- - Thursday, March 27, 2014


It’s time to go on offense.

More than at any time perhaps in my political career, this year’s midterm elections are shaping up as an ideal opportunity to force a national debate between two political world views on what America should be all about. And after spending so many decades on the defensive against the liberal/progressive/socialist world view embraced by President Obama and his allies, I also see this as an ideal time for constitutional conservatives, tea party groups and all others faithful to the limited government principles espoused by the Founding Fathers to go on the attack, to set the terms of the debate rather than reacting to what the Left says.

It’s the ideal time because the American people have seen the Obama world view up close and personal for six years now and they’re not falling for it anymore. We’ve spent over a century trying to beat back the progressive world view, one that holds that government exists to give us our rights — and can take those rights away. It’s a view that exalts man over God, one that rejects the idea that there is a fixed moral law. Progressives believe that our rights evolve over time and thus government should also evolve, that government is the solution to all of our social ills. They think the needs of “society” trump individual rights and that there are no permanent limits to government power.

Theodore Roosevelt was our first progressive president, Woodrow Wilson was the great hero of progressivism, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to take the progressive agenda to unimagined extremes. Because it clashed with the ideas of the Founders, the progressive world view required a radical rewriting of the Constitution itself, to obtain a funding source for government programs (the 16th Amendment on the income tax) and to weaken the power of the states (the 17th amendment on direct election of U.S. senators). The Federal Reserve was created to ensure Washington’s control of the money supply as well.

FDR even wanted to pass a second Bill of Rights, one in which the government would guarantee a “right” to food, to housing, health care and prosperity.

Since then, every president — except Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — essentially followed the progressive world view. Constitutional conservatives — those who believe individuals have inalienable, God-given rights that governments are formed to protect, who believe in limited government and the unchanging moral values laid out in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution — have been in damage-control mode, trying to slow the remorseless power grab by Washington.

That has to change, and 2014 is shaping up as the year to change it.

Off-year elections, with no presidential race on the ballot, typically don’t involve great national themes. One exception was the historic Republican triumph of 1994, when our party retook the House of Representatives after 40 years in the minority with a “Contract with America” that all our candidates could run on.

Given the political climate this year and the clear unhappiness with the Obama agenda, I’m calling on constitutional conservatives and tea party advocates to again raise the debate to a higher level. The tea party can use the megaphone it has to reach Americans in all states and districts about the dangers we face and the opportunity we have to change things, both this year and in 2016.

For local school board races, that suggests Republicans stop being on the defensive about our conviction that God and the Bible should be restored to a place of pride in all our classrooms. At the city level, that suggests a real rethinking about what local government should be doing. In Houston, the city government now spends more on social programs than it does on traditional services. That’s a fundamentally misguided use of taxpayer funds.

The states were meant to be political laboratories, so let’s highlight how state government can be used to restore constitutional ideals. The debate should focus on how states can restrain spending, how they can limit union influence, how they can reform regulations, how we can clean the Left out of their dominant position in too many of our public universities. Make the progressives explain why they think any of these are bad ideas, if they can.

At the federal level, our agenda should be to repeal (not replace, not repair) the unconstitutional Obamacare law, eliminate agencies like the Department of Education that have no justification under the Constitution, and introduce honest budgeting to expose the drain on resources from entitlement programs like welfare and Medicaid.

They say the best defense, in politics and in war, is a good offense. Progressives have been on the offense for far too long. Now it’s our turn.

Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and www.washingtontimes.com.

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