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Is Steve Bannon a racist? Is that even what we should be asking?

Several of my friends on facebook have been asking whether Steve Bannon, Trump’s pick for Chief Strategist, is really a racist. But I think it’s the wrong question. Sure, if there were something out there of him praising the KKK or some such nonsense, that would be a primary concern.

what-do-we-stand-for

But most of the conversation seems to be focusing on what racists think of him and there are more important concerns.

Namely, what is it that HE wants for the country, the White House and the Republican Party?

His name up for consideration for any White House position raises serious concerns for me. Granted, my position is likely a lonely one, because they are the exact same concerns I had when Trump gained the nomination. This is not a principled movement. It is wholly reactionary in nature.

Nominating the head of Breitbart News is akin to nominating the Head of Daily Kos . . . except that I find the Daily Kos to be less emotionally charged. Maybe more like Crooks and Liars? In other words, it is a site so dedicated to tearing down, it has negated any chance at useful dialogue. Which is precisely the wrong direction for the President of the United States to take.

He could be the most racially inclusive man on the planet and hated by white nationalists everywhere. I’d still be uncomfortable with his nomination. Because I don’t want the White House to become an ideological “Fight Club,” or to be taken over by an “. . . insurgent, center-right populist movement that is virulently anti-establishment. . .”

I want principles and reason. Leadership tempered by compassion. Bridges that are built rather than destroyed.

All things I’m not likely to see in an administration advised by the head of Breitbart News. But I think the conversation is important. Most people I know voted for Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton. This election highlighted what we will stand against.

Now, what do we stand for?

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Candidate attacks opponent’s pro-homeschool stance

Senator Tony Fulton is a conservative Republican running for legislature in Nebraska’s 29th district, covering a pretty conservative section of the capital city.  He is also well-known around here because of his support of homeschoolers during LB1141, a bill introduced this year which would have required homeschoolers to submit to greater state oversight.  This history isn’t viewed as favorably by his opponent, Susan Scott.

Susan Scott mailer

(Full size image available here.)

A few thoughts:

Educators agree…

I’m sure many do.  And I am sure that Ms. Scott was an excellent teacher who has a lot of experience to share.  But according to the Nebraska State Education Association, “teachers did their homework” and endorsed Tony Fulton.  So did the Nebraska Home Educators PAC.  What gives?  Perhaps it is possible to both support public education and the rights of parents to educate their children at home?

As an educator…

I have no problem with this section.  She appears to be a fine teacher who I am sure would have a wonderful perspective to offer on education, especially since so much of her work was in special education.  But I will say that being an excellent teacher does not necessarily qualify one for political office.  I would like to know more about her suggestions in a mailer such as this, rather than a focus on a skewed view of the opponent’s stance.  Perhaps this is just me, but it also appears as if she is attempting to imply an endorsement from the teacher’s union which she does not have.

Diverting needed money…

This section brings up two separate and completely unrelated topics and splices them together in such a way that I think it would be easy to get the wrong idea about what Senator Fulton actually believes and advocates.  He did introduce a bill which would have diverted money from education to roads, as referenced in the small print (Lincoln Journal Star, “Redirect Funding to Roads”, 12/19/07).  This had nothing to do with home education, but with one of those other issues facing the state…gas taxes and road construction.

Nebraska needs some revenue to cover the maintenance and construction of roads.  We have a lot of space to cover and a small population base to share the costs.  This year, the legislature voted to increase the gas tax, against the protest of the people.  Other proposals have included additional taxes on trucks coming through the state whose destinations are not here in Nebraska.  What Senator Fulton actually proposed was changing the distribution formula for the motor vehicle tax slightly to divert more funding to roads.  The money has to come from somewhere, and somehow, taking it from the motor vehicle tax makes an odd sort of sense.  The original formula gave 60% of the tax to local school districts whereas Fulton’s proposal would have given districts 55%.  [Text of LB 741 pdf]

Update: Senator Fulton sent me an email clarifying the redirection of funds.  I’m still looking for a source, but in the meantime this is what he says in regards to funding education:

One interesting addendum regarding LB741:  as I have proposed that mechanism to fund roads, I have also proposed holding schools harmless with General fund revenues.  In this way, it is a type of tax shift.

Instead, he advocated for homeschooling…

He certainly supported us.  Of course, as a homeschooler, I see his support of our right to direct the education of our own children as a tremendous positive.  And this attack makes me a little more uncomfortable with Ms. Scott.  But the article cited in her mailer is a little odd, and available online: Homeschoolers to hold rally at State Capitol.  You will have to scroll down.  It is actually a text box within an article which outlines the activites of the Nebraska Christian Home Educators’ annual Legislative Day where homeschoolers meet at the Capitol, learn about the legislative process and have the opportunity to speak with their senators for a few minutes.  This year, it happened to fall right after the introduction of LB 1141 and was not organized in response to it, contrary to how the description reads (although some of the schedule was changed to give more time to speak with senators about the issue).

And Senator Fulton was part of the opening ceremonies.  He undoubtedly demonstrated strong support for us, and has thus earned much loyalty from homeschoolers in his district and even beyond.  However, his education policy, contrary to what the casual reading of Ms. Scott’s mailer might imply, does not divert funding from public education to support homeschooling.

And a note on homeschooling and funding…

Senator Schimek’s proposed bill to increase oversight of Nebraska homeschools would have cost Nebraska additional funds…funds it does not currently have and funds that would have likely come out of the education budget.  After all, standardized testing is not free, nor are the certified teachers to oversee their administration or to go over the portfolios which were offered as an alternative.

Local school districts often speak of homeschooling as if it diverted funds away from education because funding formulas give them money based on attendance.  However, we pay the same property and motor vehicle taxes as everyone else in the district.  And it costs money to educate a child…money that is not spent on homeschoolers.  According to the US Department of Education, we spend on average $4,934 per pupil for instruction.  This does not include many of the expenditures which remain when a child does not attend school (such as the building, etc.).   The district may not be getting our tax dollars directly as they would if our children attended public school, but the state has more money to distribute because of our choice.

In fact, the Heritage Foundation pulls together some different statistics on homeschooling to demonstrate just how much homeschooling saves American tax payers.

Given the Department of Education’s conservative estimate of 898,000 students who were educated entirely at home in 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute’s estimate of 2 million homeschool students, and the national average per pupil expenditure on instruction, homeschooling likely saves American taxpayers and public schools at least $4.4 billion to $9.9 billion in instruction costs each year.  The Economic Benefits of Homeschooling.

In Connecticut, First Selectman Tom Marsh even proposed a $3,000 tax credit to homeschoolers in order to save the state money.

Support for homeschooling does not have to mean that public schools suffer.  In fact, the mere existence of homeschooling provides the state more money to spend on education and a small amount of competition for the public schools.  Across the United States, we see schools altering their programs and allowing for more flexibility and individualized solutions in an attempt to attract homeschoolers back in to the schools.  This makes our public schools stronger, not weaker.  And it gives more families more real opportunities to make sure their children are receiving an excellent education.

That is sound education policy which benefits all Nebraskans, not just one segment of the population.

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Why I am not impressed with Chuck Baldwin

Sprittibee hates talking about politics, and yet she can’t seem to stop.  I love talking about politics, and yet I just haven’t desired to wade into those waters.  But I’ve been asked so I thought I would answer.

There is a rather popular idiom common to Western nations, but peculiarly prevalent in American politics which summarizes the way many of us on the conservative side feel about our political choices:

I will be voting for the lesser of two evils.

Meaning, of course, that we see two options available to us, neither of which we are particularly keen on.

And in this election, with a strong Christian in the running, many have responded to this frustration with a slight turning of the phrase:

If you are voting for the lesser of two evils, you are still voting for evil.

But there I must beg to differ.  The “lesser of two evils” is merely an idiom.  It does not, in fact, mean that either choice is “evil” in the biblical sense of the word.  It means only that they are both unpleasant.  There are a number of issues I disagree with John McCain on, but I cannot call him “evil” merely because we have a different vision for the direction our country should take.

And honestly?  I have as many concerns about Chuck Baldwin as I do about John McCain.  He is a pastor, not a politician.  That is not a bad thing, but at this point I have no idea how well he can lead a city, let alone a state or a nation.  He has said a lot of things as a pastor which are good and right, but I do not know what that means when I try to apply it to politics.  Perhaps with more familiarity, my discomfort would be alleviated, but I know from experience that not everyone who starts talking about “biblical principles” and “our founders’ vision” means the same thing I do when I bring up these phrases. Some of them mean something very different, and worse than anything John McCain or Barak Obama would bring to the nation.

The Volokh Conspiracy passes Baldwin off as “an enthusiastic purveyor of all manner of far-right conspiracy theories.”  Baldwin has stated that on the day he is elected, “the New World Order will come crashing down.”  Really?  And how does he propose to do that?  Conspiracy talk always pushes me away, but I have not yet been able to decipher what kind of conspiracy theorist he is.  The problem is that in all of my research, most of the theories I have tracked down have their origins in very anti-semitic and often racist ideologies which began to surface in the late 1800s, with the focus shifting from the “Jews” to the “international bankers” in the 1930s.  That is not to say that everyone who holds these views is anti-semitic or racist.  Baldwin certainly isn’t.  I only mention it to provide some context for my own biases in these discussions.  That and the lizard people.  I tend to lump it all together, fairly or unfairly.

But to get back on track with this, to say that the NWO is going to “come crashing down” is a rather odd rallying cry.  And why I would like to know more what he means when he is talking about the NWO.  To me, I cannot separate it from the notion that the Free Masons and the Illuminati control the world…in which case the election has been decided.  But then to focus heavily on our nation’s founding seems odd since most of our founders were Free Masons, a factor which contributed heavily to their ability to meet “in secret” under the noses of the British.

I question his biblical interpretation when he reaches to Ezekial 22:25 as proof that there is a “conspiracy.” There was a “conspiracy” or “treason” of Israel’s prophets, but that is not proof of what most conspiracists are talking about, and fully irrelevant to what he is talking about.  And he completely lost me somewhere between the moneychangers in the temple in John chapter 2 and the international bankers setting up shop in the “temple.” What temple?  Then there is his reading of the Declaration of Independence:

In the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” If that isn’t a clear reference to conspiracy, I don’t know what is.

I’m sorry, I don’t see it.  I see no reference to conspiracy, only to the right and duty of people to throw off despotic governments.  Ironically, the Declaration of Indpendence was a “globalist” document as our founders attempted to make their case for independence before the court of the world.

I am a devout Christian.  And I do have concerns with what we often call the “secularization” of America.  But words like this concern me in a world leader, regardless of his religious leanings:

After all, the United States of America was a nation established in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory. The founders of this country were emphatic about that! Therefore, the imprint and influence of the Savior are seen and felt throughout the length and breadth of this nation. And it is that same imprint and influence that the secularists are feverishly attempting to expunge . . . Therefore, if America wishes to remain a free and independent republic, if this nation truly desires future peace and prosperity, and if we genuinely aspire to remain a blessed and protected land, we must quickly throw off this foolish infatuation with multiculturalism, which is nothing more than an attempt to de- Christianize our country, and humbly return to the God of our fathers!

This is what I’m talking about when I say I don’t know how to take his positions as a pastor and apply them to politics.  Is he going to “expunge” America of secular influence?  Does that mean doing away with freedom of religion and liberty of conscience?  Does it mean a theocracy?  I may agree that we’d be better off returning to Christ, but bringing that about is not the role of government.

Then there is this, written right after 9/11, which I have read five times and I’m still not entirely sure I know what he is saying.

Second, the architects of an internationalist, New World Order must not be allowed to expunge the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights. We cannot allow our own government to do by fiat what foreign terrorists want to do by force. Americans must not surrender their liberties to any government. It is more important to be free than it is to be secure! In truth, liberty by its very nature is a risk. We must never give in to the temptation to acquiesce our God-given freedoms.

America doesn’t need the approbation of NATO or China or anyone else. We certainly don’t need the blessing of Pakistan! The United States of America is a free and independent nation and must never accept any attempt by internationalist influences to diminish our freedoms or abridge our rights.

I think he is saying we don’t need to work together with other nations or ask their permission to invade Afghanistan and go after Al Qaeda.  If so, I disagree and wonder what kind of foreign policy we would have if this were followed.  As noted above, we sought the approval of the world in our own fight for independence.  How much more do we need to work with other nations in order to go to war abroad?  And we must remember that the attack on the World Trade Center was not just an attack on the US.  It was an attack on all nations, and other nations have suffered terrorist activity within their own borders as well.

Perhaps I am left voting for the lesser of three evils, but I am seeing it less that way every day.  None of the candidates embody all I would have in a president, but what does that say?  We are not raising up leaders to the task.  Even we, who talk about limited government, are looking to central government to secure that.  Something has gone awry, but it happened long before this election season.

And for your reading pleasure, a couple of things from others on the election:

Dr. Del Tackett on Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils.

And Reverend Peter Marshall on One of the Most Important Elections in American History.  I don’t like this one as much, but I do appreciate his point about an incremental approach.  And it is similar to the point I was trying to get to in the homeschool deregulation plan in ND.  We tend to look at things as black and white, all or nothing, rights respected or rejected.  But we drink milk before we eat meat, and I think that is an apt analogy for how we need to correct our government.

And please feel free to discuss the candidate you prefer, your frustrations with this election or your enthusiasm for your candidate.  And out of curiosity, do you know the issues in your local races as well as you know the issues facing these gentlemen?

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What can homeschooling learn from the political divide?

Cocking a Snook asks an interesting question that I started to answer in her comment box: What can Homeschooling Learn from Our Present Political Stories? It started with some musing about how Ron Paul seemed to unite extremists on both the left and right behind him over on Spunky’s post NEA endorses Obama. I was never particularly surprised by Ron Paul’s apparent unifying ability at the extremes of both ends of the spectrum, but I’ll get back to that after sharing JJRoss’ quote from “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire,” by Matt Taibibi:

The Ron Paul candidacy was an extreme example of outsider politics on the left and right merging…retreats from the mainstream that traveled in opposite directions but were parallel in substance….Both groups were and are defined primarily by an unshakable belief in the inhumanity of their enemies on the other side…

I have not read the book and am only reacting to what was shared. I disagree with the assessment, but I think the surprise that people from seemingly opposite sides of the political spectrum were able to so passionately come behind the same candidate demonstrates something deeply wrong with American politics.

The trouble is, we have all fallen into this “unshakable belief in the inhumanity of [our] enemies on the other side.” Conservatives have cast the liberal as public enemy number one. In fact, they aren’t even really liberals any more. They are God-hating secularists trying to push their homosexual agenda. Conservatives, on the other hand…well, we are “seduced by homophobia and a lust for war.” * Or, as Thomas Frank says in What’s the Matter With Kansas (as if voting Republican were some sort of mental illness), we lack the ability to make “certain mental connections about the world.”

Libertarians have long had a difficult time identifying themselves on the Left-Right spectrum of American politics. Because their political views are not so typically defined by the freedom to/freedom from debate that drives so much of the philosophizing against conservatives and liberals. They embrace both, and the libertarian party has long been split by those who vote Republican and those who vote Democrat. For an essentially libertarian candidate to have united these groups is unsurprising. To have attracted a few people who probably have libertarian leanings whether they realized it or not is unsurprising. Realizing that American political views do not really work along a Left-Right spectrum goes along way in quelling the surprise.

To realize that conservatives and liberals have similar goals shouldn’t leave people standing in the grocery store shocked that a single candidate was able to unite despite seemingly polar opposite political beliefs. We all want liberty. Certainly we define it a little differently. Certainly we see differing roles for government. But conservatives do not want to leave children and the elderly starving in the streets and the rest of the nation without health care any more than liberals want to make us all dependent on the welfare state in order to increase their…I don’t know what exactly. I haven’t quite figured it out because I stopped reading that kind of “reporting.”

What has this all to do with homeschooling? Too much, I’m afraid. Julie of Shanan Trail left a comment on my post Homeschoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort which rings true to the way we often go about advocating our positions.

Well, I think perhaps some of the defensiveness people feel against homeschoolers is legitimate…I started reading homeschool blogs shortly afterward, there are quite alot of entries that more than imply that the only acceptable educational choice is homeschooling.

And if you need an illustration, here is a nice one from the forum over at OneNewsNow (emphasis and misspelling in original).

My children my choice right? Never will I sacrifice my children upon that alter of mid control and manipulation. I propose bringing against any parent that willing allows thier child to attend a public school up on charges of neglect and abuse. I am raising men and women, not self-centered gender confused diversified evolved sin toleraters.

Is that what we really believe? Charges of neglect and abuse against any parents who let their children attend a public school? No wonder people get a little defensive at the mention of homeschooling. I realize that this is in direct response to the educational anarchy comment by the California Teachers Association, and a few people in the forum were a little insulted by it. But what does this sort of language serve to accomplish?

What certified teacher would read that and be persuaded? What parent of a public schooled child would read that and wonder if homeschooling might be for them? The point of this kind of speech is not to promote understanding, find common ground or really engage the opposition at all. Its sole purpose is to draw a clear distinction between parties and rally supporters behind the “flag.” It is a call to war, not to reason.

All too often, homeschoolers engage the public with the same “unshakable belief in the inhumanity of [our] enemies on the other side” that conservatives and liberals adopted long ago. We engage each other in that fashion, promoting a divide between religious and secular homeschoolers that does not necessarily have to exist. So we are surprised when friendships develop across the divide? As if our views on the origin of life were the dominant theme in our lives?

I am not surprised when I find myself reading secular blogs and agreeing with a lot of what they say. I am not surprised when I find more points of agreement than disagreement with the secular homeschoolers who occasionally participate in the discussion here. We are “polar opposites” to a greater degree than a Republican and a Democrat meeting in a grocery store. But we are parents. With a goal of raising our children in the best way we know how.

What can we learn from the “present political stories?”

Perhaps that we do our own cause a disservice when we march on the public with the same sort of passion that we march on the capitol. That nothing is gained by boxing those we disagree with into a dehumanizing label even as we react to the stereotypes placed on us. That those who appear to be from opposing “camps” very often have similar goals, just a different means of getting there. That homeschooling would get on a little better if we could more effectively engage fellow parents rather than shallow, materialistic people more interested in their careers than their children. Fellow educators rather than purveyors of mind-control and manipulation. Children rather than mindless automatons raised by the state.

* Recorded in Superior, Nebraska by Denis Boyles, p. 14

Update: Dawn at Day by Day Discoveries adds some thoughts.  Blogger doesn’t do automatic trackbacks, and her post is well-worth reading so I’m adding it to the post.