Fireside Chat: On the Invictus for Senate Campaign
24 May 2015
My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the State of Florida about campaigning. I want to tell you what has been done in the last few days, and why it was done, and what the next steps are going to be.
The prevailing wisdom right now in politics is that you are too stupid to understand anything we politicians say. In fact, certain of my advisors have counseled me to “dumb down” my message, my speeches, even my imagery. They quoted to me a recent study pointing out that the most popular songs of today are popular precisely because the lyrics are at a third-grade reading level. If my campaign is to be successful, they assure me, then I, too, must package everything I say for third-graders.
But are you not sick of being spoken down to like schoolchildren by the Democrats and the Republicans? Are you not tired of being sold politicians like you would be sold soap or noodles? Make no mistake, this is what politics has devolved unto: a catchy jingle, a smile, a catchphrase.
I disagree with the prevailing wisdom. To my mind, it is not my job as a politician to sell myself to the masses. Rather, it is the job of political leaders to educate the people. As a friend of mine often says, “An educated populace is the cornerstone of liberty.” And yet we are all sore aware of the fact that the political leaders of modern America would hate to see the populace educated, lest those leaders lose control over the American people.
However, as I have quoted elsewhere, it is an irrefutable maxim of history that every nation gets the government it deserves. Even the most well-intentioned politician is forced to embrace a short-term perspective – not because of the tyranny of government, but because of the attitudes of the American people themselves. It was our own actions that led to this point, and no one else’s. It was our own refusal to stand up for what is right; our own refusal to educate ourselves; our own refusal to accept responsibility for our own destiny. It is easy to blame things on the politicians; it is not so easy to face our own failures.
Likewise, it would be much easier for me to accept the modern American political milieu and sell you my campaign like a bar of soap. I could do market studies to see which slogan you would like better: “Let’s clean up Washington!” or “Wash out the politicians’ mouths!” or “Soap: the yardstick of civilization!” It would be much easier for me to abide by the principles of modern campaigning and have others write my speeches with buzzwords like “new generation” and “Main Street” and “the typical worker.”
But I, like you, am sick to death of this mindless political culture. So let me explain to you a few things about my campaign with which others have had concerns.
The first area to be explained is my manner of speech. I believe the dumbing down of politics to be the tragedy of our age, and I refuse to take part in it. Long past are the days in which politicians would dare to ask something of their countrymen; I will ask much of you, but first I will ask that you rise to this occasion even if you must struggle to understand me. Too long have you been the slaves of the stupid speech of salesmen. I am asking you to break free of those invisible chains. I am asking you to expect more of your political leaders – and of yourselves.
The second area to be explained is the banner of my campaign, which reads “INVICTUS FOR UNITED STATES SENATE” beneath a golden eagle wrapped in a laurel wreath and holding a Fasces. Despite having chosen a two-thousand-year-old symbol, we were immediately chastised for having declined to remove the Fasces from the eagle’s talons because “that was Mussolini’s symbol.” I have been advised that I must remove the Fasces, lest it offend potential voters. I have been told that you will not understand it; that you will make no effort to understand it; that I would be a fool to imagine that the American people could understand anything more than a symbol drawn by a third-grader.
I hope you will help me to prove those persons wrong. I hope you will look to your history books and learn that what we have done is to resurrect the symbol of the Roman Senate. I hope you will look to our Government buildings here in America and discover that our forefathers revered the Fasces as their predecessors did. I hope you will revisit the Federalist Papers of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, and recall that our structure of Government here in the United States is largely based on the wisdom of the Roman Republic. The eagle, the wreath, and the Fasces are all symbols of our heritage. They should be cherished, not reviled.
Speaking of history, the third area to be explained is my past. I noted in my announcement speech that you would hear much of it. The American media loves scandal, because it sells so well to the American people, who say they want honest politicians but then run them through the mud once they discover an adulterous relationship or a run-in with the law.
How many of our elections are decided by which candidate had the lesser scandal? How many of our political leaders were chosen because they were the blandest, the safest, the most mediocre? We have stupid, uninspired, milktoast politicians partly because that is what the American people have settled on for so long – but also because those with a colorful past do not have the stomach to be run through the mud. I have no such weakness.
This brings us to the fourth area of the campaign to be explained, which is my approach to criticism. I will not debase myself by quibbling in internet chat rooms because certain of the Party’s leadership have decided to dig up my poetry and my law school papers and twist my words. I will not lower myself by responding to a former gubernatorial candidate who has nothing better to do than bicker on internet comment threads in the middle of the day instead of working. It is simply beneath my dignity to engage in such absurdity. Neither will I be distracted from this campaign because certain people believe everything they read on the Internet. We simply do not have time for such foolishness. Our Party must be unified, not torn apart by the petty jealousy of those who would call themselves our leaders.
Speaking of the Party, the fifth area to be explained is my perceived divergence from its platform. I noted in my announcement speech that our political leaders of today are slaves to their parties. What I love about the Libertarian Party is that we as Libertarians are allowed – no, expected – to think for ourselves. We are expected to disagree with one another. We are not supposed to subscribe unthinkingly to every tenet of the “official” platform. And God in Heaven help us if we did.
Though I am an entrepreneur, I am also an environmentalist. Though I want deregulation and the repeal of certain laws and government agencies, I also acknowledge that government is necessary, lest society devolve into a war of all-against-all. Though I promote a non-interventionist foreign policy, I also believe America has a role in shaping the destiny of the world. These things are not mutually exclusive; and we need leaders who will do what is best, not what is most ideologically pure.
Ours is the Party of Principle – but does that mean we must be blinded by ideology? Are we not real Libertarians if we differ in perspective from each other? But this is to say that Alexander Hamilton was not a real American because his perspective differed from Thomas Jefferson’s. This is not just a silly notion; it is a self-destructive one. For if we begin ostracizing each other because we do not swallow the Party platform hook, line, and sinker, then we are no better than the Republicans or the Democrats, and the Libertarian Party does not deserve to exist.
I was raised a Libertarian by my father. He used to say quite fervently that the only thing the Government should do is build roads and deliver the mail. My view of Government may be a bit more nuanced than my father’s – but I will not defend my Libertarian pedigree because the State leadership feels threatened by my advent. And I urge you, the listener, to question the leaders of your Party in the same way you would question the leaders of your country.
Do you want your politicians to be sold to you like soap and noodles, cars and computers, sandwiches and health insurance? Are you not sick of the politicians and the media treating you like cattle and schoolchildren? Are you not tired of your country’s destiny being decided by which empty suit looks the best on TV?
It is your problem no less than it is mine. Together we cannot fail.