Political candidates will inundate us with mailers trumpeting how great they are or how their opponents are scumbags. But what voters need to uncover are candidates’ principles on the role of government.
Brace yourself. The silly season is now in full force. There is no way to avoid it.
Day after day for the next three and a half interminable months, we all will be emptying our mailboxes of those incessant campaign mailers and trying to tune out the truth-less TV attack ads.
By November for sure, we’ll be beyond sick of it all.
But one of the most disappointing aspects of the 100 days will be this:
Of all the aspiring candidates who tell us how wonderful they are and what scumbags their opponents are, nary a one of them will utter the words that have defined America for 250 years: “freedom” “liberty” and “individual rights.”
Not one of them will pledge during the campaign that he or she will vote only for legislation that expands your freedom and protects your individual rights and against legislation that takes away or curtails your liberty and rights.
Not one of them will take a stand in favor of the individual over the collectivist altruism. Not one of them will be a passionate promoter and defender of the principles of the Constitution — a charter for our protection against government power, not a charter for more government power.
Instead, they will campaign on how they will use the power of government and expand the reach of government to make our collective lives better. The incumbents, of course, will brag effusively how they already have expanded government for the benefit of the collective and want to keep doing more of it.
To be sure, to employ a strategy that emphasizes liberty and individual rights over the collective would go against all campaign strategists’ advice. It just wouldn’t fit the mold of standard politics. Nor would it have the pizzaz or sizzle that makes for catchy TV sound bites.
You can be positive, up to a point, the strategists advise. And it’s good for candidates to portray themselves as church-going, community-involved, family men and women (e.g. watch for all the mailers and emails of candidates photographed with their children). But at some point as well, when the polls get tight, the strategists all advise that the candidates will need to go negative.
We voters hate all that negativity and nastiness. We hate the false and truth-bending attack ads. But the sad fact is they work. As far back as 1944, before political campaigns took over TV, the late Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek wrote a whole chapter called “Why the Worst Get on Top,” noting: “It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program — on the hatred of an enemy — than on any positive task.”
That is still true today (e.g. the defeat of Donald Trump).
The results of today’s standard, negative political campaigns leave voters to select candidates without knowing who they really are, what their inner character is or what their core beliefs and principles are.
Leonard Read, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education and author of the famous essay, “I, Pencil,” described our fate as often having to pick between two “trimmers” — “any candidate whose position on issues depends solely on what he thinks will have the most voter appeal. … To trim is to ignore the dictates of higher conscience; it is to take flight from integrity.”
To trim is not to be completely honest with voters on what you believe.
And similar to Hayek, Read also concluded: “When the worst get on top, it is because there are enough of the worst among us to put them there.” Voters go along with politicians too often because the candidates say what sounds good and reasonable.
Take, for instance, Sarasota School Board member Jane Goodwin. For years, she declared herself to be and voters perceived her to be a Republican (i.e., conservative). Turns out, she was not.
Or, Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan. The 15-year congressman has a solid, 10-point plan for economic growth and tax and spending reforms, but when ranked by the Club for Growth, a leading free-enterprise advocacy group, Buchanan had the lowest ranking among Florida congressional Republicans in 2021 and has the second-lowest lifetime ranking because of his pro-government-leaning voting record.
It would be refreshing to see voters reject the trimmers — the Joe Biden and Charlie Crist types who will say and do whatever it takes to win, rarely if ever revealing a core politico-economic philosophy.
In that vein, as we interview candidates this election cycle to make recommendations to voters, we will ask questions that we hope will reveal candidates’ true politico-economic philosophies and their principles and beliefs about government, taxation and the Constitution. In the end, candidates are either or:
Either a candidate believes government’s role is that of a servant, protecting individuals rights via limited powers; or a candidate believes the government’s role is that of a master exerting power and coercion over its subservient citizenry, placing the collectivist group and tribe above the individual.
If it is the former, you would expect the candidate to work to protect your freedom and restrain government’s reach and spending. If it is the latter, you would expect that candidate to do what most of them do when elected: propose and pass more laws that grow the power and cost of government at the expense of individual and the expense of liberty.
If you have the opportunity to meet any of this year’s candidates, ask them this: Why are you running for office? Listen closely.
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