Written by Chuck Laudner
“Who am I? And why am I here?”
Admiral Stockdale’s introductory comment in the 1992 Vice Presidential debate would seem just as appropriate for 2010 American politics. Set aside for today’s purposes the Democrat Party’s true mission, for whom everybody either knows or is quickly learning. Rather, the Republican Party and its Tea Party compatriots are in a struggle to determine their identity, their goal, and their leadership.
An 18-hour drive back to Iowa from my annual CPAC pilgrimage was plenty of time to complete the osmosis of the dozens of speeches. What struck me somewhere near the continental divide was that there was little consensus on the ultimate goal. Yes, we all know what we don’t like, but what are we for? And I mean specifically. I feel as though that key component of any significant political movement is deliberately being left blank until we find consensus on the other two issues – who are we, and who will lead us to the promised land?
To make an omelet you need to break a few eggs. But we aren’t making omelets – we just hate eggs. Especially the mongrel, quasi-socialist, cap and tax, gun controlling, sovereignty-ceding, left wing media leg-humpers. That is the easy stuff. However, for the narrative to succeed, we need to connect the “how we got here” to the present to the “where are we going.”
The “how we got here” is easy to explain and understand for most conservatives. It is suddenly in vogue to bludgeon the policies of Woodrow Wilsons, FDRs, and LBJs for their excesses of the last century. But what of their motivations? Can they be clearly defined for the consumption of the American public at large?
Let us not forget that “progressivism” began as a religious movement. It was the fundamental Christian duty to attempt social engineering. When that social engineering delves into economics, the state became their religion. The “new bureaucracy” of the early 20th Century ironically created separation of church and state because their biblical values could not line up with their secular, governmental means to their ends. Progressivism throughout, and especially today, considers an individual’s freedom to pursue personal goals as morally disgusting.
We must stop bowing to the “wisdom” of those self-assigned elites. More and more Americans are tuning out the bleating of the “hope, change, I feel your pain” sheep and realizing what we have known all along. They are no more than mis-educated thugs whose mission is control and whose enemy is your soul.
So we know how we got here and who we are up against, but where are we going? A return to a Constitutionally limited government? Check. Lower taxes? Yep. Reduce the debt? Sure. Nuke Iran and abolish the Department of Education? What? How’d that get in there?
2010 is not 1964. It isn’t 1920, either. The current political climate is unique in that the progressive train has run off the tracks and the Tea Party movement sprung up in the void left by the Republican Party. Who are they? Of course, they are Reagan Democrats, Independents, ex-patriated conservatives, and some mercenaries. The over-arching theme is to punish bad behavior of the past, which is why the Glenn Beck’s of the world make sure to lump in seemingly complicit Republicans.
The dangerous part of that equation is that the rebel filling his Molotov cocktail with piss and vinegar over the failed policies of the past forgets that opposition to the failed policies of the past failed even worse. Trust me. Each and every time I have left the voting booth, I was oddly proud that I would get to say “I told you so” somewhere down the line. My political philosophy always orbited around the idea that it has to get worse before it gets better. Well, congratulations, we’ve hit rock bottom.
I sometimes hear a lifetime politico proclaim his conservative credentials by proudly stating his efforts on behalf of Barry Goldwater. I have even done this myself. If ever I felt my conservative credentials were questioned, I would declare I worked for Bill Salier. “Oh, you must really be a right-winger, then,” and I was accepted as “pure.” But, I’m not in favor of the death penalty – I am pro-life. Am I then excluded from the conversation over our platform?
So we are to the crux of the big problem. Who will lead us and where are we going? We are all privateers on an open sea battling a larger organized navy. I suppose we will spend the next few months hoping to find formation behind a flagship, but we are woefully misguided if we believe this next election is already ours because of timing and luck. We absolutely must give full meaning to the words that will eventually define our movement.
Historical metaphors are useful motivators, but really cannot capture our current political situations. The Battle of Thermopylae is a great example of free men outfighting slaves. But are we really expecting to find the “300”, let alone a Leonidas, who will make the ultimate sacrifice? And I don’t mean sacrifice as running a losing, unfunded political campaign against an entrenched incumbent. I mean being beheaded and crucified so that another can thwart the invader at some point in the future.
We can all agree that the tax code is an abomination. We can agree to sunset the code. Then our side will argue amongst themselves over a Fair Tax, a flat tax, and both will argue with those in our own movement who believe it will never happen anyway. That’s just one example of many.
I believe it is crucial that we put all our ships into formation and continue to sail toward a common goal of constitutional principles rededicated. Obama has given us one thing and that is the opportunity to create an alliance – the creation of lines that we cannot cross. From there, we can begin talking about the culture that follows this generation. And we must believe that a new culture will form after the death of progressivism.
To start, the sins of a lifetime are too much for anyone to defend. We forgive even if we don’t forget. Even Reagan was a Democrat once, and he certainly saw the light. Could we provide a form of conservative amnesty that states we are all culpable if America declines. That from here on out we will stay in formation because we know that no man or group is infallible. Faith in God is faith in the perfect. Faith in man is… well… If the “reach-across-the-aisle” crowd wants “bonafides” by frolicking in the progressive meadow with the worst of the worst, they must know it means they are persona non grata. The flip side is that I am more than willing to excise the record if any and all want to jump on board the new conservative bandwagon.
The goal I know we all should share is to make the next generation the “greatest generation.” Not Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation that gave us Medicare, the Great Society, 17,000 pages of tax code, legalized abortion, and more Medicare, but one that understands that the cost of the program misses the point and it is wrong even if we can afford it. This moment in our political history awards us the opportunity to re-form the relationship between the citizen and the government – a constitutionally limited government.
The next set of liberal histories will debate whether Obama’s progressivism did too much or too little and that somewhere exists a proper balance for democratic socialism success both short and long term. What they unfortunately never understand is that history is written by the victors, and it matters not whether you crawl or sprint toward central planning, it is entirely the wrong path. So, what if together we reel it all back in? If from this moment forward we always move toward freedom – if we always commit to a constitutionally limited government – the history will write that this is the greatest generation.
Let’s all get into formation. Let us hit the reset button and begin a new era of responsibility in our conservative movement. The leaderless revolution of thousands of privateers will determine its flagship in time. We will see if the current crop of “leaders” will be that flagship or merely a barnacle. And if, from here on out, a ship leaves formation – then we can sink it.
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