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Since 2004, I have published political endorsements—and an occasional non-endorsement—on Off on a Tangent for every election in which I am eligible to vote. This year will be no different. In September (exact dates to-be-determined), I will be posting endorsements for four Loudoun County bond referendums, two Virginia constitutional amendments, Virginia’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and President of the United States.

In addition, on the evening of November 8, I will continue my tradition of providing live election night coverage. This will include detailed results for those races, and a liveblog with information about these and other newsworthy races around the country. For the presidential race, I will be providing an electoral college count (with color-coded map) and also detailed results specific to Virginia.

As in the past, I will use my own proprietary method for making election calls. Usually I make calls roughly around the same time that the major media outlets do, but occasionally I beat them to the punch. And occasionally I hold-out longer than the media if I don’t think the data supports a call. My method has only failed once . . . and even then, it didn’t really fail.

Lastly, I want to mention a small (but important) change to Off on a Tangent policy. My previous policy with regard to endorsements was to review candidates in the following order: 1. Incumbents (if any); 2. Major party (Republican and Democratic) candidates, alphabetized by last name; 3. Third-party and independent candidates alphabetized by last name.

This ordering was not satisfactory in some cases. It unfairly gave preference to the Republican and Democratic parties, which are private organizations that ought to have no official standing in our political system. I have revised the policy to order candidates based on expected performance instead of party affiliation: 1. Incumbents (if any); 2. Major candidates, alphabetized by last name; 3. Minor candidates, alphabetized by last name. Any candidate expected to receive five percent or more of the popular vote in a particular race will be categorized as a major candidate, and any candidate expected to receive less than five percent will be categorized as a minor candidate.

In practice, this won’t be a big change; in most races only Republicans and Democrats poll at five percent or higher. But in several recent (and upcoming) races, Libertarian candidates have managed to break that threshold. When they (or others) do, I will include them in my coverage and endorsements on even-footing with the other major candidates.

The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights

When a new President of the United States is inaugurated, he or she swears an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So when we evaluate candidates for that office, one of the key questions we should ask is this: If elected, will they keep their oath?

In this essay, I propose a method for scoring political candidates according to their level of support for the specific provisions of the Bill of Rights. I plan to apply this proposed scoring system to the 2016 presidential candidates in the near future, and to continue improving and using the system in future election cycles.

While a candidate’s level of support the Bill of Rights is not the only thing we should consider when we go to the polls, it is becoming more and more important. Many politicians now govern in a manner that is openly hostile to the text and intent of the Bill of Rights, and contrary to the rights of the people they wish to represent.

It is up to us to start paying more attention, and demand that our elected officials do what they swore to do. . . . Continued

Hiroshima Aftermath
Hiroshima Aftermath

Earlier this month, the world recognized the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, by the United States military during World War II. And back in May, President Barack Obama (D) participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Both events brought the 1945 atomic bombings back to the fore, and ignited a renewed debate about whether they were justified.

The answer is no. They were not.

I’m a patriotic American. I’m normally inclined toward a positive view of American foreign policy, and especially toward the actions of our military. But part of why I am a patriotic American is because the United States has been, more often than not, a moral actor on the world stage. In the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, we went to great lengths to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties, and consistently obeyed the laws of war. When it was discovered that some soldiers were violating these principles—like the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq—we prosecuted and punished them.

War is a regrettable reality of human existence, but it is incumbent upon warring nations to act according to some basic norms. Among these is an understanding that only military targets may be targeted, and that all parties must make every reasonable attempt to minimize civilian casualties. When one of the belligerent nations violates these norms, it does not authorize the others to do the same. ‘Two wrongs do not make a right.’ The principle of ‘total war’ that took hold on both sides during World War II was not, and is still not, morally defensible. . . . Continued

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (R) is a perfect illustration of the old adage that you should be careful what you wish for . . . because you just might get it.

For the last decade, the Republican Party has made impressive gains in local and state-level politics, and has been reasonably successful in congressional races, but has failed to win the presidency. Many politicos—myself included—have made diagnoses, and offered our unsolicited advice to the party about what kinds of candidates it should put forth if it intends to ascend again to the White House.

The advice of most conservative observers (like myself) has gone largely unheeded by Republican leaders and primary voters, much to our disappointment and frustration. But what about the advice offered by those on the political left?

Many left-wingers advised the Republican Party to make a break with the ‘religious right’ and field a presidential candidate who was center-to-left on social issues. They wanted a Republican candidate who was not an anti-debt ideologue and not a strict-constitutionalist. They wanted a Republican who would support the ‘progressive’ income tax system and the welfare state. They wanted a Republican who would abandon ‘neoconservative’ foreign policy and stop meddling in foreign affairs. They wanted a Republican who could speak to working- and middle-class voters. They wanted a candidate who would re-implement protectionist trade policies. They wanted a candidate who would weed-out corruption and malfeasance in government.

Donald Trump is, or at least promises to be, all of those things.

That’s not to say that Trump is everything that the ‘left’ said they wanted. He obviously breaks with modern progressives most starkly on illegal immigration; indeed, this is one area where the previous Republican candidates were more in-line with the open-borders ideologues. And few left-wingers would have advised the Republicans to put forth somebody with Trump’s in-your-face temperament or his well-documented penchant for insults and absurdity.

But it is fascinating none-the-less. Trump is almost the candidate that left-wing politicos—here and abroad—claimed they wanted from the Republican Party. When it comes to trade and foreign policy, he is arguably more in-line with the hard-left wish-list than the Democratic nominee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D).

Strange times indeed.

Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0])
Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0])

The delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have officially nominated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) as the Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States. She will stand in the November general election against the Republican nominee, real estate mogul Donald Trump (R).

Clinton has been the presumptive Democratic nominee since securing a majority of pledged party convention delegates in June, following a difficult primary against an insurgent outsider, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Today’s convention vote makes that nomination official. Clinton is joined on the Democratic ticket by her vice presidential running mate, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Clinton served as a law professor in Fayetteville, Arkansas, before her husband, former President Bill Clinton (D), was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976. The couple then moved to Little Rock and Hillary took a position at the Rose Law Firm and later became a partner. She also served on a number of boards, including six years on the Board of Directors of the Arkansas-based retail giant WalMart.

Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas in two stints between 1978 and 1992. He was elected President of the United States in 1992 and served two terms. Hillary, in her role as First Lady of Arkansas and then First Lady of the United States, became increasingly involved in politics during this period. Most notably, she lead an ill-fated health care reform effort during Bill’s first term as president.

As Bill Clinton prepared to leave the White House, Hillary campaigned for an open U.S. Senate seat in New York. She was elected in 2000, and then reelected to a second term in 2006. She ran for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008, but lost to now-President Barack Obama (D). After Obama was elected, he nominated his erstwhile opponent to serve as Secretary of State. Clinton served until her resignation in 2013. If elected in November, Hillary Clinton would be the first woman, and the first spouse of a former president, to serve as President of the United States.

The Democratic Party is the last of the three ‘fifty-state’ parties to officially select its presidential and vice presidential nominees. The Libertarian Party selected its nominees at the Libertarian Nominating Convention in Orlando, Florida, on May 30. The Republican Party selected its nominees at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 19. The Green Party, which is the largest of the ‘non-fifty-state’ parties, expects to be on the ballot in at least twenty states and will select its nominees at the Green Party Presidential Nominating Convention in Houston, Texas, on August 6.