What do Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have in common? They are the political heroes of the last two generations. Obviously, they belonged to opposite sides of the political spectrum, but barring an upcoming scandal hitting Obama, he will be revered by the left for decades. In fact, Obamalore will actually outshine reality within a decade just as Reaganlore has done since he left office. Just as conservatives love Reagan, liberals will love Obama.
The reality is that both had major problems with their Presidencies. Don’t get me wrong – Reagan was exponentially better than Obama. There might be a wee bit of bias in that statement considering that Reagan was a limited-government federalist while Obama amassed the most power to the executive branch in history, but objectively the state of the nation is much worse following Obama than it was following Reagan. That doesn’t take away from the fact that Reagan’s greatness still fell short of his legend in many areas. He was unable to enact much of what he’d hoped and promised. Conversely, he is responsible for enacting some damaging political moves from the Supreme Court to amnesty. Still, he is up there as one of the greatest Presidents in history, yet he still falls short of true “hero” status. Why? Because he was just a politician. We need to understand what that means in order to see how to move forward.
In the 2016 election, at least four politicians were unofficially anointed as heroes by their supporters. Donald Trump was the hero of the populists. Hillary Clinton was the hero of those who embrace identity politics. Ted Cruz was the hero of the conservatives. Bernie Sanders was the hero of socialists. Three of the four failed to make their hero stars shine brightly enough. President Trump has disappointed many of his faithful followers by failing on Obamacare and the wall (so far), while going left on the bump stock ban, tariffs, and criminal justice reform.
The reality is all four “heroes” were doomed to fall short of their expectations just as Obama, Reagan, and every other President since arguably Abraham Lincoln. Why? Because politicians are by the nature of their jobs incapable of being heroes. The demands made of them by those who worship them can never be fulfilled.
That’s how it’s supposed to be. As Americans, we should never view politicians as our saviors. The core of our governmental system is designed to prevent heroes. In fact, when the system is working in its purest form, our politicians really shouldn’t even be leaders at all. They are not given office to be vaunted. They are to do two things: defend the Constitution and act as public servants to the people. We should not look to them to solve problems. We should look to them as the people who can represent us, who can stay as much out of our way as possible so WE can solve the nation’s problems ourselves.
This is extremely important to understand because it’s the basis for federalism in the first place. If the founders wanted politicians to solve problems, they would have built us into a kingdom. All-powerful kings can solve problems, thought they never actually do. Of course, the founders also realized that empowering any individual, office, or body of officials with the power to solve problems alone would invariably lead to them being the ones creating bigger problems. They embraced the notion of individual freedoms as the zenith of government, but somewhere along the lines we forgot this.
Government starts with the individual. As American citizens, we are granted much more personal power than any other country’s citizens. That means we have more responsibility, but it also means we can accomplish more for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country. From the individual, American government should work its way down to the family followed by the community, city, county, state, and finally to the nation. That means that the federal government should not only be the lowest level of government. It should also be the final safety net. Our system allows for checks and balances that relegate the federal government to be the last line of defense only, not the tip of every spear as it is today.
Let’s look at this in practical terms. An elderly man, for example, is ultimately responsible for his own well being. When he needs help in any way, it’s his family that should be the first to intervene. When the burden is beyond their resources, the community should chip in what they can. Then the city. Then the county. Then the state. If all else fails (which is almost certainly would not if the system is working properly), then the federal government would be the last line of defense to make sure that this person does not fall through the cracks and end up dying prematurely, alone in his bed.
Today, the federal government does everything it can to insert itself into everyone’s lives, particularly those who are deemed “at risk.” We are quickly heading towards a society where the federal government instantly intervenes and maintains the “welfare” before any other level of government steps in to help. This is a problem. Why is it even possible? How did we get to this point? The answer goes back to the original premise: there are no heroes in politics, but that hasn’t stopped Americans from trying to find them.
Instead of taking personal responsibility for themselves or their family, there are too many today who look first to the government. Unfortunately, those seeking office have embraced this mentality as the easiest path to winning votes. They use jamming and scare tactics to set the stage for inappropriate promises. When a politician gets on stage and tells people they are going to solve problems, the righteous response from the audience is to shake their heads and say “no.” We don’t need saviors in government. We need the federal government to assume its proper role as the last resort. The final play. The safety net. Instead, politicians say they will fix things and the people cheer. This isn’t how America was supposed to be governed.
As an organization, the American Conservative Movement will not be looking for heroes. We are looking for representatives who will do what they can to reduce their own power. We aren’t looking for people to solve problems. We are looking for people who will push the government aside to allow us to solve our own problems while being ready to jump in only when there are no other choices. The American Conservative Movement isn’t looking for people to lead us. We’re looking for people to be public servants representing us.
Americans must quickly realize that politicians, by the very nature of the jobs they hold, cannot and should not be revered as heroes. They were never intended to solve problems from their office. They are supposed to make sure that we, the people, have clear paths to solve our own problems and to help those we touch to solve their problems as well. A proper constitutional republic starts with the individual at the top of the governmental hierarchy. Many seem to have forgotten this in recent decades. It’s time to remind everyone about the truth.