Reagan Defined Civil Society – Order with Virtue

Last week’s column declared that it’s every patriot’s duty to work hard to keep our national fabric whole. “What does ‘national fabric’ mean?” the questioner asked.

That which binds us together as Americans – beginnings, behaviors, and beliefs – knits our national fabric.

Historians have well-captured the beginnings of America and her people – from colonists to slaves to immigrants; the behaviors that followed – from the Revolution and establishment of the Constitution, to the emancipation of slaves and the Civil War, to the emancipation of women and the Civil Rights movement, to the creation of the world’s greatest economy, and so on; and the common beliefs and love of country that somehow endured through it all.

George Washington said in his Farewell Address: “I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

Lofty language, but the stuff that leads us to proudly proclaim ourselves as Americans. The stuff that, so far, has generated patriot after patriot to keep our nation together, our people free, and our national fabric whole.

From Jefferson to Lincoln to Reagan, presidents have joined with Washington to caution that preservation of our national fabric requires us to maintain a civil society.

Ronald Reagan said, “There can be no freedom without order, and there is no order without virtue. Now, that’s a simple enough formulation, but it’s an insight found not only in the writings of Founding Fathers like Washington or great political thinkers like Edmund Burke; it is also found in a great part of our Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Order with virtue is the definition of a civil society.

It describes a society where disagreements are peaceably resolved through dialogue or the ballot box, where people disagree but get along, and where free individuals respect the rights of others.

We see the opposite of a civil society in the Middle East where sects murder sects, children and women are raped and killed, and despots rule. Once, this region was the enlightened cultural and educational center of the world.

No nation survives the breakdown of civil society.

Something to think about when politics makes us fighting mad.

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Patriots’ Duty: Keep National Fabric Whole

Every Independence Day, words and symbols from our Founders captivate me.

There is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” adopted July 4th, 1776, by the Continental Congress.

There is the Great Seal of the United States, commissioned by the congress on July 4, 1776. One side of the seal features the motto e pluribus unum (out of many one), the stars and bars, and the American bald eagle supported only by “Virtue.” The other side features the Eye of Providence below the words Annuit Coeptis (He has favored our undertakings).

There is more, but you get the point.

The great irony to these inspirational words and symbols of liberty, virtue, and unity is the Founders who adopted them also approved slavery and ignored the rights of Native Americans and women.

Fortunately, the Constitution and Bill of Rights that sprung from the Declaration of Independence and the values expressed in the Great Seal wove a strong and virtuous national fabric that eventually freed slaves and gave rights to women and Native Americans as well as Irish, Chinese, and other immigrants who helped build our nation.

Perhaps it is that struggle to live up to our words and values that turns my thoughts to another fabric each Independence Day. It comes from Dolly Parton’s poignant song “Coat of Many Colors.” It’s a simple song about a poor girl with a coat sewn by her mother from a box of rags. As her mother sewed, she told Dolly the biblical story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. For Dolly, the coat represented hard work, love, and devotion. It was far more than a bunch of rags.

Dolly’s song is a metaphor for the rough-hewn fabric of 20th Century America as our original national fabric, ripped by the Civil War and the Depression, was re-woven through hardship, hard work, and hardy devotion… by Americans of all colors and circumstances.

The 21st Century may be different. Vast sums of money supporting ever-more-divisive fights over political and social issues and 24/7 political and media personalities who prosper by inciting others to slash our national fabric pose risks. That plus dysfunctional government, eroding infrastructure, personal and governmental debt, and widening wealth gaps risk deep and dangerous tears.

The Bible warns us “to every thing there is a season.” Could this be the season where our strong and virtuous national fabric rips apart?

It’s every patriot’s duty to work hard and seek His favor to keep our Founder-stitched Coat of Many Colors far more than a bunch of rags.

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Say Good-bye to Open Primaries

Once upon a time, Mississippians were fiercely independent. We didn’t want any outsiders telling us what to do. We also wanted to “vote for the man, not the party.”

That has changed and is about to change more.

Chris McDaniel’s campaign to unseat Thad Cochran depended heavily upon outsiders telling us how to vote – former Governor Sarah Palin, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Congressman Ron Paul, former TV host Chuck Woolery, the Club for Growth, the Tea Party Express, and more. McDaniel and his Mississippi supporters welcomed these outsiders with open arms.

That he got almost 50% of the vote twice shows times have changed. We used to be more like, say, Oklahoma.

When Palin and company showed up in the Oklahoma GOP primary, retiring conservative Senator Tom Coburn said, “we don’t need outsiders coming out telling us how to vote.”

Palin’s candidate got 34% of the vote.

Cochran won the run-off, in part, because Mississippi has an “open primary” system. “Open primary” means we don’t make voters register by party. We are free to vote for the Democratic “man” in one election, then the Republican “man” in another and vice versa. The only restriction is we cannot vote in one party’s first primary then the other’s run-off primary. If we don’t vote in any first primary, though, we can vote in any party’s run-off.

For years Republicans pushed to open primaries even more. We wanted a non-partisan open primary like Louisiana has. In Louisiana all candidates – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, whatevers – run together in one election. If no-one gets a majority, a run-off is held. This eliminates party primaries and substantially reduces election costs.

The U.S. Department of Justice allowed this for Louisiana, but never for Mississippi. With the Voting Rights Act pre-clearance rule dead, now would be the time to get it done.

Or not.

McDaniel and friends are crying foul, claiming “liberal Democrats” and other “non-Republicans” turned out in the run-off and gave Cochran the victory. They want it so only “real Republicans” can select Republican nominees.

To get that, Mississippi would have to move to a “closed primary” with party registration. This would only allow registered Republicans to vote in Republican primaries. Same for Democrats. Voters not choosing a party affiliation could not vote until the general election.

While this may sound reasonable for congressional or statewide elections, it would play havoc with city and county elections where party affiliation is often unimportant. It would limit “vote for the man, not the party” to general elections.

My bet is our “vote for the man” primary system is about to die. Expect our Tea Party fearing Legislature to throw a bone to McDaniel supporters by passing some version of closed primaries next year.

We’re gonna become fiercely not independent!

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Clear Choice on Tuesday

So, on Tuesday we get a clear choice. We can pick the candidate who wants to save America from Thad Cochran, or the candidate who wants to save Mississippi from Chris McDaniel.

To hear McDaniel and his Tea Party cronies tell it, Cochran is joined at the hip with Barack Obama and the cause of everything bad in America.

To hear Cochran and his cronies, most Mississippi leaders, tell it, McDaniel is a dangerous demagogue who will devastate Mississippi’s schools, colleges, universities, agriculture, defense industry, military bases, and so on.

So, which side is telling the truth?

For whatever reason, it doesn’t really seem to matter. Those backing McDaniel want to make a statement by throwing Cochran out, and if that means electing a demagogue or hurting the state, so be it. Those backing Cochran – which includes nearly every Mississippian in a position of leadership – fear the consequences of McDaniel so much, they’re pulling out all stops to thwart his upset bid.

The thing that sticks with me the most from this campaign is something McDaniel said early on to explain his anti-government, anti-spending philosophy: “I’m not going to do anything for you. I’m going to get the government off your back, then I’m gonna let you do it for yourself.”

He says potent things like this, then gets wishy-washy.

After McDaniel refused to answer questions about Farm Bill subsidies following a meeting with Delta farmers, the Greenwood Commonwealth wrote:

“McDaniel talks a good game about reining in an out-of-control Washington, but when confronted about what that might mean for Mississippi, where more than three federal dollars are returned for every tax dollar sent there, he either backtracks or dodges the question.

“Early in the campaign, the challenger questioned the tens of billions of dollars that Cochran helped secure for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, but now McDaniel pronounces disaster relief a legitimate function of the federal government.

“He talks about there being nothing in the Constitution to justify federal involvement in education, then when confronted with the data of the billions of dollars that Washington provides to Mississippi’s kindergartens through graduate schools, he backs away and says he just wants to do away with the U.S. Department of Education, not the flow of money.

“Now it’s farm subsidies that he’s foggy about, apparently thinking he may need some Delta votes after all to win next Tuesday.”

McDaniel joins with Ted Cruz and Ron Paul on wanting to drastically cut spending to balance the budget, which includes cutting defense spending. But when faced with cuts that would cost jobs at Ingalls Shipbuilding, he said, “I will fight for Ingalls.”

It’s hard not to agree with the Commonwealth’s conclusion: “how much backbone does he really have?”

We’ll see if voters care on Tuesday.

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Ingalls’ Next Ship Depends on Cochran’s Clout

Who knew the House Appropriations Committee would rush to load the gun for Jackson County voters?

Last week I wrote that Jackson County voters played Russian roulette with their economic future by voting for challenger Chris McDaniel over Senator Thad Cochran, the only member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation with enough seniority to fund ships for Ingalls Shipbuilding.

Days later, the House Appropriations Committee – going against the House and Senate Armed Services Committees – dropped funding from its 2015 defense appropriations bill for the next amphibious warship (LPD 28) to be built by Ingalls.

That puts approximately 3,000 Ingalls’ jobs on the firing line.

Saving these jobs now depends on Cochran’s ability to revive funding in the Senate next month, then having the clout to push funding through a House-Senate conference committee later this summer.

That would take significant clout in usual circumstances. If Jackson County and other Mississippi voters shoot down Cochran in the June 24th runoff, he may not retain enough clout to get it done. You saw how quickly House Republican Leader Eric Cantor lost his.

This is a case study for all counties with military-related jobs.

The Navy and Marine Corps drastically need more amphibious warships as older ships retire faster than new ones get built.

“If you asked me, ‘What’s your biggest shipbuilding concern,’ it’s ‘get the amphibs out,’” Navy CNO Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert told reporters after testifying before Congress, reported.

The Navy is already planning next generation amphibious warships, labeled LX(R)s, that would use a variant of Ingalls’ LPD hull. “It’s a very flexible hull, particularly from the main deck on down, [that] can easily be transitioned to LX(R),” said Brian Schires of Rolls Royce-North America, chairman of the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees included LPD 28 in the 2015 Defense Authorization Act last month as “an industrial base bridge” to LX(R) production. Building ships on an uninterrupted schedule provides stability and predictability “that allows you to keep your costs down and your quality up,” said Schires.

The House Appropriations Committee action would interrupt production and supply chains, eliminate jobs, and cause significant delays and costs to start-up LX(R) production. Worse, it would destroy Ingall’s competitive advantage to land the contract for the new warships.

Jockeying among senior Republicans on the House Armed Services and Appropriations Committees on what to fund and what not to fund demonstrates the great value of seniority.

McDaniel appeared in Jackson County last week boasting he would “fight for Ingalls.” His willingness to fight would mean nothing until he could gain meaningful seniority 12 or more years in the future.

For several years yet, Thad Cochran is the only one with enough clout to get ships funded and protect Ingalls jobs.

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Jackson County Voters Risk Ingalls Jobs


Jackson County went for Chris McDaniel over Thad Cochran in the Senate Republican primary, putting the jobs of relatives, friends, and neighbors at risk.

Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

No county is more dependent on military spending than Jackson County. Think

Ingalls Shipbuilding, the state’s largest private sector employer with approximately 11,000 jobs.

Ingalls builds Navy and Coast Guard ships. It depends on Congress to authorize and fund those ships.

No part of military spending relies more on Congressional clout than spending for ships, aircraft, weapons systems, and facilities.

Who in Congress has the real clout to determine which ships, aircraft, weapons systems, and facilities get funded? The chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations and Armed Services Committees.

Who will become chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when Republicans take control of the Senate in January?

Thad Cochran.

What clout would a freshman senator named Chris McDaniel have?


Who in our congressional delegation can pick up the slack if Cochran is gone?


The closest is Roger Wicker who ranks fifth in seniority on the Senate Armed Services Committee. But, it will take another Cochran term before he will be in position to shoulder the load.

As chairman of Senate Appropriations, Cochran will not only have the power to work with House Republicans to dramatically cut federal spending, but he will also have the power to make the right cuts.

President Obama and McDaniel’s big outside funders want broad cuts that result in fewer ships, aircraft, weapons systems, and military facilities. Such an approach puts jobs at the Pascagoula shipyard at substantial risk.

Fewer ships mean fewer jobs at Ingalls. Fewer Ingalls jobs also mean fewer jobs around the county as incomes drop and the economy weakens. The same risk, of course, applies to jobs at VT Halter and Northrop Grumman.

Only Cochran will have the power to protect those jobs until Wicker gains more seniority.

As Jackson County voters play Russian roulette with their economic future, voters in counties like Hancock, Harrison, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Rankin, Scott, and Warren may want to up their ante for Cochran. These counties also depend heavily on military spending for ships, aircraft, weapons systems, or facilities.

Think Raytheon, Airbus, Aurora, Eaton, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, L-3, Camp Shelby, Keesler AFB, Seabees, Columbus AFB, NAS Meridian, Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Special Boat Team 22, Naval Meteorology & Oceanography Command, the 172nd, 186th, 155th and 1108th guard units, and more – all with jobs at risk without Cochran.

It makes little sense for any county whose jobs depend heavily on military spending to throw out Cochran when he is about to gain power as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It makes no sense at all for Jackson County.

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Leadership Recipes Can Improve Communities

Ever messed up a recipe? Worked hard. Did most everything right. But, your final result was…well, you can remember the words they used.

Community projects can have the same results. People work hard. They do most everything right. But, the outcome is not what they expected. More importantly, the community view is nobody cooked up much of anything worthwhile.

That happens less often when community leaders do follow a good recipe.

Oh, so now there’s a recipe for effective community leadership? Like baking a delicious pie or cooking scrumptious jambalaya?

Well, that’s a pretty good analogy. There are different recipes for different results. Just like with cooking, though, mixing the ingredients exactly right and adding them at just the right time is more art than science, and more practice than smarts.

With community challenges mounting, good leadership recipes are needed more than ever.

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great recipe for preparing citizens to lead. It doesn’t teach them to lead, but it teaches them methods and skills to prepare them to lead. Too many “leaders” fail to prepare themselves for leadership and, then, fail to lead effectively.

Community leadership programs can be great recipes for providing citizens knowledge needed to lead effectively plus useful leadership skills. Too many leaders fail to develop sufficient knowledge about their communities, then fail to provide followers with appropriate information to do effective work.

Too few of our communities have leadership programs.

Another good recipe for effective community leadership is teambuilding, and learning how and when to hand off leadership to a team. You see, effective community leadership rarely comes from single individuals. It most often comes from teams that bring together individuals with multiple leadership talents, skills, knowledge, and practices.

Too few communities are willing to turn leadership over to diverse, multi-talented teams.

Here is a recipe for using highly effective teams to do good work in communities. It comes from Grassroots Leaders for a New Economy by Douglas Henton, John Melville, and Kimberly Walesh.

First, hand off leadership to those who can get things started, motivate others, and bring skeptics into the project.

Next, transition leadership to those who can incubate the project, teach participants what they need to know, and get all participants engaged and on the same page.

Then, give leadership to those who can drive implementation, get the work done, and make sure the work stays on track with the project plan.

Finally, entrust leadership to those who can mentor new leaders and new participants and push for continuous improvement.

Leadership guru Ron Heifetz says learning when to hand off leadership and the willingness to hand off leadership is seasoning you see in only the finest community leadership recipes.

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