Get Out Of Our House: Revolution!, by Tim Cox
A book like this is difficult to review for a variety of reasons. It is easy to review a book that one absolutely adores and agrees with entirely, and it is equally easy to review a book that one absolutely cannot stand. It is likely easy to review a book that is competent but not urgent. However, a book like this is a challenge because it is a very excellent book, if not perfect, but a book which seeks to make demands on its readers that appear to be simultaneously too ambitious and not ambitious enough. Given that I am in sympathy with the expressed goals of this author within the book, and that the author equates “critiques” with a desire to thwart the goal of “national political salvation” through the restoration of the House of Representatives to the control of an informed voting populace, this task is made still harder.
Nonetheless, a book like this deserves a thorough and honest review because its point is a timely and a necessary one that deserves to be much better known, as well as discussed publicly and prominently, and its solution is something so bold and crazy that it just might work. If it doesn’t work, our problems are beyond saving this side of heaven anyway. Though I would like to note at the outset that I have at least a couple of comments/suggestions to make about the approach to this book for the people who are part of the Get Out Of Our House organization (GOOOH for short), I would like to share my positive thoughts on the book and its contents first.
Any reader who takes the time to read this work will quickly determine that it is the work of a quirky individualist who has thought long and hard about the problems ailing the republic of the United States of America and about how the people can be restored to their proper place of prominence rather than allowing the political class and special interest groups (some of which this book comments about over and over again, including details of their abhorrent activities) to lead this nation to its ruin and demise. This quirky aspect of the work is a strength, rather than a weakness, as it lends to a certain building of understanding that the author is both sincere and sound on a lot of very important matters.
The first part of the book is made up of five short chapters: an introduction which points out the “problem” of our failing republic, a chapter called “Today” which shows that the tired answers offered by our political class to our state are bound to fail, a chapter called “Time To Act” that points out the urgency of our nation’s crisis and the need to act now, a chapter called “GOOOH” (short for Get Out Of Our House), which introduces the system of citizen-driven runoffs for each of the 435 districts for the House of Representatives, and a chapter called “Signs” which shows some quirky and homely wisdom about why and how the author developed his distinctive thoughts about how to cure what ails the United States, making comments about rattlesnakes that appear to be close to what Abraham Lincoln said about the problem of slavery in the territories.
After this personal commentary the book begins to take a decidedly more serious point. The sixth chapter, itself fairly short, examines the decline of America as well as a more general historical analysis of the decline of empires due to taxes, the decline of religion and the family, the devotion to pleasure, and the obsession with military strength, some of which are interrelated. The seventh chapter of the book separates the causes of America’s decline into four aspects: foundational problems (distinguishing between a republic and a democracy, the need for guiding principles, the lack of common sense, and the loss of equal rights because of the move for special rights), politics (the two party system of power-hungry politicians who just want to win, special interest groups, puppet politicians, political correctness, the catch-22 between doing the right thing and maintaining power), people (politicians, lawyers, and extremists–the people at fault), and undermining issues (religion, drugs, unwed motherhood, failing education systems, crime, oil dependency, environment, morals, media, and expanding government). The problems he lists are vital ones, lacking only in sufficient ambition in tackling the problems to their fullest intent, possibly pulling back the knife in the need to condense the book to a readable length .
The eighth chapter, and it’s a big one, examines the “failure” of our current political system, starting with the expansion of big government beyond all reason, the wastes of spending (including the fact that many federal agencies simply lose track of tens of billions of dollars), failing systems (the tax system, the health system, the education system, the legal system, the welfare system, the prison system, and the retirement system), and issues that the United States has simply failed to address (the environment, immigration, abortion, gun control, the internet, the military, energy, homelessness, globalization, and terrorism). Though there is a wide variance as to where people stand on how these problems can and should be tackled, the problems are all well-recognized, and the book asks some pointed questions about how these issues should be wrestled with.
A short chapter on the economy (presumably written before our latest and prolonged recession) follows, and then a particularly interesting chapter with “the candidate questionnaire” follows, containing 175 questions on the issues raised earlier that force people into a yes or no answer, leaving them able to defend their positions. When I went to the GOOOH meeting (which I blogged about earlier ) I had a particularly interesting time defending and finding out why others drew the lines where they did, realizing that there was a great deal of agreement between us all, despite our own different ways of dealing with the same issues. It is the explanation of why one says “yes” or “no” to a given question that answers a great deal about where someone stands and why they draw the line at a particular point, which makes for fascinating political conversations. Whoever goes through the process is going to enjoy that aspect of the meeting a great deal, whether they are interested in running for office or not.
It is the eleventh chapter, “the plan” that prompts the most substantial critique of this book. In all fairness, this particular chapter ought to be periodically revised, especially since the 2010 election is already done. In fact, there are really two solutions to keeping this chapter of the book from being obsolete–either to remove the year-specific references within the chapter or to revise the chapter after every election. What the plan consists of is basically a series of “runoffs” between people who are willing to go to a meeting on a Saturday morning who are weeded out in a series of competitions with the top 20% advancing on to the next round until the best candidate is found in all 435 districts. I have some substantial comments and critiques about this aspect of the plan, which envisions the GOOOH candidate becoming a third party candidate, but I will discuss those shortly. The book then closes with a short and stirring call to action that calls out the people who will not like the plan (perhaps a bit too defensively) and also calls on “angel” investors to support the plan with substantial donations instead of pursuing quixotic races for the presidency.
Before stating my overall statements about the book, I would like to include a couple of somewhat substantial but tactical questions about how the plan should be best put into action, suggesting that the plan is both perhaps too ambitious and not ambitious enough. The plan, as described in the book’s eleventh chapter, seems to envision the GOOOH becoming a third party that nonetheless varies strongly between liberal areas and conservative areas. In short, the book seems to indicate that a belief in the power of the people would override the loyalties to parties about particular positions, and that people would vote for such a candidate over one of either of the two parties. Additionally, it would be difficult to find 10,000 people in each Congressional District (or more) who wish to be a U.S. Representative (I don’t, for one). Nonetheless, within the large number of Americans who are dissatisfied with the current state of the United States of all political persuasions, one will find lots of people who might want to volunteer to be a precinct captain, a local councilman or councilwoman, or perhaps even a state representative or state senator.
What I propose as a modification of the plan would solve both of these problems (the modest political ambitions of most participants and the problem of lack of popular support for third parties). First, make the plan less ambitious in one aspect by scheduling the GOOOH runoffs before the deadline for primary candidates and allow the winning candidate to choose whether they wish to run as a Republican or Democrat (this will vary based on the district), and then have all of those who participated in the process, if they support the stands of the final candidate, to sign a pledge to vote for that candidate and furthermore to join the party chosen by the eventual nominee so as to mount a charge in the primary. Additionally, have the participants join the Executive Committee of either the Republican or Democratic party in their respective counties and serve and attend meetings, voting on matters, volunteering as precinct captains in order to “capture” the party of choice in the given area and provide the given infrastructure to capture a substantial vote of the people in the general action, with the GOOOH activists making the critical mass necessary to provide majorities in the primary as well as “independent” voters in the general election.
Additionally, I would make the plan more ambitious by making it a full court press rather than merely a quest for the US House of Representatives alone by seeking to have suitable candidates seeking to tackle local, state, as well as federal government. Making it a full-court press effort makes it a lot more attention-grabbing, provides all kinds of opportunities for synergy of approach as well as for a real assault to be made on the political class as a whole. Additionally, the capture of the party apparatus of either the Democrats or Republicans, based on the location, can allow the GOOOH members to form a nonpartisan caucus with the goal of bringing power to the people that is immune from the accusation of merely being a trick to support one party or the other (as, for example, was accused of the Tea Party).
It should be noted, though, that my suggestions are mild ones, and the proposal is a useful and needed one. Clearly something has to be done, and there isn’t much time to avoid the prospect of national default and decline. The book gives an idiosyncratic but astute analysis of the problems our nation faces as well as a bold vision in how to arrest that decline. Now it remains to be seen whether there is the will do anything about it before it’s too late. That remains to be seen.
 The problem of education is one where the book seems to suggest a state-run educational system as the right model instead of the federal model that seems to be gradually gaining steam, neglecting the unpleasant fact that state run educational systems have been responsible for the teaching of neo-Confederate lies in America’s textbooks for decades due to the pressure state school boards place on publishers to produce “politically correct” texts in history and other subjects. The book additionally gives only grudging encouragement to home schooling and the complete outsourcing of education from government control, a fact which must be noted. These observations, of course, do not detract from my shared belief with the author of this book about the complete failures of the Department of Education to do anything meaningful for education.