What We Should Want
The 2012 election is very important to America, but what we should want in the long run -- what our ultimate goal as conservatives should be -- is to shrink Washington and its power-brokers into a tininess and timidity which makes the federal government a faint whisper, a weak shadow in our lives.
The Fabian Socialists, who own the Democrat Party and have laid claim to much of the Republican Party, offer different incarnations of federal cures and national panaceas. None of these solutions works. Indeed, few of these solutions are intended to work. Each new federal law or program is like a virus, a self-replicating organism as robust as it is destructive.
Consider just one example: the New Deal Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which creates national minimum wage and overtime mandates. The law serves no real purpose these days except to price young and inexperienced workers out of the job market. As bad as the government regulation of wages and hours is for the poor, it is calamitous when the law is a federal law, binding all parts of the nation to some arbitrary standard invented in the corridors of politicians and bureaucrats.
But it gets worse. The FLSA compels every government -- state, city, and county -- across the nation to superimpose its own bureaucracy as well. Each business of any size at all must maintain a whole bevy of officers and administrators to make sure that the business is in compliance with the byzantine and irrational interpretations given to this complicated and mutating creature. Private law firms specialize in FLSA law, representing both employees and employers.
All of these folks -- the hordes of government employees, the hosts of corporate and legal staff -- have entire careers constructed around the FLSA. This hoary and silly law becomes the factory in which hundreds of thousands of otherwise sensible and hardworking Americans produce the meaningless "product" of compliance with the FLSA.
Every whimsy in Washington, every careless pander by a self-righteous federal politician, and every air-headed idea made real by the force of federal power spreads out across the map of our nation, gorging itself on our time and energy. The lives of millions of ordinary Americans are devoted to the care and feeding of these federal grotesquerie.
The fifty states can indulge in crazy notions without much ill effect. Failures in policy lead to the exodus of people and money to neighboring states or even other regions of the country. Oregon may have draconian recycling laws for soda and beer cans, but other states can have their own standards. Indeed, the laboratory of states allows plans which seem bad to be tested and maybe to be proven good.
In this marketplace of state governments, we need not care who becomes governor of a nearby state. We all must care, however, who becomes the president -- not because of the good he can do, but because of the harm he can cause. This is not how our nation began. It mattered almost nothing in the day to day lives of most Americans who was president because the federal government was distant and limited. That must be our goal -- even more than reversing federal policies we abhor, we should push with all our might for a devolution of power back to states and power back to individual citizens.
This will not come overnight, but it can come over the years. This should be our strategic goal: make the presidential election as trivial in people's lives as the mayor of the neighboring city or the elected officials who run the county government the next state over. The push from us -- the constant push -- should be to dissolve the vast empires of Washington with roots throughout our own state and towns.
In one respect, if we hold all the levers of federal power, we can make common cause with the wacky leftist states like Vermont and Hawaii by promising them, as an alternative to accepting conservative policies form our Washington, a coalition in making a Washington which lets all states find their own path to governance by withdrawing from the scene.
One thing is sure: as long as each federal election is "the most important in our lifetime," we may win some battles, but we are losing the war. When most folks do not know or care who the president is, because that fact doesn't matter much in our lives, we will have won the war. That is what we should want.