As Senator Jeff Sessions(R-AL) made plain on last Thursday’s Mark Levin Show, George W. Bush in 2002 signed into law an act that made foreign nationals from Mexico eligible for food-stamps. That’s some damned-good “compassionate conservatism,” don’t you think? What this reveals is more evidence of what I’ve been arguing right along: What is killing our country is the unwillingness of conservatives to stand on strict principle, and the intentional undermining of conservatives by establishment Republicans at every turn. I listened to Dr. Levin launch a tirade aimed at the policies of the former President and those like him, as well as at the government of Mexico for several minutes. He was right in virtually every detail, and he was right to feel betrayed and put-upon by the people who are supposed to be on our side, but with all due respect to the radio giant and conservative beacon, he missed a few things. I do not intend here to criticize Levin, but I want instead to show conservatives how he had erred, not in his appraisal of the facts, but instead regarding what we ought to do about them. Dr. Levin’s error is the inevitable result of the contradictions too many conservatives accept, even those with the intellectual clarity to have known better: There is no compromise possible between liberty and tyranny, whatever one’s excuses for the latter.
Here’s the clip:
Nearing the conclusion of his justifiable tirade, Dr. Levin began to speak of Mitt Romney. He offered:
“I sure as Hell hope that if Romney is elected President, that he doesn’t pull these stunts.”
As Dr. Levin said this, in my own mind, there issued a challenge to the Great One:
“What if he does pull these stunts, Mark? What will you do? Not vote for him in 2016?”
You see, this is emblematic of why we conservatives have lost much(if not all) of our power within the Republican party. They’ve called our bluff too many times, and on far too many of those occasions, we have gone along despite our protests. We always rationalize it in terms of “saving the country” from this liberal demon or that leftist monster, but the fact is that when it comes down to it, we are the ones who have blinked, time and time again. Anybody who had been confused about the matter should see it plainly now: Conservatives have been neutered in this manner because we have largely demurred from carrying out our threatened walk-outs. We lose our spines, the walk-outs never materialize, and therefore, we are seen by the party establishment as mere paper tigers to be managed, but never respected, let alone feared.
You might say to me “but Mark, really, we simply must win, because we won’t survive four more years of Barack Obama. The country won’t survive.” You may be right, but then again, you may not be. It could be argued that the country is already dead in constitutional and cultural terms, and Levin is among those who has effectively articulated that very argument. In 2000, I was assured by establishment Republicans that if Al Gore won the presidency, the country would be over, but I told the person with whom I argued that if George W. Bush was elected, it wouldn’t be much different. Yes, Gore would have pushed the enviro-fascist agenda harder, but then at least the Republican Congress would have opposed him. Yes, Gore would have tried some of the same tactics of executive fiat that Obama has tried, but again, at least the Republican majority in both Houses of Congress at the time would have been more inclined to do battle with him. They didn’t oppose George Bush as he extended the power of the presidency through ever more extra-constitutional power grabs. Instead, we had a Republican President who had a majority Republican Congress for six of his eight years, and he did immeasurable damage to our republic, whether you’re willing to acknowledge it or not. Yes, he defended the country after 9/11, and yes, he commanded honorably in his role as commander-in-chief, but he had many failings, and the weight of those failings multiplied by the gargantuan multiplier of Obama now smothers us.
To have signed into law a bill that provided for food-stamps benefits to illegal alien Mexican nationals was a crime against every tax-paying citizen in this country, and to all those who will be forced to pay for it over the next several generations, assuming the country survives as a political compartment. He expanded other social programs as well, created vast new bureaucracies, and otherwise set the stage for everything Barack Obama has done to further the damage ever since he assumed the presidency in 2009. One might argue that Bush had been well-meaning, but as you know by now, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and it doesn’t much matter whether they’re born in the mind of somebody with an “R” or a “D” after their names. This is perhaps the single greatest contradiction faced by conservatives like Dr. Levin, who also have good and honorable intentions, and who usually are able to see the folly in pursuing them.
Levin lamented the fact that this isn’t a mere safety net any longer. He implied that it was instead something monstrous, and he’s right, but let me say to the good Dr. Levin, certainly one of the most talented advocates for our constitution: There is no rational place in which to draw a line once you begin to build a publicly-funded safety net. The march of Progressivism throughout the 20th and 21st centuries has proven it, if you needed evidence. In the early days of our republic, some of our early Presidents drew a firm line when Congress would undertake to create some compassionate measure intended to provide relief to this class or that, always on some construction of the concept that somehow, it could be limited, and that it could be justified in moral terms. I am here to tell you that it cannot be true that safety nets can be limited and specific, because the primitive nature of pre-humanity is to seek the path of least resistance, or to exercise the least possible discomfort for the greatest comfort available at ease. At its founding, America had the greatest prospects in all of the world precisely because this notion was frowned-upon, and banished in a socially scathing manner, and we tended to consider the purveyors of easy money and easy solutions as con artists and frauds.
Social Security began as a program for widows and orphans. How long did it remain as such? The space of a generation had not elapsed before it was extended to wider and wider groups of recipients. The entire welfare state, from the first bits of Medicaid and Medicare, to AFDC and Food-stamps have all undergone similar transformations, at first for a very limited group, to a broadened eligibility that encompasses vast segments of the American people. This is what happens, always, once this chain of destruction commences. It works this way: I say there should be no public safety net. Dr. Levin admits there should be a small, limited one. His argument is based on his own subjective evaluation of what is the proper level of compulsory compassion. George W. Bush comes along arguing for food-stamps for foreign nationals. Levin cries foul, but after all, why is his subjective limitation on compulsory compassion any more valid than the one proposed by President Bush, or President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or some future statist politician? Simply, it is not.
This is how it gets out of control, and it’s really quite elementary: Once it begins, there is no way to reduce it for long. You might curtail it a little here or there, but eventually people will come to power who will advance it again, and then still more. This is why our earliest Presidents, fresh from our post-revolutionary travails, did all they could to oppose the encroachment of any of this redistribution under the guise of “compassion.” James Madison, eventually our third President, and the man thought by many to be the father of our constitution, offered this, as he served in Congress debating a bill providing for some sustenance and relief for French refugees from the Haitian revolution. He said:
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” –3rd Congress, Annals of Congress
This makes the matter plain. There is no room in that statement for a public safety net of any description or purpose, and being one of the authors of the Constitution, one would suspect he understood its intended limits. Madison would not be the last to make this sort of delineation, and subsequent Presidents actually stated the same sentiment in vetoing legislation proposing various forms of relief for this group or that. It was not until the rise of the Progressives, in both parties in the early 20th Century that the first great transgressions of this principle began in earnest.
I would argue that Dr. Levin is right insofar as his evaluation of the Bush enactment of the law permitting the provision of food-stamps to illegal alien Mexican nationals, but I must also suggest in the strongest possible terms that Dr. Levin, and those like him of apt reverence for the constitution ought to consider the contradiction implicit in their protestations on behalf of any public safety net. Once it begins, it will not easily be stopped, and usually terminates with the death of the country in the upheaval of bloody revolution. Only by rapidly undoing it all are we to avoid such mortal discomfort, though the time-frame to undo it all needn’t be overnight, still it mustn’t exceed much more than a half-decade. We are living with the necessary result of the contradiction explicit in trying to create some firm boundary along the lines of flexible, subjective criteria, perpetually open to reinterpretation by whomever holds the reins of power. Our constitutional principles are fixed, but it is only our adherence to them that has been flexible.
“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”
Is this not now the state our republic has attained? We have undergone precisely the reversal here-described by James Madison, and it will be our undoing. I am certain that a constitutional scholar with the precision and vigorous intellect of the sort made plain by Dr. Levin’s long history in service to that document and to the republic it had authored must see and be convinced of the fatal dangers of this contradiction harbored so widely, even among our greatest minds. It is time that we decide if we are going to live in a constitutional, representative republic, or if we prefer instead to be subject to the indefinite power of a colossal government. It is the choice made plain in the great book Ameritopia, and as a complete work in defense of our liberty, one would expect that with the fullness of time, its author will ultimately embrace the full wisdom of that which he so magnificently defends.
For we conservatives, it is long past due that we should embrace the meaning of Madison’s admonishments. He didn’t offer exceptions to the principle, but it is only because no exceptions are rationally feasible. The danger implied was grievous enough that Madison would not countenance its passage, despite surely being as compassionate and charitable a man as any. He understood that the only manner in which to draw this line was to make it absolute. He also understood that any less a proscription would lead inevitably to the national turmoil into which we are now sliding. This is our true challenge as conservatives, because we mustn’t merely begin the already seemingly impossible chore of diminishing the size and scope of the festering blight of the welfare state, but we must begin the process of excising it from our country altogether. This may seem a fantastical, practically impossible proposition, and yet if we are to restore the republic to the land of possibilities it had been at its beginning, no less will do.
We must undo Obama-care, rolling it back to 2009, but we must roll back to 2002, and then to 1982, and eventually to 1964, and to the 1930s. We must keep going until it is gone, replacing government with private, volitional charity of the sort that had permitted us to take care of the truly unfortunate persons among us, but that left no room for graft of any sort at taxpayers’ expense. One-hundred-forty-four million or so Americans now rely upon the welfare state in all its various forms. That number is exploding, and will soon top half our population, and when it does, there will be no rolling it back, and surely no salvaging of our republic. Our desire to help others must be restrained from the realm of government. The contradiction explicit in attempting to have a system that regards the wealth of citizens as one part private property and one part public loot must be abolished, even if there is some temporary pain. It’s our last chance, time is quickly running out, and I dare say time is a good deal shorter now than any of our public officials dare admit. It’s time to draw an indelible, solid line.