Since January, I have embarked on a campaign to restore constitutional governance to the 4th Congressional District that can both win and be effective in the future. I put my campaign on hold for 3 weeks to deploy with the Iowa Army National Guard to Romania as a chaplain where I helped provide religious support to my Soldiers and reserve/active duty units.
I learned profound lessons about life in Romania under Communism until 1989 and the value of individual and national freedom since.
When Soviet tanks rolled into Romania in 1944, a dark iron curtain suppressed individual and religious freedom. All faiths alike were brought together as a “Congress of Cults” in which the state promised clergy increased pay for state subservience. Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand would not sit quietly by. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany, he said that the church would never bend its knee to another. For more than 14 years he endured what is described in his famous autobiography, Tortured for Christ.
I saw firsthand the grim reminders of what happens when the state is the sole purveyor of rights and elevates its position above human liberty and individual faith. When I brought my Catholic Soldiers to mass, a priest pointed to the images of 7 fellow priests who were martyred. Fagares Fortress just a few miles away—once an imposing symbol of Transylvania power—imprisoned dissidents just three decades ago.
As for personal and economic opportunity, Romania in 1984 resembled George Orwell’s dystopian vision: bread deliberately withheld; typewriters registered with a thumbprint to ensure no anti-regime literature; human conditions worse than in 1914.
Freedom came with the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu whom they executed in 1989 along with the crumbling of Soviet power, a NATO alliance, and a free market, press, and religious freedom.
The lessons of history, however, seem lost on the desire of the Left to promise that socialism holds the keys to a greater prosperity. A Des Moines couple visiting their native Romania recognized a Hawkeye on one of our Soldiers as we dressed in civilians clothing for security outside of the base camp. Ironically, they came to the United States for freedom from socialist oppression.
The Left promises “free” Medicare for all (apparently for anyone who can set foot on American soil), “free” college tuition and cancellation of debts, and a New Green Deal radically encroaching on private industry and regulating everything from the kind of cars we drive to how we farm. This has gone hand-in-hand with the encroachment into issues of religious conscience ranging from healthcare, private industry, educational institutions, and even supporters of public monuments who seek relief in the courts.
Doubling down on socialism will come at a cost to liberty that begs the question who is to pay for such expansive government: confiscatory tax policies, our children in borrowing, or both. It isn’t enough that increasingly centralized government spending consumes 25% of all our nation’s GDP, nor that a feckless Congress forgets its basic Article I functions under the Constitution (Congress has passed 4 timely budgets since 1977, instead opting for omnibus bills and continuing resolutions). The result? An astounding $22 trillion national debt, of which $364 billion is spent annually servicing interest on the debt.
Those on the presidential trail who speak glowingly of socialism ignore the backgrounds of people like my wife who grew up in Communist Vietnam and whose father was killed in a re-education camp. They ask for the chance—for the first time in history— to get socialism right. That is an impossibility for it fundamentally erodes personal, religious, and economic freedom to devastating human results proven by the history of the 20th century.
On July 4, 1776, our founders poignantly penned that rights were not granted by a human power—be it a king, a party, or a dictator—but were instead endowed by God. To not understand the difference nor the exceptional promise of America’s free market system is to repeat the lessons that history otherwise ought to have taught us.