2014, Pt. I

This is Part I of the two-part 2014 Review. Part II can be viewed here.

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It is said that history is recorded by its victors. Apart from the traditional understanding of this maxim, we at The Mendenhall offer another interpretation: that ultimate victory does not come from those who fight the battles, but from those who write of them. The history of an era, as written and interpreted by its intellectuals, not only allows future generations to look back and learn the lessons of their predecessors, but also sets the cultural tone for years to come. So vital is the emergence of a rational culture to the achievement of our own ideals, we have taken it upon ourselves at the end of each year to summarize and analyze the year previous from a capitalist, pro-liberty perspective.

It is in that spirit that we look back on the events of the last twelve months often with frustration, occasionally with the pride of hard-fought victories, and always with a love for our country and the ideals that it was founded upon and may once again embody.

Introduction

As the New Year turns, the once violent streets of Ferguson, Missouri, are an echo of the chaos and hatred that wracked them a mere five weeks prior. Two dozen buildings are burned, some beyond repair. The shells of scorched cars have been dragged away, and the news vans that once swarmed the area have largely moved on from a crisis largely manufactured by the industry that they serve. Only the most desperate self-styled social justice activists remain, hoping to build their reputations on the ashes of a suffering community and to rile its largely undereducated, woefully unemployed inhabitants to action and to convince them that the road to improvement and the easing of their lot is not to be found in rising to meet their challenges but in stagnation; not in self-reliance but in dependency; not in pride and well-earned self-esteem but in the desire and demand for the unearned; not in reconstruction but in the touting of physical and psychological wounds to earn that label which in recent years has attained a sacrosanct status beyond scrutiny or reproach, a label which Americans under a growing culture of collectivism, egalitarianism, and nihilism are implicitly coming to recognize as both sword and shield in the war of pressure groups spawned by subjectivist philosophy and a mixed economy. The label is “victim.”

We are a country in turmoil. Six years into the presidency of Barack Obama, the United States is as divided as it has been since the economic stagnation, social tensions, and anti-Vietnam activism of the early 1970s. In the service of an administration that has failed in every major respect, Democratic strategists and leftist media outlets and commentators have fought tirelessly over the last twelve months to shift America’s political focus from the major causes of our time–economic recovery and stabilization, the crisis in America’s healthcare market, a looming entitlement catastrophe, an astronomical national debt, an increasingly aggressive Russia, and the chaotic wake of America’s wars in the Middle East– to smaller issues both real and manufactured, hand picked to safeguard the president’s legacy, level unsubstantiated claims against the right, and further carve up the country into combative interest groups along racial, gender, economic, or other politically arbitrary lines.

In the process, the United States in 2014 has become a country without a leader. Tattered by the scandals of 2013 and stripped of its political capital, the Obama administration, from its endless stream of departing cabinet members to the bitter slouch of the president at his podium, appears at this point to be simply taking a knee and letting the clock run out on its chance to address America’s most pressing challenges. The combination of a failed executive who is far less visible than he once was, who has shrunk from America’s major obstacles, and who only maintains the low approval rating that he has by virtue of a still sympathetic media has resulted in an America that waits stagnantly, desperately for the next two years to pass with the uncertain hope that a new Republican legislature may provide the energy and direction needed to overcome our present leadership vacuum. Whether it will succeed on principle or again undermine itself at the negotiating table with moral uncertainty and an almost fervid devotion to compromise we shall learn in the coming months, but with a growing list of urgent issues both foreign and domestic the party’s leadership is sure to be tested and its character undoubtedly revealed for those who wish to look.

The Recovery Myth

Despite the many excited claims of economic recovery, the first and greatest challenge for Republicans in 2015 will be reviving an economy still sluggish with the weight of overbearing taxes, a looming national healthcare program that will bring with it skyrocketing regulatory compliance costs and taxes for businesses, and excessive government spending. The frequently-cited lower unemployment rate– just under 6% at the end of the year– that the Obama administration occasionally touts as proof of its success (though never so loudly or so long that the media might actually scrutinize it carefully) is in large part the result of a diminished labor force participation rate. The participation rate, fluctuating just below 63% for most of the year, is roughly the lowest that it has been since 1978. Worse yet, the participation rate for working age men has been dismal, falling to 69.0% as of November. Employers, uncertain about the future and distrustful of the much-touted “recovery”, are reluctant to hire or invest in new job-creating ventures. Meanwhile, mispricing in credit markets under the influence of the Federal Reserve has continued to create dislocations in the economy and arrest real and sustainable growth.

President Obama
President Obama

Predictably, the Obama administration, rather than pursuing grounded policy goals of eliminating regulations that increase business costs and stifle the creation of wealth and jobs, has chosen to pursue still more statist ambitions at the expense of the American people, introducing just before Thanksgiving an overwhelming plan for 3,415 new (largely environmental) regulations sure to make life more difficult for business owners still struggling to regain their pre-recession momentum. Though unsurprising, the move only confirms that as it enters its final two years the Obama administration is determined to fulfill the anti-capitalist agenda that it began six years ago against the will of the American people and despite the greater hardships they are sure to endure as a result.

Meanwhile, opportunities for sustainable economic development are stymied by a burdensome regulatory regime headed by a president who seeks only to further aggrandize it. Keystone XL — a proposed oil pipeline to run from Alberta, Canada to southern Nebraska — has rested in bureaucratic purgatory for the entirety of the Obama administration, neither being approved nor rejected. True: the bill is not quite the economic panacea that its advocates sometimes portray it to be, and honest brokers can come down on either side of it. Principled opposition to Keystone XL comes from members of the right like Rep. Justin Amash on the grounds that it is unfair to privilege this project while similar projects are also stuck beneath the thumbs of the EPA and other agencies. Granted. The solution is, as always, institutionalizing capitalism and removing bureaucratic weight from all such projects, regardless of whether Keystone XL is eventually approved or not. The Democratic Senate, however, hardly cautious of government favoritism, operated on a rather different motive. It strove to prevent a vote on approving the pipeline in an attempt to protect the Obama Administration and at-risk senators from having to make a tough decision between job creation and pandering to the environmentalist left. After that plan bore no fruit in the midterms, the Senate finally allowed the vote in November in an effort to provide a moderate, southern Democrat from Louisiana–Mary Landrieu–an opportunity to survive a runoff. In a final slap to the face to outgoing Democrats (who overwhelmingly supported the bill), their surviving partymen killed the measure by a margin of one vote. Thus, the Democratic Senate concluded with the sort of petty calculating that had been its downfall from the beginning, choosing its own perceived political health over the improvement of Americans’ quality of life.

On the flipside of opposing economically beneficial regulation, the Democrats spent much of the earlier part of the year promoting a lingering product of “Progressive” Era economics: the minimum wage. As the prospects for Republican victory became increasingly clearer early in the year, the Democrats recognized that they had to invigorate their base to stave off defeat, and they made a bet that predictable Republican opposition to the minimum wage in the House would incite an electoral backlash. The Republicans, with few exceptions, allowed themselves to be steamrolled on the issue and offered no real opposition but their weight in the House. Regardless, the issue eventually yielded to more pressing concerns and the Democrats failed to excite their base into voting.

Why the move failed, especially in light of the GOP’s lack of engagement, is unclear. Perhaps the GOP’s muted response denied the Democrats the fodder they needed. Perhaps the fact that over half of US states have minimum wages above the national standard caused the issue to matter less where Democrats needed it to matter most. Or perhaps calls for higher wages fell on the deaf ears of jobless individuals living at the real minimum wage of $0.00. In any case, it failed in 2014. The issue will undoubtedly be resurrected in 2016, and political opponents to this policy — both state and federal — will need a coordinated and principled response if they hope to fend off a renewed push for the inflationary and job-preventing effects that invariably accompanies raising price floors for wages.

A Value Above Prosperity

The unyielding pursuit of such policy goals by the left appears, at first glance, almost baffling if one assumes that their primary goal is genuine economic recovery and stability. However, therein lies the error in trying to understand the modern American left. Though they would explicitly attest and, in the case of many in their ranks, consciously believe that their goal is the economic prosperity of the United States, in truth they hold economic prosperity to be a dim and distant second priority in relation to their overriding moral ideals of statism, collectivism, and egalitarianism. This is not to say that they would not like to “have their cake and eat it too.” Of course, they would. However, contradictions cannot exist, and a society cannot escape the consequences of its leaders’ destructive policies. When the pursuit of a moral and political ideal results in the erosion of a country’s well-being and its proponents reveal their willingness to evade the evidence of the long and destructive history of statist economic controls, they can no longer be said to be “well-intentioned but wrong.” There is nothing well-intentioned in the denial of reality or the evasion of demonstrable truths, and without succumbing to the paranoid conspiracy-theorist ideas of many on the right who oppose the Obama administration it can be said, frankly and honestly, that by virtue of its total disregard for the consequences of its policies the Obama administration is not well-intentioned but is, in fact, beholden to the pursuit of a nihilist agenda.

Unfortunately, the president and Democratic politicians are not alone in their pursuit of that ideology. In our Review of 2012, we wrote of how the emergence of the Tea Party and its electoral successes were spurring the creation of a “rapidly changing Left that is struggling to hold the middle while inching gradually toward a polar extreme of its own, coming face to face with the underlying philosophical premises of its policies in the process.” From ‘2012’:

To the extent that Republicans become consistently and in all matters the party of capitalism, they will force a dilemma for Democrats: a) stay the course, claiming to believe in a measure of economic freedom while advocating regulations, controls, antitrust witch-hunts, class-warfare, ever-increasing taxation, and the growth of untenable entitlement programs, or b) renounce the claim to a belief in economic freedom and invest fully in a collectivist, socialist ideology that underpins all of the other policy prescriptions. Here is where power relations come into play: by choosing option A, Democrats accept the same basic premise of the Republicans, but practice it inconsistently, giving Republicans the moral high ground and themselves the appearance of incompetence at best and hypocrisy at worst. Republicans would then only have to keep the debate on the level of ideology and its consistent implementation to consistently win out over Democrats; by choosing option B, Democrats could remain contenders in the contest for power, though ones whose cause is not substantiated by the founding spirit of this nation. They would become, effectively, a Social Democrat party pushed into the light for all to see, free of obfuscation and equivocation. In a country that, despite its many cultural flaws and inconsistencies, still maintains a respect for individualism and a belief in basic freedoms, such an avowed denial of the individual would have little sympathy from the general public.

As a description of basic principle, that still holds. The fact that the Tea Party has not charged as boldly on economic policy as it has on privacy, immigration, and other issues in the last year accounts partly for why Democrats’ movement toward their own extreme has been slower and more incremental. Nonetheless, the fundamental conflict between individualism and collectivism is playing out predictably–but with nuances that our earlier analysis had not fully captured. It is true that the left’s contempt for the individual is still unpalatable if held openly. Hillary Clinton’s comment this year to the effect that businesses don’t create jobs was met with widespread condemnation, showing that the left is not yet safe to candidly present its anti-capitalist views. But if the primary obstacle to implementing statist economic policies is the self-esteem of the American people and their belief in the efficacy and rights of the individual, then it follows as a matter of course that leftists’ first order of business should be to erode that self-esteem and to herd society into superficially determined groups. As if on cue, that is precisely what they are doing with an almost systematic campaign of arbitrary accusations and a culture of suspicion designed to divide the country and stoke animosities along racial, gender, and economic lines.

Though signs of the rising trend could be detected since the 2012 elections and remained steady through 2013, the American left in 2014 can be said to be engaged in an active campaign of manufacturing social conflict. It is a process spurred by both the narrative-oriented social subjectivism at the roots of the left and the machinations of eager political strategists eager to cash in on the turmoil. With an American media that remains willing to foster and stoke any ember of crisis into an inferno, it has sought to develop destructive social trends by looking for a racist, sexist, or sneering Marxist caricature of wealth in every news story. When every issue comes to be presented to the public through these lenses, it is inevitable that in a morally insecure society resentment will breed between social groups. At the end of 2014, that process is well underway.

The Carving-Up of America

Due in part to its predilection for collective forms of identification, its paltry belief in the individual, its history with the Civil Rights era (a mixed relationship, despite how it is presented today), and political strategizing, the American left has a preoccupation with the subject of race. A full exploration of the reasons for that preoccupation is a worthy subject for another article, but suffice it to say that fifty years after the marches of Martin Luther King and the sit-ins of the 1960s, after integration and the Civil Rights Act, after the appointment of black cabinet members in the administrations of both parties and the election of a black president, and as the generation of white Americans who grew up during the civil rights era and largely supported it are becoming grandparents, the left is unshakably convinced that we are a country rife with racism. They would have us believe that behind every front door in America (especially the ones with Republican yard signs) is a racist, whether explicit and conscious of their prejudices or repressed and unaware of their own beliefs.

Despite the legal equality attained by minorities since the civil rights movement and the rarity of significant, outward displays of racism or racial animosity today, the left treats as an unchallengeable fact the idea that racism is the animating force behind much of our nation’s politics and culture. Surely, racism still exists in the world and in the United States, and where it does it should be wholeheartedly condemned. However, the left in its crusade is decreasingly interested in addressing the subject honestly–a feature that it reveals each time that it levels arbitrary, blanket accusations against conservatives or any group or individual who disagrees with President Obama. So groveling is their support of Democratic leadership and the president that in their eyes the only possible explanation for disagreeing with him or for voting Republican is a secret hatred based on the color of his skin. Beyond this particular accusation, however–which has been leveled since Obama took office and the left-wing media readied their pens to praise a hero before he had accomplished anything–leftist politicians and commentators seem, as of the beginning of 2015, to be reaching a fever pitch of racial obsession, seeing racism in such inert subjects as the design of a train station, harmless music videos, camels (yes, camels), Thomas the Tank Engine, and other miscellanea that only the most convoluted rationalizations could ever see as even remotely related to the subject of race. The statement “All lives matter” was deemed by activists to be a racist comment far inferior to their preferred “Black lives matter.” The “racist” charge has been so pervasive that even a craven, me-tooing establishment Republican like Thad Cochran tried to use it against his Tea Party challenger in Mississippi, showing that members of the Republican Party are not immune to bad ideas and underhanded ploys.

With all the morbid absurdity of a witch hunt, the race-baiters would be laughable if their fevered accusations were not doing legitimate and substantial harm. The reckless, agenda-driven stoking of tragedies such as those in Ferguson, Missouri and New York by the media has caused possibly irreparable harm to one small town and resulted indirectly in the murders of two NYPD officers. What’s more: far from improving dialogue on racial issues or carefully addressing whether police practices in the US are adequately scrutinized, it has simply pushed pundits on all sides to their usual corners. Fostered by both the left and anti-government elements within libertarianism, what could have been a legitimate lesson in objective judgment and a careful debate regarding law enforcement reforms has devolved largely into anti-police tirades and protestors in the streets of New York chanting “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” and many on social media voicing their support for the murderer of the NYPD officers. Such violence and callousness are the symptoms of a country being pulled at its seams in the service of those who would benefit from America’s cultural compartmentalization into neatly packaged, hostile interest groups to whom favors can be doled out in balance per the necessities of preserving power in a welfare state.

Less violent, though just as prominently displayed, is the division the left manufactures along gender lines. This division manifests itself in two general, though not mutually exclusive, shades: that of the general Democratic Party and that of the leftist feminists. The first is the tired strategy of Democratic campaign teams and pollsters, who believe that the path to electoral victory is to promote what they believe are “women’s issues,” such as access to abortion or government-provided contraceptives. The oft touted, though poorly analyzed, “pay gap” between men and women falls into this category, and Democrats pushed the issue early in April in a failed attempt to gain the support of female voters. The Democratic shade of the gender divide has become less viable with each passing election, as women fail to be flattered by the condescending notion that they should vote for the Democrats on the sole basis of “women’s issues,” and that they need pay no mind to the “men’s issues” of foreign affairs, economic growth, fiscal policy, a burdensome regulatory regime, and welfare reform. As the freshman class of congressional Republicans is more diverse than it has ever been — more importantly, without even billing that as a major campaign point while the Democrats do — the Democrats’ attempts to paint the Republicans as being “anti-women” have lost much of their potency (the GOP’s statist stance on abortion notwithstanding).

The leftist feminist shade is considerably more detached from reality, more vitriolic, and more dangerous. Though the Fourteenth Amendment ensures equal protection under the law for “any person” within a state’s jurisdiction, regardless of gender, though the one exception (voting) was rectified through the Nineteenth Amendment, and though the cultural and legal progression of the last century eliminated professional and educational barriers for women across the spectrum, the leftist feminists still fancy themselves as crusaders in a world of “patriarchal oppression.” Where the women’s rights movements of the past addressed legitimate grievances that women faced, the battles contemporary leftist feminist range from the comically trivial (e.g., spelling “women” as “womyn” to take out the “men”) to the pernicious, such as the politicization of rape and sexual assault.

The latter, in particular, experienced an unusual surge of attention in 2014. Now several years removed from the rape investigation of the Duke lacrosse team, the leftist feminists appear to have forgotten the dangerous implications of rushing to condemn those accused of rape without solid evidence. Universities across the nation have, under coercion of the Obama Administration pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, established extrajudicial, “Star Chamber” proceedings to handle issues of sexual assault involving students, often affording the accused with none of their constitutional rights. Those opposing such proceedings are deemed to be supporters of “rape culture” — a rarely (if ever) substantiated concept meant mostly to smear opponents and non-feminists as rapists or supporters of them. Perhaps more disturbing than the extrajudicial proceedings is California’s adoption of an “affirmative consent law,” which essentially reverses the burden of proof in these campus proceedings such that the defendant now must prove their own innocence by showing that their partner “affirmatively consented” to have sex with them rather than be proven guilty of having sex without the other person’s consent. While rape is a serious and devastating crime, the assertion that American culture (or any substantial subset of it) promotes rape tends to ignore that rape — along with other violent crimes — has consistently declined for years. Though, as demonstrated by Rolling Stone’s willingness to condemn a University of Virginia fraternity of gang rape without properly investigating to see if the claim is credible (and indeed, it is not, as the party at which the rape allegedly took place undoubtedly never occurred), the leftist feminists are less concerned about facts and are more concerned with the demonization of their political opponents.

SC Gov. Nikki Haley
SC Gov. Nikki Haley

All the while, the left’s general contempt for women is so appalling that one wonders how they manage to so much as pretend to be the voice of women in politics. In South Carolina, Democrat Vincent Shaheen jokingly referred to Republican Governor Nikki Haley as a “whore”before a crowd of laughing supporters. Despite their alleged concern of assaults against women, when Bristol Palin — the daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and mother of one — was assaulted, a CNN host mocked the assault as if it were comical. Such instances undermine any pretense of integrity among the left, particularly the leftist feminists, on the gender issues the have constructed. Their concern is the demonization of the right and promoting the victim ideology necessary to promote leftist ideals, not any actual concern for women or the struggles that they face when they face them.

Beyond issues of women’s pay and the minimum wage debates spurred by President Obama’s State of the Union address, the left in 2014 persisted in its drive for destructive economic policies when inspired by the half-baked rationalizations for global wealth redistribution set forth by economist Thomas Piketty in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. The book was picked apart in a matter of weeks by economists on the left and right and revealed as having misinterpreted data at best and, at worst, outright fudged it to comply with the author’s desired conclusions. Criticisms were extensive and thorough (from such authors, and publications as Harry Binswanger, Kevin Hassett, Randall Holcombe, Martin Feldstein, four researchers at the Sciences Po, the Financial Times, and, yes, The Mendenhall). Nonetheless, the sales of Piketty’s book–astronomical for a very technical work on macroeconomics–revealed a sense of desperation on the left for a source that might help them to rationalize the social welfare policies that they had already long-since decided upon. The book’s support for a global wealth tax and its irrational portrayal of capitalism were both condemnable, but the greatest disappointment was undoubtedly the eagerness with which its supporters lept to hail it as a symbol of their collectivist, egalitarian goals. Little did they know: warts and all, it is.

The Rise of Victim Culture

Every division the left strives to create, every wedge it seeks to drive between otherwise coequal and peaceful members of society is to the fulfillment of a singular end: the development and fostering of a culture of victimhood in American culture. The reasoning is simple. In a capitalist society, individuals deal with each other as traders or not at all, neither violating the rights of the other and neither owing to the other anything except what was part of an agreed upon exchange. Such a system does not promote the envy and capriciousness necessary for socialist systems of government, in which people feel entitled to their neighbor’s property simply because their neighbor has more than them. Only when people feel entitled to that which they have not earned, only when they feel bitter enmity towards other groups of individuals separate and apart from their own “collective” for the violations of imagined leftist “rights” to healthcare, education, contraceptives, etc. can socialism exist. Socialist politics are incompatible with the ideology of individualism, and so it is the abolition of the individual and his transformation into merely a unit of larger collective from which, according to Rousseau, “derives his life and his being” that the socialists seek to achieve.

The result is a race to the bottom in which various groups of people seek to outdo one another in proclaiming the burden of their “victimhood.” Quite opposite a capitalist society in which the valuable production is the hallmark of the worthy, socialist-collectivist doctrine reverses this process in which the least productive, the most needy, the greatest consumers rather than producers are those most deserving. Rather than seek to alleviate whatever burdens individuals within a particular group may face by the transformative power of productive work, the left seeks to amplify the ailments. Rather than curing the divisions it alleges to fight, the left nurtures and expands them. The more left — rife with nihilism — promotes nothing but a moral inversion, in which suffering is the moral and deserves reward, while living comfortably, happily, and productively is cause for punition through taxation and regulation to the benefit of the sufferers. Of course, American culture is not so nihilistic as to simply buy that ideology wholesale, and such is why the left’s division of the world into victims and villains along every issue is meant to serve as a proxy for a rational morality — punishing the evil and rectifying the harms they allegedly cause. Of course, when the evil does not exist and the harms are imagined, attempting to rectify anything via government force is itself as criminal as any malicious act a man could commit individually.

Amidst the debates over everything from police practices and campus rape to business regulation and tax policy, one trend emerges as recurrent– one that is perhaps damning but at the very least highly suspect. When the left saw a violent altercation gone wrong between a black teenager and a white policeman, they assumed racism on the part of the white policeman. When the left defies statistics to claim that an epidemic of rape is terrorizing college campuses and is particularly vibrant in fraternities and athletic teams in highly ranked public schools, its adherents not only latch on to the claim uncritically but some prominent voices go so far as to say that all accusations of campus rape should be believed without challenge and without regard for the rights of the accused. The New York Times’ Ezra Klein went so far as to say that it was a good thing if some wrongfully accused young men had their academic and professional careers ruined because it would send a message to young men that they “better be pretty damn sure”– of what, one can only imagine. The nature of a wrongful accusation precludes any derivable lesson. And when the left sees economic stagnation and a failed recovery, it calls upon its old standby caricature of businessmen as malicious, out-of-touch, insulated villains and relies again on a stereotype of–in this case older— white men.

Far from succumbing to the sort of hair-trigger accusations of racism or sexism that have been criticised in this writing, none of these observations are to suggest some latent prejudice against white men. Rather, a more straightforward phenomenon: Democrats don’t get white men’s votes anymore– that is, not in a significant number. White, working-age males as a demographic have abandoned the left in huge numbers and do not look likely to return anytime soon. Thus, all of these issues are politically safe for the Democratic Party. Party strategists need not be concerned in leveling untold numbers of insinuations against a demographic that has already given up on them. There is no longer a trade-off as there used to be in targeting potential voting blocs–not with this particular demographic, that is. Thus, the caricaturing of white, college-aged males as sexual deviants, of white policemen as ipso facto racists in any violent altercation, and of white businessmen as unrepentant sexists secretly plotting to pay women less for the same job is an utterly costless play for the left.

Is this to insinuate some conscious, explicit decision by Democratic strategists made in a smoke-filled back room? No. It need not be so candid nor so literary as all of that. It is, however, the default result when in politics an entity–be it a party, faction, or individual– takes it upon itself to view this country as an arena in which interest groups must fight to be fed and in which party success is held as a supreme good to which the country’s well-being is easily sacrificed. Furthermore, other social groups should take note that this pattern of accusations is the natural course of events when, in such a social system, a party prone to a collectivist mentality finds that it no longer has need of their support. If it can happen to one social group, nothing will prevent it from befalling another– be it defined by race, ethnicity, gender, profession, industry, income demographic, age group, etc. Each is as safe from incrimination as their vote is valuable.

If all of this sounds improbable, remember that the alternative hypothesis is that these particular social ills said to be plaguing our country coincide perfectly–miraculously even–with the exact voting blocs needed by the Democratic Party to maintain its current numbers and that the party has inherited an unfathomable windfall as their political necessities and the will of history have found perfect harmony. Political logic or divine will? The choice is the reader’s to interpret for himself or herself. Whatever the force that is driving the left in its pursuit of these issues– organic or manufactured– the fact remains that real and challenging issues do remain before the United States at the beginning of 2015, and they can only be ignored at our own peril.

Real Challenges

In terms of addressing truly pressing domestic policy issues, 2014 was a year of minor gains, minor losses, and a great deal of deadlock and rhetoric. The final year of Harry Reid’s run as Senate majority leader was spent in his preferred way: blocking as much legislation as possible–Republican, Democrat, or bipartisan–from reaching a vote. Thus, despite the fervor of a midterm election year and the lure for both sides of putting forth new, eye-catching legislation, both sides were handicapped– no doubt one reason among many for Democrats’ utter defeat in November. Thus, Republicans in both houses will enter 2015 with a long list of issues in need of address and plenty of opportunity for bold newcomers to make names for themselves with important legislation. Republicans will need to be strategic, however, in both the ways in which they pursue important topics and their division of labor. Fifty-four Republican senators and two-hundred and forty-seven Republican congressmen all sharpening their talking points to focus on ObamaCare will be a considerable waste of momentum, skill, and political capital. Fortunately, 2014 set up a list of priorities well worth their attention in the coming year.

randpaulreview
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

A rare win in late 2014 came in the form of the effective prevention of the PATRIOT Act from being renewed in part by the similarly dubbed Freedom Act. The Freedom Act, sponsored by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy among others, was intended to end the federal government’s ability to indiscriminately collect phone data on US citizens–a worthy cause, no doubt. However, in doing so the bill also would have extended provisions of the Patriot Act–particularly the much-detested Section 215— beyond the law’s June 1, 2015, sunset date. Opposition to the Freedom Act came in an unexpected alliance of conservatives displeased with its provisions: big government defenders of NSA data collection methods who sought to preserve those programs and limited-government opponents of the Patriot Act such as Senator Rand Paul. Paul filibustered the vote on the bill in November, delaying the prohibition of the NSA’s excessive surveillance programs (which is likely to be easily passed in future legislation) while preventing the renewal of the PATRIOT Act’s more heinous provisions. Though we may be entering a new era of privacy concerns in which the government’s technological skills often outstrip its respect for individual rights, a major weapon in the government’s overstocked arsenal will meet its end in 2015. As it does, we can expect privacy to likely remain one of the most salient issues in US politics and a major debate topic in the approaching Republican presidential primary.

Given the President’s increasing propensity to simply bypass Congress with executive orders, “net neutrality” will likely play a predominant role early in 2015 as well. Net neutrality, in the simplest terms, is a proposed policy that would regulate the Internet in a manner that would treat all Internet data and traffick the same, prohibiting Internet Service Providers from charging entities like web companies extra for the increased bandwidth required to maintain a high download speed on their websites. The policy is merely the most recent manifestation of the Left’s contempt for individual rights and private property, seeking to control one of the greatest industries in the twenty-first century simply for the sake of controlling it, for managing it how they think it should be managed, irrespective of the rights of the people who are actually entitled to manage: the people and businesses that make it possible. The Left has promoted the policy largely by wrapping themselves in the rhetoric of the free market by proclaiming themselves to be protecting the Internet from censorship — by placing the Internet under the direct control of the government, the only entity that can actually censor something in the first place. Though the Republican Congress will not likely move on this issue, President Obama — without principled and vociferous opposition — will likely act independently of our nation’s legislative processes and seize control of the Internet through the FCC.

More positively, the flagship of the Obama Administration faced persistent opposition in 2014. Obamacare faced declining support as the bill’s rollout brought its destructive effects into full focus, leading to the resignation of the HHS Secretary in the first half of the year. As Americans continued to lose their old policies and face increased premiums, despite the Obama Administration’s promises to the contrary, the bill’s popularity declined further in 2014. One of the bill’s most publicized provisions — mandatory contraceptive coverage by employers, despite that most employer-provided insurance included contraceptives prior to Obamacare — fell to a First Amendment challenge by Hobby Lobby, freeing entities with religious objections to contraceptives from the mandate. Chief architects of and “experts” on the bill did their part to damage the bill’s reputation through their own ineptitude at obscuring the true nature of their motivations and their ideologies. Ezekiel Emmanuel, for example, authored an op-ed declaring that he hoped to die at the age of 75, because “living too long is also a loss.” Remarks from MIT Prof. Jonathan Gruber emerged that confirmed that he and other proponents of the bill intentionally deceived the public about the individual mandate being a tax and about the effects of the bill in order to get it passed. Further, the Supreme Court announced in November that it would hear an additional challenge to the act m– this time, on the issue of tax subsidies in states that do not set up their own health exchanges. Though this would not overturn the law, the case centers around the statutory interpretation of a provision that authorizes the IRS to issue tax credits for insurance coverage purchased on state exchanges, not the federal exchange. If the Court strikes down the tax credits for the federal exchange, it will be a major blow to the structural integrity of Obamacare, making it that much easy to overturn.

Five years after its passage, ObamaCare was still the centerpiece of American domestic politics in 2014 and the biggest talking point for successful Republican campaigns in state and federal elections across the country. Coming in at second, however, was the still-unresolved crisis of US immigration policy driven by debates from 2013 that carried over into the early months of the year and was stoked by a summer crisis that revealed the federal government’s inability to deal with a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the border from Mexico. Many came from as far south as Honduras and Guatemala. The crisis raised a number of issues and unfortunately proved yet another opportunity for pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle to display their usual brands of absurdity. Democrats (many, though not all) uncritically suggested that the US assume the burden of caring for thousands of minors in need of medical attention, food, education, and basic necessities; conservatives (many, though not all) used anecdotal stories of some young immigrants having swine flu or connections to Central American gangs to characterize them as mortal dangers and to reinforce anti-immigrant beliefs. Despite the oversimplification by both sides, however, the issue presented a number of serious and intricate moral and political issues that are not easily brushed aside, including whether Central American governments encouraged their migration, how to diplomatically respond to those policies if they did, and the legal status of unaccompanied minor immigrants. Though criticisms of the administration’s attempts to hide or downplay their presence and the president’s lackadaisical response to the issue are valid, they do not negate the very real issue before us nor do they suffice as a policy response to a very serious concern– both for the US and for the thousands of children left in the balance.

Understandably, the federal government’s current immigration policy could not long continue. Reform was, and is, desperately needed in this area. But with the high-profile primary defeat of the pro-reform Majority Leader in the House of Representatives to a relative unknown, anti-reform candidate, the Republican House largely shied away from any substantive immigration reform measures, instead focusing on the ancillary issue of border security. Shortly following the Republicans’ victory in the Midterm Elections, President Obama unilaterally announced a reform measure granting deferred action status to millions of undocumented immigrants.

The content of the executive order is relatively innocuous — indeed, even beneficial in some instances, permitting the undocumented parents of US citizens to obtain deferred action status. Even these, however, are partial reforms, and can simply be overturned by another executive order from the next administration, providing no long-term security for millions of undocumented persons now living within our borders. Absent legislative action, the issue will remain unresolved.

The executive order itself, however, is but another example of President Obama’s contempt for our nation’s constitutional system of government. While much of the executive order is likely constitutional per the Supreme Court’s lackadaisical enforcement of the separation of powers following the New Deal (given that Congress likely delegated to the President such discretion), this fact alone should be disturbing. The proper role of the executive branch is the fulfill the laws that the legislature creates, ensuring that the a undergoes a slow and careful process of deliberation before binding the a nation’s citizenry to its edicts. To the extent that the executive order further undermines that process, it should be opposed, even if the policies inherent within the executive should be pursued by the new Congress.

Healthcare, immigration, and privacy have become perennial stand-bys since Republicans’ midterm victory in 2010. They are reliable political foils used by Republicans against the administration and they are sure to retain that status over the next two years. However, several issues appeared to have fallen by the wayside in 2014 that remain significant threats to America’s well-being in the coming years. There was very little significant talk or debate surrounding the ever-growing national debt or the looming disasters that are Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The national debt now looms above $17 trillion, and unfunded liabilities in the coming years for our nation’s three major entitlement programs are, as we noted in our 2011 Review, projected to be between $66 trillion and $116 trillion. Tragically, little has been said by politicians this year as the numbers tick higher and the burden falls upon generations of future taxpayers. Perhaps Republican campaigns saw entitlement programs as too divisive and politically sensitive an issue to highlight. If so, they ignore it at the peril of the American people, our future economic security, and even our national security as there could be no more dangerous opening for America’s enemies to see it weakened than when it is in the depths of a self-inflicted economic catastrophe of that scale. As presidential primaries have a way of stirring up debates on nearly every issue in American politics, perhaps the coming bouts between presidential contenders in 2015 will bring these issues back to the table. Though there will no doubt be those who frustratingly downplay their significance or placate voters by saying that only minor reforms are needed, the rescuing of the United States from suicidal entitlement spending is only possible once the debate has resumed and our leaders choose the well-being of America over political convenience.

The War for Republican Principles

The prospects of a principled and united Republican Party required to effectuate all necessary reforms are unfortunately slim. As soon as the midterm results left the news cycle, they were replaced by December’s budgetary battle. While Republican leadership pushed a plan to fund the government through next September, Tea Party and anti-immigration factions within the GOP demanded more cuts, defunding President Obama’s executive order and a shorter funding timeline to allow the next Congress to exact more concessions. Despite virulent criticism from the outermost fringe of leftist politics over cuts to IRS funding and policy riders that modified financial regulations, Republican leadership managed to pass the bill in spite of sizable defections in both the Senate and the House. Though the GOP establishment’s decision to ally with Democrats rather than its own party could be creditable to Republicans not officially gaining the Senate until January, the budget battle could very well signal a trend to come in which GOP leadership shuns its own, tweaking merely the edges of our welfare and regulatory state rather than challenging its core and the president who embodies it.

Moreover, it is irrational to believe that winning the Congress will somehow erase the divisions already present within the Republican Party. As a party grows in number, so too does it grow in the multitude of opinions and political persuasions that it represents. Any bitter feelings between factions can be expected to intensify rather than abate now that actual results–rather than merely hypothetical or oppositional results–are on the line.

This is particularly true with respect to the rift between the Tea Party and establishment factions within the Republican Party. Though the primaries did not experience as many high-profile battles between incumbents and outsiders as recent elections have, the outsiders nevertheless won their highest profile seat to-date, ousting Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the House. Cantor, who outspent his opponent by astronomical margins, fell by a spread of approximately eight points to an economics professor of little renown, sending shockwaves throughout Republican leadership. Otherwise, however, primary challenges against incumbents were few and far between. Challenges against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Min. Ldr. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) failed rather predictably, and most Republicans fought for the chance to challenge a Democratic incumbent rather than a Republican one. This lack of primary pressure appears to have assuaged establishment fears for the time-being — at least enough to ally with Democrats once more for a budget deal.

They forget, however, that primaries are principally a battle for the future of a party rather than a fair referendum of its present course. Incumbents are difficult (though not impossible) to unseat, while battles for open seats provide much more valuable insight into the ideological divides within a party. The absence of a high-profile victory for a Religious Right candidate in the 2014 primaries is a positive shift from the Todd Akins of 2012. Another businessman reached the Senate in Georgia without having had a previous career in politics. And, to the extent that it can be ascertained presently, no Republican achieved their position running on a message of increased government involvement in the economy.

Perhaps it is the inherent nature of an opposition party, perhaps it is the result of the Democratic establishment’s tendency to pick an early “safe bet” and stick with them, or perhaps it is due to the healthy room for division and dispute now prevailing in the Republican Party; whatever the cause, for having exercised a rather reserved primary season Republicans appear by all accounts to dominate primaries in terms of media attention and the excitement of their base. Regardless of the leftist slant of all network news stations, CNN, and MSNBC, one can scarcely deny that coverage of Republican primaries is provided more enthusiastically and that by virtue of its intraparty disputes the party is, in 2014, simply more interesting to watch than the docile passivity of most Democratic incumbents towards a president who has become political poison. Their inability or refusal to break out of the faceless mass of Congress to put forward dissenting views continues to be a boon for Republicans, and it was that greater sense of excitement and personality that Republicans rode into the general elections as May primaries gave way to the fierce political bouts of summer.

Once the general elections were underway, the real contest–despite the hundreds of elections and re-elections animating the country’s political sensibilities–was between Republicans and a media determined to try to make this election appear close. Cable news was far from the only participant. Whether out of a leftist bent or the paper-selling power of political intrigue, journalists worked to maintain a measure of suspense in an election year that would see Democrats defeated by a landslide. Republican candidates emerged victorious in nearly every “swing state” senate race; achieved the largest House majority that the party has seen since the 1940s; and took governorships in alleged Democratic strongholds such as Maryland, Illinois, and Connecticut. Though left-leaning publications such as the New York Times would quickly go to work trying to rationalize Democrats’ loss, the fact remains that the elections of 2014 were a repudiation of a failed presidential administration and a party that cannot find the will to separate itself from it.

As political strategies go, Republican candidates’ approaches in 2014 were low-risk and steady. They criticized a president with a 37% approval rating on a highly unpopular healthcare law, escalating and unaddressed issues abroad, a superficial economic recovery, and a very visible immigration debacle. The party’s measured tactics and careful candidate selection were a wise antidote to the left’s disastrous attempts to manufacture issues. As our analysis of the midterm elections detailed, Democrats suffered from their unwillingness to address America’s economic hardships, the narrowing of their focus to regional and local issues, their paternalistic attitude toward women and minorities, and their divisive stoking of interest group warfare that pushes them further away with each passing day from being a party designed to lead the country at large.

However, the achievement of a victory built on Democrats’ failings does not mean that the Republican Party is immune from its own very formidable problems–problems that manifest more in how it governs than how it campaigns and that will come to mean all the more as it takes the reigns of our nation’s legislature in 2015.

Without coalescing around a uniform message — even a basic one — the victories of 2014 will be for naught. The Democrats, now out of power, can only be faulted for any struggles facing the United States by way of connecting them to the President. Winning by the Democrats’ default is not a sustainable model when the Democrats are no longer there to default. Nor is merely winning elections worthwhile if one does not hope to achieve some set of policy goals as well.

The Republican Party’s immediate struggle is defining its policy goals or, more accurately, defining a general set of principles from which subsidiary goals can be derived. Since 2010, the Republican Party has been torn between two competing and largely irreconcilable ideologies: that of the “centrist” establishment (still at the helm of a ship with a nevertheless uncooperative rudder) and that of limited government advocates. The establishment was, and is, perfectly content to let the left define the nation’s course, merely following behind at a slower pace and quibbling over nothing but concretes. The limited government advocates — however few there are, and however inconsistent their application of principle — adopted the Tea Party creed of “free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government,” which is incompatible with the course that the establishment permits the left to determine.

December’s budget battle signals clearly that the struggle between these factions continues to define the GOP and will not merely fade with time. Until the 2014 freshmen reach office, it will be unclear which faction principally benefited from the gains in both the House and the Senate. The advocates of limited government, at least, have the benefit of principle. They can fill the ideological void where the establishment cannot, and to the extent that the GOP will be at a loss for direction in 2015, the principled, relatively pro-capitalist Republicans will have the benefit of being able to readily supply one should the opportunity arise. This, of course, assumes that the limited government advocates adhere to their own principles and do not choose to fight short-term battles at the expense of their long-term goals as Ted Cruz did in December, trading judicial appointees in a failed bid to stop funding of the president’s executive order on immigration.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

The mention of Cruz raises an additional matter: what is the status of the Tea Party in 2014? Throughout this Review, we have at least spoken of the Tea Party as if it still exists, and assuredly it does. Insofar as anyone who adheres to the principles of “free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government” is a member of the Tea Party, then the Tea Party continues to be a growing force on the American right, regardless of the name attached to it. The name is another matter, as the Religious Right has largely latched itself onto the symbols and slogans of the Tea Party without genuinely adopting its ideas. Moreover, groups announcing themselves as “Tea Parties” — while present — are, as the “Tea Party” has always been, largely local, fractured across various ideologies, and active with varying degrees of organization, leadership, and effectiveness. Moving toward the primaries, the Tea Party will continue as it began — a principally ideological, secondarily political force in American politics. Though discussion of the “Tea Party” as a caucus or faction may be much subsided from previous years, the effects of the Tea Party are still present in the background as a cultural and ideological force, shaping politics vicariously through reforming and challenging the Republican Party when it falters.

But the Tea Party is not sufficient on its own. It is but one of several competing factions, most of which are the pragmatic, concrete-bound conservativism that led the Republican Party to two successive defeats in presidential races. The right’s brief love-affair with an unsavory and inflammatory Nevada rancher “occupying” federal land was the most visible example — the continuation and support of an unguided policy of delivering guns and supplies to “moderate” Syrian rebels is a more subtle variation from Republican leadership. Rather than developing a long-term vision for the United States and adopting a strategy to fulfill it, the right tends to approach each political happenstance in a vacuum, isolated from the last and irrelevant to the next. Such is why the Republican Party — despite possessing the House since the third year of the Obama Administration — has largely failed to mitigate the effects of a nihilist political doctrine.

This is due, in part, to the irreconcilable ideologies vying for control of the Republican Party. The neoconservatives, the unprincipled Establishment, the Religious Right, the Tea Party, etc. are united by little except the letter suffixing their name. At some point, the “big tent” party envisioned by Republican strategists ceases to possess any coherence, and the modern Republican Party has — for all intents and purposes — long surpassed that point. Rather than providing intellectual leadership, attempting to construct a political coalition by drawing people to a principled message, Republican strategists have attempted the opposite: growing the party by diluting the message such that it applies to anyone and everyone, but losing all its potency as a political ideology in exchange. It is up to the intellectual right and the principled members within the GOP to alter that course, developing a vision for what to do with electoral victory rather than simply seeking electoral victory for its own sake. The battle was subdued in the past year, but one can be sure that the push for a new and lasting direction for the right and the Republican party will  be thrust again into the national spotlight with the beginning of the Republican presidential primaries of the ensuing years.

The Rise of the Social Left

Republicans will be all the more in need of confident, principled, intellectual arguments if the current philosophical trajectories of both parties proceed as they are today. As it stands, the trends in 2014 suggest a unique sort of inversion at work. The Tea Party, though it must still resist those social conservatives who seek to rebrand themselves under its name without adopting its views, remains in its fundamentals a faction primarily concerned with economic issues and government overreach. Its influence, combined with the commanding nature of domestic issues and global events in the last year, appears to be keeping the Republican Party soundly focused on key national priorities–if not always following its lead ideologically.

Not so for progressives. Indeed, conservatives’ prioritization of economic, foreign, and constitutional issues has been answered by a left that is increasingly focused on social issues. The failed campaign of Mark Udall in Colorado and its desperate attempts to force reproductive rights (both abortion and birth control) to the center of that senate race is just one instance among many of the left’s insistence, against the will of the American people, that social issues should take center stage in American politics. In retrospect, though the arguments that they level have circulated for years in the humanities and social science departments of universities and in the pages of collectivist rags, their centrality to progressive policy priorities in 2014 can be said to perhaps mark the rise of a new Social Left. Despite Democrats’ claims in recent decades to be the party that would restrict government intrusion into Americans’ bedrooms and guard them against interference with free speech, their commentary and accompanying policies in the last year suggest that their commitment to those principles may gradually be evolving into a thing of the past, and Democrats may soon become the social crusaders of the future.

Glimpses of 2016

Through the debates over the federal budget, approaches to reducing the national debt, solutions for ObamaCare, and privacy, the line between politics as usual and presidential primary contests is already beginning to blur. Figures of presidential candidates are beginning to take shape, defining themselves in relation to one another with public contests over issues on which prominent Republicans disagree: Common Core, President Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba, NSA data collection, and the logic of foreign military engagements. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio as well as Governors Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker appear to be counting the days until they announce their nomination. Likewise, political outsider and surgeon Benjamin Carson is quite evidently responding to voices calling for him to run. Even Mitt Romney, still determined to split hairs between ObamaCare and his own healthcare takeover in Massachusetts, has not ruled out the possibility of running yet a third time for the White House.

Based on each man’s history of governing and campaigning, one can already see the field divided between establishment Republicans and more consistent advocates of limited government. Unfortunately, it is rather stacked in favor of the former, with only Cruz and Paul standing out as clearly defined candidates with an apparent, genuine drive to defend capitalism against the encroachments of federal power. Bush is likely to continue the big government policies of his brother; Huckabee and Carson look poised to try to pull the party back toward a religiously oriented social conservatism against the secular headwinds driving the party today; Perry, though admittedly better on economic issues and willing to advocate reducing the size of (or even eliminating) major executive bureaucracies, can likewise not be trusted to keep the federal government out of the social sphere; and Chris Christie, for all of the hype surrounding his time as governor of New Jersey, appears as unlikely as Bush to seriously address government overreach and excessive growth, borrowing, and spending. Walker may ultimately rest more towards Cruz and Paul’s end of the spectrum, but it is too early to say conclusively. His principled opposition to unions in Wisconsin is certainly admirable, but whether that translates into a consistent, principled defense of economic freedom is yet to be seen. Romney is perhaps the best known entity in the field, and Americans generally know what to expect from him on the campaign trail. However, there is nothing in evidence to suggest that a third Romney candidacy would be any more ideologically sound or principled than the last two. For a candidate who instituted the precursor to ObamaCare and who once suggested that the United States institute a “new type of Marshall Plan” that would “assemble resources from developed nations to work to assure that threatened Islamic states had public schools, not Wahhabi madrassas, micro-credit and banking, the rule of law, human rights, basic healthcare, and competitive economic policies”, it is increasingly difficult to see him as the candidate for a party that is moving in the direction of capitalism, individual rights, and constitutionally limited government. One can scarcely be seen as concerned with excessive taxation and government growth while suggesting that US taxpayers provide public school systems to Afghan children.

But simply because Paul and Cruz stand on the same end of the spectrum does not mean that they are equivalent candidates. Cruz has frequently postured himself considerably closer to the Religious Right on domestic social issues like gay marriage, abortion, and drug use than Paul. Paul, though opposed to abortion and hesitant to take any strong stand on same-sex marriage, has generally taken a softer tone on those issues, not letting them define his policy platform or his image and frequently encouraging the Republican Party to be more receptive on those points. Such a stance displays, at the very least, more political tact on the part of Paul than Cruz, who is more willing to expend political capital defending the GOP’s indefensible positions on those issues while more pressing matters remain unattended. The two also split on a proposed measure to reform the national security state this year, from which Paul dissented due to a provision reauthorizing portions of the PATRIOT Act, and was the only Republican who voted against the bill because he thought it did not go far enough. The two also split on strategy when addressing President Obama’s immigration executive order. While Cruz delayed the budgetary bill that funded the INS long enough for the Democrats to confirm some two-dozen additional nominees, including twelve judgeships, Paul merely voted against the bill but did not seek to delay it. Most recently, the two have split on opening up relations with Cuba. Cruz, the son of Cuban immigrants, blasted President Obama’s decision, citing the brutality of the Castro regime. While agreeing that the policy should still be regime change, Paul stated that our previous policy “just hasn’t worked” in achieving that end. These issues, despite their agreements elsewhere, demonstrate that even in deciding between the two candidates on the limited government end of the spectrum, there are additional considerations that may make or break either’s campaign.

The Democratic field is a somewhat hazier picture. Hillary Clinton’s campaign to return to the White House has been underway arguably since the day she left it but has certainly gained momentum since her departure from the Obama administration. A former first lady, senator, and secretary of state, she undoubtedly has the most credentials of anyone in the Democratic field, but the question remains whether she can turn those credentials into a successful campaign with any more skill than she showed in 2008. That campaign was, in retrospect, underwhelming for someone of her stature, and her relationship with the media has always been a volatile one. Her saving grace in 2016, if there is one, may be the failure of the Democratic party to produce new, young, exciting figures in the era of Obama. The president has so consumed the party spotlight that few have been able to make names for themselves, and none show the personable qualities he evinced as he emerged onto the national radar in 2007. As a result, Hillary’s main competition at this date appears to be the bumbling, gaffe-laden Vice President Joe Biden and the utterly hypocritical self-styled critic of Wall Street corruption Elizabeth Warren, whose real objection to the marriage of government and private industry seems to have been that she wasn’t there to officiate it and dole out the favors herself. The only other names that have gained any currency as presidential hopefuls are Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb. Neither is a known quantity on a national scale at the time of this writing, though we are sure to learn a great deal about both as 2015 progresses. By all appearances, however, Warren will be an angrier, less likeable version of Clinton easily revealed for her hypocrisy, and Biden will be easily defeated… by Biden. As a result, Republicans such as Rand Paul are already sharpening their own campaign tactics by targeting Clinton early and often, revealing who they expect to compete against. Thus far, it appears a safe bet.

Continued in Part II, here.

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