On October 30th, just a few days before a surprisingly lackluster Election Day performance by congressional Republicans, my digital friend “NYC Expat Mom” tweeted out: “I miss classic liberalism so much. Freedom of speech & expression. Breaking free of stereotypes and ideological boundaries. Independent thought. Where did it all go? Can we revive it?”
She’s right. Common sense, classic liberal values like tolerance, individual choice, and free speech have been hijacked by the intolerance and speech codes demanded under the new rules of authoritarian wokeness. NYC Expat Mom is asking all the right questions. But she is more than just another young, ideologically homeless mother seeking some sanity in today’s polarized America. She has emerged as an influential member of “Team Reality” on Twitter, a thoughtful critic of the extremely authoritarian measures imposed in the Big Apple during COVID lockdowns. She, like millions of other politically homeless Americans, literally fled her home in New York City to escape the endless dictates arbitrarily imposed by politicians drunk with power.
I think it’s safe to say that she, and millions of frustrated people just like her, are plenty motivated, actively searching for better answers. You, like me, probably expected this motivation—the visceral anti-authoritarianism that emerged in response to thuggish government policies during the pandemic—to work to Republicans’ advantage in the midterm elections. But it didn’t happen. There are many reasons for this, but one seems particularly important. The 2022 Republicans who were the alternative to the status quo were not the kind of Republicans who created the unprecedented Tea Party wave in 2010. I fondly remember those insurgent Republicans demanding “individual liberty, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government.”
Conversely, with a few important exceptions, it was quite difficult to figure out what exactly the 2022 Republicans actually stood for. Sure, they ran against the breathtaking failures of the Democrats. But that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t convincing.
As I tweeted out the day after the election: “It turns out you can’t beat something with nothing.”
The values of classical liberalism (libertarianism or constitutional conservatism, if you prefer a different nomenclature) remain elusive for so many. At least, that is, when it comes to politics, the end of the line.
At Free the People, we have been connecting with Americans seeking better answers since our founding. We call them the “Liberty Curious” generation, and they trend younger. We have been arguing that there is a dire need, and a big market opportunity, to turn a whole new generation on to the commonsense values that define the very idea of America. Imagine it: a free society where people shed stereotypes and ideological boundaries; where they innovate and cooperate and live and let live, so long as they don’t hurt people or take their stuff. It’s a truly compelling, beautiful ideal that would solve so many of the problems we face today.
The code we need to crack lies upstream of politics, in popular culture, redefining the cultural currents that shape public opinions that eventually will help shape political incentives, and, ultimately, the choices available to voters at the ballot box.
Upstream of politics, in the popular culture. That’s where Free the People focuses our work.
The past three years—the lockdowns, the mandates, the political commandeering of the means of production in the name of “emergency”—have been devastating for our cause. I am proud that Free the People stepped up early and often to denounce the impending, and obvious, humanitarian disaster caused by government lockdown policies. But regardless, the battle for human liberty has lost vital ground.
Operationally, it also seems like the legacy social media platforms that Free the People has relied upon are not delivering the exponential growth we have seen in the past. We have still seen growth, but it’s nowhere where we need to be. Are these platforms suppressing liberty-based content? Yes. Ironically, this seems to be a consequence of the increasing success that we, and others pushing a liberty-based cultural narrative, have had. Over the past five plus years, we have seen tremendous growth promoting and educating around our shared values. Unfortunately, The Man—Big Government commandeering and colluding with woke media corporations—doesn’t want us to break through. The better we have gotten at telling our story to new audiences, the more the Empire strikes back. As Elon Musk has revealed through the release of internal Twitter communications with government agents at White House, the FBI and the CIA, media monopolists and their government overlords have been increasingly active in controlling what people can see, or even find. It’s like an existential game of Whack-A-Mole: every time we break through, they whack, they try to smash our model for success. And then we rise up again.
I’m an optimist. I don’t think that powerful political elites can ever fully crush the inherent libertarian spirit in people to be free. But I think they’ve been actively trying to do so, at least since democratized technology unleashed Tea Party activists in 2009. Thirteen years later, the fact that their newly exposed efforts to kneecap us are so extreme tells me one thing: They are afraid that We have been succeeding. That we will rise up, again and again. That we will win. We plan on pushing even harder in 2023. We believe that the fight for free expression and our right to criticize government is fundamental.