by Tom McClintock | Sacramento and D.C

[Remarks given to the How to Take Back America Conference]

A funny thing happened this summer on the Road to Serfdom.  The American people decided we don’t want to go!

We are watching something unfold across the country that is quite remarkable.  We are watching Americans do what Americans have always done whenever we have sensed that our country or our freedom is in danger.

Ever since the days of the Boston Tea Party, in times of crisis, we have set aside our personal pleasures and cares and we have risen to confront whatever danger has presented itself.  We don’t wait for our leaders to act – we act ourselves and tell our leaders to “lead, follow or get out of the way.”  That’s how we have preserved our liberty for more than ten generations.

And look at what’s happening today. Town hall meetings that typically draw hundreds now draw thousands.  Taxpayer rallies that typically draw thousands now draw tens of thousands.

The great silent majority might not pay a lot of attention to politics in normal times.  But when a crisis approaches, the true strength of our nation emerges.  One by one, individual citizens sense the approach of danger and they rise to the occasion.

When he was 28 years old, Abraham Lincoln posed this haunting question to the Young Mens Lyceum of Springfield:

He asked, “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Today, THIS generation of Americans has arrived at one of the great turning points of history.  Upon the outcome of this struggle is nothing less than the question of whether America is to fade away as yet another failed socialist state, or whether this generation of Americans will rescue, redeem and restore the founding principles that made the American Republic the most prosperous and successful in the history of the world.

It has now been nine months since the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States – with all the hope and trust that the American people placed in him for our future.

Think about what has happened in these nine months.  And think about how far our country has strayed from what Jefferson called the “sum of good government.” — what he described as “a wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

Last year’s deficit of $450 billion has nearly quadrupled to $1.6 TRILLION.

Let’s put that in perspective. All of the debt accumulated by this nation from the very first day of the George Washington administration to the very last day of the George W. Bush administration, will now double over the next five years and nearly triple over the next ten under the budget that President Obama signed.

We all know that if you live well BEYOND your means today, you must live well BELOW your means tomorrow.  And that is the tomorrow that our country is now facing unless his policies are quickly halted and reversed.

History cannot offer a single example of a nation that has spent and borrowed and taxed its way to economic prosperity.   But it offers many, many examples of nations that have spent and borrowed and taxed their way to economic ruin and bankruptcy.  And history warns us that bankrupt nations don’t last very long.

This administration has set in motion conditions that threaten to destroy not only the solvency of our treasury but the very value of our currency itself.  They have set the stage for a massive inflation not seen since the failed Presidency of Jimmy Carter.

They introduced the biggest single spending bill in the history of the country at 11:00 one night and adopted it by 2:00 the next afternoon.  If you want to know how 4,000 stimulus checks could possibly be sent to prison inmates – there’s your answer.

We were promised this unprecedented spending would hold the nation’s unemployment rate to eight percent.  Today, $787 billion later, the national unemployment rate is 9.7 percent.

They have seized control of automobile manufacturers and dealers, banks and financial service companies and last week voted to seize the student loan industry.

They have used our tax money to bail out failed corporations, paying out huge bonuses to the very people who created the mess on Wall Street in the first place.

They have taken one of the most despotic concepts in the history of bad government – the Russian concept of the Czar – and injected it into every aspect of what was once a constitutional government of limited and enumerated powers.

We have watched the President of the United States apologize for American “arrogance” to some of the most despicable tyrants on the planet.  Just this week he looked out upon an audience that included Ahmadinejad and Qaddafi and condemned America for “torture.” (The President uses that word rather loosely – especially in that company — I might add — to describe a process that produced no physical injuries – but volumes of critical intelligence that saved American lives).

And while this administration conducts criminal investigations against intelligence officials who acted to keep our nation safe – it turns a blind eye to the utterly reprehensible enterprises of ACORN.

Now they want to take control of our families’ health care and 1/8 of our economy.

And we’re supposed to believe that the same government that pays $400 for hammers and $600 for toilet seats is somehow going to keep our health care costs down.

We’re supposed to believe that the same government that runs FEMA is going to make our doctor’s offices more efficient.

We are supposed to believe that the same government that runs the IRS is going to bring compassion and understanding to our health plans.

We know what will result because we’re watching the nightmare unfold in countries like Britain and Canada – massive cost overruns followed by the government rationing of care.

They tried to strong-arm it through the Congress so that the American people would have no chance to see it or to debate it.  But they failed.

And when Americans across this country stood up to protest, they were called “un-American” by Nancy Pelosi; they were called “evil-mongers” by Harry Reid; and they were called “potential domestic terrorists” by the Department of Homeland Security.

But this isn’t happening in a vacuum.  Something is stirring across our nation – something that we haven’t seen in many decades – something that the Obama Left doesn’t understand and cannot possibly comprehend.

It is called the American Spirit – and it’s back.

It’s right here in this hall tonight.  It’s in every town hall forum and taxpayer rally across the country.  It has appeared every time our freedom has been threatened and it has returned now in our time.

Ladies and gentlemen, the debates in our nation’s Capitol are merely a reflection of a much larger debate that is going on across the country – at coffee shops and town hall meetings – over backyard fences and family dinner tables — that will determine the fate of our nation for generations to come.

Many times a day I’m asked a simple question by folks who have never been involved in politics, who have never even attended a public meeting, but who sense their nation is in danger and who are rising to meet that danger.  And the question simply is: “WHAT CAN I DO?”

There is only one answer to that question.  It was first given by the great abolition leader, Frederick Douglass, to a young protégé who posed that question to him.  He answered with three words: AGITATE, AGITATE and AGITATE.

There is only one way to meet the danger to our freedom from within and that is to rally the American people.

And that means taking an active role – every day – in the historic national debate that is raging around us.

Stand up at every public meeting you can get to and SPEAK OUT.  Attend Town Hall Meetings.  Call into talk shows.   Write letters to the editor.  Leave comments after every article that you read on line.  E-Mail your friends.  Link to information.  Post on blogs, on Facebook and on Twitter.  Support candidates and causes.  AGITATE and AGITATE and AGITATE in every forum you can find.

People say, “What difference will that make?  Obama and Pelosi and Reid won’t listen.  And that’s true.

But the voters are listening.

Lincoln once said, “If the voters get their backsides too close to the fire, they’ll just have to sit on the blisters a while.”  It’s a painful experience.  But it’s a learning experience.  And at the end of that process, they will emerge sadder but wiser – and in time for the next election.

And until then, remember what you have accomplished in just three months.

The Cap and Trade bill – which would impose a devastating hidden tax on virtually every product that we buy for our families – limped through the House but has stalled in the Senate.

The government takeover of our health system was supposed to have been passed and signed into law BEFORE the summer recess. They didn’t dare to take it to the floor for a vote. And now they’re talking about, “Well, maybe next month.”

And the polls reflect that debate.  According to the Rasmussen poll, Barack Obama’s Presidential Popularity Index stood at PLUS-28 on Inauguration Day.  Yesterday he was MINUS-7.

The Obama Left might have super-majorities in both houses.  They might have the most left-wing President in the history of our country.  They might have the media and the union bosses and ACORN.


Your voices in every forum that you can find – every day – have made the difference, and if you will just keep it up – keep doing what you are doing today every day – history guarantees this outcome – YOU will have saved our country.

We have the most powerful message in the history of mankind.  It is freedom.

Nine years before he became Governor of California, Reagan put it this way during a commencement address to his alma mater.  He said, “This is a simple struggle between those of us who believe that man has the dignity and sacred right and the ability to choose and shape his own destiny and those who do not so believe.  This irreconcilable conflict is between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state.”

Lincoln said much the same. He said, “That is the real issue.  That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent.  It is the eternal struggle between these two principles – right and wrong – throughout the world.  They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle.  The one is the common right of humanity, and the other is the divine right of kings.  It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself.  It is the same spirit that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’  No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”

And today, our country again faces this tyrannical principle in actual practice.

The Left would condemn our children to the failure of government schools run by teacher unions. We would liberate parents to select the school and the teacher that best meets their child’s needs and hold the school and the teacher accountable for the results.

The Left would condemn our families to sky-high energy prices; we would free America’s vast energy reserves and limitless supplies of clean, cheap electricity through nuclear power, hydro-electricity and clean coal.

The Left would condemn our health care to bureaucrats who’ll decide what treatments we may have and when we may have them. We would provide the tax credits to bring a basic health plan within the financial reach of every family – a health plan they could chose, they could own, and they could change if it failed to serve them.

The Left would deny union members the right to a secret ballot; we would free employers to pay bonuses to union members above and beyond their union contract.

The Left would plunder our children of their prosperity tomorrow to pay for the unprecedented expansion of government today.  We insist on a government that does what families do every day: work hard, waste not and live within our means.

The Left offers stifling central planning to manage every aspect of our lives; they offer higher and higher taxes and more and more costly regulations.  We offer freedom.

And to those who say we have no messengers – look around at each other.  Yes, Ronald Reagan was a great communicator, but as William Saracino has said, “He wasn’t communicating cookie recipes.”  And if we learned anything at all from that great man, it was that every one of us needs to be a messenger.

In February of 1861, Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural train paused in Indianapolis and he spoke these words: “Of the people when they rise in mass on behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, it may be said ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against them’.  I appeal to you constantly to bear in mind that not with the President, not with the office-seekers, but with you is the question, ‘Shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generation.’”

Ladies and Gentlemen, that is our clarion call.  What has happened to our nation has happened on our generation’s watch, and it is our generation’s responsibility to set things right.

Does anyone here have any doubt how this battle will end as long as we stand firm?  I think the Left is starting to figure that out too, and behind the smarmy smirks of condescension, their real sentiments are showing through.

The Department of Homeland Security refuses to use the word “terrorist” to describe Al Qaeda.  It has replaced the term, “acts of terrorism” with the term, “man-made disaster” so as not to offend Islamic extremists.  But it doesn’t hesitate to declare returning veterans and every American who believes in the second and tenth articles of our Bill of Rights to be “potential domestic terrorists.”

That offers real insight into the Left.  Churchill put it this way:  “They are afraid of words and thoughts.  Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them.  A little mouse – a little tiny mouse – of thought enters the room and these mighty potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind.”

Think about what terrifies the Left: A silent majority no longer willing to remain silent.  That means letters to the editor; calls to talk shows; blogs on the Internet; comments after newspaper editorials; taxpayer tea parties.

Why did they react so viscously to the tea parties?  You remember the tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” – once the townspeople realized that there were many others who believed as they believed, the façade collapsed and the charlatans were run out of town.

Our opponents hope that we will vent our frustrations at events like this and then go home.  And that will be the end of it.

I’ve got news for them.  This is just the beginning.  Yes, we’re going home.  But we’re going home to organize and educate and agitate in every forum we can find.

When the American Founders adopted the Declaration of Independence, they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.  They were speaking quite literally.  When they pledged their lives, they meant it.  The King had already warned that a noose awaited every one of them.  When they pledged their fortunes, they meant it.  Lewis Morris had just received word that his estate in New York had been burned to the ground, that his family had become refugees and that his two sons had enlisted in the rag-tag army around General Washington.

How little history demands of our generation in defense of those same principles. We aren’t asked to pledge our entire fortunes – just a small portion of our earnings in support of the causes and candidates we believe in.  We aren’t asked to pledge our lives – only a small portion of our lives until we have set things right.

But our sacred honor – that history demands of us in full: that we leave today highly resolved not to fail or falter until we have restored freedom as the cornerstone of our government.  Because if we fail to do that, then what history will demand of our children and grandchildren is unthinkable.

So let us honor the memory of Reagan and Lincoln and Jefferson and all those placed freedom above security and principle above politics.

And then let us together write the next chapter of the American Republic: that just when it appeared that the principles of American freedom were faltering, this generation rediscovered them, rallied to them, revived them, restored them, polished them and passed them on shining and inviolate to the many succeeding generations that followed. CRO

Remarks given to the How to Take Back America Conference in St. Louis hosted by the Eagle Forum. [September 26, 2009]

Rep. Tom McClintock is a Member of Congress representing California’s 4th Congressional district.

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