Conservatives, libertarians, and other guardians of liberty today remind me a lot of Jefferson Smith from the classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Like Smith, conservatives stand in awe of the U.S. Constitution and the wonderful institutions it created to preserve their freedoms. But then reality hits and they realize that their cherished freedoms are being eroded in the name of graft and good intentions.
It might seem hopeless to turn things around when so much damage has been done. But as Smith rightfully points out, “Lost causes… are the only causes worth fighting for.” That’s because if we are on the right side, it doesn’t matter who opposes us: truth must prevail.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington provides a blueprint for today’s battle and it offers hope that we can win. I’d like to compare that film’s events to our day and express optimism for the future.
As soon as Smith comes to Washington, D.C., the press corps takes advantage of his naïvety, portraying him as a buffoon and a bigot in numerous articles. They take his words out of context and snap pictures of him in order to cast him in the worst possible light.
Conservative politicians are routinely called racists, obstructionists, and heartless chauvinists for their comments and policies while progressives are never held to the same standard when they do the same things. The mainstream media has already passed judgment on who is right and who is wrong. The truth doesn’t matter to them.
When Smith goes against what the powerful elite in Washington want him to do, he’s blackmailed and charged with all sorts of fabricated misdeeds. The attacks come so swiftly and are so blatantly untrue that all Smith can do is watch in horror and storm out without a word in his own defense.
Even conservatives who try to live good lives can (and will) be attacked on a personal level for perceived misdeeds. Mitt Romney had such a squeaky clean record that people had to come up with ridiculous reasons to cast him in a negative light, like saying that he was too good or out of touch with regular Americans because of how rich he is.
The last time I checked, success was a good thing. If he had crashed his business into the ground and been a pauper, the media would have called him a failure and questioned his ability to lead the country. There’s no winning when everyone has already decided you’re a loser, no matter what you do.
Stifling the Message
Desperate to clear his name and expose the real villains, Smith begins a filibuster. The media refuses to cover his plight, so children in Smith’s home state print their own newspaper and start distributing it to anyone who will listen. But their efforts are quickly thwarted by thugs who steal their papers and sabotage their protests.
As soon as the Tea Party gained momentum and started having an effect on national elections, the mainstream media clamped down on it, claiming its members were racist and extreme when the opposite was true. All of the Tea Party events were peaceful and the group’s demands for a restitution of constitutional restraints on government were perfectly reasonable.
However, when the Occupy Wall Street movement started, the media turned a blind eye on the violence, theft, and grotesque behavior that often followed Occupy gatherings. Plus, their vague and contradictory list of demands was presented as superior to the Tea Party’s clearly stated desires.
After pushing himself to the point of exhaustion in the course of his filibuster, Smith is devastated when he learns that he has failed. His message hasn’t gotten to the people of his home state, and his enemies have succeeded in poisoning everyone’s perception of him to the point where they have sent thousands of letters protesting his filibuster and demanding he step down as senator.
President Barack Obama won reelection despite passing the (still) unpopular Affordable Care Act, failing to deliver on his promises to be a moderate, and putting the country trillions more in debt with little to show for it. He oversaw a terrible recession that should have led to the biggest recovery in modern history, but it has instead stagnated and been unable to keep up with the growing workforce. And he has refused to take responsibility for any of his failed policies.
How could people reelect a president who has been unwilling to compromise and unable to nurture a strong economy?
Have people become so dependent on government programs that they will now only vote for a candidate who’s willing to preserve and/or expand those “benefits”? Have we forever turned our backs on anyone who vows to make those benefits unnecessary, and who promotes jobs and the higher standards of living which accompany a powerful economy?
It boggles the mind. The world seems to be backwards because those who are suffering the most at the hands of progressives are the ones who consistently vote progressives into office.
There Is Hope
It looks like Smith is done for in the end. But at the last second his colleague has a change of heart and recognizes that what he is doing to Smith is wrong. He confesses to his crimes and exposes the corrupt people who sought to destroy Smith.
Things are changing in this country. No, they won’t be rectified quite as neatly as in Capra’s classic, but that hardly means we shouldn’t be hopeful of a political sea change. Indeed, there are already signs that such a shift is not just possible; it’s becoming more probable with each passing day.
President Obama’s victory in 2012 was the result of a bitterly negative and fear-based campaign, a far cry from the Hope and Change of four years prior. Then he managed to get across-the-board tax increases through the expiration of various payroll tax cuts on everyone, and not “just” the rich.
He thought he could press his luck and break the Republicans’ collective will over the sequester (which, as we all know, was his idea), but that strategy backfired when the Republicans called his bluff. All of his gloomy predictions turned out to be hot air when it became evident that the government could cut spending slightly and not produce any noticeable ill effects. And then his decisions to halt White House tours and release criminal alien immigrants from detention centers made him look petty and increasingly dangerous in his use (and abuse) of power.
Now, with Bob Woodward and other members of the mainstream media finally having begun to speak out against the Obama Administration, criticizing the president is no longer taboo. Plus, the potential use of drone strikes on American citizens, coupled with President Obama’s quiet signings of the National Defense Authorization Act and the Monsanto Protection Act, have made even his supporters start to question his motives.
As people learn more about Obamacare and the fees begin to kick in next year, even more people will likely start asking questions and wondering if the course we are on is a wise one. And conservatives will be there to offer a proven solution: a return to limited government interference and greater personal liberty.
The United States, as it was originally envisioned, is a cause worth fighting for, no matter how hopeless the fight might seem at times. “Shall we not go on in so great a cause?”, as another Smith once said.
(All content from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is the copyright of its owner).
Robert lives in Utah with his wife and three children. He enjoys running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.