A way forward for constitutionalists

November 21, 2013

I have not posted to this blog in almost two years. I started this 7 years ago, since I didn’t see a place to express myself politically anywhere else at the time. I’ve since found other venues for that. In this instance, I feel the need to return to this venue. I’ve been thinking of a way for constitutionalists to regain a power position in our government. It’s going to sound counter-intuitive to many, but I think it offers a way of pushing the idea forward. It’s not the only answer, and it may not apply to some, since they tend not to vote for the two major parties anyway, but I offer it for consideration.

Increasingly I’ve been coming around to the idea that the key to a return of constitutional government is not ultimately through the political process, but through education, and that includes most importantly the education of children. Most of what I’ll talk about here is not about that, but a political strategy for the meantime. However, I feel it’s important to emphasize that this cannot be the whole answer. How to go about education, I leave to others for now, as I have very little knowledge about how to educate, but nothing replaces it in the project of political reform. I am quite convinced that we got to where we are today politically because of past educational mistakes, mixed with some deliberate actions. That’s kind of a chicken and egg problem. Which came first? The intent, or the mistake?

I propose not only a takeover strategy of the Republican Party by the Tea Party, but also taking actions that goad the country to come back to conservatism. Some say that takeover is already happening, but I think something more is needed, and perhaps Tea Partiers are already doing this. I don’t know. It seems like we saw evidence of this in the 2012 election.

In the past, the Republican establishment has been able to keep conservatives at bay with moderate politicians. The scenario goes like this. Middle-of-the-road types (often called “moderates,” but I’ll use the term MOTRs) claim during the primaries that their conservative opponents are too extreme and cannot get elected. MOTRs win these primaries, successfully convincing Republican voters of this (and by virtue of the fact that many Republican voters, and independents who are allowed in open primaries, like moderates). Then, in the general election, conservatives complain that their moderate candidates don’t represent them. The same answer always comes, “Where are you going to go?” Conservatives feel compelled to vote for MOTRs, because it’s better to get “half a loaf” than nothing at all, but I think we should question whether we’re even getting “half a loaf” anymore. The presidency of George W. Bush I think did away with that notion. Bush gained office by creating a program of “big government conservatism.” He grew the government way more than prior Democratic presidents had. He knew the public wanted larger government, but he thought he could steer the country with larger government in a conservative direction with higher public spending on causes to which conservatives are agreeable. In the final analysis, I think this failed. With the election of Obama in 2008, all I see is that Bush handed the Democrats a loaded weapon, which they’ve used to attack liberty-loving Americans, and encourage more government dependency to a degree they had not dreamed of previously.

What I propose is a political strategy whose aim is to teach the people that their desire for bigger government is misguided, such that it will open an opportunity for Americans to search for an alternative. The strategy is simple. Absent monetary influence, I think it’s all we have. It will involve taking many losses, and bearing them with resolve. It will involve experiencing the burdens of big government, and suffering its predations. It may not work, but I do not see an alternative. I think we must be firm about what we prefer. I think we must tilt our votes towards those candidates for office whom we can surmise have skills in governing, and who have our priorities of constitutionally limited government at heart, and in mind. If we do not have such a candidate to support, we must not vote for MOTR Republicans. Instead vote for Democrats, no matter whether they’re moderates or extremists, or vote for an existing third party, if some prefer. As I heard one Tea Partier say (I think Sen. Ted Cruz of TX), in order to take back the country we must first take back the Republican Party. To do that, there must be an accommodation between constitutionalist voters and the party establishment. If the Establishment continues to offer up milquetoast candidates, we must be willing to accept party defeat for the time being to teach the party apparatus that their choices are not acceptable, and to teach the people, to the extent possible, what their desire for bigger government (with the Democrats) really means. This means of course that we will continue to suffer the predations of government, if the public’s desire for that continues, but it’s an unfortunate truth about humanity that people often do not change until they experience pain. They must feel the overbearing character of big government to seek an alternative, and we must be willing to bear it with them until they learn that this is not the way forward.

Some will feel alarmed at this proposal: Vote for Democrats?? Yes, if no suitable Republican candidate is available. The reason for my “madness” is simple. If the public indicates it wants bigger government, I suggest we give it to them, full on. What I want us to turn away from is the “frog in the slowly warming pot,” that ultimately “cooks” it alive. I think we will be able to make our point most effectively with stark contrasts in the political process. Rather than give big government slowly, give it quickly with gusto. People will feel the impact of it more quickly. If it comes on slowly, people will become inured to its effects–they’ll get used to it. Expectations will be lowered, and people will not aspire to anything better.

Some will point to my stance and say that this is asking for dysfunction, because we are displaying an unwillingness to compromise. That is not true. I recognize the need for compromise in our government, but there are some compromises that are not worth taking. In fact what many are calling “compromise” today–continuing to overspend at an alarming rate, and continuing to destroy constitutional government–is downright crazy. We all know it. All the traditional motions towards compromise by Republicans have gotten us is a larger, more oppressive federal state that is repressing small private enterprise, creating more government dependence to a point where nearly half the country is in such a state, and where the government is borrowing 40% of what it spends, increasing the debt to proportions not seen since WW II, with no end to it in sight. Many in the Democratic establishment have convinced themselves that this is not dangerous. They can continue growing the state, creating a larger and larger financial burden on the country. Money is no object. Absent full Democratic control of the presidency and Congress, they prefer dealing with moderate Republicans, who will vote along with them to continue growing the size of government, with their feckless protests, indefinitely. The Democrats, as far as I’m concerned, are a lost cause for the time being, but if this country is going to have a chance in the future, we must not see this as acceptable behavior on the part of Republicans. We must have a conservative party, with some power, to go to.

Some might also ask if this is just asking for ultimate defeat. If the country does not learn to reject big government, and continues going back to the same “well” for solutions, despite its failures, won’t this strategy ultimately lead us to a one-party state, and perhaps the end of the country itself? I say we are on that path already. Voting for Republicans, without regard for their inclinations for smaller or bigger government, will not stop it. It will only slow it down, but not change course. That I find unacceptable as well. I’ve had this sense since 2011 that the country needs to make a stark choice about which way it is going to go. If it is determined to keep going down the same path, voting for MOTR Republicans will not change our fate. It will only delay the inevitable. It will seem like we have made an alternate choice, but we will, in fact, have chosen a slight modification of the status quo, which still leads in the same direction. That’s not the kind of decision I’m talking about.

There have been increasing calls for constitutional conservatives to break away from the Republican Party and create a third party, but I caution against this. Creating a third party will not change the political landscape one iota. It will not instantly create a new majority. What people need to do is change their minds. That can happen within the existing system of two major parties. Being a part of the Republican Party creates an opportunity for engagement, to change the minds of people who we need to convert to our side of the argument. It also lets them know that we are not their enemy. We agree with them on many principles, but we have a different approach towards achieving them. They may say it doesn’t look like a strategy for success, and on that they have a point. The Tea Party is a minor, though somewhat successful, movement within the Republican Party. Success for our goals will only come when the American public learns that big government doesn’t work, and we learn to communicate, and educate, the public to that fact effectively. Part of what will help with that will be the public experiencing the downsides of big government.

The one scenario where I could see a break-away third party working is where the Republican Party apparatus actively suppresses our voice, but there’s an increasing public support with momentum for our views. In addition, a funding coalition would be needed. Simply having different ideas will not suffice. They must be ideas that people are willing to commit to with their cash, and, living with the practical realities of electoral engagement, it must be an agenda that attracts donations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Such fundraising can be done online in today’s world, but it might be necessary for such an agenda to attract large financial backers, rather than counting on a swarm of public excitement, and a large number of small donations.

The Tea Party has its enemies within the GOP, but I don’t see a large movement to actively suppress it just yet. I hope that does not develop. In the meantime I advocate taking the actions I’ve outlined to shape the Republican Party to our ends.

Edit 1/10/14: Glenn Beck did an excellent piece on this subject back in October. He didn’t say what I’ve said, but I think it dovetails. Where we agree is that we must do what we can to defeat what are commonly called “moderate” (or what Glenn calls Progressive) candidates in the party, in preference to pro-freedom, pro-Constitution, pro-market (I would add pro-federalism) candidates.