September 18th, 2015 // 7:14 am @ Oliver DeMille
Why the Republican Establishment Is Surprised
(and a bit clueless)
by Oliver DeMille
Shock and Awe
The current presidential election has left most of the Establishment speechless. They are shocked by the rise of Bernie Sanders, shocked by the success of Donald Trump in the polls, and shocked by the popularity of Ben Carson. “Shocked” may actually be too weak a word. Apoplectic, maybe?
The Establishment is also surprised by the struggles of Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker—all of whom were widely predicted to dominate this election cycle.
“Why is this happening?” is a popular question on many political news programs right now. Along with: “Will it continue?” “What will happen next?” and “Why are the voters so angry?”
The answer is fascinating. To get there, let’s start with the roots of the modern conservative movement. Initiated largely by William F. Buckley, Jr. and his colleagues in the 1950s and 1960s,[i] Conservatism 1.0 struggled, persisted, gained support slowly, and then rose to victory with the election and presidency of Ronald Reagan.
The Party of Reagan was based firmly on the view that “liberalism is bad.” In this environment, Reagan’s GOP found itself directly opposed to the Democratic Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his progressive successors.
The ensuing debate pitted conservatism against liberalism in a few direct, simple ways: limited government versus big government, Constitutional originalism versus judicial activism, American exceptionalism versus European style internationalism, and individualism versus collectivism.
Republicans saw conservatism as good precisely because it espoused limited government, strict adherence to the Constitution, American leadership in the world, and individual freedoms. They saw liberalism as bad because it promoted big government, an activist Court, American subordination to international organizations, and widespread collectivism through higher taxes and increased government programs in all facets of life.
This was the battle of Postwar America. And conservatives saw themselves as the Keepers of Freedom and Family Values in this monumental conflict—warriors for the American Dream and the American way of life.
After the financial downgrade of the Soviet Union during the Reagan years and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the battle lines were slowly redrawn. New superpowers emerged on the world stage, and existing alliances began to unravel. Naturally, during the 1990s the old battles were replaced with new ones, and in the 2000s world and national allegiances were weakened, redirected, and reconceived.
But the hearts of many 20th Century conservatives (and liberals, for that matter), raised and steeped in the old battles, didn’t change.
A new cultural movement sprouted in the different soil after 1989. In technology, this shift was exemplified by Steve Jobs, and eventually Elon Musk. In business, the iconic figureheads were Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. And on the political front, the pioneers of a new model were Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, and later Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul.
Congressman Paul’s contribution to the new brand of conservatism that arose is hard to overstate. For example:
- It replaced Reagan’s 11th Commandment (“Thou shalt not criticize other Republicans”) with a focus on principles of freedom rather than institutional political parties.
- It walked a fine (and frequently uneasy) line between party loyalty and going independent, finally resting on the idea that independence is more important than party—but sometimes it’s possible to get both.
- It called into question widespread U.S. military interventionism.
- It reemphasized the Constitution as a central, literal theme, rather than a mere national symbol.
- It put actual free enterprise above the rhetoric of free enterprise (rhetoric that most Republican presidents had ironically combined with bigger government).
- It appealed strongly to populism—“this is the people’s government, not vice versa.”
- It switched the viewpoint of conservatism from “liberalism is bad” to “government by elite power brokers and their bureaucratic agents is bad.”
Paul himself wasn’t able to convert this revolution into a White House victory, but the revolution occurred nonetheless. And the 7th point of this revolution is perhaps the most important. It animated the Tea Parties, the elections of 2010 and 2014, and it is still growing today.
It also explains the shock of the current Republican Establishment with the ousting of Eric Cantor, the support for Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina, and the popularity of Ted Cruz in comparison to Jeb Bush or Scott Walker.
Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and most of the Republican Establishment are operating as if the GOP is still Reagan’s party. But this is debatable. A large segment of the party is now more aligned with Conservatism 2.0.
Thus the passionate battle now underway for the future of the GOP. And with each passing election cycle, the popularity of Conservatism 2.0 is increasing.
What 2.0 Conservatives Want
To these new conservatives, the idea that “liberals are bad” is SO forty years ago. The real issue now is that “government by elites” is bad.[ii] “The elite class is bad. It is corrupt, and it’s hurting us all. It is hurting America.” In fact: “Corruption is bad. And elites are corrupt.” This viewpoint is growing.
And to members of the new conservatism, Republican elites are just as bad as liberal elites. Many consider them even worse, like modern wolves in sheep’s clothing, claiming conservatism, and gaining support for their candidates and policies by invoking conservatism, while refusing to passionately or effectively fight for it.
It is important to clarify that the Ron Paul revolution didn’t win all 7 of its main themes. The new 2.0 conservatives never warmed up to items 3 and 4, for instance:
3-less U.S. military interventionism in the world
4-more emphasis on the literal words of the Constitution
But, on the other hand, they bought the following principles hook, line and sinker:
1-focus on principles of freedom rather than institutional parties
6-populism: forget “electability” and support the candidate we think will really bring about the changes we want
7-government by elites is corrupt and bad
This tectonic shift put Carson, Trump, Fiorina and Cruz at center stage.
It remains to be seen if a 2.0 candidate can become the nominee anytime soon. And even more significant is the question of whether a 2.0 president will actually apply item 5 from the list:
5-actual free enterprise is the goal, not just the rhetoric of free enterprise
Such an approach would lead to balanced budgets, reversal of the U.S. national debt, and a high-growth economy spurred by a massive rollback of anti-small business regulation. Right now many 2.0 voters are split. They’re asking themselves if Trump or Fiorina would actually lead a serious downsizing of government—or instead just expand government like past 1.0 conservative presidents.
As for Carson and Cruz, they seem clearly committed to this approach, but 2.0 conservatives wonder if they have the capacity or authentic will to actually pull it off.
If the 2.0 crowd ever coalesces around one candidate, he or she is going to be very hard to beat—in the primaries, and even in the general. A motivated 2.0 nation will be very persuasive among independents, women, and young voters. And 2.0 is very strong in the swing states. But 2.0 conservatives won’t “go for it” if they are at all uneasy about the candidate’s direction or ability. They are, in a sense, playing the long game, and won’t blow their one-shot-at-the-big-house political capital on an also-ran.
A long primary and general election fight is still ahead, and this war between conservatism 1.0 and 2.0 won’t be easily resolved. It has already turned nasty, and it will probably get a lot worse.
But if 1.0 wins, if Jeb or another Establishment candidate is the eventual nominee, this fight will rage on. Conservatism 2.0 is young, passionate, and has the benefit of a large and growing base. It may or may not get its way in 2016, but all indications are that it will eventually win the war.
When it does, expect the president it propels into the White House to alter American history as significantly and lastingly as the 1.0 movement did with Ronald Reagan.
(Read more discussion on these themes in FreedomShift, by Oliver DeMille)
[i] With significant support by additional voices including Leo Strauss, Milton Friedman, Leonard Read, Friedrich Hayek, Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Margaret Thatcher, among others.
[ii] In comparison, Liberalism 2.0, supported early on by Hobson and Mencken and Keynes, among others, and perhaps most embodied in current events by President Obama (and espoused by Bernie Sanders), frequently operates on the idea that “America is bad.” European social democracy is promoted as the alternative, the ideal, and the goal.
September 10th, 2015 // 6:30 am @ Oliver DeMille
“U.S. median income is $42,000 per year, while the European median income is $27,000. That’s close to the average difference in annual income between U.S. high school grads ($28,000) and college graduates ($45,000). And the current elite class wants America to become more like Europe. This explains much of what Washington is doing these days.”
What Is Coming
Sadly, it isn’t quite that simple. The crisis is coming.
What’s the Crisis? Imagine this: It’s the summer of 2017, and we have another career politician in the White House. On the day of the 2016 election, or even earlier, we learned that none of the anti-Establishment candidates were going to win. Instead, the media informed us that the American electorate was putting another regular politician into office.
And since inauguration day, that president has followed a path similar to earlier presidents, from Bush I and Clinton, to Bush II and Obama: the national debt is still skyrocketing, our foreign policy is a disaster, the government is growing, increased regulations attack our prosperity every month, and the Supreme Court is legislating additional policies that hurt the nation.
On top of all this, the mandates of Obamacare are really kicking in now, increasing many small business costs by 30% or more annually—and as a result, those businesses that survive are laying off large numbers of employees. Your family health insurance premiums are up many thousands of dollars a year. The economy is still struggling, with less than a 2% growth rate, and good-paying jobs are increasingly scarce. At least one or two of your close friends or family members have lost their jobs.
In other words, it’s clear that the 2016 election has changed almost nothing. Terrorist attacks are increasing in both Europe and a few targeted attacks in the United States—as Iran uses its new $100 billion dollars to fund such violence. ISIS is still spreading, and China continues to increase its naval presence around the Pacific Rim. Moreover, Putin is becoming increasingly aggressive, not just in Eastern Europe but also in Syria, the North Pole, and the Pacific.
If the new president is a Democrat, there is a strong push to increase taxes and federalize even more state-level programs. If, contrast, if the president is a Republican… well, exactly the same thing is happening.
If we vote for the same kind of candidate we’ve voted for since 1988 (a career politician), we’re going to get the same thing we’ve experienced since…you know…1988. Meaning that career politicians are going to give us the same thing that career politicians have always given us:
Increased government. Very little positive change. A continual slide toward bigger government, higher debts, and decreased individual prosperity and freedoms.
This is the crisis ahead: More of the same. Except that it’s continually a bit worse, year after year, election cycle after election cycle.
“The definition of insanity,” you remind yourself, “is to keep doing the same thing while expecting different results.” In business, the prime directive is that to actually change an organization, you have to significantly change the leadership. If career politicians keep running the White House, little is going to change. This is true.
It’s frustrating. We don’t want to believe it, because we hope things will be different this time. But each election proves that it’s the reality. Career politicians do what career politicians do. Over and over.
Specifically: whatever career politicians say as candidates, once they’re elected they do what they’ve done before. Count on it. The following presidential candidates are not going to bring much change to Washington:
- Joe Biden
- Hillary Clinton
- Jeb Bush
- Chris Christie (to his credit, Christie is openly promising to do what career politicians do: just more of the status quo)
- Marco Rubio
- Scott Walker
- John Kasich (actually, at least Kasich has balanced two major budgets—the federal budget during the 1990s, and Ohio’s budget while serving as governor; thus, he’ll likely do this again—even if he doesn’t do much else, this is a pretty good thing)
But does anyone actually believe that if Jeb Bush is elected president we’ll reverse the national debt, repeal Obamacare, or seriously send education decisions and funding back to the states, where it belongs? No way.
The above candidates are part of the system; and reaching the pinnacle of the system they’ve spent their lives supporting won’t incentivize them to drastically change things. Whatever your political views, it’s clear that those who’ve made their lives in the system aren’t likely to alter it in any significant way. Period.
The following are a lot more likely to really change things:
- Bernie Sanders
- Carly Fiorina
- Rand Paul
- Donald Trump
- Ted Cruz
- Ben Carson
Say what you want about them, but they aren’t part of the typical Washington Establishment.
If elected, would one of them actually change things?
Maybe. Maybe not. But there is at least a chance.
In contrast, with the first list above, there’s no reasonable, rational expectation of real change.
Part II: What Will the Crisis Look and Feel Like for Americans?
Beyond the question of whether or not real change will come after the 2016 election, a deeper question is this: “If it doesn’t come, what will happen?”
In other words, “Where is our current national trajectory taking us?” First of all, if real change does come, it could take a number of different directions. That’s what change does. Genuine change is almost impossible to predict, because a significant change causes so many additional, cascading, changes.
If anyone on the first list above becomes our next president, I believe we have less than a 1% chance of changing course in a serious way that really shifts our national direction. Even if someone on the second list is elected, I’m convinced we’ll have less than a 40% chance of such a course correction (and 0% if it’s Bernie Sanders).
And let’s be clear: a course correction is desperately needed. If it doesn’t come, where are we headed?
Answer: In the early 1960s, many in the Euro-American elite class adopted the idea that the U.S. was beginning to outpace the nations of Western Europe—economically, technologically, and militarily. Moreover, they calculated that such a divide would be bad for business (specifically the business of the elites, which includes both the economic endeavors of the 1% and also their political influence).
To combat this growing divide, the elites began using their institutional, fiscal, and monetary influence to make the United States more like Europe. They began in earnest by dropping the gold standard in 1971, and providing an influx of elite money into higher education donations and endowments, and simultaneously with increased investment in and ownership of major media outlets.
Influenced by these funds and those who provided them, education began spreading the idea that America should be more like Europe, and the graduates of these programs increasingly dominated the campus scene through the seventies and eighties. By 1987, Allan Bloom decried what amounted to the Europeanized politicization of higher education in his bestselling book The Closing of the American Mind.
Choosing a Dream
Media increasingly reinforced this same message—“America should be more like Europe”—in stories and reports, from the major national newspapers to the Big 3 television networks. Nearly all cable channels and Establishment-supported Internet news outlets followed suit.
Among Establishment policy makers, Samuel Huntington’s writings on “Civilizations” and Francis Fukayama’s “End of History” essays pointed U.S. financial-, domestic-, and foreign-policy institutions (and bureaucracies) in the same direction.
Where does this leave us today? The “American Dream” includes the ideal that each household should achieve home ownership, financial independence (at least by the time of retirement), cars, savings, education for the kids, and a better lifestyle for each additional generation. In contrast, a middle class family in Europe typically lives in an apartment, has fewer children than American families, owns (on average) less than one car, and expects decreasing financial opportunities for coming generations.
To put this in financial terms, the U.S. median income is $42,000 per year, while the Western European median annual income is $27,000.
While it may not appear so at first, these numbers are drastically different—especially if you are applying for a home or vehicle loan, trying to start a business, deciding how many children to have, or funding a child’s college education. Indeed, an American family of three making the European median income of $27,000 a year typically lives in an apartment and has approximately $4,050 a year or less in disposable income. The U.S. median income of $42,000 upgrades the family to a home and $12,180 in annual disposable income.
That’s roughly the same as the average difference in annual median income between U.S. high school grads ($28,000) and college graduates ($45,000). That’s right: the direction of U.S. median income is headed toward less than the average wages of high school grads.
This comparison is not overstated. This is where we’re headed. Of course, the affluent classes won’t suffer this same fate, but a lot more Americans will become part of the struggling class. Just like in Europe.
Who we vote for matters.
If we want real change, we need to vote for something different.
August 27th, 2015 // 10:00 am @ Oliver DeMille
The Questions of Today
The professional political and media class is surprised (“shocked” may be more accurate) by what they are witnessing right now in the U.S. presidential campaign. Most of their predictions are turning out to be wrong, and much of their commentary is consistently off.
What is going on? And why is it happening?
The answer is fascinating. America is currently witnessing a different kind of politics–not because Washington has changed, but rather because the voters are taking a very different approach than they have in the past.
In a nutshell: a huge number of voters are simply demanding that politicians do something very different. This can be summed up in the following words, spoken directly to our politicians:
“Why won’t you just do what you said you’d do?”
Lies from the Left
This is a big deal. Voters are frustrated with the inability (or unwillingness) of politicians to simply deliver on their promises. For example, President Obama promised that under his health care law, we would be able to keep our doctor if we wanted to. We would also be able to keep the same health care providers. And our costs wouldn’t go up very much, if at all.
These all turned out to be false. Many people aren’t allowed to keep their same doctor or health care providers. And in 2015 insurance premiums went up around 30% for many companies and families—in addition to major increases already in 2014. With the additional details that kick in during 2016, premiums will go much higher in the next two years.
The President also promised that his policies would bring more jobs. But the reality is that while the unemployment rate has gone down, the large majority of people with new jobs obtained during the Obama era are making a lot less each month than they did before. The promise of more jobs turned out to be technically true, but it feels totally false, like something only a lawyer or a genie could make up.
Lies from the Right
And Republicans haven’t done any better. Voters were promised that if they elected Republicans in 2012 and 2014, these Congressmen would repeal Obamacare and seriously tackle the national debt. The electorate responded by putting Republicans into Congress in record numbers—in both of these midterm elections.
But once in office, the GOP promises were promptly forgotten. No repeal. No debt reduction. Voters know that Congress can defund programs at will, and can even overcome a veto by shutting down non-essential government functions to get a handle on the debt and/or defund Obamacare. This takes tenacity and guts, but it works.
Instead, voters who put Republicans into the majority in both houses are lectured by Boehner and McConnell about what “can and can’t” be done. But Boehner, McConnell and their allies didn’t do the honorable thing and loudly promote such lectures before the elections. Rather, they boldly promised big changes and then smugly turned their backs on such promises once elected. Ted Cruz was right to call this a “lie.” Voters feel increasingly duped by the political class.
The top leaders in both parties simply didn’t follow through on what they said they would do.
Just Do What You Promised
All of this is front and center in the voters’ minds right now. They don’t want to elect politicians, because they don’t believe what politicians promise. Why should they? Both parties have failed, repeatedly, to fulfill their promises. Most people have reached the conclusion that this is just the way politicians are now. They don’t do what they promise.
In voter logic, the only intelligent response is to elect non-politicians. To reject politicians and find people who will just do what they say they’ll do. To find someone—anyone—who simply tells the truth and then does it.
Thus anyone who looks even remotely like a politician is suspect. For a growing number of voters, everything a politician-looking candidate says during the campaign is probably not going to happen after the election.
So any candidate that seems to fit this bill, doesn’t get much support. This is a real problem for Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, etc. It’s also a problem for anti-establishment candidates like constitutionalist Rand Paul and tea partier Marco Rubio—they just seem too much like Washington insiders.
The candidates who are surprising the political pros are those who don’t seem much like politicians at all. Thus very different-sounding candidates like Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz have piqued the electorate’s interest.
“Will one of them just do what he/she is promising?” This is the question many American voters are asking right now.
The Media vs. The Electorate
The media focuses on things like policy details, tone, offensive behavior, and stances on the issues—but most voters don’t care much about these things as much as electing someone who will do what they said they’d do. They’re used to candidates who are politically correct, talk a lot about policy positions, but then get elected and fail to deliver what they promised.
With such a track record, why should voters care about policy plans? They’re going to be forgotten anyway.
Instead, voters are now trying to feel out the candidates, hoping that one of them is the kind of person who will actually just do what he/she promised—even after the election.
If voters think they’ve found such a person, they don’t even have to agree with him/her on every policy. They’ll look past differences, if they can just get someone who will deliver.
Media and political professionals who don’t figure this out are in for a lot more shocking surprises, because the last two decades of hearing promises during campaigns, getting excited to vote based on such promises, and then seeing your chosen candidate get elected but fail to do what he promised.… Well, voters are just plain sick of it.
Voters are too smart now. They’ve been fooled too many times in recent elections.
If they don’t think any of the candidates will follow through on promises, voters will turn off and stay home on election day. As a result, the typical establishment candidates will win. But if voters really believe that a candidate will deliver—he or she is going to ignite a powerful following.
August 19th, 2015 // 2:36 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Steps to Freedom
I read another great book today, and it rekindled my sense of hope for the future. If you care about freedom, you’ve got to read it! This new classic is Liberty’s Secrets by Joshua Charles, and it is…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a story here, an important one. And I need to tell it in order to do justice to this book. In a world of brief sound bites and too frequently shallow media and educational conversations, a great book is easily overlooked. Such greats all too often go unnoticed because we live in an era of constant—aggressive—distraction. So to introduce a genuinely great book, we need to get this right. Here goes…
I. The Great Books
I was a young boy when first it happened, old enough to ride my bicycle to the library on hot summer afternoons and find interesting books to read, but young enough that high school sports and summer trainings weren’t yet part of my daily routine. One day under the memorable breeze of the town library’s large swamp cooler I came across a long shelf of books that boldly called themselves “The Great Books”. I stopped and stared. I re-read the title, then pondered.
“These can’t be the only great books,” I reasoned to myself. “There must be others.” Intrigued, I pulled out a volume and perused the title page, then skimmed through several chapters at the beginning of the book. I was impressed by the small print, the columns and footnotes, and the sheer quantity of big, unfamiliar words. They were downright intimidating.
I marveled a bit, rubbing my fingers along the cloth-covered bindings. I knew I would read these books some day. I just knew it.
I remember nothing specific about which volumes I investigated that day, but I skimmed many of them, reading a sentence here and another there. The afternoon passed, and I eventually returned the last volume I’d removed to its place on the shelf and went to the front counter to check out the L’Amour novel I’d selected for the week’s reading.
We lived in the desert, and it was a very hot summer, so during the exertions of my bike ride home I forget about the “Great Books”. But each time I returned to the library, I noticed them again. It seemed like none of them were ever checked out, and I could well believe it. They were truly daunting, with their gold foil lettering, fancy author names, and massive domination of shelf space.
II. Fast Forward
Today I just finished reading a truly great book on freedom, and I smiled widely as I completed the last few lines and closed the book. I removed the dust jacket and ran my fingers over the sleek black hardcover with the red foil print. “I was right, that day,” I thought to myself.
Then I realized I had been right on both counts. I would, in fact, come to read the whole set someday. I couldn’t have known at the time that I would re-read The Great Books many times, teach them extensively in multiple university, high school, and graduate level courses, and spend many hours discussing their content with colleagues, business executives, students, professionals, family members, and friends. The Great Books volumes have become dear friends over the years, and I have returned to them often for heated debates with their authors or to rehash unfinished questions in the “Great Conversation”.
But I was right about the other thing as well: there are great books beyond those in Britannica’s 54 volume set. And when I encounter an additional great book, I always feel a sense of excitement. Great books are great because they are important. That’s the major criterion. They have to be truly significant, to add meaning to our world—to innovate something that wasn’t there before the book brought it to life.
III. What Makes “Great”?
Over the decades I’ve experienced several great books beyond those from the “official list,” and they always leave an impression. Like The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler, or The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. Such books, like those by Bastiat or Austen, simply must be added to list. Along with Solzhenitsyn’s works.
In recent years I’ve come across several additional great books, like Andy Andrew’s The Final Summit, Chris Brady’s Rascal, Stephen Palmer’s Uncommon Sense, Orrin Woodward’s Resolved, Judith Glaser’s Conversational Intelligence, or Henry Kissinger’s On China. I also studied an old great book I hadn’t ever read before, The Early History of Rome, by Livy, and found greatness in its pages as well. When you read a book that is truly great, it’s a moving experience.
Such books come along rarely, so when they do it is important to pay attention. But what makes a book genuinely great? After all, greatness is a very high standard. It can’t just be good. As Jim Collins reminded us, good is too often the enemy of great.
Nor can it simply be well written. It can’t merely be accurate, detailed, beautiful, or interesting. More is necessary. It can be one, a few, or all of these things, but to be truly great, it must be also be transformational. It must change you, as you read.
IV. A New Great Book!
When I started reading Joshua Charles’ book a few days ago, I didn’t know I was in for such a treat. I had already enjoyed his earlier bestselling work, so I was ready to learn. I got my pen and highlighter out, and opened the cover. But as I read I realized that this book is truly very important. Needed. And profound.
Then, as I kept reading, I noticed that I was feeling something. A change. A different perspective. A re-direction. I was experiencing…the feelings that always accompany greatness.
Charles notes in several places that as a member of the Millennial generation he felt compelled to share this book with the world. Why? Because, in his words: “I wrote this book for one reason, and one reason only: to reintroduce my fellow countrymen to the Founders of our country and the vision of free society they articulated, defended, and constructed, in their own words.”
As a member of Generation X, I was thrilled to see a Millennial take this so seriously—and accomplish it so effectively. Even more importantly, as I read I noticed something very important, subtle but profound. Charles doesn’t make the mistake of so many modern authors who write to the experts and professionals in a field. His scholarship is excellent, and he goes a step further. He has a more important audience than mere political or media professionals. He writes to the people, the citizens, the voters, the butchers and bakers and candlestick makers—the hard-working people who make this nation go, including the artists, scientists, teachers, executives and leaders.
In so doing, he is a natural Jeffersonian, speaking the important principles of freedom, culture, economics, and leadership to a nation of people—not merely to politicos or aristos, but to everyman. To underscore this (and I doubt it was a conscious decision on his part, but rather his core viewpoint), his word choice refers not to “the American voter” but rather to “we the people.” He considers himself not merely the expert, but one of us, one of the people.
I could have hugged him for this, had he been here in person. We have far too few freedom writers today who see themselves truly as part of the citizenry. When they do come along, albeit rarely, I feel a sense of kinship and I know that their hearts are in the right place. Jefferson would be proud. For example, Charles wrote:
“We no longer know where we came from, the grand story we fit into, and the great men and women who inspired the noble vision which birthed the United States of America, the first nation in history to be founded upon the reasoned consent of a people intent on governing themselves….
“Additionally, few of us are well-read enough (a problem our educational system seems blithely unconcerned with) to discuss the lessons of the human experience (often simply called ‘history’)…”
Freedom, the classics, voracious reading, leadership, and the future—all rolled into one. “This is my kind of author,” I realized, once again. “These are the themes I emphasize when I write.” So did Jefferson. And Skousen, and Woodward. No wonder I love this book.
The Current Path
More than profound, Charles’ book is also wise. Belying his Millennial generation youth, he speaks like an orator or sage from Plutarch when he warns:
“Liberty is difficult work. It is fraught with risks, with dangers, with tempests and storms. It is a boisterous endeavor, an effort for the brave and the enterprising…”
These latter words have stayed with me since I read them several days ago. I keep remembering them. Boisterous. Brave. Enterprising.
These are the traits of a free people. In classical Greece, among the ancient Israelites, in the Swiss vales, the Saracen camps, the Anglo-Saxon villages, and the candlelight reading benches of the American founders—wherever freedom flourished. Yet today we train up a nation of youth to be the opposite. To fit in (not boisterous). To avoid risk (not brave). To focus on job security above all else (not enterprising).
If this trajectory continues, our freedoms will continue to decline.
Where and When
Speaking of freedom, Charles calls us to immediate action with his characteristic humility, depth, and conviction: “We either pass it [liberty] on to our posterity as it was passed down to us, or it dies here and now.”
Here and now? Really?
Is it that immediate? Is it truly this urgent? Is it really up to us?
The answer is clear: Yes.
Yet, it is.
“He gets it.” I smile and take a deep breath. Then I whisper to myself: “Another great book!”
I hold the book sideways and look at the many pages where I have turned down the corners. Dozens of them. Just for fun, I open one of them and read:
“…we have every reason to be doubtful of, skeptical about, and disdainful toward the notion that Caesar [government] can solve all our problems.”
I nod. When freedom is under attack, leaders rise up from among the people. This book is part of that battle.
“The Great Books indeed.” I grin as I say the words.
I turn to another page with a dog-eared corner and read Charles’ words:
“‘Society is endangered not by the great corruption of the few, but by the laxity of all,’ Tocqueville had noted, and on this he was in complete agreement with the Founders.”
And now, I note, with at least one Millennial.
I feel a sense of building hope for the future. “The Millennials are beginning to lead,” I say with reverence.
“This is big. And if this book is any indication of what’s to come…
“It’s about time,” I say aloud.
Then, slowly, “Everyone needs to read this book.”
*Liberty’s Secret by Joshua Charles is available on Amazon
August 19th, 2015 // 2:10 pm @ Oliver DeMille
The Three Republican Parties
There are now three Republican parties. One is the Republican Establishment, a group that basically stands for maintaining the status quo (with one change: a Republican White House). This is the party of Nixon, Ford, Bush I, Dole, Bush II, Romney, Chris Christie, and Bush III.
This group can best be described as fiscally conservative, internationally aggressive, moderate about immigration, supportive of Common Core and other centralized plans for education, and socially moderate. It is also a group that will increase spending and the size of the federal government.
A second group in the GOP is made up of Deep Conservatives: fiscally frugal on the surface, focused on limited government, aggressive on conservative social issues, strongly supportive of Israel, against Washington-run education plans, and hawkish on national security and immigration. This is the party of Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal.
It is the Eisenhower/Reagan wing of the party. If the historical pattern holds, this group will unwittingly increase the cost and size of government, though it will likely shift spending a bit from liberal programs to more conservative priorities. It tends to talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, but when in office it just can’t seem to reverse federal spending—it always increases the debt. People in this group are often referred to as “the Republican base.”
The third segment of Republicans could be called the “Coalition of Change”. Members of this group are deeply frustrated with the status quo, with Washington’s refusal to do what the voters want, and with the fact that government grows and grows under both parties—Republicans just as much as Democrats. They dislike Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and the Department of Education, and are split on immigration and international interventionism.
This group includes the Tea Parties, a lot of other people who feel that Republicans have repeatedly promised to repeal Obamacare and reduce the national debt but never actually do it, and also a lot of non-Republicans who don’t like the GOP brand very much and prefer to be independents (but typically vote for the Republican presidential nominee rather than the Democratic candidate).
Numerically, the third group has the most voters—and the most passionate voters of the bunch. This advantage is based largely on the enthusiasm of Tea Partiers and also the large number of independents who vote Republican during presidential elections.
But this third segment of the GOP isn’t big enough to determine the election all on its own. All three groups will be needed for any candidate to win the White House.
The bigger story is that an interesting trend is now part of the Republican landscape: over the past two decades, this third group is growing. Between 1952 and 2004, GOP primaries were a battle between groups 1 and 2 (the Republican establishment versus social conservatives); but in 2008 the third group had significant influence. Its power grew in 2010, 2012, and 2014, and it is now largely driving the Republican primaries in 2015.
What this third group will accomplish in 2016 remains to be seen. But few people are clear about what, exactly, these “different kind of Republicans” actually want. What do they really stand for? Most Americans, even most Republicans, aren’t sure.
What Group 3 Really Wants
There are two things to consider here. First, in what ways are this third group of voters like the other two major segments of the Republican Party, and second, how are they different?
All three groups agree on the following: fiscal conservatism and strong national defense. Only group 1 is generally happy with the status quo, as long as Obama can be replaced by a Republican. Only group 2 cares deeply about social issues as a central part of the presidential race, and only group 3 fully intends to cut entitlements and drastically reduce government spending. These are the major policy differences.
But the real divide between group 3 and the others is found on matters of tone and scale. This third, largest, group that votes Republican wants the following:
- To actually, significantly, reduce the national debt and see the debt clock going backwards. Not just more fiscal responsibility, but a literal and lasting reversal of the debt.
- For the number of federal departments, programs, and employees to decrease. A lot. But even a little change would be a good start.
- For states to stop giving more and more power to Washington, and for the federal government, in fact, to send a number of powers back to the states. Not in a merely symbolic way, but in tangible, practical, realities.
- To reduce the amount of job-killing, business dis-incentivizing regulations from Washington and state governments, in order to attract more investment into the U.S. economy, spur the entrepreneurial sector and catalyze a new era of American small business innovation, and boost sustained economic growth and better jobs for American workers. This includes actually repealing and replacing Obamacare. Nothing less than real results will do.
- To change the regulatory mess that has put U.S. businesses on unfair footing with their international competitors. And to put America back in its superpower role by drastically improving our economy—as a direct competitive victory against China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran, ISIS, and the European Union.
- Real change, something genuinely different in Washington–not just more growth of government and debt that has occurred for nearly thirty years under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
This can all be summed up in the phrase: “Make America Great Again.” (This phrase isn’t original to Donald Trump, but he saw its popularity and adopted it. Many in group 3, and a lot in group 2, appreciate this and agree with him.)
Members of group 3 want these things for real—not just as campaign promises that are forgotten after election day. They are tired of empty promises. They want action, and they want results.
Moreover, they are increasingly convinced that the typical brand of Republican candidates will never get us there. They want something different, led by someone different than the historical mass of normal politicians, and they want it now.
The Two Wings of Group 3: Thinkers vs. Fighters
At an even deeper level, Republican group 3 voters—and quite a few in group 2—are divided into two main camps: those who want an anti-big-government Fighter to lead the change, and those who believe a truly conservative Thinker will be more likely to actually bring genuine change.
The “Thinker” wing of group 3 tends to support the following candidates:
Ben Carson. If Trump weren’t in the race, it is likely that Carson would perform much higher in the polls. Or, possibly, he is benefiting from the growing sense that an outsider might actually have a chance. Many Trump supporters cite Carson as their second choice. His non-political background and soft-spoken, articulate defense of freedom and common sense principles are alluring to many group 3 voters. He also has significant group 2 support. He is definitely not a status-quo candidate. Carson would certainly be a different kind of president, a plus for those in group 3.
John Kasich. The Ohio governor is painted as a group 1 Establishment Republican by the media (based on his resume in Washington and Columbus), but he touts himself as a strong “Federalist” whose main focus is reducing the power of Washington and sending health care, education, law enforcement, tax funds, and other issues back to the states—getting the federal government out of our lives. Whether this can catch on in an electorate conditioned to think about everything in national terms remains to be seen, but if any Americans can get behind this “Federalist” change it is group 3 voters. Kasich is also seen as a fighter as well as a thinker, and an optimistic fighter to boot. He could be a formidable general election candidate, and could appeal to some voters in all 3 groups. He is also a proven budget balancer at both state and federal levels. But many in group 3 worry that he is too much like other group 1 candidates, too much the normal politician, and they worry that his conservative talk will turn to Bush-like establishment governance once in office. For this reason, he probably won’t get a lot of group 3 votes.
Rand Paul. In the tradition of his father, Ron Paul, the medical doctor and more recently Kentucky Senator cites the Constitution on numerous issues and appeals to those who care deeply about the future of freedom. On the “Thinking” basis, he is in the top tier of freedom supporters, right along with Ben Carson. On the other hand, Paul’s emphasis on national defense over global interventions weakens him with groups 1 and 2, and many in group 3. His words are often more popular to group 3 voters than his persona—many wish he were more effective as a fighter. Others think his Constitutional approach is exactly right. Paul has also worked hard to appeal to a number of voters outside the traditional Republican tent in a general election.
As for the “Fighter” wing of group 3, the most popular candidates are:
Donald Trump. His talking points and stump speech are a point-for-point summary of what many in group 3 want. And he’s been saying the same kind of things for thirty years. In addition, his intensity, unscripted candor and clear passion for American exceptionalism and America’s future are exciting to many group 3 voters—and some in group 2. The big challenges for Trump are that (1) many voters are put off by his brash approach (though this is exactly what many of his supporters like), and (2) he’ll probably get very few, if any, group 1 votes during the primaries. His success or failure in the Republican primaries will likely depend on how many group 2 and group 3 voters he can sway to his side. Major threats in international affairs could also increase his popularity among such voters.
Carly Fiorina. She has struggled to get her message across and gain wide name recognition, but like Carson and Trump she is a non-politician who focuses on real change in Washington. Fiorina is also popular among conservative policy wonks and some policy-oriented major donors. She is gaining a reputation for being succinct, articulate, and master of the issues.
Ted Cruz. The Texas Senator was the pre-Trump “extreme” candidate, but with the intensity of Trump’s run Cruz is now considered more mainstream by the media and many in group 2. Trump’s involvement could be a real benefit to him. If Trump drops out (doubtful), Cruz could become a favorite of many group 3 voters—and he’ll be more appealing to some in group 2 than Trump. (Neither is likely to appeal to group 1.) He is outspoken, reveres the Constitution, and in many ways is both a “Fighter” and a “Thinker.” Like Trump, he sometimes comes on very strong and makes enemies at the same rate that he attracts support. Whatever happens in this election, Cruz is likely to be a rising star in group 3.
Can a Candidate Gain Support From All 3 Groups?
There may also be some crossover candidates, those who appeal to group 3 and also to one of the other main segments of the GOP. But first, let’s make it clear that Jeb Bush will never appeal to group 3, simply because he’s not seen as a “Fighter” or a “Thinker.” He’s establishment all the way. Many voters in group 3 would vote for him if it came down to Bush vs. a Democrat, but many others would vote Democrat or even “write in” someone else.
If given a serious third party option versus Bush, many in group 3 would vote for, say, an independent Trump bid for office, even though they know that the “Ross Perot effect” would sweep a Democrat to victory. Still, in their mind, “This might teach Republicans a lesson, and Bush isn’t much better than the Democratic nominee anyway. In fact, he may be worse than a Democrat because with a Bush-style Republican in office we’ll have little support for real change in the midterm Congressional elections.” Few in group 3 believe that Bush would seriously repeal Obamacare or reverse the national debt.
Chris Christie scores strong on “Fight,” but group 3 sees him as just another establishment candidate. He’ll get very little support from group 3.
Group 1 or 2 candidates who could get some crossover support from group 3 voters include Mike Huckabee and, perhaps, Scott Walker, who are seen as “Fighters.” Another candidate who might be able to garner some group 3 support as a “Thinker” is Marco Rubio. Rubio has two other things going for him from a group 3 viewpoint: 1) the fact that he’ll likely appeal to a lot of young voters (who have supported Democrats in recent elections) and 2) his strength with Latino voters (who will likely determine who wins the general election in the tightly-contested swing states).
Group 3 would discount these things if Rubio were more of an Establishment Republican, but his Tea Party roots give him some street cred and he would likely receive strong group 3 support in a general election. Indeed, the Clinton and other Democratic campaigns have expressed a real concern about running against Rubio as the Republican nominee. But in the primaries, Rubio sometimes comes across too “establishment” to many in group 3.
How the 3 Groups See Each Other
Group 1: Establishment Republicans want to win the White House, rebuild and maintain America’s military and spread U.S. power and presence in the world, promote centralized controls over education, and increase the fiscal responsibility of the federal government. They are moderately concerned about the border.
Group 2: Deep Conservatives want to re-strengthen the military, and tackle budgets and debt. They also promote significant conservative social changes in the nation (desiring to alter regulations concerning abortion, gay marriage, anti-religious policies, etc.). They are against Common Core, and want to effectively secure the border with Mexico. Most of them are more interested in national defense and support of our allies (especially Israel and Britain) than in aggressive international military outreach.
Group 3: Republicans who want major change, Tea Parties, and Right-leaning independents who desire real change in America. They want to actually cut government departments, spending, and programs in significant ways, stop Common Core and secure the Southern border, reverse the national debt clock, and catalyze a major boost to the economy by changing anti-growth regulations and encouraging more entrepreneurship and investment. They want to make America great again.
Group 1 tends to see group 2 as too idealistic and too distracted by social issues, and group 3 as too extreme in both policy and tone.
Group 2 tends to see group 1 as too focused on winning (victory above principles), and group 3 as too revolutionary (not realistic about what can get done). Group 2 also considers both other groups too lukewarm on important social issues.
Group 3 tends to see the other two groups as “politicians,” “the status quo,” “more business as usual,” “more talk than action,” and “never going to actually change things.” Group 3 voters are tired of Republican campaign promises that don’t bring any real change after the election. Many of them consider group 1 voters to be closer to Democrats than to themselves.
In short, group 3 voters (and an increasing number of voters in group 2) are only going to support a candidate who is actually different from the norm. (Thus the strong support for Fiorina, Carson, Trump, etc.) The media, on the other hand, tends to think that only candidates with traditional government resumes should be considered for the presidency. This view is shared by most professional politicos, and by many centrist voters in both parties.
The Coming Future
It is these two views that are on a history-making collision course with each other:
(1) “A Republican in the White House”
(2) “Make America Great Again”
For group 3 voters, this means Typical Politicians vs. Anti-Politician candidates. Group 3 wants a true, authentic change in what kind of person leads this nation. They don’t care all that much about what policies the candidates say they support, because they’ve heard good policies from candidates before—and then watched the same candidates change their views once elected. Instead, they want a different kind of person in office. This includes the non-politicians and also, depending on who you talk to in group 3, anti-Washington candidates like Cruz, Rubio, Huckabee, and possibly Walker or Kasich.
This is very difficult for the media or mainstream to grasp, but it is real. And support for this change is growing.
Whether this gets worked out in 2016 will depend on how much traction Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, or structural reformers like Rand Paul, John Kasich, or Ted Cruz can get—and maintain. Together these candidates are receiving well over half of Republican support in the polls, and Trump himself gets the highest numbers. In contrast, Bush and Christie combine for less than 10% in many polls.
Here’s the main point, and anyone who is interested in America’s future would do well to consider it carefully: If we don’t elect someone very different, a non-politician or at least a very different kind of politician, the growing sense of frustration with our government will only deepen and spread.
This is real, and it is a major cultural phenomenon. In fact, it is as powerful on the Left as on the Right (e.g. Bernie Sanders, the Occupy Movement, the passion for words like “Hope and Change,” etc.). At some point, if not in 2016 then in the years ahead, this drive for a real change in Washington is going to gain enough momentum to fundamentally alter our government. It has already won major victories in 2006 and 2008 (by Democrats), and in 2010 and 2014 (by Republicans). If current growth continues, it will eventually dominate one of the parties, or create a bigger third party that ends the reign of either Democrats or the GOP.
If this passion ever builds enough support to take the White House along with Congress, it will mark a new era in America. The key words of this movement are quintessentially American: innovative, pioneering, entrepreneurial, fighter, free-enterprising, tough, exceptional, great, strong, chutzpah,…and free.