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 Fee.org 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

New President! New Hope?

Wow!  No matter how you feel about the 2016 Presidential campaign, there’s no doubt that it was historically one of the most interesting.  Donald Trump broke all of the “rules” that the pundits and consultants established.  He exposed the coastal elites as condescending frauds.  He delegitimized professional pollsters and the media that hyped their lies.  He created a campaign like no other.  Love him or hate him, he’s nothing if not interesting.

Where to next though?  Conservatives are all about small, incremental or evolutionary changes.  We’re about established etiquette, precedent, manners, honoring our forefathers, limiting change to very small steps.  Donald Trump doesn’t fit this conservative model.  No one knows where he’ll take us next.  We’re in unchartered territory.  Regardless, we know that the path that we were on was leading us to more trouble.

The liberal elites are completely blind to what just happened to them.  They blame their defeat on racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, and islamophobia.  This blindness dooms them to continued irrelevance.  There are a few voices from the left who seem to get it, but the ad hominem attacks on Trump supporters from most is evidence that they have not learned their lesson.

I didn’t support Donald Trump.  I still have a lot of doubts about his ability and about his plans.  As a manufacturer, I am particularly concerned about his anti-trade rhetoric.  I’m nervous about his ability to bring all parts of America together.  He has much to prove about his commitment to minorities and to religious freedom.  Yet, I understand why people voted for him.  They are good people who did what they needed to do for their families.  They are not the people that the left claims they are.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.  Hillary Clinton’s path would have been a well-worn path to nowhere (or much worse), the path that we’ve been on for decades.  Donald Trump’s path? Perhaps he’ll take us off the path altogether and through the poison ivy or the thorny blackberry or perhaps it will be an easy and pleasant path.  We just don’t know.  What we do know is that it will be through something new, something to be curious about.

We’ll keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things.

That’s what Americans do

There is a Chinese curse that says, “May you live in an interesting age”.   Well, we certainly do live in an interesting age, but it is no curse!   We live a wondrous time.   We’ve been detoured off the path that we seemed to be stuck on for decades.  Not only will we survive, but we’ll have an adventure and our hearts will be “all of a patter and a pitter”.

Whether Donald Trump was your candidate or not, now is not the time to sit and wait though.  There is important work to do.  Join us, as we help forge the path forward.

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow

Worcester Tea Party

When bad men combine, the good must associate

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I have to admit, as much as I dislike Senator Elizabeth Warren’s politics, I enjoyed her grilling of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf.  It appears that the bank put extreme pressure on employees to use questionable policies to meet sales goals.  First, over 5,000 lower level employees were fired, as if the buck stopped with them.   Then, one of the major players got booted, but was given $100 million on the way out the door.  All John Stumpf got was a grilling by Senator Warren.

There was something distasteful about the Senator’s berating of Mr. Stumpf though. She is just one of a long line of lawmakers who have used their committee seats as sanctimonious soapboxes. It wasn’t until I read a commentary from FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) that I realized how hypocritical Senator Warren’s moral outrage was.  (Note, Senator Warren was a TARP administrator when Mr. Stumpf was given a $25 million bonus after the 2008 financial meltdown.)

“Though Warren may “speak truth to power” to Wall Street, she often turns mute on some of the worst abuses of government.  Like most statists, she sees the speck in her brother’s private eye while failing to see the beam in her own public eye.  A whole manner of sins, it seems, are forgiven once one is “serving the public” in government.”

Senator Warren has no monopoly on hypocrisy in Washington though.  From far right to far left, those who have the inclination toward power are, for the most part, always willing to sacrifice consistency, logic, ethics, and fairness to kick an opponent or to protect their power.  It is inherent in the nature of politics.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have expressed their dismay at the apparent compromise of their candidates’ principles.  Congressmen regularly trade favors with their adversaries in hopes of claiming a political win.  Campaign promises are quickly forgotten on the second Wednesday of November.  Can you name a single national level politician that hasn’t lied to us?

Are these people somehow less principled than the average citizen?  Have they lost their ethical compass?  Are they the evil power mongers that we (myself included) make them out to be?  Some (many!) are, but most are just ordinary people with extraordinary egos.  Let’s not lose sight of that fact by putting them on undeserved pedestals.

At the same time, realize that someone needs to do the dirty work of politics.  Our friends and family who join campaigns of imperfect politicians are doing important work.  Some of us may find it distasteful, but without allies working on the inside, there is little hope of winning important ideological battles later.

Edmund Burke said “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” more than 200 years ago, yet the nature of bad men and the need for the good to work together remains unchanged.

Fight for liberty in whatever way moves you, and have respect for those allies who choose different weapons and tactics.  We’ll never agree on what tactics are best, but we must learn to work together for common goals.  Let us always remember who the real enemies of liberty are.

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile

Youniversity

Youniversity

Hundreds of thousands of high school and college students are celebrating their commencements this June.  These academic achievements are sources of pride for parents, students, grandparents, and teachers.  Hats off to those who have made it through!  Now, you get to sit through a 90 minute speech telling you how to enter the real world.

In the minds of the grads, they’re probably thinking “I’m finally done!”, yet, ironically, the ceremony noting their accomplishment is called a “commencement”.  It’s derived from an Old French word, comencier, meaning “to start.”  It’s a cruel joke.  “What do you mean I’m starting? No! No! No!  I just finished.  I’m not starting!”

We older and wiser sages know that they really are just beginning.  They may get some direction from the education that they received, but life will deal them some zigs and zags that will send them to places they never planned on going.

Our national elections should be commencements.  They should be new beginnings.  We should have a chance to wipe the slate clean of the mistakes of the past, while being guided by what we’ve learned from making them.  It doesn’t seem to work that way though.  We make the same mistakes over and over.  We spend and borrow and hack away at our Constitution after every new election.

Those of us who have been advocating for the rebirth of liberty are repeatedly dismayed by each election.  We shouldn’t think of these as failures though.  Have faith in individuals, in millions of citizens who struggle to overcome the barriers set up by broken systems, broken institutions, and a broken government.  Most of these individuals attend “youniversity”.  They have everything that they need to graduate.  No one is going to hand them a certificate of completion, yet they go to “class” every day, supporting their families and their communities.

The next few months are going to be tumultuous.  Many will be dismayed by the choices that we are being offered.  In the end, it’s up to each of us as individuals to spit in the face of the broken systems that impede millions of Americans from achieving economic success and real freedom.  We do this by thriving.  Use the benefit of “youniversity.”  Learn, write, speak up, act up, and volunteer.  “You got everything you need to graduate with first class accomplishments put in you! YOU can do it!”

 

Graduation Day for Citizens

 

“If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out…  but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law.  Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.   What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and other Essays,

 

Many of us are unnerved by the rioting that we see in Baltimore and in the past year in Ferguson.  We are disgusted by the lack of respect for the law and by the destruction of private and public property.  At the same time, conservatives can and do acknowledge the grievances of those who are unjustly targeted by the police and anyone else in who abuses their power.  How do we reconcile the need for reform against the need to maintain social order and respect for the law?

The essence of conservatism is a respect for the past and for what exists today and what we shall hand to future generations as good stewards.   It is a respect for the ideas and institutions that were developed and gifted to us.   But, in some instances, the past can act like an anchor to progress.  We must be careful not to give it authority over us that is undeserved, especially so when public institutions become agents of injustice.

Edmund Burke is considered to be the first person to articulate the modern political philosophy of conservatism.  His late 18th century writings delve into the importance of preserving our links to the past.  Burke was a supporter of the American Revolution, but he saw the destructive French Revolution as a threat to civil order.  He carried on a very public and nasty debate with another Tea Party favorite, Thomas Paine.

Burke defended conservatism against the threat of radical Enlightenment liberalism.  He believed that this upstart philosophy would wipe away the old order and centuries of social progress.  He saw the existing civil society, social norms, and political order as the result of many generations of development.  The wisdom of each successive generation built on and improved on the gifts of the past.  Burke felt that the each generation owed it to future generations to act as good stewards of these gifts.

Burke was no stick in the mud though.  He defined conservatism as a philosophy of reform.  He believed that change should be slow and deliberate, so that it would not damage the good that had been done by prior generations. Burke’s conservatism was not static, it was evolutionary.

Fifty years after Edmund Burke’s death, Henry David Thoreau wrote his essays on civil disobedience. His philosophy on civil disobedience was conservative in its nature, but radical in it words.  If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out… , a very Burkean idea.  On the other hand, he only had so much patience: …but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law.  Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine.

I’ve heard, since the beginning of the Tea Party movement, talk of rebellion and resistance.  It never seemed to spark a revolution though.  As frustrated as we feel with the evil of our out of control government, we have yet to be the counter-friction necessary to stop the injustice of the machine of government.  This isn’t because we don’t care enough.  It’s because we love our country so much that we are not ready to destroy the civil order that protects us from anarchy and much worse forms of injustice.

We can be allies with all those that seek to uproot injustice.  While we share that goal, we oppose their chosen methods.   Patience, conviction, and persistence will eventually wear out our rusty clunker government and its injustices that we now suffer.   It’s quite a behemoth though.   It’s taken decades to build.  It will take decades to dismantle.   Ours movement is based upon a philosophy of slow and deliberate reform.  This patience is a virtue that will reward us with a stronger and freer country.  In the end, a social order strengthened by the test of time will be victorious in the contest of ideas.

In liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Choosing Words

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell

In  “Politics and the English Language”, George Orwell said  “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. ”   In corrupting the use of words, our competitors are able to disrupt the common sense of the citizenry.   “Social justice” is one good example of such corruption.  You’d have to be very cold hearted to oppose something called social justice, so what’s wrong with social justice?  Well, to begin with, and end with, it has nothing to do with justice.  By throwing together two good words and using them in a way that deceives the listener, the anti-liberty crowd has been able to fool the uninformed.

 

One of the main purposes of the Tea Party Movement is to convey the message of liberty.  To do so, we need to be careful about the words we choose, but more importantly, we need to point out the misuse of words by those who look to steal our freedom.   “Liberal” and “conservative” are two perfectly good words that have been corrupted.  Tea Partiers make the error of using the word “liberal” as an insult, when it should be compliment.  We have ceded this word to those who blasphemy it’s real meaning.

 

The left has a habit of changing the language when it stops working for them.  “Global Warming” seemed scary enough, until it didn’t work for them anymore.  They were forced to switch to the less scary phrase “Climate Change.”

 

Remember how a few decades ago, poverty was such a big concern?  We don’t hear so much about poverty anymore because the worldwide poverty rate has unexpectedly plummeted.  The lowest 10th percentile income earner in the U.S. enjoys an economic lifestyle that is better that almost every other country on earth.  What are the progressives to do if poverty is plummeting?  Let’s change the word.  Now poverty becomes “income inequality.”  All inequality is bad, isn’t it?  So income inequality must also be bad.  If income equality is bad, then one could make the case that income redistribution is good.  We lose just by accepting the phrase “income inequality.”

 

At this month’s Worcester Tea Party meeting, we heard two speakers on Agenda 21.  The very next day, I saw the agenda for next week’s meeting of my town’s Board of Selectmen.  I saw the phrases “International Property Maintenance Code”, “Master Plan Implementation”, and “Revised Water Conservation Language”.  Immediately, bells went off in my head.  I knew that they were using corrupted words that sounded perfectly well-meaning so that they could be used to advance an ideology that disputes private property rights.

 

The words of liberty, as articulated by our classical liberal founders, ring true in the ears of almost every American.  It is only those who seek to deceive by twisting good words into bad that we need to fear. They are charlatans who will lead people down a disastrous path.

 

Be careful in the words that you  choose.  Be honest.  Don’t deceive in the way our competitors do.  When you are speaking the truth about the value of liberty, you do not have to grovel in the gutter of euphemistic deception.

 

In liberty,
Ken Mandile
Matt O’Brien