Reagan ain’t coming back
In 2012, I wrote about this subject. Post-election loss, desperate, and hopelessly facing President Obama’s second term, the idea of a political savior made its way in to mainstream though.
2016 is not 2012 (obviously), but for different reasons than before, there’s a collective hunt for the one man who will save the republic. For some that man is Trump, for others, he’s an unnamed hero waiting in the wings.
Real talk: He (or she) is not coming. There will be no Reagan incarnate, no William F. Buckley the Greater, no zombie Goldwater. No one person can save us from our current predicament.
Most recently, many distraught by the prospect of a Trump nomination are desperately seeking a solution elsewhere.
After expressing his opinion that Americans ought not be saddled with two terrible choices when a third is acceptable, Senator Ben Sasse found himself the immediate object of adoration and idolatry.
— DraftSasse (@DraftSasse) May 6, 2016
While I appreciate Senator Sasse and find several of my thoughts quite similar to his, I don’t enjoy ideology being tethered to and defined by one person (to be clear, third party players are running the Draft Sasse effort; Sasse says he has no plans of running for President this cycle). The principles and ideas that made America America transcend one man, survive terrible leadership, war, tumult, and live on for generations to come. Freedom and liberty are not ideals of government; they’re the rights of the individual.
There are several fascinating and disturbing components of this hero hunt, but we’ll focus on two. 1) The right has adopted the belief of the Presidency as an all-powerful station and 2) one ruler is the anti-venom to progressivism. Neither notion is congruent with individualism or Constitutionalism, both of which are central to the limited-government belief.
One of the most brilliant feats of our Constitution is how it separated powers into co-equal branches of government. The founders did not design one branch more powerful than the others. Leadership is important, of course. But Constitutionally, Presidents do not legislate from the Oval Office. Congress must sift through their policy preferences first. And we should thank our lucky stars Congress was able to curb President Obama’s wildly progressive agenda in many instances. Politicians are employed for one very specific purpose — to serve those they represent. They are not leaders. They are not rulers. They work for us.
The powerful Presidency epidemic infected even the most conservative presidential candidates. Every single individual running for office this cycle had a honey-do list to check off during their first day in the White House. Those lists included everything from repealing Obamacare to immigration reform. Few seemed to question how these noble goals might be achieved Constitutionally, rather, the right cheered in unison.
Interestingly, the insistence on Constitutionality has taken a back seat to finding the right ruler.
Our nation’s strength has never been in our government; it’s in our people. We’re hardwired to loathe government rule and lordship — it’s why we exist as a sovereign nation. It’s why we hold sacred the idea of Federalism and why we directly elect our local officials.
My time as a grassroots organizer exposed me to the oft-ignored underbelly of the right. That dark side consists of swaths of individuals who will not deign to raise one finger to assist in the unsexy, but crucial work of phone banking, block walking, relationship-building, volunteering etc. They’ll happily preach about individual responsibility, seemingly unaware they’ve become what they claim to despise. They cannot bother with incremental changes in their communities since they’re too busy waiting for their Conservative Messiah.
In 2012, I wrote:
We cannot look to an elected official as our answer, our salvation or the cure –no matter how many pledges he signs, which Tea Party groups endorse him, how balanced or well spoken he may be, or how Reaganesque he may seem. In placing so much stock in an elected official, the concept of the individual, the constituent, is lost. It was this very concept of the individual constituent that was at the core of our nation’s founding.
If we are the side that stands for the individual in all its facets (responsibilities, rights, liberties), then that must be the heart of our focus. We must agree to stop waiting for the second coming of Reagan and understand fully that it is only the pursuit of individual liberty and the ideal of individual liberty that will alter our course. It was this ideal that brought people from other nations, from all walks of life, out of oppression to the hope of being free. President Calvin Coolidge summed it up best in a speech he delivered in 1924, “Liberty is not collective, it is personal. All liberty is individual liberty.”
Regardless of who the people elect president, that individual serves the interests of the entire country — not only the people who supported their candidacy or share their value systems. No president can ignore progressivism entirely. Even Republican hero Reagan was not immune.
Too many spend their time and attention flustered about federal political goings on; we’ve largely lost our focus on individualism. Individuals make up families and communities. Individuals instigate change and innovation. Everything great about our country happens when individuals step up to the plate and push back against government overreach. All politicians, even the most Conservative, are still part of the government.
No one is coming to save you or me, for that matter. No politician will single-handedly fix our country — we don’t have a king (at least not in theory). No political party will swoop in to save the day. We are on our own. Frightening? Not really. More liberating than anything.
What I wrote Wednesday is relevant to this discussion as well, “The road ahead is rough and rocky, but I remain hopeful that America’s best days lie ahead. There is always hope, even when we struggle to see it. Elections are important and have consequences for supporters and dissenters alike, but our best hope of righting the ship is in how we live.”
Though trite, it’s a question I ask myself frequently — What am I doing to make a difference? The responsibility for our country is ours. It’s “we the people’s.” Not the government’s; not the President’s — ours.
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