Author: markwest4liberty

Grading President Trump’s Libertarianism: Personal Liberty

President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address marks the midway point of his first term. This is the first of four articles to analyze his policies and how well they relate to the Libertarian Party’s platform and libertarianism in general.

The four points to be analyzed are:

  • Personal Liberty
  • Economic Liberty
  • Securing Liberty
  • Overall Liberty

The Presidents policies will be analyzed with regards to how well I believe they correlate with the LP’s platform.

Self-Ownership, Expression and Communication, Privacy

President Trump’s appointment of two anti-marijuana legalizations Attorney Generals (Jeff Sessions, William Barr) and his expansion of the Drug War, most especially concerning opioids and the wall, are attacks on self-ownership. When it comes to substance use, he favors an authoritarian approach to substance use.

Self-Ownership Grade: D

His attacks on NFL players for kneeling to highlight the need for criminal justice reform, as well as to support immigrants from Muslim-dominant countries, are violations of freedom of self-expression. At the same time, he created a special class of citizens for law enforcement officers and public employees in which crimes against them would be legally treated as hate crime. However, he has not taken much legal action to stifle expression which means the government is not growing in this area.

Expression and Communication Grade: C

President Trump hasn’t ended the NSA/DHS spying on American citizens, despite complaining about being bugged by President Obama. Our President has demonized Edward Snowden but praised Wikileaks. Basically, he only supports whistleblowers when it helps him. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court despite his anti-Fourth Amendment writings. Many credit Kavanaugh’s legal writings for building justification for the surveillance state.

Privacy Grade: D

Personal Relationships, Abortion, and Parental Rights

President Trump has not made an issue out of defining marriage. If he continues the hands-off approach on government involvement in marriage, that would aid his score. Removing government from personal relationships is the preference. However, he has been antagonistic toward transgender persons regarding bathroom usage and has banned them from military service. I see this as the all too familiar republican story of only being for small government when personal beliefs coincide.

Personal Relationships: C

Early in his administration, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, which keeps Federal funding from being used to pay for international abortions. Later, he authorized State governments to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Both moves reduced the amount of State involvement in the abortion issue. However, he does advocate for legislation to ban various forms of abortion, which re-engages the State on the issue. Many are concerned that he has stacked the Supreme Court with Justices who will overturn legal precedent on the issue.

Abortion Grade: C

President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, signaling a commitment to end Federal involvement in our education. In this capacity, DeVos has worked to eliminate Federal involvement while promoting private and home-schooling options. Additionally, our President signed an Executive Order aimed at curtailing the amount of Federal involvement allowed in education.

Education Grade: A

Crime and Justice, Death Penalty, Self-Defense

The First Step Act is a great opening salvo at a larger and more comprehensive criminal justice reform. Trump has talked about going further on this issue. Yet, his expansion of the Drug War that criminalizes victim-less crimes and his State-centered approach on sex-trafficking contradicts a libertarian stance on crime and justice.

Crime and Justice Grade: B

President Trump is in favor of the administration of the death penalty by the State.

Death Penalty Grade: F

Our President portrays himself a champion of gun ownership rights. He has opposed various attempts at gun control on the Federal level. However, he banned bump stocks and advocates for enhanced background checks.  He also supports red flag laws. He has also expressed support for Senator Feinstein to pass Assault Weapon Bans. In terms of immigration, private property owners deserve the right to enforce their property boundaries, even on our international border with Mexico, however they see fit. Immigration reform should address that reality.

Self-Defense Grade: B

Rating Trump on personal liberty, I give him a C (2.0). He could really harm his score if he continues promoting State-centered solutions at the expense of individual rights. I am truly rooting for him to improve that score.

Stay tuned for the next article in which I will grade Trump’s policies on Economic Liberty.


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Alyssa Milano, Red MAGA Hats Are Not KKK Hoods

Mark West | United States

Actress and activist Alyssa Milano’s tweet during the aftermath of the National Mall stare down has drawn fire from right-wing critics. She equivocated wearing red MAGA hats with wearing Klu Klux Klan hoods. As of yet, Milano has refused to apologize and instead doubled-down.

Her reasons for such are made clear in her Op-Ed titled, Red MAGA Hats Are The New White Hoods.

What did she tweet that gained so much attention?

 

I felt her tweet went too far. My feelings haven’t changed, but I want to take a few minutes to give my own reasons. She almost drove me, a #neverTrump guy, to buying one of those ridiculous-looking hats.

Why? Because this tribal narrative, that the hats represent the KKK, is equally ridiculous.

I Do Agree With Alyssa

Before I move on, I do want to say that I agree with something Milano wrote in her Op-Ed. She wrote, “watching that video, each of us saw what we wanted to see.” I wrote a piece last week that essentially said the same thing. Our tribal nature is ripping us apart. We see everything the other tribes do as evil. We see our own tribes as the only ones doing right.

Unfortunately for Milano, she falls into similar group-think. She is being intentionally divisive. She is stirring the pot as much as she claims the Covington Catholic teens in DC were.

Milano’s words assume the worst about the teen boys, and the best about the indigenous peoples, while completely ignoring the actions of the Black Hebrew Israelites. Her Op-Ed protects her tribes while demonizing the teens. She creates an artificial division between Sandmann and Phillips that both have publicly stated doesn’t exist.

Both were engaged in a public misunderstanding. This misunderstanding was driven by the demagoguery hurled at the teens, and anyone else who disagreed with them, by the BHI group. Milano ignores the BHI group completely in her Op-Ed. She excuses them with her silence.

President Trump Is A Disaster

Milano and I do share a common view. We both believe that President Donald Trump is disastrous for our nation. My differences with our President stem from his authoritarian use of the office and with his politics of division. I plan to detail those differences in a mid-point “report card” following the State of the Union speech.

Well, that is if the SOTU really is back on.

She perceives President Trump’s threat to our nation on a vastly more bigoted, misogynistic level. Milano portrays the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” as being infested with racial tones. However, the phrase itself isn’t racist. Unless someone believes that President Bill Clinton was a racist. He used the slogan while running for office as well.

This tweet reveals the dangerous place we are in as a society. Purging forms of speech from our society for what WE feel they represent is a direct threat to the First Amendment. I’m curious as to how many MAGA hat bearers Milano has spoken to personally? I think it would be necessary, especially before dismissing all wearers of the hat as racists.

Understanding Is Essential

We can’t understand if we aren’t willing to listen. Milano’s Op-Ed displays a ton of opinion, but very little context. I would like to see her commentary from time spent in the trenches getting to know her opponents. Being from Arkansas I’ve spent a lot of time with the MAGA hat crowd and have gained a great deal of perspective. I think she might find some common ground if she were willing to make the effort.

Milano puts the blame entirely on the teens. She is upset that “white boys” can’t empathize. But her Op-Ed has a complete lack of empathy toward anyone not of her tribe. The real instigators that day were not “white boys” or “indigenous peoples” but a hateful and racist group of “black guys”. But “black guys” are one of the labels that belong to her tribe so she fails to mention them.

Maybe Milano can provide some context. How does she feel when white people claim that Black Lives Matter hats are racist? I know that the BLM hats aren’t racist. Racism is not in the goals of the movement. I took the time to get the context behind the hat. I encourage her to do the same.

We Must Find Common Ground

If we fail to have conversations about our differences, we will never see our similarities. I’ve found common ground with people of all political persuasions by simply having conversations. We must stop excusing our tribes. We must stop demonizing everyone from other tribes. The United States of America is too beautiful and grand for us to not try harder to understand each other.

Now, I don’t think Milano should apologize. She is firm in her beliefs, and coercing anyone to do anything against their will is wrong. Plus, I’m certain I’ll be in trouble for toxic masculinity in my perceived mansplaining in this column.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I do think that she is completely wrong to make a hat racist. Comparing folks wearing a MAGA hat in support of a Presidential candidate with those who used fear and intimidation to put down people of minority races is a stretch.

Even if some of the President’s policies seem overtly racist and xenophobic, we can confront those policies. It is unnecessary to paint well-intentioned people with such a divisively broad brush.

We can’t rob symbols of their context. But part of that context is understanding why someone would wear the symbol. We also can’t delude ourselves into believing that only our own context should matter when defining the views of others.

We can all do better. Our union deserves it.


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Nick Sandmann, MAGA Hat Kid: The Hidden Story

Mark West | United States

Last weekend was a bit of a blunder for me. I watched several viral videos surrounding what happened at the National Mall that spread on social media. Angered at what I perceived as disrespect, I made a snap judgment. I shared the first meme I noticed concerning the issue on Facebook. I had to partake in the political discussion on this controversy, right?

The narrative pitted the Covington Catholic High School students, many of which were white, male, and sporting MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats, against a group of Native Americans. The two groups had been involved in separate rallies on the National Mall that day. The Covington Catholic students were leaving a March for Life rally while the Native Americans had just finished an Indigenous Peoples March.

Both were about to intersect in a manner that would spark an unintentional national controversy.

A scene consisting of a what appeared to be a stare-down between Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann and Native American activist Nathan Phillips immediately split the national audience into regiments. The still shots from the video cast Sandmann in a negative light, with a smug, disrespectful smile on his face.

The Mainstream Media Story

We were incessantly informed by the mainstream media that Phillips heroically confronted the students as they chanted “Build That Wall” at the Native American protestors. An image serving to reinforce the narrative that racial motivations and anger are the motives for support of the southern border wall.

Erroneously, I believed the mainstream media reporting and shared the meme I mentioned previously. However, a close friend cared enough to hint that a full-version video was accessible on the internet. I found it, watched it, and I realized I was dreadfully wrong. Of course, I also deleted the meme I ignorantly shared.

The Hidden Story

Now, I’m not here to tell you what happened at the National Mall. Most of us have already decided our version of the timelines and our judgments of the intentions of the participants. What I am here to report is the hidden story of the MAGA hat kid.

The hidden story of the MAGA hat kid is the tribalism that drives each of us to ignore context while making snap judgments that fit our own narratives. I’ll pull a little gospel principle in by quoting D.A. Carson who said, “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text”. In other words, if you ignore the context you will get the wrong message.

I got the wrong message, initially, because I was lacking the context to make sense of what was going on. There is an unfortunate occurrence in political conversation in our society. Far too often, we use pretexts and proof texts to reinforce our tribal view.

Our failure to contextualize is contributing to the erosion of political debate. We should thoroughly examine the context and all the information available to us. An opinion should be formed based on the previous. Instead, we almost always have our pre-disposed opinions. Consequently, we seek only the facts that offer support. The stare-down at the National Mall highlights just that.

Tribalism Exposed

I’ve witnessed the anti-Trump crowd attacking Sandmann and his school over racism, as well as doxxing he and his classmates. Simultaneously, the MAGA crowd is attacking Phillips’ character and motives. The tribes are at war even though I’m not convinced that the principles themselves ever were. Through all of the back-and-forth, the demagoguery hurled by the Black Hebrew Israeliteswhich served as the flashpoint that escalated the tense scenario, has been largely ignored.

My first exposure to the tribalism that dominates our political process came as I listened to President Obama’s supporters chanting, “Yes We Can”, at campaign rallies. I spent the next eight years trying to have reasonable policy conversations with people who could never hold the man they supported accountable. They had their pretexts and ignored any contexts.

During the 2016 campaign, I saw a new emergence on the other side. Watching President Trump’s campaign rallies filled with chants of, “Build That Wall”, and “Lock Her Up”, I realized that I would spend President Trump’s tenure trying desperately to have the same conversations with folks who are out to get the Democrats back for President Obama’s term. They also have their pretexts and ignore any contexts.

So, instead of discussing what really happened and using the lessons as instructive to the society around us, we’re instead hedging into our tribes. We are devoting our energy to ensuring that we prop up those in our tribe while viscerally attacking those of the other. The tribalism is driving the context out of the conversation.

I’m Just as Guilty as You Are

Disclaimer: I’m not speaking from an ivory tower. I’m not exempt in my own tendencies to fall into tribal politics as well, as noted earlier in this column. However, my goal is to objectively focus on facts in their appropriate context, as best I can.

If we are going to secure a society of liberty for future generations to enjoy it is vital that we restore contextual facts to the political debate. Our tribes are not always right, and the other tribes are not always wrong. Our tribes haven’t cornered the market on patriotic fervor any more than the other tribes have un-American sentiment.

The Dire Consequences

Now, tribalism itself isn’t the issue, that’s not the takeaway here. The problem is ignoring reality in order to preserve the ideals of our tribe. In a way, our tribes become more important to us than our nation. When we allow our national fabric to be ripped apart for the sake of our tribe winning, we all lose.

We are all people and we bring a variety of perspectives to the same set of facts. Hence the necessity that we appropriately contextualize the facts at hand. Otherwise, we just continue the evisceration of political dialogue in our nation and become further polarized against our neighbors. If we don’t improve talking through our differences, our differences will manifest into the very things that will threaten the future of liberty in our nation.


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Libertarian Ideals: Unintentional Self-Destruction

Mark West | United States

All Libertarian Party candidates have experienced this at one point or another. Laying an enormous weight on every chance post and idle utterance, this grueling beast can eviscerate a campaign in a matter of moments. Yet, battling for balance with this monstrosity wearies every candidate and stalls campaigns in the malicious mire of friendly fire.

“You’re not libertarian enough!” “A real libertarian doesn’t…” “You’re not pure at all!”

Usually, purists more interested in spreading ideas than helping candidates win sing this raucous refrain. At the same time, those who magnify the importance of winning an election over spreading pure ideals would attack from the other side saying:

“You can’t win elections with purist libertarian ideals!”

Unfortunately, neither statement actually helps candidates. Yet, both statements serve the self-destructive purpose of deflating campaigns and diminishing returns.

At the heart of these conversations is the growing divide on the purpose for the existence of the Libertarian Party. Do we exist to spread libertarian ideals or to win elections? The implication seems to be that we can’t do both.

My Painful Experiences Spreading Libertarian Ideals

Admittedly, our candidates struggle to express the nuances of policies aimed at transforming government. How can we best explain our plans to transition governance from authoritarian structures into libertarian ones? On this note, I’m interested in seeing the process that Adam Kokesh promises is going to become clear in his upcoming book. Aptly named “American Freedom”, this book is going to detail Kokesh’ process for the dissolution of the Federal Government.

I’ve run two campaigns for office as a Libertarian. In 2016, I was the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. House District 1 in Arkansas. I received 23.7% of the vote (57,181 votes) in a two-way race. In 2018, I was the Libertarian Party candidate for Arkansas Governor. I received 2.9% of the vote (25,885 votes) which was 0.1% shy of securing ballot access for 2020. I missed it by 860 votes!

As different as the two races were from a policy standpoint, one similarity was striking. In both, I felt like Thanos trying to balance his knife as an allegory for balancing the universe. My biggest struggle was balancing the libertarian ideal in proposals dealing with authoritarian structures and problems.

If my solutions leaned too far libertarian, I was suddenly a purist whose ideas wouldn’t win elections. But if my solutions leaned too far authoritarian, fellow party members told me I wasn’t libertarian enough and that I wouldn’t get support or votes. Both sides treated me as an enemy to the libertarian ideal.

Death by a Thousand Distractions

I found it rewarding to take the opportunity for publicly sharing libertarian-leaning solutions through my campaigns. In reality, my audiences had been force-fed authoritarianism, which left many shocked and confused. They struggled to grasp a candidate offering solutions that didn’t include government interference or intervention. When I needed time and opportunity to engage and explain, other libertarians dragged me into battles over philosophy.

Essentially, a thousand distractions cursed my campaigns to death. I’m still emotionally spent. I’ve lost the desire to run for office and am deliberately avoiding the ballot in 2020. Why?

In one example, I received the most visceral responses from my party brethren when I proclaimed myself pro-life. I believe libertarians desperately need a salient solution on this issue. Caryn Ann Harlos’ column about the issue serves such a purpose for my own philosophy.

In Arkansas, the Libertarian Party platform on abortion is a death sentence for libertarian candidates. I would have been better served with more time to explain the nuances of the issue with non-libertarians. But instead, I had to play defense against other libertarians calling me fake and unworthy.

I am a libertarian because of the influence of Rodger Paxton, host of The Lava Flow and owner of Pax Libertas Productions. My political philosophy almost mirrors his and I have been a member of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus. Therefore, others labeling me a fake for suggesting transitional proposals to authoritarian problems was disheartening. My proposals always maintain an eye to a more voluntaryist society, even if it comes in stages.

No Good Answers

Of course, I don’t claim to know the right answer in this debate. So, I will not push one. However, I do want to use the insight from my campaign experiences to end our self-destructive habits.

So, when you see a libertarian candidate, give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless the candidate is blatantly non-libertarian and violating the Statement of Principles and Platform on issue after issue, give them a break. After all, they sure need one.

Can we ask candidates to be honest about stances that diverge from our Platform and Statement of Principles? Should we let our convention decisions be the last word on nominations so that only rallying and support follows the candidates afterward?

I’m not certain we really have good answers for those questions. But, I am certain that our candidates deserve better than our most self-destructive habits. After, they are willingly fighting for our place on the political stage on the local, state, and national levels.


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