Monday, January 26, 2015

Standing 4 Life - Making a Difference



Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending the March for Life with the rest of the GenJ staff. I look forward to attending the March every year, and joining with thousands of people as we take a stand for life. Although I enjoy going to the March every year, this year was different – in a good way. 

Basically, the attitude at all the previous Marches that I’ve attended has been “hopefully this is the last year we will have the March for Life, that abortion will be banned before next January.” The problem was a complete nationwide ban on abortion was not going to happen at that time. It couldn’t pass Congress, and even if it did, the President would not have signed it. But because that was the attitude, it seemed like the pro-life movement made just about no progress from year to year.

However, this year, the attitude seemed to change. It seemed like we, as the pro-life movement, have realized that this is not an all-or-nothing game. Yes, our ultimate goal is still to see a complete ban on abortion. However, that isn’t the only step. We have a lot of other steps on the way there. There are a lot of other things we can do to move the pro-life movement forward and pave the way to a complete ban.

Advancing policy positions is a lot like training to run a marathon. Just like you can’t just decide to run a marathon and then go and run 26 miles without training, you can’t always make a huge, sweeping policy shift overnight. This isn’t common knowledge, but I’ve recently decided that I want to run a marathon eventually. When I first started running with that as a goal, I was lucky if I could run a mile. But as I kept pushing, I was able to go from one mile to two miles, and now I’m at a 5K (3.1 miles) and my next goal is a 5 miler. That’s still a long way from the 26 miles of a marathon, but it’s a lot of progress, and is getting me closer to my goal.

Policy and legislation works the same way. Although we can’t pass a complete nationwide ban on abortion right away, there are other things we can do as we work to change the hearts and minds of people and change the political will of the nation to support a complete ban. At the federal level, the House just passed the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act on Thursday, and House Republican leadership have said that they will pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. However, both of those bills will be vetoed by the President, and it is extremely unlikely that Congress will have the votes to override the veto.

Therefore, we must start working at the state level. We must encourage our state legislators to write, support, and pass pro-life legislation. Exactly what this legislation should look like will depend on the state. Some states will be able to pass much more strict legislation than others, but we should work to get whatever progress we can. Some states may be able to pass a state version of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act while others may have to start with stricter medical standards on abortion clinics that will cause some, if not all, to close (see what happened in Texas in 2013).

This is not a “quick fix” solution; unfortunately there is no quick fix. This is going to be a long and hard fight, but if we truly believe in the sanctity of human life, then we need to stand up and fight. And although we cannot stop fighting until we have achieved the end goal, if we can do something to save any lives, we must do it. When we are talking about human life, our approach cannot be all-or-nothing. We must do everything we can to save every life we can. 

Post by Glenn Bertsch

Friday, January 9, 2015

A New Congress: What should we expect?

United States Capitol
As I’m sure you are aware, the 114th Congress began on Tuesday. For the first time since 2006, Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate. This has given conservatives hope of achieving conservative goals that we have not been able to pass in the last 8 years. Although we do have a conservative Republican majority, we need to make sure that we have realistic expectations for the 114th Congress.

There are three factors that could inhibit the “New American Congress” as it has been called, from passing conservative bills. First, we still have a Democrat president in the White House; second, although there is a Republican majority in the Senate, we do not have a filibuster-proof majority; and third, the House Republican Conference tends to be anything but united.

President Obama
The first and most obvious of the issues is President Obama. The president has veto-power, so he can veto any conservative bill that Congress passes. We have seen this as the White House issued two veto threats within hours of the 114th Congress beginning. Now, on some issues, Congress may be able to force the president’s hand, but on others, they will need to work out a deal with the White House. So, for the next two years, congressional Republicans will not be able to get everything they want, however, they are in a much better negotiating position than we had the last four years.

Make Up of Senate
The second, and slightly less obvious issue is the size of the Republican majority in the Senate. Unlike the House of Representatives, which is a majority rules legislative body, the Senate has long established protections for the minority. Any one Senator can basically put a stop to the consideration of any bill.  If a Senator (or group of Senators) try to stop the consideration of a bill, it requires a 3/5ths majority of all members of the Senate (60 votes if there are no vacancies) to invoke a procedure called “Cloture.” This essentially ends debate on the measure and forces a vote. Because the Republicans only have 54 members in the Senate, they will need 6 Democrats to “cross the aisle” and vote with the majority to invoke Cloture. Therefore, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans will need to make concessions to Senate Democrats in order to pass legislation.

Make up of House
Finally, and I think the least obvious (in many cases even unknown) issue is that the House Republican Conference tends toward disunity. Over the last four years, in my opinion, Speaker John Boehner has had the most difficult job in Washington. Throughout American history, most Speakers have had the assurance that the majority party’s conference would support any legislative deals made with the White House and Senate. Boehner has not had that sort of unity. In both the 112th and 113th Congresses, Boehner has, at times, been forced to offer additional concessions so he could receive Democrat support to pass bills through the House. That is because many Tea Party House Republicans were unwilling to support any sort of bill that wasn’t perfect or did not include provisions that Senate Democrats could not support (such as a complete repeal of Obamacare). This significantly weakened Boehner’s ability to negotiate with the White House and Senate Democrats. If the House Republican Conference will stay unified throughout the 114th Congress, it can help strengthen the GOP’s negotiation power with the White House and Senate Democrats. However, if it follows the course of the last four years, our chance to pass good, conservative legislation significantly drops.

Speaker of the House
The 114th Congress has the potential to achieve many conservative goals, and to help get America back on the right path. However, we conservatives need to realize that due to current political realities, we will not be able to get everything we want over the next two years. It is critically important that we support and encourage congressional Republicans to get as much as they can while at the negotiation table, but also that we don’t tear them apart because they compromise with the president. Politics is not a short game, and there are times we need to take a short term hit in favor of long term benefits. If we truly want to advance conservative principles, we need to have a long term strategy, and not just look for quick fix bills.

Post by Glenn Bertsch 
Photo credits: All photos from Wikimedia Commons


Friday, August 22, 2014

Farewell From An Old Hack

Dear GenJ Students,

iGovern '08
It’s been a blast working with you all over the past decade. I’ve been a member of Generation Joshua since 2004, and during that time I’ve seen GenJ grow from the slapdash, last-minute activism of the early days to an established and respected organization in the American political scene. I’ve watched iGovern transform from those early camps in the hills of Tennessee to the incredible week of politics, leadership, and worship that it’s become. I’ve watched SATs change from 5 guys and a minivan to some of the largest coordinated deployments in the United States. And I’ve had the opportunity to watch civics education, my particular program, grow from a few original source documents and a quick quiz into a high-quality, comprehensive citizenship education.

It’s been an incredible ride. I’ve made lifelong friends (shout out to Andrew Mullins), watched lifelong friends drink way too many energy drinks on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol (here’s to you, Glenn), spent long nights on the old forums, and, most recently, finally saw the Nick Barden Galaxy Bill pass into law. GenJ has been an integral part of my life for the past 10 years, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

iGovern '11
But it’s time to transition into a new season a life. In the wake of my graduation from Patrick Henry College, I’ll be transitioning out of Generation Joshua over the next week to take a new position as Admissions Counselor at Patrick Henry College. I’m excited about the possibility of keeping in touch with you all in my new capacity – if you have any questions about PHC (or if you just want someone to chat with about politics, philosophy, or theology), feel free to shoot me a message on my Facebook or an email at npbarden@phc.edu.

In the interim, I’m hoping that this transition won’t mark the end of my involvement with Generation Joshua. I plan to remain a member of the Leadership Corps, so don’t be surprised if you see me dual wielding a GenJ nametag and an admissions badge at a Teen Track, SAT, or iGovern near you.

Go Gold,

Nick Barden
iGovern '14

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Notes from the Speaker's Desk – iGovern East '14

It was an enjoyable week at camp this year. As is customary, I, the Speaker of the House, have many adoring fans. Their loyalty was demonstrated by the House's near unanimous support for the Nick Barden Galaxy Bill, which was intended to rename a galaxy after me and grant various counselors their own solar systems within. This is the third year that bill has been introduced, but, as is custom, my good friend and arch-nemesis Sen. Glenn Bertsch railed against it in committee and succeeded in bringing about its ultimate demise. Something about "constitutionality" and "naming authority being vested in the IAU." Trifles.

The Gold Party did superbly this year. After a 6-candidate packed primary race, Bridget Carlstrom and Jesse Taft managed to eek out a win by a single vote, clinching a Gold presidency in a historically Blue dominated camp. The Orange Party, a long-time staple of the camp, was notably absent this year, while another third party, styling themselves "The Diamond Party," emerged to considerably less success. Their most significant contribution was airing a video ad that said, in summary, "we know we're terrible, maybe next year." They just don't make third parties like they used to.

The Gold and Blue Party presidential tickets, with their respective hacks.


Blue Party also achieved considerable success, with Azariah Clements ascending to the presidency. The superb diplomatic and foreign policy skills within the executive branch managed to bring about an amicable solution to the foreign policy crisis in                                                                                                                     . Though history goes to the winners, I suppose it is only fitting to note that the David Locke and Jackson Hicks campaign managed to run the election to a razor-thin margin, a feat all the more impressive for iGovern rookies.

A GenJ Whovian FB group also emerged in the wake of the camp. This came after the introduction of the Dalek Weaponization Act, which, after overwhelming support in the House, died in the Senate.

Mr. Speaker with a pair of Whovians

It is customary for any interesting and entertaining bill which enjoys bipartisan support to die in the Senate. Sen. Bertsch, it would seem, is all srs bsns.


MikeyTuttle, also known as Flyingbananamonster, Nick Barden Pro Tempore, or The Prince of Orange, managed to make several cameo appearances throughout the course of camp.





Meanwhile, I'm hoping for a Gold sweep against Sen. Bertsch this year, and am greatly looking forward to returning to Gold-held iGovern West in Colorado Springs. Adieu, and back to the old drawing board...


Friday, July 4, 2014

In Love of My Country, My Home

Somewhere in the further reaches of my childhood, I remember curling up on the floor next to the family bookshelf and poring through book after book by an old American author who took the name Oliver Optic. From all those tales of adventure, conniving business schemes, lakes, steamboats, and locomotives, one brief exchange between two characters has always stuck with me.

“I don’t like this making reservations,” Faxon said. “I go for the whole figure. My country, right or wrong – that’s what I go for.”

“So do I,” Wolf said. “My country, right or wrong; if wrong, to set her right.”

“There you spoil all the poetry of the thing,” Faxon replied. “If you had stopped before you put the last sentence on, it would have been just the thing.”

•    •    •

Today is America’s birthday, a day of celebration, with parades, cookouts, explosives, and enough  ‘Murca memes, redneckery, obnoxiousness, and FREEDOM to make even the most patriotic soul roll his eyes, turn up “God Save The Queen,” and start a petition asking Her Royal Majesty to take us back.

All too often, I see Americans divide into two camps when the Fourth of July rolls around. On one side is the proud, unthinking ‘Merican with all the beer, guns, and high explosives you can find. On the other, there’s the ashamedly American sophisticate who, disillusioned by the tumultuous times he finds himself in, has decided to check out of civil society to the best of his ability.

Neither are patriots. One has said, bursting with passion and exuberance, “my country, right or wrong,” while the other has seen her too often in the wrong and will have no more to do with her. Neither of them are the just inheritors of her bounty; neither can rightly be called her citizens.

The patriot, rather, stands with both feet on the soil of his homeland, sees his nation for her virtues and her vices, and resolves to love her anyways. The patriot stands at his particular moment in history and realizes that it has been shaped by countless moments before it.

For the American patriot is the inheritor of a long series of American cultural moments. He is shaped by the sailing of the Mayflower, the republicanism of the founders, the fervent equality of Jacksonian democracy, the manifest destiny of the pioneers, the blood of the blue and the grey spilt from Kansas to Virginia, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. We’ve seen a tea party in Boston, Washington crossing the Delaware, the Alien and Sedition Acts, an Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction, McCarthyism, and countless 9/11 vigils. Through good and ill times, our forebears have been shaping this land into a place we can love – a place we can proudly call home.

I was raised amidst amber waves of grain, with the full fury of a Kansas thunderstorm overhead. I’ve tasted the elegant hospitality of a Southern family in Georgia and the rugged welcome of a Midwestern family in Nebraska. I’ve hiked the Rockies and the Smokies, the Adirondacks, Ozarks, and Sierra Nevadas. I’ve strummed a guitar in Colorado, California, and Virginia, and seen folks lowered into the dirt in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina. I’ve worshiped in a Pentecostal and a Presbyterian church; potlucked with Baptists and Methodists; taken communion with Anglicans and Lutherans; and discussed theology with Catholics and non-denominationals. This country is beautiful and her people are kind.

So today, on this Independence Day, I do not celebrate America because she is perfect, but because she is home. I do not love her for her virtues, nor loathe her for her vices. But I will strive to defend, uphold, and aright her, and I will love her because she is mine.

Happy Independence Day.

Posted by Nick Barden


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The iGovern Files: Summit Leaks

Log Entry: 1235 EST. I've got a fellow conspirator planted in the lower offices. She managed to snag a bunch of supplies while Glenn was distracted by the Switzerland vs. Argentina game. It's almost halftime, though, so we've got to move through these quickly. We snagged a few flags and pins that had been set apart from the rest. The flags are Russian, South Korean, and Chinese, while the pins are Japanese, Taiwanese, and Australian.


I've gotten a hold of a red envelope with an official message to the ambassador from the United Kingdom. I'm not sure what this emergency summit is all about. If I have time, I'll get back to it with a more detailed picture later, but the offices are on high alert, and I don't want to take too many chances.


Glenn's muttering something about a Swiss player getting a yellow card. We've got to move quickly. I've got a picture of a letter from Russian president Vladimir Putin.


Here's a map we found on Chaz's desk. It seems like an update of our picture from a couple of weeks ago.



Switzerland still hasn't scored, and Glenn's talking loudly at the TV again. We'd better wrap this up for now. I don't think I'll be able to get any more pictures out this camp season. The office is on high alert. I guess you'll just have to come and find out more.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Ivory Cubicle | Fare Forward

Dear Reader,

Over the course of the last two years, it has been my pleasure sharing a conversation with you on an assortment of philosophical, theological, and political topics. These years writing as a columnist have been as sharpening for me as I hope they have been for you. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and it’s time for the Ivory Cubicle to wind down.

During my time at the Ivory Cubicle, I’ve sought to provide an opportunity for you to participate in the Great Conversation, and I hope that you’ll continue to seek out those opportunities wherever they can be found. In order to be a citizen of the United States, we must be citizens of a broader Western civilization that has shaped our country’s customs, morals, and culture. More than ever, we need citizens and politicians who read their Plato and Shakespeare as much as the daily headlines, and who have an awareness of their particular moment in history as shaped by countless moments that have come before. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but to capture their vision, we must take up their work.

In the meantime, I will continue to write occasional pieces for the GenJ Blog. In addition, I have been working with fellow writers on a project that we hope to have online soon, covering the diverse topics of religion, philosophy, literature, and cultural criticism. We’ll hope to see you there.

Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbor
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.

         -T.S. Eliot, "The Dry Salvages III"

In Fide et Veritate,
Nick Barden