We Can't All Be Washingtons, But We Can All Be Patriots!
We have been in the business of promoting more accountable, more responsive, and more
frugal government for almost 4 years now. It is an open question whether and to what
extent we are succeeding. Clearly there is a long way to go.
Much effort has been and continues to be the promotion of or opposition to specific
policy initiatives. We oppose the ACA and efforts to control the right to bear arms, we
promote budget restraint and the rule of law as related to illegal immigration. Educating
ourselves, our neighbors, and our elected representatives on how specific laws and
regulations square with the Constitution remains very important in what we do.
But I think that even more important is discovering how we can exert our power as the
ultimate sovereign of this nation. Too few of us recognize that candidates belong to us,
campaigns belong to us, elected officials belong to us, and political parties belong to us.
For too long we have acted as either spectators or as victims of the political process rather
than the owner. Our silence in the face of blatant and flagrant violations of the public
trust means that we are accessories after the fact to these misdeeds. Our children and our
grandchildren will not look kindly on our silence and our inaction as they sift through the
rubble of a once-great nation.
But you didn’t come here to listen to more about the absence of accountable leadership
in this country, this state, this county. You can read plenty of that in every day’s paper.
How about some solutions? Although some of us may see a light at the end of the tunnel
through an Article V Convention, any relief from that direction is years away. More
immediately, any progress has to be made through the ballot box.
The question we have to face is: How can we elect representatives who we can trust to
do the right thing without someone looking over their shoulders 24/7/365? My answer
is that we need to make candidates declare who they are and who they want to be. Do
they want to be a professional, insider, self-serving politician, or do they want to be a
true representative of the people as envisioned by the Founders? There is such a gulf
between the two that it should be extremely easy to tell the difference. We, as citizens,
have allowed the former to pose as the latter by saying one thing during the campaign and
acting differently once safely elected. To break that pattern, we need to put together a list
of questions that force them to come down on one side or the other, and we need a group
of people to persistently press for responsive answers until we get them.
Suppose a couple of people showed up at your door and said. "You need to decide which
of us will have access to all of your bank accounts for the next 2 or 4 or 6 years and to
have access and control over your kids for 6 or so hours a day." Do you think many
people would say, "Oh, I'm just too busy to think about that. I'll just go along with what
my neighbors decide". How about if they said, "We won't just take what we need out of
your accounts. We'll take it all except what we think you should have. And we don't just
want access to your kids. We will come take them away from you if you do something
or teach something we don't agree with. Oh, and you have a nice back yard. That would
make a good addition to the park we are planning."
Don't worry. No one seeking your vote would ever be honest enough to put what they
really are asking for so bluntly. All the more reason we need to do our due diligence and
find out about the character and the motivations of those who want those powers.
No matter how arrogant they are and how self-important they might want you to
believe they are, politicians are the most insecure people on the planet. And well they
should be. They are one slip of the tongue or one open-mike from being tomorrow's
headline, they are one gaffe from being Jay Leno's new joke, they are one mis-step or
unguarded moment from going viral on you-tube. They desperately need to remain non-
controversial, to remain invisible, to be all things to all people. If we want to defeat them
we only need to make their worst fears come to life.
I want you to put yourself in the place of an incumbent Congressman for a minute, and
think about how you would answer the following questions:
Question 1. Do you believe that voters should always be given a choice in every
election, including nominating elections or Conventions?
Question 2. How much money do you think it would take to get a candidate’s message
out to the District for which you are competing?
Question 3. Do you think that the current Seniority system enhances or detracts from
the citizenry’s ability to have an equal voice in the body for which you are running? If
you think it enhances, please explain how. Do you support the concept of the Seniority
Question 4. What percentage of the people currently serving in the body for which you
are running do you consider to be people of high integrity and personal honor?
Question 5. Should legislative districts be drawn for the purpose of trying to influence
the outcome of future elections? If so, could you explain how that helps the citizenry
elect people and parties of their own choosing?
Question 6. When there is a conflict, should local party organizations give priority to the
“needs” of candidates and office-holders or to the interests of the citizens?
Question 7. Beyond those few instances of deliberating on national security issues
envisioned in the Constitution, do you see any reason for hearings, deliberations, or votes
to be taken in secret?
Question 8. Could you provide a list of measures that you have introduced or supported
that would have increased the level of accountability and transparency in government?
Question 9. Should incumbents have any special protections or preferences in law or
Party policy? Would you support repealing any existing special preferences?
Question 10. Would you support banning the solicitation of campaign contributions
while Congress is in session?
Question 11. Would you disallow interest payments on candidate’s loans to their own
Question 12. Would you support the ending of the exemption for Congressmen to accept
campaign funds from other Congressmen in Congressional offices?
None of these questions have anything to do with specific policy agendas. But they all
pose pitfalls for elite insiders who try to run smoke-screen campaigns. If we emphasize
our principles of fairness, honesty, openness, and accountability, we make them either
agree with us, ignore us, or run on a platform of unfairness, dishonesty, and closed-door
deals. They have some problems if they lie and tell us what we want to hear. They then
have to explain many years of doing and saying the opposite. They also have a problem
if they tell us that everything is fine just the way they are. That would be a tough sell for
those in an institution that has the confidence of just over 10% of the American people.
There is no doubt that the preferred strategy will be to ignore the questions and stick to a
“no-waves” politics-as-usual strategy. That is what we must not allow them to get away
with starting now.