Several Tea Party-favored candidates have had surprising success this primary season. Most of them have a very good chance of winning, in many cases against savvy, experienced incumbents with ties to major funding and media they can rely on for support. Overall, Republicans are poised to become a majority in the House and possibly even the Senate this November.
There’s been a sea change in the country, much quicker and more substantial than liberty lovers might have expected as recently as a year ago. Yet for some of us, it’s hard to escape a nagging question.
What happens after January when the new congressional session begins?
That feeling can seem like foolish pessimism. Things could be worse — left unreversed, current trends guarantee it. And the odds of our situation getting better next year are so good it seems ungrateful to indulge gloomy thoughts.
Still, for those who have been through this euphoria before — after Nixon’s resignation, after Reagan’s election, and after the 1994 Contract with America — the potential for disappointment does not seem small.
Even initially well-intentioned politicians make compromises, backslide, and ultimately neglect the American people.
Fortunately, that’s not inevitable. In our political system, we do often get more or less the government we ask for, where “we” is everyone but those at the two ends of the bell curve. With the shift of the electorate towards the right on that curve, things look promising this year for getting semi-decent representation.
The trick is how to keep the momentum going after January, assuming victory in November. How can we ensure that candidates who promise less spending, adherence to Constitutional limits, and relief from the perpetual tightening of the federal noose live up to their commitments once in office?
There are several ways to encourage that result.
One is to keep the pressure on — not just over the next two months, but through the next two years and indefinitely. Progressivism didn’t come to dominate the state and federal governments overnight; it was a gradual process carried out over generations by patient, dedicated destroyers. Similarly, the pro-freedom movement is not going to succeed simply because of elections in 2010, 2012, or even a decade hence.
Our situation will not improve solely via electing “the right people.”
There’s enormous pressure on politicians with even the best character to dilute their good principles. The spoils system in place makes it far too easy for even mostly honorable politicians to sell out those who elected them. Anyone who’s worked for a big company has seen that many times. Guys you’ve worked with for years who’d never think to lie, bootlick, or play politics get into management and quickly become corporate players. Men you would’ve once handed a blank check to pay for lunch soon become your biggest enemy under pressure from above.
Luckily, unlike the typical corporate setting, as a voter you don’t have to passively accept it. You’re the boss. You set the rules your employees — your representatives — have to work by, on pain of terminating their contracts. But like a good supervisor, you have to stay vigilant lest their temptation to slack off becomes overwhelming. That means continuing to blog, comment, talk to friends, stay active in local and state politics … all the things you’re doing now.
Few can afford the time, even when they have the interest, to make it a full-time avocation. But for some time to come, a heightened awareness and a degree of active participation is a must. We won’t be off the knife edge for at least two-and-a-half years. Even ten years from now, if everything goes well (and it won’t always), we’ll still be far from restoring to America the freedoms enjoyed by our great-grandparents.
Beyond staying informed and pushing for freedom, Constitutional limits, and fiscal sanity, it’ll be important to increase our own level of education.
Here, “education” means learning more — and teaching others more — about American and world history, about real-world capitalist economics, about political philosophy and related subjects. It’s worse than useless to pay attention, stay informed, and urge liberty if you don’t know how to defend your rights.
Progressives will likely suffer electoral defeat this November and in 2012, but they’re not about to give up and go away. They’ll still be a serious influence in education, media, and think tanks. George Soros, Pinch Sulzberger, and fifty more like them could disappear tomorrow and there will be a hundred standing in line to advocate statism for another generation.
The only way to keep them in check, and ultimately reduce their influence back to the tiny street corner crowds where they belong, is to keep proving them wrong to “the man in the street.” That requires having solid, sensible answers in the face of Progressive arguments cleverly designed to appear reasonable. Honing one’s knowledge on the topics above is a lifelong process and crucially important for having those answers at your fingertips whenever needed.
Two examples: everyone would profit from reading Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson (or Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics) and Burton Folsom’s The Myth of the Robber Barons. Absorbing just those two books would arm free market advocates against the most popular Progressive distortions of history and economics.
The final suggestion here is the hardest to implement over the long haul: keep your spirits high. This struggle is bound to wear on the strongest of constitutions, but the alternative is apathy, pessimism, or cynicism — all of which destroy the country and the soul.
Said Thomas Paine in The Crisis:
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. … Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.