April 19th, 2017 // 8:05 am @ Ian Cox
by Ian A Cox
The Biggest Question
Wow! That’s deep.
The thought kept recurring as I read. The article, written by an innovator, filled me with numerous ideas—old and new—about Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. The author showed how this classic work, and others like it, are relevant to national events right now, including the famous–not to mention great–maxim: “That government is best which governs least.”
The author showed how this applies to our current national challenges. The biggest question that came to me as I read was something we all need to consider:
“How can we increase our influence in a world that seems to be heading in the wrong direction?”
This isn’t just a rhetorical question. We have more power than we might realize. The struggle for freedom resets with every new generation.
We are always one generation away from potentially losing our liberty. Education is key, and understanding freedom is a must for those who hope to protect and spread freedom.
Moreover, the battle for freedom resets in certain predictable ways. In his book We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident, Oliver DeMille gives some perspective on this fateful struggle for freedom in the United States after we gained our independence.
Here’s a summary:
- The House of Representatives was the first to vie for power, as early as the 1790’s. But the executive branch flexed its muscles as well and managed to stop the over-reaching House.
- In the early 19th Century the Marshall Court pushed for widespread control, but the Presidents during the time were able to largely obstruct court expansion (checks and balances = obstruct).
- Next, the mid-19th Century saw a resurgence of local governments as prejudices ran rampant and public servants and jurors turned a blind eye to injustice. This was eventually curbed by the exodus of many oppressed groups and minorities to the west, which created new regions and states, increasing the federalizing power (the Electoral College).
- The States then pushed for dominance of power in the mid-to-late part of the 19th Century, but were beaten by the combined federal powers of the three branches of government.
- An Aristocratic Senate was the leading power center of the early 20th Century, but it only gained influence where the Court allowed.
- The Executive branch stole the baton from the Senate in the settling dust of the Second World War, and this continues today. In fact, its aggressive competitor for power is the Supreme Court—both take turns usurping influence.
A great strength of the United States Constitution is the multi-layered governmental system it created, including a network of intricate checks and balances, as outlined above. The price of human nature and usurping freedoms from others is that power doesn’t decrease; it only transfers to other branches that tend to increase their power in order to bring back a proper balance. In each of these eras a complete takeover was thwarted, but power was centralized and freedoms gradually slipped away.
Deciding Our Fate
This power pendulum persistently swings back and forth, from one group to another, until more individuals take up their true duties as citizens (real influence).
This can occur 1) peacefully, 2) when a violent reset happens (like the Civil War), or 3) when our society collapses and something new is established out of the ashes.
The peaceful option is clearly preferable.
These issues and problems are not merely something we need to think about for today and tomorrow. We must embrace these things with a generational perspective. Because they exist on a grander scale, we have to ask the important questions. Are we solving the problem, or are we stopping one problem by creating a new one?
For example, the Civil War was practically written into the original Constitution; it was a paradox in the fabric of the whole system. Either the joint founding ideals of “all men are created equal” and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” had to be done away with, or slavery had to go. Both could not ultimately flourish together.
Likewise, the Mexican-American War (against Spain) was guaranteed as soon as the Monroe Doctrine was adopted. And, once we decided that extensive international relations via broad treaties were in our best interest, we accepted the wars of Europe as our own.
Phillip Bobbitt’s Shield of Achilles shows how we inadvertently embed the battles that future generations must fight into the chinks and weaknesses of the systems and programs we create today. The establishment of organizations like the Federal Reserve, Internal Revenue Service, and International Monetary Fund created the inevitable outcome of hyper-inflation, boom-bust cycles, and fiat currency, to name a few.
To a great extent, we are always creating our future crises.
Is this the society and government we want to fund with our taxes? Is this the group we want to endorse with our good name? To stand with confidence, with a clean conscience, and to fulfill each of our moral obligations, we must ask ourselves the hard questions. Here I reiterate the innovator’s call to action; we must not be the ostrich with our heads buried in the sand–but we also must avoid falling victim to a conquering Caesar (or a Byzantine bureaucracy).
There are a few options that have historically worked in changing a society’s fate. Some of these alternatives are still very possible today, while others are becoming less and less available to most people. Here’s a breakdown of the top three from history:
You pack up and leave, in hopes of finding a better place to restart. This has happened successfully many times in many cultures, but it is risky. Today there are very limited options for this choice. We have different forms and styles of government to pick from, but there isn’t untamed land that can be cultivated and founded from the ground up.
This is probably the most common form of rebellion. A group raises up arms and fights, in hope of overthrowing or removing tyrants. This method usually fails—not that it doesn’t remove the tyrants from power, but it typically breeds revolution after revolution and more often than not, ends with some new tyrant. In most cases, little actually gets fixed.
3) Civil Influence
In the modern world, civil influence has become the regular, expected, and non-violent form of change. This was brought about in large part by the spread of more democratic forms in societies and governments. As the people’s standard of living, education, and access to information worldwide increases, so does their ability to get involved and flex their muscles as the first and foremost branch of any governmental form. This is the at times slowest method of change, but often the most successful in the long-term.
Where civil influence was once answered with the death sentence (if you weren’t in the ruling class), it is now a real and viable option for any member of society to initiate the spark of change. This requires us, as John Locke argued, to be tolerant. Like the original thirteen colonies, we have now reached a point where the regular people need each other in order to get the right things done. This means we need to work with people who don’t always perfectly agree with us in every detail—or even in many details.
Now, this doesn’t mean we don’t stand for what is right or shirk our moral duties, but rather that we pick our battles. If we are constantly coming out against everything that peeves us, nobody will listen when it really matters (e.g. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”). Some things will absolutely happen in society that we dislike. But we can’t let disagreement make us disagreeable. It’s actually good that there are differing views on important issues. In fact, we should have a Hamilton and a Jefferson at each other’s throats in cabinet meetings, Congressional floor debates, and Supreme Court decisions–because it leads to more considered and effective solutions in the end.
More importantly, to really have influence, it is helpful not to be the guy who people hate at parties, always harping about the latest issue. Build friends, foster relationships, and focus your political influence when the time and topic are right. That said, be ready and watchful. The right time and topic will come.
Hope for a Better Future
A government by the people will largely be a reflection of the people. It could be a great government if a Moses, Marcus Aurelius, George Washington, Confucius, Muhammad, Cincinnatus, etc. is at its head; but as history has shown, it wouldn’t last. Maintaining a long-lived and successfully free society demands that a lot more citizens think and understand the principles of freedom (at the same level as, or better still, higher level than, our political leaders).
If you and I do this and we invite our communities to do the same, if “we the people” take on the responsibility to govern ourselves, we can and will have the best type of government—one that need only govern least. We must stop passing the buck on the hard things, or someone else will gladly take them up and decide for us. We the people, the first and original branch of government, have always had the most power to check and balance our government, and that hasn’t changed in today’s world.
An elite class can only rule when most of the citizens don’t have the same level of learning.
With persistence, civil influence really can provide proper checks and balances against the potential threats to freedom that naturally exist wherever power resides. In truth, it’s ultimately the only thing that does. It can be difficult. It takes patience, vigilance, study, understanding, and sacrifice.
But it does work.
 See, for example, the struggles of ancient Greece to unite city-states (unity vs. sovereignty), and the same issues in the nations of Europe and later the American colonies.
 A much more likely outcome in our situation.
 Consider the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, etc.
 From the American Revolution to Brexit.
About the Author
Ian A Cox is an entrepreneur and consultant who mentors leadership and the Liberal Arts for students and business men and women of all ages and levels. Ian is a popular keynote speaker at educational and business events. He loves reading, basketball, and discussing deep ideas on history and political science. Ian and his wife Emma have two sons.
April 11th, 2017 // 10:40 am @ Oliver DeMille
“No business plan survives
first contact with the customer.”
Party and Purpose
Alexis de Tocqueville famously taught that all governments and societies are divided into two major parties—the party of aristocracy and the party of the people. Another way to describe this reality is that one party is always the party of elite governance, while the other is the party of democracy.
The first, run by elites, seeks to keep things the same, consistently increasing its own power little by little. The second sees the current government and system as overreaching, corrupt, and untrustworthy, and wants to shake things up in order to give more power and economic opportunity to the masses.
This battle is constantly in motion. Sometimes it fights openly, while at other times it simmers and strategizes below the surface. But it is always there, the elite side strategizing ways to gain an edge, move ahead, and increase its influence over the regular people.
Most people see national political party divisions in literal terms—the Tories vs. Patriots, Federalists pitted against Anti-Federalists, Democratic Republicans against the Whigs, Republicans vs. Democrats. But the real battle—between those angling for elites to obtain more power, and those seeking more power for the people via a reduction of elite influence—is seldom the same thing as a clean divide between official parties.
The Five-Headed Monster
Today the Democratic Party is divided between the elitists (e.g. Obama, Clinton, Schumer, etc.) and the revolutionaries (e.g. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, etc.). Likewise, Republicans face a similar divide: elitists such as Bush, McCain, Paul Ryan, or Mitch McConnell versus revolutionaries like Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Newt Gingrich.
Moreover, because revolutionaries are…well…revolutionary, they care less about teamwork and more about principles and goals. This means they are constantly pointing out the differences between themselves and others, picking fights not just with the other party but with members of their own party as well. Indeed, Rand Paul or members of the Freedom Caucus often have more in common (in some ways) with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than with institutionalists (and fellow Republicans) like Paul Ryan or John McCain.
Add President Trump to the mix, with his blend of generalized idealism and big-idea pragmatism, and his inner team is far removed from the other four groups:
1) the Paul Ryan/Mitch McConnell/John McCain wing (Republican, elite)
2) the Rand Paul/Ted Cruz/Freedom Caucus wing (Republican, revolutionary)
3) the Warren/Sanders wing (Democratic, revolutionary)
4) the Schumer/Pelosi/Obama/Clinton wing (Democratic, elite)
This fifth group, the Trumpites (Republican, revolutionary), share neither philosophy nor methodology with the Ryan/McConnell group, nor philosophy, methodology, or even the ability to be civil with the Pelosi/Schumer/NBC/CNN group. On the other hand, they share a revolutionary “power to the people” approach—but almost nothing else—with the Paul/Freedom Caucus and Warren/Sanders groups.
Our government is now a five-headed monster, with constant battles between these five factions. Indeed, one of the biggest ironies of our time is that all four of the other groups battle against the Trump Administration—in differing ways, to be sure—without working together or agreeing with each other. There is, apparently, no coordination between the four groups; they largely despise each other. They seem to like Trump even less.
Even More Factions
A sixth group consists mostly of long-term bureaucrats who fill various government positions and make up the large bulk of federal employees—and do the lion’s share of the actual day-to-day work, in all three branches of government. Some of these are aligned with one of the other five groups, but many are more focused on their own agendas and aggressively (or, when it suits them, passive-aggressively) pursue their own interests. This is known by revolutionaries as “the deep state.”
There is, in fact, a seventh group with yet more conflicting agendas: the various special interests, lobbying organizations, agents of corporations and numerous non-profits, and others who keep K Street and its offshoots busily attempting to sway the government this way and that. The combined numbers of this many-tiered faction (in personnel and budgets) rival and in some things outpace that of the federal government. Add the national media from all sides, with myriad projects and agendas, to make an eighth powerful influencing faction.
The resources and expenditures that go into all eight groups and their efforts are astronomical. This is clearly the kind of “booming, buzzing confusion” that establishment thinkers in the 1970s predicted would allow the elite classes to rule the nation—quietly, firmly, from behind the scenes. The reason all eight groups (and the many splinters and sub-groups) consider such Herculean effort and expense worth pursuing is that the spoils—federal dollars and global power—are even more excessive.
Eisenhower called the 1950s iterations of this kind of governance “The Military Industrial Complex”, what Emerson had earlier referred to simply as The Establishment. It has grown exponentially since these phrases were coined. More recently, Donald Trump referred to it as “The Swamp”, and promised to “drain” it.
But we’ve heard such promises before. Reagan assured us that he’d do the same thing, but instead the size and scope of government greatly increased during his tenure. This is a recurring theme. Candidates have frequently promised to prune the national debt and the out-of-control federal Leviathan back to more manageable levels, but once elected they have been unable to stem the tide of growing government.
Bill Clinton even claimed that the “era of big government” was “over”, just at the time he presided over a huge expansion of Washington’s Byzantine federal bureaucracy, debt, and reach. Both parties have exacerbated this problem. So far no party or leader—in the White House or on Capital Hill—has reversed or even noticeably slowed the growth of government overreach or the national debt.
How to Evaluate a President
How is President Trump doing? Forget how the media—liberal or conservative—answer this question. The truth is that our leaders can only be truly measured against this one great national imperative: get a handle on the out-of-control expansion of debt, bureaucracy, and big government. It is in this context that President Trump, Republicans in Congress, and all who lead the federal agencies and state governments must be judged.
No presidential administration or Congressional tenure since the 1920s has effectively scaled back the federal government or its mounting debt. During the Obama era, we more than doubled our troubling national debt. Before that, the Bush years had a similar disappointing record (much of this was hidden by keeping around $3 trillion of expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan officially “off budget”; add this number and all other “off budget” expenses to any national debt figures provided by Washington).
In short, the elites are winning the war for the future of our nation. If they get their way, the government will continue to grow, continue to increase our debt, and elites will keep consolidating their influence and power over the masses. Indeed, most people don’t clearly understand the reality: The government taxes the middle class to pay its debts—most of the money is owed and paid to members of the elite classes (both in the U.S. and abroad).
For elites, in other words, a growing national debt is their personal asset, an IOU from the American middle class and our children and grandchildren.
The mainstream media generally ignores this real story, instead preferring to issue reports such as the following:
- “Trump’s failing presidency has the GOP in free fall” (The Washington Post)
- “After 10 weeks, Trump teeters on the brink” (CNN)
- “Trump’s outlook going from bad to worse” (CNBC)
More conservative outlets, such as Fox News, who first pointed out the three headlines listed above as a growing trend, show a more balanced view, but the other networks and publications aren’t convinced. Listen to mainstream media reports and you’d think the Trump Administration is facing a full implosion.
But this simply isn’t true. The White House reports are very different, and conservative media reports are the opposite. For example, a Fox report, citing Pew Research, noted that 58 percent of Americans now think the current economic situation is good, while only 40 percent see it as bad. This marks the “best economic assessment since 2007” and “manufacturing optimism is at the highest level in twenty years.” (Fox) Why doesn’t the mainstream media report this openly? It’s some of the best news that’s occurred in a decade. Apparently only Fox and other conservative media are even interested in what’s actually happening on this front.
For many years I have recommended that people get their news from both liberal and conservative outlets, carefully comparing the differences in tone, what is reported as fact, and what is left out of the news. Now such an approach is essential. Those who only listen to the mainstream media only hear a selectively chosen portion of reality.
But the worst problem in all of this is the inability of Washington to tackle and solve big challenges. Why are the eight groups listed above unable or unwilling to come together and fix things? Why, when anyone sincerely attempts to solve our problems and get things going in the right direction, do so many block the path and refuse to allow real change?
The answer is, as one senator put it long ago in response to Andrew Jackson’s election win: “To the victor belongs the spoils.” Indeed, as long as the elite classes and their professional/expert/media collaborators enjoy wealth, status, influence and power from the current system, the less interested they are in change. They like the current system—in this system they rule and the masses unwittingly serve them.
Roadblocks and Bridges
Anyone (Left or Right) who effectively attempts to change this will face the full wrath of elite power: media, money, litigation, vilification, etc. The elite power machine is now in full swing. Indeed, it has been for a long time, consistently increasing elite power and influence, moving always toward higher levels of elite rule over the regular people.
If the masses knew what was happening to them, some say, they wouldn’t stand for it. But the people have their own struggles in today’s world. Specifically, a large majority of the people want the government to scale back and end government overreach, but they don’t agree on what budgets and programs should be cut. Nearly everyone wants major changes in our government, but almost no individual voter supports a reduction or termination of any government program that directly benefits him/her personally. Thus, no deal gets done, not in any big or lasting way.
Given all this, here’s what we now know about the Trump years, even though we’re only a couple of months into his presidency:
- The intense media war against anything and everything Trump is just warming up. It will last a long time. Indeed, those fueling it will never give up. The truth is, the intensity is going to drastically escalate in the months and years ahead. If you think it’s been bad so far, just wait.
- The good news in all this is that more and more citizens, on all sides of the political aisle, are realizing just how untrustworthy much of the media actually is. The mainstream media is losing its once-solid monopoly over the way most people think about important issues. This is a win for the people.
- The battle between those who want to increase elite power and those who want to increase the power and economic opportunity of the masses is the real issue, and it is much bigger (though not nearly as open or vocal) as the conflict between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the partisan battles and skirmishes are largely a smokescreen, a distraction meant to keep the American people from focusing on the real problem and the real goal: to bring more power back to the people.
- Both of the major political parties are dominated by elites, who support elite goals and don’t want the system to change very much. The Establishment is strong and growing stronger.
- The Establishment is, in fact, much stronger than candidate Trump realized, or at least more than he let on. His promise to bring real change to Washington is going to be monumentally difficult. Candidate Obama also once promised real change, and assured us that “Yes We Can.” But the problems, debts, and divisions in Washington got much worse during his presidency. The same happened to Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson…
To Fix or Not To Fix
To get different results, the Trump Administration will have to do something different. Probably, to be realistic, it will need to do something drastically different. It is unclear what this will be, or if they’ll figure it out. But this is the only thing that will make the years just ahead any different in substance than the last four decades. According to the media, nearly everything about the Trump era is different. But according to the size of the federal government and our national debt, things are still headed in the same direction. The real Trump legacy will depend on whether or not the President can actually reduce the debt and downsize Washington.
To start this process, for example, it is likely that the new Administration will now seek friends and allies in surprising places. The first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare showed the White House that there is more going on beneath the surface in Washington than the obvious division between Democrats and Republicans.
Much more. And as long as those who want to reduce elite power and give more power and opportunity to the people do things the same old way, they’ll get the same old results. The glaring truth: Elites in the GOP are as much the enemy of needed change as Democratic elites.
Again, to really bring change, something very different will be required.
The question is, has the new President and his team figured this out yet? And do they know what to do? Truly out-of-the-box originality is needed if they are to actually deliver on their promises. We don’t know how President Trump is doing so far, because we don’t know if the President and his team have made this transition yet—or if they ever will.
I think it’s possible that they are trying. They showed a penchant for surprising innovation and inventiveness during the election—bringing a win that shocked the old-way establishment. But bringing real change, and making it actually work, with so much stacked against them, so much leaning in the other direction, is going to take a miracle.
So, am I hoping the new Administration pulls it off and reduces the size of government and the national debt? Absolutely, yes. First, because our nation desperately needs it to happen—whoever leads it. I would have been thrilled if Obama, Bush, Clinton, or anyone else did it. It simply must be done. Our future literally depends on it.
But there’s a second reason I hope the Trump Administration succeeds and makes it happen. Regardless of how anyone feels about Donald Trump, a lot of people voted for him as a last ditch effort to bring real change. In specific terms, this means reversing the debt and decreasing the size and overreach of government.
If this doesn’t happen, a lot of voters are going to entirely give up. If and when the regular people in America lose hope and decide they’ll never get the kind of government they want, we’ll see the full implementation of elite rule. If this happens, we’ll be an aristocracy, in law as well as culture, within a few short years. Such a development will spell the end of the American Founders’ dream, and the end of many of our freedoms.
April 5th, 2017 // 7:42 am @ Oliver DeMille
“Regular people were cheering me on.
Elites were shouting me down.
I knew I was on to something.”
The Plan vs the Goal
Obamacare is a disaster. Rising premiums, decreasing quality of care, overreaching regulatory coercion, major expense increases to taxpayers, government red tape that is hurting the economy—and will do even more damage when new mandates kick in this fall. None of these are helpful.
But as problematic as Obamacare is, the last thing we need right now is another bad health care law, one steeped in government regulations, confusing, and hastily thrown together—leaving executive branch bureaucrats to fill in the blanks.
The Freedom Caucus was right. We don’t need another bad healthcare law. Such a result would be a disaster for conservatism, and a disaster for the entire nation and our economy.
The new healthcare proposal was significantly better than Obamacare. But this shouldn’t be our standard for something so important. Yes, Republicans promised to fix healthcare, but doing so piecemeal and hurriedly—mainly to score political points—isn’t the right approach. The goal should be an effective, well-conceived healthcare system that really works.
The Freedom Path
Leaving so many things out of the bill, to be later decided by the implementing agencies, means that when the other party wins an election, it can significantly restructure the whole healthcare sector without any say from Congress. This approach creates uncertainty, meaning that health/insurance companies and businesses won’t fully invest in lasting solutions. Not a good start to important legislation.
We need to get this right. And that means the legislative branch should do what it does best: think through every conceivable possibility, argue the varying sides of the issue, and draft a plan that has broad and deep support. Ramming something through more quickly might impress the voters, but that only lasts if the product is effective and sustainable.
Congress has time. Not a lot, but enough. It needs to work on this vigorously until it gets done—but do it right.
On an even larger scale, the initial failure of this bill to even come up for a vote may indicate of a larger victory for the American people: the rebirth of the House of Representatives.
For years the House has played bush-league ball, afraid to take on the major league challenge of the White House–or ineffective when it tried. The media has repeatedly put pressure on the House any time it attempted to use the purse strings (it’s most important Constitutional check on the Executive Branch), and, all too often, the House has caved.
But this time, when the opponent wasn’t the media but rather the White House and the House leadership, the supporters of freedom held firm and refused to allow a bill that would have failed to truly fix the problem. That’s a victory, no matter how the media or the White House spins it.
Purpose and Leadership
It raises serious concerns, such as 1) Why can the House stand against the President, but not against the media or the Court?, and 2) Why is the House leadership so determined to fight against real change?
But even with these problems, it’s nice to see the House reasserting itself in national leadership. Remember: the framers made the House the true arm of the people on the federal level. When the House doesn’t stand up against usurpations by the Executive Branch (as well as against the Senate, the Court, and in the face of an antagonistic media), the whole nation is drastically weakened.
That said, this is only a small victory. It remains to be seen whether this spark of House leadership will be fleeting or something more permanent. It is also unclear whether the House will now continue to lead on the issue of Health Care; it defeated one bad plan, but will it go on to effectively pass a good plan? That’s the real test.
If it does, we may be at the cusp of a new era of leadership from the House. If not, it will emerge from this year’s failures weaker than ever.
March 14th, 2017 // 4:52 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Why Did the American People Give Donald Trump the Presidency?
The mainstream media doesn’t get it. Why did the majority of people in the majority of states—enough to win the Electoral College—vote for Donald Trump in the last national election? For much of the elite class, not just in national newspaper offices and television network suites, but also in Hollywood circles and the halls of academia, the election of Trump makes no sense. They blame flaws in Hillary’s campaign, or Jared Kushner’s algorithms, or even Putin’s hackers.
The underlying belief among much of the elite is, “Someone smarter than the masses must have made this happen; the people certainly didn’t do this all on their own.” For elites, the explanation is still as shocking and elusive as it was on election night. The impossible happened, in their view. Therefore something must be amiss.
The truth is much more simple. The American people chose Donald Trump, for better or for worse, because they saw something the media and other elites never grasped—and still don’t. Love Trump or hate him, or anything in between, but it’s important to understand what happened, to know why voters put him in the Oval Office. We need to understand what they wanted, and what they’re still expecting from him today and in the years ahead.
Powers Big and Small
To get to the bottom of this blue-state mystery, we first need to reject the typical media attempts to explain something they don’t really understand. Simplistic rationalizations such as “white backlash” or “the rise of the angry-uneducated-poor” lack comprehension. These types of analysis show just how deeply most elites misunderstand the situation. Their shocked faces on election night demonstrated the level to which they lack clarity on what occurred—and is still occurring.
The problem is a huge gap of understanding between elites and the masses. The rift between these two groups is extreme—and widening. Today there is a great need to translate the view of the masses on freedom and progress to the elite classes (who are deeply dipped in the sauce of university-ism, careerism, and professionalism, all of which color their attempts to understand).
To begin with, the great challenge of freedom is that it is vulnerable, as Michael Polanyi assured us in his 1951 classic The Logic of Liberty. If freedom isn’t protected by the vigilance, sacrifice, and wisdom of the masses, it is even weak. Note that it is the vigilance and sacrifice of the masses that matters, not the training or sophistication of the upper class. Indeed, freedom is vulnerable and even weak precisely because the elite classes exist—and are always trying to take over. When elites of any sort rule, freedom declines for the large majority of people.
Thus the American framers gave the voting power–ultimate sovereignty and control over the government–to the masses. Not to the popular vote, but rather to the majority of people in the majority of states (through the electoral college). They did this so that a few of the most populous states couldn’t combine as a kind of elite ruling group. The framers not only wanted the people to rule, but for all people, even in little towns and on the back roads, to have a real say in government.
Why? History is clear on this: whatever group is in charge treats itself better than other groups. Always. Thus the solution to dominating rule is to have the masses govern. But even this would lead to some corruption, so the framers had the masses rule certain things (locales, states, the House, the purse strings) while elites in each state were allowed to rule other things (the Senate, foreign relations, protection of the states). National elites were given no direct power under the Constitution because the framers considered them too dangerous.
Checks in Action
Freedom is vulnerable, even weak, unless the people keep elites in check–but how? Answer: Elections. The framers knew that the masses understood something the various elite groups would never quite grasp: what the people really want. Of course, elites always think they know what is best for the masses, believing that somehow their “superior” education, training, views or wealth make them better able to tell their “inferiors” what is needed. This was arguably the framers’ biggest worry, that such elites would rule (e.g. Federalist 1,10,14,17-20,51).
Elections were designed precisely to put down such elite power.
The elite classes certainly dislike this arrangement. Who wouldn’t? But it is the very arrangement the framers gave us, and for this precise reason: to keep elites in their place. That the elite establishment is still shocked when it happens is ironic. No matter how often they think they’ve finally circumvented the Constitution and replaced chaotic Jeffersonian-society with clean, ordered aristocracy (though they never openly use this term), elections somehow keep coming along and disrupting their plans. Madison must be grinning from beyond the grave.
In the 2016 presidential election, the framers’ system once more stood up and rocked the institutions of the elite. That they’ll fight back is clear. But what will they fight against? It isn’t Trump that did this. Madison did. Hamilton gave it eloquence, Franklin added gravity, and Washington provided clout. And here’s the rub: few elites even understand why it happened. They fight it in a rage, but what, exactly are they fighting against? Most aren’t sure…
In contrast, most of the masses do understand. It was time to reduce elite power.
There is a reason most elites struggle to cut through the clutter and understand what happened. Their language isn’t designed to explain this. Their training never included it. They grasp at straws, like sophomore students of Mandarin, content to memorize vocabulary but only vaguely aware that the tone of each word drastically alters its meaning. For elites, today’s political tone from middle America is distant, unclear, alien. Most aren’t even sure it is real.
They prefer to explain away the masses as “angry.” But ask them what causes the anger, or why so many people thought Trump was the solution. The elites don’t know how to explain this to their children, much less articulate it fluently to themselves. It is a mystery… something most modern elites deeply resent and consider inferior. Not quite tangible.
With all their training, status, and cosmopolitanism, why are many elites so clueless about the masses? Because most non-elites communicate their political views in a different language, something elites find strange and unexpected. Also, partly, because most elites have spent a lot of personal and institutional effort trying to climb the status ladder away from the masses. To “rise above” their roots. To leave the crowd, which they largely, as mentioned, consider inferior.
Once they’ve “arrived” and become part of the professional and elite classes, the thought of going back, or, even worse, of realizing that the masses have something elite culture doesn’t—or, horror of horrors, that it might even be better in some ways—is largely unacceptable to them. The socialization of professional and elite culture makes people almost purposely unable to understand what is going on among the masses.
In other words, modern professional/elite education and training customizes people with a certain way of seeing the world. As a result, they frequently believe nobody has more wisdom than they do—certainly not people who weren’t trained to see things in the same way. But people who don’t bother or don’t know how to analyze certain things in the accepted academic way aren’t less intelligent, they just aren’t trained to respond to things in the prescribed academic format.
Instead, they use their intelligence in other ways—analyzing, considering, noticing, and responding to myriad additional clues in their search for understanding. As such, they naturally come up with different conclusions than the proscribed expert/professional method.
Who is to say their way is inferior? The truth is, the framers believed that the masses should be given more power than elites in electing our political leaders. The framers knew that the American masses would be best at knowing what is best for the American masses.
It’s really very simple. The masses vote for what they want, and elites sometimes don’t understand it because the elites want something very different. Specifically, the 2016 election meant the following to the masses:
- America was on the verge of turning its entire government and culture over to elite domination, and we have been heading in that direction ever since the end of Ronald Reagan’s tenure.
- It was time to reverse this trend, to reduce the power of elites and give more power back to the people.
Like the shocking upheavals that lifted a Jefferson, Jackson, or Reagan to the presidency (tearing down the growing power of elite groups, even wreaking havoc and division, but the very kind of chaos and division that drastically reduces elite power) the majority of people in a majority of states turned to Trump. Indeed, if the masses in the Democratic Party would have had their way (without the elite-class power of super-delegates), Bernie Sanders, another anti-elitist, might well be the president right now.
Two Different Elections
To the professional/elite classes this all made little sense. Accustomed by educational training and long years of seeking status in the world, the elite classes computed the election using the accepted tools of academia, career, and government. The masses had no such blockage. While the establishment shook its head in dismay, saying “he’ll bring chaos,” “he’s a blowhard,” “he’s so offensive,” “he’s spreading hatred,” and so on, many of the masses said, “He’s not one of them. He doesn’t talk like them. He doesn’t think like them. We need to stop them.”
The elite class voted based largely on the issues. They emphasized facts, figures, policies, and specifics. That’s what all politicians do—at least those who appeal to the elite classes (including most of the mainstream media).
In contrast, the masses voted to reduce the increasing power of elites.
Read that last sentence again. That’s what happened in the 2016 election. The masses wanted someone to fight against elites. They chose a Jackson. Hated by the establishment. Hated even, perhaps, by a majority of the masses. But seen as one who hopefully might be able to stand for the majority of people in the majority of states—against any more power to the elite class.
Elite culture wanted someone who appealed to them, their standards, their values, their tone, their club—a Gore, a Bush even, a McCain, Romney, Biden, Kerry, Rubio, or Clinton. Someone who played the establishment game—universityism, careerism, professionalism. Put very simply: They wanted someone who believed in and trusted experts.
According to all their metrics, Trump wasn’t even qualified to run for president. But to the winning voters, only one qualification mattered: Can he stop or slow the increasing power of elites? Not all voters articulated their feelings this way, but it was the pivot-point of the election.
First, however, such voters wanted to be sure he wasn’t actually one of them, one of the elites. He was a billionaire, after all. How could they be sure he wasn’t just pretending to be against elite rule? They found their answer in his speeches, in his language. Where the elite classes hated Trump’s imprecise language (his penchant for ignoring the facts and even stating wrong facts as long as they supported his narrative), this very approach convinced the masses that he isn’t one of the elites. Not for more elite rule. Rich, yes. But not one of them.
The more the media railed against him for his imprecise language, “tenuous connection to the facts”, and “outlandish claims and attacks”, the more secure the masses became. “He’s not one of them, he’s on our side,” they said. This continues long after the election, and most of the elite media still seem to have no idea it is happening.
The People’s Goals
A lot of voters hoped Trump could stop the power of elites, including many who disliked his personality or disagreed with him on the issues, or worried that he might turn authoritarian. Truly effective CEOs, Peter Drucker taught, are selected not on the basis of their overall strengths (the “impressive” candidate) or for their lack of weaknesses or personal flaws (the “affable” candidate), but because they are the most likely to accomplish the one biggest thing the organization most desperately needs.
Many American voters saw Trump in this light: Stop or slow the spread of elite power.
This changed the whole equation—but in ways the professional/elite/expert-loving class couldn’t even fathom. It was so far outside of their training that they laughed when Trump’s name came up, from the beginning of his campaign right up until late evening on election night. Even then, they refused to believe what they were witnessing.
Once he won, their laughter turned to anger. But they still didn’t understand. The American people elected Trump precisely because these laughing elites and professionals wouldn’t like it. He was elected to reduce their power and influence, to keep them from becoming any more powerful. To block them, thwart them, weaken them. To give the economy and our national destiny back to the masses, not leave it to the whims of the few in elite conclaves of power and influence.
The masses want change. They want to remake the economy into a nation for all, not just a nation for elites or those who play the education/career game outlined by elites (mainly for the benefit of elites).
As the establishment slowly figures this out, the more enraged and extreme their reaction becomes. The election was a referendum on them! Thus their angry opposition in the media will continue.
“Did the masses even understand candidate Trump’s position on the issues?” elites ask. Answer: Yes. They understood that his take on the issues was mostly the opposite of what the elites stand for. That was enough.
Questions and Answers
But there is more. What exactly is it that the masses understand in their non-establishment-style assessments of the election? What wisdom do they have that the elites simply can’t grasp—and that isn’t being reported in the media? What are those who put Trump into office actually seeking? On the one hand, it’s simple: reduce the power of elites. On the other hand, now that the election is over, what the masses want from Trump is deeper than the elite classes realize. What is it?
The answer to this question will be discussed in Part II of this Article, out next week.
For now, the glaring reality of the election stands, and there are those who know what it is, and those who don’t. To repeat: Voters elected Trump to reduce the power of elites.
Those who understand this, understand the election. They also understand why the media is so extreme and angry right now, and why this extremism will continue. Those who don’t understand this don’t understand the election—or current politics in Washington and around the nation.
Those who understand this also know that the elite media will do everything in its ability to get back its power. Everything. We no longer have anything resembling an objective mainstream media—it is now the leading arm of elites on the warpath. We need to see everything coming from the elite media in this light.
March 7th, 2017 // 8:27 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Three Five Ring Circus
It’s true. When the mainstream media says “chaos” or “chaotic”, it means conservative. When the media says “divisive” or “unAmerican”, it means conservative. When the media says “crisis” or “out of control”, it means conservatives are getting things done. If the mainstream media communicates that everything in Washington is tainted by conflict and tumult, and the leaders are terrible people who want to destroy our nation, it means that conservatives are making headway.
To understand this, let’s begin by taking a broader look at modern politics in general. Today there are 5 (not the traditional 3) major de facto branches of government, each with significant influence, and each exerting power over the American people. Much has changed since the Constitution of 1787. Today’s five branches include:
- federal agencies and bureaucracies (now much bigger than the rest of the executive, legislative, and judicial combined, both in numbers of government employees and organizational budgets)
- media and the parties (which act as major influencers on everything the government does, both in terms of policy and elections)
Each of these five branches acts differently in our time than originally intended by the framers. But the biggest problem in this new governmental arrangement is the federal bureaucracy. Agencies are seldom checked or balanced by the other branches of government, and they routinely get away with numerous unconstitutional or extra-constitutional actions.
Biased Commentary and Unused Powers
Federal agencies now produce a great deal more “law” and policy than Congress, and they mete out more rulings, fines, and regulations than Congress, the White House and the Court combined. Again, they face few checks and balances except budgetary constraints. Note that because of this, their goal is always to grow in budget and power. They are by nature liberal, never conservative, because their objective is to grow and then grow.
The fifth branch of government, encompassing the media, a large part of academia, and the two major political parties, is closely aligned with the federal bureaucracy. Conservatives have a few national media supporters, including many on talk radio and some from Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, for example, but the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, including most television networks and most major newspapers, have a near monopoly on American media. Make no mistake, the mainstream media (including Hollywood) is an integral part of the liberal movement in the United States—as it proves whenever it covers politics.
This is a bad arrangement for the American people because it is heavily weighted. While the nation is split roughly in half between conservatives and liberals, and independents who lean Right or Left are almost evenly divided, the media is strongly liberal. In the famous pre-election survey of 2016, 97 percent of national media professionals were liberal.
This means that media attacks on Republicans in office aren’t going to diminish any time soon. In fact, they’re likely going to get worse. Most of the mainstream news media is no longer trying to be objective—it is openly part of the liberal movement. It does whatever it can to keep its power, and increase its power. This includes lying or skewing the facts if it thinks this will further its agenda.
To summarize: Whether you like or dislike President Trump (and a lot of conservatives are troubled by his style, words, and some policies), the idea that Republicans now control the government because they hold the White House, Congress, and soon the Court, is inaccurate. Even with the executive, legislative and judicial branches in Republican control, the government is deeply split. The majority of those who work for the government in the federal bureaucracy are liberals, and even among those who vote conservative on a personal level, the natural desire to see their agency increase in power and resources means they act like liberals at work.
Also, as mentioned, the media is overwhelmingly liberal. Republicans in Congress hold the purse strings, but they’ve proven afraid to use this power in recent decades. At the same time, the liberal media and bureaucracy have no such fear. They use their power as strongly as they can, and their boldness is escalating.
He Said, She Said
Here’s what to expect in the months and years just ahead: conservatives will try to reduce the power of the bureaucracy and K Street lobbyists (President Trump called this “draining the swamp”), but the media will cry foul—and it will be up to Congress to decide which direction we’ll take. If Congress backs major deregulation and defunding of the bureaucracy, we’ll see economic boom and a rebirth of American freedoms. If not, we won’t.
Whether you like Trump or not, and whether he’s doing things for the right reasons or more authoritarian goals, the current push for deregulation and defunding of the entrenched bureaucracy is good for America. If only Congress will follow through and make it happen.
But make no mistake: The media will fight this at every turn. The more successful Republicans are at deregulating and defunding, the worse the media will react. Remember, the mainstream media and others on the Left compared Reagan and Bush with Hitler and heaped upon them every negative they could muster, and Trump will be no exception.
In short, the conflict between media and conservatives is only going to escalate. If it slows down or weakens, it will mean that conservatives have backed down. Sadly, what we need is a lot more screaming and gnashing of teeth from the mainstream media—signaling that conservatism is making increased headway.
A lot of people don’t like this, but it’s true.
It Sounds Worse Than It Is
The biggest weapon on the media’s side is labeling everything conservatives do with terms like “chaos,” “chaotic,” “confused,” “divisive,” and “extreme”. As long as the media keeps saying this, conservatives know things are going well. Again, the media said similar things about Reagan before he helped reboot the U.S. economy and national security, and the media said similar things about Reagan before his leadership brought the Soviet Union to its knees and Berlin Wall to the ground.
The media said these kinds of things about the Tea Parties in 2010, just before conservatives took back the House. The media went on to say similar things about the GOP just before it took control of the Senate. The media said similar things about Republican candidates at all levels in the 2016 election, just before they kept both houses of Congress and took back the White House—and, by extension, the Court.
The media is saying these types of things about conservatives today, which signals that conservatives are making real progress. As mentioned, if the media ever stops accusing conservatives of “chaos”, “divisiveness”, “ineptitude”, “being unhinged’, and “causing upheaval”, it will be time to worry.
We are, today, witnessing the fight of our generation. Even conservatives and Right-of-center independents who don’t like Trump, Trump’s style, or Trump’s policies have to admit that under a Hillary presidency things would have gotten very, very bad—starting with the Court, and then spreading through government and society at all levels.
We need conservatism to win this battle—to deregulate our nation and economy in numerous important ways, and to significantly defund the federal bureaucracy. This is going to be decided in Congress, and we need Congress to do the right thing. If this doesn’t occur, we may never have another chance in our life times.
So keep an eye on the mainstream media. As long as it is loudly opposed to the White House and Congress, conservatives are making progress. If the mainstream media ever starts praising the government or its leaders, citizens will know that something is going terribly wrong.