Immediately after Congressman Dave Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 7th District Republican Primary, pundits gave credit to Brat’s populism. He ran against Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce as an economist, which spoke volumes; and he ran against the Washington Establishment and their relative distance and disinclination toward their constituents back home in the States.
Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have also been accused of populism, campaigning against an inherently unjust system they feel does not adequately represent the general welfare of the American citizen.
Outsiders are often treated as if they are ignorant of our political system and therefore are free to make wild claims and take impossible positions, that while popular with the people, have no chance of ever having an effect on our actual government. However, that’s not what’s happening here. These outsiders are not ignorant of the system, they oppose the system. Furthermore, the depressing nature of that premise is awful. Ideas that appeal to the vast majority of Americans are foolishly campaigned upon by “populists”, but are certain to fail once brought to Washington D.C.? Really? That is a strong admission to the corruption in our federal government?
Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift published an article entitled On Agrarianism Contra Populism, where he writes that populism “can be summarized as “we don’t understand it, so we’re against it, and nothing will change our minds!” Politicians who run to this simply appeal to the people’s ignorance in order to effect political change knowing they will never truly fix the system. It is an appeal to democracy (lowercase-d, the sort the Founders warned against) and mob sentiment. The worse the economy is, the more populists you will find… which makes them primarily a materialist subset. Bread and circuses were meant for the populists.”.
It’s the same sentiment we find in Brian Shoeneman’s article, “Tired of Being Lied to? Blame Yourself“. Essentially, the sentiment is this: if you are foolish enough to believe that these outsiders could ever accomplish a tenth of what they say they want to accomplish, then that’s a you problem, not a government problem.
However, the likelihood of an eventuality neither increases nor decreases its’ merit. Appealing to the will of the people wasn’t meant to inspire a pure Democracy in America, but it was aimed at granting the American People representation in government: a representative, Constitutional Republic. However, the vast majority of Americans disapprove of their government (both political parties), the media, and the special interests funding the whole damn circus.
I think what Shaun Kenney and Brian Shoeneman believe is that those of us furiously angry with our government and dedicated to changing it are deluding ourselves about our chances, and by fighting the system as opposed to working within it, are hurting the Republican Party. We want to do impossible things now and won’t be content until we get it.
They see three fundamental problems with the conservatives and libertarians who have dedicated their time and energy to changing this government. First, we can’t raise money. Here we are, lambasting every powerful special interest in the United States of America; screaming about Wall Street (lots of money), K Street (lots of money), and the Chamber of Commerce (lots of money) and excoriating everyone in Washington D.C. with any power at all. They must be thinking, how in the world do these people think they are going to accomplish anything, if they attack everyone in a position of actual power and every organization with enough money to fund a movement or a campaign? Furthermore, we are essentially representing a political philosophy which will deprive 90% of all special interests everything they are actually interested in.
Second, they don’t really believe things are that bad. In other words, these politicians who are out there to fight the system are actually lying to us about how dire and awful things really are. We’re not facing any real fiscal or economic collapse. These politicians are just playing on the fears of the less educated and less productive Republicans in the base, and using those fears to cement their position in politics.
Third, they don’t think we have any solutions. Why? Because all our solutions begin with the words “Stop”, “End”, and “Defund”. These are words that don’t work in this Congress of ours and, thus, they don’t believe they are valid approaches politically. Why run on something that will never happen?
The idea that we can’t change our government, if true, is a catastrophic concept, and I don’t believe it. To call it idealism or ignorance or populism, to fight for radically scaling back the corruption and the infringements of our liberty through taxation and regulation, is just flat out cynical.
It is not idealistic to demand strict adherence to the governments’ role as laid out in our Constitution, nor is it idealistic to demand strict protections of our States’ rights and our personal liberties. Just because this government has reached so far beyond its’ authority and just because we’ve already sacrificed so much of our liberty for some imagined security and stability, doesn’t make that status quo a necessary reality. More importantly, just because something is a reality today, doesn’t make it necessary tomorrow. Change can happen.
I have often been accused of not understanding how Congress works, because I want Congress to do what it is Constitutionally designed to do. I’ve been accused of not understanding how politics works, because I want politicians in the Republican Party to do what they promised their constituents they would do. I’m not idealistic.
We need revolution in this country. Not violence. Not war. Revolution. We need to completely change the way Washington DC and Richmond work.
All that said, and I understand this is cumbersome, the division between these two perspectives brings me to a middle ground. I’m going to get emails about what I say next, but I must put it in perspective, because I want the grassroots to understand what it takes to win.
Middle Resolution, a Virginia PAC, has worked tirelessly around the edges of the system. Every time they take too many steps into the system itself, there is a grassroots backlash. Now, I don’t agree with everything Middle Resolution has done or tried to do, but I very much agree with their approach: Raise money, gather information, and use that money and information to effect campaigns and policy. There is some, not a lot, but some, truth to the idea that the conservative grassroots does an awful lot of screaming and not a lot of politics. Sure, we write a lot of letters and we post a lot of blogs, and once in a while, we even get someone elected. But when it comes to Richmond and Washington D.C. we must not be naive about the system we despise and the power held by those we seek to unseat.
Middle Resolution, more than any other organization in Virginia, has tried to fight the fight and walk that tightrope, because they want to win. They don’t want to just fight for a cause, they want to win. I respect that and I think everyone else should respect that too.
We, the grassroots, are not populists. We are revolutionaries. We recognize that our liberty, our economy, and politics are under siege and we aren’t going to stand blithely by and watch as the system crumbles around us without a fight. We’re going to fight and we’re going to be passionate and we aren’t going to settle for non-victories from those who pretend to represent us. We need to learn to amass power and money and leverage. We don’t have to sell our souls to do so. That’s also a lie. We can work around the edges. We can win on legislation and we can win campaigns, but we’ve got to be willing to focus. I believe that if we were more strategic and more successful we would earn ourselves some respect from those very people we are trying to dethrone.
This isn’t populism. At least, not with me it’s not. I don’t accept that the majority of the American People should get used to being miserable about their government. I don’t believe that special interests should control the agenda. I don’t believe that the elite should rule, regulate, and tax the rest of us into some kind of dark, subservient subsistence. To that, I say no. That’s a future none of us should accept. So we have to fight John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Barack Obama. We have to fight against the Hillary Clinton’s and the John Kerry’s of the world. We have to fight against the Republican Party and the leadership that runs it, because they have given us nothing! Not one thing we can be proud of. Can we do it smarter and more strategically? Sure. We must. But we must be clear about the nature of our pursuit. It’s not populism. It’s not Democracy. It’s a love for our Constitution and our Constitutional Republic, the rights and powers of our State Governments, and the sovereignties guaranteed to us, as individuals. That was the nature of our original revolution and that is the nature of our revolution today.
Article written by: Steven Brodie Tucker