Ever wonder why the GOP, with factual reality, actual history and logical inference on our side, find it so hard to squirrel up a message more unifying and small "e" evangelical than merely being ourselves not Democrats? If our message remains nothing more than a recitation of the many, almost innumerable failings of the Obama Administration (not least of which is the sacrifice of economic prosperity on the alter of faux egalitarianism) then we may well carry the election, but not the country.
If conservatism is to obtain a mandate to change more than the identity of recipients of federal tax largess, we must re-educate the population as to the first premise of American government: the Constitution of the United State, as informed by the Declaration of Independence, is the organic law of the United States. The Constitution clearly defines and limits the reach of government. Since Theodore Roosevelt, Republicans have slowly abandoned the Constitution as the basis of public policy. Now compromise has become so difficult because the conservatives have little further ground to give. As a result, the essential concept of Americanism is no longer taught in most schools, never mentioned in the popular press and forgotten by most Republican speakers, candidates and office holders. Yet, after a century of neglect, our national Constitution, particularly absent the disastrous Progressive Era 16th (income tax) and 17th (direct election of Senators) Amendments, provides the most appealing of arguments should we choose to embrace it.
The message of freedom and a return to Constitutional limited government is simple, exhaustive and inclusive. But, like all simple messages, the brighter the line the more accountable the surveyor for deviations from that line. If we embrace, as we should, adherence to a textual predicate in the Constitution as the litmus test of policy, divorcing law from the unlimited and subjective test of "public good" we have the chance to earn the mandate conservatives need to reverse the drift to national oblivion. We cannot earn the mandate without persuading the population at large to reject not just the growth of the federal government but the central role of the federal government in the everyday lives of American citizens (other than our physical security from foreign and definable interstate threats-more on than in the days ahead).
The task of persuasion is both easy and hard. Easy because most people want freedom. Every survey, and the anecdotal experiences of every reader, shows that almost all Americans feel increasingly restrained and frustrated by the faceless assertion of power. Public anger extends far beyond a temporary hostility to "Obamacare", the emergency corporate bailouts, gridlock in Washington or "record deficits" but arises from the growing loss of self-determination that is, itself, the essence of personal freedom. "Remember when America was free" is the 21st Century answer to "Who is John Galt".
The attraction of freedom as a core message of domestic policy is abundantly evidenced by Ron Paul's blowing across the country like a Texas dust devil. Imagine the effect of a well funded and concerted pan-Republican message promoting the idea of personal freedom and Constitutionally limited government? A daily, constant and consistent message of the benefits of personal freedom would be an easy sell on the front end. The back end, however, not so easy.
The application of principle to policy generates two perils for the advocates of Constitutional limited government. The first peril: people will lose tangible financial benefits and no one likes to lose money-especially free money. Tens of millions of Americans are very direct beneficiaries of hundreds of billions of federal tax money, both those who receive and distribute. Liberals will screech at the elimination of federal food stamp programs, federal subsidy of state and local education (other than perhaps investment in legitimate scientific research) and the even more ridiculous "preschools", to ending federal subsidy of county and municipal law enforcement and depriving nonprofit NGO charities of federal taxpayer money. Transition of the collectivized federally subsidized social security entitlement to a far more privatized Chilean model has historically caused the liberal demagogues to channel their inner Mao and no reason exists to think a future dialogue will be any less, well, demagogic. That very demagoguery forms the foundation of the second, and far greater peril.
The second peril is lure of federal money to feed our sacred federal cows, no pun intended. Goring the liberal ox while clinging to the myriad of laws and taxes that empower multi-state and multi-national corporations-the source of much of our corporate political capital-at the expense of individuals, small businesses and family farms convicts us of hypocrisy. The courage to walk back the wasteful and counterproductive social services network and the millions of social workers that grow the social net ever wider will be necessary. Ultimately, this battle for the hearts and minds of the American voter and future voter will be hard and more than a little bloody but if we are serious about saving the Constitution and the America it creates, is it not the good fight? Truly the hill on which to die?
So the choice and the challenge for the entire national Republican Party, and all of our candidates from the proverbial courthouse to the White House and our extended alliance of PACs and talking heads is simple and stark. Either we remain a party of ideological ambiguity, at best slowing the incremental avalanche of federal power and the corollary march to socialism (or worse) or we become the party of freedom, prosperity and opportunity, reversing the 20th Century exaltation of the collective at the expense of the individual, by restoring Constitutional limited and defined government.
We can do it.
Next: Let's get started-the 10th Amendment.