Every election cycle, the press drives America to obsession with the rise and fall of politicians in the District of Columbia. Many pin their hopes for change on these individuals.

Even the best among them, however, become mere speedbumps to the destruction of our Bill of Rights, the looting of the American public, and the forward march into imperial wars abroad.

Instead, the most significant strides made in the defense of liberty over the last two decades—from gun rights to cannabis freedom—came from the states. These successes provide a blueprint for winning the political battles ahead. To restore American liberty, we must wake these sleeping giants.

Washington D.C. will never deliver liberty.

Congress is impotent. Intended by the framers to jealously guard a few limited powers, Congress has spent a century since the dawn of the Progressive Era inventing new law-making powers and abdicating them to a growing administrative state, increasingly resembling a fourth branch of government.

Some call this fourth branch the “deep state” because it is deeply embedded in the Washington apparatus, insulated from the accountability of public elections.

A central bank steals the savings of working Americans by counterfeiting money, handing trillions of new dollars to Congress for redistribution among special interests.

Spy agencies conduct mass surveillance on U.S. citizens, using selective leaks against political enemies to manipulate election outcomes.

The Pentagon sells young Americans on “defending freedom,” then sends them to die or return forever scarred in never-ending, undeclared wars with no articulated missions across the world.

Even if desired, Congress is unable to reclaim these powers. Bought off by the easy money of the printing press, most members are content playing Santa Claus with their districts and campaign donors. Those tasked with overseeing federal spy agencies are lied to and spied upon with impunity by those same agencies, compromising their ability to provide meaningful oversight.

On matters of war, our representatives avoid going on record at all costs. Taking any decisive action is risky business. Ending wars can threaten campaign contributions from the military-industrial complex (which donated $46 million to influence federal elections in 2020).

At the same time, authorizing wars has proven unpopular with voters. After voting for the Iraq War, four incumbents were booted from Congress in 2006 on a wave of anti-war sentiment. Two years later, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) lost the 2008 Democrat presidential nomination to a little-known freshman senator from Illinois. As Politico described it at the time, “Obama beats Hillary over head with Iraq.”

Ever since—despite bombing campaigns and U.S. troop deployments into multiple active war zones never authorized by congressional AUMFs (including Syria, Libya, and Yemen)—Congress has spent more time naming post offices than deliberating war.

Who is left to check this fourth branch of government?

The courts are packed with politicians in robes. No guardians of the Constitution, justices are partisan political appointees. Most are chosen to interpret the Constitution so loosely as to render all limits on federal power meaningless. Even the new conservative court majority is too terrified of Democrat court-packing threats to render any meaningfully restorative decisions.

If any road to liberty runs through the White House, it remains difficult to see. The trajectory of government remains unchanged no matter which party controls the White House.

As Washington spirals further out of control, Americans increasingly turn to state legislators for leadership. Unlike Congress, state legislative elections rarely require millions in campaign contributions and are often won by everyday citizens on the power of shoe leather.

Horizontal checks across the federal government have failed, but the Tenth Amendment promises vertical checks from the states. In the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison articulated these checks, calling on states to declare President John Adams’ Sedition Act “null and void.”

In recent decades, states have exercised this principle to nullify federal cannabis prohibition, gun control, and FDA restrictions on investigational medicines for the terminally ill. Today, Wyoming is undermining the central bank monopoly, creating a favorable legal environment for cryptocurrencies. This year, legislators across 31 states challenged the Washington war machine, filing “Defend the Guard” bills to order home state national guard troops deployed in undeclared wars abroad. These state-based efforts are blueprints for the work ahead.

Liberty may be lost in Washington, but we can restore our republic by reawakening the states.

Eric Brakey

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