This election has it all, right? Scandals, insults, violence, debauchery. For all of the conspiracy theories pointing to a secret cabal of puppeteers orchestrating some kind of giant hoax and calling it democracy, this election is the absolute best evidence that the world is ruled only by chaos. There’s not a Hollywood writer or a group of nefarious billionaires that could conceive of the outrageous entertainment we’ve been enduring. Truth really is stranger than fiction. But for all the entertainment value of this election of attrition between two of the most high-profile tabloid stars of the nineties, something is missing. Principles, policy, and frankly, politics.
The stakes could not possibly be higher, but you might not know it from watching the day-to-day drama playing out on stage.
Because Donald Trump isn’t your typical Republican - he’s more of a celebrity populist that ran a third party campaign under the Republican banner - this election is a marvel, a novelty. Trump is a novelty. Fueled by name recognition, media exposure, and a blunt message that resonated with an increasingly disaffected conservative base, Trump carved out a coalition of loyalists that propelled him to victories while rival politicians built more conventional coalitions and fought for a few victories, but mainly defeats. Trump benefited from the structure and predictability of Republican voters as well. There are many “soft” Republican voters - middle class moderates, suburban voters, full-time workers - that aren’t enamored with politics and typically migrate toward the strongest candidate. Essentially, as soon as Trump won the South Carolina Primary, it was over. John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and especially Ted Cruz were forced to rally “hard” Republicans against Trump, which worked in the Wisconsin primary and hardly anywhere else. The media helped solidify the perception of Trump as the default Republican, a winning strategy; just ask John McCain and Mitt Romney.
But Trump isn’t a conservative. He says he is, but then he asks, “who cares?” as if to beg the question, “what has conservatism really accomplished?” This message resonated with voters because of Washington conservatives, those eggheads that spend all their time focused on policy, seen as increasingly out-of-touch with the real issues people are dealing with, and, fed a healthy diet of Fox News and Breitbart.com, the issues that enrage them. Some try, at times, to channel this anger into righteous opprobrium at all of the destructive policies brought to bear, but, mindful of the need to compromise and win elections in our ever-changing country, they could never muster the kind of “broad shouldered” defiance many find so compelling in Trump. He’s the middle finger to the whole establishment: Republicans, Democrats, and every squish, sap, and sellout in between.
Their anger, however, is justified, and if they hadn’t nominated an independent pretending to be a Republican, they might have had a chance to excise the truly sickening presence that haunts the halls of D.C.
Conservative voters don’t distrust the Republicans in Washington because they aren’t useful, but rather, because they haven’t been useful enough. They haven’t been effective enough to stop the progressive onslaught that has been ramping up over the past eight years.
Washington takes in more tax revenue than at any time in history and despite promises to put it towards jobs and infrastructure, it all seems to get squandered, hauled off to scandal-ridden government agencies that fail to serve the people. Then they march out with a bullhorn to demand even more, decrying to entrepreneurs, “nobody makes it on their own,” and “you didn't build that!” demanding that everyone be made to “pay their fair share,” all so they can fund some new big government scheme that will intrude even further into our private lives. Washington keeps growing, the progressives keep winning. No matter how many Republicans we send to Washington, no matter who gets the Speaker’s gavel, no matter how long they refuse a vote on a new Supreme Court Justice, the other side just seems to keep winning.
And when they win, they are anything but gracious. They revel in the moment. They set about crushing dissent, ridiculing the “backward” voices that stand where they stood just a few years prior. They build new edifices to entrench whatever power they have just ripped away from the states, the people, and private organizations, and they hardly ever put their full intentions up for debate. They rely on a massive administrative state to realize their greatest aims, rewriting laws on the fly to best suit their agenda. They create entire constituencies dependent on them for subsistence. This is the fundamental transformation of America Obama promised.
As Marco Rubio intimated four times in a single debate, they know exactly what they’re doing: they’ve been using the auger of domestic and international crises to implement a disastrous agenda that departs from over two hundred years of American governance. They go through judicial fiat to rewrite laws to fit the Constitution and vice versa, and President Obama has relied on executive orders and memorandums to expressly circumvent the Separation of Powers he swore an oath to uphold. Our only recourse is the Supreme Court and that will not hold much longer. As progressives look to the administrative state to overcome “the challenge” of Constitutional limits, their aim is to appoint judges that will defer to the wisdom of ‘experts’ who write laws we don’t have the power to overrule.
Hillary Clinton is the figurehead of a global cabal of corruption trading billions in “charity” for access to power, prestige, and the generous bounty of taxpayer-funded favors sloshing their way through the many bureaucracies of the federal leviathan. Clinton INC. has been eagerly awaiting its return to control of this Washington favor factory and access to trillions in loans, tax breaks, and regulations that will benefit them while disadvantaging everyone else. Big business may not like big government, but they benefit one another in all the worst ways.
This system needs an overhaul. The establishment in both parties that have come to rely on it has to go. Our politics needs a healthy infusion of principles, our Founding principles, to bring us back to individual freedom, free markets, and a healthy and thriving populace. That would be an election worthy of our nation, fitting for our time. This is a turning point in American history, “a time for choosing” as Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it. The American people deserve an election of consequence in which principled leaders on both sides put forth their policies and visions for the future of America and ask the voters to choose.
Would they choose the Constitution - a path of limited self-government, maximum rights, federalism, with established and principled processes for making laws and reviewing them in the context of these stated purposes? Or would they choose progressivism - favoring powerful bureaucracies staffed by experts deciding that which is best for society while replacing the written Constitution with the standard of a “living Constitution” that licenses their redistributive agenda?
Our system was designed so that we may never grant demagogues the levers of power but also so that the levers were never so powerful as to not to be entrusted to any person or party. Enough has been written about this election representing “the death of democracy”, and, to be sure, my greatest fear is that this is precisely what the Founders’ were trying to avoid. This is what Washington warned of in his farewell address - if parties become powerful enough, they will use the state against their opponents, forever altering the balance of power in their favor.
Beware the dogs that haven’t barked. This election is more normal than we realize. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and we’ve allowed them to grow this dire. With so much that hangs in the balance, this election should serve as a very humbling reminder that Washington has become too powerful.
There is still progress to be made recognizing everyone’s inherent value and rights, progress that is by the reveling in victory when it comes at the hands of a Supreme Court Justice, a bureaucrat, or a politician that ignores principle to achieve their purpose. I empathize with the “social justice warriors” that believe this is par for the course, that overcoming centuries of discrimination against minority groups and women is worth celebrating, even it comes through extralegal means. I hear you. I know that you believe this system is patriarchal and discriminatory and the fight for social justice must tear down such edifices of the establishment.
But the ends do not justify the means. Because if we are to sacrifice principle in the pursuit of those goals, what is to stop someone else from ignoring the Constitution in pursuit of their goals? What if their goal is round up millions of people and toss them behind an impenetrable wall? What if their goal is to weaponize the IRS against think tanks, charities, and organizations that they don’t like? What if their goal is to siphon off a trillion dollars from the Treasury and hand it to a giant corporation? I could be talking about Republicans or Democrats, and that’s the problem.
Politics is no substitute for principle. This election might be best viewed as two sides of the same coin. Heads, we get Hillary Clinton and the progressives inheriting an expansive administrative state. Tails, it’s Donald Trump bringing in whoever he wants and we have literally no idea what they’re capable of. Because the biggest problem in our politics is that Washington has become so powerful that all we know is that we can’t really trust either party with the presidency. Trump seems like an antidote to this affliction, but he’s not. He substitutes a truly disruptive agenda for nostalgic promises of fairer trade and “walls that work.” The progressives couldn’t ask for a better opponent. He doesn’t dare to raise the actual problem - without The Constitution, we have a government limited only by those limits that politicians choose for themselves. He lets that dog lie, but beware the dogs that haven’t barked, for they have a powerful bite.
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