The *Pittsburgh Post-Gazette* endorses Trump

Say it ain’t so!

Here is a taste:

Let’s look at the Trump record:

Under Donald Trump the economy, pre-COVID, boomed, like no time since the 1950s. Look at your 401(k) over the past three years.

Unemployment for Black Americans is lower than it has ever been, under any president of either party.

Under Mr. Trump, our trade relationships have vastly improved and our trade deals have been rewritten. Thanks to him, middle America is on the map again and the Appalachian and hourly worker has some hope.

Has Mr. Trump done enough for these struggling fellow citizens? No. But he recognized them. Maybe he was not articulate, but he recognized their pain.

No one ever asked the American people, or the people in “flyover,” country, if they wanted to send their jobs abroad — until Mr. Trump. He has moved the debate, in both parties, from free trade, totally unfettered, to managed, or fair, trade. He has put America first, just as he said he would.

He also kept his promise to appoint originalists to the Supreme Court of the United States. His third appointment, Amy Coney Barrett, is the best of all — a jurist whose mind and character and scholarship ARE first class. We hope she stands against both judicial and executive excess.

Finally, let’s talk about one of the most important concerns in this region — energy. Under Mr. Trump the United States achieved energy independence for the first time in the lifetimes of most of us. Where would Western Pennsylvania be without the Shell Petrochemical Complex (the “cracker plant”)?

Donald Trump is not Churchill, to be sure, but he gets things done.

He is not a unifier. He often acts like the president of his base, not the whole country. He has done nothing to lessen our divisions and has, in fact, often deepened them. The convictions and intellect of all Americans should be respected by ALL Americans, especially the president.

Has Mr. Trump handled the pandemic perfectly? No. But no one masters a pandemic. And the president was and is right that we must not cower before the disease and we have to keep America open and working.

He has not listened well to people who could have helped him. He has not learned government, or shown interest in doing so.

But the Biden-Harris ticket offers us higher taxes and a nanny state that will bow to the bullies and the woke who would tear down history rather than learning from history and building up the country.

It offers an end to fracking and other Cuckoo California dreams that will cost the economy and the people who most need work right now. “Good-paying green jobs” are probably not jobs for Pittsburgh, or Cleveland, or Toledo, or Youngstown.

It offers softness on China, which Mr. Trump understands is our enemy.

Mr. Biden is too old for the job, and fragile. There is a very real chance he will not make it through the term. Mr. Trump is also too old but seemingly robust. But in Mike Pence, Mr. Trump has a vice president ready to take over, if need be. He is a safe pair of hands. Sen. Kamala Harris gives no evidence of being ready to be president.

This newspaper has not supported a Republican for president since 1972. But we believe Mr. Trump, for all his faults, is the better choice this year. We respect and understand those who feel otherwise.

Read the entire editorial here. I would have preferred it if the Post-Gazette just reprinted this opinion piece as it’s editorial. 🙂

Senator Pat Toomey will not run for reelection or for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022

Today we have some local news with national implications. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey appears to be leaving politics. Here is the Philadelphia Inquirer:

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has decided not to run for reelection or for governor of Pennsylvania in 2022, according to two people familiar with his plans, a surprise decision by the Republican with significant implications for the state’s next elections.

He is planning to serve out his current Senate term but won’t run for either of those offices, seemingly ending his career in elected office, at least for now. A formal announcement is expected Monday.

Toomey’s office on Sunday neither confirmed nor denied the senator’s plans. The people familiar with his plans spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

As the only Republican holding statewide office other than judges, Toomey was widely seen as the likely Republican favorite for governor in 2022. His decision not to run for that office or for Senate could create two wide-open contests on the Republican side, while depriving the party of running its most established current political figure in Pennsylvania.

Read the rest here.

“The boys mostly like Trump”

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This is a really interesting article on how 18-year-olds in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area are thinking about the 2020 election.  Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Julia Terruso explores some of the gender differences among first-time voters in this important swing state.

Here is a taste:

At seventh period lunch, Brian Fabricatore, 16, completed an unofficial survey of his friend group — six guys and one girl. “This is pretty much an all-Trump table,” he said. With some exceptions, the young men at Dunmore say they lean Republican, largely because they support Trump. Most of the girls consider themselves to be Democrats.

That reflects national polling, which shows Trump is viewed more favorably by men (42% of men supported him in an Economist/YouGov poll this month, compared with 34% of women).

Back when Trump first came on Stanco’s radar, he said, the appeal was mostly humor. The jokes have stuck.

TikTok and Instagram are high school political battlefields. Following the recent Iranian crisis, the boys shared memes of World War III jokes — including one fake tweet where Trump says he’s drafting all people with Android phones to go to war first.

The girls mostly roll their eyes, but sometimes the jabs cross a line. Last year, when Alabama passed an anti-abortion bill, some of the boys shared a series of Instagram posts from women outraged by the ban, with the song “Hoes Mad” playing in the background.

“The boys mostly like Trump. There’s an attention side of it,” Chiaro said. “It’s just like a way to get people upset, to rile up the girls, the whole masculine group loves Trump.”

Stanco admits that’s a part of it. “Just historically, when you think Republican, you think males, and when you think liberals, you think more female,” said Stanco.

Read the entire piece here.

Jess King: A Mennonite Running for Congress

This is not my district, but I live close to its borders.  I have written before about the way Christianity has been fueling the Democratic candidates for Congress in south-central Pennsylvania.  (Also see this post on Lutheran minister George Scott).

Here is another Washington Post piece on Jess King, a Mennonite who is fighting an up-hill battle against Republican incumbent Lloyd Smucker in Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District.

A taste:

LANCASTER, Pa. — Voters in the heart of Pennsylvania’s rolling dairy farms and Amish countryside have rarely seen a Democrat mount a competitive campaign for Congress — until now.

From all appearances, first-time candidate Jess King is giving freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker a fight to the finish in Tuesday’s midterm election in this heavily conservative district on Pennsylvania’s southern border.

Drawn by her Mennonite faith into a career of nonprofit anti-poverty work, King said she isn’t necessarily running against President Donald Trump.

For sure, she doesn’t like Trump, calling him inflammatory and divisive.

But, she said, she is trying to tap into issues where she and Trump voters can agree, whether on the need for health care, a level economic playing field or a government that is responsive to people, not corporate campaign contributions.

“That’s why we don’t talk about Trump so much because it’s not helpful, in that it becomes another element of the division, and shame is not a tactic that works,” King said in an interview in her bustling downtown Lancaster campaign office. “You know, to shame people into, ‘hey, you were wrong in your vote,’ or ‘hey, you should have done something else,’ or ‘hey, I think less of you.’ That doesn’t work, so we don’t do it.”

King, 44, is endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and has gone toe-to-toe with Smucker in fundraising without accepting corporate campaign contributions or getting help from Democratic Party organizations.

Smucker, 54, acknowledges the race is competitive. Two polls in recent weeks have shown a single-digit race and Republicans are not disputing that finding. Still, Smucker says Republicans are getting engaged and happy with the last two years, and will vote to ensure the seat remains in Republican hands.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence came to campaign and raise cash for Smucker, who began airing attack ads that King says are full of lies about her.

Smucker suggests she wants to legalize heroin and abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She doesn’t. He said she’s for open borders. She’s not.

The ads show Smucker in a plaid shirt, call him a central Pennsylvania native and suggest that “socialists” from San Francisco and New York are funding King’s campaign. King does not call herself a socialist and much of Smucker’s campaign contributions are from outside the district.

Read the rest here.

 

Penn Live Endorses George Scott in Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District

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George Scott

A lot of his here in south central Pennsylvania are following the congressional race in the 10th District.  Trump loyalist and incumbent Scott Perry (R) is running against Lutheran clergyman (ELCA) George Scott (D).  Because of the newly redrawn congressional maps in Pennsylvania, the district that includes my hometown of Mechanicsburg is now up for grabs for the first time in decades.

Last week Penn Live (the online version of the Harrisburg Patriot News), endorsed Scott:

Here is a taste of the endorsement:

Scott, who aspires to be a “servant-leader,” is a political moderate at a time when American politics is badly in need of some moderation. 

He impressed the board with his views on healthcare, women’s reproductive rights and his commitment to increasing the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid coverage, among other issues. 

Unlike Perry, who has marched in lockstep with the House’s most conservative faction, Scott has said he will not support current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for House speaker should Democrats retake the majority on Election Day. 

His aspiration to bipartisanship in an institution where that tradition is a dying art was also refreshing. He told the board that “it all starts with personal relationships … not just with people in my party, but with folks on the other side of the aisle … who want to solve tough issues.”

He shares Perry’s commitment to the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

But unlike his Republican opponent, Scott also believes that right must be balanced with better regulation, including background checks for all gun sales and bans on products like bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

Scott has also called for a strong federal policy to address climate change, and says one that has caught his eye is a carbon fee-and-dividend proposal advanced by the Citizens Climate Initiative that would tax fossil fuels at production or point of importation, according to the carbon dioxide (one of the top greenhouse gases)  produced.

The idea is to get business, industry and government to more quickly convert to conversion to renewables and other cleaner fuels.

After three terms in Congress, Perry has emerged as a sharp-elbowed partisan and loyal conservative foot soldier of the hyperpartisan Freedom Caucus, a coalition of GOP lawmakers whose main priority often seems to be less about effective governance and more about ensuring a permanent state of legislative paralysis on Capitol Hill. 

Perry has voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, without approving legislation that would have replaced former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

In 2017, he voted in favor of the GOP-authored alternative, the American Healthcare Act. Despite recent attempts at Republican white-washing, the bill would have made it harder and much more expensive for people with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance coverage.

Perry voted against a carbon tax proposal and has said his preference is to let market forces continue to attack the problem. He pointed to large emission reductions that have occurred organically in recent years as American power plants have moved from coal to natural gas as a fuel source.

Perry’s assertion to a constituent that he didn’t want to pay for maternity care for other women because “I have two children, and we’re not having any more,” is dangerously short-sighted and a profound violation of the social contract between Americans.

Perry joined with the Freedom Caucus to call for the impeachment of the Rod Rosenstein, the senior U.S. Department of Justice official, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

And he made the bizarre assertion, without providing any evidence, that ISIS was behind the mass shooting in Las Vegas that wounded hundreds and resulted in the death of 59 people. Asked by the board to substantiate that claim, which he still stands by, Perry declined, saying he’d been given access to confidential information he could not share.

The Nov. 6 midterm offers central Pennsylvania voters a chance to forge a new direction, in a new district, with someone who truly represents their values. George Scott is that candidate.

Read the entire endorsement here.

A Mennonite is Running for Congress in Central Pennsylvania

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Last week my friend Byron Borger told me about Jess King.  Now I see stuff about her everywhere.  King is a Democrat running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 11th district.  This district includes York and Lancaster County.

King is a Mennonite (a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia), a pastor’s wife, and a candidate running on a faith and values campaign.  Here is a taste of Julie Zauzmer’s piece on King at The Washington Post:

Congressional candidate Jess King had just a few minutes to rev up a small crowd of volunteers before canvassing this picturesque town, still draped in red, white and blue bunting from the Fourth of July parade.

So in her abbreviated stump speech, she uses the same word five times: values.

“Lead with our values,” she tells her volunteers. “We have an incredible opportunity to have our values reflected in Washington.”

“Values,” here in Lancaster County, typically means one thing — faith. This is a town where the place mats at the Lititz Family Cupboard remind diners to say grace over their meals, and patrons discuss, over plates filled high at the buffet, which church to recommend to a newcomer in town.

King, running to represent this county and part of neighboring York County, knows this culture in her bones. She’s a pastor’s wife and a 12th-generation Pennsylvanian, a descendant of the Amish and Mennonite refugees who settled this part of the country.

She’s touting her faith perspective on the campaign trail — and somewhat unusually, she’s doing it as a Democrat.

Read the rest here.

In addition to King, another candidate of faith is running in central Pennsylvania.  In the neighboring 10th Pa Congressional District, George Scott, a former Army intelligence officer and currently a Lutheran minister, is trying to unseat incumbent Scott Perry.  Real Clear Politics sees this as a “key race” in Pennsylvania.

Tony Perkins Has It All Wrong

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Conor Lamb

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the guy famous for saying that he is willing to give Donald Trump a “mulligan” for his adulterous affair with Stormy Daniels, chides his fellow conservative evangelicals in western Pennsylvania for not coming out to vote in the recent special election.  He writes:

Although the liberal media won’t admit it, there’s a deliberate effort to try to discourage evangelicals from voting and being involved. That’s why we’re seeing an almost daily rehashing of Trump’s past. Americans can’t make it through a half-hour of cable news without hearing about the president’s behavior back in 2006. They can’t open a newspaper without another columnist shaming Christians for supporting Trump. That’s by design. Liberals know that if they can shame evangelicals for supporting this president, they can suppress their enthusiasm. Their aim is to translate that into a decline of our record participation in 2016. If that decline happens — even a little bit — they can retake Congress. And they understand as well as we do that if Republicans lose either chamber, the president’s conservative agenda is as good as dead

Thoughts:

  1. Perkins repeats a version of the old “mulligan” argument.  I have addressed this in multiple places, including here and here and here and here.
  2. Perkins devalues evangelical voters.  He makes it sound as if they are too easily swayed by the media and are incapable of making up their own mind.  This might be true (i.e. Fox News), but usually it is those on the Left who say this about conservative evangelicals.
  3. Perkins is engaging in the usual paranoia and scare tactics that we usually see from the court evangelicals.  Perkins knows that the success of his message is dependent upon his ability to cultivate fear in ordinary evangelicals.  I develop this point more fully in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  (Don’t forget to pre-order!)
  4.  I don’t know how many evangelicals in this special election voted for Democrat Conor Lamb, but I would guess that many did.  These evangelicals sent a message to people like Tony Perkins and Donald Trump.  Perkins assumes that Lamb beat Rick Saccone because evangelicals did not come out and vote.  But what if Lamb beat Saccone because evangelicals did come out and vote and in the process rejected Trump’s agenda?

Today’s Op-Ed in the Harrisburg Patriot-News: : “Why study history?: A bill before the Pa. Senate is only part of the answer”

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Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home read an early draft of this piece.

Here is a taste:

First, every member of the Senate, before voting on this bill, should read the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 6-12 “Academic Standards for Reading in History and Social Studies” and the PDE’s “Academic Standards for Writing in History and Social Studies.”

These CORE Standards, released in March 2014, require teachers to cover material that would prepare Commonwealth students very well for the United States citizenship test.  In addition, these CORE standards require educators to move beyond the teaching of mere facts.

They stress the necessary skills Commonwealth students need to learn in their history classes.

Second, strongly encourage Pennsylvania lawmakers to require history educators to have training in how to teach historical thinking.

Students today are bombarded with information.

The kind of facts necessary to score well on a citizenship test can be easily found by conducting a quick Google search. What our students really need is training in how to distinguish between good information and bad information. 

When they read their social media feeds they need to learn how to spot what is fake and what is real. 

They need to “consider the source” of information they encounter. They need see the complexity of the human experience as it has unfolded through time. They need to think about the forces that have shaped the world that they have inherited.

This kind of thinking should happen every day in a history classroom.  Students read documents from bygone eras and analyze them critically. They look for bias. They understand voices from the past in context. They move back and forth between the past and the present and get a good mental workout in the process.

History students learn to listen to voices from the past before judging them. In the process, they cultivate the democratic virtue of empathy.

They learn to look beyond themselves to see the world through the eyes of others–those who are dead and those who are alive–who have experienced it in different ways.

These kinds of historical thinking skills are acquired through an immersion in the past guided by a skilled history teacher.  I would thus, thirdly, encourage the Senate to initiate legislation that requires Pennsylvania history teachers to have a college major in history. 

At Messiah College, a private institution in Mechanicsburg where I chair the History Department, pre-service teachers graduate with both a Pennsylvania teaching certification in Social Studies and a full history major. 

Earlier this year the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Messiah’s history education program as one of the sixteen best in the United States. 

By taking 39-credit hours in history, our students enter the classroom prepared to deliver content and cultivate the historical habits of the mind desperately need in our society today.

The Rafferty/Dinniman bill is not a bad start. Facts and civic knowledge is the foundation of a good history education. But it is only a foundation.

Read the entire piece here.

“March on Harrisburg” Calls for a New Era in Pennsylvania Politics

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I am happy to publish this piece by John Craig Hammond,  If you care about the fate of democracy in Pennsylvania please give it a read. –JF

Google “corrupt” and “state legislature,” and guess what name pops up over and over again? Pennsylvania – of course.

This is not “new” news. Our commonwealth enjoys (if that is the proper term) a century-long history of corruption that continues unabated to the present. The impact on public confidence is predictable: a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll shows that only 35 percent of Pennsylvania voters think we are “headed in the right direction.”

It is news, however, that Pennsylvanians are at last so fed up with dysfunction, ineptitude and lack of responsiveness in Harrisburg that they are banding together to bring about fundamental change. A grassroots group that I’ve joined, March on Harrisburg, is living up to its name literally and figuratively, as thousands of citizens call, write, meet and actually journey to the statehouse with the goal of launching a new era in Pennsylvania politics.

We believe that just three key measures will go a long way to establish open and responsive government:

End gerrymandering. Pennsylvania’s current system allows the party in power to draw up the voting district map in its own favor; in essence, politicians get to pick their voters. Thus, Pennsylvania is one of the three most gerrymandered states in the nation, with some of the least competitive elections. In the 2016 elections for state house and state senate, for example, about one-half of incumbents ran unopposed thanks to the “safe” districts that they gerrymandered for themselves.

March on Harrisburg seeks to end gerrymandering by establishing an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission. You can help by calling your state legislators to demand that SB 22 and HB 722, currently in committee, be brought to the floor for a vote.

End gift-giving. Even as you read this, legislators, along with their staff and their family members, are accepting gifts from special interests – and it is perfectly legal. Pennsylvania ethics and reporting laws are so murky and ineffective that gift-giving is, in practice, an open invitation to corruption.

March on Harrisburg seeks to ban such gifts. Please contact your elected officials with two requests: to pledge personally to stop taking gifts and to propose legislation forbidding gift-giving.

Institute automatic voter registration. Politicians tend to favor our state’s antiquated voter registration mechanism because it narrows the electorate and reduces the number of pesky voters who otherwise might go around expecting good, responsive government.

Automatic voter registration is easy to implement, and there is no excuse for failing to do so in Pennsylvania. March on Harrisburg believes that if you are legally entitled to vote, you should be automatically registered to vote. We hope you will contact your legislators to express that view.

With these three important measures, Pennsylvania citizens can begin the process of reclaiming the state house. The fight will not be easy. But it can and must be done.

Please contact your state representative and senator, and let them know that you support March on Harrisburg and that you expect them to do the same. Democracy depends on you.

John Craig Hammond, Ph.D

Franklin Park, PA