Indeed, to revive the American spirit of liberty, the waypoint will almost certainly have to have the same weight and import as our constitutional convention of 1787-89. It’s not clear yet what combination of circumstances might make it possible to identify such a waypoint, and take advantage of it.
For the time being, those with a coherent idea of liberty and limited government expect little gratification from today’s partisan politics. They see what those who voted for Republicans as a status-quo alternative to Democrats don’t: that the status quo itself can’t continue. Creeping bureaucratic despotism – what we live under now – is unsustainable. It’s not the future. It’s not the strong horse. People have nothing to live for under its lash; ultimately, as limitations and pessimism drive out opportunity and hope, it must destroy itself.
But what the outlines of the future will look like, and what factors might give events a push, no one can foresee from here. With due respect to those who think they can, the truth is that deadlines keep passing, for everyone who predicts one certain doom or another. America has not been loaded into a garbage truck from which the only exit is in the landfill. This country still has a lot of living to do.
Liberty has always been an idea, and as an idea, it can’t be killed. It stills burns in the hearts of millions of Americans. Only some of them know what liberty really is, but there are still millions of those people. And here’s what I perceive about them. Although they remain committed to the political process – they think it’s important not to give up on it – their investment in it is on the wane right now.
The reason? The political process is not making the difference between liberty and overweening government anymore. Electing Republicans doesn’t bring relief from overregulation, collectivist statism, and the growth of public bureaucracies that are easily taken over by fanatical ideologues.
This is why the 2014 midterm election isn’t an end-state, nor – pace Karl Rove – should it serve as a model for the future. It isn’t good enough to elect Republicans to take over the same business the U.S. federal government has been doing for 100 years now. It’s the business that has to change.
Seeing this clearly is going to keep liberty-minded conservatives in tension with old-consensus Republicans between now and 2016. But having a vision for something better always does that. It’s how life works – and patience and goodwill can bridge a lot.
It’s actually exciting, and a source of optimism, to realize that our future doesn’t have to be charted within the confines of the patterns of the past. Yes, the GOP leadership in Congress is still an old-consensus leadership. But it’s not discouraging to recognize that the Republicans we’ve just handed a congressional majority aren’t going to change much for us. It’s liberating to stop expecting them to.
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