Getting a Foothold
THE PARTICIPANTS in our seminar earlier this month were challenged to name one Indiana city council with a majority of members committed to smaller government. They could not. Indeed, they couldn’t remember one — ever. It was attestation that we’re losing the battle and the war. It’s time to change the strategy
For starters, we have to stop — doing what we’re doing, that is. Our chief excuse, despite extraordinary effort and money, has been an inability to find candidates with a truly constrained vision of how government should relate to a citizenry.
That, of course, shouldn’t have been a surprise. We’re not trying to win and retain office at all cost, selling influence along the way. Rather, we want to further the principles of limited government.
Big difference. Many are willing to sign up for the former, only a few for the latter. And those who merely like the sound of “councilmen” in front of their name haven’t been much help — not in winning office or governing wisely. Nor have our congressmen, legislators, governors or even county chairmen proven to be dependable allies in this struggle, most of them captured early on by the lure of a political career.
And most grievous, corporate ownership has silenced a hometown, proprietary media that once questioned the untenable, that spoke truth to power from both a Republican and Democrat point of view.
There is a way around all of this. It begins with the realization that if our cause is different, so should be our approach. Here is one alternative: Identify councilman around the state already standing up for property rights, small government and rule of law and then provide them a network of resources.
We have seen that work. When even outvoted councilmen ask pointed, well-researched questions, the political trajectory of a city is changed. Council majorities are forced to explain (expose) their positions. Grandiose claims are debunked. Romantic dreams are linked to ruinous results. The media is shamed into doing its job. Rent-seeking and other self-serving positions, both political and commercial, are laid bare. An economist friend calls it the “voice over vote” method.
And Dr. Thomas Sowell gives us a framework for our questioning. On any given issue, he advises, we want to know: “Compared with what, at what cost and on what hard evidence.”
Other elements of the strategy:
- There must be at least two small-government councilmen working in concert to avoid marginalization and to be effective.
- Play the long game, don’t obsess with vote counts. Instead, introduce legislation, immediately viable or not, whose common sense can be demonstrated to the broadest range of the citizenry.
- Our legislation must conform to the state and federal constitutions.
- It must not involve an unethical use of government force.
- It must actually work; that is, the intent is irrelevant if it doesn’t accomplish what it says it will accomplish.
Finally, economy of operation should be part of any successful strategy. This particular alternative could be put in place statewide and yearlong for about a quarter of what was spent this spring on just one district council election, a primary race. And it is not even to be compared with supporting wave after wave, generation after generation of friends-in-name-only who just show up for fundraising dinners.
Insanity, as Einstein is said to have said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — tcl