|From: Brumar89||6/17/2018 5:12:32 PM|
|Remember Stephen Moore|
June 16, 2018 12:00 pm EDT AlienMotives Editorial, Op-Ed 22 Comments
Remember the Alamo! Remember the Maine! Remember Stephen Moore.
Moore is the founder of the Club For Growth, an economist who made his reputation promoting the value of free markets. He was viewed as a man whose values stood firmly in the camp with Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell. It was in this guise that he stepped on board the Trump Train while it was still in the station, and helped to bolster Donald Trump’s image as a man with sound economic views.
Trump had a great public image as a businessman, bolstered by his time on The Apprentice. Any close examination of his personal finances were likely to reveal a disaster, however. While never personally declaring bankruptcy, many of his businesses had failed. Associates who bought failing properties from him often complained about the properties being misrepresented or overvalued, such as the Trump Shuttle. (Washington Post)
Prominent businessmen and politicians were likely to give Trump such a close examination. Moore’s reputation and personality provided cover. He was available to explain exactly what Trump meant when he said something, or what his policy was going to be. Potential supporters weren’t buying the Trump brand for President, they were buying Trump-Moore.
Moore loved this arrangement. After Trump’s election, he crowed about it. From The Hill, 2016:
Moore surprised some of the Republican lawmakers assembled at their closed-door whip meeting last Tuesday when he told them they should no longer think of themselves as belonging to the conservative party of Ronald Reagan.
They now belong to Trump’s populist working-class party, he said.
Moore moved on after being Trump’s key economic spokesman during the campaign. He was not made an official member of the Administration, instead shifting to the Heritage Foundation, Wall Street Journal, National Review, National Journal, CNN and other locations as a prominent contributor. He continues to be an avid supporter of President Trump. His recent Twitter feed seems to indicate that he is thrilled with Trump’s economy but that he has abandoned his previous negativity about tariffs, and that the relationship between Trump and other world leaders is far, far better than most media sources report. (Twitter)
Contrary to appearances, this article is not designed to expose Stephen Moore as a duplicitous fraud. He has done that to himself. This article is to remind people to remember him, as he oozes into the background, Washington influence intact.
Because what he represents, as well as anyone and better than most, is the complete and willing subordination of principle to Trump, even as a person pretends to maintain those principles. The illusion is strengthened because others who have similarly capitulated also insist they are holding the same line they always held. They’re as conservative (or, on the democrat side, liberal) as they have ever been… except that they aren’t. Both sides are demanding the abandonment of any connections their parties once held to the Constitution and an embrace of the dictates of party leaders.
“They should no longer think of themselves as belonging to the conservative party of Ronald Reagan. They now belong to Trump’s populist working-class party.”
Republicans have been praising the diminution of a strangling regulatory web, and they should praise that. But the reason regulations are terrible is because they steal the ability of people to act according to their wishes. After regulations are removed, the power must be then transferred back to the people. If all that happens is that the power is now consolidated at the top, the people are no more free than they were when regulated, they merely have fewer, and more directly powerful, masters.
This was exemplified this week as members of the House scrambled first to praise Trump for a meeting with Kim Jong Un which, under Obama or most other leaders, including Republican leaders, would have been described as calamitous; to cover for obvious lies and half-truths gifted to the press by the President; to attack the FBI and other law enforcement in a stark reversal of their historic positions and finally to recover from a threatened veto of a compromise immigration bill that Trump’s administration officials had helped write. (Fox News)
The reason why the Republicans are not standing up to the Trump administration is simple. They recognize that the party is no longer Constitutional in its basis, but rather an organization designed to follow and obey the leader… the same valid criticism they voiced under Obama and Clinton. Fealty to the Constitution, to individual freedom, to the military, to the police, to the family unit, etc… is to be pledged at every opportunity, but the true fealty must always be to Trump.
Should anyone begin to believe that either of the two main parties still care about them, personally, or their messages as anything other than a voter bloc to be manipulated… Remember Stephen Moore.
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|From: AmericanResurgence||6/18/2018 4:21:13 PM|
|In creating A New Conservative Movement the core economic strategy of the movement should be the redistribution of decision making from Washington DC to the State Capitols. |
Reduction in Federal Government Departments
Reduction in National Debt through reducing the cost of politicians, bureaucrats and reducing the duplication of Federal and State welfare programs.
Elimination of Crony Capitalism from the political decision making of Local, State and Federal Policymakers
The American Economy requires shock treatment to restart its productive capacities through deregulation and tax reduction.
The decades of political failure have created large numbers of potential voters and supporters but a Conservative movement must be dynamic and must focus on Local, State and Federal Issues in its campaigning to take advantage of declining trust in established political parties..
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|From: Brumar89||6/24/2018 6:54:19 PM|
|With Fealty to Frailty – Meet the Federalist Party of America|
JUNE 23, 2018 BY SUSAN WRIGHT
Since 2016 I’ve been advocating for a third party to make a legitimate run for political offices around the nation.
I think a big problem with what we’re seeing today, and this myth that we have no other option but to vote for either the Republicans or the Democrats is that most third party hopefuls wait until an election season and then go straight for the presidency.
I’ve always maintained that for any third party to be taken seriously, they have to chip away at the base of the “Big Two,” doing the legwork between election cycles and occupying the small offices in our communities, then proceeding upwards.
Our school boards, city council panels, mayors and county commissioners – all are a starting point.
Then, of course, is the work of getting included on ballots, and that process varies from state to state. The system doesn’t make it easy, but given the current sorry status of our union, it’s worth the effort.
Our very survival as a free republic depends upon it.
Of the myriad third party options available, February 2018 saw the emergence of the Federalist Party of America, with the promise of being a different organization, where everyone has a say in its growth and direction, and guiding principles that should appeal to all, at our most basic level.
Speaking of those principles, from the website:
Statement of Principles
The strength of America lies in its people, not in its government.
Government solutions, when necessary, should be pursued at the lowest level of government possible, that closest to the people they affect.
America has one overarching set of laws authorized directly by The People: The Constitution of the United States of America. That supreme governing document stands as is unless and until amended.
An ever-encroaching federal state threatens the general welfare of current and future generations of Americans. That encroachment can and must be reversed by democratic means.
A 28th Amendment to limit the number of terms that members of Congress may serve is necessary and justified to restore restrictions on federal powers as intended by our nation’s founders and delineated in the Constitution.
You mean put the government back into the hands of the people? There’s a novel idea.
I reached out to pro tem Chairman William F. Buckley O’Reilly – and yes, he’s named after his uncle, William F. Buckley Jr., conservative author and commentator.
I asked five questions of Mr. O’Reilly, to get us acquainted with the Federalist Party and its mission.
To begin with, introduce yourself.
Thanks so much for asking. I’m a New York father blessed with a patient wife and three wonderful daughters. I’ve worked in Republican politics for 30 years, and am currently a partner at The November Team, a corporate and political communications firm. I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to pen a twice-weekly column for Newsday for the past several years.
2. What can you tell us about the Federalist Party and what are the long term goals? The more immediate goals?
The Federalist Party of America is a long-term play. We don’t pretend to have all the answers to the nation’s challenges, but we’re fairly certain we’re on the right track — mostly because we’re doubling down on the discarded blueprints our founders left us. They were a pretty sharp bunch.
In a nutshell, The FPA is seeking to restore the balance of power between federal, state, and local governments in an effort to move the nation onto a sustainable political, economic, and sociological path. We support solutions at the lowest levels of government possible.
Congressional term limits are a key plank in our platform. We see term limits as integral to dismantling overreaching and unsustainable federal bureaucracies and to returning powers and responsibilities to individual American communities.
The FPA is forgoing ballot status in 2018 for two reasons: we don’t want to get out ahead of our skis, and we want Republicans and Democrats to be able to join the FPA without having to change their current party registrations. We’re confident that a kick-the-tires-trial- membership approach will yield solid results in the long-term.
The FPA seeks to grow slowly, steadily, and organically. This is not to be a flash-in-the-pan movement.
3. What has happened to our nation’s political system, in the grip of the “Big Two” parties?
Men are not angels, Madison rightly warned us. And we’re seeing that yet again in the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Both parties are now badly corrupted — in a co-opted sense, not a criminal sense — having become bought-and-paid-for appendages of corporate and other special interests. Re-election is now the principal goal of being in public office; that requires lots of cozy arrangements that do nothing for the average American. Principle has become an afterthought sadly.
The Republican Party is virtually unrecognizable from the Reaganite party I grew up with: All three legs of the Republican stool — less government, traditional values, strong national defense – – have been kicked out from underneath it. When push comes to shove, I have no idea what the national GOP stands for anymore, other than self-survival.
The Democratic Party has gone totally insane, and I don’t mean that to sound impolite or hyperbolic. The party has abandoned all reason and accountability in its positions. The federal government is $21 trillion in debt, and Democrats still want to add multi-billion-dollar programs to our national Ledger. There is zero recognition that most federal social engineering experiments haven’t worked. It’s always, ‘if only we had more money.’
The Democratic Party’s positions on immigration are totally irresponsible, almost suicidal. It’s become a party bereft of grownups. That can’t last.
What needs to happen for there to be a real move to return to the kind of government envisioned by our founders?
Failure and panic. The latter is assured by the federal debt clock, and the former plays out every day in Washington. Herpes may be more popular than Congress now; I’d have to check Gallup.
5. Where are you now, as far as the development of the Federalist Party, and what needs to happen to advance?
We’re sixth months behind where we need to be every single day. Membership is growing quickly, and we’re getting a good social media following, but there are only so many hours in a day. We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
What we are doing well — what we are really focusing on — is putting together the fundamentals for a sustainable and expandable party going forward. We are doing everything in our power to build a movement that guards against human nature as best as possible, one that puts principles over personalities.
As students of politics, we are also working to avoid the pitfalls that have sunk other American political parties and movements. Getting the fundamentals right — building a party on a foundation made of rock, if you will — is the gift the current FPA leadership hopes to leave begins .
I envision the FPA as a movement with the Constitution in one hand and Madison’s admonishment in the other. That’s a powerful combination — and it’s what this country was always supposed to be.
Given the partisan bickering and absolute dereliction of duty of our current crop of lawmakers, coupled with the sideshow of Trumpism, this all sounds like a distant dream. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be. We, as a free people, have the power to take back our nation and demand commonsense governance, once again.
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|From: Brumar89||7/4/2018 5:31:42 PM|
| John Hancock: America’s Greatest President|
Posted on February 12, 2017by Food for the Thinkers
By Doug Newman
In the years before the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, America’s governing document was the Articles of Confederation. A chief and highly valid criticism of the Constitution is that it gave far more power to the federal government, as well as the president.
It is important to state that strict constitutional government, such as advocated by Ron Paul, would be a massive improvement over anything anyone reading this has experienced in their lifetimes. The powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are, in Madison’s words, “few and defined”. There are numerous checks on all three branches of the federal government. The president is restricted to being little more than a national umpire, calling balls and strikes on the various bills that Congress sends to his desk. The Constitution, while imperfect, is an immensely valuable document.
Had “We the People” resolutely held Uncle Sam within the limits set by the Constitution, the federal government would be almost insignificant. Rather than being the monstrosity that it has become over the last 100 years, it would probably look more like Montpelier, Vermont, the smallest state capital in the nation, with a population of 7600.
But, tragically, this has not been the case. With the blessing of “We the people”, the presidency has become the most powerful, and with that, the most dangerous office, not just in America but on earth, threatening all life on the planet.
Let’s contrast this with the office of president under the Articles of Confederation. The president was elected by a one-house congress. He served a one-year term and couldn’t serve more than one term in a three-year period. He had no assigned powers. He was not commander-in-chief of the military, nor could he pick judges. If anything he was a gavel-banger. He had about as much power as a high school class president.
(Someone recently pointed out to me that the Continental Army, Navy and Marines defeated what was then the most powerful military on earth without a president as commander-in-chief.)
John Hancock Building in Chicago. (1)
In 1785, the congress elected then Massachusetts Governor John Hancock to serve as its president. Hancock never even bothered showing up to take the job because he was in poor health and was simply not interested. He was, therefore, our greatest president.
Contrast this with the orgies of power lust that are our contemporary presidential campaigns. Contrast this with the clamor of millions of Americans for “the right person” to “lead”, to “run the country”, to “be in charge”, to “fix things”, to usher in “hope and change” and to “make America great again”. No person, no matter how virtuous, should be entrusted with such power. More dangerous yet is that so many millions of Americans at any given time will put absolutely blind and brain-dead faith in the sitting president because he was their candidate..
In the Old Testament – I Samuel 8:4-20 – the children of Israel demanded an earthly political king. God granted them their wish, but also warned them that they would be sorry they ever asked for one. Indeed, Hosea 13:11 tells us that God gave these people a king in His anger. Eventually, the American people will likewise be sorry they were so frantic and desperate for one person to lead them. I don’t know when this will be. And I don’t know any specifics. However, I do know that, as they say in the Navy, we need to stand by for heavy rolls.
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|From: Brumar89||9/30/2018 5:16:13 PM|
|The Republican Party Abandons Conservatism|
The conservative virtues remain real virtues, the conservative insights real insights, and the conservative temperament an indispensable internal gyro keeping a country stable and sane.
Eliot A. Cohen
Professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University
MIKE THEILER / REUTERS
Ignoring the dictum that if one is not of the left as a young person one has no heart, and not of the right in middle age one has no head, I have always been a conservative. I voted Republican most of the time, affiliated with the GOP, and served proudly as a political appointee under two Republican presidents. I bitterly opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy and dropped my Republican affiliation once he won in 2016, figuring that the party would soon fall in line. I said as much in public, and my predictions were borne out. But it is only now that I have concluded that the break between conservative beliefs and the party that claimed to uphold them is complete and irreversible.
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Being a conservative has always meant, to me, taking a certain view of human nature, and embracing a certain set of values and virtues. The conservative is warier than her liberal counterpart about the darker impulses and desires that lurk in men and women, more doubtful of their perfectibility, skeptical of and opposed to the engineering of individual souls, and more inclined to celebrate freedom moderated by law, custom, education and culture. She knows that power tends to corrupt, and likes to see it checked and divided. Words like responsibility, stoicism, self-control, frugality, fidelity, decorum, honor, character, independence, and integrity appeal to most decent people. They come particularly easily to the admirers of thinkers from Edmund Burke to Irving Kristol.
The GOP threw frugality and fiscal responsibility away long ago, initially in the Reagan years, but now on a stunning scale involving trillion-dollar deficits as far as can be forecast. It abandoned most of its beliefs in fidelity and character when it embraced a liar, cheat, and philanderer as its nominee and then as president. But something else snapped this week.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy as expressed in various statements and conclusions was, for the most part, pretty standard conservative fare, save for one tell-tale element: his ascription of very high levels of immunity and discretion to the executive. In this respect what passes today for conservativism is anything but. Where traditionally, conservatives have wanted “ambition to check ambition” as Alexander Hamilton put it, Republicans are now executive-branch kinds of people. It is not surprising that Kavanaugh himself worked at a high level in a Republican White House. The disdain of many contemporary Republicans for congressional power and prerogative makes them indistinguishable from liberals who (as recently as the Obama years) turned to sweeping uses of executive power to circumvent a balky House of Representatives and Senate.
It was, however, in the epic clash over the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford that the collapse of conservatism in the Republican Party became most evident. Eleven men, most of them old, hid behind a female prosecutor wheeled in from Arizona because they could not, apparently, trust themselves to treat a victim of sexual assault with consideration and respect. So much for courage. Their anger at Democratic shenanigans was understandable, but virtually without exception, when they did summon up the nerve to speak (during Kavanaugh’s turn) their questions consisted almost exclusively of partisan baying at the opposition. Genuine conservatives might have snarled initially, but would, out of regard for the truth, tried to figure out exactly what happened to Ford 35 years ago, and whether the character of the man before them was what it was said to be.
Perhaps the collapse of modern conservatism came out most clearly in Kavanaugh’s own testimony—its self-pity, its hysteria, its conjuring up of conspiracies, its vindictiveness. He and his family had no doubt suffered agonies. But if we expect steely resolve from a police officer confronting a knife-wielding assailant, or disciplined courage from a firefighter rushing into a burning house, we should expect stoic self-control and calm from a conservative judge, even if his heart is being eaten out. No one watching those proceedings could imagine that a Democrat standing before this judge’s bench in the future would get a fair hearing. This was not the conservative temperament on display. It was, rather, personalized grievance politics.
Real conservatives have always prided themselves on their willingness to stand up to their own kind in the name of moral principle. Think of Senator Robert Taft opposing the North Atlantic Treaty, knowing that those positions could destroy his political career. Taft was wrong in his views, but he was principled, he was courageous, and he went down speaking truth as he saw it. William F. Buckley took on the John Birch Society in the middle of the 20th century, and the anti-Semites in the conservative camp later on. In 1993, when Buckley had to choose between loyalty to Joseph Sobran, his long-time protégé and colleague at the National Review, and rejection of bigotry, principle won and he fired his friend.
During the Ford and Kavanaugh testimonies, Americans watched the cranky maunderings of Senator Chuck Grassley and the spitting, menacing fury of Senator Lindsey Graham. The combination of calm strength and good humor that characterized the modern conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, was nowhere to be found. But that spirit, the spirit of a president who celebrated America as a city on a hill that was generous abroad, welcoming to newcomers, and self confident at home, has been replaced by the sour meanness of a party chiefly of men, who build walls to keep the world out, erect tariffs to destroy free trade, despise the alliances that keep Americans secure, and sanction the deliberate plucking of babes from their mothers’ breasts in order to teach illegal immigrants a painful lesson. In such a world, decorum and courtesy are irrelevant.
There was always been a dark side to American conservatism, much of it originating in the antebellum curse of a society, large parts of which favored slavery and the extermination of America’s native population, the exclusion of immigrants from American life, and discrimination against Catholics and Jews. Many of us had hoped that the civil-rights achievements of the mid-20th century (in which Republicans were indispensable partners), changing social norms regarding women, and that rising levels of education had eliminated the germs that produced secession, lynching, and Indian massacres. Instead, those microbes simply went into dormancy, and now, in the presence of Trump, erupt again like plague buboes—bitter, potent and vile.
The last twitches of conservative independence consisted of Senator Jeff Flake securing a week-long FBI investigation of Ford’s charges. For the rest, there was not a profile in courage to be seen. Not one.
It is impossible at this moment to envisage the Republican Party coming back. Like a brontosaurus with some brain-eating disorder it might lumber forward in the direction dictated by its past, favoring deregulation of businesses here and standing up to a rising China there, but there will be no higher mental functioning at work. And so it will plod into a future in which it is detested in a general way by women, African Americans, recent immigrants, and the educated young as well as progressives pure and simple. It might stumble into a political tar pit and cease to exist or it might survive as a curious, decaying relic of more savage times and more primitive instincts, lashing out and crushing things but incapable of much else.
Intellectuals do not build American political parties. Politicians do. The most we can do is point out the truths as we see them, and cheer on those who can do the necessary work. It is supposedly inconceivable that a genuinely conservative party could emerge, but then again, who thought the United States could be where it is now? And progressives no less than bereft conservatives should want this to happen, because the conservative virtues remain real virtues, the conservative insights real insights, and the conservative temperament an indispensable internal gyro keeping a country stable and sane. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” runs the proverb. The hour is upon the country: conservatives wait for the men (or more likely women) to meet it.
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|From: Brumar89||1/11/2019 8:01:16 PM|
|Toward a Constitutional Conservatism|
By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
January 10, 2019 11:03 AM
Why opposition to government overreach grounded in constitutional principle is a sign of health in the body politicConservatism’s choice, among all the great modern revolutions, has always been the American Revolution. It sought not to remake the world — and man — anew by some utopian ideal, but rather to elevate and safeguard the liberty of man in our own, imperfect world. It ushered in a system of constitutional structures that limit and contain power, that create checks and balances to frustrate tyranny, and that view government as subordinate to the individuals from whom it derives its just powers. The conservative instinct is skeptical and individualistic, and, in the American context, constitutional. And that is why a new conservative idea is now focused on a revival of constitutionalism. We can almost say that this new conservatism is, in essence, a constitutionalism in and of itself.
First, a bit of history for context. In the 20th century, liberalism outgrew its 19th-century roots — the classical individualism of John Stuart Mill and others — and it fell in thrall to the romantic progressivism of the age. Mill held that truth emerges from an unfettered competition of ideas and that individual character is most improved when allowed to find its own way, unmolested and with government standing to the side. But that vision was insufficient for the ambitions of 20th-century liberalism. It lacked glory and it lacked sweep. Twentieth-century liberalism’s newfound perfectionist ambitions — reflected in its current euphemism, “progressivism” — sought to harness the power of government, the mystique of science, and the rule of experts to shape society and individual character and bring them both, willing or not, to a higher state of being.
Contemporary conservatism is a reaction to precisely that kind of overreaching, overarching ambition. It is deeply skeptical of belief in a progressive history or a redemptive politics. It believes that the first duty of government is to conserve what is, and most especially the great gift of the Enlightenment: the autonomy of the individual and the universe of free associations — the essence of civil society that Alexis de Tocqueville saw was so essential to American democracy, what Edmund Burke called “the little platoons” — that are created beneath, against, and apart from the behemoth of government.
We need not look far back into history to understand the importance of our Constitution and our reverence for it. Today, Americans are in the midst of a great national debate over the power, scope, and reach of the government that was established by that document.
The debate was first sparked by the Obama administration’s bold push for government expansion: a massive fiscal stimulus, Obamacare, financial regulation, various attempts at controlling the energy economy, and other attempts to regulate the private and economic life of Americans. Obama’s vision was one that sought to move America away from its tradition of a constitutionally restrained and individualistic system to a system more like the social democracies of Europe.
The kind of social-democratic vision promoted by President Obama engendered a spontaneous, popular countervailing reaction. This movement was called the “Tea Party,” but its appeal and the strength of its arguments have reached well beyond the groups explicitly adopting that label. It calls for a more restricted vision of government that is more consistent with the intent and the aim of the Founders.
I would call this constitutionalism, or a return to constitutionalism. And what’s interesting is that, in essence, constitutionalism is the intellectual counterpart and the spiritual progeny of the originalist movement that we see in jurisprudence. Judicial originalists (led by Antonin Scalia and other notable conservative jurists) insisted that legal interpretation be bound by something — namely, the text of the Constitution as understood by those who wrote it and their contemporaries. Originalism — once scorned as a kind of fringe tendency — has now grown to become the major challenger to the liberal “living Constitution” school of thought, under which high courts are channelers of the spirit of the age, free to create new constitutional principles accordingly.
What originalism is to jurisprudence, constitutionalism is to governance: an appeal for restraint rooted in constitutional text. Constitutionalism as a political philosophy represents a reformed, self-regulating conservatism that bases its call for minimalist government — for reining in the willfulness of presidents and Congresses — in the words and the meaning of the Constitution.
The new constitutionalism is a kind of self-enforced discipline — guided by a conscious grounding in constitutional text. Its first symbolic moment occurred in January 2011, when the 112th House of Representatives opened with a reading of the Constitution. Remarkably, this had never been done before in American history, perhaps because it had never been so needed. The reading reflected the feeling that we have moved far from a government of constitutionally limited and enumerated powers, and in the direction of government constrained only by its perception of social need.
The most galvanizing example of this expansive shift was the Democrats’ health-care reform, which aimed to revolutionize one-sixth of the American economy. And the most interesting and encouraging aspect of the pushback against this government power grab was the form it took. There was, of course, the usual opposition on the usual grounds for objecting to welfare-state expansion: that it was ruinously expensive and therefore unsustainable economically, and that it was introducing massive inefficiencies, complexity, and arbitrariness that would degrade the entire medical system itself as well as contributing to our looming national insolvency. That kind of protest and those kinds of arguments would have been the norm in preceding decades, and it might have stopped there.
But this time, an additional argument arose and became very powerful: constitutional illegitimacy. This objection manifested itself in two forms: popular opposition and political argument on the one hand, and serious legal challenge on the other. The object of the aversion on the part of conservatives was the individual mandate — the requirement by the federal government that every citizen buy health insurance from a private entity, under the penalty of a fine from Washington. From town hall to town hall, from campaign debates to arguments on the floor of Congress, people instinctively felt and saw that this was a bridge too far. That on principle, even if Obamacare was economical, beneficent, and efficient, it was impermissible to force a citizen to do something against his will — not just to prohibit certain actions, but to compel the positive undertaking of action — simply to promote what the government saw as some social good.
Even more interestingly, it spawned a legal challenge that was at first dismissed by the better thinkers in Washington as just the work of fringe elements. Democrats were extremely dismissive of this constitutional objection at the beginning. Yet within several months the legal challenge was joined by a majority of the 50 states. The basis of the argument was that the government had exceeded its enumerated powers.
This is a refreshing line of argument. The essence of constitutional power has always lain in the fundamental Madisonian idea of a government of enumerated powers. Indeed, at first it was thought that a newly born United States would not need a Bill of Rights that enumerated rights against a government. It was assumed that after the tyranny of the British king and parliament, Americans would simply accept a system in which the limited powers of the branches of government, spelled out in the Constitution, would be a sufficient bar to overreaching. And as a fail-safe, the separation of powers and the inherent rivalry among the branches would check the ambitions of any potential tyrants.
There were skeptics, of course, who thought that this was not barrier enough. They insisted on the Bill of Rights, not trusting that the enumeration of powers would be enough to actually prevent tyrannical rule. They ensured that each citizen would explicitly be given a sphere of inviolability in the form of rights against the government — inside of which the citizen remains sovereign and free.
Over the last century, with the ascendancy of the progressive and liberal tradition, with the expansion of government and its regulations, dictations, and overall presumptions, the Bill of Rights has gone from being a simple checklist of areas where “Congress shall not” to being a last redoubt of the individual against governmental power that otherwise sees itself as unlimited. Thus, for most of the 20th century, protection against big government was to be found in the individual protections spelled out in the Bill of Rights.
But now a more ambitious challenge to big government is emerging: an insistence that the enumerated powers of Congress and the presidency strictly define the limits of their competence, that government’s power ends long before it intrudes upon the individual rights in the first ten amendments.
Government is limited to its sphere, and that means that everything outside of it — which is everything else in life — is the sovereign domain of the individual and of civil society. It’s akin to the difference in figure–ground perception. With the focus on enumerated powers, the ultimate objective is to restrain the government and to keep it in a box where it cannot touch anything else, whereas a focus on the individual leads to the traditional defense that draws an impenetrable box around the individual, but everything outside of it is ceded to government.
Which is the better way to define the border between citizen and state: an enumeration of powers within which Congress and the president may act but beyond which they may not reach? Or an enumeration of rights delineating the inviolability of the individual, outside of which the government may do nearly anything? Both approaches are of course valid and valuable. But the revival of the first — the insistence on the enumeration of powers as the limit of congressional power — is a salutary development. The Bill of Rights is the last resort, the last redoubt of the individual against intrusive, overbearing government. But better to meet big government first on the field of battle, on the grounds of enumerated powers.
That’s why I have hope for the future: What is so extraordinary about the popular and judicial reaction to this federal overreach is the fact that the opposition grounded itself not just in policy but in constitutional principle. This reaction — inchoate, unorganized, undirected — was a wondrous sign of the health of the body politic. The movement has concentrated on exactly the correct constitutional issues and found its strength in constitutionalism itself. It’s not just the traditional arguments that Obamacare or these other expansions are inefficient, that they are not economically sound, that they lead to bureaucratic inefficiency. Those would be valid, but they wouldn’t be enough, not at this time. The issue is important not just for how it will affect one-sixth of the economy and the most vital part of our social and family life. It is equally important for what it portends for future challenges to government overreaching.
The argument now emphasizes and is rooted in an attack on the constitutional illegitimacy of what is being done, and that — in a constitutional republic — is the heart of the matter. This does not in any way denigrate the other forms of the conservative critique of modern liberalism. But it does serve to reinforce it. In choosing to focus on a majestic document that bears both study and recitation, this kind of reformed conservatism has found not just a symbol but an anchor. Constitutionalism as a guiding tendency will require careful and thoughtful development, just as its counterpart in jurisprudence — originalism — has required careful and thoughtful development. But the very existence and power of this critique — and of the popular and spiritual support it has received — is a reason for hope, if not for change.
— This essay is adapted from Charles Krauthammer’s posthumous book, The Point of It All, which was edited by his son, Daniel Krauthammer.
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