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Nick Polce “Constitutional Conservative” Runs for Ryan’s Seat

Nick Polce has been running for Paul Ryan’s seat for months, with the stated aim of replacing a Republican leadership that has failed it’s base. The most recent failure may have been the omnibus, but for many Republicans, being let down by leadership seems to be the way things have been for decades.

Before Ryan decided not to run for re-election, it may have seemed an impossible task, but Dave Brat’s defeat of Cantor a few years back did prove that such an upset was possible. Nobody can accuse Polce of not trying or failing to use every opportunity to reach out to those in the first district, offering to provide them an alternative to the status quo seen as something between endless compromise and endless capitulation.

He’s worked hard to pound the pavement himself, showing up anywhere he could reach allies in a Toyota Avalon with a billboard top. He has few allies in the so-called establishment, and has been taking that message directly to voters instead.

He has three main opponents in his primary. One, Paul Nehlen, is known specifically for being a raging racist who had previously tried to unseat Ryan, and from what I’ve seen he’s pretty well despised by most local Republicans. Another, Kevin Adam Steen, a really nice guy, who is occupying more of the social conservative wing but in a way so mild mannered that it’s impossible not to like him despite that. The main challenger is known for nothing at all- outside of immediately being considered the front runner. His name is Bryan Steil and he’s got a lot of close connections to Ryan (he’s a former staffer) and more established party members, but as far as policy positions, he doesn’t seem to have taken any. At the time of this interview, his website didn’t even have an issues page.

Nick himself is former military, and was a Green Beret. His focus seems to primarily be on the fiscally conservative side of the party that recognizes that certain unpopular spending cuts are necessary, and that it’s not enough to focus only on direct taxation. I’d describe him as a fiscal conservative, in the mold of a second generation TEA party that realizes the necessity of being a SEA (spent enough already) party first. He describes himself as a constitutional conservative, but to me the document doesn’t seem like his base animating principle.

I sat down with him and a beer for about an hour last week to ask him about his beliefs and his run (he just had coffee… it wasn’t even noon yet). The following is the first portion of that interview:

TLR: This is The Libertarian Republic, talking to Nick Polce, who is running for Paul Ryan’s current seat.

NP: Morning. First district in Wisconsin.

TLR: Given some of the events I’ve seen you at, would you consider yourself a RLC-style “liberty Republican”? (Update: the RLC officially endorsed Polce)

NP: Yeah, I would consider myself a ‘constitutional conservative’. The constitution lays out the role of the federal government, and outside of that, everything else should be delegated to the state or local level.

TLR: When the federal government funds itself through debt or money creation, which groups of citizens are taxed the most?

NP: Well, a couple really. First one, it hurts savers. Because we have such a… when we’re constantly borrowing, borrowing, borrowing, the incentive on the federal government side is to keep interest rates low, because it has a massive amount of debt. Interest rates being kept low hurts savers more. Two, it hurts people on fixed incomes, primarily the retirement community. And then when we get into money printing and money creation, that hurts those who don’t have a lot of assets. If you have assets, say you own property, or you own stocks, or oil or natural gas… whatever the asset classes are, when you’re printing a lot of money, that’s how you’re able to maintain your wealth. If you don’t have much assets, if you’re just in cash and don’t have a lot of income, that hurts you as well.

TLR: Leading into the Cantillon effect of first spenders who… yeah… speaking of the retirement community you mentioned… You’ve said that America should maintain it’s commitment to those who have paid into social security. You also say that social security should be voluntary. If both things are true, how do you fund the difference, or even the transition?

NP: Yeah, that’s a good point. So, the problem we face is for the last several decades, our political class… One of the big main reasons why I’m running is there’s this mythical class that’s indispensable to the government of this country.

Particularly, the way social security works is that money comes in, and it goes to fund the current pensioners, or those on disability. And then the rest of that money that’s not spent by going to social security recipients, is then pushed into the general revenue fund and spent. People have for decades had money taken out of their paychecks, and now they’re expecting to receive something to get that back for when they retire. You can’t just throw that away. At the same time, we’ve got to recognize that we don’t want to keep that mandatory. If you and I, we’re both, what.. mid thirty-ish?

TLR: Yeah.

NP: Why can’t we just say, hey… ‘I’ve had enough. I’ve paid into it. I totally forfeit any future claims on social security. Let me prepare for my own future. So how do you do that… how do you round that square? I think at this point, you have to have a bridge, if you will. Since we’ve already made these commitments, you have to have a breakout fee. Let’s call it forty or fifty years old. Fifty or older, you want to continue to maintain social security, then you keep it. If you’re fifty or less and you want to… a lot of it, if you voluntarily forfeit all the money you put into it, you should be free to create your own life going forward and not have that twelve and a half percent coming out of every paycheck. But there’s got to be a bridge. We can’t just stop it all of a sudden, because there’s so many people who have it coming.

TLR: You’ve had eight deployments over eleven years of military service. You’ve been a green beret. On behalf of The Libertarian Republic, I’d like to thank you for your service.

NP: Thank you.

TLR: However, you claim our military protects our freedom and our way of life. Are there times our military, when given the wrong mission, does the exact opposite?

NP: … Sometimes… … Well… Wow, that’s a good question. (long pause)

You can definitely, there were mistakes made in our foreign policy over the last several decades which may have made us less safe because of blowback and unintended consequences. So anytime you deploy the military, there’s a potential that exists that unintended consequences happen. If you look at Iraq, as an example, and you look at what we did in Iraq, the mission started to change. When you saw an influence of Iranian push coming across the border, which resulted in an increase of the Sunni tribes, which was loosely supported by what became Al-Qaeda in Iraq, right? And that kind of balloned into what is now ISIS, or what was ISIS. So, anytime we come in and take action, there’s unintended consequences which could lead to additional action down the road.

TLR: You’ve talked about abolishing the Department of Homeland Security. You’ll find no argument from me on that front, but to many people that may seem extreme, as young as the department is. Can you justify that call to those who may assume that it’s necessary?

NP: Yeah, so, that comes back to the original discussion that I get a lot of questions on. I say we have to cut spending. We’re spending way too much money. And I immediately get hit with, people want to know what, what particularly, what specifically I want to cut. And I say we have to start with the discretionary side of the house. Which gets us back to our Constitution and what’s outlined as a role for the federal government. If it’s not outlined, then it should be cut back to the state and local level.

So what was the Department of Homeland Security? What’s is it’s history? It’s history was it came out of the failure of 9-11. 9-11 happened, which was government failure. 9-11 was government failure. So as a result of 9-11, we created the Department of Homeland Security. Government failure does not justify an increase in funding. And so, when I talk about walking back or removing the Department of Homeland Security, that’s what I’m talking about.

It’s that… now… look at how we operate in the airports. We have all kinds of procedures in place starting with body frisking. Things that violate privacy that we’ve given up, because we believe it makes us safer. Talking specifically about walking through the x-ray tubes? Why did that come about? Well, that came about because of the underwear bomber, who came from Niger, I believe. And Niger doesn’t have x-ray machines. So how is it that putting them in the United States is going to prevent another underwear bomber? It doesn’t happen.

So, when I talk about getting rid of the Department of Homeland Security, some of the things that have been pushed under there, we can push them back out to the other departments. Like Secret Service we can go back out to the Department of Treasury, ICE and INS we can move out of DHS as well. Ultimately, it comes down to government failure shouldn’t mean new government.

TLR: Much of your service was in Africa. Is there any country that AFRICOM currently operates in that you currently believe it should be meddling in?

NP: So we did, I did about half my trips to Africa and half to Middle Eastern counties. So, the question is… should or shouldn’t?

TLR: Any countries AFRICOM should be operating in.

NP: Oh, should. OK. So, one of the ways, one of the reasons that we have the special operations community, is to help with setting up security for individual countries, so they can protect themselves, instead of constantly having to look to outside entities, whether it’s the European Union, or the U.N., or the United States. So in that mission, there are areas where there are hotbeds of extremism, hotbeds of terrorism, and if that country reaches out to the US to help build their security force and need help with that? That’s a mission for the special operations community. It should be limited, it should be direct, and we should be looking at removing rather than going and staying in perpetuity.

Because again it goes back to, to funding. We are so much in debt right now. $21 trillion in debt. And our Department of Defense is, on the discretionary side of the house, it’s the largest, ah, ah… largest… payer… um…

TLR: It’s the largest category of spending.

NP: Yeah, there you go. Largest category of spending on the discretionary side of the aisle. So we have to balance the two. The East African peninsula has had an increase in piracy over the past couple of years. And there’s shipping lanes that lead up the African coast that run up through, the, uh, what is it…

TLR: The horn of Africa?

NP: Yeah, the horn of Africa, and up through the Suez Canal and the, uh, um…

TLR: Straight of Hormuz?

NP: Yeah, right. And I think those areas, if we’re going to put people in place, and going to train, security wise, it makes sense to do so there because of the massive amount of commerce that goes through that area.

TLR: It’s one thing to be training troops, but… Do you believe that the President has the constitutional authority to conduct acts of war such as missile strikes, however limited they may be, in countries that Congress has not declared war in, absent an attack on this country or an imminent threat to it?

NP: Yeah, this is a constitutional discussion that’s been going on for decades. What role the President has, versus what role Congress has, to declare war or not declare war.

As I understand the Constitution, the President has the ability to protect the national security interests of the United States, and deploy troops, and deploy missiles, and do what he needs to do to protect the country without having to go to Congress and then have five hundred and thirty-five generals talk back and forth, right? But for an extended engagement. An extended engagement, we have to get a declaration of war, we have to get authorization from Congress to be able to keep soldiers on the field for an extended time.

I asked some other questions (I can tell you his favorite Star Wars film is Return of the Jedi), but this first portion is a good overview of the beliefs he’s running on.

I may take a stricter Madisonian view on Presidential war powers. Madison famously wrote “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the legislature.” I may be a purist in thinking that should apply to American initiation (as opposed to the operation) of all wars, whether they are limited or extended. I believe that the difficulty of reaching consensus among five hundred and thirty-five generals is a feature, not a bug, of a system set up by men who believed that we should not “go abroad in search of monsters to destroy”.

For what it’s worth, I feel like Polce is the best candidate in his primary, and the most likely to be a fiscal conservative. Including in regards to standard Republican sacred cows like the military.

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