All this is what it means to be an American.

Independence Day offers us reason to celebrate and to reflect what it means to be free.  Looking to the revolutionary times of the late 18th century, we see a society where, for the first time in human history, the “common man” came to seize power from his aristocratic oppressors.  Today though, we should be looking beyond the “common man”.  We should all be uncommon.

In 1954, a politician named Dean Alfange published “An American Creed” in The Week magazine. Alfange was very liberal, but served in Republican and Democratic administrations and also worked for the American Labor Party and the Liberal Party.  The fact that 70 years ago, a man with whom the Tea Party Movement would find little in common with could write a creed so powerful tells us much about how far the left has moved from American values.
Here is his creed in its entirety:

“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon. I seek to develop whatever talents God gave me—not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say – ‘This, with God’s help, I have done.’ All this is what it means to be an American.”

This Independence Day, let us renew our commitment to be uncommon.  Develop our talents.  Take risks.  Dream.  Build.  These are truly American traits that built this country.  These are traits that are uncommon, but which, as Americans, we are free to practice.  Enjoy the fireworks and the parades and the hamburgers, but, most of all, let’s hope that we can all re-commit to American values.  If we can do this, then we can fulfill the promises of July 4, 1776.


In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party


Don’t Always Believe What You Think

“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

Winston S. Churchill

A few years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said something that stuck in my mind firmer than the sticker was attached to the bumper.  It said ‘Don’t Always Believe What You Think’.  Philosophers call this concept “Intellectual Humility”.   This type of humility acknowledges the limitations of our knowledge.  It calls on us to challenge our own beliefs and, in doing so, places the surviving beliefs on firmer ground.

One area that often divides conservatives and progressives is in the level of faith in science.  Why do liberals believe so strongly in data and theories that conservatives think of as a lot of hooey?  Are conservatives anti-science?  Deniers?  Warriors in the War on Science?  These are the insults commonly directed at those who question blind faith in science, yet it is those who adhere to a cultish and dogmatic faith in anything that comes to us from the scientific field who deserve criticism.  They are lacking in intellectual humility.

Another (and probably more important) area where a lack of intellectual humility divides us is in faith in government.  Elitist politicians and bureaucrats who know what’s best for all of us seek to perfect the world in their eyes.   They treat us like we are infants and they are our guardians.   We are too stupid to know what’s best for us, so they are going to protect us from ourselves.  What arrogance!

I believe that those who call for more and bigger government programs lack intellectual humility.  They don’t recognize the limitations of their ability to collect and process economic and social data.   They have a simplistic view of the interconnectedness of the complex system that we call society.  For over 100 years Progressives have sold the idea that government programs can perfect society quicker and more efficiently than a naturally ordered society.  For that same 100 years they have been proven wrong.

It would be wonderful if our Presidents and our Congressmen were intellectually humble.  They need to recognize the limits of their knowledge.  This creates an enormous challenge for us though.  We like to elect strong, firm, and dogmatic leaders.  Perhaps we can one day appreciate intellectual humility enough to vote for humble leaders.

What can you do in the meantime?  Challenge your own beliefs, not as means of destroying them, but as a means of making them stronger.  Know your limitations, but also appreciate the knowledge that you have.  Discussing differences in beliefs is often a fruitless endeavor, but it may also plant some seeds that will lead to areas of agreement in the future.  We are engaged in a battle of ideas that will never end. If we can plant ideas that promote liberty and that limit government to humble endeavors, we can win these battles.

​In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Women in Liberty

Last month marked the 8 year anniversary of the Tea Party movement (TPM).  One of the remarkable characteristics about the movement that has been largely overlooked is the role of women.   From its beginning, the Tea Party was largely a women-led movement.

Think back to the beginning of the Tea Party.   Who were the faces of the movement?  They were women.  Two of the three founders of the largest (and only remaining) national TPM organization are women  (Jenny Beth Martin and Amy Kremer of Tea Party Patriots). More importantly, hundreds of local Tea Parties were founded and led by women.  Our own organization would not have survived without the involvement of several hard working and dedicated women.

In popular political culture, conservative women are usually relegated to the background by a media that doesn’t want to admit women can be conservative.  High profile conservative women are treated like pariahs who have betrayed their gender.  This year’s Women’s Marches made it clear that conservative women were not welcome.  Half the women in the country were being told that their voices should not be heard.  This message was no surprise though.

Gender politics has devolved into a brutal and divisive battle.  One side insists on purity of thought.  On the other side, “family values” seems to dominate, yet dissenting opinions are still welcomed.  Today’s conservative women are often pro-choice and/or pro-LGBT rights.  Their voices may not be loudest, but they are allowed to have a voice.  The left does not allow for this kind of dissent.  To them, your gender voids your right to an opinion that does not fit their dogma.

The Tea Party movement inspired many talented women to run for office.  These candidates have had a large impact on many issues.  More importantly, they represent a pool of talent that will shift the balance of power from a political system dominated by men, to one equally shared.  Whether it was for School Committee, State Representative, Governor, or U.S. Congress, the Tea Party supported and inspired women have stepped up to claim the power that is rightfully theirs.  They deserve our support and our gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do for our communities and for our country, not because of the incidental fact that they are women, but because they are patriots.

​In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Has our government always worked this way?

“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education.”

This month, we are witnessing one of the most important rituals of American democracy:  the confirmation hearing of a United States Supreme Court nominee.  This process has evolved over the past few decades, particularly since the failed nomination of Judge Bork.  The contentiousness has reached embarrassing levels.  Like most modern political practices, we continue to battle over nominees much as our forefathers did, but we do it in a way that shows little regard for the character and qualifications of the nominee.

Judge Gorsuch’s comment above shows that he is well aware of how the left wants to tip the balance of power to the courts.  They could not win at the ballot box.  The could not win in Congress.  They could not win the hearts and minds of the public.  The courts are their best option.  This is where they have drawn the red line that they will fight to defend.  Even here though, it appears that they will lose.

Judge Gorsuch warned the left of the dangers of their dependence on the courts. They can chalk up some wins, but they will be short lived if they have not adequately convinced the American public.  In his commentary, Liberals’N’Lawsuits,  Judge Gorsuch said:

“This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary. In the legislative arena, especially when the country is closely divided, compromises tend to be the rule the day. But when judges rule this or that policy unconstitutional, there’s little room for compromise: One side must win, the other must lose. In constitutional litigation, too, experiments and pilot programs — real-world laboratories in which ideas can be assessed on the results they produce — are not possible. Ideas are tested only in the abstract world of legal briefs and lawyers arguments. As a society, we lose the benefit of the give-and-take of the political process and the flexibility of social experimentation that only the elected branches can provide.”

As broken as our Constitutional Republic seems, it still functions as it was designed.  In the end, many battles may be lost, but we usually get it right.​​​​​​​

The confirmation hearings have devolved into a silly charade.  They are an opportunity for bloated egos to show off how good they are at bullying and playing gotcha games.  Many of those criticizing Gorsuch for decisions that he never made will likely vote for him, unless they cynically believe that a no vote would win them more votes in their next election.  On the other side, it’s doubtful that anything will be found in his background that would cause a Republican to vote against him.  So, in the end, after a month of investigation and a week of hearings, no minds will be persuaded.

Second only to going to war, the choice of a Supreme Court Justice is a President’s most important decision.  The Supreme Court is where partisans, red and blue, get a chance to force their social agenda on the American public.  It’s a misuse of the court, while at the same time, the Court often offers our best opportunity to keep both sides under control.

As broken as we think our justice system is, it soars above the dysfunction of the Legislative and Executive branches.  It doesn’t always work as well as we would hope, but it does work.  It’s an ingenious tool designed by our ingenious Founders.

The Supreme Court works only because so many fight political battles to ensure that it will work.  It is always in danger from those who would subvert it.  It seems that we’ve bought some time in this battle, but we should never become complacent because of short term win.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

​In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Part

Draining The Swamp

Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “Drain the swamp” has successfully placed him in the Oval Office.  But what exactly is the swamp, and how does one go about draining it?

The commonly accepted definition of the “swamp”, and the one Trump alludes to, is the career, political elite of Washington, D.C., who are in essence tenured legislators.  This career, political class is seen as an entrenched, corrupt, blackguard of the status quo, a semi-permanent legislative body that stands between the people, their rights, and a just government.  I contend that these entrenched politicians are not in fact, THE swamp”; rather they merely reflect the dominant ideas of our culture.  I would argue that these career politicians are merely a surface layer, and the real depth of the swamp lies somewhere else.

The Democrats and Republicans are virtually united in their moral base, that is, the pinnacle of virtue for both parties is altruism, the morality which preaches the sacrifice of the individual self for “others”.  They sometimes differ on which individuals should be sacrificed, and quibble over the level of sacrifice, but they both fundamentally believe in the moral duty of being “thy brother’s keeper”.

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The Power of Our President

Many of America’s school children are returning to school this week, having “celebrated” a week off that included Presidents Day.  Traditionalists will always call it Washington’s Birthday.  He was perhaps the last President that we had who deserved to be celebrated. Presidents Day should be a day where we question the power of the Presidency.

A recent commentary in The Week proclaimed Presidents Day to be the worst holiday.  I have to say that I agree.   “The American presidency is not something to be exalted. It is something that needs to be neutered”, said the author, Bonnie Kristian.  Every four years we spend a couple of billion dollars advertising hyperbolic lies over who should “lead” us.  It’s a process that few think works well and it elevates the office of President to something that it was never meant to be.

Kristian writes:

“President Trump can subpoena journalists’ phone records and call it “national security.” He can prosecute whistleblowers to discourage dissent. He can access mass amounts of warrantless surveillance on ordinary Americans, including triple the telephonic metadata the NSA was able to search before the so-called reforms passed as a result of Edward Snowden’s revelations. He can govern by executive fiat. He can unilaterally expand military intervention without congressional interference or any geographic boundaries. He can indefinitely detain people in Guantanamo Bay and other secret prisons. He can have a “kill list” of drone strike targets, that can include American citizens secretly assassinated without charge or trial. Some of them can even be teenagers neither suspected nor accused of any crime.

Trump can do all this and more — so, so much more — because the presidency he inherited from Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and their predecessors is, in the apt phrase of The Week’s Ryan Cooper, a turnkey tyranny.”

This is not a criticism of President Trump, but rather it is an indictment of the failure of Congress to maintain the balance of powers.

The President should be similar to a Town Manager: they should enforce laws, preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and nothing else.  The office was meant to be an executive position.  Starting with Teddy Roosevelt, more than 110 years ago, the office has been consolidating power into one person where none should have existed.  What we are left with is power that is much too dangerous for any one person.

Writing at last October, Barry Brownstein talked about Hillary Clinton’s “plan” as President.  Brownstein rightfully points out that no President should have a “plan”.  It is Congress that should be the source of legislation, not the Executive Branch.

“So limited were the powers of the president that Charles Pinckney, founding father and signer of the U.S. Constitution, argued against the impeachment clause in the Constitution on the grounds that the president’s powers “would be so circumcised” by the Constitution that presidential abuse would be impossible.

If the president is not to make plans for us, then what? … “Every day, ordinary citizens and entrepreneurs pursue opportunities. No one controls the myriad decentralized decisions and actions that, along the way, solve problems. We don’t need “problem solvers” to tell us the “winning plan.” We need planners and “problem solvers” to stay out of our way.”

Republicans are happy now that they are in power, but one day the fickleness of the voters will turn against them and they will put the Democrats back in power.  For at least the next four years, Republicans can take retribution by using the power of the Presidency to crush their “enemies”.  President Trump has promises to “drain the swamp”.  That involves much more than firing people though.  It means dismantling much of the Executive Branch’s power.

A truly transformational President would not consolidate power, but would demand that Congress take back the power that belongs to the people. Wouldn’t we all be much safer if our next President had no effect on our daily lives?  That is what our founders expected.  It is what we should expect.

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party