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What the Election Told Us – It’s Not All Good

At the risk of deflating the big victory balloon, I’m going to pull out my curmudgeon hat this morning. Ok, maybe it’s good to revel a little in the solid repudiation of European-style welfare-state policies.

Yay!

That’s enough. Now we have to get beyond repudiation (as satisfying as it is) and fix the mess that’s been left behind. That’s going to take a longer term approach that includes ideas and not just grievances. And those ideas have to reflect the underlying principles that give substance to most Montanan’s desire to govern themselves in their everyday lives and return government to its role as a protector rather than a granter of rights.

Politics is about power, and yesterday’s results determined where the power will be for at least the next couple of years. But power without principle is at best ineffective and at worst dangerous. We need to make sure that those in power reflect the principles of those who put them there.

Power is also fleeting, while principles and the ideas they foster are lasting. Some of the election results seem to indicate that many Montanans are investing more in people who they think will fix their problems than in ideas that will eliminate the sources of those problems. Overspending, over regulation, shifting everyday decisions from people to bureaucracies, pandering to special interests or the policy fad of the day; these are all things that shift the power of people to govern themselves to someone or something else. They take away responsibility for our own actions, and by extension the ability and freedom to decide how to live our lives.

I don’t think most Montanans get that relationship between freedom and responsibility yet, and the shift we saw yesterday may not last. We need to get that word out. We need to inform and impress upon our fellow citizens the importance of ideas over people. We need to remember that politicians don’t typically lead the culture, they follow it.

Our political system doesn’t reward innovation or risk taking. In fact it punishes those who really want to stand out and co-opts those with a weak understanding or just plain lack of underlying principles.

For those reasons and more, our political leaders generally stick their finger up into the wind to see which way it’s blowing before determining their course.

For generations the movement has all been away from individual freedom and responsibility and towards ever larger, more powerful, and overweening government. It’s time to shift the wind and remember what made our country the shining city on the hill, and our state its crown jewel.

We need to be the wind. We need to be strong. We need to be constant. And we need to invest in the ideas that keep us true. Investing in people is necessary but can only have a short term effect. Investing in ideas moves the culture and changes the world.