Ignorance Kills

“If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1816. “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”

Jefferson lived in a time when the world was progressing in knowledge and ideas, the Age of Enlightenment. He understood, as well as anyone, the benefits of education and the desire to gain knowledge. These valuable traits were among the most important aspects needed to protect one’s liberty from government encroachment. Prior to this age, however, governments were tyrannical and held on to absolute power by keeping the people mired in ignorance. If the people did not know what was going on, then it was much easier to control them.

America, by contrast, erected a barrier between government and the press, protecting the people’s ability to spread and acquire knowledge. With no television or radio to occupy their time, most early Americans were voluminous readers, devouring newspapers and other periodicals, as well as books on history, government, and economics. Armed with facts, they could keep a close eye on what transpired in Washington.

Now, sadly, we seem to be regressing, hooked on television sitcoms, reality shows, video games, and the internet, rather than reading, learning, and gaining wisdom. And this lack of knowledge is killing our country.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has conducted a major study on the knowledge of history, civics, and economics among various groups of the American populace. The results have been staggering, that is staggeringly bad. The institute crafted a simple multiple choice exam to be given to three segments – a random sampling of American citizens, college freshmen and seniors, and elected officials. The results have been published in a new report entitled “Our Fading Heritage.”

Of the two college groups, freshmen and seniors, no score was higher than 54 percent, a failing grade. The general public group scored just 49 percent and elected officials tallied the lowest of all at 44 percent. Just 0.8 percent of elected officials scored an “A” on this simple test. Somehow that shouldn’t surprise anyone!

And its not as if these questions are difficult. Here are a couple:

What are the three branches of government?

A. Executive, Legislative, Judicial

B. Executive, Legislative, Military

C. Bureaucratic, Military, Industry

D. Federal, State, Local

Less than half of the general public and only 36 percent of college graduates could correctly answer this basic question – executive, legislative, judicial – which is required on citizenship exams.

The United States Electoral College:

A. trains those aspiring to higher political office

B. was established to supervise the first televised presidential debates

C. is otherwise known as the U.S. Congress

D. is a constitutionally mandated assembly that elects the president

E. was ruled undemocratic by the Supreme Court

The obvious answer is “D” but amazingly 20 percent of elected officials answered “B”!

In the general public survey, only 21 percent knew the phrase “of the people, by the people, and for the people” was taken from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but over twice as many, 56 percent, knew Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol! Only 53 percent knew the power to declare war resides with Congress and 40 percent thought the power to declare war was a presidential authority. This is the obvious result of the Iraq War.

Amazingly, most Americans still do not realize that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution’s First Amendment. In the ISI survey less than one in five knew the phrase came from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, while almost half believed it was in the Constitution. It would probably surprise many to learn that it can be found in the old Soviet constitution but not ours!

Of college graduates, 52 percent believed the phrase “separation of church and state” could be found in the Constitution while just 26 percent knew it came from a Jefferson letter; only 33 percent knew that the First Amendment prohibited the establishment of an official religion; 18 percent could not name a single First Amendment right; 32 percent thought the president could declare war; and only 24 percent knew the main issue of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates was the expansion of slavery into the federal territories. And speaking of Lincoln, only 24 percent knew that his phrase “of the people, by the people, and for the people” came from the Gettysburg Address.

And on this last point, I don’t know why we should be surprised at this finding. You might recall that Bill Clinton apparently didn’t know it while campaigning for re-election in 1996. He incorrectly said it could be found in both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The chairman of the ISI’s National Civic Literacy Board, Josiah Bunting, said of the findings, “There is an epidemic of economic, political, and historical ignorance in our country. It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI’s civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned. How can political leaders make informed decisions if they don’t understand the American experience?”

The report finds that most of this ignorance can be traced to television. More and more Americans have their heads stuck in the television while fewer and fewer are reading. Even the TV news networks have not aided this problem. This attachment to television, according to ISI, “dumbs America down.”

But how can this trend be reversed? According to Bunting, “Colleges can, and should, play an important role in curing this national epidemic of ignorance.” But they don’t and probably won’t. Our education system has been politically dumbed down and is held captive to political correctness. And its becoming harder and harder for conservative professors to even get job interviews, let alone be hired in many major universities.

The vast majority of colleges and universities don’t require American history, government, or a basic economics class any longer. In regards to history, most institutions are now requiring world civilization survey courses, where the students get a sampling of all the world has to offer. With very few exceptions, U.S. history has been dropped as a core requirement.

In addition, rather than learning that America is an exceptional place with a positive history, college students are more likely to be instructed on the “crimes” America has committed and the cultural equality of all the world’s civilizations. Professors theorize and philosophize in history courses on what should have been rather than on the facts of American history and government. Students are not taught facts so its no surprise when they don’t know any facts.

Though this study may be just mere statistics to many, I have personal experience of this lack of knowledge among college students. In the summer of 2007 I taught a world history survey course at a university and I asked my class to tell me when the American Civil War was fought. Not one single student, among the 60 in the class, could tell me the correct answer, and the few that tried were not even close. One young lady said the 1960s, while another thought perhaps the 1930s. The most cataclysmic event in American history, one that changed the nature of the Union and the country forever, not to mention resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 Americans, and not one single citizen in that classroom could tell me when it occurred. That’s tragic.

A dearth of knowledge of the Constitution is also prevalent in our society, as the survey indicated. The Constitution is the American Political Bible, and if we won’t read it, won’t study it, and do not understand the history behind it, we risk residing in a political hell. Couple that with elected officials who don’t know anything about our history of freedom and capitalism, and its little wonder we are in serious trouble today.

Either we listen to our Founders and gain knowledge about our great country so we can better protect it while basking in the sunshine of freedom, or fall into the darkness of ignorance and the totalitarianism that goes with it. The choice is ours.

Lincoln Mania

In my latest column, I discussed the beginnings of a media frenzy regarding Barack Obama and the rush to compare him to Abraham Lincoln. A major cover story appeared in Newsweek and now subsequent articles have appeared in Time. The subject has also been discussed on many nightly news programs. But this is not just a Democrat phenomenon, as the GOP has always maintained an attachment to its first president. Most recently Michael Steele, running to head the RNC, has repeatedly described himself as a “Lincoln Republican.”

Modern-day politicians, for whatever reason, feel a great need to identify with Lincoln. But as I have written many times in the past, comparisons to Lincoln should not fill us with hope but dread.

Most of the “history” of our 16th president is myth. Many of Lincoln’s most famous sayings and phrases are false. And most of his political stances are, in fact, the opposite of what they have been portrayed.

“Anyone who embarks on a study of Abraham Lincoln,” writes Robert W. Johannsen in Lincoln, the South, and Slavery, “must first come to terms with the Lincoln myth. The effort to penetrate the crust of legend that surrounds Lincoln…is both a formidable and intimidating task. Lincoln…requires special considerations that are denied to other figures of his generation.” Because of this, its very difficult for historians to conduct a genuine study of him, as H. L. Mencken wrote in 1931: “Lincoln has become one of our national deities and a realistic examination of him is thus no longer possible.”

And it is these myths that cause politicians, and the general public, to get a warm feeling about Lincoln and the desire to idolize him. Reading glamorous accounts by adoring scholars have only served to worsen this situation.

The real Lincoln, though, is quite different than the myth that has been depicted in history.

I’ve wrote at length about Lincoln’s war policy and his trampling of the Constitution and individual liberties. But his economic policies were just as damaging and deadly to American freedom. Lincoln considered himself an “old Henry Clay tariff Whig,” strictly following the economic program of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, which consisted of high protective tariffs, direct taxes, federally-funded internal improvements, direct subsidies to big business, and a national banking system complete with paper money not backed by gold.

We are now in the midst of a great financial crisis. So if he were president today, what would Lincoln do? Sadly, not that much different than has been done thus far, a major boost in government intervention.

In the area of foreign trade, a huge issue for Lincoln, he was, according to Pat Buchanan, the “Great Protectionist.” He believed, passionately, in the benefits of a high protective tariff, saying on one occasion, “Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth.” So I’m always amazed at how self-described “Lincoln Republicans,” including Michael Steele and Jack Kemp, are always free traders. Lincoln loathed free trade.

It must be noted, however, that the Republican tariffs during this era were sky-high, with an average rate of more than 50 percent, and were imposed for the benefit of the great industrialists of the North, the backbone of the party. They were essentially campaign payoffs, which enriched one section of the country, the North, while impoverishing another, the South. This was a grievance many Southerners held against the North and a major reason for secession.

But this is one area where Republicans could actually learn something of value from Lincoln but choose to ignore, as free trade continues to eat away at our manufacturing base. Though there may not be any consensus that tariffs should be that high today, practicing fair trade would greatly strengthen our economy.

To derive more revenue for his imperialistic war of subjugation against the South, Lincoln’s Republicans adopted the first income tax in American history. It was a progressive tax with a top rate that eventually reached 10 percent on all incomes over $10,000 a year. So someone making that much annually had a tax bill of $1,000. In those days a house could be purchased for a thousand dollars! Those making as little as $600 annually fell in a 3 percent bracket. The new tax law also imposed excise taxes on every conceivable item and created a new federal bureaucracy to collect the funds, a predecessor to the IRS. And though it was imposed to fund the war, and fitted with a sunset provision to expire in 1872, Republicans never voted to end it, even when hostilities ended in 1865.

Lincoln, like Hamilton and Clay before him, also believed in direct government aid to industry and “investing” in the economy. In short, he would have loved all these federal bailouts. Federally-funded internal improvements, as they were labeled in his time, are what we today call earmarks or pork-barrel projects. A great example of this part of Lincolnian economics was the funding of the transcontinental railroads. In 1862 Congress passed the Pacific Railway Act to finally fund the construction of a rail line to the Pacific Ocean. The South had been the major obstacle in previous congressional attempts, mainly because the proposed routes would not pass through the southern states and such an enterprise was unconstitutional. But with the South out of the way, Republicans were free to spend taxpayer dollars anyway they saw fit.

In all, five transcontinental rail lines were completed in the 19th century. Four received federal government money for every mile of track constructed, but the last of the five, built by James J. Hill, was done with private funding. As a result, according to economist Tom DiLorenzo, Hill’s Great Northern was a “famously efficient and profitable operation” while the government railroads “were so inefficient that they were bankrupt as soon as they were completed.” The subsidized lines were also rife with corruption and produced a major presidential scandal for Ulysses S. Grant, the Credit Mobilier Scandal, where at least a dozen congressmen were bribed by railroad executives. Vice President Schuyler Colfax, a former Speaker of the House, was also implicated and left office in disgrace.

Lincoln also favored central banking and had been a proponent of the old Bank of the United States, which was a forerunner to the federal reserve system we have today. But since Andrew Jackson had killed the Second Bank of the United States in 1836, no national banking system existed in America until Lincoln signed a series of laws creating one in the early 1860s. These nationally-chartered banks also issued paper currency known as “greenbacks” that were not backed by gold. With so much put into circulation, this fiat money was highly inflationary, and by 1864 had lost two-thirds of its value. This caused an unstable monetary supply, something central banking is supposed to prevent. We seem not to have learned any lessons.

So as we can see, Lincoln was, in the words of Professor DiLorenzo, the “Great Centralizer.” He believed that government, not the free market, was the best solution for economic distress and was the best vehicle for economic growth. The only clear reason that conservatives embrace Lincoln is his supposed attachment to racial equality. This is Jack Kemp’s main argument. But this is also a myth. Nothing in Lincoln’s career even suggests he believed in civil rights for blacks. He wasn’t even an abolitionist. Lincoln only moved toward freedom for the slaves when it became militarily expedient to do so. He was adamant on more than one occasion that the war was not being fought to free slaves, ordered commanders to return runaways to their masters, and drafted an Emancipation Proclamation that freed no one.

For conservatives to revere Lincoln is, to borrow from Winston Churchill, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Nothing Lincoln believed is consistent with today’s Republican economic philosophy. Embracing the mantle of Goldwater, Reagan, or even Coolidge would be much more in line with an economic philosophy of free enterprise. We have a party of centralization. Let us now have a party of capitalism.

Obama’s Lincoln?

Just when we thought the “silly season” was officially over after the November 7 election, and we could settle down into the reality of a new president, it seems our friends in the “mainstream” media will simply not let go of their passionate embrace of Barack Obama. Now Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, in a major Newsweek cover story, are beginning the long-anticipated comparisons to Lincoln. And the man is still two months away from his inauguration.

“It is the season to compare Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln,” they write. “Two thin men from rude beginnings, relatively new to Washington but wise to the world, bring the nation together to face a crisis. Both are superb rhetoricians, both geniuses at stagecraft and timing. Obama, like Lincoln and unlike most modern politicians, even writes his own speeches.”

And, seemingly, Obama is not lost on any comparisons to Lincoln and has sought to use the 16th President as much as possible.

Obama, it must be remembered, quoted from Lincoln’s inaugural address in his victory speech on that historic Tuesday evening in Grant Park: “We are not enemies but friends … Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” But, as the authors point out, this famous line was not in Lincoln’s original draft but was put there later by advisors who thought it best to be conciliatory toward the South. Lincoln’s draft was much more belligerent. So his speech did not reflect his true mindset.

The theme for Obama’s inauguration is also from Lincoln, “A New Birth of Freedom,” taken from the Gettysburg Address. But if Lincoln’s example is any indication of Obama’s course, then Republicans, as well as most of the rest of us, had better run for cover.

One of Obama’s favorite books is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s work on Lincoln and his cabinet, Team of Rivals, which Obama has said will help guide his administration. Lincoln’s cabinet consisted of the smartest and most able the Republican Party had to offer. His secretary of state, William H. Seward, was his chief rival for the nomination for president, and others, like treasury secretary Samuel P. Chase, were influential in the Senate. It was no secret that these gentlemen possessed more intelligence, experience, and ability than Lincoln, and many thought they could handle the duties of president better than their boss. Obama seems to be stacking his administration with former Clinton aides, and perhaps even Hillary herself, as Secretary of State. So much for “change we can believe in.”

There were a few prominent Democrats in Lincoln’s administration, like Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, but any Democrat who strayed too far from the war policy of the government quickly found himself in more than hot water. Clement L. Vallandigham, who served in the U.S. House until 1863 and was in the midst of a campaign for governor of Ohio, heavily criticized “King Lincoln” and his war policy, particularly the draft. A leader of the peace Democrats known as “Copperheads,” Vallandigham committed the unpardonable sin of believing the South had a right to secede and the Confederacy had a right to exist as an independent nation. To conquer it militarily would be, in his eyes, unconstitutional. For this great crime, he was arrested in the dead of night by U.S. military forces and placed on trial before a military commission, where he was found guilty and sentenced to prison. He would later be banished to the Confederacy by Lincoln in lieu of a prison term.

Yet this was no isolated incident. Many opponents of Lincoln were imprisoned without charges or trial. Historian Mark Neely estimates that some 14,000 Northern citizens were rounded up and sent to prison during the war. In addition, any newspaper that criticized the government was shutdown. Hundreds were closed by military force during the course of the war. Lincoln did not tolerate dissent. And liberals think George W. Bush is bad.

The state of Maryland was overrun by Union forces. The mayor, police chief, and several city council members from Baltimore were arrested, along with secession-leaning members of the Maryland state legislature, to prevent that state from joining the Confederacy, which it was likely to do. Lincoln then had new elections held in the state and rigged them, with military force, to insure a Unionist government.

Most importantly, let us not forget that Lincoln destroyed the basic concept of self-determination of peoples, the bedrock of the Declaration of Independence, by waging a war against sovereign states. The war changed the entire concept of the Union. No longer would it be a voluntary association of free states but a consolidated government where the states became mere provinces. Lincoln “reinvented” the Union whereby he argued, quite amazingly, that the states were created by the federal government. Incidentally, Adolf Hitler, using the “American Union” as an example, took the same position in Mein Kampf, using it to consolidate Germany once he gained power.

And “Honest” Abe had the audacity to proclaim a “new birth of freedom” at Gettysburg.

But would President Obama’s “new birth of freedom” be any different? He might not throw conservatives in jail but he could institute the Fairness Doctrine and silence our dissent by law. Only time will tell.

Though we can’t really say that Obama would act in any manner reflecting the “Real Lincoln,” since we face no crisis of that magnitude, but by taking into consideration his radical associations, his questionable past, and his extremist views and voting record, who can be sure exactly what the man will do, given the fact that no one really knows that much about him. No one really knew that much about Lincoln either and many found out the hard way that his rhetoric about humility and conciliation did not match his actions.

So when politicians, of either party, compare themselves to Abraham Lincoln, instead of seeing a brighter day, it might be wiser to prepare for the approaching storm.


The Good President Franklin

Walk through the biography or history section of any book store and you will soon be inundated with works on the beloved Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  He is generally portrayed as the savior of American democracy, as well as capitalism, the president who reached out a helping hand to his fellow man, particularly those in the lower classes, even though he was from the upper ranks of society, as a new biography by H. W. Brands asserts. 

Yet the truth is far different, as the nationalist FDR expanded government far beyond its constitutional limits and brought the nation to the brink of pure socialism, producing a “New Deal” that did nothing to end the depression, only worsening it.  He believed the federal government could do anything it desired, by not relying on a “horse and buggy” interpretation of the Constitution.  The legacy of the New Deal is still with us today, and now we are about to embark on Barack Obama’s “new” New Deal.

But a forgotten president named Franklin had a much different take on the Union and the role of the federal government in American society.  Franklin Pierce served as president from 1853 to 1857, the only chief executive from the state of New Hampshire.

Pierce was an American hero, serving as a brigadier general during the Mexican War.  Before that conflict he served in the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as well as the New Hampshire state legislature, including a term as its speaker.

Like FDR’s battle with polio, Pierce had his own personal tragedies to overcome.  His private life was very sad, as he lost all three of his children at early ages.  One died after three days, another at four years, and the youngest son, Benjamin, called “Bennie,” was killed in a disastrous train derailment at age eleven.  The loss of Bennie came just six weeks before Pierce’s inauguration as president.  These calamities, coupled with his experiences in war, caused him to drink heavily.  His political enemies often joked that Pierce was the “victor of many a well-fought bottle.”  Yet he overcame his personal anguish to serve as the nation’s 14th president, at a time when America was a house dividing. 

Democrats were coming off a presidential loss in 1848 to General Zachary Taylor, who had died in office in 1850.  The Whigs declined to re-nominate President Fillmore, after he finished out the term, and instead nominated the other commanding general during the Mexican War, Winfield Scott.  Pierce, a dark horse like President James K. Polk before him, received the Democratic nomination after the 49th ballot.  The party campaign slogan was:  “We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852!”

And that they did, as Pierce easily defeated General Scott with an electoral vote majority of 254 to 42, becoming chief executive at the age of 48, the youngest president up to that time.

Pierce was known as a “doughface,” a Northerner with Southern sympathies.  For this and other reasons, he has never ranked high in any survey of presidents.  The most recent Wall Street Journal poll had him listed 38 out of 43.  One reason is his signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that repealed the old Missouri Compromise line and opened up the vast Kansas and Nebraska territories to the possibility of slavery with the imposition of popular sovereignty.  But according to Marshall DeRosa in his book Redeeming American Democracy, Pierce did so at the behest of Westerners, not Southerners, for in his mind “popular sovereignty was in effect practical abolition.”  Pierce believed those who resided in the Kansas and Nebraska territories would never vote to legalize slavery.

Another knock against Pierce is that he upheld the legality of the South’s institution of slavery, but so had every American president before him, including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, and Northerners Van Buren and Fillmore.  Later, Lincoln would also pledge to uphold slavery where it already existed.  Pierce also vigorously enforced the Fugitive Slave Law, returning runaway slaves to their masters.  Yet this was in keeping with his duties of office, to see that “all laws be faithfully executed.”  The Fugitive Slave Law was passed as part of the Compromise of 1850 and President Pierce had to uphold it as he did every other law of the Union.  He was a passionate believer in the rule of law.

But perhaps the main reason for Pierce’s denigration is that most Northerners later despised him because he was a supporter of the Southern Confederacy and opposed Lincoln’s war of “subjugation,” where, according to Pierce, “the hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people and its foot tramples a desecrated Constitution.”  To criticize Lincoln is to risk vilification, whether a former president or not.  But Pierce was right.  Lincoln did wage a war to subjugate the South, crushing the liberties of the people and shredding the Constitution.  For those, like Pierce, who believed in the sanctity of the Constitution and upholding the rule of law, the war was a disaster and he would not support it.

The truth about President Franklin Pierce, however, is far different than portrayed by the pointy-headed intellectuals of professional academia.  His record, according to Professor DeRosa, is one of “strict adherence to the American rule of law, States’ rights, and decentralization” and he had an “unwillingness to exceed the constitutional limits placed on the executive branch.”  By contrast, Lincoln cared little for such limits.

Pierce was a rock solid Democrat, steadfastly maintaining and upholding traditional party values that dated back to Thomas Jefferson.  As a party activist, he had many loyal friends and chose wisely in his selection of a cabinet.  In fact, Pierce is the only president to maintain his entire cabinet for the full four year term, a source of pride to him.  Among his most trusted advisors was his good friend and secretary of war, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.

One Democratic principle that Pierce held in high regard was a strict adherence to the Constitution.  He, as a good Jeffersonian, was a great foe of centralization.  “The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded,” he stated in his Inaugural Address on March 4, 1853.  “You have a right, therefore, to expect your agents in every department to regard strictly the limits imposed upon them by the Constitution of the United States.” 

This was not simply high-minded rhetoric.  In 1854 Pierce vetoed a bill that would have provided government funds for the mentally insane.  “I can not find any authority in the Constitution for…public charity,” he told Congress.  “To do so would, in my judgment, be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive of the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”

Pierce had a profound understanding of the true nature of the Union.  He held the Jeffersonian view that it was a union of sovereign states that had voluntarily joined a confederation called the United States of America.  The states had not given up their sovereign and independent character.  In 1855 Congress passed a bill that funded internal improvements within the individual states full of pork, what we today call “earmarks.”  In his veto message President Pierce reminded Congress that the “federal government is the creature of the individual States, and of the people of the States severally; that the sovereign power was in them alone; that all the powers of the federal government are derivative ones, the enumeration and limitations of  which are contained in the instrument which organized it, and by express terms.  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.”  How refreshing it would be to have a president who quoted the Tenth Amendment.

This conservative viewpoint, however, was not expounded by nationalists like Alexander Hamilton, Joseph Story, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln, who concocted the notion that the federal government created the states and could therefore rule them as mere provinces.  It was this outlandish view that allowed Lincoln to deny that secession was a legitimate right reserved to the states, thereby crushing Southern secession and the principle of states’ rights.  But Pierce believed in American liberty and freedom, the same rights that allowed colonists to secede from the British Empire. 

Pierce’s strict adherence to the Constitution was unbending and he believed that it was the key to keeping the Union together.  “It is evident that a confederation so vast and so varied, both in numbers and in territorial extent, in habits and in interests, could only be kept in national cohesion by the strictest fidelity to the principles of the Constitution as understood by those who have adhered to the most restricted construction of the powers granted by the people and the States.”

Franklin Pierce should be a man after a conservatives’ own heart yet he is denounced as inept by historians and his reputation has been smeared, all because he believed in the American tradition of the rule of law and strictly adhering to the plain meaning of the Constitution.

But sadly America has chosen to side with Franklin Roosevelt and not Franklin Pierce; with socialism and not constitutionalism; with an ever-expanding federal government and not one with limited powers.  In Barack Obama, we have found the new Franklin D. Roosevelt.  But where is the new Franklin Pierce?

Where We Go From Here

Now that the dust has settled and we have elected a new president, the GOP must figure out how to re-build itself after a second electoral disaster. 

Where does the Republican Party go from here?  And most importantly, what does the future hold for the conservative movement?

I believe one of two things will happen to the party – either it will move even further to the center and left, and embrace more neo-conservatism and outright liberalism because it thinks the country is at that point, or it will dump its current leadership and embrace the conservatism of Reagan, thereby giving voters a true choice.

Democrats have now united under the banner of extreme leftism; Republicans must unite under the banner of true conservatism.

Consider what has happened to the Republican Party since its historic takeover of Congress in 1994, an electoral triumph of true conservatism.  The party was able to maintain its hold on Congress throughout the remainder of the Clinton presidency by staying true to its principles, then continued control of both chambers and the White House with the election of George W. Bush in 2000.  This hold remained through the 2004 election, when the GOP reached its zenith with 232 House members and 55 Senators. 

During this era of Republican rule, the Democratic Party was on the ropes.  Members were switching parties, they had no strong candidates with a coherent message to speak of, and the party seemed to be loosing its grip and its hope of ever regaining the White House or Congress.  Even many state and local races seemed hopeless.  The GOP dominated in governor’s mansions and state houses.

Oh what a difference a few years, and many bad policies, has made. 

Republicans, under Bush, outspend Democrats and expanded government far beyond anything liberals could have ever hoped to do.  The national debt doubled and Washington grew by 40 percent in just six years.  Voters reacted and now the party finds itself in a worse situation than did Democrats just four years ago.  Many members are dejected and gloomy, candidates have been horrid, and the message has been lost, forgotten, or abandoned.

Yet now is not the time to panic.  There can be a silver lining to this political shipwreck.  The McCain-Bush neoconservative wing of the party has been permanently damaged and should never rise again.  This election was a complete repudiation of those discredited policies – rampant and out-of-control spending, huge deficits, free trade, and wars without end.

I have taken the liberty to list a few items which I think will help bring about the revival of the party and the conservative movement:

1)  Oust the Leadership – This perhaps is the most important step.  If the leadership in the House, Senate, and national party hierarchy are not thrown out, then any meaningful reform is moot.  McConnell, Boehner, and the leaders of the national party have failed and need to go in favor of new, young, and conservative, leaders who can take the party in a new direction.  Paul Ryan and Mike Pence come to mind in the House, as well as Tom Coburn in the Senate.  Moderate-to-Liberal Republicans, Rhinos, and “Obamacans” should all be ousted as well. 

We should follow the example of the Whig Party in dealing with President John Tyler, who assumed office with the death of William Henry Harrison in 1841.  Tyler, a states’ rights advocate placed on the ticket to attract Southern votes, betrayed key Whig principles, thereby provoking party anger.  In 1842 a mass meeting was held in Washington, led by Henry Clay, whereby President Tyler was literally read out of the party.

2)  Craft a New Message – Any new message should be based on old conservative principles – limited government, states’ rights, low taxes, balanced budgets, no public debt, sound money, strong military defense, non-interventionist foreign policy, and fair trade.  Recently emerging reformist conservative ideas, like “heroic conservatism” and the like should be rejected.  Reformers like David Frum and David Brooks seek to make the GOP more like the Democratic Party, but we just lost an election trying that.  To advance in the future we must look to the past.

3)  Rebuild the Party from the Grassroots – A complete overhaul will not be successful simply by making a few changes at the top; the bottom is just as important.  New, young leaders need to rise up in local and state party organizations and vigorously promote the message and recruit candidates.  College Republican groups across the country need to recruit new leaders and work to promote the party and its true ideals among the younger generations.  The people need to be able to trust the “Republican” brand again.

These changes, as well as a newfound respect and promotion of our Founding principles, will revive the Republican Party like nothing else can.  We must offer the nation a true choice, either in the GOP or out of it, or face decades out of power.