The overwhelming message I got from progressives over the last eight years was that they had gained the upper hand in technology, economics, culture, and morality and that anyone who disagreed with them should just accept defeat and subjugation under the new majoritarian rule. Which, as one who considers herself a minority of one, pissed me off.
Which is why, even though I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, I was pleased to see the major upset of the political and media establishment. Pride goes before a fall. The prideful elites failed to notice that Barack Obama won with only a margin of 3% (2008) and 1.3% (2012), and thus came to believe they had a mandate to rule and influence the people by virtue of this supposed superiority, but were proven to be wrong by the very people they thought were too dumb to challenge them.
Make no mistake, Trump mostly is operating in inarticulate babble, but I am fine with that ultimately pushing out the refined propaganda techniques of the elites. Rather than pretending to be one of them, Trump cast himself as an everyman who cared about “the people” far more than the system and that resonated with “the people” who the system had disenfranchised for the last 30 years.
Do I have reservations about his agenda? Oh, yeah! But I applaud the elites being stripped of their pride and made to walk humbly for a while. You can see the new pecking order in how the Democrats are throwing rocks through windows and whining incessantly while Republicans are falling all over themselves to be let into Trump’s administration. A lot of stuck-up politicos got their arrogance handed to them November 8 … and that was a very good thing. Well worth the risks of a Trump presidency. It could hardly be worse than the Obama presidency.
Unfortunately, I don’t think our political class is the only group who is arrogant and in need of a trip down the stairs.
Americans pay lip-service to individual liberty, the cornerstone of our republic. Most of us haven’t got a clue what liberty means and they equate “defending” liberty with sending young men and women overseas to fight in wars against people who have no intentions of attacking us. How long can American remain exceptional if we only presume ourselves free and morally superior while demanding the government act in ways that are contrary to the nation’s founding ideals?
How can any president or Congress claim a mandate to rule when they disrespect the purpose of American government, which is to protect individual liberty?
There is belief among some quarters that the human race cannot be trusted with their freedom. We’re all of us, except the elite (of course), toddlers running with scissors. To protect us from ourselves, the elites seek to subjugate this nation that is so proud of its liberty. But how to go about it?
Force would probably fail. Once a people has tasted liberty, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The people tend to be willing to die to keep it … thus, the American Revolution. Resistance to overt suppression would spontaneous and organic. Such a program would create multitudes of martyrs and scores of new enemies devoted to ending the tyranny. Victory wouldn’t secure the peace, either, as such a government’s legitimacy would hang by a thread. Not even tyrants wish to live in fear of being deposed. They want peace too.
So, instead of utilizing conspicuous violence, suppose a group of would-be dictators found a way to trick a free people into lulling themselves into tyranny. In the name of freedom, they convinced a people to forsake their freedom and nudged them into a suicide pact on the promising of a better nation.
How would you do that? Well, first you would need to confuse people into thinking liberty is as simple as sharing in the promises of power. Convince them their right to vote and dictate the lives of others is more important than their individual right to think, speak, and act freely. Stand back and watch their lust for power make them regard liberty with fear. To add some more weight to the argument, suggest liberty is just another idea among many that must be balanced or even sacrifices for the sake of security, wealth, health, equality, or national greatness. Create some songs and pledges to play in the public schools so that children grow up believing it. Tell them stories, some mostly real with others made of whole-cloth, that teach these ideals. Be patient. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is majoritarian tyranny.
I’m presenting a hypothetical that is really a creeping reality. Most of the American electorate has reached the point of fear of liberty. They’re certain that if people were free to do so, they would choose to live in a Mad Max universe. Thus, they trust that the promises of power can save them from the scary things of this world. They are willing to trade their liberty and trample on the liberty of others for the sake of security … or even just keeping the opposition party out of power.
Don’t believe me. Slightly more than 50% of the electorate voted for Hillary Clinton because they apparently liked that she wanted to involve the American military in more wars around the world … tie up their neighbors in more red-tape … called a large percentage of the other half of the electorate deplorable, mental midgets deserving of her supporters’ derision. Yeah, that would be forms of tyranny.
But please understand, Donald Trump is not promising liberty either. The closest anyone came to that was Gary Johnson, who mostly just said he wouldn’t add to the tyranny we already live under. The fact that we keep voting for these politicians ought to concern us because they show no signs of actually having read the Constitution. Yeah, you remember, that eight page piece of paper we were all supposed to read in high school?
Oh, Constitution be damned! The American people have come to accept a system of government that promotes authority over individual rights in opposition to individual moral standards, using political force and the might-makes-right power of the collective that overwhelms everything else.
As Ayn Rand wrote of the American founding,
“The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right.”
Two centuries after the noble experiment where the collective was restrained by individual rights, liberty and the United States are on the ropes now. We’ve become so enamored to the “popular vote” that we have forgotten our right to live freely. We are slowly committing suicide one election cycle at a time.
The tyranny of the majority has fallen victim to the hubris of all such kings and emperors. We see ourselves as sovereign, collectively possessing an authority above the Constitution and above the rights of individuals within society. Democratic law has become justified by the mere might of the majority. The definition of truth and justice are now to be decided by the majority’s authority. Might-makes-right now masquerades as justice, law and liberty.
Despite Donald Trump’s recent victory, he and the GOP have no mandate whatsoever to violate the rights of Americans citizens no matter how many people voted for them to do so. We cannot take for granted that America is exceptional just for being of, by, and for “the people.”
What makes America exceptional and gives any American president his mandate is not simply the blessing of a given majority but that President’s fealty to the Constitution with its presumption of American liberty. Any time the American government acts in opposition to its requirement to protect individual rights, it violates liberty.
It is up to those of us who love liberty to remind people of this reality. Liberty is the cornerstone of our free society. If we fail in this charge, we can expect American liberty to go the way of the recent American establishment, drowning in the wake of the majority’s momentary lust for power.