In 2006, Time magazine named “you” the Person of the Year. I was not that impressed, even though I can technically put “Time 2006 Person of the Year (shared)” on my resume. It seemed too much like non-competitive soccer. “You’re all person of the year.”
Perhaps the better comparison with the 2006 Time magazine Person of the Year Award is President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. Time gave us all the Person of the Year Award in hopes of what we would do with all this technology, and that all this exciting social technology would be used for good and not evil.
Time magazine’s confidence in us has paid off, though perhaps not in the way Time’s editors hoped. As we began this year, many conservatives examined the landscape. Barack Obama was elected by the largest electoral landslide in two decades. He had a guaranteed 59 Senate seats in his hip pocket, along with 40 votes to spare in their House majority. Conservatives looked at the basic fact that all that stood between America and Obama’s agenda was a hopelessly outnumbered John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.
We were doomed.
That was before the Democrats added a House seat after the fiasco in New York’s 23rd district that saw the GOP’s decision to nominate an insufferable liberal toss the seat into the Democrat column, and Arlen Specter’s marriage of convenience to the Democratic Party added another Senate seat.
We were beyond doomed.
But as 2009 draws to a close, Obama’s agenda, with the exception of the stimulus, has been stymied. Democrats chose not to push the Freedom of Choice Act. Card check was checked by red-state Democrats who’d like to keep their political careers. And cap and trade has seen its potential for passage capped by opposition from the dean of the Senate, Robert Byrd (D-WV). ObamaCare is on life support as the plan that appears capable of passing the Senate would draw howls from the U.S. House.
The question is: Why? Who shut down this well-oiled, well-financed Obama train? No answer presents itself at the traditional level. There is no congressional leader who, like Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, foiled the Democrats’ scheme.
Nor is there an answer to be found in the media. We can say that talk show hosts and certain bloggers matter based on the bestsellers list. Glenn Beck and Mark Levin were on the bestsellers list, and Glenn Beck made it there not once, but twice. Throw in Mike Huckabee’s Christmas book and you know why some are calling for separate but equal bestsellers lists to give liberal books a chance at the coveted title.
But none of this has to do with why the Obama agenda has stalled. Last year, all the figures and institutions were doing well, making a lot of money, and McCain was nominated and Obama still won. What’s happened this past year wasn’t them; it was you.
It was the hundreds of thousands marching in tea parties across America. It was people using Facebook and Twitter to plan rallies and events. It was the political neophyte marching out into the political arena, not for glory and honor, but for the good of the country.
It was citizen journalists with limited resources who led exposes of Planned Parenthood and ACORN. The latter investigation even won the grudging admiration of Jon Stewart. Simply put, these and other grassroots actions succeeded while Republican leadership remains in shambles.
While Time extended its “love for you” to every person in the world, there’s no need to be so charitable. There are many countries around the world where the local “yous” haven’t done anything worthy of recognition. Just having a Facebook account isn’t enough for this. However, some “yous” beyond our borders did take a big step forward and take big risks for liberty. This summer’s Iranian protests of the reelection of madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were blocked out by the Iranian government. However, the youth of Iran leveraged Twitter and social networking to share the world. Their efforts didn’t succeed in changing Iran’s government, but they did strike a blow in what will be a long battle for liberty and blaze trails in fighting tyranny in the information age.
In America, the “people of the year” have quite a task before them. In the 2010 and 2012 elections, the number one task for newly active conservatives is to “get it right” and to elect leaders who will protect our liberty and seriously address our most pressing problems in a way the Republicans haven’t.
The importance of getting it right is crucial because the conservative surge will eventually shrink. As much as this statement may chafe both the nascent political activist and the longtime pro, it’s a fact of life.
We live in a republic, and the foundational idea of our republic is that we elect people to wisely carry out the business of government with as little intrusion into the life of the individual as possible. When last year Michelle Obama told people President Obama “will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed,” she showed that Obamas do not understand how America works.
America has never had a system of government that demanded constant involvement. Rather, the Founders created a system of checks and balances with a representative form of government that could allow the individual to focus his life on himself, his family, and his community, not Capitol Hill.
The left has an easy time establishing a permanent activist class. It’s not hard when the success of your policies means people will become dependent on your programs, and bureaucracies will be created that will overwhelmingly be made up of your political supporters. True liberty doesn’t create much bureaucracy.
The long-term success or failure of your noble actions in 2009 will depend on the leaders you bring to office. A few years ago, the grassroots conservatives stood up and forced from office an out-of-control, big-spending gubernatorial administration. Wise GOP bosses who hadn’t been able to defeat the Democratic executive anointed a candidate from on high and that candidate was elected.
However, did the activists get what they want? Were the hours spent in the hot sun and in all kinds of weather justified by the results of their hard work? The 2003 grassroots California recall effort led to the disastrous election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Thus, while I applaud the people of the year, I offer a charge for all of us as we move into 2010 and 2012.
Get it right.