February 24, 2009
No SurrenderBy J.R. Dunn
I'm curious -- does anyone know of any situation, current, historical, hypothetical, or otherwise, in which some American conservatives don't immediately start hollering that it's time to give in?
That's a serious question. It seems that whenever things get rough, the cry goes up: it's over. The left has won. It's not our country anymore. There's no hope, never has been, never will be again. And almost always, it comes from people who claim that they're the true nail-hard conservatives, the core element, of whom everyone else is merely a pale reflection.
With Obama, this chorus has become deafening. It's the counterpoint to the Obama-as-Messiah drone from points left. Obama is the watershed, the spearpoint of a seventy-year-long conspiracy against the Republic. With his advent, the game has ended. There is no possibility of resistance. All he needs to do is raise a hand and his disciples will fill the streets, waving the little green book of the One's Sayings and sweeping all before them. There's nothing to be done now but to pack a single small bag and await the summons to appear for "reformation through labor".
That or take to the woods with a cheap Kalashnikov knockoff and a knapsack full of canned baked beans.
It could happen just that way, I guess. But I have my doubts.
The argument (up until now unvoiced) appears to be that the country has been hollowed out by decades of liberal activity to a point where all that's all required is a single kick for it to fall apart. Every institution has been undermined, every principle eroded. The intelligentsia are traitors, the business world has sold out, the populace as a whole is dumb as a dishrag. There's nothing left worth saving even if it was possible to save it.
To say this is a one-sided vision is to insult one-sided visions. The first question we need to ask is: does this in fact resemble anything at all going on in the real world?
Thirty days into the Obamiate, we have seen that the man cannot put together a working cabinet. Four major figures have fallen by the wayside due to corruption of one form or another. A fifth -- O's major attempt at "bipartisanship"-- scrambled back ashore just before this Titanic set sail. O's successful nominees have been not quite what the situation demands either. Tim Geithner, the man who would pull a whole new economy out of his hat, is still looking for the hat. Eric Holder attempted to fulfill his duties as the nation's chief law enforcement official by inflaming long-buried hostile feelings between the races. (I wonder if Obama grasps that, on some level, this is a blow aimed against him personally, in his persona of the man who embodies racial reconciliation?)
His great "victory", the stimulus bill, succeeded in uniting the GOP in opposition, annoying members of his own party, dismaying the public, and sending the markets into a 300-point tailspin. Obama, and his followers, desperately need to contemplate the story of King Pyrrhus. A few days later, his banking proposal led to a repetition of the market collapse. But he succeeded in topping even that with his mortgage plan, which triggered, another market slide, nationwide defiance, and converted a little-known market commentator, Rick Santelli, into a focus of opposition. Nice work for a single week.
On the international front, he has triggered the disdain and contempt of Iran, Russia, and Venezuela among others. Mighty Kyrgyzstan has unceremoniously ejected U.S. forces. He has even succeeded in annoying the amiable Canadians prior to his visit to Ottawa. And to round that out, on Friday, February 20th, he for all practical purposes surrendered to the Taliban, a group sharing responsibility for the only successful attack on the mainland U.S. in modern times.
And this is the American Lenin, you say? The man who is going to overthrow the republic, trample the Constitution, and put the chains of socialism on a helpless, despairing populace?
What's bothering many conservatives today is a kind of institutional memory of the FDR epoch. Roosevelt truly did carry out a revolution in political affairs. His first "hundred days" did in fact turn the country upside down. Such efforts as ending the gold standard, closing the banks, and establishing the New Deal with its complete control over the economy, were unprecedented, in no way comparable to anything that had come before.
Of course, you don't fix a wounded economy by turning it upside down, a fact that became apparent in relatively short order. But even aside from the failure of the New Deal, FDR had a dramatic and lasting effect on the political landscape. Nowhere was this effect more apparent than with America's conservatives.
Most of the Republicans of the era were country-club Babbits -- go-along to get-along types who joined the GOP because Dad did. It comes as no surprise that these people had no solution to the country's economic problems, or could put up any worthwhile resistance to FDR's "reforms". They were swept aside, and little serious opposition ever confronted Roosevelt. The era's conservatives simply retreated to isolated pea patches while communicating only with each other. It took a generation for William F. Buckley to revive conservatism as a vital political and cultural force.
Even today, FDR remains a nightmare figure in the conservative mind. He's denounced in contemporary books (such as the asinine Day of Deceit of which I was given three copies by people convinced it was a worthwhile read, despite its being one of the most ill-researched and badly written historical works I've ever encountered) with the energy and venom you'd expect to be directed at a man who left office last week, and he's spoken of with a sense of fear and apprehension, as if he's right around the corner and will come rolling back any minute, to scatter all before him like the Steelers' offensive line.
But there is no third-millennial Roosevelt, only poor O, overwhelmed and getting in deeper every day. The Democrats are a gaggle of every-pol-for-himself hustlers of the Dodd, Rangel, Schumer, and Frank school, far from the unified, all-powerful party they were during the 30s. The progressive impulse is played out, a hollow ideology with no intellectual force behind it. The left-wing media is collapsing almost as quickly as the Madoff financial empire, from the venerable El Tiempos de Nuevo York to your local Democrat & Whatever. All that's keeping the mad whirl going is the adoration of the simpler members of the public, than which no more fickle force exists.
Compare this to today's conservatism. A GOP cleansed of its most egregious malefactors and unified as in a way unseen since the mid-90s. Consider only the leading names -- Sarah Palin, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Bobby Jindal. A greater distinction from the nonentities of the 1930s GOP can scarcely be imagined. The unity of the House Republicans against the stimulus bill came as a surprise even to me, and was of a nature to bring cheer to a stone. The Senate was not quite as impressive, but that merely marks yet another of the RINO's offenses against intelligence, good sense, and common decency. (Has anyone ever considered the fact that "moderates" such as Spector, Snowe, and Collins are the among the least trustworthy of current politicians?)
In addition, there's something that was scarcely imaginable in the 30s, or even in the 60s -- a thriving and intellectually diverse conservative movement. A movement that has been through the fire, that has matured in both message and execution, and that remains underestimated by both its opposition and their media enablers. The modern conservative movement is even now moving into a new phase. It's impossible at this point to say exactly where it's going, but anyone wishing to write it off needs a little serious study.
Given the choice between this and a party headed by an intellectual juvenile who thinks he can disburse a trillion dollars one week and talk about "halving the deficit" the next, a party staffed with superannuated hustlers and grifters, with a rank and file comprised of mesmerized, glassy-eyed true believers, I know which one I'd pick.
The time may come when that choice will matter quite a lot. Obama has promised everybody everything. He will fail to bring any of it off, as Johnson and Carter failed before him. When he does fail, he will need to attempt something to shore up his base. He will move against the enemies of the people. He has several avenues open -- gun control, the "fairness doctrine", even euthanasia. Each will mark a fundamental attack on human rights and the American character that must be opposed and defeated. All hands will be required in this effort. There will be no excuse then for self-centered whining or skulking in the woods.
We will at that point have an opportunity to give the collectivist heresy a beating from which it will never completely recover. And if that isn't worth a battle, what is?
So lighten up. The story ain't over yet, and the fat lady hasn't even buckled on her armor. And when the song comes at last, it may well be a tune we like.
And besides -- I'll bet you left your can opener home.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.