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On election night 2010, Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin Gubernatorial sweepstakes flew under the national radar. More national focus was thrust upon Texas Governor Rick Perry’s successful re-election bid, and the election of Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate in Florida. Yet today, Walker sits in the first tier of 2016 Republican Presidential aspirants, and is actually ahead in some polls. He is garnering a cavalcade of national media attention. The other two potential GOP Presidential candidates have been relegated to the second tier of possible Presidential candidates. How did this happen? In his first year as Governor, Walker struck a resonate chord with one issue, his proposal to limit the rights of public sector unions to collectively bargain.

When Walker’s indignant opponent’s succeeded in securing the requisite signatures to recall the Governor that year, money flooded into Wisconsin from conservatives from all over the country. Walker became the national tribune for those Americans who believe public-sector unions wield an inordinate amount of power in state capitals. Walker won the recall election and became a household name on the political right. Consequently, Walker was catapulted from political obscurity to a top tier Presidential candidate because of this single issue.

American Presidential politics includes other examples where one issue (or galvanizing event) has launched a national political career. For example, in 1918, Republican Calvin Coolidge was elected Governor of Massachusetts by just 16,733 votes, defeating Democrat Richard H. Long. Coolidge won largely because of his association as Lieutenant Governor with the popular outgoing Republican Governor Samuel W. McCall. The next year, the unassuming, low key Coolidge became a hero in conservative quarters. The Boston Police went on strike after the city’s police commissioner, Edwin U. Curtis, denied them the right to join the American Federation of Labor (AFL). With the city in a near state of anarchy, Coolidge ordered the Massachusetts National Guard to supplant the Boston police officers during the strike. The Guard succeeded in reestablishing order in the city. Coolidge became a political folk hero to conservatives when his response to a letter written to him by AFL President Samuel Gompers was disseminated. Coolidge wrote to Gompers: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, at any time.”

Similar to the recall election with Walker, Coolidge’s 1919 re-election campaign became a referendum on Coolidge’s leadership during that strike (At the time, Massachusetts Governors were elected to one-year terms). Unions worked feverishly for Richard H. Long, who once again ran against Coolidge. The race became a cause célèbre for the unions because of Coolidge’s handling of the police strike. The Boston Central Labor Union called for voters to oppose Coolidge so as to: “remove this menace to public safety and vindicate our cause.” Bay State voters, however, were not singing from the same hymnbook as the unions. Coolidge was soundly re-elected as Governor.

Coolidge’s handling of the police strike and his subsequent statement against the strikers, coupled with his resounding re-election as Governor against a union backed candidate, precipitously elevated Coolidge to national stardom with the Republican Party’s conservative bloodline. At the 1920 Republican National Convention, some conservatives wanted to place Coolidge’s name as a candidate for the Presidential nomination. Coolidge refused the overtures.

The nomination instead went to the conservative U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding (R-OH). The GOP establishment wanted to balance the ticket with U.S. Representative Irvine Lenroot, who was the tribune of the party’s liberal bloodline. However, after Lenroot’s name was placed into nomination, conservatives rebelled against the establishment and chanted Coolidge’s name. Delegate Wallace McCamant soon placed Coolidge’s name in nomination. Coolidge handily defeated Lenroot. The Harding-Coolidge ticket won the race, and Coolidge assumed the Presidency in 1923 after Harding died from a respiratory illness.

In 1938, Wendell Willkie, a wealthy utilities executive and a Democrat, became disenchanted with the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and their effects on the utilities industry. He agreed to debate Assistant U.S. Attorney General Robert Jackson on the issue of Free Enterprise on national radio. Willkie wooed conservatives with his stronger than expected performance. With that one appearance, an attendant draft movement began among Republican activists for Willkie to run for the GOP Presidential nomination in 1940. The movement picked up steam, and Willkie pocketed the GOP nomination on the sixth ballot at the Republican National Convention. However, he lost the General election to Roosevelt.

Two Democratic Presidential candidates also used a single issue (in their roles as Committee Chairmen) as a springboard for a Presidential candidacy. In 1950, while television was in its infancy, U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN) was Chairman of a Special U.S. Senate Committee that held hearings on organized crime. While many Americans did not own a television, some stores placed a television in their window so that Americans could watch these high-profile hearings. Many Americans became entranced watching as mobsters and politicians testified before the Committee. The hearings made Kefauver a household name. Kefauver ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1952 and defeated incumbent President Harry S. Truman in the New Hampshire Primary. Truman subsequently bowed out of the race. Kefauver went on to win 12 of the 15 primaries. However, at that time, primary voters had little power, and the high command preferred Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson who was able to muster the nomination on the third ballot.

Similarly, in 1975, U.S. Senator Frank Church (D-ID), also the chairman of a Special U.S. Senate Committee, launched hearings into abuses by U.S. In. The hearings were launched after revelations by Seymour Hersh in The New York Times that U.S. intelligence agencies had been engaged in covert actions to assassinate foreign leaders, had engaged in illegal wiretapping of Americans, and had opened citizens’ mail. Church excoriated the intelligence agency’s illicit activities, and branded some agents “rogue elephants.” This led to President Gerald R. Ford signing Executive Order 11905, which promulgated: “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”

The hearings made Church an exemplar of truth to some on the left and led to a Church candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1976. In his announcement speech in Idaho City, ID, Church sagaciously used the national fame he had accrued from the hearings. He bellowed: “It is a leadership of weakness and fear which permits the most powerful agencies of our government – the CIA, the FBI, and the IRS – to systematically ignore the very law intended to protect the liberties of the people.”

While there was a brief bump of momentum for Church (winning Democratic primaries in Idaho, Montana and Nebraska), his entrance into the race in March of 1976 was too late to stop the eventual nominee, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. However, the hearings did propel Church to be considered as a potential Vice Presidential nominee. However, Carter skipped over Church for U.S. Senator Walter Mondale (D-MN.)

Scott Walker is one of a very small number of Presidential candidates to have been catapulted into the national spotlight by a single galvanizing issue or event. Walker’s challenge to public sector unions struck a nerve with rank-and-file Republicans, as well as with Libertarian-oriented Tea Party voters and GOP benefactors.

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No Political Ideology Has a Monopoly on Patriotism

by Rich Rubino on March 20, 2015

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani created a firestorm by publicly stating: “I do not believe the President [Barack Obama] loves America.” Giuliani also suggested that Obama developed negative feelings toward America from Frank Marshall Davis, a member or the Communist Party USA, who was introduced to Obama by his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, at the age of nine.

Lost in the controversy over Giuliani’s comments is the misapprehension many people have about the meaning of the word “Patriotism.” The term generally means love of one’s nation and a feeling of unity with its people. By and large, Americans have come to believe, although erroneously, that Patriotism is tantamount to support for the Constitutional system of government and the policies instituted by the government. In truth, an American Patriot can love his/her country while opposing the polices of the government and the nation’s Constitutional system.

Obama is not the only politician to be mendaciously criticized for a lack of patriotism. After the 9/11 hijackings, U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), MIT Linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky, and former Libertarian Presidential nominee Harry Browne faced these same charges because of their view that U.S. foreign policy effectuated the attacks. They were branded unpatriotic and anti-American. Yet they said nothing suggesting that they had disdain for the country, its people, or its land. They only excoriated the foreign policies of the U.S. government. It could easily be argued that their criticism was actually patriotic in that they were warning that the continued bi-partisan interventionist foreign policies of the American government could result in greater danger to the homeland and to the nation’s economy.

Love for one’s country has little connection to the form of government a county’s citizenry live under. In 1787, 55 prominent Americans met at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia under the guise of amending the existing Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Articles were viewed by many Americans as allowing too much decentralization, granting the respective states too much power, rendering the federal government essentially impotent. During the Constitutional Convention, delegates debated the proper form of government. Today, some of these proposals would incorrectly be called anti-American. For example, Alexander Hamilton proposed delegating almost all power to the Federal government and almost none to the states.

Some delegates refused to sign the document or left the Convention early in protest. Caleb Strong left because the document did not allow the State Legislatures to choose the President. John Lansing left because he thought the Federal Government would have too much power. Luther Martin did not sign because he believed the document would be an affront to states’ rights. These Americans were opposed to the new document because they believed it would cause deleterious effects to the nation. They were patriots who opposed the positions of the majority of the delegates. Today, anyone who is vehemently critical of the Constitution, or a substantive provision within it, might be roundly assailed as being “unpatriotic.”

In suggesting that an avowed Communist influenced Obama, Giuliani suggests that there is an inherent contradiction between being a Communist and being an American patriot. However, even if Obama was a Communist, that would not in and of itself make him any less of a patriot than if he were a Capitalist. If any American genuinely believes that it would benefit the U.S. to live under a Communist system, or under any other ideology, and is willing to advocate for it, that person could be considered a patriot. Likewise, if a Communist truly believes America would be a better place under Communism, that would not make that person unpatriotic.

If there were to be a coup d’état in the U.S., and a new regime were to assume power, be it Communist, Fascist, Socialist, ect., Americans who supported the old Constitutional Republican system and opposed the new system would be no less patriotic. They might despise the new regime, but that does not mean they would no longer love their country. The fact that the new government might change the flag and actuate a new constitution would be irrelevant to whether or not an American citizen is patriotic.

Bill Clinton once said: “You can’t say you love your country and hate your government.” But in fact, love for one’s country and love for one’s government or constitutional system are mutually exclusive. An American patriot can be a Communist, Capitalist, Liberal, or Conservative. All can want the best for the country, but harbor divergent views of achieving that goal.

No political ideology has a monopoly on patriotism. During the dark days of 1968, with the nation deeply divided over U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, U.S. House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford [R-MI) told his constituents: “We will survive and become stronger – not only because of a patriotism that stands for love of country, but a patriotism that stands for love of people.”

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How Will Chris Christie’s Unfiltered Style Play in the Presidential Sweepstakes?

February 11, 2015

Prospective Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is known for his confrontational style. Unlike most politicians, Christie has no problem telling-off hecklers and giving candid responses to questions. For example, during a town hall meeting, Christie told a heckler: “Sit down and shut up!” He publicly said of New York Daily News sportswriter Manish Mehta, who […]

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Is Jeb Bush Channeling Henry “Scoop” Jackson?

February 11, 2015

The positions of political parties are not static. In fact, they sometimes change rapidly. Ideological shifts usually begin at the grassroots level, and then trickle up to the political leadership. Those who do not change with their party on major issues often become heretics. Two prime examples of this are U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson […]

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Is Mitt Romney the Political Reincarnation of Hubert Humphrey?

February 11, 2015

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, is making noises about another run for president. He is contacting past financial benefactors and supporters, and telling them that he is concerned with the direction of the country and inquiring about future support. A 2016 Romney candidacy would have seemed a bit farfetched in the immediate aftermath […]

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Neurosurgeon May Perform Exploratory Operation on Presidential Candidacy

January 6, 2015

At the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, the keynote speaker was Dr. Ben Carson, a retired renowned neurosurgeon. In his address, Carson excoriated political correctness, supported health savings accounts, and advocated for the implementation of a federal flat tax. The oration occurred in an unorthodox non-partisan setting with President Barack Obama at the head table. The […]

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Rand Paul May Hedge His Electoral Bets in 2016

January 6, 2015

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) recently announced his candidacy for re-election in 2016. Paul is also seriously considering a bid for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016. However, Kentucky law only allows a candidate’s name to appear on the ballot once in an election. Ironically, Paul could in fact run for both offices in Kentucky […]

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When Considering a Presidential Bid, When Does ‘No’ Mean ‘Yes’?

November 26, 2014

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) insists that she “is not running for President” and maintains: “I pledge to serve out my term.” Yet few political observers take her comments seriously. In fact, a grassroots movement “Ready for Warren” is forging full-steam ahead to encourage her to run for President. In American politics, it is kosher […]

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The Art of Gamesmanship in Political Debates: A Few Interesting Examples

October 30, 2014

The recent incident where Florida Governor Rick Scott refused to make his way to the debate stage for seven minutes because his opponent, former Governor Charlie Crist, had an alleged illegal cooling fan below the debate lectern is emblematic of the political debate culture today. Rather than dissecting and analyzing the policy prescriptions put forth […]

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Political Exaggerations: Stretching the Truth Is a Tradition in American Politics

October 9, 2014

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) said: “Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue.” Politicians have apparently taken Galbraith’s words to heart. Through advertisements and meetings with voters, they are quick to trumpet a litany of accomplishments and virtues. Most recently, the Republican nominee for governor of Georgia, David Perdue, told Morehouse College students that his father, […]

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