In an era that gave us a community organizer for a president, the word “activist” and “organizer” have long been associated with the progressive movement. I presume that to have one’s life politicized daily is not something any sane person desires, but there is a considerable gap between civil society and politics. The private and public have been divided by a massive wall of separation. But, whether we like it or not, we live in an extremely politicized country, and if we are going to be successful in achieving our goals in the fight for liberty we must realize that the fight has come to us and we must do something about it. We can make the necessary changes needed to end the authoritarian customs of government starting at the grassroots level.
Government is a tool we must learn to utilize effectively, not by showing the public what the role of government is, but demonstrating to the public what the role of government is not. Over the past century, the principle of limited government has suffered considerable damages as the position of the President has been transformed into a national figurehead and more of a political celebrity. Before the ink dried on the Constitution the first Vice President, John Adams, was dead set on elevating the president’s position to that of an elected king, he lobbied hard for George Washington to be given the title of “His High Mightiness” or “His Mighty Benign Highness” or “His Majesty the President”. Adams faced stiff opposition and his rivals eventually won out as the majority were tired of honorifics which had been abolished in the recently ratified Constitution. America’s chief executive would simply be called “Mr. President.”
Adams may have lost the battle, but his conception has prevailed in the long run. The American presidency has endured a great transformation of power over the past eighty years, from Calvin Coolidge to Barack Obama. In the 1920s, President Coolidge was rumored to have got into squabbles with his housekeeper over the cost of steak dinners at the White House and he dressed down leaders of the executive branch for wasting pencils. Just a few years later, Eleanor Roosevelt sought to refuse Secret Service protection fearing that the presence of security would give an impression of royalty, “Like a queen flagged by an imperial guard”. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what Coolidge and Roosevelt would think of the wastefulness of the executive branch today. During George W. Bush’s eight-year tenure the total cost of presidential transportation was $2 billion. The Obama’s aren’t familiar with the word frugal either, ringing up $1.4 billion each year in nongovernmental household cost alone.
The White House isn’t alone in this presumed notion of imperial power and nobility. At some point in American history we adopted this ridiculous custom of allowing politicians to keep their titles for life. For instance, even among Libertarians we often refer to Gary Johnson as “Governor Johnson”, when he hasn’t been a governor for more than fourteen years. Mitt Romney in the 2012 race, was referred to as “Governor Romney” six years out of his role as governor of Massachusetts. We need to change this notion of nobility by eliminating these life-long titles that insinuate a permanent political class. Contrary to the recent FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, American’s do not have rulers, we have servants who can be hired and fired at will. These servants are to remain subordinate to the US Constitution. It is proper for politicians to hold certain titles while serving in their respective capacities, but it is ridiculous for former public officials to retain such titles after their commission has ended. “Governor” is a temporary responsibility, similar to a company CEO, and we don’t see many retired CEO’s insisting that they be called CEO for life.
As we look at many of these noble customs have crept back into the US from the Old World. Take for instance, the annual custom of the State of the Union address, which may seem like a timeless tradition. Its modern incarnation is anything but, as the Constitution only requires the president “shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”. Notice it does not say that the information must be delivered in person, much less a set-piece speech that is astoundingly similar to a monarch summoning her parliament.
In 1801, Thomas Jefferson ended the practice choosing to deliver a written report instead or a speech. Jefferson complained that the president speaking down to Congress reminded him too much of the British Speech from the Throne. The report remained in written format until 1913, when the founder of the modern progressive movement, Woodrow Wilson, complained that the presidency was not monarchical enough for his liking so he brought back the speech. Coolidge and Hoover, limited-government presidents who identified with Jefferson’s beliefs on the address gave their reports in writing. But it was Hoover’s successor, Franklin Roosevelt, who insisted on giving the address in person. Since then, the trend of a royal address has continued as each year the President gives the report in a speech.
It is time for a President who will announce that the government has grown too large, and become too expensive so he or she will not be putting his or her $100 million vacation on the taxpayers tab. It is time for a president who will abolish the State of the Union address, and announce exactly why he or she is doing away with the practice. It is time for a President who will call for abolishing the IRS and the Fed. It is time for a President that will call for comprehensive reform in how defense spending is allocated each year. It is time for a President who will openly refuses to concern themselves with all matters that do not concern the enumerated powers, which are carefully limited in the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 7, cls 2 & 3)(Art. I Sec. 9,)(Art. II, Sec. 1, cls 1)(Art. II, Sec. 2, cos 1,2,3)(Art. II, Sec. 3.) Simply put, it is time for a President, not a King.
Aaron can be reached for further comments via FB Aaron Nichols