Just a few days ago, 19 US Senators, all Republicans, quietly left the herd, climbed a small hill, turned around and planted a flag, then knelt by their broad swords.
How many of these 19 actually knew this is what they had done, in Festus Haggen’s’ words, “remains to be saw”, but I think we can feel certain that a few certainly did, especially the trio of leaders of that sortie, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul.
Now that the tinier political issues of a continuing resolution and partial government shutdown have moved into the House phase of this action against the king, and may take some days , even weeks, to unfold, (House members will always be remembered by the electorate for their last vote, not their first), we should begin to consider the possibilities about what this first line in the sand may have conjured up.
First you have to agree, if 19 senators have indeed staked out a high hill in the Senate, there has to be next steps, about which, I’m sure, some are already being advised to find a way to gracefully withdraw. But if there are to be next steps, with 19 or only 3, they need to draw other members up onto that height of land as well. And they need to make sure the American people can see them, and see what is taking place there, for History can happen there, and all they have to do is will it.
I have an idea, an easy one to execute, incorporating a thing that is discussed almost daily out here on the hustings, but almost never “in there”.
How about taking the idea of Liberty out of the entire realm of politics, and insure that it is never made subject to politics again?
That is the hill I’m talking about.
Liberty’s Prime Directive
Resolved: Liberty, Freedom, Independence, whatever you want to call it, is above politics. In fact, it is the only thing that allows true politics to take place.
For the Negative: Liberal columnist Mary McGrory stated during the Ford years that “liberalism” stood for the proposition that all human conduct should be subject to the political process. (When I read that, I stopped being a liberal , on the spot.)
For the Affirmative: On the other hand, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that human liberty was above all kings and all politics, and could never be subject to the political process if human freedom was to be realized and preserved.
The difference between left and right can get no more clear than that, for both adhere to an absolute.
The resulting US Constitution of 1787 simply became Liberty’s operations manual.
But, as you also know, the Constitution had a glitch, so in 1856 the Republican Party was formed to remedy it, built around a doctrine articulated by a man named George William Curtis, one of the party’s co-founders. In 1862, to help President Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation, Curtis delivered his famous (but forgotten, or possibly buried) “Doctrine of Liberty” speech to Phi Beta Kappa of Harvard. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s true, that Harvard and that Phi Beta Kappa . They’ve changed since then, not us.)
While Liberalism, Progressivism, Socialism, or whatever you want to call it, gained power in the American academy by the 1890s, and in government, thanks to Woodrow Wilson, by 1908, the Doctrine of Liberty remained the law of the people all the way into the early 1960s, largely thanks to their control of public schools and local government. That last wall of liberty came down sometime during the Vietnam War, and yes, books have been written to mark their coincidence.
In the years since, we have seen few people, even among professing c0nservatives, who would become so un-cool as to wrap himself up in that flag of Liberty and declare the true purpose of this unique form of government. Ronald Reagan comes to mind, for no political figure ever articulated it better since Curtis.
Reagan’s only mistake was in underestimating the urgency, for freedom’s enemies continued to work diligently on deafening the ears of Americans, offering a variety of exchanges and swaps for their freedom. A single voice wasn’t enough.
Which leads us to our current predicament.
The Republican Party establishment won’t claim the Doctrine of Liberty, but neither do they want anyone else to claim it, especially if they also call themselves Republican.
And the Democrat Party these days, to a man, won’t even pay lip service to the Constitution, the Founders, or offer the thinnest acknowledgement to human freedom and independence.
But government isn’t supposed to be about liberty, you say. It’s about managing a giant national enterprise. Yes I know, just as you can’t build a marriage on love, you can’t run a county on warm fuzzy feelings about freedom. Running a government, running an economy (in which the government really isn’t supposed to be so deeply involved), managing a foreign policy, keeping the shores safe, and getting the mail there on time, all require politics. Agreed.
And in all democracies, especially our republican form, politics is a messy process.
What was never supposed to happen was that the Prime Directive would be rendered irrelevant, or, of late, actually absorbed into the body of politics as just another policy issue, a consideration that slides up and down the scale of priorities, just like any other political issue.
Freedom is not an abstraction, no more than repression and tyranny is. It is not a poker chip to be passed around the table from hand to hand, depending who can come up with the most aces.
By 2008, the Prime Directive had become so lost that the current president stated that the Constitution was a body of negative powers, stating only what the government could not do, instead of what government could do, totally ignoring its original purpose; that government was designed to be no more than a tool to man and his freedom. What was this man, Obama, thinking?
Only no one seemed to seriously disagree with him, except talk radio, at which time alarms went off in the hearths of free men everywhere, for what were their elected representatives thinking to let such a comment slide?
That’s when our game was on.
So when those 19 Senators left the herd last week and strode up that hill, they enabled themselves to stake out a piece of ground and say “No more” and then go about the process of re-instituting the Prime Directive into American governance.
My own opinion is, if effectively articulated and put on public display in a way that distinguishes it from politics-as-usual; in body language and real language, the American people will flock to the battlements—and quickly. As Reagan once did, this plan would provide a way for these valiant knights to go directly to the American people, regularly, circumventing both Party leaderships and establishments, and minimizing the power of the media.
This does not have to take years to accomplish.
The Liberty Umbrella
In the moral, ethical and constitutional sense of success, the politician, businessman, good parent, all must still make time to pause and consider the deeper meaning of their jobs, surrounded by whining kids, barking dogs, angry clients or customers, even never-ending, shrill, lying leftists.
As the Bible used to be at one time among businessmen, the Prime Directive is supposed to be among elected representatives, a thing one carries in his coat pocket, always handy, reserved for a quieter time, once all the hours of dreary meetings, phone calls, speeches and policy reviews finally end. Then the legislator can kick back, possibly with the help of a small libation, (shaken not stirred), and reach into his pocket and pull out that small booklet and measure the week’s transactions against this one template of Liberty….for any transaction that are outside Liberty’s purview, or contrary to its purposes, cannot be allowed to go forward. That is always Job One of the Prime Directive.
Ever hear the phrase, “A Ben Franklin in the board room”? Years ago the better companies always had a keeper of the company flame in board meetings to provide that settling influence on decisions that effect the Prime Directive. (I think this role is now filled with media consultants.)
For years the Cato Institute (and others) tried to do that by passing out hundreds of thousands of small pocket-sized booklets of The Declaration and Constitution. I can attest to its power, for I carried one to the USSR in 1991 and brought a roomful of Soviet academicians to tears, merely by reciting from it.
It was then that I learned just how deeply this universal yearning for liberty, freedom, independence (or whatever you want to call it) truly runs in Mankind, and how much more men who are deprived of Freedom know about it than men who have had it so long they treat it like a pair of old shoes.
Toward a Liberty Caucus in Congress
Yes, I know we already have a Tea Party Caucus in Congress, but I have something a little different in mind.
A Liberty Caucus deals with only one matter; it defends the holy grail of Liberty, the Prime Directive, and nothing else. That keeps it simple, so simple in fact some Democrats and backslid Republicans might even be inclined to join.
It is not exclusive in that sense, but in another, it is.
The Prime Directive is so clear and easy to understand that it brought some of the finest intellectual and legal (and slightly drunk) minds in the Soviet Union to cry. At the same time, and by a means of communication the cynical political mind cannot decipher (Thank God) it touches men as lowborn as rice farmers in Indonesia, cattle herders in Kenya, and street peddlers in Buenos Aires. It touches them all, as if kissed by an angel, when all they have is a whisper of freedom.
Even a child can understand this, but first it must be placed on its proper perch again, so that they can see it, and where no kind of politics will be allowed to demote human liberty every again.
That was the shot heard round the world last week when Sen Ted Cruz took to the floor of the Senate to filibuster Obamacare, then was joined by18 colleagues. As I said, House members will add their name to the lists shortly.
Why only Congress? Oathkeepers.
Well, actually, this is the oath they take. This is the Constitution’s commission to all elected members. They are its designated Oathkeepers and today it is clear at least half are in open revolt against it (much like Lucifer against His Creator, if you’re looking for parallels.)
While every congress member has a dozen of more prominent NGO’s looking over its shoulder, nagging, wheedling, threatening, from FreedomWorks on the right to MoveOn.org on the Left, demanding the Constitution either be respected or rejected, these pressures themselves are political in nature, tied most often to policy matters (politics) about which the overriding notion of Liberty may play only a minor role. (Most tea party positions and social conservative positions are political in nature, even when they are also moral.)
Above all these things there needs to be a body in Congress that determines, by its oath, outside of all practical political and party considerations, that a thing is either hostile to human freedom, or not.
We know that taxation, for instance, is not necessarily hostile to Liberty, but that Obamacare clearly is. So by our oath, we intend to see it ended. This is what I mean, and what Senator Cruz attempted to achieve.
So, yes, that is the kind of Caucus I have in mind.
Do this one thing.
The easiest thing to do, now that the gauntlet has been thrown down, would be simply to retreat, and let the Left bring the battle to you. It is also the French thing. I don’t see that as a game-changer, much less a winner. A knight without a horse is afoot.
Through this simple device of establishing a genuinely elite caucus of Oathkeepers, vowing to fight for and protect That One Thing, you will place targets on all your backs, but in doing so you will be invincible to the slings and arrows of the usual suspects of the Left, including the media. That way, in this fight between yourselves and the Democrats and their blood cousins in the Republican establishment, what you will be doing is conveying to the American people directly, all the American people, not just your constituents, that you are carrying on this fight in their name.
I don’t know about congressional rules for establishing a caucus, but don’t break your backs. Informality is best. Just declare it. Have dinner once week or so at a favorite restaurant. Convince Condi Rice to jump out of cake. Set yourselves apart. No more “Howya doing, Harry’s” in the senate corridors. Issue a self-confident nod, maybe a knowing wink, and just a hint of an “I got you, you bastard” smirk, but no more. Make eye contact, Liberals (in fact all thieves) hate eye contact. Nearly got me killed a couple of times. (Incidentally, this is how Christians piss off Lefties, the “I’ve got something you don’t have” smile-with-a-halo. Sends them into fits.)
On the floor, change the context of all your discussions, and questions to the other side, to that of Liberty. After all, you’ll always have a Ryanesque colleague out there crunching the numbers, boring the hell out of the masses, anyway.
Become the eternal (and infernal) standard bearers for Liberty, That One Thing. The Democrats will always see this as a form of harassment, in part because on that subject they haven’t the foggiest notion what you’re talking about You may as well as be discussing Tibetan film noire as human freedom. They will have no easy answers, so the stage will always be yours.
Most of all, get your own microphone.
Don’t go to David Gregory, let him come to you. You will be a novelty the media will want to exploit because of the way you will incense you own party establishment. Just don’t let the GOP Establishment upstage you. Don’t ever defer to the Establishment even when you agree. In all likelihood it will be for different reasons, never forget. You will be heralding Liberty while they will be selling other political soap brands, all noble, I’m sure, in the political sense of the word. But whether you like it or not, you will be in a contest with them to see which the citizens like the most. I’m betting on you, for Liberty simplifies a lot of complex issues.
While the Republican Party has become the party of “No…wait”, become the Caucus of “Nope”. To Americans your vote will count for ten against your colleagues’ one.
Just remember, if these 19 Senators are Oathkeepers, there are 81 who are Oathbreakers. Maybe we should name them as well. Identifying the Oathbreakers is where we come in; the blogosphere, the pundit class. Let the word go forth.
Change the discussion and we win, I swear by my oath.
(Have rolled up newspaper, Will Travel.)