Can you name the Vice President of the United States? How about the two U.S. Senators in your state? All members of Congress (or at least your own district’s representative)? Governor? If you’re reading this, chances are good that you can easily answer these questions because you’re at least a little interested in politics.

How about your Mayor? Any or all city council members? School board members? County Auditor? Unfortunately, this is where many Americans start to fail the test. Admittedly, I would have failed the test a couple of years ago. Like many Americans, I voted for local elections based upon name recognition, party affiliation, or whether or not I’d received a flyer or received a knock on my door. I spoke to a woman the other day who said she voted for whoever had a sign in her next-door neighbor’s yard because “that lady keeps up with this stuff.”

Every American should keep up with this stuff. It’s THAT important.

When I started flirting with the idea of leaving the GOP last year, I explored several third parties. I sat on conference calls with leaders of one party, had an audience with the chair of another, and spoke directly to three third-party Presidential candidates. Invariably, the discussions were discouraging. It wasn’t that they didn’t have good ideas. It was that only one party could answer an important question: “What are you guys doing to win local elections?”

They were all sinking time, money, and energy into getting their Presidential candidate on ballots, but only one party was actively running in local elections. They made it clear that they weren’t actually giving much support to local candidates, but at least a few people were willing to use their party’s name a registration to run for office. I tracked back to see how many elections they’d won over the years. 13, including two in 2016. How could a party that was sinking all of their resources into a futile Presidential race think it was okay to put next to zero effort into local elections?

This is why I helped form the Federalist Party.

Local elections ARE important. They don’t get the press coverage. The people who win these offices can’t bomb Syria or impose tariffs on Canada. On the other hand, they make decisions that directly affect our lives. They choose the way many of our children receive their education. They set guidelines to either encourage or discourage business growth. Some bring communities together. Others divide communities further apart. It’s imperative that we all start paying closer attention to the races and leaders that live next door. That’s not to say the people in DC are not important, but they receive too much emphasis compared to the politicians in our own backyards.

As a party, we intend to focus on local elections from two perspectives. First, we want to identify principled candidates and win local races. Then, we want to localize decision-making as much as possible for the nation. There is currently way too much influence coming from DC in areas they’re simply not qualified or empowered to addressed.

There are areas in which the federal government should hold the power. These have been clearly enumerated. It’s time to return the rest of the power of government where it belongs: states, counties, cities, communities, and most importantly to individual Americans.

I really like credit cards. Every card in my wallet has purposes based upon rewards, limits, and due dates. The dollar bills in my wallet are probably the same bills I’ve had in there for weeks because I use cards for everything. Controlling expenditures and making certain my family is covered when life events pop up make credit cards an important tool in my fiscal planning.

The reason I don’t run into trouble with credit cards is that I never buy anything I couldn’t comfortably buy with money in the bank and I always pay in full before the statement is released. In the last decade, I could probably count on two hands (maybe one) the number of times I paid interest on a credit card balance. This is how credit cards are supposed to be used, in my humble opinion.

Where millions of Americans get into trouble from time to time is when they overextend themselves with their credit cards. Some look at their available credit as available cash to spend. Others calculate their monthly bills based upon the minimum payments on their cards and can’t wait until they pay the balances down to a point where they can spend on them again. Many lack disciple. Others lack knowledge. This is why otherwise responsible people around the country end up filing bankruptcy or some other form of debt relief.

Americans who are in trouble with credit card debt are each microcosms of the fiscal status of the United States federal government. Washington DC has been paying off credit cards with other credit cards, transferring balances when it doesn’t make sense, and manufacturing more credit cards because their old ones are maxed out. The interest alone on our $20 trillion debt is more than many countries’ GDPs. This is untenable and unsustainable.

When an individual gets into major credit trouble, the first thing they should do is stop spending on anything that’s not absolutely necessary. While I’m not a proponent of literally cutting up credit cards, it’s important for those with debt issues to pretend like there’s no money that can be spent on anything other than essentials while they do everything they can to pay down their balances.

We’re well past the time for the U.S. government to take the same approach. They need to tighten the belt in a big way and take the necessary actions to embrace fiscal responsibility for the first time in decades.

There’s a challenge with this. One of the reasons not mentioned above that some people get into deep credit card debt is addiction. There are those who are simply addicted to spending, shopping, buying, whatever. Even when they know they’re drowning in debt, they continue to make it harder to swim by continuing to spend. This is the problem with both major parties right now. They have this belief that if they go down the fiscally responsible route and start slashing the budget, they’re going to lose elections as a result. They feel they need to essentially buy votes by continuing to fund programs that are unnecessary. They believe they’ll gain votes by spending more of our tax dollars on departments, agencies, programs, and subsidies that get people pumped up because they’re the direct benefactors. A cruel but accurate way of presenting the current mentality of most DC politicians is that they think we’re all too stupid to understand the mess they’re building and we’re so simple that if they give us things, we’ll vote for them.

Ted Cruz demonstrated that this isn’t necessarily the case when he won the Iowa Republican Caucus. Most pundits thought he was dead in the water when he said he intended to pull the ethanol subsidies that helped many farmers in Iowa. Donald Trump and just about every other candidate doubled down on keeping the funds flowing in abundance, but Cruz said no. What did everyone other than Cruz get wrong about Iowa? They all thought the only way to get votes was to buy them. Iowans demonstrated that many Americans aren’t as simple-minded as politicians often think.

Unfortunately, that lesson will be marked down as an anomaly by the two major parties. The Democrats will push even further to the left in an effort to bring real socialism and even communist principles of government control over everything. The Republicans will continue to redefine “conservatism” by telling us it’s okay to spend more as long as the expenditures are justified. Of course, justification is easy for the GOP to manufacturer on pretty much any topic. That’s why they don’t have to blink when they attempt to replace Obamacare with Trumpcare. It’s why they can proudly accept Chuck Schumer’s and Donald Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure dreams. It’s why they scream loudly when they cut some budget from the EPA while hiding the asterisk in small print at the bottom that admits the money “saved” is simply being redirected to fund other programs.

I don’t recommend for individuals with credit card debt to literally cut up their credit cards because the scale is usually manageable and bankruptcy is an option when the scale is too large. However, I definitely recommend cutting up as many of the U.S. government’s credit cards as possible. They have too many and have demonstrated a complete inability to control themselves. It’s an addiction. They’re beyond the ability to even make the minimum payments which is why we’ve needed “stimulus” packages for the last two Presidents and we may see another one from the current President in the not-too-distant future.

Republicans are right in one regard. It’s time to redefine conservatism, just not the way many of them are hoping. Steve Deace over at Conservative Review brought some points to light in his article earlier this week titled “Needed: A new conservatism.” One of the things he touched on was the Federalist Party, of which I am a part. Here’s what he said:

A wise man once said something about the foolishness of pouring new wine into old wineskins. After all, this country is a living example that once paradigms embrace corruption, independence from the corruption must be declared, whether it is the Pilgrims fleeing corruption on the Mayflower or the Founding Fathers loading their muskets to stand up to it. Therefore, as students of history, if we’re going to spend years changing the paradigm, choose the strategy history says has the best chance of success — something new. Besides, wasn’t the Republican Party itself originally founded by those who fled the corruption within its predecessor, the Whig Party? This is the rationale behind the effort to launch the Federalist Party.

With the GOP in full control in DC, one of two things needs to happen. Either they get their act together and start reining in the power, bureaucracy, and out-of-control budgets that have been growing incessantly for decades or they need to admit they’re no longer a party that embraces smaller government. Unless things turn around very quickly, the latter is the only viable possibility. We know they won’t admit it, but the real question is whether or not conservatives are going to call them out on it or continue to fall for the same tired sales pitch.

The failure of the American Health Care Act was a major setback for Paul Ryan’s agenda. It may or may not have been a setback for President Trump’s agenda. That remains to be seen. What it does do is give the President the ammunition he needs to attack the conservative wing of the Republican Party and he’s taking full advantage of it.

His Tweet this morning:

I know that there are plenty of Republicans and conservatives out there who are supportive of the President’s attacks on the Freedom Caucus and conservatives in the Senate. They feel betrayed, as his narrative has pushed, by their willingness to derail the Obamacare repeal and replacement efforts. I’m not going to try to convince you to feel otherwise. I only want to point out that at this stage in the administration’s term, it sets a poor precedent to be pushing his agenda so far to the left.

He wants to work with Democrats. That’s great! Reagan worked with Democrats. The difference is that Reagan convinced Democrats that the conservative agenda brought value to them. What Trump is doing by vilifying conservatives and lumping them in with “Dems” as the people to attack in 2018 is dividing the party into “them” versus “us.” As a conservative, it appalls me to see this happening after years of Tea Party efforts to make conservatives the portion of the party that has more control. As a Federalist, it’s actually been a great thing. We’ve had a massive spike in interest since Trump started his leftward lurch.

As someone who will always put country before party, the dismay I feel for what Trump’s shift will do to America supersedes the excitement I feel over getting more attention for the Federalists. We need the President to work hand-in-hand with conservatives, not isolate them as his enemy. They want to move on to tax reform. The notion of a tax plan pushed out through bipartisanship is terrifying because it will certainly be a big-government tax plan wrapped in a handful of cuts to disguise the overreaching nature of it all. It’s the conservative voice in DC that truly wants to release the burden that government puts on its citizens. Without that voice, the results will not be what we want.

We need the President to abandon his push towards bipartisan growth of government and work WITH conservatives to put reverse government expansion. If he’s unwilling to change his current course, I’d expect to see more members of the Freedom Caucus and conservatives across America reaching out to us to give federalism the primacy this nation needs right now.

President Ronald Reagan was an enigma. His goals and the results he produced were often achieved by contradicting the accepted paradigms. He was known for strength and military prowess, yet America participated in fewer battles under him than any President in modern history. He helped individuals and small businesses at the bottom rung by letting money “trickle down” from the top. He was strong on immigration, yet gave amnesty to many.

Historians and political scientists are still trying to unpack how he was able to produce desired results by addressing the problems from directions opposite of Presidents before and after him. One of the least discussed but most profound contradictions in Reagan’s arsenal was “new Federalism.” Like President Richard Nixon before him, Reagan believed that if you take the power-balancing ideas of the original Federalist Party and apply them to modern problems, you can fix the broken aspects of American government.

His first challenge was overcoming the stigma associated with the early Federalists. Both their name and the twisting of their goals would seem to oppose what he wanted done, but this is a misconception. They wanted a stronger federal government than their opponents who believed in the primacy of the states. Federalists wanted a balance between the states and the national government. The anti-federalists didn’t want the national government to have much influence at all – no substantial army, no navy at all, and no ability to sign binding treaties with other nations. In essence, the Democratic-Republicans of Thomas Jefferson wanted every state to be sovereign to the extreme. If France wanted to sign a trade pact or alliance treaty, they’d need to do so with each individual state rather than with one United States of America.

Reagan’s vision of modern Federalism is to achieve the same goals of the original Federalists but from the opposite end of the spectrum. He realized that the national government was quickly becoming too powerful. He embraced the Federalist approach of checks and balances between the states and Washington DC that empowers either to properly represent their citizens. If someone in Michigan was being oppressed by the federal government, they could go to the state to seek protections. If it was Michigan that was oppressing this person, they could call on DC for help. Only through balance of powers can this country be properly managed. Only through balance of powers can the people’s freedoms be properly protected.

The reason it’s not discussed much is because he didn’t come close to completing his mission. Despite his charisma and intellect, he soon realized that the government he ran was extremely reluctant to give up any of its powers. This, more than anything else, is why we’ve formed a new Federalist Party. Even someone as strong and well-liked as Reagan was not able to break through the DC cartel’s self-aggrandizing addictions. We need a party that truly believes in reining in DC overreach to start winning seats at local, state, and national levels of government. Reagan needed help and the GOP was unwilling to give it to him.

Today, we need Reagan’s concepts of Federalism even more than we did in the 80s. Things have gotten worse. DC is a swamp, and while President Donald Trump is trying to drain it as quickly as possible, he can’t get it all done. In fact, his focus on reducing bureaucracy is righteous but is only one small part of the overall formula. Reining in government overreach requires a three-pronged attack and draining the swamp will only go after one of those prongs. We need more. Just as GOP leadership didn’t support Reagan’s efforts, we cannot expect them to initiate the purging of their own powers any time in the future, either.

Thankfully, we’re not starting from scratch. There are those in DC such as Mike Lee, Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz, Justin Amash, and Ben Sasse who have demonstrated an understanding of the need to rein in federal power in all three branches, including their own. They are a minority even in their own party. This is why Federalists must coalesce around a party that’s willing to support them and bring fresh blood into the halls of government at every level.

Reagan had a wonderful vision of small-government Federalism that remains unfulfilled to this day. It’s time to put people into office who will truly take up his mantle and act to reduce the power being accumulated in Washington DC. As Reagan once said, “Government does not solve problems. It subsidizes them.” The time to solve the problem is soon. The way to solve them is being built today.

The Never Trump movement failed. God’s Will, as always, reigned supreme and despite every ounce of opposition that the Democrats, media, and Never Trumpers could muster, the nation was saved from the evils of a Hillary administration as well as a Democratic-majority in the Senate. Does this mean Never Trump conservatives should follow the actions of the Democrats and media by whining themselves to sleep at night? No.

This is an opportunity. It’s a time for humility and reflection. Those of us who supported other candidates through the primaries generally fell into one of three categories after Trump’s nomination: late-boarding Trump Train passengers, anti-Hillary lukewarm Trump supporters, and both-options-stink Never Trumpers. The first two categories can carry on with business as usual. The conservative wing of the Never Trump semi-movement needs to fall in line behind the GOP unless they give us reason to do otherwise.

This is the trust-but-verify group. Trump won. The GOP survived to fight for two more years. It’s time to put ice on your bruised egos and walk it off. Many who opposed Trump and Hillary felt that both were far too liberal to achieve certain conservative goals such as returning powers to the states or reducing federal government spending. Those battles are not over, but it would be wrong to oppose everything the GOP does just because your side of the argument lost.

If the GOP repeals Obamacare instead of following through with recent threats to consider amending the reprehensible socialistic monstrosity, then every fiscal conservative should celebrate, even the Never Trump holdouts. If the GOP gets the Trump wall built, every American who opposes illegal immigration should rejoice, even if some of the wall turns out to be fencing instead (better than nothing, right?). If Trump puts pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment judges in as many courts as possible, including the Supreme Court, one of the biggest bits of skepticism from Never Trumpers will melt away and they should be happy as a result. If real conservatives make their way into the administration instead of Establishment types or alt-right political neophytes, there’s a good chance that Trump’s first term could be very successful (though his first official moves aren’t encouraging).

The new role of Never Trump conservatives is to righteously dissent. That means they should wholeheartedly support every conservative initiative even if Trump’s fulfillment of it proves that they were wrong before he was elected. That also means that every leftward lurch should elicit loud dissent. We know that it works on him. His famous “softening” on immigration was quickly reversed once enough conservatives spoke out to set him back on course. There’s a misconception that he doesn’t listen to people. It’s not true. He doesn’t always listen to his advisers, but he definitely listens to the cries of enough people. This is why I’m working on the Federalist Party in the first place. We don’t want to oppose the GOP. We want to oppose liberalism regardless of where it originates. We want to promote checks and balances between the states and Washington DC that can only be achieved by reducing the size and power of the federal government.

To accomplish these goals and set America heading in the right direction, we have to support Trump and the GOP in all of their conservative endeavors. As Never Trump Senator Ben Sasse wrote, “Everyone’s duty is to hope for Trump, work for America.

Four years ago, the prospects of the GOP having control over every branch of federal government was a long-term dream. Today, we’re one Supreme Court justice confirmation away from it becoming a reality. Now is not the time to oppose Trump for the sake of continuing a losing battle. There are opportunities abound for the Republican Party as long as Constitutional conservatives keep their voices loud and focused on issues rather than feelings. When the GOP does well, we need to be their loudest cheerleaders. When their proposals shift too far to the left or they start making unnecessary compromises, we should be the loudest detractors. Dissenting without reasons is what the liberals do. It’s an action that’s below true conservatives even if Trump isn’t their ideal President. Give him a chance to prove us wrong, but be ready to speak out if he doesn’t.