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The Big Tent Delusion

By Associate Member Barry Chodak

How often do you hear Republican pundits calling for the party to be a Big Tent? Do you have any idea what that is? Whose agenda will it forward? Who, in particular, will this Big Tent mantra benefit? Why am I so confident that this approach will not succeed and will only distract us from what is happening around us?

The answer lies in the nature of man – the nature that our Founders were far more aware of than those of us today. They had been contending with the administration of laws, rules and regulations that had been created over centuries to maintain control over the populace. They could see what we are just beginning to see as our lot if we don’t find a way to win the inevitable and predictable battle.

Present day Democrats didn’t sit down and create a long-term goal. They didn’t need to. All that was needed was enough time for the pieces to fall in place. The pieces included wealth concentrated in a small group, cartel like control over main stream media, an echo chamber in our academic institutions of people who believe they know [and are] better; powerful administrative agencies that are easily captured by those over whom they hold sway; and a political class that we allowed to be separated from the people they represent and that has taken on the role I would call the business of governing.

Can you see that the common element – the human element in all this – is the desire for power and control? This is not a condemnation of the desire, rather it is something we need to be aware of so we can limit its impact. It should be obvious that the goal of all bureaucrats is to make their role more important. The same is true of most academics, seeking recognition for their ideas while silencing their critics. The goal of business moguls is to carve out a protected niche, one that they can own and control. And the goal of our political elite is to grow the business of government, enjoying the goodies while keeping us subservient.

Anecdotally, put yourself in a community of a hundred people looking for someone to manage trash collection. In that small community, everyone knows who is capable and who is not. So, the first czar of the trash will be a competent, well intentioned actor. Now let us picture the inevitable succession to the thrown (pun intended.) As the years pass and the community grows, the selection of the next czar is no longer the person everyone knows as competent. Instead, it will evolve into a position that is selected by the outgoing czar. Can you see where this is going? Picture trash collection in New York City.

Even the rank and file who work within these groups are motivated by the same desire for power and control. Notice how many misfits and sociopaths become policemen and soldiers, as well as ranking members of the three letter agencies. In politics, who are the people who work hard to curry favor and get chosen to be the next office holder? Is that not the case in our agencies?

What we are facing now is neither an accident nor an example of the wisdom of a small cadre of political elites. It is the combined result generated by numerous individuals just like us who have used their collective skills to concentrate power in smaller and smaller groups.

If you are thinking of this as a perfect storm, then the warning is to be selective in who you trust. Consider the two elements of trust: ability and sincerity. In the words of Lord Acton:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel. As power is concentrated into smaller groups, it tends to become generational. What we know about successive generations is that their decision making deteriorates as they lose touch with what is happening around them. This was obvious to Thomas Paine when he remarked about the succession of the English Kings, that if G-d had intended them to be our masters, why would he have given us this jackass? Perhaps that could be applied to, shall I say others?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, our founders were well aware of human nature and set out to design a structure of government that would slow the process and allow the citizens to contain it. The best example of this is our Bill of Rights. They were intended to protect free speech, bail, trial by an impartial jury, equal protection and a host of other rights that have been eroded by judicial decisions over time.

You can see that this is an old fight, one that each generation must face. You can call it Good versus Evil, Freedom versus Tyranny, Populism versus Progressivism, Morality versus Amorality, or G-d versus the Devil. What it isn’t is R versus D.

Seen in this light, the Big Tent mantra is just another way to control and limit the conversation. It is the establishment version of the Overton Window. The alternative is to declare where we stand in this battle, and have those who wish to join us be committed to freedom versus control, honoring the gift handed down to us by the remarkable men and women who founded this great nation.

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