Obamacare especially provoked many theo-conservatives as Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit against the administration on the basis that requiring them to provide birth control (including Plan B, which they equated to abortion) Even some liberals started to become agitated with the fumbled rollout. Senator Sanders stated that he supported President Obama’s efforts to reform healthcare, but felt that the ACA ended up as a washed out piece of legislation that doesn’t do enough to make meaningful reform. With President Obama’s signature piece of legislation going from the frying pan into the fire, his entire administration was called into question.

Those who lived in poverty saw their healthcare state improve significantly over the course of the years after the ACA’s implementation, but many in the middle class saw their rates go up in the years following. Many American families were caught in a place where they had enough income to where they were not eligible for government assistance, but their premiums increased noticeably because of insurance companies trying to make up for profit lost by providing reduced cost services for the poor. In the eyes of the Obama administration, this burden would ideally have been shifted more to the upper class, but he had no control over the actions of the private market which did not tend to be the fairest of environments. Many in the middle class, whom the Obama administration wanted to help the most, ended up being hurt because of the actions insurance companies took due to the ACA. When concerns were raised, the Democratic Party was quick to point out that they were only affected by what the insurance companies did, and not the government, but many people already pointed the blame on the ACA.

Republicans hoped to capitalize on this issue in order to increase their stake in Congress by promising an upheaval of “Obamacare” and removing government interference from healthcare. In the summer of 2014, things were looking promising for the GOP. More Republican representatives were in danger than Democratic ones, but the Republicans were looking to take enormous gains in the Senate. Montana, South Dakota, and Arkansas all held Democratic incumbents who were almost assured defeat, while Alaska, West Virginia, and North Carolina were all toss ups with Democratic incumbents.

Two states which felt slightly out of place this time around were Colorado and Kentucky. State Senator Alison Grimes was an upstart Democrat which challenges unpopular incumbent and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell faced a significant Tea Party challenge early in the year, but he was reassured his party’s nomination with a 61% vote after the primaries were held. McConnell was clearly in a precarious situation already, without all of his party behind him, but Grimes was a fearsome competitor. She used the state Democratic Party, which still had a significant presence despite the deep red tinge of the state at the presidential level, as a jumping off point where she presented her passion and prowess for governing and debating. In Colorado, a state that was still a critical battleground state, Senator Mark Udall was leading in almost all polls against challenger Ken Buck by a margin greater than what President Obama won the state in 2012. Udall remained popular in the state even though his son was caught with cocaine early in 2014, which was a circumstance the CO GOP tried and failed to capitalize off of. Despite its swing state status, Buck’s chance of victory appeared slim. A notable point is that both of these states had a state managed ACA rollout which was significantly smoother than at the federal level. This was a big boost for Democratic Party in both of these states.

Republicans had a solid majority in the House of Representatives, one that many called an artificial one because of the massive gerrymandering that occurred in many states during 2010 redistricting. A number of Republicans in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Colorado were vulnerable and the Democrats were pushing to make sure that most of those seats fell. The Republican incumbents did not have a lot of the same benefits going for them as their fellow Senate challengers, because the party organization had lot of faith in the power of incumbency in the House, as well as the fact that they put a lot more money into trying to win back the Senate and decided that a few possible casualties in the House was worth it.

As election night approached, both parties became more and more nervous. Hagan, Begich, Landrieu, Grimes, and Chambliss' seat all maintained toss up status, which meant that the Republicans had a chance to take back the Senate. Meanwhile, the polls showed a net Democratic gain in the House, but likely no majority. There was a fear from the Democratic Party that the president could be forced into becoming a lame duck for the remainder of his term and be detrimental to their chances in 2016, even with Hillary still being their flag bearer. When Election Night concluded, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia still remained too close to call. By 5:00 AM the next morning, Kentucky was called for Grimes, which was a massive victory for the Democrats, and a bright spot in a night that had otherwise been poor for the party. Hours later, Georgia would be called for Gingrey and North Carolina for Hagan, with Hagan winning by the closest margin out of anybody else in her class.

Arkansas: Tom Cotton (R) defeats Mark Pryor (D) - R Gain
South Dakota: Mike Rounds (R) defeats Rick Weiland (D) - R Gain
West Virginia: Shelley Moore Capito (R) defeats Natalie Tennant (D) - R Gain
Montana: Steve Daines (R) defeats John Walsh (D) - R Gain
Alaska: Mead Treadwell (R) defeats Mark Begich (D) - R Gain
Georgia: Phil Gingrey defeats Michelle Nunn (D) - R Hold
Kentucky: Alison Grimes (D) defeats Mitch McConnell (R) - D Gain
North Carolina: Kay Hagan (D) defeats Bill Flynn (R) - D Hold
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) defeats Bill Cassidy (R) - D Hold
Iowa: Bruce Braley (D) defeats Joni Ernst (R) - D Hold

The Senate now stood at 49-49-2, 51-49 if caucusing independents are included, and the House at 229-206. It was unclear if, come January, the 114th Congress would become even more deadlocked than the last one due to how both houses came closer to a perfect division. Senator Cornyn of Texas was nearly unopposed to ascending to the position Minority Leader, except from a certain fellow Texan senator. Cruz's bid for Minority Leader received little support, not because there were not enough staunch conservatives to support him, but because it would appear very distasteful to take away the position from a senior member of the party and give it to a junior senator. The never ending world of politics expected to take a breather after the 114th Congress was inaugurated, but it was not to be, as speculation over who would become the next president fired up after a few events proved to shake up both parties.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

True Patriots: the Rise and Fall American Conservatism Teaser

Here is a sneak peak of my upcoming timeline, a project that I have been planning for a while. Do not, worry, I am not finished with A House Divided, but it is on indefinite hiatus while I will be in the thick of this TL. Expect it to be one of the most insane roller coasters of a 2016 election in any of the multiverses!

true patriots the rise and fall of conservatism in america

Stage lights are bright, hot, and generally unpleasant. They are even more unpleasant when the lights of the entire nation shine, revealing the greatest depths of one's abilities and flaws.

Under these lights, former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas felt the heat the greatest.

The moderator swallowed and spoke. "Governor Huckabee, how do you respond to accusations that you are not fit to be this party's nominee, and that you are past your prime?"

The moderator's question had caught him off guard. He was sweating profusely, and his stomach felt like a bowling ball that was ready to roll straight into the gutter. He swallowed hard before taking a breath, while carefully forming his response. "I think that I am perfectly capable, and the best man to be this party's nominee. I... I have the best conservative record, and I have stuck to what I believe in and to what will get this party back into the White House."

"Any rebuttals?" The moderator eyed each of the candidates carefully.

"I have to disagree Governor, my conservative credentials are stronger, and I think I have best what it takes to put us into the White House." Senator Ted Cruz of Texas stood like a lion, ready to pounce on Huckabees every word. "What this party needs is somebody who has stood firm in what they believe and what is best for America, not somebody who has been tried and failed. Don't get me wrong, I fully respect what Governor Huckabee did and his strong faith in God, but he tends to alienate many Christians who are not Southern Baptist. If we want to win and make sure that America remains steadfast to the Judeo-Christian values which we have built our foundation upon, then we need a man who will bring Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox together to fight for these values. The American people and this party have seen me fight against the tyranny and the bureaucratic, lumbering, and overreaching government the Obama administration has created. I call for a return to what we were made of! A time when taxes fit on a page and when people were free to live and economy free to grow without interference from an overreach of government!"

The senator elicited some cheers from the crowd, even though any manner of applause from the audience was forbidden.

"Well, what is wrong with appealing to Southern Baptists? You have to have the heart of religion in America behind you if you want to win." Huckabee clearly appeared stressed at this point while Cruz was indefatigable and continued to refute him and the other Republican candidates.

The Republican presidential debate, held on November 11, 2015, left a largely indelible mark on the minds of many Republicans, in Iowa and across the nation. Cruz appeared to be by far the most collected of the candidates while still displaying passion and vigor that excited the conservative base. The only other candidate who really showed themselves that night was Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who made some passionate points for abolishing the NSA and repealing the Patriot Act, which none of the other candidates stood behind a hundred percent.

Some criticized Cruz for being far too harsh, and for not giving a lot of respect to the other candidates. He stated that he needed to let the Republican Party know where the right direction is, and that they cannot win by nominating a weak moderate who panders to too many people and has no true values to stand for in the general. It was clear that he was not in this to merely give conservatives a voice, but he was here to create a climax to the conservative revolution started by Goldwater and championed by President Reagan.

Who do you support for the upcoming Republican primaries?

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas - 20.2%
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky - 20.1%
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin - 18.7%
Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas - 15.6%
Governor John Kasich of Ohio - 13.5%
Undecided - 11.4%

Monday, February 17, 2014

Thinking About Historic Preservation

Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about the importance of history in our daily lives. As alternate historians, many of us enjoy toying with history to make different outcomes and to see just how different our world could have been. Although this is fun to do, it makes one think about just how important it is. Changing one little thing from a century ago could have made today significantly different than it is, for better or worse. It is important that everybody has a solid understanding of history so that they understand the lessons that it teaches us and so that we may not repeat the same mistakes our ancestors made.

I have been a long time attendee of the Colorado Preserve America Youth Summit, which is a program where middle and high school students go to different places across the state of Colorado in order to learn about local histories and give our insight as youth to local people invested in historic preservation of that area. Being in this program is what kindled my interest in history, and by an extension alternate history.

A historic farmhouse, located between Lyons and Boulder, which was severely affected by the flood
A historic farmhouse, located between Lyons and Boulder, which was severely affected by the flood

As a part of this program, I toured historic sites that were damaged by the massive floods that struck Boulder County last September. One story that was fascinating was about a small farmhouse, initially built in the late 1800's, that was reflective of Colorado's origin from small family farms along the Front Range. An addition was added in the 1930's turning it into an inn, which was reflective of the massive economic pressure the Great Depression put on people across the US to stay afloat. The most recent addition came courtesy of mother nature: the St.Vrain overflowed its banks, and the torrents of water carved out massive ravines around the farm, displacing it from its initial site. Now the farmhouse sits, still intact, but broken and isolated in the middle of one of these ravines. These floods have had a tremendous impact on Colorado, and the flood can teach us many lessons about how to not face the mistakes of our ancestors again. I know that I only truly understood the awesome power of the flood waters once I saw how radically it transformed the landscape.

However, there are plans in place to fill back part of the ravine so that land can be rented to a farmer for his cattle to graze upon. I think that this situation poses some important questions, and ones that cannot be ignored. Is the ravine as much of this place's history as the farmhouse? Does it convey the full impact that the floods had if only a small portion of what they did is left to see? Is this the way to balance progress with preservation? I know that I want to preserve history because it makes people understand what their ancestors did, and it makes us better able to make better decisions if we learn from our past good and bad alike.

A panoramic photo showing the changes in the city of Boulder over the course of the past 100 years
A panoramic photo showing the changes in the city of Boulder over the course of the past 100 years

In history, we must not glorify our past. Surely, our past has had many good things that were instrumental in allowing us to make great achievements, and history should be preserved in order to get people to appreciate how we got to be here today, but there are elements of our history which may be sad or unsavory, but those are just as important too. History teaches us important lessons that allow us to become better, and that is why those stories must be held in equal importance to the others. Time and time again, those who choose to ignore the lessons of history make the same brutal mistakes: Napoleon lost everything after he made the decision to invade with a war weary army into the heart of the brutal Russian winter, and over 100 years later Nazi Germany made the same decision to invade the USSR which was the ultimate turning point that lead to its downfall.

Many people feel a disconnect with history, claiming it to be merely the past and having no bearing on what we can do, but without our past we would not have a future. Without understanding the American Revolution, the circumstances surrounding the creation and ratification of the Constitution, or the circumstances that caused the World Wars, we have no basis for which to create a better future for mankind. I have taken my experiences as somewhat of a rallying call for my generation.

The breathtaking view of the Flatirons from the historic Chataqua trails in Boulder, Colorado
The breathtaking view of the Flatirons from the historic Chataqua trails in Boulder, Colorado