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The disastrous Utah Republican primary

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The bid for former Representative Jason Chaffetz’s congressional seat has been a chaotic mess from the outset. And John Curtis’s victory on Tuesday proves the disaster maintained pace right up to the finish line.

The troubles started when Rep. Chaffetz, who had just been reelected in 2016 to his fifth term representing my native Utah 3rd District, announced in April that he would not be running for reelection in 2018. Never satisfied with his own statements, Chaffetz returned a month later on May 18th to inform the district that he would be resigning from office at the end of June.

This shell game was embarrassingly reminiscent of Chaffetz’s approach to the 2016 presidential election: endorsing Donald Trump early on; condemning Trump after the “Access Hollywood” tapes and saying he wouldn’t be able to look his wife and teenage daughter in the eye if he voted for such a man; then doubling back with what he insists was not an endorsement, essentially saying, “I’m voting for Trump, and here’s why you should too,” which by any reasonable metric is the epitome of an endorsement. Unfortunately, the events since then have roughly followed the same pattern.

The Utah Republican Party held a convention in June to determine its candidate based on a caucus of GOP delegates. Former state legislator and true conservative Chris Herrod pulled out a win after a five-round run-off, beating out 10 other candidates, including eventual primary winner John Curtis, who had a fairly dismal showing at the convention. But the delegates had spoken and Herrod was on his way, right? Nope.

In 2016, the Utah state legislature passed the controversial and unarguably unconstitutional SB-54, in which state government gave itself authority to force political parties — private organizations — to nominate candidates as the state sees fit. According to the bill, the onus of selecting a political candidate shouldn’t fall to measly delegates — party devotees, nominated by their peers, known for their political activity and dedication. Instead, candidates can sidestep the caucus altogether and gather signatures to gain ballot access, resulting in this year’s three-way primary between Republican nominee Chris Herrod, Provo Mayor John Curtis, and newcomer “my dad is famous” Tanner Ainge. Curtis had declared his intention of running in the primary via signatures regardless of the results of the convention, and Ainge didn’t even compete for the party’s nomination.

Herrod, the only proven conservative in the race, was endorsed by Senator Ted Cruz, who attested to Herrod’s loyalty to four key conservative issues: “having principled constitutionalists on the U.S. Supreme Court, repealing Obamacare, taking on regulatory reform, and tax reform.”

Somehow, despite losing the party nomination, John Curtis was still able to collect endorsements from 23 Utah mayors and sitting Governor Gary Herbert — as if there weren’t enough evidence that the state government resents the caucus/convention system. And have I mentioned that Curtis has not even been a Republican for very long? He readily admits that he formerly ran for office as a Democrat but couldn’t receive the party’s full support because of his pro-life stance. In every other way, however, Curtis falls in line with the Democrats.

As mayor of a town largely populated by socialist college students and professors (believe me, I just left it), Curtis enacted and encouraged one unconstitutional effort after another, resulting in a statist city government. One website has compiled Provo laws and ordinances constituting government overreach with extensive references and links to the actual legislation. Here are some examples:

  • It is illegal to fire a weapon outside of approved gun ranges, not even in self-defense.
  • It is illegal to house more than three non-relatives.
  • It is illegal to rent house space to strangers, stifling Airbnb endeavors.
  • It is illegal to have two sinks in your kitchen.
  • It is illegal to protest anything, anywhere, in any way without the city’s prior approval.
  • It is illegal to peacefully protest in public facilities, as one 80-year-old woman discovered when she was thrown out of the city rec center.

Curtis, while lacking authority to raise taxes as mayor, backed the council’s tax increases 43 times. His most famous “accomplishment” is an inefficient public busing service, BRT, that hardly anybody likes or uses. It limps along at Curtis’s insistence and taxpayers’ expense.

One of Curtis’s campaign staffers, a good friend of mine, told me at the convention, “John’s a conservative, whatever that means.” Um, no. You don’t just get to claim to be a conservative if A) it’s not true and B) you don’t even know what it means. For the sake of accuracy, I decided to ask John about it himself. He said he’s a conservative because he knows how to get the job done. I decided against pointing out to him that that’s not even close to the actual definition of conservatism. I asked him how willing he would be to defy the GOP or even what’s most efficient in order to preserve the Constitution, and he said he was very willing to go against the party — those Democratic roots shining through. I pressed again on the Constitution, and he insisted that he knew how to get things done efficiently, that he was committed to always choosing efficiency over party. Only after two or three more prods did he concede, “Sure, the Constitution’s very important.” He then moved on to another question. John Curtis is NOT a conservative, and he’s hesitant to even endorse the Constitution.

We may never know exactly what went wrong. A few weeks before the election — a closed primary — the state illegally sent out 68,000 Republican primary ballots to unaffiliated voters. Upon acknowledging the error, rather than recall the ballots, the state encouraged unaffiliated voters (largely moderates) to register as Republicans in order to vote. Several moderate-to-left activist groups called for the same, occasionally endorsing Curtis in the process as the “moderate candidate.” As we’ve already seen, Curtis is not even right-wing enough to be considered a moderate, and 68,000 illegal ballots in a race with fewer than 45,000 counted votes can certainly swing an election.

There’s too much uncertainty and apparent malfeasance to sift through, but to quote the great Luke Skywalker, “I only know one truth:” the Republican Party in Utah is in shambles, and it’s falling to the Left as it goes.

Utah, formerly one of the most reliably red states, is swinging. The Beehive State was divided during the 2016 election, but that was largely in reaction to Trump, not pushback against conservative ideals. This election is different. One of most historically conservative states has rallied tooth and nail behind a politician with openly socialist policies. Utah almost certainly won’t elect a Democratic candidate, so we’re most likely stuck with another congressman who is, at best, “a conservative, whatever that means.”

Kind of makes you wish the Federalist Party would start up in Utah, am I right?

Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.

Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards, Co-Host of The New Guards Podcast, lifelong fan of the Anaheim Ducks, and proud Hufflepuff. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in English from Brigham Young University in 2017. One day later, his wife gave birth to a beautiful daughter. Richie is a constitutional conservative and doesn't see any compassion in violating other people's rights.

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Culture and Religion

Is Mike Pence too political for church?

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There have been a lot of talk lately about Mike Pence speaking at the SBC. Many complained claiming it was divisive and political. Jonathan Leeman wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition criticizing the very idea of Mike Pence speaking. I will address this article in greater detail on the points that I agree and disagree with. But first, let me answer the very question I posed: Pence isn’t too political to address a congregation, but his speech was.

In short, Mike Pence’s address offered zero substantive theological content. It was merely about his privilege as serving as Vice President. While acknowledging this privilege merited a short section in the beginning, it needed no more continuation. Instead, Mike Pence droned on and on about his experiences and the administration’s accomplishments.

I think there’s only one way you can sum up this administration: It’s been 500 days of action, 500 days of accomplishment. It’s been 500 days of promises made and promises kept. 

Pence’s address followed a pattern of praising Trump with loosely intertwined references to God and praising his hosts as guest speakers often do. The intertwined religious language while praising the accomplishments, not of God, but of the President is the briefest summation of Pence’s speech to the SBC that can be offered. The only biblical passage cited was Psalm 126 in reference to a story that served as praise to the Trump administration. God wasn’t working though Trump in Pence’s speech. Instead, Trump was working. At the end of his speech, Pence did offer a superficial message about praying for America with a quoting scripture.

Mike Pence had an opportunity to address the leaders of many churches. He blew it. But would all politicians do the same?

Politicians Should Be in the Pew, Not the Pulpit?

Jonathan Leeman’s article for The Gospel Coalition draws this conclusion. He has five reasons for not allowing politicians to address a church event.

  1. No reason to give attention to a politician’s words over a plumber’s or an accountant’s, at least not in our assemblies or associations.
  2. Having a political leader address our churches or associations of churches tempts us to misconstrue our mission.
  3. Undermines our evangelistic and prophetic witness.
  4. Hurts the unity of Christ’s body

Reason one is most certainly true. However, I believe we ought to separate the person from the profession. On the basis of spiritual maturity and calling should a politician or any notable guest address an assembly. This first reason is the one I believe to have the most merit in regards to the situation at hand. Inviting a politician to address a Congregation is wrong if the only reason is that they are a politician. However, if the politician is a member of the church, what is wrong with having a fellow member speak?

Reasons two and three are certainly tied together in there logic. I believe these reasons hold merit for Pence’s sacrelidgious speech but are not inherently true of all politicians who accept such similar offers. Reasons two and three open a multitude of separate issues both independent and dependent on the circumstances. Meaning, yes this could happen, but the degree in which we can mitigate the temptation are limited for Satan is the tempter. In the case of Pence, reason three was definitely true. Many would see that the SBC tied itself to Trump. But that is not the fault of the SBC per se. But that is Pence’s fault for giving a campaign rally speech instead of a message. If Pence gave a theologically sound speech there should be little temptation to misconstrue the mission. The third reason is inevitable. Since the beginning, Christians witness has been undermined by the lies of Satan. The original Christians were thought to be cannibal and even atheists. We can’t always prevent these lies, but it would be good not to validate them which Pence did.

Now hurting the unity of the body of Christ is a weak point. Leeman’s fourth point is basically saying that Pence is too polarizing, because Trump is… Trump, on a National level to address a church. Pence is polarizing, but he was polarizing before Trump. The polarizing premise is true but, assuming Pence is indeed a follower off Christ, this would be the result of living a Christian life. Here’s another polarizing figure: Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop. Would polarity disqualify him from speaking? If we are to apply national likability to our church speakers, we’re going to end up with a lot of TV personalities who don’t comprehend dyophysitism.

Like Jack Philips, Pence has taken a lot of flak for being a devout Christian. Isn’t this the kind of person who may have a good message to the assembly? Seemingly so. Again Pence under-delivered. To be fair, Leeman clearly states he doesn’t blanket outlaw politicians from speaking.

I can envision a few circumstances where there is some measure of mission overlap that could justify it. Maybe a group of Christian college presidents asks the secretary of education to address them. Or a Christian conference on work asks a Christian congressman to talk about working as a Christian on the Hill, so that attendees can apply the principles to their own settings.

But while it’s not an outlaw, such an unwritten policy places constraints on the church that are not inherently necessary. Leeman supposes some similar justification was used when The Gospel Coalition had Ben Sasse speak. In 2017, Ben Sasse addressed The Gospel Coalition and gave a theological speech. He was noted for sounding more like a pastor than a politician.

To me only two things matter:

  1. Theological substance
  2. Correct theological substance

On these two requirements I think the body of Christ would remain unified with a clear picture of its mission.

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Democrats

Family separation battle will save DACA and lead to citizenship for illegals

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The latest outrage du jour by the Washington Establishment comes from the news that children are being temporarily separated from their parents as they try to enter the country illegally.

In her latest presentation of the gospel according to Nancy Pelosi, the part-time Catholic and full-time idiot, blasted “all people of faith in our country” for depriving DREAMers of the “respect they deserve” and for “taking babies away from mothers and fathers.” Meanwhile, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) issued his call for an end to family separations at the border.

In the Senate, GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) called for an end to the “zero tolerance” immigration policies. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats rushed to the border to grab a handful of election-year photo ops to document what former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro called “state-sponsored child abuse.”

Melania Trump, in addition to four former first ladies, shared how they “hated” to see families separated and called on America to “govern with heart.”

The outrage over family separation is coming from both sides, but it’s fake. These reactions are nothing more than election-year grandstanding by politicians in both parties who have no interest at all at fixing the immigration problem.

As I wrote last week, the GOP-controlled House is already working on an immigration bill that makes DACA permanent and provides a pathway to citizenship for approximately 1.8 million DREAMers. House Speaker Paul Ryan made sure to point out that this legislation also includes a provision ending family separation.

Yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced that he will introduce a bill that ends family separations at the border, which in an amazing bit of coincidence comes at a time when his Democrat opponent for the US Senate, Beto O’Rourke, also called for the separation policy to end. Cruz’s proposal enjoys the unanimous support of Senate Democrats.

For the record, this “for the children” approach to illegal immigration is how we ended up with DACA in the first place. Also note, as this article shows, that Trump is lying when he blames Democrats for the family separation fiasco.

The family separation issue is being used as a primer for the eventual surrender on immigration. And for those who believe that Trump won’t support this surrender, consider this: he allowed Melania to openly oppose his immigration policy, and he recently announced that he’s open to anything that Congress puts on his desk, even if it means doing the opposite of what he promised to get elected.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and FacebookSubscribe to receive podcasts of radio commentaries: iTunes | Stitcher | Tune In | RSS

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Opinions

It isn’t Never-Trump or Always-Trump destroying conservatism, it’s Sometimes-Trump

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One of the craziest—or should I say laziest—accusations leveled against me by Trump’s die-hard loyalists whenever I dare to call him out for breaking a campaign promise, getting caught in a lie, or promoting unconstitutional non-conservative ideas, is that I’m a liberal. Sometimes, they go so far as to accuse me of working for George Soros.

As I’ve said many times in response, I don’t work for Mr. Soros, but since money’s been a little tight at the Strident Conservative lately, if anyone has his number, I’d appreciate it if you’d send it my way.

It’s a sad reality that these pathetic taunts are what passes for political discourse in the Age of Trump. Gone are the days when differences could be civilly discussed based on facts instead of emotion.

Another sad reality of this behavior is that it’s a sign that the end of conservatism is near, as Trump’s small army of loyal followers attempt to rebrand conservatism by spreading the lie that he is a conservative and, using binary logic, accusing anyone who opposes him of being a liberal.

This rebranding effort has had an impact. Last week, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel warned Republican hopefuls that anyone who opposed Trump’s agenda would be “making a mistake.”

McDaniel’s threat was issued following the GOP primary defeat in South Carolina by conservative Mark Sanford after he was personally targeted by Trump himself. Sanford’s crime? Disloyalty to the NY Liberal.

Another source of damage to conservatism has come from evangelicals and the so-called conservative media. In the name of self-preservation, they choose to surrender their principles by promoting the lie that Trump is a conservative. Some of these voices have taken to labelling conservatives who oppose Trump as Never-Trump conservatives, or worse, branding them as liberals and/or Democrats, as was recently written in a piece at TheFederalist.com:

“Trump may be an unattractive and deeply flawed messenger for contemporary conservatism. But loathe though they might be to admit it, what’s left of the Never-Trump movement needs to come to grips with the fact that the only words that currently describe them are liberals and Democrats.”

Then there are those who have adopted a Sometimes-Trump attitude about the president, where everything Trump does is measured using a good Trump/bad Trump barometer. While it has become fashionable for Sometimes-Trump conservatives to stand on their soap boxes condemning both Never-Trump conservatives and Always-Trump faux conservatives, I believe that this politically bipolar approach to Trump is the greatest threat of all to Constitutional conservatism in America.

Sometimes-Trump conservatives have accepted the lie that it’s okay to do a little evil in exchange for a greater good. Though they may fly a conservative banner, their lukewarm attitude about Trump is much like the attitude we see in the Laodicean church mentioned in the Book of Revelations (3:15-16).

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Trump is a double-minded man unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). When lukewarm Sometimes-Trump conservatives choose to overlook this reality, they end up watering-down conservatism to the point that it has no value or power to change America’s course.

As lukewarm Sometimes-Trump conservatives point to the Always-Trump and Never-Trump factions as the reason for today’s conservative divide, remember that it’s the unenthusiastic, noncommittal, indifferent, half-hearted, apathetic, uninterested, unconcerned, lackadaisical, passionless, laid back, couldn’t-care-less conservative imposters in the middle who are really responsible.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

Follow the Strident Conservative on Twitter and FacebookSubscribe to receive podcasts of radio commentaries: iTunes | Stitcher | Tune In | RSS

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