Books & Culture

A review of “Capitol of Freedom: Restoring American Greatness,” by Ken Buck with Shonda Werry (Fidelis Books, 208 pages, $27)

A Blueprint for American Greatness

Rep. Ken Buck’s (R-Colo.) new book provides the blueprint for correcting the progressive curricula infecting our schools.

You can’t fight somethin’ with nuthin’, as the old saying goes.

The “something” I refer to is the progressive curricula populating so much of what passes for our education system these days.

Speech codes and safe spaces are multiplying like rabbits on our college campuses. The Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project” has franchised its “America is a racist concept” conceit to classrooms. Loudon County Virginia mandates indoctrinating kindergarteners with the approved narrative on slavery.

In response to the social justice warriors’ narrative of American history, traditionalists have offered . . . nothing. 

Now, Congressman Ken Buck (R-Colo.) has given us something with which we can fight. 

Early on in his new book, Capitol of Freedom, he asks, “Can we expect future generations of Americans to protect and preserve America’s exceptional greatness if they don’t even understand it?”

Buck wants to make sure they do, and in Capitol of Freedom he uses the U.S. Capitol’s art, architecture, and artifacts to tell the story of America’s heritage and history of liberty.

As he puts it, “I want every American to understand the meaning behind this magnificent building and its unique architectural features, paintings, inscriptions, and statues. Within these walls, too, are deeply moving stories about our origins as a nation—the American Revolution, concepts important to our founding fathers, their optimism about our country, and this bold experiment in which we are involved…the building represents the foundational institutions that make America great.”

The decision to locate the capital along the Potomac serves as an object lesson in compromise, so necessary to the functioning of a republic. The capital Mall represents the right to petition the government. The fact that Congress occupies the highest point in the district—what’s now known as Capitol Hill—signifies the supremacy of the legislative branch in the Founders’ design. Buck rubbishes the notion of coequal branches—the legislature is first among equals.

As for the Supreme Court, well, “All we need to do is walk over to the Old Supreme Court Chamber [a cramped room in the Capitol] to understand the judiciary was never envisioned to be a runaway branch of government, with unelected and unaccountable justices empowered to discard laws.” 

The story of how President Washington fired Pierre L’Enfant for demolishing the home of Daniel Caroll because it got in the way of the urban planner’s grand design speaks to another essential right—private property. (Hello, Kelo.)

Statuary Hall eminences, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg and Stephen Austin, testify for freedom of religion and the right to bear arms. 

Buck draws on his personal experiences in Congress. He has fun telling the story behind the red-white-and-blue AR-15 hanging in his office in the chapter on the Second Amendment.

He explains the importance of Congress’ investigative function with the Benghazi inquiry. The fight over a War Powers Resolution vote on America’s involvement in the Yemen war illustrates checks and balances, particularly Congress’ (seldom exercised) check on war-happy executives. 

John C. Calhoun shows up in the discussion of the nullification doctrine, but his is more of a cameo appearance. The starring role is reserved for contemporary progressives’ shenanigans to nullify the transfer of authority from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. 

Comparing current Trump derangement to the Civil War is prescient in light of reports Democrats are wargaming 2020 election scenarios where Biden refuses to concede despite losing the Electoral College vote and West Coast states threaten to secede if President Trump remains in office.

Buck hammers progressives’ identity politics and their assaults on free speech, private property, and federalism, but he doesn’t spare spineless Republicans. He slams House Republican leadership for short-circuiting his War Powers Resolution and colleagues who choose expediency over principle.

The good congressman from Colorado concludes with a call to action “for individuals and families to help keep our nation on track.” 

Tone down the rhetoric, he says, in personal and social media interactions—“we can’t let the hate drown out the debate.” Get involved in your community whether by serving on a recreation board or volunteering for a campaign—and bring your kids along to learn how our system works. 

We also need to keep our eyes on our schools and demand more of them, he says. Do they still pledge allegiance to the flag? What else are the schools doing? Last year the Colorado legislature passed a mandate requiring third-graders to be taught about abortion. The bill applies to homeschoolers and private schools as well as public schools. It was written by Planned Parenthood.

A useful corrective to the progressive curricula would be a study guide on the principles and heritage of individual liberty that built American greatness. 

Capitol of Freedom provides the blueprint for the project.

And that’s not nuthin’.