November 14, 2008

By Tom DeWeese

There is no question that election day, 2008 was a dismal one for those who believe in limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty – the principles of freedom upon which this nation was founded. There is carnage on the battlefield; despair in our hearts; and fear for our future. What does the future hold? Where do we go from here? Can we survive?

Well, call me Pollyanna, but I see opportunity – lots of it. The fact is the American electorate did not reject the principles of freedom as they elected Barack Obama. They rejected the failed policies of George W. Bush. Period. The issues of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty weren’t on the table. Neither McCain nor Obama mentioned them.

Barack Obama ran a brilliant campaign. He used the word “change” and that word means many things to many people. There is one solid truth in the election results. The American people wanted change. The big question is whether average Americans and Barack Obama mean the same thing when they say “Change.” I think not.

I do not believe that the American people rejected the principles of freedom in exchange for the change Obama is prepared to give them. Americans rejected the cost and pain of endless wars and a world that has come to hate us for it. They rejected an economy that collapsed on their heads. They rejected $4.00 per gallon at the gas pump. They rejected open borders for illegals. They rejected the massive spending and intrusive government brought on by Republican rule. They rejected polices that have created a nation of fear with our personal privacy open to government surveillance. They rejected a failing medical system of skyrocketing costs and reduced level of care. And they rejected gross bailouts for the guilty. In short, Americans rejected George W. Bush and all the big government he stood for.

According to a post-election analysis from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), “voters chose prudent stability – not radical change – when it came to matters affecting their pocketbooks.” Financial security was a big issue. “In most ballot measure contests, Americans rejected higher taxes, opted to keep existing tax limits in place, and imposed accountability measures on elected officials. Furthermore, in Congressional races there may be less evidence of a stampede toward bigger government than many pundits would have us believe,” said NTU spokesman Pete Sepp. The same trends were found in State and local issues as voters showed no support for a wave of new tax and spend policies.

It is clear, Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats did not get a mandate to impose Socialism on America. And that gives those of us who advocate limited government opportunity to hold the line and even make progress in the fight for freedom. While being ignored and marginalized by the Bush Administration for eight years, we have the real answers to the crisis now facing the new Obama Administration. We have nothing to be ashamed of. No reason to hang our heads. The greatest threat we face is our natural masochistic tendency to take the blame for something we didn’t do.

Barack Obama won, and he did it with an arrogance that assures Americans he has the answers to fix the country. The mess of America is now his mess. Of course he will fail because his polices are the same big government intrusions that brought us to disaster in the first place. And the blame will shift to him. In four years it will be Obama’s failed economy; Obama’s misery on society; Perhaps “Obamavilles?” At the very least Barack Obama is a Socialist. American is not.

And that’s exactly why the opportunity to expand the cause of freedom and succeed is ours for the taking. Our assets are huge. First we have the new, energized legions of Ron Paul’s revolution chomping at the bit to get in the fight, many who have never before been involved in the political process. We have the massive forces of Americans who stood up and fought illegal immigration amnesty. A full 80% of the American people opposed that legislation and still do. In addition, a vast, angry majority of Americans opposed the bailout of Wall Street, and still do. As the crisis deepens they are becoming increasingly angry at politicians – including Barack Obama – who voted for it against their wishes. Gun advocates are on alert and ready to charge. Abortion opponents are as well. Even business, not always an ally of limited government, understands the stakes and may well become a valuable force against socialist-driven regulation policies.

The greatest obstacle we face may be the increased Democrat majority in Congress. Yet, here too, the threat may be overblown. We must not forget that a full 30% of Democrats in the House voted with us to stop some very dangerous global warming legislation based on the UN’s Kyoto Accord. That legislation was introduced by Democrat Barbra Boxer and supported by Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But they couldn’t get it passed, even with all that firepower. Nor did all the Democrats support illegal amnesty legislation.

Just because someone like Obama is elected does not mean his agenda is a done deal. We do not live in a vacuum. Actions are more important than words. No politician, not even Barack Obama, is going to take actions that will endanger their position. Politicians hate defeat. No matter how much they want to move forward, they will back off in the face of major opposition. The illegal amnesty legislation is the prime example. And had there been more time in the bailout debate, we would have won that battle too. Our job is to build that opposition, again and again.

However, our forces must be very careful to not just focus on Congress and the White House. That has been our mistake throughout recent history. In so doing, we have taken our eyes off the long-term strategy – local organization.

First, now that George Bush is gone and John McCain lost, we have a real opportunity to fix the Republican Party, just as Ron Paul has advocated. Had McCain won, the neocons would have been even more solidly entrenched and the Republican Party would have continued to be the party of big government, globalism, public/private partnership monopoles, and endless wars for democracy. Republics don’t do that.

Local activists fighting in the trenches must have much more influence on the Party. The old order leadership and politicians who present fuzzy or wrong policy must be replaced. We must present an agenda that doesn’t leave any doubt as to where we stand. Our troops must take over local leadership, run for office on the local level, from dogcatcher to county commissioner. To accomplish that means we must also become precinct captains and ward leaders. We must be in positions to decide who the candidates will be. That can only be accomplished if we can also guarantee successful get out the vote drives. That can only be done though effective local organizations.

Our Republic was created to give local government more power than Washington and so our revolution must begin in the communities. We must be driven to succeed. That is exactly what the Democrats did. After losing control of the Congress for the first time in 50 years in the 1990s, and seeing the election literally taken from them in 2000, Democrats thrived on an anger and determination that simply could not be stopped this year. The attitude was aptly summed up by comedian Jimmy Kimmel in a headline on the cover of a magazine last month when he said, “Come on, vote Obama and finish this.” It was destiny. The Democrats practically willed it so. So must we. It starts at the local level with local involvement as preparation for the national elections. Our lack of attention for local involvement must change.

A major reform that must be made before the next election is the Republican primary system. The winner-take-all format is the reason John McCain won. He simply won a few primaries by very thin margins. But no other candidate got any delegates from their votes they received, no matter how close the tally. McCain took them all. That was the reason for Romney’s sudden and unexpected early departure from the race. It was the reason Ron Paul could have no impact on the Republican National Convention. The Democrats have no such system. They give each candidate the percentage they earned in the vote. That is the reason Hillary Clinton could hang in there until the end, almost stopping Obama in a last minute surge. Had she desired, there could have been a heck of an old-fashioned floor fight at the Democratic convention because she had the delegates to wage it. The winner-take-all Republican primary system must be changed.

As many are helping to reform the Republican Party, third parties must take the same steps to organize on the local level. Again, they spend all of their effort running candidates for president, while making little effort to elect local candidates. Then, when the national election comes around, they begin to prepare about four months in advance, trying to organize, recruit workers, or even get on the ballot. It’s much too late at that point. It must be done now. And it does not dilute the pot to have strong third party candidates running against Republican candidates. It drives the debate. And wouldn’t it be great to have two or three candidates advocating limited government and lower taxes. Imagine what that would do to the Democrat’s campaign message. In fact, there is a growing crop of conservative Democrats popping up across the nation. It wouldn’t hurt to get involved and help them.

Local activism should also focus on obtaining statewide ballot status for “None-of-the-above” as a means to officially reject bad candidates. I have written extensively on this issue and it should be seriously considered as an organizing theme over the next several years.

Finally, we must learn to frame our message differently to appeal to a broader audience. I am not saying we must compromise any of our principles – I’m suggesting that we put it in new packaging that the average American can understand. Most Americans have little knowledge of what our Founding Fathers stood for or of the difference between a Republic and Democracy. We have to find a new way to say it.

It may surprise many Conservatives to know that most Americans don’t really know the difference between a liberal and a conservative. They make pick the label and vote Democrat because they learned it in school. Today’s classrooms are little more than liberal factories, teaching only that Conservatives are mean and nasty people who want to pull the bread out of the mouths of babies.

Most Americans are honest, compassionate people who want to help the downtrodden and do some good in the world. They also have homes, families and jobs and they want them to be secure. How they vote becomes a matter of perception. A problem exists and Americans want it solved. Liberal politicians use a few words in a sound bite to proclaim “fix it now!” Conservatives spend ten minutes explaining the economic fallacies of the liberal’s solution. Who are they going to listen to?

The fact of the matter is, as we well know, liberal solutions actually cause more pain and misery in the long run. America’s standard of living is being reduced as government control of the economy tightens. Government health care intervention is actually the cause of rising costs and diminished quality of care. We know full well that government intervention as a solution actually creates massive problems, only to have more liberal solutions imposed to fix the problems they created. Massive government bureaucracies expand to more spending, higher taxes and very little progress in fixing the original problem. But you can’t say all of that in a sound bite.

Another lesson I’ve learned from talking with liberal friends is that they speak in terms of programs, while we pontificate in terms of philosophy. Their’s is just a matter-of-fact outlook with the attitude of “Well, let’s solve this problem.” Conservatives run from government like the plague, shouting something about Jefferson as we flee. We leave the battle ground to the liberals, spawning yet more programs.

We need to change how we present our ideas. Liberals talk of compassion while actually imposing damaging polices that take away hard-earned income, while placing the poor in group categories, robbing them of their individuality. Yet, they get away with it because they have “compassion.”

Our ideas have true compassion, advocating that everyone has equal opportunity to achieve their own for prosperity, hopes and dreams. We need to say that, but we must express our concern in terms of compassion. For example, recently I was discussing the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) with a liberal friend. She had actually worked on a “program” dealing with transportation in which she encountered pieces and parts of the TTC. I mentioned the growing opposition to the corridor and she asked if the opposition was a result of some mismanagement she had encountered when working on the project. No, I explained, people are about to lose their homes through eminent domain just for the benefit of big corporations. She then understood our opposition immediately. It would have done no good to discuss the violations of our national sovereignty or the encroachment of government where it didn’t belong. But she understood the plight of the “victims.” Oh, she said, someone must do something to help them! Compassion.

Such is the way we need to sell our solutions to the average, perhaps self-described liberal American. We must condemn government redistribution programs in terms of compassion for the poor. Such programs are robbing them of their dignity, forcing them into life-long bread lines. Instead we must explain how to provide opportunity for them to build a life of their own. That solution of course, is private property ownership. It’s not just a rich man’s “capitalist” solution to line his own pockets – but one of compassion for the victims – a way for them to achieve hopes and dreams. It worked for me during my debate at Cambridge speaking to a sea of students educated on liberal claptrap.

The point is this. Today is not the time for despair or defeatism. We are free of the chains of the defeated, discredited neocons and their global agenda. Americans rejected it. But they have not rejected ours. Now we are free to finally restore our Republic, if, as Ben Franklin admonished, we can keep it. I would clarify to say, if we want to keep it, it’s ours.

Today, while Obama and his ilk celebrate their victory, believing they are on the verge of “shaping a generation of globally-conscious leaders,” actually they are about to show the nation such blather doesn’t work. It’s on their shoulders now and it’s the beginning of their end. It’s the beginning of our opportunity.

Tom DeWeese is the President of the American Policy Center and the Editor of The DeWeese Report. The DeWeese Report is now available online.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.