Brexit Perspective, the Trump Meeting, and More
A Note From Rod
As you know, I haven’t written for the past three weeks (largely due to travel), and I just can’t tell you how grateful I am for all of the incredibly kind comments I’ve received from you during that time. This newsletter started as just my private thoughts to a handful of friends. It has exploded beyond that, and though it truly is a lot of work, the sheer volume of your encouragement tells me it’s time well spent. I am truly humbled.
Based on your feedback, I’m guessing that what you most want to hear about is the Trump meeting and Brexit. So who am I to tell you no?
Brexit was an historic reassertion of Britain’s ancient liberties. It was also a monumental repudiation of the left and its ever-growing nightmare of government by remote, unelected, unaccountable bureaucracies, and the subversion of all democratic process. Thomas Sowell has described this elitist train-wreck as “the vision of the anointed.” It is everywhere and always the same, give or take a gulag or two.
Brexit was Lady Thatcher’s dying hope, having come to understand that the EU was “fundamentally unreformable.” Her dream has finally been fulfilled.
An independent Britain, free to set its own course and determine its own future — as it has done for a thousand years before the Brussels behemoth was even a thought — will preserve and extend its heritage of liberty and innovation. The Continent will fall deeper into its increasingly despotic quagmire, unless it breaks up well before that.
You should take none of this as opposition to free trade, or to a European free trade area. But why anyone thinks free trade (or a common defense, to wit, the Atlantic Alliance and NATO) requires an unaccountable superstate simply floors me. As Jefferson said, the government closest to the people serves the people best. Brussels is simply a thousand faceless, distant kings.
So #BeLEAVEinBritain! It is a glorious day for all lovers of liberty and of that fair and noble isle. And may God save the Queen.
Immediate market disruption aside, some are concerned about the long term economic impact of Brexit. They shouldn’t be.
For 25 years I have advocated Britain’s departure from the EU and joining of NAFTA (newly christened an Atlantic Free Trade Area, or even better, an Anglosphere Free Trade Area, no offense intended toward Mexico). It’s a better deal for all involved (except the socialists left behind on the Continent). Here’s why.
The U.S. — entirely by itself — has a larger economy than the combined 28 members of the EU. (Yea America!) Britain, despite all the propaganda you keep hearing, is actually the world’s 5th largest economy all by itself (which is the main reason the mooches in Brussels want it around: someone has to pay all the bills). Our other NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, are 10th and 15th respectively.
NAFTA’s combined GDP is already 25% larger than the EU’s. Add Britain and our new AFTA is suddenly almost 50% bigger than the EU as-is, almost double the EU post-Brexit.
Now let’s really go crazy and add a few Commonwealth countries (say, Australia at 12th, New Zealand at 54th), plus a few with whom the U.S. currently has a bilateral free trade agreement (say, South Korea at 11th, Israel at 34th, Singapore at 35th, Colombia at 39th, Chile at 41st, Peru at 51st, a list which is by no means exhaustive).
All of a sudden, this combined Free Trade Area is 2.3X the GDP of the EU, even assuming no Frexit, Grexit, Swexit, Departugal, Italeave or Finish (yes, a couple of those are just funny to say).
It’s a big world. Freedom-loving Europeans are in the wrong club. They should come join us! And the beauty of it? No supranational institutions; and the more of this sort of country we add to what is currently NAFTA, the more certain there never will be.
One more Brexit thought. We keep hearing about how Scotland and Northern Ireland are “certain” to leave the UK now, and that this will cripple poor tiny England.
So here’s some helpful perspective.
As I just mentioned, the United Kingdom is the world’s 5th largest economy quite without Europe, at $2.85 trillion. It has 65,000,000 people, making it 21st in size by population. It also has a potent nuclear force, almost the equal of China’s, and the world’s 4th best navy and 6th best armed forces overall. It has virtually no rivals in Europe — or elsewhere — by these measures.
Would a Scottish departure shatter this? Surely you jest.
England by itself has 55,000,000 of those 65,000,000 people; adding Wales (which voted Remain) gets you to 58,000,000. If abandoned by the rest of the UK, it would still be the world’s 24th largest country, down a scant three places. Moreover, its GDP would still be $2.68 trillion, which is another way of saying that 94% of Britain’s economy is in England.
By contrast, Scotland — composed almost entirely of incorrigible socialists who nationalize English industry and siphon off English earnings — has just 5.3 million people, less than similarly-empty Colorado. Its economy is a mere $245 billion, and that includes oil and gas revenues from the North Sea, much of which it would not get to keep in a split. It would also lose nearly all of that military, and 100% of the nukes.
Northern Ireland? Even worse: just 1.8 million people (smaller than West Virginia and 37 other states). It’s entire economy is $45 billion, barely more than what the state government spends in Arkansas. Indeed, Northern Ireland’s GDP is just 18% of Scotland’s, only 1.7% of England’s.
Oh, and one more thing: if Scotland left the UK, it would be virtually impossible for the socialists ever to form a government in London again.
I think secession is a lot less likely than some think. First, the EU is in no hurry to encourage similar secessionist movements in Catalonia and elsewhere: the circumstances are different, but it’s a genie many want kept bottled. But second, I think even crazed kilt-wearing socialists are likely to discover that they place more stock in a 400-year-old nation than a 40-year-old trade area. I also doubt Germany wants to start paying Scotland’s bills.
Still, even if I’m wrong, it won’t make that much difference to England. They’ll lose some people (and a decent number of sheep) who didn’t want to remain part of one of the greatest nations in human history; but they’ll mostly lose a lot of dead weight. And shorn of that, they’ll be nimbler, richer, more innovative, and more competitive than they’ve been in at least a century.
With a top-ranked military. And nukes.
On a personal note, I had the fun of watching returns (on a BBC that was completely astonished and in-the-tank for Remain) with my buddy John Mauldin, who threw quite the Brexit party. Among his guests was our friend Neil Howe, author of Generations and The Fourth Turning, longtime favorites and absolute must-reads.
One point Neil made: the fact that the odds makers had Leave at 16% on Thursday morning shows the extent to which these very thin markets can be and are manipulated to sway public opinion. If you trust them more than polls, well, caveat emptor. They’re only good to the extent that very powerful forces aren’t willing to cause them to lie.
So about that Trump meeting.
As you know, early last week, Donald Trump met with a whole bunch of Evangelical leaders, myself included. There was a very small meeting, which was largely unreported; there was also a very large meeting, which was widely reported (mostly badly). I read very little that resembled what I saw, even when the quotes were technically correct.
There were some very specific people not present. Russell Moore, for example, and Erick Erickson, were not invited. Most of those present have not endorsed Trump, either before or after the meeting. But neither The Donald nor allies Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee et al. were interested in wasting time with people who actually reject the idea of a conversation (Matt. 18 springs to mind). I cannot blame them.
The larger meeting was originally intended to include about 400 people. It swelled to almost 1,000. Clearly, few of these people got actual face time. However, it was an extremely high quality group. You might not know all of them, but I do know most of them. With extremely few exceptions, these are very thoughtful, very serious people, many of whom you would indeed recognize and greatly respect.
Some #NeverTrump types reported that this was a rah-rah session. It was not. There was applause at times in the larger meeting, but anyone claiming this was a rally is spinning. People came to listen, and to have their concerns heard. A lot of both those things took place.
Oh, and yes, Trump absolutely heard the Gospel. Less so in the larger meeting: the format made that more difficult (though our outgoing SBC President Ronnie Floyd faithfully presented it). But Donald Trump is increasingly surrounding himself with people who are concerned about his soul. And that is indeed encouraging.
I told Sherri when we were first invited that there was little Trump could say that would make me trust him more, but that it would be interesting whether he might say something that would make me trust him less (not because he’s Donald Trump but because he’s a politician).
As it turned out, I was wrong.
I will not attempt here to recount all that was said: it was a lot. Needless to say, he talked a lot about judges, as well he should have: that’s the ballgame. He also talked a lot about the Johnson Amendment, which was surprising: I doubt I’ve ever met more than one other Presidential candidate who had even heard of it, much less understood what’s wrong with it. That too was encouraging.
Naturally, he went on for a while about how well he’d done with Evangelical voters (not seeming to grasp that most of his Evangelical support in the primaries came from Evangelicals who rarely attend church). That seemed unimportant until later.
But late in the larger meeting, Trump took a somewhat fatherly tone, both surprised and gently scolding. He pointed out that most Americans agree with Evangelicals on many if not most things, and that by all rights, the people in that room are thus among the most powerful in the country.
This wasn’t flattery: he was genuinely surprised by the degree to which the church is silent, unwilling to confront the culture, scared of its own shadow. He addressed some ways he wanted to help with that. But the tone (contra the #NeverTrumpers writing to contrary) was not that of “an offer of power.” It was of marveling that we are hiding our lights under a bushel.
The irony of this man correctly calling the church to repent was stark.
But there was more. Again, some have gone into print in disagreement with what I’m about to say. But I’ve been around a bit. In that moment, on this point at least, it struck me that he was sincere. And more than that, it struck me how he’d connected his dots: that he believed (correctly) that he could never have won the nomination without Evangelicals, and that therefore it was and is in his interest as he sees it to increase the stature of Evangelicals, not just for the next few months but at least through 2020.
Does that sound cynical? It’s not meant to be. Nor is it a judgment of his heart one way or the other.
But when you want to know if you can trust someone, the surest way is to figure out whether they see their own interests aligned with yours. Few people will do something for you if it costs them. Virtually everyone will do that same something for themselves. And if Donald Trump sees it in his interests to appoint good judges and to push back against the growing assault on religious liberty, I have no doubt whatsoever he’ll do it.
I had a lot of other thoughts about the meeting. I’ll probably post a good many of them on Facebook over the next week or two. But these were my biggest takeaways. First, that the people in that room were good, highly respectable, thoughtful people, who were every bit as sincere in their wish for mutual understanding as their detractors claimed they were not. And second, that there may be a lot more common ground, and opportunity for common cause, with Donald Trump than might otherwise seem obvious.
Okay, maybe just two other thoughts.
A lot has been said regarding Trump’s character, or perhaps lack thereof. As you know, I have grave concerns on this point. I am particularly stung by Trump’s relentless declaration that one of the most honest men I’ve ever known, Ted Cruz, is “the worst liar ever”, only — once that race was won — to declare (and I quote): “Ted’s not a liar anymore. We love Ted now.”
I can go on. Trump’s willingness to blatantly lie to get his way is legendary. I find that a lot more troubling than some find this:
Even so, it has been striking to me how much of the Donald Trump character melts away when you get to Donald Trump the person. And it is a very cultivated character indeed: Trump has been a major media figure and even actor now for 40 years. The character has served him well, regardless of its less-than-savory aspects.
In person, he is (as others have consistently said) much humbler, much quieter, much more thoughtful. Perhaps that’s a character too: I don’t know him well enough to say. But plenty of people who do know him well have told me this for years, and it seems right. You don’t build a successful business with lots of long-term clients if you aren’t pretty honest in your dealings. And I keep randomly running into people who’ve done business with Trump for decades who confirm exactly that.
Dr. Mark Coppenger grew up in my hometown, went on to serve as President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, plant a major church, and these days edits Kairos Journal and teaches apologetics at Al Mohler’s Southern Seminary. He’s no slacker.
Mark wrote a very interesting piece in The American Spectator this week called “Fiduciary Virtues: How Important is Donald Trump’s ‘Character’?” It’s a lot more thoughtful than the common “we’re electing a president not a preacher” gibberish. And it certainly summarizes a lot of what people were thinking, however reluctantly, last Tuesday.
I’ll just add this: I find even more troubling than any of Trump’s antics the total disregard by some in our camp for Hillary Clinton’s utter and complete lack of character, and for the absolute certain devastation she will wreak upon us should she get her chance. She will put your preacher in jail. He won’t. They act as though that doesn’t matter, and that it may be avoided by covering their ears and loudly pronouncing “la-la-la-la-la-la-la.”
That seems to me less wisdom or insight than pique at failing to get their way. And if Trump ought be opposed as they demand, I think we’ll need a better reason than that.
This letter is getting long, so let me hit just a few more highlights.
First, Trump has had a bad month in many respects. To hear some talk, you’d think he was a goner. But I wouldn’t write his obituary just yet.
As of last night, the RCP average has Clinton up nationally by just a smidgen over 5. That’s nothing. ABC has Trump down 10, which is something. But on the same day, NBC’s poll showed Trump down by only 1. The race is close, and if Trump can get his act together — particularly on the same ground game stuff I’ve been telling you about for several months now — he should be fine.
Firing Corey Lewandowski was a big step in the right direction. If Trump’s increasingly solid staff picks on policy matters are any indication, we should see a significant uptick in the quality of campaign personnel shortly. We shall see.
And all that said, it’s the swing state polling that continues to impress me. PPP has Trump down just 1 point in Pennsylvania (!), up 1 in Florida. CBS has Trump within the margin of error in Florida, even in Colorado, and just 5 points down in Wisconsin.
Obviously Trump must win Florida and Ohio. But if he can also pick up Pennsylvania, or even Colorado, Hillary is headed home. And if he’s this close with virtually no campaign, Team Clinton could be in for a very rough fall.
I almost mentioned Virginia, where CBS also has Trump within the margin of error. But I didn’t, because as you know, evil Virginia Governor and Clinton acolyte Terry McAuliffe recently (and unconstitutionally) decreed that 206,000 felons will get to vote this fall.
Why? Because it turns out that criminals love Democrats. Indeed, felons register Democrat by a margin of 7 to 3.
Email me your jokes. But for now at least, Virginia is probably lost.
Bill Kristol and many others asked this weekend whether the laughable leftist bias in the polling on Netanyahu, Cameron and now Brexit might mean that in fact Trump is even or even ahead.
It’s a fair question. And it’s all the more so when you consider this (hat tip to my buddy Kellyanne Conway): nearly half of Sanders supporters now say they won’t vote for Clinton, and 22% say they’ll jump to Trump.
Will this last? Who knows. But the #NeverTrump numbers aren’t even close to this. And elections are won at the margin.
If you think the Virginia cheating is egregious, you’ll just love this. Planned Parenthood is paying people up to $720 a week to “volunteer” for Hillary Clinton.
Yes, those are your tax dollars they’re spending.
And therein lies the ugly truth, not just about Planned Parenthood but about the entire nonprofit and union racket concocted by Democrats during their 70 years in nearly-unbroken power prior to the Gingrich Revolution of 1994. Government subsidizes some “worthy cause”, whether it’s through mandatory union dues, or grants to “artists”, or researchers who put out leftist propaganda, or “women’s health” groups like Planned Parenthood.
And then magically, those dollars either directly support some leftist goal, or end up in the coffers of some Democrat’s campaign.
How many conservative groups or churches can you name that receive hundreds of millions — or even billions — in tax money to hire precinct walkers for the candidate of your choice?
If you said “zero” you would be correct. And that’s exactly how it ought to be. What ought not to be is a system that year after year subsidizes one side while actively suppressing the other. If you wonder why we’re losing, this massively corrupt advantage is a very large part of why.
It’s this sort of systemic corruption that led to Brexit. It’s this sort of systemic corruption that vaulted Ted Cruz to second place and Donald Trump to first out of a field of 17. And in that latter case, part of the reason for the public’s loathing of all perceived Establishment characters is something I said a moment ago. The Democrats created this freak show in the decades leading up to 1994.
It’s been 22 years since we overthrew them. Name the Republican who’s made it his mission to defund the left’s taxpayer-funded machine?
There have been some of course. But there obviously have not been enough. And after a while, people who keep promising change and never deliver it lose the trust on which their own free ride depends.
There are about a thousand more things to say, all the more so since I haven’t written for several weeks. We’ll try to play a bit of catch up in the next few. And I do want to note my gratitude for having been elected last week as Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Order of Business. It will be a great honor leading that committee in the year to come, virtually impossible to live up to the high bar set by my predecessor Dr. Andrew Hebert, and while a joy to work with new Convention President Steve Gaines, I will greatly miss our outgoing President Ronnie Floyd, who has made better use of his office than any President I can remember.
You can read about the world anywhere. You can come to RodMartin.org to understand it. Do your friends a favor and pass it along; and remember, there’s a lot more we publish each week that doesn’t make the newsletter.
Originally posted on Rod Martin’s website.
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