Senator Jim DeMint says it's 'Now or Never'

Senator Jim DeMint’s new book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse, begins genially enough, with a brief history of American exceptionalism, the philosophies of liberty and capitalism, and a look at the perils facing us.  The first three chapters set the stage for Chapter Four.

Chapter Four is a battle cry, called “No Compromise With Democrats,” and here the true flavor of DeMint’s work emerges.  Now or Never is meant as a standard for conservatives to rally around.  Some impressive company is already gathered around DeMint’s banner, as each chapter of the book boasts an introduction from the likes of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and other conservative luminaries.  These introductions are rich and substantial essays in their own right.  DeMint even got Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, author of the invaluable annual “Wastebook,” to write the intro for his chapter on cutting government waste.

Each chapter ends with a list of action items, called “Share the Truth,” which summarize the major points of the chapter, and give the reader an idea of how these ideas flow together into DeMint’s vision for America.  The Senator wants to put this book in your arsenal, not park it on your bookshelf.

DeMint’s tone is urgent, but not angry.  His book is a polemic, not a screed.  He manages to touch on virtually every major issue to arise during the Obama presidency, with admirable brevity.  For example, here is how he presents the outcome of the 2008 financial crisis:

President Obama, like many of his predecessors, used the financial crisis and ensuing recession to expand the power of the federal government. The bank bailouts were used as an excuse to pass the Dodd-Frank financial reform package that gave the federal government effective control over America’s banking and financial system. This gave politicians indirect control over all economic activity in America, and things have only gotten worse since, following the same pattern that has been repeating itself since the inception of the progressive movement in America.

He’s a sitting Senator from South Carolina, so of course there are partisan arguments made here, but DeMint does not shy from tough criticism of the Republicans.  He castigates President George W. Bush for “drastically increasing the size of government with the largest entitlement expansion since Johnson, with Medicare Plan D and his doubling of the Department of Education with No Child Left Behind.”  He thinks the Republicans set themselves up for electoral heartbreak in 2006 and 2008 by “not acting like Republicans.”  He’s not pleased with the skills his party had demonstrated at the political bargaining table, as in the case of No Child Left Behind:

I was opposed to NCLB but believed the opt-out provision would allow some states to demonstrate better ways to improve their schools. But in order to gain Kennedy’s and his fellow Democrats’ support, Bush was forced to give up the state flexibility provision. Bush had personally promised me that this provision would be in the final plan, but Democrats would have none of it. The Democrats vowed to fight any plan that would reduce federal control of schools.

Bush’s compromise with Democrats to pass NCLB resulted in more centralized federal control over public education and, ultimately, more spending to maintain an education system that continues to lose ground and becomes increasingly less competitive with the rest of the world. It should really be called “More Children Left Behind.”

Worse, NCLB doubled the size of the already troublesome Department of Education. Ronald Reagan wanted to abolish the Department of Education. He was right. 

DeMint makes an interesting point about the dangers of “compromising” with the Democrats: compromise depends upon shared goals, and the “irreconcilable” division between Democrats’ desire to grow government, and Republicans’ (nominal) desire to restrain it, have left them with very few specific goals in common.  Since the growth of government has become an automatic process with fearful inertia, “compromise” always ends up meaning more taxes, more spending, more regulation, and less liberty.  “A Washington Democrat’s worldview is so federally focused that he will lead you to believe that if he isn’t in charge of something, it simply ceases to exist,” DeMint warns.

In the course of warning fellow Republicans against the dangers of a hopelessly dependent electorate, DeMint points out that even nominally Republican institutions tend to be biased in favor of making the government larger, since they are brokers of political influence, and such influence becomes more valuable as liberty diminishes.  He is also well aware that much of the public wants to be told that government debt doesn’t matter, and their troubles are caused by shadowy corporate hobgoblins who can only be driven off by the shining knights of the all-powerful, benevolent State.

Now or Never is not a fatalistic book, although DeMint was deadly serious when he included the possibility of “never” in the title.  He has many ideas for conservatives to press their case and overcome the institutional forces arranged against them.  He has a very keen understanding of the importance of language in politics, dedicating an entire chapter to the subject.  He understands the vital necessity of Tea Party energy, which the Left spends a great deal of time portraying as toxic. 

DeMint remains firmly committed to the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, and is equally passionate about his distaste for hollow and meaningless “reforms” like the Budget Control Act of 2011.  He advocates education, health care, and economic solutions rooted in liberty and personal responsibility, which always decay in unison.  He’s willing to entertain both Fair Tax and Flat Tax reforms, provided the nightmarish current system is cleared away. 

He sees the Democrat Party, in its current incarnation, as unalterably opposed to all of these ideas, and therefore an obstacle to be defeated.  Viewing them any other way is naïve, and dishonest to voters who need to understand the fateful choice they will be making when they cast their ballots.  DeMint understands the demands of practical politics well enough to devote an entire chapter to advice for his readers on “Choosing the Right Messengers to America,” including a questionnaire for prospective candidates.  “If candidates are not willing to commit to specific positions on issues before they are elected,” DeMint notes, “there is little chance they will stand firm on anything after they are elected.”  No one who reads his book will have any doubts about what it takes to get on Team DeMint.

“Has America reached a low point from which we cannot escape?” DeMint asks in conclusion.  “Absolutely not!  A bankrupt and declining nation is not our inevitable fate.  It will happen only if we choose to ignore the threats and refuse to solve our problems.  It is time for us to confront the threats and solve the problems.  We are Americans and we can create a destiny of freedom and prosperity for generations to come – but only if we make the right choices now.” 

The immense weight of our bloated and collapsing government will soon begin foreclosing some of those options.  Ask the people of Greece or Italy how many “good” options they have.  Ask them if they wish their parents and grandparents had chosen differently.  It really is now or never.