In fact, the only thing that separates me from those of you who were the most passionate activists in the Tea Parties and other groups that continued to support the election of a new Speaker, is that I reached my epiphany about 2 years before you did. Just before, and then during my campaign for a judicial seat in 2007 and 2008, I saw a lot of the problems on the horizon that led to the formation of the Tea Parties in 2009, and I started talking about them in late 2008 and early 2009. I desperately want the reforms that you want, and I want the GOP to not just stand for our principles but to actually implement and use them. But…and there is always a “but”…the problems we face can’t be fixed in a day, a week, a month, or even one legislative session, because it took 100 years for them to be created.
I know that it seems like everything changed with TARP, the takeover of the auto industry, the Stimulus, and Obamacare, because those are the events that awoke many of you out of your comfortable dream that everything was “ok”. But those events were only the final, accelerated product of 100 years of effort to shift responsibilities and power from individuals, families, neighborhoods and local and state governments to the federal government; from the marketplace to the bureaucrat; from citizens guided by faith toward action to help neighbors in need, to an abdication of such responsibility to a faceless bureaucracy; and from a creditor nation with the economic might to win two World Wars and a Cold War with Communism, to a debtor nation on the brink of not having the resources to defend the Free World and the West. The re-organization that will be needed to fix this mess will require a sustained effort for at least a generation. Obviously, the sustained effort must start now in Austin and Washington, but if we try to rush this process, no matter how well-meaning we are, we will fail—and we can’t afford to fail this time.
So, where do we activists go from here?
I propose that we take a page from our Founders’ playbook. One of the most remarkable aspects of the American Revolution and creation of the Constitution, is that our founding generation remained dedicated and focused over the course of a lifetime to find and implement the right process, and then, to make it work—steadily, in a manner consistent with the fundamental principles of the existing society created by the European Settlers. All though the Founders retained the passion of Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine, they didn’t choose such men to actually create and implement the plan. Instead, they chose men like Madison and Washington, who patiently guided this country through its birth.
Compare that to the French Assembly of the French Revolution, which literally elected Thomas Paine to its membership. The French followed not a Washington, but a Robespierre, and chose to try to change everything completely and immediately. In the process, they destroyed themselves and their dreams, which led to a dictatorship, a generation of war across Europe, and two centuries of political and culture turmoil (and nearly cultural apocalypse).
Of these two paths, which do we need to follow? I think the answer, as always, is obvious: the path of our Founders. We need to be bold, persistent, and vigilant…but also, patient. Vigilance will require us to hold our elected representatives accountable for their promises and our expectations, while Patience will require us to understand that the re-organization we need will be obtained in frustrating steps rather than all at once (and sometimes we will have to take 2 steps forward, and one step back, to make progress). We need to be prepared to fight for what we have started for the rest of our lives, and to pass on that commitment to our children. To pass on that commitment, we will have to re-introduce our children—and most people younger than 40—not just to the existence and words of our Founders, but to why the principles behind those words provide the answers to the issues people commonly face in their daily lives today. This is the path of a process that is as old as our Republic, and the only true path to success for our cause.
To follow this path in the present political environment will take real courage: the courage of sustained vigilance and patience; the courage to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.” It is the courage to understand the difference between the perfect and the good, and to recognize that what our cause needs now is not perfection, but a lot of good. It also is the courage to stop and think before joining mobs that would rather fight your friends than your opponents.
Essentially, this courage is consistent with our party’s mascot—the Elephant. Let’s remember during all of our battles ahead that we are the Elephants of American politics, not the Jackasses, and let’s commit to act like Elephants as we march and fight together in the future.