I have spent my entire career in politics fighting for the causes of a just society. As an eighteen-year-old, one of my first challenges was to choose between two sides. After serving as the Field Director of the Republican Party in my county, it was clear on election night that there may have been some election fraud taking place. Election fraud in my hometown was something of a dirty secret. It was known, but not seriously discussed. My options were to ignore the possibility of fraud for my own reputation, or to join a rag-tag motley crew of individuals who may have also believed that the CIA and aliens were involved in order to investigate the truth. Risking my career and my reputation as a young-gun with a pretty substantial success for his first time out, I chose the latter. Risk has always outweighed my reward in politics. However, I was proud to serve an even prouder Grand Old Party and to make a difference in my community.
But in many ways, neither party is what they were before. I am not too young to remember the days when Republicans would rather be caught naked in public than to openly violate Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment. Now, it would seem, the mantra of “Republicans do not air their dirty laundry” has given way to a circular firing squad. It was not long ago that I was told by Republicans at all levels that “God and Country” were more important than any party, and that, while we disagree on things, both parties serve both causes. Now, I hear, depending on a voter’s registration preference, that neither party loves either God or Country. Surely, it is said, Obama must certainly be a Marxist-Socialist-Stalinist-Communist-Athiest-Muslim-Jihadi. Certainly, it is pronounced, Republicans are Racist-Nazi-Fascist-Bigot-Athiest-Zealot-Christian-Jihadis. This is not public service. Today, in an era when profit trumps virtue, our ‘public servants’ profit from pointing out every piece of sawdust in every other eye while shopping for sunglasses large enough and dark enough to cover up their own logs.
A conservative should not support the 99%. But a conservative should not support the 1% either. The course to which the conscience of a conservative ought to be called is to side with the 0% for the sake of the 100%. Taxes should never be more important than public service. If a Democrat elects to hold a nation hostage over raising taxes at an inappropriate time, let it be on their conscience. Our public servants must do the public’s work. We cannot deny the threat to liberty posed by the public debt. But we should not deny that political intransigence is an equal partner in that threat. We, the conservatives, cannot meet intransigence with yet more intransigence. We cannot play chicken with our nation. This new world of adrenaline-rush-politics may drive ratings to the muckrakers and misfits on cable TV and radio who are too incredulous and abrasive to be elected dog catcher, but it does not serve the Republic.
When the constitution was proposed for ratification, America had just endured a bloody and uncertain war. The entire purpose of the war was against central government oppression. It should be no surprise that when a newer stronger central government was proposed, many were up in arms. However, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay were able to make the case that for freedom to be provided, there had to be a government to assure it; that government must be strong, but restrained. In eighty-five papers, The Federalist Papers, none of this great intellectual triumvirate ever questioned the other side’s patriotism, their commitment to freedom, or even named a name of a political opponent. The case for our constitution, which we so admire and promote, was made without ever resorting to the vulgar politics of muckraking indecency of today. I’m told that times are different and this is simply the way it is. But I ask you to know better. If the principles upon which our nation are timeless – if you truly believe that our constitution is still as applicable today as it was when it was signed – then you have already admitted that though times have changed, the values upon which our constitution was both founded and ratified have not changed. To believe the constitution’s words must still be applied, so too must the dignity, decency and methodology which ensured its ratification. Those who wrote The Federalist Papers knew the seriousness of public service. Our Founding Fathers did not serve because it was entertaining, powerful, nor profitable. They risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for freedom. And today, our government won’t even pass a budget. The sheer dignity of Hamilton & co. is the reason that our constitution has a place in history.
Two wrongs do not ever make a right. Sometimes, to do the right thing you must let a bully win. If nothing can ever be accomplished in politics, there’s no reason to run for public office. If Democrats are willing to hold our nation hostage as a sacrifice to the altar of progressive taxation, so be it. Republicans should refuse to vote, and let the Democrats take their taxes. While they stand on the House floor to harvest more money to feed entitlement programs from the public trough, Republicans can be standing on the Capitol steps to speak to the American people and explain that when faced with cutting defense and losing our nation’s creditworthiness, the Democrats gave them a choice of raising taxes knowing the economic danger or torpedoing liberty, and that Republicans were not willing to let tax rates jeopardize our children’s freedom. Only when this happens can we have a real campaign wherein the American people can choose for themselves whether they want to return a party of hostage takers who act as lawmakers. I certainly do not call for higher taxes, only a higher calling. We must care about our country more than our tax rates.
This new politics has given me pause, as well. Unfortunately, I no longer feel I have a place in it. I came to politics in a party which lived above the fray. I am not cut out to live in the morass of trench warfare politics. Fourteen years ago, I became a Christian and was baptized. Witnessing the sadness and worthlessness of the vulgar spectacle of the 24 hour news cycle, I realize I cannot be effective to live within it. We have become so divorced as a society and as a people, both parties, from the dignity and sanctity of both life and service that we seek to be elected to office as though we have some inalienable right to govern regardless of what governing means. Our entire culture has become a selfish means to justify our own personal ends. Our founders were willing to be tortured and die for this country to be free. Now both parties would rather jettison prosperity than risk a majority. Are Americans truly free as long as our parties spend more time talking about the threats posed by fellow Americans of opposing parties than thoughtfully discussing the threats posed by other nations, or an unwillingness to sacrifice by either of the constituencies those parties represent?
Abraham Lincoln was the President of the United States, and the father of our party. He governed at a time when there was no United States other than in name only. When he said, “A House divided against itself cannot stand,” he was as prophetic of a civil war as he was today’s incivility. As long as we have two parties who would rather stop each other than serve the national interest, there is no hope for our future. Until our politicians can climb from the mud and work for the hope of a better day yet to come, today will be as good as it gets. Until liberals, both classic and neoliberals, can put aside popularity for pragmatism, there is no political gain. Unless conservatives can realize that it is better to be honest and to admit that there is no option but shared sacrifice—the real kind, not Joe Biden’s kind—where all classes, races, and citizens must work as one nation to serve one singular purpose as one American people, then there are no conservatives–no federalists–at all.
There’s only been one recipe for our nation to overcome any adversity it has ever faced. And with each and every passing threat, it was triumphed over any evil: All gave some. Some gave all.
Troy Ard // Colorado State University at Pueblo // @Troy_Ard