July 23, 2009
Who's Out of Touch?
In the Canadian Ottawa Citizen David Warren reckons that US liberals are out of touch. He says it all got started long ago when the afternoon newspapers started to fail and their predictably conservative views no longer balanced the liberal morning newspapers. The result?
[Liberals] have been freed, for more than a generation, from anything resembling serious public debate, and have thus got in the habit of proceeding with an infinitely extendible agenda (through the courts if there are legislative delays). The right has meanwhile got in the habit of feeling disenfranchised.
That explains the outrage "at the very existence of Sarah Palin, not only by progressive Democrats but by urbane ‘establishment' Republicans[.]"
But in the London Times Daniel Finkelstein thinks it's the US conservatives that are out of touch. For him, the resignation of Gov. Palin shows that Republicans don't get it.
There is no more eloquent statement of modern Republicanism than resigning office with time still on the clock. Mrs Palin has chosen to talk about power, rather than exercise it. She would rather write a book and give lectures about being a governor than actually be a governor. And her party has made the same choice.
Both Palin and the GOP, he writes, would rather be "angry outsiders" than struggle with the responsibilities of power.
Notice, however, that these two commentators are not that far apart on their view of the facts. Warren writes that conservatives feel "disenfranchised;" Finkelstein says they are "angry outsiders."
Finkelstein thinks that conservatives are being self-indulgent. He advises conservatives to get serious and learn to win friends and influence people in the liberal media.
The Republicans have to win round the liberal media. They have to build friends in it. They have to use it to win. Now that really would be an end to politics as usual.
But Warren has a different view. He concludes that Palin's resignation decision and her recent "cap and trade" article in the Washington Post means one thing. It means war.
We are going to have a war, next door in the U.S.A. -- a war between two world views that have become very nearly mutually incomprehensible.
You see the difference. Finkelstein thinks that conservatives should forget their dreams, get with the program, and learn to live with the liberal hegemony. Warren thinks that conservatives are getting ready to start a revolution.
When you want to have a revolution, the real revolution takes in peoples' minds. You are not just trying to win elections and wield political power. You want to change minds, and get people to believe in your vision of a glorious future, your city on a hill.
A century ago the great-grandparents of our liberal friends had a vision. They would build a society where everyone had access to a decent job, decent housing, and free education. In due course, the American people said to them: OK, you sold us. Go ahead and build it.
When you get to implement a political vision, and you don't listen as well as you should, and you don't learn from your mistakes as you should, there is a consequence.
You end up with the squalor of trying to keep those decent jobs going at Government Motors with taxpayers' money, refusing to admit that your mortgage meltdown has utterly betrayed the marginal homeowner, and trying not to admit that your free education system has utterly betrayed the poor.
That's when the American people start to say: enough of getting with the liberal program. It's broken! Get it liberals? B-R-O-K-E-N!
That's when impractical visionaries return to painting glorious visions of a conservative city on a hill. Cunning politicians start persuading people to believe in the vision. They urge their followers to follow them out of liberal Egypt towards the conservative Promised Land. And that's when observers like David Warren start to write about a culture war.
You can see why the get-with-the-program people don't like Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin means trouble for them and their comfortable status quo. But their disdain really doesn't matter. So Palin didn't punch her ticket correctly and finish her term as governor. So she muffed a couple of interviews in the fall of 2008. Palin's style of politics isn't about perfect resumes and flawless execution. You don't send Sarah Palin into the game to sit upon a lead. You send her in to get the team fired up and make things happen. You get ready for touchdowns -- and also fumbles and interceptions.
The awful truth about liberalism is its central delusion, the notion that life can be neatly organized into rational bureaucratic programs. It turns everything it touches into soulless clanking monster.
The glorious truth about conservatism is its love of life. Before princes, principalities and powers comes life and love, mothers and babies, children and families, struggle and sacrifice, a city on a hill.
Now, who in our public life most symbolizes this conservative truth?