Manifesto for the Grand Old Tea Party

(Centennial Fellow) This essay is my argument for why America needs the Republican Party and the Tea Party to combine forces to form a semi–new political party, the GOTP or Grand Old Tea Party. William F. Buckley wrote in 1955 that National Review “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Had Mr. Buckley’s wisdom been heeded the Republican Party today would be yelling Stop! In fact, it is not yelling stop, nor has it yelled stop since at least the 1980s. At best, Republicans have been in concert with the Democrats using the refrain “slow down, slow down” to the opposition’s “speed up speed up.” Now more than ever, it seems that as Will Rogers once said, there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties. Look to the record.

Bush Republicans outspent Bill Clinton’s administration. Admittedly, Clinton did not have united government but the Republicans did. If the Bush Republicans have stood athwart history they would not have increased the size of the budget the debt and the government. At best they slowed the growth.

The American people have come to understand this. If one looks at the polls Republicans are not much more popular than are Democrats. Granted, the Republicans will take control of the House and, and with the cooperation of Blue–Dog Democrats, have a good deal of power in the Senate. Allow me to ask whether this is a good thing? Assume Republicans control both Houses and stand athwart President Obama. What are the chances, without the influence of the Tea Party or more importantly Tea Party members in the legislature, repealing Obamacare in toto? With utmost respect—it will not happen!

There any number of reasons this will not happen. What mitigates against change in the Congress is the Norm of Universalism. Walter J. Stone, relying on the researches of David Mayhew, says that the Norm of Universalism states that the “activities in which members of Congress engage to get themselves reelected, do not usually hinder other members’ attempt to get reelected.” He goes on to state that in the Madisonian theory, “each legislator’s reelection depends on his ability to satisfy general policy interests.” This will bring members into conflict, resulting in compromise. But the Norm of Universalism is contrary to the Madisonian theory, and, “conflict among legislators may even make their individual reelection more difficult.” Conflict between members would greatly reduce particularized benefits, Congressional benefits targeted at particular constituency, i.e. earmarks. Stone concludes everyone wins! Except government, the national debt and deficits continue to grow. Thus, change is stifled but the growth of government continues because it is in each individual member’s re–election interest to buy constituents votes by doling out government largesse. If it occurred in a back alley and not the floor of Congress they would all go to jail. Paul Jacob, Senior Fellow, Americans for Limited Government, says, “[T]he message being sent, clearly, is that Senators [and by extension members of the House] aren’t supposed to challenge other members’ notions of the worthiness of state projects.”

As professional politicians, mainstream Republicans are most interested in keeping their seats in the House and Senate. While I am unable to read minds, one can see “moderate” Republicans not taking candy from babies, that is, not removing healthcare benefits and entitlements. How politically dangerous is it to remove benefits citizens who already have those benefits? What are the chances “moderate” Republicans will stop funding mass transit while our interstate highway and road system continues to deteriorate? Will they attempt to return to a real balance between state and national government by repealing laws like the National Drug Enforcement Act which do not allow individual states to govern themselves as they see fit. Will the “moderate” Republicans actually cut the size of government?

Let me continue this thought experiment. If my hypothesis is correct, that mainstream Republicans will do little to actually change government over the next two years, Republicans will chip away at a variety of different programs, Pres. Obama will become known as the veto president, blaming Republicans for being against progress. Second, I think it is reasonable to believe that, following fully four years of failure, President Obama will step down as a one term president. He does not seem to enjoy the job of president. And, as George Stephanopoulos has said, Obama does not like the theater of politics, a crucial part of presidential leadership as Ronald Reagan fully understood.

By 2012, assuming my scenario is correct, we will have had six years of united government under the Republicans in which we got two wars, bigger government, and bigger debt. We then had four years, 2006 to 2010, of Democrats in the legislature, 2 years of which were united government under Democratic rule and got the greatest depression since, well, the Great Depression. Unless the Republican majority actually changes things, and I do not believe there is any reason to believe “moderate” Republicans will change anything, the only rational behavior for the American voter will be to consciously choose divided government.

The voters will retain the Republican Congress and choose a different Democratic president, read Hillary Clinton. Imagine the excitement of Democrats if they can make history two times in a row: electing the first black president then electing the first female president. On the other hand, if the GOTP is perfectly strategic, it will outbid the Democrats by nominating Michele Bachmann for president and Marco Rubio for vice president. Imagine the angst of liberals in this dilemma.

Unless you believe the racist argument, which is of course childish and moronic, Obama and the Democrats are losing because they promised change and did not deliver. In addition, the change they did bring is not very popular with the American people. But I think the fundamental problem is, as political scientist Theodore Lowi says in his book “The Personal Presidency,” Obama and the Democrats raised expectations well beyond an achievable level. What then will the Republicans do when they get into office? Again, if I am right, not much, but they will be saddled with the same expectation level as Obama had! “Moderate” Republicans cannot stand athwart history but merely astride it.

One thing the 2006 and 2008 elections demonstrated is that the American people do want change. I believe that most Americans, especially now that large numbers of baby boomers have been forced to grow up, are disgusted with politics of the past forty two years. What Obama tapped into in the 2008 campaign was very much what Ronald Reagan understood: what Americans want of their president is an heroic figure who congregates America in search of justice. This conception of a charismatic leader is replete in presidential literature. I think it is best represented in H. Mark Roelofs, “The Prophetic President: Charisma in the American Political Tradition.” What the American people want of their legislature is simply less, not more. The traditional role of Congress has harmonizer of diverse interests is no longer sustainable. And what we want most in our daily lives is more control over our daily lives. We want more control of our children=s education which costs too much and does not produce educated citizens, more control over local police who have become tax collectors, and less control, as the anti–Federalists foresaw, from far–off Washington D.C.

Right now the idea of the Tea Party is more popular than the Republican Party. Therefore, what is best for the people, for the long term interests of the nation as opposed to the short–term calculation of reelection, is to weave the spirit as well as the ideas of the Tea Party into the Republican Party, forming a new political party, The Grand Old Tea Party. The Republican Party, which is conservative on social values and political values, is unlike the Tea Party, which is fiscally and economically conservative. If the Republican Party embraces not just the ideas of the Tea Party, but welcomes Tea Party members in the House and the Senate wholeheartedly into the new party, the American people will feel as though they have actually influenced politics. If the Republican majority does not appoint Tea Party members to major positions in the legislature and the party, the edge conservatives have now will be lost. The expectations of independents along the continuum to conservatives will be sacrificed on the altar of self–interest. What conservative politics in America, and indeed, the American future needs is to write a new book, “Profiles in Conservative Courage,” showing that there are conservatives politicians who actually can govern virtuously. This is change we can believe in.

The current makeup of the Republican Party, fighting off the continuing onslaughts of Democrats, is unsustainable. It might be the influence of Saul Alinsky, it may be that Liberals are just childish brats who never grew up and thus do not have the ability to admit they have been mistaken and withdrawing gracefully to a loyal opposition. The fact is these people are brilliant, much better Than Republicans, at raw politics. Consider the John Roberts hearings. They would not allow Mr. Roberts to leave without a firm commitment to precedent. Make no mistake, they were not arguing on the basis of legal theory. Rather, they take the term “progressive” literally. The old saw of progress being two steps forward, one step back is entirely lost on true believers. They refuse, at almost any cost, to take any step backward. Indeed, look at the language that I am using. Progressives talk in terms steps forward and back. These are not concrete terms but the manipulation of language; Progressives know what they are doing. Conservatives are out of step in political language. What the GOTP can bring to the table is a new language, composed of direction, right and wrong, of correcting mistakes, not going backwards. The Tea Party offers the message that we are on the wrong track, headed in the wrong direction, and we must fix, not just ameliorate, these wrongs. The current Republican Party is incapable of either expressing these ideas or taking the ideas seriously.

Part II

What then is to be done? The GOTP must dedicate the next two years exclusively to economic issues. There are many substantive issues the Congress must deal with, to keep itself, as well as the country going. And of course, there is always the possibility of foreign affairs completely derailing the agenda. However, the new party must resist the tendency to broaden its appeal in order to win the next election. The GOTP will have been elected in order to create jobs and fundamentally change the way government interacts in the economy. Thus, for example, the GOTP must have an absolute ban on all earmarks. One of the things that annoy voters is when politicians go back on their promises. The GOTP, in order to be a truly different party, must gain the trust of the people. If we say we are going to do something we must do it at all costs. Going back on our word with “just one little earmark, which is crucial,” will show we are just another bunch of hacks.

The GOTP must also be committed to truly changing the size of government. This can only be done with bold moves used intelligently. What I mean by this is not just turning off the White House lights or lowering the temperature in government buildings as Jimmy Carter did. The only truly effective way in which to cut the size of the federal government is to reinstate the powers which have been taken away by this Democratic Leviathan.

This necessitates two constitutional amendments: an amendment overturning the 17th amendment and a Federalism amendment. I fully understand the problems inherent in these moves. Understand what is at stake—the future! Here is where we can be truly imaginative in our politics.

The need for overturning the 17th amendment I would hope is obvious. By effectively eliminating the states as a check on the national government, there is no longer an institutional structure in government invested in limiting the size of government. I think that the movement, that is exactly what we need a movement, on the 17th amendment should come from within Congress and, hopefully, move to the states. Not to sound like president Obama but this type of move will not occur overnight. This is why, tactically, we must reinvigorate the economy. If the GOTP does have success on the economy and brings substantive change, the people will begin to trust us. But only if we educate the nation why we are doing what we are doing. So, for example the privatization of Social Security should be discussed in terms of a free people, liberty loving individuals choosing to be responsible and govern themselves and not depend on big government.

The Federalism amendment is a necessary adjunct to overturning the 17th amendment. Ever since the end of the Civil War the concept of federalism has been declining to the point where today states think of themselves as entitled stepchildren of the federal government. Madison explained federalism in Federalist 45: “The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce … The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.” In a letter to Major John Cartwright Jefferson emphasized that the states are not hierarchically secondary to the national government. Both are “coordinate departments of one simple and integral whole … The one is the domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government.” In a letter to George Washington in 1791, Jefferson saw the 10th amendment as “the foundation of the Constitution.”

In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on April 23, 2009, entitled, “The Case for a Federalism Amendment,” Prof. Randy Barnett of Georgetown makes his case for this amendment. Basically, his suggestion for the amendment is a legally specific spelling out the logical implications of the 10th amendment prior to the first Progressive era. Indeed, the best possible amendment would be one that all people of goodwill would shrug their shoulders and say that this is all already in the Constitution. That is precisely the point: there is in the Constitution it has been lost and needs to be reiterated. The amendment would then serve notice the GOTP is serious about federalism. Indeed, one can see the states using the proposed amendment as a springboard to bringing cases before, eventually, the Supreme Court forcing courts to rule on another important element overturning power to the states, nullification.

The federalism amendment should come from the states themselves. Article V provides that, “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states,” Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments.” Before becoming law, any amendments produced by such a convention would then need to be ratified by three quarters of the states. I can feel the consternation in the air. However, if, as I argue, the future of liberty is at stake, we must take truly bold steps to correct the egregious mistakes of the past.

Prof. Barnett admits that this type of convention could get completely out of hand. But, “it is precisely the fear of a runaway convention that states can exploit to bring Congress to heel.”

One problem I do have with Prof. Barnett’s federalism amendment is that he proposes to overturn the 16th amendment, the income tax. While I understand that this might cut some of the national government=s power, command it is probable that in order to gain enough votes to repeal the 16th amendment, the opposition would demand, in the spirit of compromise, an alternative which would probably be revenue neutral. More importantly however, what does the 16th amendment have to do federalism?

Frank Easterbrook, in Are Constitutional Changes Necessary to Limit Government? argues that, A[B]y abolishing the apportionment requirement, the 16th Amendment gave the federal government the power to control 100% of the entire economy … In that combination of powersCit=s right there, it=s a logical consequence of the 16th AmendmentCgives the federal government control over almost anything it chooses to control.”

But the 16th amendment does not confer a new power on the federal government. The ability to tax already existed 16th amendment removed the acquirement that taxes be apportioned. When one looks at the two amendments, which were passed at approximately the same time, one sees the wholesale removal of a crucial check on the expansion of federal government power.

And, as I noted above, we need to be very strategic in our language. The essence of the campaign should be we are returning government to we the people. Hoping that I have not lost those of you who now think I have gone into a fairytale, let me continue by saying that I can imagine the states, qua states, being against these moves. Indeed, state politicians would likely be against such a move. Federal funding to states in 2008 was approximately $450,000,000,000. By 2011 the states will undoubtedly have over one half trillion dollars to spend. This is free money for the states; citizens of the state to protect the “benefits” but state politicians do not bear the cost of raising taxes.

But think about exactly why politicians, from either party, would be against these moves; this is precisely what needs to be changed and if we are actually serious about change in the future, it is incumbent upon us, nay imperative, to institute real change which can only come if these two amendments are passed.

Allow me to conclude by suggesting a way in which the GOTP might really change politics. The American people want change in politics. But there is an area which, much like the weather, we all talk about do–nothing: negative ads and negative campaigns. First, we know that politicians use negative campaigning because they work. However, in the spirit of Glenn Beck at the Lincoln Memorial, the GOTP must be the good guys.

A quick story about an acquaintance of mine who was running for office. He was going to be interviewed by a local DJ, not a political commentator. The DJ opened the interview with, “can you say one good thing about your opponent?” I knew this politician, he was a very good person, a very good father, a very good citizen. To my chagrin he answered, “well, I would like to but …” Immediately, and I am not proud of this, I punch my radio breaking the on–off button. This was well the knees my friend and reflected badly on him and his party. I say we can and must do better do better. Imagine if my friend had said “my opponent is a good person, he is a good father, he is a good husband, etc. Imagine a nationwide series of ads in which the GOTP candidate stands up and says “I respect my opponent but I disagree with him on these issues for these reasons. Thank you for your time.” Imagine a series of ads in which the GOTP the candidates’ opponent is shown or heard speaking in favor or against an issue; merely that politicians’ words. Then, the GOTP candidate comes on the screen or the radio and merely says, “I disagree. Thank you for your time.” This would be a stunningly new way in which to run campaigns. If we really think we are the good guys we must act like the good guys. We must be the change we want to see in the world.

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