Fast forward 14 years, and Americans are facing an election unlike any other we've experienced.
In an effort to better understand and gauge the strength of conservative voters in Texas ahead of the 2020 contest, I recently posed two questions to my radio audiences in the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth areas: Why are you voting for President Donald Trump, and what do you want from Washington, DC?
The responses I received coalesced around two themes. The first was the preservation of our liberties and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution. The second was a fervent desire for the federal government to get the hell out of our way.
Many conservatives are devoted to the idea that the government that governs least, governs best. One listener, Frank, called in and told me he and his wife voted at a packed polling place in the Woodlands, a community just north of Houston. He explained that his vote for Trump was an expression of his conservative values and said, "Less government is best."
He was concerned, as am I, that Democrats have expanded the authority of the government beyond what the founding fathers intended. Take Obamacare, as an example. It's highly unlikely the founders envisioned a government would force its citizens, under threat of tax, to buy a product they may or may not want. And Trump's move to strike down
this provision of the bill was exactly what Frank and I believed necessary to preserve one aspect of our freedoms.
Another listener, Karl, from Itasca, Texas, a small community outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, told me that he'd prefer Trump because, "I want to remain free in this nation."
It's a sentiment that many on the right share, and it highlights the divide between conservatives, who champion the rights of the individual, and liberals, who are willing to limit some of those rights in service of what they consider the "collective good."
Ironically, it's the American conservative who understands the sage advice often attributed to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: "Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish. Do not overdo it."
For many Texas conservatives, it's worrying that Democrats have been far more critical of Trump's response to what he calls the "China virus," than they have been of China's withholding of critical information
that exacerbated the spread of the pandemic. As of writing this article, Democrats on the campaign trail have not placed a strong emphasis on holding China responsible for its role in concealing intel at the start of the pandemic.
Texas state Sen. Paul Bettencourt also called in to the show and expressed pride in Trump's achievements on the courts, including the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Like Bettencourt, many conservatives have watched in horror as the courts, stacked by liberals
during the Obama years, have turned into political entities. From abortion
to voting integrity
to national security
, liberal judges have worked to stymie laws and executive orders issued by Republicans, arguing in many cases that they violate the US Constitution.
To demonstrate the absurdity of their logic, one court said that even though it is illegal for foreign nationals to vote in US elections, it was unconstitutional
to ask for proof of citizenship when someone registered to vote. The judges who decided the case? Judges Mary Beck Briscoe, Monroe McKay and Jerome Holmes, who were nominated by Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, respectively.
From the right's perspective, it has been Democrats who have used the courts to advance their political agenda when they can't get that agenda passed in Congress. Even Ginsburg said the Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion, might have come to soon. "My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change," she said in remarks at
the University of Chicago Law School.
Conservative critics would take it would one step further and argue that Roe led to increased rancor in the country because we never had the chance, as a people, to debate the issue and pass a legislative solution.
When it comes to what conservatives want from our federal government, David, from Midlothian, Texas, expressed frustration with the tumult and vitriol in Washington, DC. He told me that he recognized that we "couldn't go back" to a more unified time, but he wished lawmakers would be more "respectful" of one another.
In my view, tensions have escalated largely because of Democrats, who destroyed many of the norms that have kept the peace in Washington for decades.
It was Democrats who first went nuclear
, when they removed the filibuster for most presidential nominees in 2013. It was Democrats who ignored GOP input and passed Obamacare, which has done little to lower the costs of premiums and deductibles for many many Americans, according to a 2020 analysis
from The Kaiser Family Foundation. In fact, since 2008, Kaiser reports that
"average family premiums have increased 55 percent, twice as fast as workers' earnings (26%) and three times as fast as inflation (17%)." And it was Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee this month who, in a brazen, yet predictable act of incivility, boycotted the vote to
advance the nomination of Barrett, a highly qualified judicial thinker and legal mind.
Of course, Texas conservatives aren't looking to eliminate government. Rather, we seek a government that is a servant of "we the people." Former President Ronald Reagan once said
government should "stand by our side, not ride on our back." That's a clever way of saying that government should limit its involvement to its clearly delineated constitutional functions.
This vision of government is in alignment with many of my conservative listeners, who believe that Democrats and their democratic socialist allies wish to place an unfair financial burden on every American, and at the cost of our rights and liberties.
When Trump was elected, many of us marveled at how we elected our second "Citizen President." Trump was not a lifelong politician or creature of the government establishment. He brought a fresh energy and perspective to politics. And like many of our listeners, I worry that if he loses on November 3, we may never have another citizen president like him again.