(The audio version of this essay can be found here.)
Throughout the month of June 2020, a motley group of black activists, antifa rioters, and lazy bums occupied half a dozen city blocks in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. This Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or Capitol Hill Occupy Protest, depending on who you ask, stood for weeks as a symbol of inspiration for the socialist left and of derisive mockery for those on the right. The day after protesters claimed the streets and put up barricades, Seattle’s extreme left-wing mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted, “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection – it is a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world.” A month later, after several people were murdered in street fights in the CHAZ and the protesters made their way to her house, Durkan began singing a different tune. Finally allowed to do their jobs, the Seattle Police Department quickly cleared the occupation.
The CHAZ was an example of left-wing localism, and like most left-wing attempts at community autonomy it failed spectacularly. Some people in the CHAZ started a garden, but it was clear from most of the pictures that they had no clue as to what they were doing. If not for the pizzas delivered from a nearby Dominos, the denizens of the CHAZ might well have starved long ago. These people had absolutely no plan for self-sufficiency. The city of Seattle generously provided them with portable toilets – I hate to think about what it would have smelled like without them, much less with them. The modern socialist conception of community is a bunch of activists holding hands, singing songs, speaking truth to power, spraying graffiti on other peoples’ property, and marching for some vague and undefined concept of justice. However, they have no plan for food, water, waste, electricity, or the other things that separate humanity from the animal kingdom. Many of us on the right at least share the desire to escape the system. We envy our forefathers who left Old Europe for the New World, and then left the crowded east coast for the Old West. Many of us dream of escaping the rat race and building a cabin in the woods or a ranch in the prairie.
The socialist believes that human nature can be changed, with greed and ambition able to be removed from ourselves so that we can live in perfect cooperation. Left-wing communities are built upon this idea, relying on the cooperation of its members to survive. We all know that human nature is in fact unchangeable, which is why these experiments inevitably fail. Conservatives know that mankind is greedy and ambitious, and so our communities are based on the idea that we all contribute to society by doing what is best for ourselves and our families. Most right-wing experiments in self-sufficiency are never heard of because they quietly succeed. Only in cases where something goes horribly wrong, such as at Ruby Ridge or Waco, do they make the news. On the other hand, left-wing experiments usually fail, as the CHAZ did. The Oneida community in New York was a proto-socialist commune that existed for a few decades in the mid-19th century, which was still more successful than the hippy communes that have been tried ever since. It is ironic that, for all their socialist pretensions, the people of the CHAZ developed social structures such as walls and barricades, armed security, and strict vetting of visitors – the same things for which they call President Trump “fascist”.
The left-wing socialist worldview is of a nation built from the top down. They believe that the ideal government is one where all the smartest people are in charge, micromanaging the entire country from a distant capital. This sort of central planning means that government bureaucrats will decide how much money you earn, what goods and services will cost, what your children must learn in school, and how the land in your city or town is used. Government officials will decide what is allowed on television or YouTube, and what you can say on social media, in print, and even in person. Many leftist pundits and politicians in America look longingly at Communist China, where the government can decide to raze a village to put up a new factory, run freeways across any piece of land they please, or force millions of people to move across the country, all in the name of industrial progress. Here in the United States we have pesky things like property rights that get in the way of these utopian dreams. Many leftist pundits also envy the ability of the Chinese Communist Party to censor speech and control thought, and want to bring that to America as well.
It was this very idea of a distant tyranny that our founding fathers rebelled against in 1776. King George III and his Parliament had tried to micromanage the colonies from across the Atlantic Ocean. Many of these colonies had developed from the ground up – creating their own charters and representative governments – and they naturally resented the control exerted by their faraway monarch. They declared their independence, not only from Great Britain, but eventually from the idea of monarchy altogether. The new United States government would be one in which power ultimately resided with the people, growing from the ground up rather than the top down. The very words of the Declaration of Independence speak to this idea: “…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This was indeed a revolution against the idea that kings were chosen by God to rule a people, or even that kings derived their powers from the consent of their lords. America was a populist nation from the very beginning.
The original thirteen states met together as sovereign bodies to form a confederation, joining themselves together under one flag for the purposes of defense and organization. The question of whether these sovereign states had the right to ever leave this confederation was not firmly answered until the Civil War. For the first century of the United States, the government in Washington DC was not interested in micromanaging the lives of its citizens, but instead remained focused on big picture issues. It was not until the progressive revolution of the early 20th century and the enormous expansions of federal power through the New Deal and Great Society that the federal government became interested in your personal life.
Today we find ourselves in an essentially totalitarian society, where a central government influences almost everything in our lives, and there is no way to escape its reach. The federal government has become an invisible yet ever-present third party to nearly every interaction and transaction within our communities. Every industry has mountains of federal regulations that businessmen must navigate lest they be fined out of existence, and that is on top of regulations at the state and city levels. Because our national bureaucracy has grown so powerful, activists on all sides spend a lot of time, energy, and cash to take control of that beast of a federal government. More than two billion dollars was spent in the 2016 presidential race, while more than ten billion was spent in House and Senate races in each of the last two election years. Every two and four years we fight like mad to see who controls the whole thing, while mostly ignoring what is happening at the local level. Too few Americans can name the president, vice-president, and their state’s senators and congressman. Of those who can, how many can name their own mayor and city council, or county commissioners? This is surely not how our founding fathers intended for this country to work.
The strongest civilizations in world history were always built from the ground up. The Roman orator Cicero summed it up over two thousand years ago: “The first bond of society is marriage; the next, our children; then the whole family and all things in common.” A man and a woman join themselves in marriage, which is the lowest and strongest bond in society. From that marriage come children, a family. These families join with people of the same background, the same beliefs, and the same common heritage to form communities. These communities form cities, and then states, and then a nation. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neil was fond of saying that “all politics is local.” The place where you can exert the most influence as at the lowest level – first in your own family, and then in your community, and then in your state.
A community is a group of people who trust each other. When a group of people shares a common culture and heritage, trust is high. There are still small towns in America where people do not feel the need to lock their doors at night, and where a man’s word is still his bond. A community where everyone knows everyone else, speaks the same language, goes to the same church, and trusts each other is one in which people do not fear being taken advantage of, or accosted by strangers and criminals. These are small remnants of what once made America great in the first place. Think about life before telecommunications were invented: A man’s community was everything to him. The life of a solitary mountain man was not for most people. A man and his neighbors shared and traded with each other, often went to the same church, and belonged to the same fraternal organizations. If there was a war to be fought, all the men of the community would join up together, and even fight together. For the pioneer and the city-dweller alike, community was life, but solitude was death.
Telephones and automobiles began the process of scattering communities across the country, while jet airplanes made it possible to go anywhere in the USA in less time than it took a man on foot to walk to the nearest town. Today, the internet enables a man to live in a cabin in the woods and still make a decent living working from home. The modern world has dissolved our old communities, leaving more than three hundred million Americans each with our own individual connections to the central government rather than to each other. Whereas atomization and solitude were deadly in the old days, now it is almost encouraged. Turn on the news, or social media, and you can join with millions of other spectators in watching the daily life of politicians, celebrities, actors, and musicians, while remaining blissfully unaware of what is going on in your own neighborhood. Such an atomized society is in danger of becoming entirely dependent on a central government to meet their needs, rather than trusting our own local communities. As our connections with the rest of the country have grown, we have gone from being a high trust society to a low trust society. We have become familiar with the national news stories and personalities while fearing the unknown in our own neighborhoods. Hence, we lock our doors.
While many conservatives were focused at the top – the White House, the Senate, the Supreme Court – the left slowly and surely took over our communities. Over the past few years, various left-wing groups – many of whom are funded by George Soros – have been spending a great deal of money to get their candidates elected to local positions such as District Attorney and Secretary of State. What the right realized perhaps too late is that people in these positions have much more opportunity to influence or even ruin our lives and our communities than do the people in Washington DC. We have all seen the stories about rioters being released from jail with no charges filed by Democratic prosecutors while law-abiding people who host a church service or open a hair salon in violation of the coronavirus lockdown face prison time. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, a black man running for reelection amid his own scandals, charged the police officer who killed Rayshard Brooks last month with felony murder, even though the officer was just doing his job. Just this week, a California couple was charged with a hate crime for painting over a giant “Black Lives Matter” mural that was stenciled into a city street. The District Attorney charging the couple is Diana Becton, who was elected in 2018 with support from a George Soros-funded political action committee. Elections matter; local elections matter!
I often lament the anarcho-tyranny that is going on throughout our society, but in a way, we have let this happen. While we were distracted by the national stories and the political horse races, the left just walked in and took control of our cities and towns. We tend to grow complacent during good times, taking for granted our local elective offices and figuring that they will continue to operate as they always have. We look at the presidential election map, see that our state has been red for the last fifty years, and figure everything will be okay. Then one day we wake up and see our local prosecutor is charging a driver for failing to allow themselves to be beaten by an angry mob. We see our local elections officials certifying obviously fraudulent votes. We see our local Republican leadership suddenly full of progressives who took over the party because they were willing to spend the time and energy to do it while we sat at home posting on Twitter. We look at the electoral map and suddenly realize we are living in a blue state.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to represent my community as an alternate delegate at my state’s Republican Convention. Political conventions are one of the few remaining expressions of pure American tradition, along with county fairs, rodeos, and high school football games. (Is it any wonder that these are the things are being canceled by extreme left-wing governors?) It was at this event that the state party platform was finalized, that party officers were elected, and that measures were drafted to be sent to the GOP representatives in the legislature. This is where the direction of the ship of our state was decided. Over the next few months, the engine of that ship will be revved as party volunteers work hard to get out the vote for Republican candidates.
I know that the Republican Party is far from perfect. They tend to pander for minority votes, they are far too quick to apologize, and they often attack our own side with much more vigor than they spend fighting the left. However, elections in America are usually a binary choice, and the Republican candidate is almost always going to be the better option for liberty and freedom. Third parties in America simply do not work. At the presidential level, a third party has not won a single electoral vote since 1968, when Governor George Wallace carried the South. Libertarians and Greens sometimes gain ground at the local level, but like most of us their attention is usually diverted by the national elections. Whatever political capital the Libertarians gain at the local level is always wasted on quixotic campaigns by candidates like Gary Johnson or Jo Jorgenson. The best way for American patriots to fight for the cause of liberty is to work within your local Republican Party. Local politics are important, but 99% of people simply go to the polls for the big elections and assume that everything else is in good hands. It is up to you to be those hands.
A great example of this is the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Mitt Romney became the nominee, while outspoken libertarian Ron Paul came in a distant third. However, many young people were inspired by Paul’s stance on liberty and so made the time to gain influence in their local parties. They pushed for more liberty-minded positions in the party platform and took over many party officers’ seats. Actions like these are not as exciting as presidential rallies, but they make a difference over time. One could argue that the groundwork for President Trump in 2016 was at least partly laid by the Ron Paul faction in 2012. We tend to think about party leadership being comprised of a brahman class of Ivy Leaguers sitting around making rules in distant smoky rooms, but like America herself, the parties are built from the ground up. One day you go to a local party meeting, the next you are at the convention, you volunteer to knock on some doors, and in a few years you are a Precinct Committee Officer, or a District Chairman, or even the State Chairman. The future belongs to those who show up.
In general, the Right wants to be left alone, while the Left wants to impose a totalitarian socialist state. This puts us at a disadvantage right off the bat. Many on our side did not even realize we were under attack until it was too late. Astoundingly, there are some who still do not take the left’s war on America seriously. Some on the right still give the left the benefit of the doubt, assuming that we can all peacefully disagree over policy. Some still believe that we can vote our way out of this mess, or that the courts are going to save us. Many on the right assume that when the shooting starts, our side will easily win. None of these things are guaranteed. The left is organized, while we are not. The left has a vision of what their America could be, while we cling to rose-colored memories of the America that was.
No man is an island. As much as we all fantasize about retreating to our wilderness redoubts and holing up in our guarded compounds to wait out the coming storm, that is not realistic for most people. Security will not be found in mountain hideouts but in your local community. We must regain the sense of community that our forefathers took for granted, before telephones, the internet, and 24/7 cable news directed our attention elsewhere. As the entropy of our nation increases, the importance of maintaining close ties with your neighbors grows. When the federal government finally collapses under its own weight, then it will be up to governors and legislatures to lead their sovereign states again, as it was before the Civil War. If the socialist left completes their revolution and takes over Washington DC, then the strongest resistance will be from solid red states such as Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, and West Virginia. In states that have already fallen to the progressive revolution such as New York or California, remember that many counties in these states remain solidly conservative. Once secession starts happening – and mark my words, it will, one way or another – these red counties will find themselves united as lines on the map are redrawn.
As the decline and fall of the United States continues accelerating in the coming years it is important to know who will have your back. All politics is local, and America is built from the ground up. The time to start building community is today. You can find allies all around you: in your local political party, your local Chamber of Commerce, gun clubs, homeschool groups, and even neighborhood associations. If you look around and find that you are the only conservative in your city, then perhaps it is time to move. Remember, though, that our media has a vested interest in convincing us that we stand alone. They fear a united conservative citizenry in America. Even in blue states and blue cities, there might be more on our side than you think. Perhaps they are waiting for you to reach out and build the bonds that will form a new community. Just as it was three hundred years ago, solitude means death, but the tribe, the community, will live. The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Build your pack today so you can survive what is coming tomorrow.