For now, I’m a one issue voter: a President’s Day lament {Pt.1}


“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty…is finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people” — George Washington

[UPDATEPart 2, “some responses & clarifications” is now posted.]

[UPDATE II: Part 3, “specific abuses of Executive Power” is up]

America’s Founding Fathers consistently referred to our country as a  “grand experiment”, and on this President’s Day–and good ol’ George’s birthday–I want to meditate on this for a little bit. What was (is?) so “experimental” about America?

There seems to be a repeated  “life-cycle” to nearly every great power in the entire history of the world. In the beginning of most of these nations, the “power” and authority is more or less decentralized (perhaps in a localized, tribal, or feudal system–or in our case, States).

Over the course of time, though, this “power” becomes increasingly centralized: first, into one part of society (usually to the wealthy and their businesses), then it gathers into one part of the government, and then it continues onward until it is ultimately centralized in one person.

This lasts for a time, but inevitably, it seems (most recently demonstrated by the Arab Spring), the nation-in-question becomes more or less “top heavy” with power and “self-destructs”. It may be by imperial ambitions inviting conquest by neighbors (Babylon); maybe by becoming too big and spread too thin to reasonably sustain such power (Alexander’s Greece); perhaps by the binding units of society breaking down and disintegrating the nation as it is known (Rome); or, in more modern times, it usually comes by way of revolutions (France).

But regardless how it happens, the power is decentralized once more and the cycle starts over.

No major nation or power in history that I can think of has ever moved backwards in this “nation-state life-cycle”. Some have gone through the process more slowly and others more quickly, but no nation ever seems to move toward giving power and authority to its citizens in dramatic, consistent, and meaningful ways.

America’s “experiment” was to try and come up with a system that was so fool-proof as to short-circuit this historical cycle; it sought to put in place mechanisms (“checks and balances”) that would put the “people in control” and use the human desire for power against itself to negate this seemingly-inevitable entropy of governance.

Has it worked? Well, of course, it depends on who you ask. But as for me…

As the title of this post says, I’ve decided that I am a one-issue voter for this Presidential election. My issue? Civil Liberties. I know, I know: that sounds so “granola”-feel-goody-idealistic-liberal of me; it sounds like I’m just picking an issue so I can cop out of dealing with more urgent national issues. But please, hear me out.

In my opinion, I (and many others) have observed that this usual “life-cycle” of nations (where liberties decrease and consolidated power increases) has really moved forward in America the past decade or so. We’ve noticed more and more “power” being increasingly centralized into a particular part of the government (the Executive branch) and heading towards giving more and more of that power to one individual (the President).

And it has resulted in some truly terrifying realities that just 15 years ago would have seemed the stuff of conspiracy theories and whack-jobs. And I promise I’m not crazy.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, you should care about this too.

Maybe it hasn’t come to your front door yet. Maybe it never will. But remember, the progression of a State to centralize power always and only moves forward. The most we can realistically hope for is to try and slow the process down as much as possible by becoming aware of these issues and voting based on them.

And that’s precisely what I’m going to try and do, at least for this Presidential election. Whichever candidate shows a genuine concern and interest in lessening the power of the Executive and increasing the liberties of the citizens, I will vote for them, no matter their opinion on the other issues.

This post is just briefly (and superficially) declaring where I’m at. The next two posts in this mini-series will give some clarifications, defenses, and thoughts behind this issue and also lay out specific things the Executive is doing that should worry us (with lots of citations, I promise). In sporadic posts after that I’ll try and show how this issue affects and bears very heavily on all other issues we could possibly think are more important.

In the days and weeks ahead, I hope that more of you will see that on the proverbial moral and political wheel of our nation, this issue really is the center and all others are merely spokes.

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19 thoughts on “For now, I’m a one issue voter: a President’s Day lament {Pt.1}

  1. That’s an interesting take Paul. I agree in that there is something disconcerting about how invincible people tend to think America is, given that empires in the past with much longer histories have fallen like clockwork. And I look forward to what you have to say on why this is the only issue for you. That said, I do think that from a Christian perspective, the immediate need of people should be taken into account. I think that history has pretty clearly shown that people cannot be trusted to be good to one another, so while I don’t want a king, anarchy doesn’t hold much appeal either. So I am curious if you would support a candidate who wanted to decentralize power to the point where the liberties of one group impinge on those of another because the one group has superior economic or even physical power?

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  2. Welp, now I know what narrative you have bought into 😉 – its ok, I suppose we buy into all sorts of narratives. Maybe I can poke some holes in yours?

    Let me begin by saying that this is “good stuff” … if you are coming from the position of 1) privilege 2) are white 3) a man (2&3 run under the “privilege” heading).

    You really need to qualify yourself regarding the “civil liberties”- alot has happened as of late regarding supposed civil liberties heading- Obama’s move on Catholic charities being required to provide birth control. Another that has loomed the past 4 years has been Obama’s healthcare mandate. Some feel as though their “civil liberties” are being threatened as a result. I dont have time to get into that, so I’ll spare this for a phone convo? Anyway, your decision to “vote for whoever promotes these regardless of other issues” has got to be the stupidest thing Ive ever seen you write on here. Really, Paul? You are an intelligent human being and I can’t imagine what brought you to writing that. In my mind, and I could be wrong, but the only person who fits this bill the best is Ron Paul. Ron Paul, or any of the Republican candidates, if you take them seriously (but I’m focused on RP here), are willing/believe you should take away care for even the least of these. Regardless on your stance of the general population, RP is battling to take away help for the elderly. Believe it or not, the majority of services and $$ being spent collectively on social services are for this group. I am appalled. Not to mention, Paul, that you seriously wouldn’t have a job if Ron Paul had his way- because on your work’s website under “major donors” is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

    You need some other voices in your life, voices on the margins.

    Also, on the birth control issue, here’s a good blog to start following by a bunch of Catholic women (all pursuing their PhD’s in Theology)

    http://womenintheology.org/

    They just started a series on this, but they’ve also done a few more recently on the government’s involvement in the matter. (if you go back a bit)

    I’m going to repeat this- you need to hear from voices on the margins- the “civil liberties” you feel are being violated are often times the sort of civil liberties that are actually helping others- those that don’t look like yourself. Or these guys:

    Also, since you didnt really define the issues- I may have totally been reading into it ;)- primarily because this is what I see are crucial issues currently so I am just assuming this is what you are referring to!

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  3. Oh oh! I forgot! I also want us to notice that the things you regard (or maybe not since you weren’t explicit?) as making a country more and more centralized under the federal government- are things that, I think, have actually made the UK a model country. Your understanding of centralization = bad, detrimental. Again, that is a part of a narrative this country battles as a result of our American democratic beginnings. I don’t think you would regard the UK negatively when their centralization is actually much more than ours. Or what about Sweden, Switzerland, etc. Do you really think negatively of those countries? Granted, we are much larger. But the whole centralization= the devil is a serious narrative in the USA championed by Republicans.

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  4. My question is this: If I grant your thesis here, how do we fix this long term? One president (Ron Paul, or anyone else for that matter) will do some good for 4 or 8 years, but how do we fix this systemically for the long haul?

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  5. “M”, it sounds like you have completely misread the post. “Government overreach” is not at all the same thing as “civil liberty abuses”. The healthcare law may or may not be too much government intervention, but either way, it’s not at all a “civil liberties” issue. Neither is the whole contraceptive issue. Also, “civil liberty” is not at all the same as “social justice”. My post has nothing to do with whether the govt should use Medicare to help pay got social services. In fact, as I will say in a future post, it is precisely the minority, the poor, the foreigner, and the neglected that are most often the victims of civil liberty abuses, while the rich and “privileged” get off. And so my post has nothing to do with any sort of “narrative of privilege”. You’ll find this article interesting: http://goo.gl/EAVxr

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  11. I agree, people in this country have freely given up their rights to a government that no longer represents them (the people). The more we allow these politicians to herd us like cattle with their positions on things like gay marriage, abortion, terrorism, and other outside issues, the more we play into their agendas. If we want to live in a free society, then we must tolerate others who pursue life, liberty, and what brings them happiness.

    If you are against abortion, don’t get pregnant, practice safe sex, or don’t have sex, but consider the person that is thinking of getting an abortion has their reasons. There are too many unwanted children in foster care and too many not able to care for themselves having children in large numbers already… think about it, if this is a right for life issue for you… we execute criminals, get over it.

    As for gays getting married, they should have the right to be as miserable as the rest of us! Who knows maybe they will have something to teach us about commitment. If marriage was so sacred, then why do so many get divorced? the rate of divorce in this country is somewhere around 50%… Really do we need to give up our freedoms to put a politician into office to stop a gay person from getting married?

    Our government currently represents corporations and the oil companies, not the people. They use the people for the votes they need to win their seats, but then they have a debt to pay back to the millions of dollars they have been given by special interest groups to convince us, “The People” to give them our votes. Republican or Democrat, none of it will matter when we become a police state like Nazi Germany. If you think it won’t happen here, look back into history and see how it happened there …the resemblance will scare you more than 9/11.

    We have been at war for over a decade, not for freedom, but for oil. Money and greed are what our politicians care about most, not the people. If you need more proof, then look into what the FDA has been doing to Stanislaw R. Burzynski, M.D., Ph.D. This man found a way to cure cancer… since the 70’s! Unfortunately, cancer is such big business that human lives aren’t worth the kind of money lost to a cure.

    We really need to take our power back. Otherwise, prepare yourselves to becoming a slave to the system, or a terrorist of the state …its coming. This isn’t the America we all love and would die for.

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