Patterico's Closing Argument: A Return to Constitutional Principles, Or: This Ain't MY Trainwreck

A lot of people today are making “closing arguments” about how you should vote tomorrow. I won’t do it. I refuse to do it.

I am a passenger on a train being driven by the most reckless conductor I’ve ever encountered in my entire life. To make this as heavy-handed and obvious an analogy as humanly possible, I am going to name the driver “Mr. Electorate.” Clear enough? Good!


This conductor has worked himself into a situation where he has the kind of choice you usually see discussed in ethics textbooks or dorm-room bull sessions. He can plow directly into a large crowd of school children, which will certainly kill dozens of innocent young kids. Or, he can steer the train onto a different track, in which case he will kill a Nobel-winning scientist who appears to be, but may not be, on the verge of curing cancer.

I’ll leave it up to you whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump represents the kids or the scientist. One of the less attractive features of political debate on the Internet, especially approaching an election, is that people get wound up in silly analogies like this. The point of my analogy is that I don’t care which happens.

It’s not that I don’t care because I am not concerned about the kids, or because I don’t care about cancer. It’s not that I think one eventuality or the other isn’t just unthinkably awful. They both are! Of course they both are! But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know which of these situations is worse, and I don’t feel qualified to choose.

Depending on who is on the train with me when I am asked to give advice to the conductor (I’ll call these people my “audience”), it might be tempting to make my choice based on what will please the audience. If my audience consists of parents of the schoolkids, it will be tempting for me to advise the conductor to kill the scientist. The more adamant and forceful I am about it, the more applause I will get. If I can vilify scientists as low-life scum who are all worthless and should probably be run over on general principles, whether the kids are killed or not, so much the better. If I can climb on a soapbox and sing about how the children are our future, I’ll be carried on the shoulders of these parents like a conquering hero.


And if my audience consisted of people with loved ones dying of cancer, it would be equally tempting for me to say the conductor should kill the kids. For the greater good! Hooray!

Either way, I’ll be blamed by someone -– even though I’m not the guy who got us into the situation. So you know what? I’m not going to decide. I’m going to let Mr. Electorate decide.

And guess what? That’s what he’s going to do anyway. You see, even though the audience will blame me for giving him bad advice, Mr. Electorate is going to do what he wants no matter what I say. He was always going to do what he wanted. He was never going to listen to me.

So I’m not giving him any advice. But it doesn’t mean I’m washing my hands of the whole thing. It means I’m concentrating on a Bigger Picture. As I stand in the middle of a train full of people who are busy arguing about which murderous track we should steer ourselves onto, I’m thinking about one thing and one thing only:

What can we do to keep this from happening again?

You see, Mr. Electorate drives the train. He has always driven the train. It is expected that he always will drive the train. But, you see, it kinda seems like Mr. Electorate is the problem here. It kinda seems like our first mistake was giving the keys to Mr. Electorate, without making sure he knew what he was doing, or setting up better rules to make sure he was going to steer us responsibly.


Am I saying that we snatch the keys from Mr. Electorate and hand them over to Mr. Dictator? Not at all. That guy has an even worse track record.

But I do suggest that, if we survive this calamity, our top priority should be to figure out why Mr. Electorate screwed up. How did he get us in this situation?

Allow me to cut the crap and stop talking in analogies.

What we face tomorrow is horrible by any definition. I believe the only way to respond is to re-focus ourselves on our fundamental principles. Why are we interested in politics anyway?

I don’t know about you, but the key principles for me are liberty, the free market, and the Constitution. When Ted Cruz bowed out, I decided that the time was ripe to begin assembling a movement of people who care about these principles: a group I call the “Constitutional Vanguard.” The idea is still in its formative stages, but my general idea is that we need to educate the public in these principles, and I want to do what I can to make that happen.

My key goal, therefore, is educating people on liberty, the free market, and the Constitution. And in creating structural reforms that promote decentralization, freedom, liberty . . . and ultimately, better, more responsible and restrained governance.

I know, I know. It sounds naive and idealistic and pointless in the era of Trump — a man who has taken over the only party that even pretended to stand for these principles, while also having a chance of winning. But I don’t think the era of Trump can possibly last forever . . . and it may be over tomorrow. When it ends, it will be time to pick up the pieces. I hope you’ll join me. If you’re interested, I discuss the idea in more detail here.


I’d love it if you’d join and share your ideas on how to prevent Mr. Electorate from doing this to us again.



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