These are my notes for my January 22nd, 2021 Zoom call discussing
- the long-term impact of Trump’s administration,
- Biden’s election/administration,
- the capitol riots,
- the future of America in general.
- In some ways, we are better off than we were four years ago and in many ways, we are worse off than we were four years ago. Although I expect that all of you probably agree with me on that point, I anticipate that unless we have talked regularly about the steps to healing America, we probably believe the same thing for very different reasons. I ask that you keep an open mind and hear me out.
- If you base your hope for the future of America on the success of Trump and the trajectory of the Republican party, then I don’t have a lot of good news for you and this call might be a waste of your time. If you’re willing to have a broader perspective on our political climate, then I have some really good news for you that I think will fill you with hope.
- We have a choice to make. We can keep fighting about Trump, or we can choose to be productive. Unfortunately, many people are more concerned about defending Trump than being truly productive. If you are one of those people, I’m going to ask you to reconsider your priorities.
- I’ll preface by saying I don’t agree with many of Trump’s policies, so when I talk about the “cause of liberty,” I’m simultaneously recognizing that Trump’s agenda overlapped and strayed from the cause of liberty in several ways. I’m not interested in trying to spell out all of those areas on this call, but at a later point, I’ll give some important examples. My point is I wish to have my reference to “the cause of liberty” separated from Trump and his policies, regardless of how well they do or do not overlap.
The Proper Role of Government
- The Constitution is the circle.
- The size of that circle exploded during the late 1800s and early 1900s, but we have yet to really explore the bounds of that new circle. It’s like we amended and reinterpreted the Constitution so that the scope of government authority is now 100+ times its original size, but the speed at which we have grown our government to fill in that circle has been relatively gradual. This has made us feel safer than we really are.
- I personally feel a strange hybrid of optimism and pessimism. I’m pessimistic in the sense that I think things are far worse than most people believe, but I’m optimistic in the sense that I believe it has been that way for a long time and I’m not as concerned about the Biden administration as most conservatives because of the simplicity of the true solutions.
- I’ll discuss this more towards the end when I talk about where we need to go from here.
Office of President is Too Powerful and Important
- We need to make the office of the President much less important.
- If the president was restrained in the way he was supposed to, it would matter a lot less who fills that role.
- If the courts were restrained in the way they are supposed to be, it would matter a lot less who sits on the bench, making the nomination power of the president much less important.
- I think there was election fraud and that it might have changed the results. But the less power the president has the less we will have to worry about stuff like this.
- I think the pandemic had a massive effect on the election. The less we care about the president, the less we have to worry about stuff like this.
- Originally, the primary role of the executive branch was to execute the laws passed by Congress. Executive orders were only used by the president to instruct specific administrative agencies on how to implement and enforce the laws passed by the legislative branch.
- Today, executive orders are used by Democrats and Republicans, including Trump, to establish law. Instead of reversing that trend, Trump used it to his advantage. He could have used his power and influence to correct the historical and tyrannical abuses of executive orders, but Trump continued to play status quo politics by using all of the same methods but doing so in a “more Republican” or “patriotic” way. Honestly, I don’t care about intentions. I care about the Constitution and precedence, and tyranny is never patriotic.
Thoughts on Trump’s Administration
- I’m not here to evaluate his intentions or how conservative I think Trump was. I’m not going to use this time to praise him for really anything. There’s more than enough of that going around and I have nothing unique to contribute. Those who like him already know about the good things he did, so I’m not here to try to make anyone like him more. That does us literally no good right now. Instead, I’m going to talk about the impact of Trump’s administration. I’m going to be brutally honest, but I think this commentary will be dramatically different from the critical comments you’ve heard elsewhere.
- (I’m honestly annoyed that anytime someone expresses dislike for Trump, his supporters always assume the dislike is based on his personality and mistakes in his personal life. His supporters are so dang defensive all the time that they aren’t very good at hearing out anybody that disagrees with him, including other conservatives. Please consider the possibility for conservatives to disagree with Trump on important policy issues.)
Too Much Focus on Trump
- Before talking about the impact of Trump’s administration, I’d like to share some thoughts on where we have chosen to place our focus.
- I believe conservatives have placed far too much focus on Trump and that has been problematic for several reasons.
- The first is that we have actually inflated the power and authority of the office of president through this confidence in and passionate love for Trump as a person.
- Thomas Jefferson said, “It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights; that confidence is every where the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power; that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no farther, our confidence may go…. In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” —Thomas Jefferson, From the Kentucky Resolution of 1798, from: Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, vol. 4, p. 543 (1907)
- My concern is that I’m seeing a whole lot of confidence in Trump. Many conservatives are better at defending Trump than articulating their own political philosophy. I have countless friends who can list more of Trump’s accomplishments than the powers enumerated to Congress in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.
- The second concern is that this emphasis on Trump or any other politicians is not only a strategically unwise move, it’s distracting. It honestly makes me sick thinking of the hundreds of millions of hours conservatives have collectively spent over the past 5 years talking about trump. Do you have any idea what kind of political change we could see if conservatives instead spent that time talking about real solutions—changes that actually make a long term difference? We have been so distracted.
- My third concern is that to millions of people, Donald Trump as a person has become the mascot for and barometer of the cause of liberty.
- This means that we are unnecessarily or disproportionately discouraged and angry when Trump is attacked or unelected. The success of the liberty movement and the political success of Trump and other politicians are separate issues and should be treated as such.
- We used to stand up for ideals. Now I’m afraid we’re compromising our ideals to stand up for people. It’s a terrible move to make anybody the face of an idea, with the exception of God. To do so is literally creating and offering your opposition a straw man for their logical fallacies. Through making Trump the face of patriotic values, conservatives voluntarily chose to make it easier for the Left to use persuasive ad hominem arguments against our ideals.
- I recently came across an old poster in my box of memories. It showed the “Taxpayers March on Washington” from more than a decade ago. This march was a protest at the capitol by as many as a million patriots. There were thousands of American flags, Gadsden flags, and other patriotic posters, and there was not a MAGA hat or Trump banner in sight. I stared at that poster, longing for the day when patriotic protests were characterized by the strength of our ideals and not our infatuation with a politician.
- It’s clear that we may never again be able to hold liberty rallies and protests without being associated with Trump, his personality, and the worst of his politics. I believe that’s a devastating blow to the long-term success of the liberty movement, and we did that to ourselves.
Long-Term Impact of Trump’s Administration
- In short, Trump completely failed to popularize the long game. Trump could have used his spotlight and extremely active social media platforms to educate. Instead, he used it to slam and trash people and to build up animosity towards Democrats and loyalty to the Republican party. This is a massive and tragic lost opportunity.
- I believe a lot of people supported Trump because of the impact of his policies, but not necessarily because they have become intellectually converted to a new philosophical framework about the proper role of government. That conversion comes from effective education. We had a phenomenal opportunity to educate, but instead we chose to play normal partisan politics.
- When my friends remind me of all the good things Trump accomplished, I can’t help but ask how long those changes will really last. They are obviously temporary, as evidenced by Biden’s 17 executive orders on day 1.
- I can’t help but relate Trump’s presidency to a gardener using a riding lawnmower to destroy mature weeds. We wanted someone to remove the weeds and to do it quickly. He certainly moved swiftly and made a massive impact during his term, but what was the real impact? The roots of our political problems are still in place and the seeds have only been scattered farther. We just have the temporary illusion of massive political success, when in reality the root causes of our political problems are still fully intact. In fact, I would argue some of those roots have only been strengthened over the past four years—sometimes in spite of Trump and sometimes because of him.
- I think we have significantly overvalued the importance of short term victories. It honestly feels like we’ve been playing a reactionary game of chess with absolutely no long game strategy. We’re taking every piece available without considering or appreciating future options and consequences, and that’s left us in a tragic place politically.
- I submit that Trump really wasn’t as different from the standard Republican pattern as we’d like to believe. I would summarize his presidency by saying, “Trump did Republican things faster.” It wasn’t that what he advocated for was so dramatically new and different and innovative, he just took what most republicans wanted to be done and he actually did it. But what if Republicans are very wrong in a lot of important ways?
- Discussion about Supply-side vs Demand-side vs Austrian economics.
- I’m concerned about the future of the Republican party. Trump made many people embarrassed to be Republican and they actually voted Democrat this past election. His style worked against Hillary Clinton, arguably one of the most corrupt politicians in history, but not against mild-mannered Joe Biden.
- I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually see moderate Democrats and Republicans merging into the Democratic party with the Bernie Sanders/AOC-style socialists and social radicals eventually becoming their own political party and the Trump-style conservatives retaining a hold on the Republican party. This would seriously shrink the Republican party and inflate the Democrat party. I would argue that most moderate Republicans and Democrats already agree on a majority of the points concerning the desired size and scope of government authority. The Republican brand is too spoiled for most Democrats to leave their party, but if they kicked out the radicals then I could see Republicans joining the Democrat party by the millions. This isn’t necessarily a prediction, but my point is that if we keep this up we will ostracize millions of Republicans and potentially lose them to a more “politically moderate” party. This would not be good for the success of the cause of liberty.
- I’m disturbed that republicans went from merely tolerating him as the lesser of two evils to praising him as a political messiah. On the level of character, he lowered the bar for what kind of a person many Republicans are willing to elect. I think this is representative of the current moral posture of America as a whole and I’m genuinely worried for us about the judgments of God. I’ll talk more about this later.
‘Fast Boil’ Coming
- Tale of two constitutions
- Conservatives are living in two different worlds, and therefore two main groups of conservatives.
- We are about to find out how big that circle has become, and while it will be very uncomfortable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the long term, it’s much better to experience the discomfort necessary to motivate us to finally restore the Constitution than to have a massive circle and “only” fill 60-70% of it with laws and regulations.
- Boiling a frog analogy. If you’re the frog, do you want the water to boil slowly or quickly?
- The next four years could do wonders for renewing loyalty to the long game among conservatives.
- I’m optimistic because this is going to force conservatives to start thinking about the states as the solution again. It’s forcing us to practice federalism again.
Anticipated Impact on Culture
- If his first few days are any indicator of the future, Biden’s administration will not be unifying. However, he does appear unifying because of his demeanor. I’m not surprised that Biden won considering the impact of Covid and his tone. Election fraud aside, I honestly think those two factors may have been enough for him to secure the presidency.
- I think the policies and results of Biden’s administration and a Democratic Congress will be shocking and repulsive to many on the left. If we start treating them better they might actually be willing to learn from us.
Pray For Him—Possible Conversion
- I have not voted for Trump, but I noticed a change in him a few years into his term. I personally think the mantle of being the president softened his heart. I hope that mantle can be an impetus in changing Biden’s heart as well.
- We should be praying for Biden to learn and have a change of heart as well. We need people on the Left to wake up, and perhaps nobody could be more influential right now than Biden. Choose to see him as a potential ally, not a forever enemy.
State of America
Tribalism and Division
- We have become so tribalistic. Biden won’t unite us, but Trump sure didn’t help us in that way either. The more tribalistic we become, the more political success is a numbers game instead of a battle of ideas. We’re fueling the very divide that is making successful debate impossible.
- I believe there are secret combinations and that they are trying to stir up contention between the left and the right. I see these secret combinations as the common enemy of most democrats and republicans. We need to quit fighting with each other and work together against our common enemy.
- Compare to 3 Nephi 7:11-13
- There are two political wars in America: the war of policies and the war of ideas. The war of policies is the short game and the war of ideas is the long game. Over the past four years we made our ideas (speaking of ideas in a very generalized sense) repulsive and toxic with our ‘up yours’ attitude towards the left, and we have an immense uphill battle ahead in trying to win anybody over now.
- I think the riots were disgraceful and accomplished nothing. They were disastrous for the conservative cause. The fact that we’ve done anything that can be at all comparable to BLMs riots should make us ashamed. We’re better than that and we need to start acting like it.
- Glenn Kimber taught me that ignorance + fear = hate. If that is true, and I believe it is, then education plus faith and hope are the antidotes to our climate of hate. I would also add forgiveness as a powerful key to the healing of America.
Freedom of Speech
- Tech companies and freedom of speech. I’m not concerned.
- Buckle up. This could be a very bumpy ride.
- We’ve all but surrendered them.
- Approx. 85% of the Constitution is still intact, but it’s been broken by amendments and Supreme Court interpretations. We need to focus on restoring the circle and watch as thousands of bad laws disappear. We can either keep trying to limit the number of laws within our very large circle, or we can focus on shrinking the circle and destroy the foundation of countless bad laws.
- There aren’t enough patriots in this country, so I’m annoyed when I see good patriots choosing to die on an unproductive hill.
- I’m sickened by how much money is spent campaigning for federal offices. Talk about a drain on the economy. That money is spent on influence and it moves money away from businesses and families to media outlets. Is that really what we want?
Four Steps to Healing America
- Righteousness Exalteth a Nation
Need for God
- The Harbinger. We need a revival. We need to turn back to God. Freedom is a gift from God, not government. I don’t fear anything this administration can do if we can successfully turn enough hearts and minds back to God.
- As far as I can tell, there are three positions we can take on God. God doesn’t exist. God does exist but is distant and uninterested or uninvolved in our lives. God is actively involved in our lives and cares about the decisions we make. I think there’s tremendous evidence that God is in fact invested in our national success, but he’s going to make us work for it. This is a covenant nation and we can’t escape the full implications of that.
- Discussion on worldly theocracy vs Biblical theocracy.
- God used to be king of America. Republican theocracy. Now our president is king. (2 Nephi 10:11-14)
- We would be less angry if we understood why others believe what they believe and stop vilifying them.
- Conservatism vs Liberalism.
- How to change people’s minds.
Projects and Organizations
- Healing of America seminars.
- Rising Generation and Restoration Generation.
- Freedom Action Center.
- Patreon for the Restoration Generation.
- Missionaries of freedom.
- Seek more power and influence and use it the way Jesus Christ would. Stop being so obnoxious.
- Explain the political spectrum.
- Overemphasis on freedom over rights and liberty.
- More detail on RGs and Patreon.
- More detail on FAC.
- Four types of activism.