Travis Rowley: Liberty By Law
Saturday, November 24, 2012
In the event of a victory by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney several weeks ago, I had prepared myself to draft a column intended to quell the anticipated jubilation of the political Right nationwide – my primary point being that, despite such a Republican triumph, America’s enduring crisis would have been that Barack Obama was practically guaranteed 47 percent of the popular vote simply by being the endorsed Democratic candidate (Obama ultimately secured 51 percent).
Without a doubt, Republicans would have had significant influence over Washington for the time being. But the history of political tides would have served as a virtual assurance that the party of national socialism would eventually claw back to power six to ten years later (most likely by concocting a Republican “war on child midgets” or something).
There are many Americans who naively take a false sense of security in watching power shift back and forth in the nation’s capital, as if the party of limited government and the party of collectivism have equal worth; as if America needs some conservatism, and then a little liberalism to even everything out; as if freedom needs a little tyranny once in a while.
For those who hold such a view, I hold up the State of Rhode Island – the perfect elixir of capitalism and socialism. It’s “progressive.”
Rhode Island isn’t a communist state. But our politicians in power have certainly found it wise for the past several decades to, as former chairman of the DNC Howard Dean instructs, “have both [capitalism and socialism.]” It was a compromise!
Rhode Island is what happens when you try to meet Democrats in “the middle.”
And, suddenly, I’m reminded of Barry Goldwater (R): “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”
Crippling the Left
Herein lies the reason why many principled conservatives were never satisfied with Mitt Romney – the “Massachusetts moderate.” And herein lies much of the reason why Romney miraculously received less votes than John McCain received in 2008.
Romney sometimes seemed to be learning liberty on the fly. While I never fault anyone for embracing conservatism later in life (many people do), it was difficult for many libertarians – the “heart and soul” of conservatism, according to Ronald Reagan – to look past Romney’s “flip-flops” and to trust his political evolution.
Every conservative in the country knew that Romney’s economic plan was superior to Obama’s. But that’s hardly the point anymore. The job market can be roaring while the culture is eroding.
America is more than an economy.
Conservatives understand that the collectivist creep is covert, always occurring whether the stock market is up or down. What would Romney have done to safeguard Americans from those who would have the national debt reach $20 trillion and beyond? What would he have done to protect Americans from those who vote in favor of having other people pay for their food, housing, medicine, schooling – and contraception – from a federal level?
What was Romney’s plan to shield the moral and industrious from the Democrats’ base of 47 percent?
Romney was practically the only Republican presidential candidate who didn’t openly espouse a flat income tax during the Republican primary election, choosing instead to advocate for lower rates within the existing progressive income tax structure – a failed code that has dangerously evolved to the point where nearly half of all income earners pay no taxes at all.
More to the point, the progressive income tax represents Marxist policy that fuels the Democrats’ disingenuous class warfare each election cycle. This was just one example that suggested that Romney didn’t know how to effectively take on the Left, how to cripple it for years to come – even while it was the Democrats’ turn to preside over Washington.
We are living in an age when millions of Americans wage war against their neighbors, actively voting for a redistribution of wealth that directly benefits them.
The nation’s founders understood that the American Revolution was not merely a battle against the British Empire. It was also a war against close-by colonists, anyone against independence and secession from England, and anyone who “love[d] wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom” – as Samuel Adams once put it. Adams was perhaps too polite to the liberals of his day: “Go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
The founders understood that the American Revolution was a conflict with humanity itself – culminating with every American citizen being safeguarded by the US Constitution. It would no longer matter how many Americans found it wise to have Washington pay for your sister’s birth control. Government was now outlawed, and liberty was legal.
But the founders warned that even the Constitution wouldn’t be enough to stem the tide of tyranny, so long as enough Americans became immoral, ignorant, and distracted – and began to take their freedom for granted.
Over 200 years later famed economist Milton Friedman would echo their concern: “The battle for freedom must be won over and over again.”
Conservative commentator Bill Whittle would touch on the same message when speaking to a small crowd after the most recent elections: “This progressivism will never go away. There will never be a victory over liberalism. There can be a victory over conservatism…But there will never be a victory over liberalism. You have to mow the grass every week.”
Conservatism is a discipline. Liberalism is a natural impulse.
Liberalism can’t be entirely defeated because liberalism exists within every human being. Liberalism is the eternal urge for man to rule over other men. The Left just keeps on coming.
Thomas Jefferson once expressed the humility of the philosophy of constrained government by saying, “If once [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges, and Governors, shall all become wolves.”
Even this remarkable champion of individual liberty possessed the potential to become a tyrant. More to the point, Jefferson knew it. He knew that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
The problem was man himself. The solution was the US Constitution – Liberty by Law.
Whenever a habitual government do-gooder conjures up another splendid program that could assist his fellow Americans, Jefferson is there to respond: “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
But Democrats don’t care about this studied and prudent perspective – this governmental discipline.
Democrats have, like, wicked good ideas to help poor people. They’re not going to allow something like the Constitution – the law – to get in their way.
The Constitution, Democrats insist, is a “living, breathing document” that should “evolve” with the times. Its “essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers” are something that President Obama has expressed a willingness to “break free” from in order to “[venture] into the issues of redistribution of wealth.”
The Right Leader
There’s no doubt that conservatives have, in many ways, lost the culture war. The last line of defense against those who naively trust themselves with power – and their army of citizens who approve – was supposed to be the US Constitution.
So it was disappointing when Mitt Romney was asked during a Republican primary debate about the National Defense Authorization Act – a law that the moderator explained now enables the President of the United States to “indefinitely detain American citizens in US Military custody.” Asked if he would also have signed the legislation, Romney responded, “Yes I would have. And I do believe that it’s appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country…I don’t think [President Obama] is going to abuse this power, and I know that if I were President I would not abuse this power.”
Yet another demonstration that Romney, perhaps, doesn’t understand the nature of the political Left.
Mitt Romney – a good and honest man who employed a decently conservative voice throughout his campaign – had plans to revive the American economy. But what were his plans to revive America? For many principled conservatives – in that realm, in these times, and with this priority – Romney seemed somewhat inadequate as the man to usher in America’s second revolution, a movement to lead the charge against today’s slugs, zombies, and tyrants.
Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.