I’M SURE you’ve noticed how little choice there seems to be in politics. I hear it over and over again from people who call in to my radio show and tell me that they don’t see any point in voting since both candidates are equally terrible.
They’re often right. In 2008, our choice for president was between a Republican who wanted to spend billions to “combat” global warming and a Democrat who wanted to spend hundreds of billions to do the same thing. In 2004, it was between the incumbent George W. Bush, whose embarrassing conservative record we’ll cover later, and John Kerry—a man who, by some accounts, had been the most liberal member of the Senate for multiple years.
If it seems like no “real” conservative or libertarian candidate for president ever makes it very far it’s because they don’t. They are derided and marginalized by the establishment and mainstream media until their names become toxic. By the time the power base is done with a candidate who might pose a threat, he’s become the punch line to a joke, the plot of a Saturday Night Live skit, or the first thing that pops up on Google when you search for “homophobia” or “racist” or “idiot.”
None of this is happening by chance. It’s a shell game, and the progressives who run our political parties, our universities, and our media treat the rest of us like tourists in Times Square. It may occasionally look as if libertarians and small-government candidates have a chance to win the prize—but that’s just the way they set up the con. The illusion of victory is omnipresent, but it’s just that—an illusion. A con can’t ever really be beaten.
THE SHELL GAME TURNS 100
The Big Con started right around 1912. America was given a “choice”: Woodrow Wilson or Theodore Roosevelt. The New Freedom or the New Nationalism. Progressive or Progressive.
That was the year that Republican became Democrat and Democrat became progressive. Later, after progressives finally had their hands on our wallets, they stopped calling themselves progressives and took the name “liberal” instead. When people caught on to that, the left changed the names to protect the guilty once again.
The Con, Revealed
Hillary Clinton actually described these bait-and-switch word games pretty well during a 2007 debate after she was asked if she would define herself as “liberal.”
You know, it is a word that originally meant that you were for freedom, that you were for the freedom to achieve, that you were willing to stand against big power and on behalf of the individual.
Unfortunately, in the last 30, 40 years, it has been turned up on its head and it’s been made to seem as though it is a word that describes big government, totally contrary to what its meaning was in the 19th and early 20th century.
I prefer the word “progressive,” which has a real American meaning, going back to the progressive era at the beginning of the 20th century.
Progressives realized long ago that if you rig the game of politics against the small-government option, then you end up with a series of candidates who increasingly blur the line between the parties. Eventually the parties themselves become meaningless—empty vessels that simply serve to funnel money and power through the system. With very few exceptions, our elections are really no longer about whether to grow or cut government’s size and power, but rather by how much they should grow. We debate double-digit increases in social program spending versus single-digit increases. We debate how many new billion-dollar entitlements we should add instead of whether these programs should even exist in the first place. We debate whether teachers unions and the U.S. Department of Education should have more or less power, rather than whether the federal government should have any role in local education at all. All of this is part of the con, and it’s worked to absolute perfection. With very few exceptions even the “boldest” of conservative politicians submit budgets and bills that, a hundred years ago, would’ve been too far left for even a Democrat to propose.
Whenever candidates or groups raise their hand and question these debates, invoke the Constitution, or propose “radical” ideas like a balanced budget amendment, shutting down overreaching and ineffective federal agencies, or adhering to the Tenth Amendment, they are ostracized. Why do you think the Tea Party was immediately branded as a bunch of racists and birthers? It’s because they posed a real threat of waking voters up to the fact that Americans are being presented with a never-ending series of false choices. The progressive establishment can’t allow real diversity to stand.
The only hope we have of changing this is by first educating people as to how this happened and who’s behind it—and then by presenting a better way forward. That’s what the first two chapters of this book are all about: the virus—progressivism; and the antibiotic—commonsense libertarianism. Yes, we have plenty of other issues to solve, and many of them are covered in this book, but if we don’t start by treating the underlying disease then none of that will matter.
So, let’s take a giant step back, get out of the weeds of the twenty-four-hour news cycle and cable channels and Twitter attacks, and ask ourselves this simple but important question: How did we ever get to the point where the conservative/libertarian point of view does not even get a seat at the table?
THE RINO–AN ANCIENT SPECIES
It’s pretty easy to spot the people who don’t really fit into the Republican Party. A lot of times these are the same people who frequent the Sunday morning talk shows or are media darlings. I’m talking about people like Arlen Specter, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham. But these types of Republicans are nothing new.
Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first RINOs (Republican in Name Only) in American history. Yes, I know, Roosevelt was brave and strong. He explored the world. He strung up rustlers in the Wild West. He wrote more history books than most people ever read. He edited a magazine. (Even if Newt Gingrich were around back then, Teddy Roosevelt would still have been the smartest guy in the room.)
All of this made Roosevelt incredibly dangerous when he decided to get on board the Progressive train. And the longer he rode those rails, the more radical he got. His “Square Deal” was one thing. It started the ball rolling. It got the nose of big government under the Constitution’s tent by regulating business and the banks. But then Roosevelt’s progressivism got increasingly more toxic. After he left the White House, he unveiled something he called the “New Nationalism.”
They Really Said It
You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt.
—JOHN MCCAIN AT A PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE IN OCTOBER 2008
And for government to not leave guarantees that you don’t have the ability to change, no private corporation has the purchasing power or the ability to reshape the health system, and in this sense I guess I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican. In fact, if I [was] going to characterize my—on health where I come from, I’m a Theodore Roosevelt Republican and I believe government can lean in the regulatory leaning is okay.
There’s a reason Barack Obama took time out in December 2011 from pretending he was FDR or JFK or Harry Truman or Lincoln (and from golf, too, come to think of it) to channel Roosevelt at Osawatomie, Kansas. Osawatomie is where, in 1910, Roosevelt gave a speech that would sound right at home in today’s Democratic Party. “We should permit [wealth] to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community,” Roosevelt told a crowd of thirty thousand listeners. “This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary. . . .”
Two years later, Roosevelt doubled down, turning from rogue elephant to Bull Moose and running for president on his own Progressive Party ticket. The New York Times explained that Roosevelt’s 1912 Progressive Party convention was at best a gathering of “a convention of fanatics.” How bad was Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign? It made people think that Woodrow Wilson was conservative. That’s bad, but what’s far worse is that Roosevelt is the president who some prominent modern-day Republicans, like John McCain and Newt Gingrich, still look up to.