A new political party is rolling out in America. It’s tiny, unfunded, understaffed, and it’s not really a party at all, at least not yet.
Sounds promising — right?
And if the party ever draws real breath, everyone who’s anyone in Washington will try to strangle it in its crib.
How can it miss?
It’s the key ingredient.
The Federalist Party picks up where our nation’s Founders left off — wary of human nature. Its small but growing membership, which includes everyday men and women in states around the nation, recognizes that Washington has gone off the rails because the people we’ve sent there, term after term, have done what anyone naturally would: create donor networks and bureaucracies that benefit their electoral interests. That doesn’t make them bad people; it makes them human.
What they have wrought in the process, though — profound debt and discord — poses a threat to the nation so potentially grave that American citizens must reach for the tiller to reestablish course. Otherwise, debt alone will bring this country to its knees.
It’s painfully clear that neither Democrats nor Republicans are going to right the ship. Republicans talk a good limited-government game, but the tug of self-interest has proved irresistible. The Democratic party doesn’t even pretend anymore. Its candidates openly compete for who can propose the biggest new national programs.
Something’s got to give.
The Federalist Party has but two goals, at once simple and colossal: 1) the eventual reestablishment of government jurisdictions as prescribed in the Constitution and 2) congressional term limits, the latter integral to achieving the former. All other issues take a back seat to these; most should be hashed out within our towns, cities, or states.
The Federalist Party is offering a new paradigm in American politics. It’s a party focused on the framing of our republic rather than on what’s within its walls. The degree to which state and local governments shrink or grow is up to the people they serve. Federalist Party of America members seek to manage the forest, not the trees.
‘Love thy neighbor’ is the Federalist Party cry, not ‘Where’s that aid from Washington?’
In doing so, the party seeks to revive and strengthen the spirits of individual American communities by reassigning responsibility for shared challenges to individuals and entities close to home. “Love thy neighbor” is the Federalist Party cry, not “Where’s that aid from Washington?”
Our nation’s architects struggled mightily to forestall Washington from becoming the all-consuming behemoth it is today. They understood the need for a strong centralized government — so do Federalist members — but they feared governments’ grinding tendency to expand.
The Constitution was written with exactly that in mind. Three competing federal branches would establish an intrinsically conservative balance of power, and delineated limits on government jurisdiction would hamstring Washington’s overreach. What the Founders failed to fully anticipate were career politicians in the legislative branch and freelance legislators in the judiciary. That combination put the nation on an unsustainable path.
An errant 1937 Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution’s General Welfare Clause (see James L. Buckley’s Saving Congress from Itself) opened the floodgates to never-intended federal involvement in myriad state and local affairs. Members of Congress naturally took advantage, delivering federal largesse to constituents at election time like one would boxes of Valentine’s Day chocolates. Washington bureaucracies arose to manage the gift-giving; those entrusted to run them found ways to constantly expand their scope. Naturally.
The result to date is $20 trillion in federal debt — trillions more in unfunded liabilities — and a civil fracturing of America fueled by thousands of media-savvy interest groups sowing discord daily in their scramble to land a piece of a nearly $4 trillion pie. Shrinking it is political suicide. Federal supremacy in virtually all matters has left Americans feeling profoundly disconnected from government itself. Many of us no longer vote in local elections because we don’t see the point in it. It’s all about Washington, and Washington isn’t very good at what it does.
The Federalist Party of America isn’t delusional. We know we can’t compete with the major parties in the short- or even near-long term. But with patience and humility, we hope to restart a national conversation about the intended roles of our tiered governments and how we can begin claiming responsibility at the local level for things we long ago surrendered to bureaucrats in Washington, even if that means more work for us at home. Perhaps especially so.
How can we begin claiming responsibility at the local level for things we long ago surrendered to bureaucrats in Washington?
By intentionally forgoing early-ballot status, Federalists hope to attract frustrated Republicans, Democrats, and independents who can become members without changing their current ballot status. Call it a kick-the-tires trial period. Even modest early membership should put the major parties on notice. That alone would be worthwhile.
As students of human fallibility, the Federalists also turn a wary eye on themselves. Leadership positions at every level are limited to a single year, and donations to the party are capped at $100 per person annually. If the Federalist Party of America is to survive, it will have to be with rotating leaders. Time will tell if that’s possible.
Americans are increasingly distracted by titillating daily news coverage and poll-driven wedge issues, such as who should go to the bathroom where. Meanwhile, the real threat to our liberty and economy — indeed, to our General Welfare — goes unattended. It is human self-interest, just as our forefathers warned, that will take a great nation down if left unchecked.
The Federalist Party of America, against all odds, and claiming no other wisdom, launches itself today. We ask our fellow Americans to wish us godspeed.
— William F. B. O’Reilly is Chairman Pro Tem of The Federalist Party of America.