For several years, I have been writing for an audience I defined as constitutionalists, conservatives, and libertarians, believing that the vast majority of my audience were, in fact, principled, philosophical members of, or strong sympathizers with, one of these three political perspectives. This Republican primary has been a rude awakening, a bucket of cold water at 3am, and a betrayal – as I’ve discovered that many people in the freedom, patriot, conservative, TEA Party movement (whatever you call it) are not actually interested in any of these principles.
Whether this conservative, limited-government movement truly began with Coolidge or Goldwater, Buckley or Reagan, one may never know; but what we do know is that this movement, in its many manifestations over the last one hundred years has been predicated on a few shared philosophical and practical principles.
First, the freedom movement is a Constitutional movement. We believe in the original intent of the framers, in exclusionary and enumerated powers for the federal government and that all other powers ought to have been left to the States, to the localities, and to We The People as individual sovereigns.
Second, this conservative movement has always been (certainly since Coolidge) a rejection of generational theft through federal debt. Again, these principles hearken back to our founding. Thomas Jefferson understood that debt was a vicious antagonist of liberty.
“I sincerely believe… that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816. ME 15:23 (famguardian.org)
“[With the decline of society] begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia [war of all against all], which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.” –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:40
“Then I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:455
When the TEA Party exploded onto the scene, it was in response to the reckless spending of a Republican Legislature and a Republican President who were mercilessly stealing and splurging on the wealth of their children and grandchildren, yet to be earned and to be paid back with interest.
We knew then that our government was out of control, that it was beyond any sound principle or doctrine, and that change was necessary to stave off further abuse and tyranny. The liberty movement had begun – it was a civil rights movement on behalf of those not yet born!
Third, we believe in protecting the civil liberties, privacy, and political liberty of all Americans, excluding none. Ron Paul was the face of this rising tide, and millions of our fellow Americans rallied to his banners.
Those who shared these values was the audience I chose, the audience I wrote for, and the audience I thought I was encouraging. I thought our numbers had grown and that we all understood and accepted these three basic perspectives and principles.
Then Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President and the terrible truth became clear.
A large minority of the TEA Party, the liberty movement, the conservative movement, were not principled constitutionalists, conservatives, and libertarians, but populists. The populists want to win, but they don’t care how they win. The populists want their way, they don’t care if they are a minority. The populists want to force their agenda on their country, whether or not their country desires it.
Their motivations were purely personal, not principled. They don’t want to remove the powers our established political parties have created; they simply want to be in control of those powers, to exercise those powers and that force for their own agenda – Constitution be damned.
Donald Trump and his supporters are willing to continue to grow executive power. They justify this by virtue of acknowledging that their agenda is better than previous agendas. Donald Trump and his supporters will not address the debt. It is entirely possible that a Trump Administration spends more money and creates more debt than President George W. Bush or President Barack H. Obama. His supporters don’t care.
It is also clear that Donald Trump and his supporters do not respect our civil liberties, privacy, or political liberty. His supporters don’t care. Just build a wall, they say.
Donald Trump, not unlike George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama, is exactly what the TEA Party rose up against, why the freedom movement began, and why the Ron Paul revolution occurred. I never thought our ranks could be split, but apparently, so long as we’re deporting Hispanics and pointing our fingers at Muslims, and putting tariffs on Chinese goods, it really doesn’t matter to many of our friends what happens to the rest of our country.
We’re on the brink here ladies and gentlemen. Our federal government is too large for us to afford. We’re going bankrupt. That might be fine for Donald Trump and our parents and grandparents, who, out their own greed have, for the first time, left a more vulnerable and less prosperous world to their progeny. Shame on them.
Donald Trump is not a foregone conclusion, but we must not forget who and what he is, nor ought we to forget who his supporters are and were (as many of them will no doubt disavow their loyalties when this all blows up in their face). They are not truly our allies. Yes, they will fight beside us against an out of control government, but only insofar as we are fighting to replace the current establishment with a new populist crop.
We must remember that it is not the exercise of executive and bureaucratic power the populists oppose, but rather access to that power which serves as their sole desire and motivation.
Donald Trump is not a foregone conclusion. We can still win. We must simply recognize that to do so we are fighting without much of the strength we thought we had. When we do win, we must be cautious and concerned about who’s who – who’s with us on principle and who’s just looking to be next in line to exercise excessive political power.