Admit It: We Wackos are the Problem
I've been thinking over the Cantor loss and the Cochran win and the whole question of the Republican Party divided between its Beltway establishment and its Tea Party insurgency.
And last week I read James V. DeLong's excellent piece about the divide between the wheeling and dealing of the Republican establishment and the “values and concerns” (or V&C) of the ordinary GOP voter. His piece is titled “Why Voters Grew Tired of Cantor” but the URL reads “government-of-the-cronies-by-the-cronies-for-the-cronies.” I vote for the URL.
DeLong's point is that the V&C of the Democratic voter and the Democratic establishment and the Republican establishment are all birds of a feather. They are all interested in getting stuff from the government, through direct benefits or subsidies or crony deals. The Republican base is odd man out. That's because, DeLong writes, conservatives' V&Cs
include dedication to free markets, light regulation, individual autonomy, respect for conscience, refusal to privilege victimhood, and the rule of law. These do not translate well into visible benefits for individuals, firms, or industries, and thus do not keep the vital dollars flowing into the coffers of the party, the independent groups, and the K Street lobbying firms where old donkeys and elephants go to get rich.
The Republican establishment is torn between attending to the values and concerns of its Republican voters and the day-to-day game of thrones in Washington DC that everyone else is playing. And that's a problem, not just for the GOP bosses but also for their Democratic pals across the partisan divide.
The liberals are right. The GOP establishment is right. We conservatives and tea party activists, we are the problem. We right-wingnut racist-sexist-homophobes want to tear down the whole corrupt edifice of servile benefits and crony ExIm Banks and print-the-government-out-of-a-jam Keynesian economics and the censorship of conservative speech. All the beautiful people are telling us to be sensible, kowtow to the liberal gods and maybe they will toss out a bit of the loot to us every now and again.
But that's the point. We aren't sensible, and we don't want to be. We have a vision, a faith in a society of responsible individualism, where people rise above the instincts of power politics, of going along to get along, of cadging free stuff in the wake of a powerful patron. We want a society where you don't have to truckle to a powerful patron. We want a world where ordinary people get ahead on talent and hard work, not by checking boxes on some diversity form. And we believe in a government that is limited in its powers.
We believe, following Matt Ridley, in the idea of collective mind, millions of people individually and responsibly committing acts of production, barter, and exchange without benefit of liberals. We say you can keep your benefits, your subsidies, and your too-big-to-fail crony capitalism.
Of course our liberal friends believe in stuff too. They believe in enlightenment and liberation and emancipation, and the wonders of a top-down administrative state run by the best people, conservatives need not apply. They think that you can get to the Blessed Isles of liberation and emancipation under the tutelage of Big Government, under a president that thinks that the wonders of government reduce to a man with a phone and a pen. Good luck to them on that.
OK, so conservatives and Tea Partiers are “the problem,” but what do we do?
We do nothing. Our situation is the same as the German people two hundred years ago. Chaps like Kant and Herder and Hegel and Engels and Marx were fizzing with ideas and wanting to make things happen. But nothing happened until the kings and prince-bishops and counts and margraves got unbalanced by the French Revolution and then badly knocked about in the Napoleonic Wars and the Industrial Revolution. Only then could a new ruling class, powered by all the ideas of the Kants, the Herders, and the Marxes, shoulder aside the old order.
It's a pity that so many of those ideas sucked.
Our job is to have the best ideas around, keep them fizzing, and make sure that the ideas are pitched to solve the problems of the next ruling class after the end of the late great authoritarian welfare state. Politics is downstream from culture.
Here we are, we awful problematical conservatives, and we are here to stay. It would be all quiet on the Western front if it weren't for us. Ain't that a shame!
You know something else? We are the people, the troublesome people, that actually live the liberal conceit of speaking truth to power. And unless we keep doing that, nothing will change.