“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
These words of Benjamin Franklin are haunting, even chilling, for those of us suspended in a state of disbelief after the election.
Have we just witnessed the end of the republic?
It’s not like we will soon live in another Soviet Union. But we have decided that France or Spain or Greece will do just fine. With Obamacare now certain to remain the law of the land, one sixth of the economy effectively nationalized, and having just affirmed a president entirely unwilling to even discuss restructuring an entitlement system that will surely bankrupt the nation, we have now completed our century-long transformation from a constitutional republic to a social democracy.
In the last election in France, the people ignored their looming fiscal and economic crises by voting another socialist into power. Is what we just did really any different?
How is it possible to tell exit pollsters, as a majority did, that the economy is the most important issue, and then proceed to validate a president who has been an abject failure in fixing same while offering no plan – nothing – that would produce any semblance of different results in the next four years.
The economy, unemployment, the national debt, and most of all, Obamacare – THE defining issues of the election – were, incredibly, both acknowledged as such and then ignored by an electorate that made an unambiguous statement: we care more about getting stuff from the government than about the resulting consequences to the nation…..and there are more of us than you.
How, then, can we reconcile two certainties: the long-standing American view – proven repeatedly – that limited government and free markets are the only viable paths to restored prosperity and greatness, and that a minority – and a shrinking minority to boot – actually believe this anymore.
It’s time like this when you understand why the founders originally limited the vote to land owners who were the only stakeholders in the public treasury.
But that was as long ago and far away as our father’s America seems right about now, and there are only two possible paths for those of us who have been driving home the constitutional message.
The first is to wait for the unfolding consequences of this second Obama term, and hope (as so many expect) they are disastrous – so disastrous as to force the restoration of free market principles if only because the voters will be left with no other choice. After all, it is the dependent class that will be the most vulnerable in an economy mired in crisis, as we are witnessing in Europe. But wishing disaster upon the nation we love is of course self-contradictory.
The second path is to do what Paul Ryan reportedly wanted to do in this campaign, but was blocked from doing by the Romney brain trust: boldly discuss the roots of poverty, and sell our principles hard, to audiences who have traditionally been unwilling to embrace them. If we really, truly believe in small government, free markets and the enduring and metaphysical value of liberty for all of our people, then we must be willing to try and persuade more and more of the black, hispanic, young and liberal female voters who constitute the emerging American majority.
A third path, selling out our principles, is only viable if we don’t actually believe what we’ve been saying all along, and are willing to make a faustian bargain for short term political gain.
Despite the obvious truth that raising taxes in a sour economy only makes things worse, it is already clear that the House leadership will be forced to agree to tax increases as part of a package to avoid the sequestration and taxmageddon (the simultaneous expiration of a number of reduced tax rates) that stand as a sword of Damocles over our heads. In addition to the newfound permanence of Obamacare, a number of other issues are now fully on the table – climate change, immigration reform, more federal spending on education, even more federal regulation and who knows what other statist initiatives – from a president now untethered from any remaining accountability to the people.
Thomas Jefferson was among the founding fathers who wasn’t sure the great American experiment could last beyond a generation. Instead, it lasted 236 years, and turned America from a colonial backwater to the hope of the world.
We can either sit back, be grateful it lasted this long, shed a tear for bygone days and retreat further into our cocoons with the dwindling number of like-minded constitutionalists, or, despite our pessimism and despair, we can employ our principles more forcefully than ever and fight against all odds to re-capture the heart of America.
I opt for the latter.