These are dark days for lovers of liberty and the American Republic. Evidence is mounting that our entire political elite has cast its lot with government by the arrogant and unaccountable few. The abandonment of national and local sovereignty is now a habit with leaders of both parties, whether it be the betrayal of American sovereignty to the World Trade Organization, or of state and local sovereignty to a Congress that wants to dictate legal blood alcohol levels to the states. And the role of moral principle in our public life is, shall we say, obscure at the moment.
Are we close to the moment when we will need a second “shot heard round the world,” and face the obligation that our Founders did of declaring the old way dead and a revolution inevitable?
I actually don’t think we are very close at all. The main difference between our situation and that of the Americans of the pre-Revolutionary period is that one of the grievances they had was precisely that the process for redress of grievance was shut down. They had tried various means within their colonial legislatures, but many of those bodies had been shut down. Revolution was ultimately justified by the impossibility of seeking justice without it. We can make no such claim today.
If we want to make a revolution — perhaps “restoration” would be the better word — all we have to do is get up off our behinds. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make real political change in America.
The only thing that really determines political power in this country is who shows up at the voting booth, the caucuses, and the party precinct meetings. When principled and courageous people have actually worked their hearts out, they have made real progress and achieved real power.
In fact, I will remain a Republican, and not encourage conservatives to join in a third-party movement, until we have made full use of the obvious opportunities that the grass roots conservative majority has labored to create within the party. If we do that, we will sweep the corrupt establishment aside and fashion the Republican Party into the national instrument for political renewal that America so desperately needs.
Yet, in politics, most conservatives make more excuses than progress, because we are not willing to take risks. We don’t have the guts our Founding Fathers had. They risked bullets, while most conservatives today apparently won’t even risk the embarrassment of supporting a losing candidate in order to take a stand for principle. This is probably most of the explanation, in fact, for the implosion of resolve in our supposedly revolutionary conservative Congress.
And it is certainly the explanation for getting people like Bob Dole as our presidential nominee. Supposedly smart conservative “operators” have been leading grass roots conservatives down the road of calculation and concession, because they have accepted the servile and false view that “the media” and “the establishment” can prevent a free people from acting to correct what ails us.
We could turn this country around overnight if half the conservatives who talk a good game would be willing to make one simple commitment — to select, in each election, the candidate who is in fact best for the job according to principle, and then make a modest effort to support that candidate, regardless of conventional analyses of the chances for success.
We are encouraged by the media and by our political leaders to believe that we are helpless, because they know that a relatively few determined citizens can make a powerful difference. Americans, including conservatives, are increasingly just spectators and passive consumers of politics. We watch, comment, speculate, moan and groan, but are not willing to take action.
So the question really becomes whether conservatives themselves remain fit for self-government. Will we continue grumpily to suppress our better hopes, and accept a new order that can satisfy our material passions, but not our souls?
We can have all the money and sex and comfort we want, and we can be secure, if we just agree to stay in our comfortable chairs watching our national life on television, and give up our active power to others, letting them shape our destiny instead of the sovereign people who are supposed to shape it. This is the velvet-glove despotism all our leaders are offering now.
That mindset is evident even in much of the Republican leadership, as they help lure us into the phony belief that somebody else is going to take care of us. That’s how the liberals have led us down the garden path all these years, and now we have big-government “conservatives” taking the same approach.
The real aim of our politics must be self-government, and self-government literally cannot be retained by a passive people. We can keep our freedom only by continually claiming it anew, and we can effectively claim it only by undertaking the hard work of actually governing ourselves.
Before grumbling about lighting the fires of revolution, we ought to summon the energy at least to get out of our chairs and go humbly to work to preserve the liberty we have inherited.