The French Revolution comes to America

posted at 4:01 pm on March 2, 2016 by Taylor Millard

American voters are angry. They see both parties as corrupt, unstable organizations which care nothing about their constituents, and only about staying in power. Voters see the parties only interested in handing out favors to their rich friends, and not doing things which would help everyone. They’re doing their best Bruce Banner imitation by turning into The Populist Hulk after warning politicians, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry,” for years. This isn’t just Republicans flocking to Donald Trump, but Democrats seeing Bernie Sanders as a possible alternative to Hillary Clinton (super delegates aside). Voter angst isn’t anything new, but the size of the anger has really caught a lot of party leaders and commentators off guard. It’s allowed Trump to win nine primaries and one caucus because voters see him as an expression of their own rage. Trump is even reveling in the fact supporters idolize him as the best way to “stick it” to the Republican Party.

The fury and fervor is why the 2016 election is as close to the French Revolution as America will ever get. The conditions are similar with people being out of work, a mostly stagnant economy, rising costs of health care and other products, and a country which seems weaker than it has in the past. People are desperate, so they’re throwing their lot in with the one guy they believe will get them to the next level. It doesn’t appear anyone will be physically led to the guillotine, but the anger certainly has the chance to send the Republican Party to the chopping block. One graphic proclaims Trump as executioner to lop off the heads of the GOP Establishment. What’s interesting is that Michigan Congressman Justin Amash seems okay with political landscape falling apart, as long as it correctly sorts itself out.

He has a point, but the question is how does that realignment happen? Is it going to be free markets vs. more government interventionism or will it fall along some other kind of line? Will those who prefer liberty over the police state be willing to team up with others on this issue, even if they don’t agree on the economy? How will those who care more about social issues feel about the realignment, and will they ally with traditional leaders or be willing to team up with people who put other issues first? Will the conditions destabilize such that other countries decide to call in their debt markers to make sure they get some kind of money? The center cannot hold, but it will be curious to see how the realignment happens, IF it happens. There are a lot of variables, and there’s a chance liberty will be killed in the chaos. But there’s also a chance a realignment will allow liberty to flourish and give everyone the chance (but not the guarantee) to rise and thrive. Amash certainly has an idea of what the short-term alignment is going to look like, but it doesn’t mean that’ll be long-term.

So what do those in the freedom and liberty movement do, now that it appears the populists are running amok? There are two options: give up or keep fighting and educating those who are willing to listen. The former is obviously the easiest, and the idea of “Going Galt” is certainly extremely appealing (especially to those who believe in a far weaker government). But even the heroes in Atlas Shrugged didn’t completely separate themselves from the world. They waited for the right time to come back and start educating people on the awesomeness of free market capitalism and more limited government. Everything had to truly go to Hell in a hand basket, and hopefully that won’t happen in the real world.

This is the harder, but potentially more fulfilling road. Freedom and liberty advocates have to keep trying to educate those who are willing to listen. This means waiting until the anger dies down and people stop being drawn in by either Trump or Sanders. It also means figuring out the best way to tailor the message because it’s not worth talking to someone about the lofty goals of “freedom” or the Constitution without providing clear examples of why it matters to them. It means being able to describe on a basic level how the plant worker is being choked out by government regulations decreeing how or where he can install certain parts. It means telling the college students up to their eyeballs in debt that the government is partially to blame for college being so expensive because they’re the ones sending cash to universities, and the “tuition free universities” don’t really exist. It means going to black and Hispanic neighborhoods and saying, “Yes, the government is to blame” for causing the disparities of drug arrests, then explain why it’s important to do justice reform, get rid of mandatory minimums, and (possibly) decriminalize marijuana. It means coming up with an actual solution on health care (that’s not government controlled or directed) and suggesting maybe it’s best to allow people to buy their own health insurance or to point them towards cash only doctors who don’t take insurance. This is a responsibility freedom and liberty advocates HAVE to take on for themselves if they want to advance the idea of smaller, weaker government. There’s plenty of anger out there, but which ideas are going to fill the void once it dies down? Will it be the ringing bells of freedom or the death toll of slavery and statism? This is what the French struggled with in the late 1700s and early 1800s and what the U.S. is struggling with today.

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