by Max Morton
We live in a divided nation. Our politics have become not just polarized, but toxic. For a country founded on the principles of individual liberty, democratic choice in representative government, and republican protection of natural rights, America has seemingly lost its way. American politics have devolved into a zero-sum game power struggle between two wings of the same establishment—with the prize being the privilege of exploiting the American working class. We are a long way, both figuratively and literally, from the raging fires of liberty that opposed the crown’s Stamp Act in 1765.
Like all empires, America’s decline, or “transformation” in the words of our 44th president, was the result of poor decisions by both elected leaders and the citizens who elected them. Corruption on the part of a rent-seeking elite and apathy on the part of the citizens have delivered us to our present situation. Although it is important to understand the mistakes that we made along the road to our failing empire, the real question we should be asking now is what are we to do about our current predicament.
In David Reaboi’s essay in the Claremont Institute’s The American Mind, he discusses the importance of ending traditional America’s favorite pastime of arguing the same ground with the political opposition over and over again—as if minds are not already made up and just one more pithy tweet or witty meme would finally produce a tidal wave of political defections. Instead, he states, we should consider the work we must do in order to salvage some form of republican society that appreciates and protects the founding principles of America’s charter and our way of life.
This is an issue that cannot get enough attention. It is fruitless to continue arguing the same tired Left/Right arguments. “Owning the libs” on Twitter, relentlessly calling out the hypocrisy of our political opponents, and focusing our time and attention on outrageous content may be entertaining, but it won’t save us from the oppression and serfdom of the authoritarian oligarchy that is presently transforming America.
As an example, last week the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives published proposed rules to restrict ownership of AR pistols, which tens of millions of Americans legally own and use for self-defense and sporting purposes. The catalyst for this new classification and restriction under the National Firearms Act of 1934 was the Biden regime’s executive order on implementing greater gun control in America—under the guise of reducing gun violence.
The conservative commentariat’s response has been loudly to point out that this will have little or no effect on the effort to quell gun violence. Really? Does anyone honestly believe the regime’s interest in banning tens of millions of legally owned firearms and potentially making millions of law-abiding Americans felons overnight is for the purpose of reducing gun violence? This has nothing to do with preventing gun violence and everything to do with disarming American citizens—a longtime, major plank of the Democratic Party and an essential step towards authoritarian rule for every dictator in modern history.
When we give credibility to a lie by arguing against it as if it were a sincere assertion, we are diminishing our brand and reinforcing the regime’s misrepresentations. Instead of wasting time and bandwidth on the regime’s specious gun violence argument, why not concern ourselves with what we can do to thwart this and future efforts to restrict our constitutional rights? Why not focus on reforming the 1934 National Firearms Act to remove arbitrary restrictions on firearms and accessories that give the tyrant an entry to confiscation? It is not enough to attempt to conserve the last shards of our constitutional rights—we must instead focus on advancing our cause of liberty.
One of the difficulties with human nature is our tendency to remain frozen in a familiar construct. Right now, many Americans are still living in a construct that is no longer germane to the present. They have failed to detect the significant changes in our society’s institutions. The hard reality is we are living in a post-truth and post-justice world where our past ideas of freedom, individual liberty, and equal justice are simply no longer valid. The expectation that debate matters in a post-truth society inevitably leads to disappointment when no one cares about your truth. The idea that someone will save us from tyranny as long as we send money to a political party and cast our vote for the right candidate is obsolete—if we are to be saved, it is up to us to be the cavalry.
Traditional Americans can only be free if they create the conditions for their freedom. In order to accomplish this, they must remove or nullify the power of any faction opposed to that freedom. In this case, the oligarchy and their authoritarian-minded supporters are that faction. They wish to impose their design of a managed society onto traditional America—a design that does away with freedom, individual liberty, sovereign nation states, and equal justice under law. It is up to us, traditional Americans, to prevent that from happening. We must act to save ourselves. But what can we do? First, stop the tit-for-tat debate theater. Second, focus on the solution.
Federalism as the Solution
America wasn’t created on the “Obamacare” timeline of modern governmental action. From the beginnings of the revolution in 1765 all the way through the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, America’s founders worked to create a union of states under a central federal government. It took 36 years of hard work, thoughtful debate, and courageous action to develop and implement a system of enumerated powers, checks and balances, and respect for the citizen’s individual rights. The founders were constantly concerned about governments’ trend towards tyranny, and they sought tangible methods of ensuring America would be secure from that threat. The result of their hard work was the republican concept of federalism.
Federalism is a compound form of government that combines a central government with regional governments in a single political system. Both the central and regional governments have the power to make laws, and they possess a certain level of autonomy from each other. This structure, designed by our founders, is the existing constitutional key to the solution for our divided nation.
No nation, divided as we currently are, can be governed effectively by a central government that does not represent the entirety of the people. One only needs to read and listen to the proclamations of the current regime in Washington, D.C. to know that it represents much less than the entirety of the citizenry. One only needs to observe the actions of the federal bureaucracy against a large segment of its citizens in labeling them “extremists” and threats to the regime’s version of democracy to understand that the days of a united republic are over. The recent incarceration of political prisoners as a tool of intimidation against political opposition is a disgrace that the current regime boasts of in a manner more apt of a third-world caudillo. Government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. A government which treats its citizens as the enemy can soon expect that consent to be withdrawn.
The regime in Washington, D.C. cannot effectively lead America. Neither can it rule it by the heel of the boot. Its fantastical ideas of doing so will only lead to civil unrest of massive proportions and, potentially, to the dissolution of the republic. So, instead of waiting for this train wreck of governmental malpractice to ruin America, perhaps it’s time to decentralize our system of government and rely on the concept of federalism to maintain our union until a time when we are less divided.
It should not matter to a Californian what a Texan does in Texas—just as there is no benefit to Texans to impose their way of life onto Californians. Likewise, a regime in Washington, D.C. composed of bureaucrats whose belief system and way of life do not represent that of the majority—or even a plurality—of Americans does not have the moral authority to impose its version of America onto those who see that version as anathema to their way of life. One-size-fits-all government and culture has never been workable in a divided nation and eventually produces rebellion. This is particularly true in America, a country with a proud history of rebellion. People are not going to submit to a way of life they do not believe in.
In practice, federalism requires state governors to assert their existing constitutional role to govern and protect their constituencies while heavily filtering the actions of the federal government within their state. Decentralizing, or reducing the influence of the D.C. regime, can protect the rights of red state citizens, while preserving the structure and efficacy of a representative government in a constitutional republic. Let the states live as they may and assume the bulk of the governing mission. The states should focus inward on governing their people. The federal government, within the powers enumerated in the Constitution, can focus outward on the governing responsibilities external to the states—common defense, diplomacy, national infrastructure, and commerce.
Preserving the Union
An authoritarian oligarchy doesn’t care about preserving a union of states or whether traditional America participates in its “democracy.” The oligarchy only cares about removing barriers to its business interests and preventing traditional America from getting in the way of its wealth and power. In their model, everyone does as they’re told, while national borders and sovereignty are quaint relics abandoned for the sake of progress, profits, and cheap labor. Traditional Americans should fight to preserve this union, while also preventing the obliteration of their way of life. That’s a fine line to walk, but it’s not an impossible one.
Consider the idea of preserving the union as maintaining a bridge to America as it was intended. While we are a divided nation, decentralizing control via federalism empowers states to govern their citizens in a manner that protects and enables their chosen way of life. It maintains our stake in the union while preserving our liberty. The union is the bridge to facilitate more effective participation of a centralized government if and when the conditions of national unity reemerge. Individual states are free to experience the rewards or consequences of their policies, which also serves as an objective measure to their respective efficacy, and influences others to likewise adopt or shun them. Either way, there is freedom of choice for Americans to live the way they choose without a Washington establishment attempting to impose its one-size-fits-all will on the unwilling.
Federalism necessarily defeats the oligarchy’s consolidation of power and at the same time prevents the premature dissolution of the sovereign nation-state that is America. The ideals that sparked the Declaration of Independence and subsequent armed rebellion from the crown were built upon individual liberty. Our founders chose freedom over subservience, democracy over monarchy, and representative government over a managed society. We have lived by their sacrifices for 256 years. Now it is for Americans to decide whether we will continue as citizens of a republic or as subjects under the rule of a wealthy technocratic elite. Our founders gave us federalism to protect us from the tyranny of the few—traditional Americans should embrace it as the solution to preserve our liberty and our way of life in this deeply divided nation.
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Max Morton is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, former CIA paramilitary operations officer, and a veteran of multiple armed conflicts, revolutions, and contingency operations.