Government would work great if we could just elect “the right people.” Right?
If we had honest, intelligent, principled people who believed “fill in the blank here” — whatever you happen to believe — the politicians would work for The People. Government would work for all of us. We would restore the Constitution and the meaning of the Republic. And on and on. All we need is to elect “the right people.”
Have you heard this song before?
As someone who makes the case that the existing system is broken by design — and is immoral by design — this is the response I hear most frequently from well-meaning patriotic people. Whether they’re on the progressive left or the social conservative right or some other position, they honestly believe the majoritarian system will produce what they want — if we can just elect “the right people.”
In the Republican primary here in Alabama’s sixth congressional district, voters have a chance this year to elect someone who is exactly what they always claim to want. Paul DeMarco is a two-term state representative with a spotless conservative record, and he’s a candidate for Congress following the retirement of the man who’s held onto the spot for years.
I know Paul well. Nine years ago, I worked as a consultant for his first campaign for the Legislature, and he became one of my favorite clients ever. (I dug up an old piece of his literature to show you the logo I designed way back then, although the colors are off in this snapshot. It was really PMS 200 and reflex blue, just in case anyone cares. The typeface is Folio, which was my trademark typeface at the time.) Paul is very intelligent, honest, principled and level-headed. He’s willing to listen to people who disagree with him, and he wants to understand other positions and come up with solutions that make everyone happy. He’s a problem-solver. He’s exactly what a civics textbook would dream of as the ideal politician.
Paul was unusual for a first-time candidate. He listened well and learned quickly. Because his campaign was a special election when no other races were going on, I spent more time with him than was typical in a campaign, so I got to know him well. It’s the last campaign I ever worked on that I actually enjoyed most of the time. (I also have fond memories of the campaign because I was falling in love with a woman that spring, so I was predisposed to being happy at the time.) Paul was one of the few clients I ever had who was exactly the same in private as he was in public. I came to respect him and like him. We’ve stayed in touch off and on since then and I consider him a friend.
In the last year or so leading up to his decision to run for Congress this year, we talked a number of times and I strongly encouraged him to run for the Sixth District seat if it came open. I thought he would be the front-runner for the seat and I think that’s come true. In fact, unless I’m badly mistaken, he’s going to win. His campaign announced Friday that it just raised nearly half a million dollars in the last reporting period, and money for television advertising is the name of the game in such a campaign. He’s getting the right kind of endorsements that you’d expect a front-runner to get. And I can guarantee you that nobody is going to outwork Paul.
I think he’s going to win the race and head to Congress next year.
Paul is an optimistic and idealistic man. He believes he can make a difference. Despite my strongly positive feelings about him — both as a person and as a politician — I know that the system won’t change. No matter how many people like Paul you elect, the system will grind them down and produce an advance of state power over your life, simply because that’s what people want. They might say they want smaller government, but they want a large and muscular government when it comes to the things they happen to want.
And even if I could magically decree a government full of politicians and bureaucrats like Paul — men and women who had the values and personal characteristics that I think make him an excellent choice for Congress — it wouldn’t make a difference. The system itself is bound to reflect the will of a majority who want to control other people.
Even if I could wave a wand and create that perfect government that would make all the choices I want it to make — in accordance with the Constitution as it was originally written — it still wouldn’t solve the fundamental moral problem. Any such system allows a political majority to control everyone else. Even though the original system protected the rights of some classes of people better than the current system does, there was nothing that protected any individual against the will of the majority. And there’s nothing that allows an individual (or a group of individuals) to withdraw themselves and their property from the authority of the state.
So if you live in Alabama’s sixth congressional district and still believe in the fairy tales you were taught in school about good government, I think you’ll find Paul DeMarco is a great choice in the June Republican primary. But even with a candidate this good — and even with a congressman as good as I believe he would be — the fundamental problems remain.
The politicians aren’t the problem we face. The real problem boils down to the system itself — which empowers a majority to get what it wants. Electing an entire government full of Paul DeMarcos won’t change that.
And after you’ve elected all of “the right people” and nothing changes, what next? Are you ever going to face the fact that the problem is the system itself?