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What if Elections Can’t Fix Washington?

October 7th, 2010 // 8:57 am @

“Clearly there was only one escape for them—into stupidity. They could keep society in its existing shape only by being unable to grasp that any improvement was possible.” —George Orwell

Orwell was speaking of the national leaders during Britain’s decline, but his words certainly could apply to the United States today.

Independents rose as a powerful force in America along with the Internet, and today they are deeply frustrated with America’s direction.

They voted President Obama into office in huge numbers, only to see him continue to spend their nation into deeper debt.

National politics in America have long been divided between the blue states along the coasts and the red states in the middle, with battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida swinging the votes.

Today independents control the electorate in nearly all states, and they have swung away from Obama –- especially in the swing states.

For example, 65% of independents in the battleground state of Ohio now say President Obama is doing a bad job.

But politics are only the tip of the iceberg. In a national survey fifty-year-old men were asked which country they see as the biggest threat to America in the 21st Century, and the answers were revealing: only 2% said Russia (and this from men raised in the Cold War), 19% said North Korea, 20% said Iran, and 25% said China.

Among twenty-year-old men asked the same question, 6% said Russia, 17% North Korea, 16% Iran and 23% China. Interesting.

But both groups put “Ourselves” as the top answer. A whopping 31% of fifty-year-old males and 33% of twenty-year-olds consider the United States the biggest 21st Century threat to the U.S.!

What are a third of American men so afraid of? Why do we increasingly consider “Ourselves” the biggest threat to America?

In the same survey, asked what worries them the most, the top answers were: 1) unemployment, 2) the size of the federal debt, 3) the possibility of a terrorist attack. And note that survey takers came from across the political spectrum.

Be Very Afraid?

A lot of Americans are concerned that our own government is the problem, not because it isn’t doing enough but because it is doing way too much—especially overspending. However, it is doubtful how much an election can fix this.

Only 19-22 (depending on the specific issues) of the heated Congressional elections across the nation offer winnable candidates who are strongly anti-government-spending. Though these candidates are called “crazy” or “fringe” by much of the media, they have the overwhelming support of both independent voters and Tea Partiers.

Still, even if all 22 win and additional Republican candidates take the House and even the Senate, how much can they actually change things? Unless they take on entitlements, budgets will most likely overspend for many years to come.

When asked directly what they plan to do, few Democrat or Republican candidates are willing to say they’ll reduce social security, Medicare or other entitlements.

Indeed, the American voter seems to passionately want government to stop spending money on everyone else—but to keep helping his own family.

“I want my government program,” the voter says, “but those other people are costing us too much!”

“Yeah,” says another, “I’ll vote in candidates who promise to cut the debt and deficit and stop spending taxpayer money, and I’ll vote out anyone who threatens my favorite government programs.”

If that last sentence didn’t make you laugh or cry, you should read it again.

Some Americans who live or travel abroad a lot are amazed at how much Americans at home are addicted to government programs and want the government to solve every problem and protect them from every accident and danger. Yet many of these same Americans rail against government spending.

As for repealing the 2010 Health Care law, Republicans would have to take the House and the Senate, and then they would have to garner enough votes in Congress to override a Presidential veto. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

In response to this point, Republican leaders say they’ll only need enough House members to deny funding to implement the new Health Care system. The name for this in the media will be “Shutting Down the Government,” and even the Gingrich-led “Contract With America” House of Representatives wasn’t willing to do this.

Real repeal isn’t likely with just one turnaround election—Republicans would probably need to win in both 2010 and 2012 to make this happen.

Big Questions

Maybe this sounds too pessimistic, but my point is to wonder what will happen if independent and Tea Party voters put Republicans back in control of the House or even the entire Congress and nothing much changes in Washington.

Republicans will still blame Democrats, and vice versa, but what will independents do?

Consider: They rise up against the Obama agenda and send new leaders to Washington, but nothing really changes. Government spending even increases.

Barring major world crises, I think this is just what will happen. And then the debate will repeat itself in 2012.

This brings up a number of additional questions. For example:

  • Will the independent dialogue about 2012 be that the Republicans are no better than the Democrats, or that the Republicans need more members in Congress and even the White House?
  • As we move toward 2012, will Republican behavior cause independents to see President Obama as an embattled Clinton-style administrator who just needs more time to make his policies stick, or as a Carter-like politician who is in over his head and should be replaced?
  • Can the economy handle two more years of high government spending and regulating?
  • Is the Obama Administration nimble enough, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, to reinvent itself and swing to the middle? Will it make hard choices that reduce government spending and build the private sector? Is President Obama truly a statist who believes in big government or a left-leaning pragmatist who is willing to tighten the nation’s belt and restore a free enterprise economy? If he chooses the first, he may lose the independents for good.
  • If, for whatever reason, a Republican candidate wins the presidency from Barack Obama in 2012, will the resulting Republican Administration drastically increase government spending, regulation, debts and deficits like Bush did when he took over after Clinton? How would the independents and Tea Parties who elected him react to yet another betrayal?
  • Have we reached a point in American politics that all candidates from both parties promote smaller government during campaigns but drastically increase spending once in power (like Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama)? Is this just the reality of politics now? And if it is, what will independents, Tea Parties and fiscally responsible liberals and conservatives do?
  • Is a major third party inevitable? Is it even realistic? Would it just give more power to the side it disagrees with most?

In short, are elections even capable of fixing our problems any more? And if the American people give up on elections as the real solution to major national problems, what will they do next?

The Future of Independents?

These are big questions. They go to the very heart of what it means to be Americans and what our future holds.

Americans are deeply and passionately concerned about government over-spending, too much regulation of small business, increasing debts and deficits, and high unemployment.

Washington claims the recession is over, but most Americans don’t feel positive changes in their pocketbooks and are still experiencing a significantly decreased economic reality.

They are tired of symbols instead of substance from their leaders. For example, even if the Obama Administration pushed through its tax raise on the top 2% of taxpayers, the resulting $34 billion next year would only cover 9 days of the deficit.

And this, along with more government spending, is the big White House push to help the economy? “Come on, man…”

As independents read the fine print in this and other proposals from the White House and Republican leaders, they are becoming less optimistic that either party is serious about real solutions.

And where symbolism does matter most, the Obama Administration is still portraying itself as hostile to American business (even major 2008 Obama donors are appalled) and many Republicans continue to denigrate minorities.

Government seems entirely out of touch with most Americans, even as it makes individual and family life ever more difficult.

A majority of Americans want things to change, especially in the economy, and many are depending on the voting booth to solve the deepening problem. But what if even this doesn’t work?

Maybe the best we can hope for, as a number of independents now believe, is for a perpetually split government—where neither party ever holds the White House and Congress at the same time.

In this model, if a Democrat wins the White House and the Supreme Court has a conservative majority, independents will vote Republicans into the House and Democrats to the Senate.

If, on the other hand, the President is Republican and the Court is mostly liberal, they will make the House Democratic and the Senate Republican. There are several variations, but the idea is to always pit Democrats against Republicans and give neither a mandate.

Unfortunately, both parties are big spenders. Maybe fighting over what to spend will at least reduce the rate of government’s growth, or so the argument goes.

A New Challenge

But we are about to experience something new and, perhaps, different.

There have been many votes in history that left the American electorate frustrated and disappointed with how its voting-booth “revolution” didn’t seem to change much of anything in Washington.

But the first such event in the Internet Age, and in an era with more independents than either Democrats or Republicans, was the 2006-2008 election cycle.

Independents and the online world turned against President Bush in 2006 and the frustration deepened into the election of 2008.

In a very real sense, the new politics (of independents and the Internet) rejected the old (Bush, Television Era) and brought in the new (Obama, Internet Generation).

But how will the new majority (of independents and the Internet) deal with rejecting itself? Since the beginning of the party system, every loss was followed by a refocus on winning back power for your party.

What happens when the independent majority rejects Republicans, replaces it with Democrats, then rejects Democrats too, only to bring back Republicans, and then decides that Republicans and Democrats are equally bad? What does the majority do then?

What do independents do in such a situation, without party ties to fall back on, when they realize that neither party is going to fix things. Democrats or Republicans would just blame the other party—they’ve done it for decades.

But independents? They actually, seriously, want a solution. They want the nation to work, and they are unlikely to settle for anything less than real change.

And what if unemployment increases during all this, or credit availability tightens again, the recession returns, inflation spikes, another housing bubble bursts, or debts and deficits soar?

One thing seems certain: We are in for a wild ride in the years ahead.

Probably a few independents will give up on politics. Others will go back to the parties.

But the large majority, I think, will do neither. They will likely flirt with the idea of a new third party, but I doubt they’ll make this stick. They just aren’t wired for it. They want common-sense leadership, not more party game-playing.

There will, inevitably, be a few on the fringes (left and right) who wrongly advocate violence—“pitchforks in the street!” But beyond being morally wrong this course would also accomplish nothing positive.

It would, if ever followed by anyone, only serve to decrease our freedoms. And fortunately very few independents would support this anyway.

What if Elections Don’t Work?

What is the majority to do if elections don’t change things and solve our national problems? Maybe we won’t have to find out.

Maybe Democrats in leadership will turn pragmatic and get control of over-spending and over-regulation, or maybe Republicans will gain more power and make these desperately-needed changes.

But I don’t think most independents are holding their breath in anticipation of either of these possibilities.

The Tea Parties have given many on the right hope for the potential of the 2010 election, but it seems to me that most independents are unconvinced.

They have turned their backs on the Obama agenda because it is so clearly against their economically responsible values, and because it’s too late to do much except vote.

But in reality they are simply buying time. A lot of independents right now are studying things out in their minds, hoping but not really believing that the November elections will help things turn around.

The problem is big: Neither party is going to stop spending and regulating, promising frugality and then just spending more anyway. This is American politics now, and it isn’t likely to change easily.

A lot of independents are just now accepting this. And as it sinks in, they are responding with neither anger nor frustration. Instead, they are taking a step back and asking serious questions.

It is unclear now what the answers will eventually be. But they are coming, and they are likely to bring drastic changes to American politics in the next decade.

If (when?) the independents and tea parties win big on election day and then watch the new leaders keep increasing spending and regulations, they will be faced with the challenge every powerful nation in decline confronts:

  • Do they settle for Orwell’s “stupidity,” put their heads in the sand and just try to get by as best they can while the ruling class runs the nation into the ground?
  • Do they quietly prepare for the major crisis which must come unless we change course, organizing their personal affairs to somehow survive, protect their family, and perhaps even profit when it comes?
  • Or do they do something wise and effective that will restore America’s freedoms and prosperity?
  • And if they choose the latter, what precisely should they do to accomplish this?

This is the challenge of independents and all who love freedom in our time. The election of November 2, 2010 will come and go. Americans will vote, the media will report, and winners and losers will celebrate and mourn. But these larger questions will remain.

If I’m wrong about this, I’ll be the first to cheer. But I’m convinced that it’s time (past time, in fact) for those who care about freedom to get to work on coming up with real solutions.

In taking this kind of action, any citizen will only make herself a better leader in our time. Whatever the future holds, more leader-citizens are needed.

And the time may be coming when such leaders are the only real hope of our nation.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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Category : Current Events &Economics &Government &Independents &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

The Deeper Importance of the 2010 Election

October 7th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Blame is easier than leadership.

It’s been long enough since the announcement of the “Great Recession” that a shelf of books are now out—each outlining the “real” causes of the recession and its unsettling impact on the American psyche and economy.

Unfortunately, most of these books are essays on blame.

The two major political parties predictably blame each other for America’s economic woes.

Democrats say that Republicans caused the recession, while Republicans say that Democratic policies (from the stimulus to health care and beyond) have made the recession worse, increased unemployment, and slowed a recovery.

Since most recovery numbers are based on government spending rather than private sector growth, many on the Right dispute that the publicized recovery is real.

To a large extent, the media has joined with one side or the other in this debate.

Weekly talk shows pit conservatives against liberals, volleying the two partisan views of past and present economic challenges. Magazines and national newspapers echo this argument.

A Dearth of Solution Thinking

Usually books take a deeper look at the issues than other media, understandably using the longer format to give readers more depth and analysis on whatever topics they address.

Likewise, the arc of economic-political-societal commentary in books usually includes a significant section outlining important, needed and under-utilized solutions.

But right now such solution-oriented commentaries are noticeably few—and strikingly similar. Many repeat partisan views in chapters so short they would make newspaper editors proud.

There are three main themes in this genre:

  1. Republicans Blew It and Big Banks/Corporations are Greedy and Evil,
  2. Democrats are Blowing It and turning into Scheming Socialists
  3. Big Institutions in Washington, Wall Street, Main Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and anywhere else where Big Institutions lurk are Ruining America

A fourth (though minor) theme is that the recession was a global reality tied to the increasingly interconnected world economy and that American citizens and leaders had little power in the whole thing.

In all four of these themes the focus is blame, and therefore the solution is to “throw the bums out.”

The Right wants to “take back” America in the 2010 congressional elections, while the Left wants to hold their own in the elections and keep offering regulatory solutions.

Activists are increasingly determined to push both sides further to the extremes.

In short: where blame is the main point, solutions are seemingly simple.

The Problem

Unfortunately, such “solutions” are unlikely to accomplish very much. One side will win, and the blame game will increase right along with the problems.

The worst-case scenario for the 2010 elections is lots of press, lots of emotions, and little change.

I’m not saying that the elections don’t matter; they do. Nor am I suggesting that this debate isn’t important. It is.

My point is simply that there is more to it than many politicians and journalists are admitting.

Unless we get past the blame game and engage a true national discussion about solutions, we are unlikely to see things really improve—no matter who is in office.

One book, The Great Reset by Richard Florida, develops the ideas that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and another, The Battle by Arthur Brooks, takes readers inside the Obama West Wing and the inner workings of the President’s choices in 2009-2010.

Both are worth reading closely—regardless of your political views. Another recent book, Capitalism 4.0 by Anatole Kaletsky, gets serious about suggesting some solutions.

None of these books are free from the blame game, and Kaletsky’s attack on the Bush Administration is one of the worst blame-focused rants in all the books now coming out on the topic.

But for readers who can look past his angry tirades, Kaletsky’s work is worth studying because at least part of his analysis gets past blame and helps us understand the recession in its broad historical and international context.

The History of Capitalism

In contrast with the four popularized themes listed above, Kaletsky suggests that the global recession grew out of the historical trends of our time.

He argues that capitalism will continue to grow because of its proven ability to adapt. Such adaptation follows a pattern:

  1. A crisis exposes the weaknesses in the latest adaptation of capitalism
  2. Society and government respond to the crisis and alter the details of how capitalism is applied
  3. The changes evolve until they succeed in re-establishing prosperity and growth
  4. The new adaptation allows economies to flourish
  5. Weaknesses in the new adaptation eventually cause another crises and the pattern repeats

Over time, according to Kaletsky, this has created at least four adaptations of capitalism.

Capitalism 1.0 grew out of the crises of the Napoleonic era and was characterized by the Laissez-Faire type of capitalism. This was defined by the separation of economics and governments, and its strengths allowed great growth of wealth and powerful economies.

Eventually the weaknesses of 1.0 led to the Great Depression in America and Western Europe.

The response was what Kaletsky calls Capitalism 2.0, an era of major government involvement in the economy—not full socialistic control of the economy, but much higher levels of regulation and government intervention.

This started in the New Deal and grew through the 1940s-1970s.

The eventual negative result was the inflation and stagnancy of the late 1970s, which was followed by a transformation to Reaganomics: a focus on big-government spending for international projects combined with lower taxes on the wealthy and big corporations.

The idea behind Capitalism 3.0 was that if those with money were incentivized to spend more, this would create more jobs and increase business and personal opportunity.

In each of these periods, the economy responded to the positive features of the given adaptation of capitalism. On the downside, the negatives of each adaptation led to the next inevitable crisis.

The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was caused not mainly by greedy bankers or weak housing loans, according to Kaletsky, but rather by two successes of Capitalism 3.0:

  1. the spread of capitalism and therefore market interconnections globally
  2. bank and government success in controlling inflation worldwide

These strengths led to weaknesses: when some places saw economic downturn, it quickly spread to the other areas around the world, and governments which allowed their big banks to fail pulled the brunt of world capital struggles down on top of themselves.

The Emergence of a New Economy

The result, just now emerging, is Kaletsky’s Capitalism 4.0. In this adaptation of capitalism, we will likely witness a new relationship between markets, economies, and governments.

Where 1.0 showed the pros and cons of nearly total government isolation from the economy, 2.0 exposed the strengths and weaknesses of major government intervention in the economy.

In 3.0 we started mixing market and government roles by having government intervene in what it considered “vital” sectors (like military and transportation), while mostly staying out of the rest of the economy.

According to Kaletsky, 4.0 will follow a different mixing guideline by increasing the government intervention in some areas and lessening its role in others.

The specifics will be determined, in this scenario, by which things respond better to free markets versus those which respond more positively to significant government involvement.

For example, Kalentsky thinks government must get deeper into financial regulations and management but leave education and health care more to the free market.

Clearly the Obama Administration is not following Kalentsky’s suggestions, no matter how much he agrees with them in blaming Republicans for our problems.

But any leader—in business or government—should consider Kalentsky’s analysis. I disagreed (and also agreed) with a number of things in his book, but his suggestions exceed the tired, old two-party talking points and deserve consideration.

So, The Election . . .

We clearly live in a time where both government and business involvement and changes are needed to re-establish a truly flourishing free-market approach to American prosperity.

Neither extreme—a total government pullout from the economy nor increasingly socialistic levels of regulation and micromanagement of nearly every sector of our economy—is desirable.

We need the government to take wise and effective action to boost the economy—at times increasing regulations that work and also consistently reducing and repealing the numerous regulations and government interventions that are slowing and hurting the economy.

The regulatory load on investors and entrepreneurs is especially bad for economic growth.

Government simply must find ways to do less, or the economy will continue to sputter and struggle.

Yet there are certain things that government can and should do best—like keep the free-market playing field even and open for all potential investors and entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the proper role of academics, journalists and authors is to analyze, to suggest—and even to blame. But as long Washington is caught in the blame game, far too little effort is given to leadership.

Our elected officials need to stop pointing fingers and give more attention to solving our economic challenges.

The first step is to free up small business entrepreneurs and investors who provide most of the jobs and growth in the economy.

A second step is to make investment in American businesses once again highly attractive to world investors.

Both of these are roles for those we elect, and if it is “the economy, stupid,” these are the real issues of the 2010 election.

Whoever wins at the voting booths this coming November, and whatever the experts say that night as the networks and cable channels cover the election like a major sports tournament, the real future of America depends on whether or not the people select leaders who will free up the economy.

A free economy, within the bounds of wise and effective laws, is a prosperous economy. An increasingly regulated economy is an economy headed for less prosperity and decreased opportunity.

Whatever your politics, less prosperity and decreased opportunity are simply not acceptable goals for the upcoming elections.

Yet unless we accomplish more than simply voting, these are the results we will probably see in the years after the election.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Current Events &Economics &Featured &Government &Leadership &Politics

Independents & the Tea Party Movement

September 20th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

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Much of the media represents what it calls a “third” view as sometimes independents and other times the Tea Party.

In recent elections, these two groups have often voted together. They both tend to vote against entrenched power, and they both support better fiscal discipline from our leaders.

Beyond these two similarities, however, they bear little resemblance.

The Tea Party is angry at Washington. Independents want to see Washington get its act together.

The Tea Party is comparatively extreme in its views and strident in the tone of its arguments. Independents are typically moderate in viewpoint as well as methodology.

A majority of Tea Party supporters are former Republicans who feel disenfranchised from the GOP. Independents come from all parts of the political spectrum.

Tea Party enthusiasts tend to promote “revolution”—although their platform is more clearly defined by what they object to than by what they propose to do about it. Independents want substantive and tenable reform.

Tea Party crowds often act like football fans during big rivalry games. Independents most often talk like accountants analyzing today’s financials.

The Tea Parties want big, symbolic, massive change. They’re pretty clear on whom they think is to blame for America’s problems and they frequently recur to name-calling and sarcasm to make their point. Independents want certain policies to be passed that significantly improve government and society.

Tea Party supporters see themselves as part of a big fight, and they want to win and “send the bad guys packing.” Independents want the fighting, name calling, mudslinging and partisan wrangling to stop and for our leaders to just sit down together and calmly work up solutions to our major national challenges.

Voting

Tea Parties are bringing out more conservative voters to take on the Democratic majority. Independents are voting against Democrats right now because they want to see real progress, just like they voted against Republicans during much of the last decade.

If the Republican Party swings right, most of the Tea Partiers will consider their work done. If the Republican Party swings right, most independents will give it far less support.

Tea Parties are viscerally against liberalism. Independents will vote against Democrats on some issues and against Republicans on others, always throwing their support behind the issues and projects they think will best help America.

Few Tea Partiers voted for Obama. Many independents did. A lot of Tea Partiers see Sarah Palin as a viable presidential candidate. Hardly any independents support Palin or consider her a viable candidate for high federal office. Most Tea Party members vehemently disliked Ted Kennedy. Many independents like him a lot.

Many Tea Party supporters want Obama to fail, and in fact believe that he has already failed. A majority of independents are frustrated with President Obama’s work so far but sincerely hope he will turn it around by shifting his focus and adopting what they consider moderate and needed changes.

The Tea Party tends to compare Obama to the likes of Hitler, while most independents admire and like Obama personally even while disagreeing with the substance of some of his policies.

In short, Tea Partiers and independents aren’t cut from the same cloth and actually have very little in common. But, as mentioned, they have been voting together for the last six months and will likely continue to do so for some time ahead.

That being said, they are unlikely to stay connected in the long term. Of course, there are a number of independents who have aligned themselves with the Tea Party or Tea Party events in order to have an impact right now.

That’s what independents do.

How Populism Succeeds

Which group [independents or the Tea Party] is most likely to last? The answer probably depends on upcoming elections.

The Tea Parties are a populist movement, meaning that their popularity requires at least three things:

  1. An agreed upon enemy with enough power to evoke strong fears, anger and emotion
  2. An upcoming event to rally around, such as elections or national seminars
  3. A sense that they can actually change everything quickly and drastically

The first and second factors will stay around as long as a Democrat is in the White House.

Tea Party fervor may be lessened by the midterm elections if, and only if, a lot of Democrats lose—but will likely resurge again as the next presidential election nears.

The third requirement is what has generally doomed all historical populist movements. The Tea Party revolt is new and may gain energy. But things will change as soon as one major (and inevitable) event occurs.

When the Tea Party wins a major election and then watches its newly-elected candidates take office and join the system, it will turn its energy from activism to cynicism and lose momentum.

If those the Tea Party elects make a splash and take on the establishment, or symbolically seem to do so, the Tea Partiers will breathe easy, congratulate themselves on their victory and go back to non-political life.

If the new officials make few changes and Washington seems as bad as ever, many Tea Party enthusiasts will lose faith and give up on activism. More on this later.

The History of Conservative Populism

This series of events is cyclical, and the pattern has repeated itself many times. The Anti-Federalists, Whigs and Moral Majority all, in their day, fizzled out on this cycle.

Likewise, “constitutionalism” arose during the 1960’s, gained influence with publications and seminars in the 1970’s, and culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan.

After his inauguration, most constitutional organizations saw their donations and budgets halved—or worse—and many disappeared. The term “constitutionalist” lost it power—indeed, became a label for energetic irrelevance—and the nation moved on.

After Reagan, Rush Limbaugh increased in popularity and influence leading up to and throughout the Clinton years, and his radio show became the rallying point of conservative populism.

The press worried about the growing power of talk radio and both major political parties listened daily to Limbaugh’s commentary and strategized accordingly.

“Dittoheads” (Limbaugh fans) saw Clinton as the great enemy and rallied around elections, the Contract with America, and (between elections) Limbaugh’s show.

But with the election of Republican George W. Bush, Dittohead Nation congratulated itself on victory and mostly turned to non-political life. Today there is little excitement about or commentary on becoming a Dittohead.

It should be acknowledged that conservative populist movements have often added positive ideas to the national discussion and many of its leaders have helped raise awareness of freedom and promote citizen involvement.

In this sense, Anti-Federalists, Whigs, the Moral Majority, Constitutionalists, Dittoheads and the Tea Parties are not insignificant to American politics. They have had, and likely still will, huge impact.

Liberal vs. Conservative Populism

Note, in contrast [to conservative populism], that liberal populism typically follows a different path.

Movements such as Abolition, Feminism, Civil Rights and Environmentalism build and build until they are legislated. At that point, liberal populists get really serious and set out to expand legislation.

Not being saddled with trying to establish a negative, liberal populists don’t lose momentum like conservative populists—because the liberal objective isn’t to stop something but rather to achieve specific goals.

The challenge of conservative populism is that its proponents are, well, conservative. They see life as fundamentally a private affair of family, career and personal interests.

To the conservative, political activism is a frustrating, anomalous annoyance that shouldn’t be necessary—an annoyance that sometimes arises because of the actions of “bad” people abusing power.

The conservative soul idealizes being disengaged from political life; as a result, conservative populism is doomed to always playing defense.

The conservative will embrace politics when to continue to avoid politics poses a clear and present danger.

When conservatives engage politics in popular numbers, they do so in order to “fix things” so they can go back to not thinking about government.

The liberal soul, on the other hand, sees political life as a part of adulthood, natural to all people, and one of the highest expressions of self, society, community and the social order—not to mention a great deal of fun.

Many liberals greatly enjoy involvement in governance. The liberal yearns for participation in society, progress and politics.

They care about family and career as much as conservatives, of course, but many liberals consider involvement in politics to be at the same level of importance as family and work.

The Future of Tea & Independents

Tea Parties will likely grow and have impact for some years, but they are unlikely to become a long-term influence beyond Obama’s tenure.

In contrast, independents may well replace one of the major parties in the decades ahead.

Few independents are populists and are therefore not swayed by the political media or party politics. They watch Fox and MSNBC with equal skepticism, and prefer to do their own research on the detailed intricacies of the issues.

They generally distrust candidates and officials from all parties, believing that politics is a game of persuasion and spin.

Also: Independents really do stand for something. They want government to work. They want it to provide effective national security, good schools, responsible taxes and certain effective government programs.

Like conservatives, independents want government to spend less and stop trying to do too much. Like liberals, independents want government to tackle and fix our major challenges and where helpful to use effective government programs.

Independents want health care reformed, and they want it done in common-sense ways that really improve the system. They apply this same thinking to nearly all major issues.

Like many liberals, a lot of independents enjoy closely watching and participating in government. They take pleasure in activism and involvement. They prioritize political participation up there with family, career and personal interests.

All indications are that the Tea Parties are a short-term, albeit significant, movement, while the power of independents will be here for a long time ahead.

When the current political environment shifts and conservative populists lose their activist momentum, independents will still be studying the issues and making their views known.

In fact, a serious question now is whether the Republican and Democratic parties can both outlast the rise of independents. The answer is very likely “no.”

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Current Events &Government &History &Independents &Politics

The Latch-Key Generation & Independents

September 16th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The rise of Independents isn’t an accident. It is the natural result of both major parties emphasizing politics over principle and ideology over pragmatism.

A third reason for the rise of Independents is the widespread loss of blind faith in man-made institutions (like government and corporations) as the answers to society’s challenges.

These institutions have failed to perform, over and over, causing many of even the staunchest state- and market-loyalists to feel skeptical.

Fourth, the e-revolution has created a technological power of the citizenry, at least in the ability to widely voice views that diverge from the mainstream parties.

The Internet gave Independents (and many others) a voice. People who believed in common-sense pragmatism and principled choices over party loyalty have been around for a long time, but the e-revolution was needed to give them group influence.

But all of these reasons are really just after-the-fact justifications for why so many people are no longer channeled politically through one of the top parties.

They explain why people aren’t Republicans or Democrats, but they don’t explain why Independents are Independents.

Some Independents are actually from the far right and just anti-liberal, and others are leftists who are Independents because they are anti-conservative. Some are one-issue Independents, emphasizing the environment, feminism, race, the gold standard, etc.

A growing number of Independents, however, are Independents because they believe in a shared new ideal.

They have faith in both government and the market, but only to a certain extent. They are truly neither liberal nor conservative, but moderate. They want government and markets to work, and they want to limit both as needed.

Still, they are not just moderates, they are something more.

Three Versions of Management

What makes these Independents tick? They are motivated by a new focus, a set of goals surprising and even confusing to anyone who was taught that American politics is about right versus left, conservative versus liberal, family values versus progressivism, religious versus secular, hawk versus dove, and all the other clichés.

Independents are something new.

Daniel Pink argues that business is going through a major shift, that the entire incentive landscape of employees, executives and even owner-investors is changing.

Our ancestors were motivated mostly by “Management 1.0,” Pink says, which was a focus on physical safety and protection from threats.

“Management 2.0” came when people learned to produce things in a routine way, from planned agriculture to industry.

People became more motivated by a “carrot-and-stick” model of “extrinsic motivators.” Managers, teachers, parents and politicians created complex systems of rewards and punishments, penalties and bonuses to achieve results in this new environment.

In this model, conservatives are 1.0 because they want government to limit itself to protecting its citizens from external threats, to national security and legal justice.

Liberals support a 2.0 model where the role of government is to incentivize positive community behaviors by people and organizations, and also to enforce a complex system of punishments to deter negative behavior.

In education, 1.0 is the one-room schoolhouse focusing on delivering a quality, personalized education for each student.

In contrast, 2.0 is a conveyor-belt system that socializes all students and provides career rewards through job training, with benefits doled out based on academic performance.

The problem with 1.0 is that education is withheld from some based on race, wealth and sometimes gender or religion.

The 2.0 version remedies this, ostensibly providing democratic equality for students from all backgrounds; but the cost is that personalization and quality are lost, and a de facto new elite class is created by those who succeed in this educational matrix.

On the political plane, 1.0 promoted freedom but for an elite few, while 2.0 emphasized social justice but unnecessarily sacrificed many freedoms.

Version 3.0 combines freedom with inclusion, and this is the basis of the new Independents and their ideals.

It may seem oxymoronic to say that pragmatic Independents have ideals, but they are actually as driven as conservatives and liberals.

Independents want government, markets and society to work, and to work well. They don’t believe in utopia, but they do think that government has an important role along with business, and that many other individuals and organizations have vital roles in making society work.

They aren’t seeking perfect society, but they do think there is a common sense way in which the world can generally work a lot better than it does.

Mr. Pink’s “Management 3.0” is a widespread cultural shift toward “intrinsic motivators.” A growing number of people today (according to Pink) are making decisions based less on the fear of threats (1.0), or to avoid punishments or to obtain rewards (2.0), than on following their hearts (3.0).

This isn’t “right-brained” idealism or abstraction, but logic-based, rational and often self-centered attempts to seek one’s most likely path to happiness.

Indeed, disdain for the “secure career path” has become widely engrained in our collective mentality and is associated with being shallow, losing one’s way, and ignoring your true purpose and self.

This mindset is now our culture. For example, watch a contemporary movie or television series: The plot is either 1.0 (catch or kill the bad guys) or 3.0 (struggle to fit in to the 2.0 system but overcome it by finding one’s unique true path).

Settling for mediocrity in order to fit the system is today’s view of 2.0.

In contrast, the two main versions of 3.0 movies and series are: 1) Ayn Rand-style characters seeking personal fulfillment, and 2) Gene Rodenberry-style heroes who “find themselves” in order to greatly benefit the happiness of all.

Where the Greeks had tragedy or comedy, our generation finds itself either for personal gain or in order to improve the world.

Whichever version we choose, the key is to truly find and live our life purpose and be who we were meant to be.

And where so far this has grown and taken over our pop-culture and generational mindset, it is now poised to impact politics.

Few of the old-guard in media, academia or government realize how powerful this trend is.

Generations

Independents are the latch-key generation grown up.

Raised by themselves, with input from peers, they are skeptical of parents’ (conservative) overtures of care after years of emotional distance.

They are unmoved by parents’ (liberal) emotional insecurity and constant promises. They don’t trust television, experts or academics.

They don’t get too connected to any current view on an issue; they know that however passionate they may feel about it right now, relationships come and go like the latest technology and the only one you can always count on is yourself.

Because of this, you must do what you love in life and make a good living doing it. This isn’t abstract; it’s hard-core realism.

Loyalty to political party makes no sense to two generations forced to realize very young the limitations of their parents, teachers and other adults.

Why would such a generation give any kind of implicit trust to government, corporations, political parties or other “adult” figures?

Independents are more swayed by Google, Amazon and Whole Foods than Hollywood, Silicon Valley or Yale.

Appeals to authority such as the Congressional Budget Office, the United Nations or Nobel Prize winners mean little to them; they’ll study the issues themselves.

Their view of the experts is that whatever the outside world thinks of them, they are most likely far too human at home.

Officials and experts with noteworthy accolades, lofty credentials and publicized achievements make Independents more skeptical than star-struck.

They grew up with distant and distracted “corporate stars” for parents, and they aren’t impressed.

Having moved around throughout their formative years, never allowed to put down deep roots in any one town or school for long, why would they feel a powerful connection to country or nation?

If the government follows good principles, they’ll support it. If not, they’ll look elsewhere.

They understand being disappointed and having to move on and rely on themselves; in fact, this is so basic to their makeup that it is almost an unconscious religion.

If this all sounds too negative, consider the positives. The American founding had many similar generational themes.

Raised mostly by domestic help (parents were busy overcoming many out-of-the-home challenges in this generation), sent away to boarding schools or apprenticeships before puberty, the founders learned loyalty to principles over traditions, pragmatic common sense over the assurances of experts, and an idealistic yearning for improving the world over contentment with the current.

Today’s Independents are one of the most founders-like generation since the 1770s. They want the world to change, they want it to work, and they depend on themselves and peers rather than “adults” (experts, officials, etc.) to make it happen.

Independent Philosophy

There are many reasons why Independents don’t resonate with the two major parties, but this is only part of the story.

Most Independents aren’t just disenfranchised liberals or conservatives; they are a new generation with entirely new goals and views on government, business and society.

This is all hidden to most, because the latch-key generation isn’t vocal like most liberals and conservatives.

Trained to keep things inside, not to confide in their parents or adults, growing numbers of Independents are nonetheless quietly and surely increasing their power and influence.

Few Independents believe that there will be any Social Security monies left for them when they retire, so they are stoically planning to take care of themselves.

Still, they think government should pay up on its promise to take care of the Boomers, so they are happy to pay their part. Indeed, this basically sums up their entire politics.

They disdain the political debate that so vocally animates liberals and conservatives, and as a result they have little voice in the traditional media because they refuse to waste time debating.

But their power is drastically increasing. The latch-key Independents raised themselves, grew up and started businesses and families, and during the next decade they will increasingly overtake politics.

Like Shakespeare’s Henry V, they partied through the teenager stage, leaving their parents appalled by generational irresponsibility and lack of ambition, then they shocked nearly everyone with their ability and power when they suddenly decided to be adults.

Now, on eve of their entrance into political power, few have any idea of the tornado ahead.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Business &Culture &Current Events &Generations &Government &Independents &Politics &Technology

Health Care Reform in the Era of the Expert Plan

September 9th, 2010 // 11:46 am @

The debate on health care reform is presented as Democrat versus Republican. In fact, this is only marginally accurate. The truth is that this is all about Expert Economic Planning versus the principle of strong but limited government.

In the latter view, government should effectively use its power to protect inalienable rights and do nothing else. Of course, many more things are needed for society to succeed, but government isn’t expected to do everything.

Communities, businesses, academia, churches, voluntary associations, service clubs, families, artists, scientists, non-profit organizations, social leaders, and other groups, people, and institutions are necessary to do all that is needed for civilization to flourish.

Government has its part to play, but it is only a part of the whole.

This entire concept now seems to be considered outdated. If it is important, the new mantra goes, then government should do it. If it isn’t important enough for government, it is still best to regulate it just in case. This is the new “wisdom.”

The Experts Know Best

healthplanorganizationalchartEnter the Expert Economic Planners, who always work in teams. They generate detailed plans, graphs, charts, projections, predictions and promises.

Anyone questioning their assumptions, methods or conclusions is labeled uneducated, insincere, uncaring, or an “idiot.”

Only detailed plans with graphs, charts and projections are considered worthy of merit.

Democrats and Republicans who like Expert Economic Planning present varying options, debate, regulate, tinker and sell. Common sense is called unintelligent.

“Where is your expert plan?” is the only question. Even pragmatism is ignored in the drive to polish and promote the Expert Plan.

The Planners include some good ideas, but much that is vital is sacrificed to the format.

“At least we’re trying.” “Any plan is better than no plan.” “We must have a plan.” “Only Experts can create a good plan.” “The Experts get to decide who is an Expert.” “Ideas from anyone not an expert can’t be considered.” “Expert Plans are in progress — so relax. It will all turn out well.”

This is the Era of the Expert Plan.

Who Should Make the Decisions, & How?

What is the basic question? Whether government should fix health care. Who is conducting all this planning? The government.

Is there any doubt what the government will decide?

As long as the government is deciding whether government or free enterprise should run something, the decision will nearly always be for government.

This was the case even with the Clinton health care plan. It failed as a bill in Congress, but convinced Congress to drastically increase its regulation of health care from that point on.

This same model applies to almost every issue and is followed by both the Democrat and Republican parties.

There is a fundamental flaw in all this. In a truly free society, the people determine their will and then send representatives to implement it within the bounds of what government should do. The polar opposite occurs where a dictator seizes power and imposes his will on the people.

There is another alternative to free society, which occurs when the people elect representatives who then meddle in and control many or most aspects of society. In this environment, everything becomes a branch of government and the private sector weakens.

The biggest problem with free society is that it is based on popular support of principles of liberty rather than on teams of expert economic planners and the reams of detailed plans they generate.

To such experts, concepts as simple as “keep a separation between business and state” or “the Constitution doesn’t give the federal government any power over certain things” are seen as simplistic, uninformed, misguided. If such ideas had any validity they’d be supported by teams of experts with elaborate plans.

In this worldview, a document of just a few pages like the U.S. Constitution is clearly sophomoric at best. Fortunately teams of expert judges have written many volumes telling us what the document really meant, or should have said.

Such is the view of the Expert Plan.

The Freedom Alternative

The health care debate will be won by a team of Expert Planners. As such, it will be confusing, frustrating and seriously lacking. This will provide job security for the Expert Planners who will be amending it for decades.

There is an alternative. A majority of people can understand freedom so well that they start truly restraining Congress to its constitutional role. If this sounds radical or impossible in 2009 it is only because teams of expert planners say so. There is a name for such a system:

Aristocracy.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Constitution &Current Events &Government &Liberty &Politics

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