As I watched the election map last night, I saw a nation that is still very divided. As James Robbins writes in the Washington Times:
In the days leading up to the presidential election, expectation games were in full swing on both sides of the political spectrum. Each group of partisan supporters pointed to favorable polls, brandished winning electoral models and predicted either narrow victory or landslide. It was as though they were describing two different elections in two different countries. In some respects, they were.
America is experiencing a hardening of ideological categories. Republicans are becoming more conservative and Democrats more liberal. Crossover voting is practically nonexistent. Partisans vote their tickets, leaving the shrinking center to decide the race. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff of the Obama White House, said the election would be decided in “five states and 500 precincts,” and it may have been even fewer. The rest of the country was essentially irrelevant and is divided between relieved winners and losers nursing a grudge.
This is the character of contemporary American politics, a ceaseless war for supremacy with no quarter asked or given. Barack Obama and George W. Bush stand as the most divisive presidents in recent history. Congress is more polarized now than at any time since the years after the Civil War. The Supreme Court is split into blocks that disagree even over the fundamental matter of constitutional interpretation.
The fractured government is the product of a divided society. The United States is populated by groups of people who may as well be living in different countries. They have separate histories, cultures and visions for the future. They are two distinct nationalities, divided by mutual distrust and joined by mammoth public debt.
And in truth, I’m OK with a divided nation…because there is no way on God’s green earth that 310 million people are going to agree on everything. I’ve been against a direct vote (popular vote) for that very reason.
Aside from being a practical impossibility to vote directly on every issue, it is not fair for heavily populated urban areas to rule over the less populated rural and suburban areas where values and issues differ significantly. That is why I’ve always supported the Electoral College (for presidential elections) and think that the formation of a tripartite government with separate elective offices, an executive branch and a bi-cameral legislative branch – all with different election mechanisms, was sheer brilliance on the part of the Founders.
Yet in looking at the county by county and state by state popular vote maps, it is easy to see that our system is flawed because our national elections are now being determined by a handful of “swing states”, and even smaller concentrations of voters within those states, concentrations that are distinctly urban, have high concentrations of very young voters and as a result, tend to be very liberal.
As a point of clarification, while states like Virginia, North Carolina and Florida are thought to be less urban and are seen as “southern” and “rural” states, there has been a mass migration of people over the past 40 years from the upper northeast corridor to these states due to retirement and as people and companies moved to take advantage of the higher quality of life, lower living costs, favorable business and tax climates (Florida has no state income tax) and better weather…the issue today is that these migrants bring with them the very ideologies that created the oppressive environment that they ran from and use their voting and political power to institute those very same policies and programs in their new locations, thereby creating the very conditions that they sought to escape in the first place.
Irony doesn’t even begin to describe it.
What I did notice – and it finally got through my thick skull last night is that our government isn’t broken, per se, it just has a piece or two missing. What occurred at the national level yesterday with the re-election of Barack Obama, occurred exactly as the Founders anticipated and designed (since he won clearly through the Electoral College, I guess we won’t hear any squawking about how unfair it is for another 4 years or so) but what the Founders never anticipated was that we would have voided two very important aspects of the governance machine and that these two seemingly minor pieces would result in a central national government that wielded inordinate power and could be elected and sustained by such a small segment of the country.
I realize that the headcount in these segments is high and the vote counts are appropriately high as well, but I am speaking now about city/urban areas vs. suburban/rural. These geo-political areas have significantly different demographics, different views of the world, their societal environments demand different responses and they hold distinctly different views of religiosity and morality.
How can it be that the urban population of Cuyahoga County in Ohio can have the power to set or change policy for the balance of the nation?
It shouldn’t and it wasn’t designed to be able to do so. The differences in the commercial urban areas and the rural agricultural areas in colonial America were stark and these issues were readily observable to the Founders. This is the very reason that they created the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and that before being changed by the Seventeenth Amendment, the people sent to serve in the Senate were chosen by the individual state legislatures rather than by direct election.
The original wording of Article I, Section Three (part of the original Constitution ratified in 1787) states:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
The Tenth Amendment (ratified in 1791) is even clearer:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Yes, that is the entire amendment.
Notice that it recognizes that:
- The federal government has enumerated (constrained) powers
- The States are superior to the national government, and,
- The people are superior to both the state and federal governments.
I detest being repetitive but I do believe in what is purported to be Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Our liberals vs. conservative issues, at least on a national level, aren’t electoral, they are structural – and coincidentally, are really no different from the ideological differences of the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists of 1787 and 1788.
Now for the repetitive part, there is a path to achieving what both left and right political ideologies want and it starts with shrinking the central government. I have written that:
I honestly believe that it is rooted in the following:
- Legal respect for the Tenth Amendment:
- “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
- Repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment and reverting to Article I, Section 3:
- “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
- The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof,for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
- Repeal of the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943
- This Act mandated automatic withholding of federal income tax, effectively making private employers the agents of the IRS.
These three actions, perhaps more than any others, would return the power of government to the people through decentralization of government, ending the hegemony of lobbyists in D.C., devolving the centralized socialist planning philosophy of Washington, making elections on a state level relevant to national government (it would matter who controls state legislatures due to the appointment of Senators by those respective bodies) and returning the power of the purse to the people. I maintain that having to plan for and pay taxes directly out of your bank account creates a greater degree of sensitivity for how much money government spends and why.
It is my firm belief that this revolution must start at the local and state level for it to be successful.
We have allowed our politicians to construct and interpret laws and the Constitution to prevent the states from having the power originally intentioned by the Founders. This perhaps had its genesis under a Republican president – Abraham Lincoln – who compromised many long held constitutional beliefs in the effort to hold the country together during the Civil War.
I’ve read and researched Lincoln enough to understand that this was never his intent but there have been nefarious forces in American politics that have seized on the slow roll to centralization and socialism started by that breakdown of state level authority. Obama’s ideological forebears, presidents Woodrow Wilson and FDR, were quite comfortable in taking those cracks in the Liberty Bell started by Lincoln and pounding wedges deeper and deeper to split that hairline crack even wider.
I have watched the Tea Party movement with great interest because I think that there are several lessons for classical liberals to learn from them. Those are:
- Regular citizens sharing a common view can have an impact at the national level.
- The established political classes will do everything they can to stop a “grass roots” movement like the TPM.
- The media in America is not independent; they are biased toward socialism and central government and as such are the enemies of freedom and independence.
- Finding the energy to get started is easy; sustaining the energy for the long term is hard.
The upshot of the Tea Party for me is that it shows that a classical liberalism revival is possible even though there are 100 years of self-sustaining big government policies against it.
Respect for the Tenth Amendment. If Massachusetts wants universal, single payer healthcare, that is no reason that Texas must also if a majority of their citizens do not wish it. If a majority of Oregon’s citizens want to legalize LSD and pot, there is no reason that Mississippi has to as well. If Connecticut wants to recognize gay marriage and Georgia doesn’t, so be it. If the citizens of New York want to levy a tax to pay for transgender sex change operations and free abortions for all, there is no legitimate reason that the people of Oklahoma must adopt the same position and help pay for New York to enact theirs.
Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment to make state elections more relevant to national governance, make state legislatures and governors matter again and to eliminate the nationalization of a the election of a representative of a state, that being the US Senator of that state.
Repeal the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943 to eliminate withholding so that the individual citizen feels the pain and recognizes the true cost of their decisions at the ballot box. If we can eliminate governments collecting union dues, we should do this as well. It will have a similar effect. Without the ability to withhold tax revenues from the government, the public loses power over what they spend. What do you think the Boston Tea Party was all about? It was about withholding a tax from King George III that Americans felt was unjust. Withholding taxes from your paycheck before you even see the money is the same as taxation without representation.
Until we can get to a point that we understand that the United States was never designed to be one massive governmental unit with total commonality in views, values and direction but rather is 50 smaller units that should be free to reflect those aspects of those smaller majorities in those political jurisdictions support, the nation will remain one nation, under God, divisible, with liberty and justice for some.