“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Allow me to cut past the prologue and skip to the climax: we are ignored because we have allowed ourselves to be ignored. We are ignored because we have bought into the lie that our total civic duty is fulfilled on election day. We are ignored because we have allowed our ire to disperse through a radiator of infotainment and token political involvement which do nothing to slow the gears of despotism. We are ignored because we are too busy, too cynical, or too lazy to get involved in a meaningful way. We are now seeing the results.
My challenge to you is the same I have made to myself. I ask: what are you doing to counter the anti-American revolution in your community? What are you doing to counter the radicals intent on “fundamentally transforming this nation?” What are you doing for liberty? Here are some disappointing answers: I’m listening to talk radio. I’m lurking on internet forums. I’m waiting for the next election to vote the bums out. I’m praying and hoping for the best. These are not actions. These are various forms of standing by, waiting for someone else to do something, comfortably positioning ourselves to blame others while taking no responsibility for our own circumstances – not a terribly conservative, traditional, individualistic, independent, or libertarian approach to a problem.
Fortunately, many of us are waking up, shaking off the haze imposed by commercial media, consumption culture, and public education, realizing our country and posterity’s future is being stolen. The task at hand is clear – restore the republic by restoring principled limited constitutional government. Being ignored is no longer an option.
New York Times “resident conservative columnist” David Brooks put out an op-ed on Friday which offered a glimpse into our predicament. Brooks attacked popular conservative talk show hosts as “media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party.” He cites among his evidence the Republican nomination of Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential contest, which manifested despite overwhelming opposition to the senator among conservatives in the party who are often represented on talk radio. Brooks specifically calls out Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, saying they “weave the myth of their own power… [confusing] listeners with voters.” Brooks essentially blames talk radio, and by association the conservatism espoused on it, for “the decline of the G.O.P.”
Brooks has it all wrong. The G.O.P. has not declined “because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy.” It has declined because it did not keep its promises. It has declined because it has not been a real alternative to the Democratic party. It has declined because it has consistently apologized for its conservatives, sold them down the river, and tried to coat the bland intellectual nutrition of libertarian values with a candy shell of “compassionate” entitlement. It has declined because of neo-conservatives*, Republican statists who only oppose government which interferes with their private interests, while supporting government which bolsters them, liberty be damned. The G.O.P. has declined because it had twelve years during which to prove it was what its members claimed it was, the party of limited government and personal responsibility. It proved not to be. It created a constituency of cynics who lost all faith in the political process, believing (correctly) that there was no one truly looking out for the republic. Such voters bailed on the party, many overtly declaring their refusal to participate as a form of punishment against the liars, grifters, and genuine but ineffectual loners who failed or cheated them. It had absolutely nothing to do with talk radio.
Reader Doug Talley responds on the Fightin Words Facebook page:
Never has a “talk jock” affected my views when it comes to elections. You know what I do, Dave, I read up on the candidates. Their voting records, their past, and their experience relating to issues I feel are important tell me whether or not I should be voting for them based on my own conservative views that have been shaped over the years, not by the media, but by my own life, friends, and family. I look to the pressing issues of my own state and, if the candidates chips don’t fall where I feel they should, then I drop all consideration for them. I don’t need Hannity, Rush, Beck, “media masters,” or you to tell me who to vote for based on some lame charisma fantasy you in the media fall for every time hook, line, and sinker.
Brooks betrays his insular perspective by grouping Glenn Beck with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. The latter two can be fairly characterized as partisan water carriers for the Republican party, supporting patently unconstitutional public policy so long as their party is in charge. Beck, on the other hand, is unique among major conservative talk show hosts. (Perhaps Mark Levin is similar. I do not get occasion to listen to Levin, but am peripherally aware of his advocacy for liberty.) In his Common Sense, which I am presently reading, Beck states:
It’s clear that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans (champions of Medicare Part D) really care anymore. They know that when all the bills come due they will either be living a comfortable retirement with the proceeds from a fully vested government pension and access to excellent medical care through their own federal health-care plan, or they’ll be dead. That’s why they have no incentive to do the right thing, just the politically expedient one. And it’s also why we should seriously consider strict term limits on every politician. No, make that on every public servant – including bureaucrats, administrators, judges, and appointees. No more lifelong tenure for government employees. Maybe the more short-term we make their careers, the more they’ll begin to think about the long term.
Does that sound like the rant of a partisan who only cares about empowering a political party? No. Beck has become the most visible mainstream spokesman for liberty. His message, along with that of many others, is resonating with a growing number of Americans who feel the onset of a turbulent storm in their bones. Yet, to hear Brooks tell it, none of that matters. Listers and viewers are not voters. Beck and others appeal to a fringe that does not matter in “the real world.”
Over the years, I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack. The story is always the same. Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move. There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not.
In other words, we are ignored because we have allowed our ire to disperse through a radiator of infotainment and token political involvement which do nothing to slow the gears of despotism. That may have been the case up until now. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest a shift is taking place. People are catching onto what Brooks here shamelessly boasts; regardless of the content, relevance, or quality of a constituent’s grievance, it only matters to a politician if it affects their poll numbers. What is good for the country, the preservation of the republic, the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, what is responsible, right, and proper does not matter. Nothing matters outside of its impact on electability. Brooks actually makes Beck’s point.
Realizing this, many of us are upping the ante, increasing our political involvement. I attended a tea party in St. Paul on April 15th. One of the speakers at the event asked the crowd how many of us were attending our first political protest or rally. In my estimation, over half of the crowd raised their hand. Several speakers emphasized that attending a rally is not involvement, that the energy and motivation from the gathering needed to translate to meaningful political action. I began the Fightin Words podcast shortly thereafter, incorporating my already established but long-neglected blog at RightNation. In the time since, I have connected with dozens of individuals and organizations on the web, some of which I am now beginning to meet with and speak to directly. In my small circle, I have seen at least three average citizens like myself start their own citizen media projects. There is no question that the discontent which previously radiated through established pressure valves is now being put to use winning hearts and minds. People are getting that calls to legislators do nothing and aren’t taken seriously. People are understanding that elections don’t matter as much as the system in which those elections occur. People are waking up to the need to position themselves not just to affect elections, but change the course of internal party politics. If the only way to move politicians is to move polls, polls must and will be moved.
I spoke recently with a local Republican party officer in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, who told of her own call to political involvement. She was drawn into the Republican party as a supporter of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. I was surprised to learn her involvement had developed so recently, as her name is peppered throughout websites for local conservative groups as an organizer or administrator. At first glance, she could be mistaken for a long-time established G.O.P. loyalist. She is not. Her loyalty is not to party, but liberty. And she’s not afraid to tell you about it. During our conversation, she stated she had discerned showing up on election day was arriving too late to affect the process. By then, the candidates have been chosen for you, the philosophical debate within the party has been settled, and you are stuck with choices you may never otherwise support. Her answer to that predicament is simple; get involved earlier, stay involved later, recruit like-minded neighbors to do the same, and never let up in the pursuit and preservation of liberty.
That brings me back to Brooks. A cursory Google investigation reveals him as a defender of statist elitists and a maligner of Republican party libertarians who place principle above power. After the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Brooks said the following in an interview:
[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.
The quote was cited in the Huffington Post in a pro-Obama piece, along with this jem:
Obama has the great intellect. I was interviewing Obama a couple years ago, and I’m getting nowhere with the interview, it’s late in the night, he’s on the phone, walking off the Senate floor, he’s cranky. Out of the blue I say, ‘Ever read a guy named Reinhold Niebuhr?’ And he says, ‘Yeah.’ So i say, ‘What did Niebuhr mean to you?’ For the next 20 minutes, he gave me a perfect description of Reinhold Niebuhr’s thought, which is a very subtle thought process based on the idea that you have to use power while it corrupts you. And I was dazzled, I felt the tingle up my knee as Chris Matthews would say.
Remember, this is the New York Times “conservative” commentator. Reinhold Niebuhr? A socialist theologian? How about Thomas Jefferson? Wouldn’t he be a more appropriate figure to ruminate upon? This is indicative of the dominant faction within the Republican party. Wikipedia describes Brooks as “being originally a liberal before ‘coming to his senses.'” Again, there is a word for that: neo-conservative*. Neo-conservatism is what we saw during the twelve recent years the Republican party was in power. We saw Republican statists who used the rhetoric of liberty to get into office, only to limit government’s power over themselves and those whose interests intertwined with their own, while saddling the rest of us with increasing debt, and curtailing individual liberty in the name of securing the homeland while leaving the border wide open. Of course Brooks is mortified by Sarah Palin, because he’s right! She is a cancer to his party, a party which has metastasized into something abhorrent and toxic to freedom, something which needs to die. Of course Brooks is going to mock Glenn Beck, assault his potency, and attempt to declare him irrelevant. In a world where the Becks and Palins are in charge, Republicans like Brooks are going to be called out for what they are and held to task.
Radicalism, like liberty, knows no party. The true political spectrum does not run from Democrat to Republican, socialist to fascist. Fascism and socialism lay together on the Left, different flavors of oligarchy. On the Right extreme of the spectrum is anarchy. Somewhere in between, much closer to no government than total government, is the Rule of Law – a constitutional republic whose sole purpose is to preserve for its citizens the greatest possible degree of liberty, not through provision of wants and needs, but recognition and protection of unalienable individual rights. Radical statists who have come far in subverting our republic and replacing it with socialist oligarchy have done so by infiltrating both major political parties and redefining the political spectrum to run from state control which favors me to state control which favors you. In the end, it’s all state control. In the end, we all lose.
What we have to do as champions of liberty is stage our own infiltration. As President Obama said in his address to a joint session of Congress, “The time for bickering is over. The time for games has past. Now’s the time for action. Now’s the time for change.” The charge is correct, even if his intent is not. As Glenn Beck urges on his program, we must stop looking at the other party and, as Palin did while governing Alaska, look at our own.