Long rant on changing conservatism

Many of us on the right have come to believe & to say in louder & louder voices that it’s over: The (1)free market-(2)strong defense-(3)we’ll talk about maybe doing something about abortion, (3*)but no, we won’t! coalition of the Reagan era is over. Now, it’s change or become a minority party, with or without a massive organizational-ideological collapse. & it’s happening right before our eyes. 2016 is the most interesting year for conservatism since when? I think it’s been a generation since anything this troubling has happened…

So last year I was telling people on Ricochet & wherever I could get them to listen: If you think you’ve only got a messaging problem, you have no idea what a problem you really have! If you think, it’s mostly that you just haven’t figured out how to tell the American electorate what great things conservatism can bring to America, you’ll see the real anger & hysteria of an electoral year! Even at a broader level–people are not buying the notion that the free market is really good for everyone & that whatever’s wrong, more economic conservatism will fix it–there’s no victory ever coming your way.

This year, my fellow Ricochetti & others are starting to say, you know, you’ve got a lot to learn–we’ve got a lot to learn–from Mr. Trump’s supporters. Sure, we can’t turn the party over to anger or populism or what seem to be the cries of defense, punishment, & fighting. But this is no longer a question of a few constituencies with little money & less influence, do we deal with them or ignore’em? At this point, the party nomination is being taken over by means of populist electioneering. About a third of the delegates are counted & the only people who are dead certain to lose associated their names with the party on foreign policy, & to some extent on domestic policy. There is now no reason to believe the next third of the electorate will look radically different.

Some are still saying: These voters don’t matter really, either because we can take them for granted or because they’re unnecessary to our coalition. Psychologically, this comes down to saying the primary electorate is in a state of hysteria & the GOP electorate is bewildered by this disturbing show, but not really persuaded by the two candidates whose victories are preceded & succeeded by their telling the party establishment, Drop dead! At this point, if there were no party establishment, they have created it & persuaded the electorate it exists & has to be beaten badly. The electorate either agrees or really does not disagree–& no one else can bend their ear.

These are lone voices. Stronger are the voices that call Mr. Trump mad or worse & his success a harbinger of doom. These people are not simply wrong–they may be mostly right–but they do not seem to take into account that it’s either too late or too early to ascribe blame by claiming to describe what the world is like, as though they were not part of it & their opinions & actions did not affect it. (This is rather like conservative complaints about the culture: The complaints are often blind to whether they themselves are making things better or worse.) This is an election in a country where politics mostly seems to mean elections. & morality requires us to say: Elections have consequences.

So we have to deal with this electorate. I propose a psychological analysis, both because it fits with the problems of elections & because it allows us to avoid some moralistic tendencies. I don’t want to hear that the party’s gotta burn down! I don’t want to hear that the crazy people have to be ignored! I’m going to try & persuade you that it’s not the best thing we can do together right now. I propose to you to think of Mr. Trump’s electorate as people previously ignored & disrespected. I hope I can persuade you to think of ways in which the basically free-market opinions we mostly share can be put together with an electorate that’s really despairing over the future, or the lack of one.

I understand that this means that we have to say, we’re somewhat at fault. The last generation & the age of the GOP Congress & Presidency have not worked out for the people now voting their anger. So that anger is not irrational. We have to make sure it becomes even more rational than that by trying to see in what ways it can make sense–in what conservative ways. So let’s not dismiss it as class war, protectionism, & identity politics. That guarantees not only a Dem victory, but the collapse of the GOP coalition without liberals having to do anything to appeal to the voters we disrespect on principle. We have to find some agreement, not only disagreement & find a way to balance them that’s actually attractive to these voters.

I’ll go further: We have to say, the age of Reagan is over! I’m not trying to write history here or to tell people what their lives mean–only to think of a way to look at the political situation, to see if it makes sense. So this is just as a way to figure out what’s so wrong with the party, electorate, & chattering classes–they neither understand each other or really seem to like each other! There is deep psychological chaos being sown in the coalition. So time has passed & let’s think about how this generation after the Cold War conservatism is different! I’m going to say at some point, so we need to learn from Reagan how to build a coalition & strengthen, not doom a party. But I want upfront to say: Let’s not be using Reagan to prop up candidates & wishful thinking about the electorate. It’s too late!

Maybe my ideas don’t work out or aren’t persuasive–but I notice I’m getting far more attention & far fewer condescending remarks than last year. I’m not saying I told you so: I didn’t see Mr. Trump coming or any of these things. I’m not in the business of prophecy, I don’t believe success is its own justification, nor do I think people who ignored me were wrong to do so. All I’m saying is, it looks like I have another chance to persuade people & I want to make the best of it & my message is the same: Conservatism doesn’t suffer from a messaging problem: No rhetoric nor no advertising can help. They can only harm, inasmuch as they delude us further & farther! Conservatism suffers from a kind of arrogance typical of moral, decent people. I’m sorry to say unpleasant things. But I think we need to think about how what’s right about us may cause trouble for our understanding of politics.

Just think about whether you find it natural to suspect that prosperity & prosperity talk can be bad for America. When you hear conservatives saying, we need more growth, that’s the ticket!–do you find yourself saying, you’re lying!, or, would that it were doable, but you’re not the guy to do it!, or, sure, we need prosperity & growth, but we need other things, too, so let’s talk about more than GDP growth!, or maybe something else, but just as skeptical? I think more & more conservatives are in this position! But very few people look at these really counter-intuitive possibilities.

So also with the possibility that morality is blinding us. We’re pretty decent people–not me, especially, I’m more of an exception that proves the decency of folks who treat me decently even if I don’t exactly deserve it… But is it really so hard to believe, for example, that an innocent guy has no idea he should be looking for alibis nor no idea he might be accused of anything?–So he wouldn’t be prepared to deal with sudden shocks: Being decent mostly means not expecting bad things to happen. Well, do you think the primary results so far are a good thing? So we need to start thinking somewhat differently.

I would say, broadly, we need to think of the sort of stuff conservatives talk about endlessly as a terrible political education. We need to think that the things we hold to be good are only available to us as the tenuous & endangered conclusion of a long line of reasoning & action. In other words, it’s where we want to get, but it’s going to be really difficult to get there. Talking about those things now, as I believe I have predicted, but am at least always saying, is not doing anything good. It’s preventing us from thinking of other things & it’s not persuading others to join us.

So maybe it is time to say, drop dead, gorgeous! I think it’s time we consider it, at least: How about we think, It’s our problem, it’s our burden to bear, it’s our job to persuade people to vote GOP, to vote conservatism, & to do so by appealing to their actual experiences, not to our own! That is to say, not to take for granted everyone wants to be like us & will do it if only we tell them in the most principled or the most flattering way! Instead, to look for who these people are & what their opinions are–not to tell them our opinions are better & here’s a great argument proving it!, but in order to learn about their experiences & their own interpretations their experiences, so we can then talk to them about what common ground & what friendship we can build.

I believe conservatives need to lose the arrogant belief in the strength of arguments. I believe I’ve done a good job of arguing that, but I fear, as I say, arguments are not enough. Repeating them over a year seems to me necessary as well. Trying to make the case anew & to appeal to experiences we have shared & worries we share also seems to me necessary. I’m not sure all of this is enough. I certainly don’t think I’m the man for the job. It’s your country & I’m a foreigner, but, I hope, a friend. I’m only doing it because I don’t see anyone else doing it–I only take hope because I’ve see others, on Ricochet & elsewhere, doing at least similar things: Testifying to other experiences & opinions & encouraging us to change.

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41 Responses to Long rant on changing conservatism

  1. TKC1101TKC1101 says:

    It was a long rant but worth the hike. I still come back to the simple fact. Reagan balanced conservatism with nationalism.

    His decision to decisively change the cold war terms of engagement was hardly small government conservative. He defended American companies like Harley.

    What has happened since is conservatives have become amoral globalists and Darwinian in dismissal of fellow citizens. Their intellectual class is long on theory and very short on actual experience and accomplishment.
    Go back to using conservative ideals in the service of the national interest and they might have a prayer.

    • Avatartitus says:

      Thanks for reading!
      I think you’re right about the need to bring back the National Interest. It is foolish to keep talking about how America & rest of the world are basically best friends, now or soonest…
      The way I think about what you’re saying is best expressed for Americans in the terms of the pomocons: We’re facing a liberal-libertarian convergence & it’s not clear where those who think the way we do even fit in the public discourse!
      The libertarians are bringing individualism to the table: If you’re super-smart with aid of a computer, an organization, networking, privilege–whatever gets you there–you’ll do fine. You’ll be moving around a lot–you don’t need to worry about the past. If you’re not, you’ll get distractions galore & if you’re destroyed, it’s by your own vices, mostly.
      The liberals are bringing the welfare-healthcare state to the table, they hope on libertarian money: You’re not part of the super-duper crowd? We’ll have the government deal with you. You won’t be able to smoke–except, possibly weed–& you won’t be able to drink & your kids in school will be drugged. But you’ll be part of the new way of things & belonging will satisfy you more than anything else you’ve got.

      What’s being left out is exactly politics & prudence, as you said: Standing up for Americans both because they’re Americans & because they really do have a better country than others that does not go around exterminating or what have you. Standing up within the country for the people who get left behind, or else it’s not really a country.
      Instead of politics & prudence, there’s only taking for granted the working classes, the warrior classes–& really everyone who does not fit into the future, which belongs first to the super-productive classes & secondarily–as scraps–to the hipster classes that serve them (every billionaire needs a guru!, & yoga!, & transcendental meditation!, & hipster teachers for the kids!)
      What it takes for people who have political responsibilities willy-nilly–what it takes for them to learn this is not how things can work or should work–I don’t know. I don’t know if things can be fixed.
      But I’m for fixing things. Now, that means Sen. Cruz. But it also means other things. Doing the long, depressive work of telling conservatives who dream there is a future for their decent, private way of life–telling them that it’s going to come at a great cost. They’re either taking the nation with them; or it’s over for them or at least their children.
      I’m confident: I was saying this when people were telling me, there’s no social class in America, are you a Communist? Now, people say, well, sure, we gotta talk to these other people we used to ignore, but we can’t throw away the free market! That’s progress I can believe in–it’s not enough, but it’s what’s happening now. It’s what we gotta work to improve.
      So people now need safe spaces for conservatism that are not echo chambers for the golden oldies of the free market is it & all of it. I hope I can say something that people will think is worth listening.
      I don’t know what else is really worth saying: It’s gotta be about giving something they need to both factions & getting them to move on–that’s moving on to a future crisis down the line, but something livable. It’s not perfect solutions, but right now it’s absolutely necessary that the conservatives learn what it would mean to treat the lower classes like they’re real people!

  2. Avatartitus says:

    Sorry I’m ranting again!

  3. TKC1101TKC1101 says:

    You would have Dennis Miller jealous of that rant. It is both hilarious and on target

  4. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    ?When did “conservatism” morph into universal soldier.

    What I hear from conservatives today isn’t all that different from what I hear from the liberals. “Build a bigger Navy, increase the military, crush ISIS, get rid of Boko Haram,” Note that Clinton is making the case that the Libyans “deserved a chance for democracy”. ?Says who.

    The winning case that Trump makes is one of minding ones own business, and bloodying the nose of any who interfer. That does mean that when ISIS attacks us we clobber them. It does NOT mean we provide Libyia with “the chance for democracy”.

    I heard my own Gen. Mattis make the case that the Taliban is such evil that we are obliged to exterminate it (or at least to fight it into retreat). Evil has been here since the Garden of Eden; we are hardly likely to remove it from the face of the earth. So we return once again to just what IS the national interest.

    Politicians are suppose to be cold, hard fact sifters. They haven’t been such in our nation since at least FDR. Instead they are a bunch of utopians who then scream epithets at anyone who disagrees with them. Modern “conservatives” seem to have walked the same road; they just don’t swear as much.

    Donald Trump brings discussion of what is good for US back on the table. ?Isn’t that where the discussion should be. Political Correctness has mostly barred such discussion.

    • Avatartitus says:

      I think talk about the national interest is indeed very important. I think, however, that one reason the GOP loses big is that our side does not take sufficiently seriously the national character.

      Of course, we need to fight against the people who turn politics into wish-fulfillment. But I do not believe you can have an American foreign policy that represents the national character without now & then destroying really evil dudes.

      Just like Americans do not have a great interest in long-running foreign policy schemes, however beneficial to the national interest.

      These things have to be considered seriously in the light of statesmanship: Giving the various factions something they can live with while advancing the good of the community.

      So we have to fight against political correctness; taking a basic understanding of justice as minding one’s business is necessary; but also, it is necessary to give people with political passions a job to do in which they can find dignity. Without both elements, it’s not going to work.

      I’m not saying the people are as guilty as the governing classes–I’m only saying that we need a thinking that goes beyond revenge, that avoids the temptation to declare freedom dead, & that instead is able to find within the ever-more-democratic national character American resources for a decent order & tolerably prudent policy.

      It’s difficult, but not impossible. It requires primarily a lot of work to build friendship where people are tempted by tit-for-tat thinking to abandon citizenship. I’m perpetually surprised that I say these things to my American friends, but the truth is, it’s gotta be said.

      Aside from the practical consideration that an American crisis of confidence would be the end of freedom in my own native land & elsewhere, I have a preference for free peoples & their tumults, & all civilized freedom depends on American in our age. It’s a pretty great country still; the last decade or couple of decades have not destroyed that. With some work to make up for the troubles recently caused by Dems; & some work to make the GOP & conservatives aware of what country they’re living in & how to deal with that country, not only their own principles or beliefs, so that the good things that have happened in this generation can do good for the country as a country–things could change enough for people to feel confident & restore some of that American pride.

      Aside from reporters or researchers, I think that’s the proper task of journalism & opinionating & all that. I’m pretty glad to have a chance to do it, as you can see, gratis-

    • DevereauxDevereaux says:

      There is a reason Trump is winning so much. Certainly no rational person can confuse him with a conservative, or libertarian. Nor can one honestly find him “non-establishment”.

      But what Trump is saying is clearly what much of the populace wants to hear. The divide between the ruling elite and the rest of the nation is becoming larger and larger. There seems to be very little concern for the “average guy” in the nation any more.

      I think this observation goes along with the lack of national interest. The ruling elite are all internationalists. Certainly that was ALSO true of the communists, and since so much of what is spewed from the RE IS communism in one form or another, what is needed is to somehow mobilize the average man in a revolt against “the masters”. I believe this would upset the established GOP, but most of them are simply slightly different thinking RE’s anyway. Yet like so many other demagogues, Trump sounds the siren song and they become lemmings.

      You did say Ted would be the pick. I am doubtful, but await Indiana. If he loses there, then I have little hope there is an easy way out of this mess and we are in for a long, dry spell.

  5. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    OK. The show isn’t over until the fat lady sings. But everyone is piling dirt on Cruz’s grave. He is dead, he is finished, he can’t get the nomination, etc.

    ?So what now. Supposedly the nomination fight does NOT include Kasich as the convention rules stand now. I think that’s interesting but don’t know the truth of that.

    ?So where do we go next. I am totally loath to vote for Kasich or Trump – just not sure I can pull the lever for either. I know all the arguments about SCOTUS etc, but nothing the republicans have done gives me any confidence either of the two mentioned would get the job done.

  6. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    My hope is that we have all become addicted to the 24-hour news cycle. These talking heads are bobbling about this and that when in fact there MAY be more going on behind the scenes.

    Else we may well be doomed.

  7. NandaNanda says:

    I think the Ship of Doom sailed when we – not I, be it said – reelected BHO…Anyway, I agree re; behind-the-scenes; ready with the tonic-and-lime and popcorn, since my strategic vote here (not my actual preference) has been cast. Sharpening a new pencil for the write-in later…Good to see you both!

  8. NandaNanda says:

    TT, I <3 your enthusiasm, but Trump's populist persona is just that – as is his Republicanism. He is an opportunistic, boorish, unserious (and here's the important part) *progressive* – not liberal – DEMOCRAT. We can learn manipulation and self-promotion from this man, but little else.

    • NandaNanda says:

      2/…And we were a circular firing-squad for 7-8 long months, rather than trying to neutralize his sabotage. See Reince, Jeb, and even Cruz: Sheesh!

    • Avatartitus says:

      I don’t mean we need to learn from the guy–except, of course, how to defend ourselves from people like him.
      I mean there’s a lot to learn about the people who support him. I think they’re ultimately wrong & might do America harm, but it’s the job of politicians & people who take a great interest in politics to understand the electorate & offer people reasonable political choices that people will take. If you’re not persuading the electorate, you’re not doing the job right-

  9. NandaNanda says:

    Under Reince, et al., certainly not. It’s more than ‘not doing it right, though…Conservatism assumes at least a minimal consensus on what America *is*, and who her citizens are: That they are self-directed/self-determining. Subsidiarity is a watchword here, for me. But, for this to work, we need to stand athwart the special little snowflake/safe-space culture yelling: “Not that!…This, instead.” I’m not ready to give up on the Reagan-Kemp-Ryan-Rubio, et al. approach quite yet; but I have jettisoned a GOP that let itself get bullied. Good to chat here, btw…How’re you?

  10. Avatartitus says:

    So yeah, Sen. Cruz is out & Mr. Trump is in & the party is damn near collapse. I’ve spent months not publishing my thoughts on these matters, because I’ve seen enough bomb-throwers on our side of the fence.

    I’ll have to shut up some more–people are at this point busy blaming each other for what’s happened. The mutual hatred is far from spent. Even people who know each other transform real persons into instruments of ideology or class interest… I’m not interested in making things worse.

    My only consolation is my anonymity. But among us, folks, I think it’s fair to say: Our only political hope is to continue in ways theoretical & practical to separate Mr. Trump from his electorate.

    One practical way is the losing campaign #neverTrump. That’s turned out to be far less practical than people hoped. That’s evidence, from my point of view, that moralism ain’t strategy.

    Another way was the Cruz campaign–very astute, but wrong about where the electorate is, as shown by the last desperate move of tapping Mrs. Fiorina, who has absolutely no record or credibility or trust with the working classes.

    Others are write-in campaigns or third parties. Don’t count’em out, yet.

    If you want to know even more strange ways, drafting generals to lead a conservative movement that’s actually popular might be a good idea. How ’bout Mad Dog himself? His name comes up now & again… It’s American as apple pie: When in doubt, nominate a victorious general.

    But I think you might see how theory can have an urgency of its own. The difference between theoretical accounts & practical accounts in our case is, psychologically, that theoretical accounts do not seek to destroy reputations & vilify people; & such accounts have another kind of detachment, too, which is much in need now: They are able to distinguish nobility from success.

    Americans have a world-famous predilection for solutions over problems, which sometimes turns into success-worship, the open secret behind most political campaigns, including this one. But sometimes the good guys do not win.

    So folks, do not trust the moralistic people who explain to you that there is someone to blame for the collapse who is worth all of hatred & contempt–even if it sounds good. People who talk that way do not know the first thing about bringing a community together.

    Do not trust people who predict the end is near or upon us–that’s about the laziest thing to say right now.

    & if you find anyone who is willing to learn lessons from what’s happening–as opposed to ‘teaching lessons’, which is always a concealment for love of punishment–pay attention to that guy & let me know about him, too.

    • NandaNanda says:

      Gen. Mattis has categorically, with great regret, declined, again, TT. But that doesn’t mean I won’t write him in…Btw, #NeverTrump isn’t mere ‘moralism’ – philosophically, politically, logistically, etc. – then morally – it’s a categorical rejection of the man as a Democrat (Republican of opportunity) who is erratic, unserious, and dangerously unfit…New options for a vehicle to express conservatism abound. The GOP is dead. Conservatism is in the wilderness, perhaps for good. But, there you go…

    • Avatartitus says:

      Conservatism is in big trouble. It seems to be the first time conservatives have to really ask themselves what they’ve got to do & what they’ve got left to offer America. I agree, for the most part, with the sentiments of the #neverTrump crowd, precisely because, as you say, it’s not just a moralistic rejection. But that crowd has no idea how to get what they want or who could help them–that’s understandable in the case of citizens who do not live their lives involved in politics, but it’s inexcusable in the case of the people who make a living out of politics!

      Conservatives have long talked like they know the future & can make it happen. It sounds like a pretty good future to me. But nobody apparently can persuade Americans when it counts the most.

      So I see a big distinction between conservatism as a political movement–one of these days, I’m going to write down a brief theory of this strange American way of thinking about politics in ‘movements’–& conservatism as a kind of private faith. The faith is doing far better than the political part, because faith does not have any form or institution.

      Up to now, the conservative complaint has been: We have a messaging problem. We need a conservative politician who seems so American to the electorate that they vote for him.–This did not mean that conservatism was ever going to have to change anything serious to be politically responsible & deserving.–Now, I believe, this might change. The usual complaints that Sen. McCain was no real conservative or Mr. Romney or what have you–these complaints have been rendered unimportant by conservatism finally being separated from a political party in a contested nomination. Conservatism as practiced in America seems to be abandoning politics. It is time to rethink it.

      I think the rethinking has to focus on a simple thing: People have to stop thinking of the Constitution & of decent order as moral property & the beginning point for political conversations or political thought. Conservatives have to learn that they do not know the Constitution as they think they do. Instead, it should be an end-point: Constitutional politics is what you arrive at, God & nature willing, by long, difficult political actions in America as it is now, not as it is hypothesized to have been one or two centuries back.

  11. Avatartitus says:

    So it’s time to make a Mad Dog movie, then! At the very least more Americans should learn about the man & be inspired by him. I think at this point, most Americans don’t know anything really about men. They might recognize a manly man when they see one, although I fear even that is somewhat uncertain, but they would not know to name one man & would not have spent any time trying to understand what makes him a man. I find it hard to blame the soft ruthlessness of the times when people have so little experience or imagination of manliness-

    • DevereauxDevereaux says:

      THIS! Add to it the wholesale disconnect between the principles that founded the nation and what we have today.

      It is important to note that we are not in the hollows of doom. If you look around, you find plenty. The vaunted “poor” are richer than many in many other nations. We have everything. Everyone has a big screen TV, a car, a smart phone (except me – and even I am getting one in a month, when they arrive). Very few anywhere are hungry and then it’s mostly because they don’t choose to take advantage of the numerous sources of food and shelter (usually in favour of drink).

      I believe what people are upset with is the same conditions that prevailed in the 30’s – for the same reasons. Government is everywhere, yet people don’t find their lives improved. If you’re a whizzkid it’s easy to work; if you’re just a regular guy, work is much harder to find. Government has made so many arbitrary decisions, so many intrusions into our daily lives. They have been picking winners and losers rather than allowing the market to do that.

      Meanwhile obvious positions we as a nation ought to be taking vis a vis other nations isn’t happening. One may not have the perfect response, but it’s clear that the one that IS being put forth is wrong. People “feel” it.

  12. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    So perhaps we need two teams – a strategic one, looking at the long goal and how to get there, and a tactical one, looking at how to combat the local, immediate threats posed by liberalism. BOTH require that we formulate a plan, create an approach.

    Someone somewhere sent me an article in which the premise was that John Roberts in his Obamacare sell-out created Donald Trump. He claims what Roberts said was that the law would not address what was clearly an unconstitutional act and the people would have to find their own demagoge. They went out and did, the counter to Obama being Trump.

  13. Avatartitus says:

    I think I can clarify some of what you’re saying, Mr. Devereaux.
    1. Government intrusiveness. Back in the ’30s, government was destroying enormous quantities of food while people starved. That’s a kind of insanity. This is no longer done. But now, unlike then, government really is involving itself in newer & newer ways, without ever stopping any of the old intrusions.
    So the character of the intrusion has changed: It is no longer a matter of doing big things, but of infinitely many little things. This is a move from politics to administration.

    2.But what is the cause of government intrusion?
    Well, here we have a problem. Cause in politics is more complicated than in physics: A cause is the source of a change, which we call effect–that which is done. But a cause also calls you forth to do something–it calls you forth to effect it–you’re the cause in that case.
    For polemical reasons–we’re conservatives, so the liberals are evil or vice versa–people conveniently forget this when they attribute the worst reasons they can to their political adversaries.
    So the government is called forth to act for the common good in times of crisis. Unfortunately, crisis shares in the double character of cause.
    Look to your experience: Whenever crisis opens up, one thing people do is start blaming other people or themselves. That is because they think they have brought it about or failed to prevent it. That’s the natural understanding of crisis. You throw a rock–it hits something.
    But others think of crisis in terms of problem-and-solution or as a personal challenge or offense or as an opportunity to shine. It calls forth their best. This is the manlier way, not least because it has focus on the practical matter; respect for urgency is manly.

    So what we mean by crisis has gradually slipped from one thing to the other. FDR felt he had to do something to save the country. Sometimes he was right: World War II. But other times, one suspects he was more than a little influenced by what we see nowadays, his political legacy: He had to change the country so it stopped provoking crises.
    I said before that this shifts America from politics to administration. I’m not sure Americans are opposed to it, although I’m sure they should be. I’ll add something here, at some point problem-solving, which is always a temptation for Americans, turns people’s lives into problems to be solved. Politics becomes a theoretical science to be applied on people, will they or nil they.
    Previously, the political science was considered a practical science, that is, one concerned with human affairs & incapable of theoretical accuracy or a full rationalization of human life. But now we have the media, which instead of mediating between the American people & the few ones they elect to govern, bring them far too close for comfort on either side. & we have polls, which rationalize things even quicker & more persuasively, because Americans are more inclined to obey science than, as Lincoln said, to strive with ‘with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.’

    So it’s worth thinking about whether people want more politics or more administration. This is constantly troubling. For example, now some people think of Mr. Trump as a man because he is successful & he struts. At best, he’s a ruthless vulgarian. It is not possible to be a man without some sense of honor. Maybe the reliance on science has destroyed the understanding of the political implications of manliness. Men know that they are responsible for the protection & well-being of others. It is always a question with men whether they feel superior to that which they protect, because they have the power to protect, or inferior, because they protect out of a sense of duty or love. There is no such conundrum in the world of administration; human beings do not have a claim on the attention or intentions of administrators; correspondingly, manliness turns into ruthlessness on both sides of the governing-governed divide.

    3.To decide whether people think of politics or merely administration is really to ask about the importance of the legislature. The legislature is only important if human life is essentially striving–if human beings are naturally opinionated & can never come to obey authority fully & faithfully. Fighting things out in laws is the best you’ve got then. But if human life has been rationalized to the point where the regulatory state administers Americans instead of American politicians who can be thrown out by Americans–well, then, new vistas open: Perpetual peace & harmony are on the horizon, if not nearer.
    In short, that would be a world fit for women, but not for men or children, who will always fight for one thing or another…

    But is that actually what we see? No, we see petty tyrants give rise to petty tyrants. Mr. Trump is really & truly a creature of the times. But he brings out the worst in the times, not the best. This is itself a quiet refutation of the doctrine of progress. Think about the political situation in this election. People who vote for Sen. Sanders seem to be saying: We do not wish to sell our souls to Satan! Even in a corrupt party ruled, really, by the kinds of sinister old white people that liberals fantasize about when they say the name conservatism–even there large parts of the electorate cannot sell their souls. I say, good for them, that’s the American fighting spirit. But can people who vote for Mr. Trump really say that? I don’t think so, for one. The failure of Sen. Cruz is not only his own–it also shows the people voting in the primaries had a choice between a good demagogue & a bad one: Between a man who knows right from wrong & a man who only knows how to abuse any laws or forms or manners he can to get what he wants.
    It is dishonest, ultimately to ask Chief Justice Roberts to arbitrate the biggest political fight in a generation. Americans are not a race obedient to formalities. They would destroy the Supreme Court in a fit of pique if it dared to arbitrate massive partisan fights in the legislature or executive. There is nothing the Justices could do to defend themselves or their institution. But if the GOP or conservatives do not want to win elections or cannot do it, the notion that they can rule through SCOTUS is a fantasy.
    So this is 2016: The Dems have literally nobody who dares run for office but that weirdo socialist. But it is the GOP that self-destructs. Conservatives have hard lessons to learn about what politics really is & how to judge politicians. One year back, I was telling people conservative moralism–sticking to principle as though there were no America to care about but only the realm of principles–was going to lose the election. People answered, well, it’s the establishment’s fault, they always cheat us & we always lose, &c. Not so fast with the excuses: Maybe the establishment did cause the newfound anger that’s burning down the party & destroying any legitimacy any conservative institution may have been supposed to have had.
    But it is the conservatives who have caused this anger to destroy everything & choose demagoguery over Constitution or law or really anything that could put limits on destructive anger.

  14. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    You envision an America that does not fit my sense of my country. Ever since Madison vs Marbury the SCOTUS has deemed to arbitrate what is said and done at the court. Look at Roe vs Wade. There was an arbitration of political conflict that has torn the nation apart ever since.

    Go back to the 30’s. The Helvering case totally tossed on its head 100+ years of jurisprudence to accomodate a president who was doing unconstitutional things. Up to then FDR was frustrated because the court kept pointing out that the moves he was making were unconstitutional.

    Please note that what the court did was CHANGE THE LAW, not arbitrate what was within the law. In the same way Roberts changed the law. His ruling was so blatently bad it matches the worst of the rulings of the SCOTUS for years. He acted as wantonly as Cardozo did in Helvering, Carolene Products, and Wickard.

    The problem is that the court doesn’t seem to step in to preserve the constitution but only to destroy it. Obamacare, and the “tax” on those who don’t buy it is SO BLATANTLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL that in my view any justice who didn’t see it that way ought to be impeached if that were possible. Certainly villified for the rest of his/her life. As should those who voted for Roe vs Wade, yet another huge travesty of justice, never mind the moral questions.

    Notice that when the courts rule FOR the left, never mind that a majority of the people do NOT agree with the ruling (as in Roberts ruling on Obamacare) nothing happens or is said. But you say he shouldn’t be held responsible for “political” fights. It wasn’t a political fight concerning Obamacare. It was a one sided tyrranical imposition. There wasn’t a single republican voting for it, and even a number of democrats needed bribery to vote for it as they knew their constituents were against it. And many of them lost their seats over this.

    If you fight political fights within the framework of the law then you can have meaningful fights AND you get to limit the power of the government. That is suppose to be the purpose of the SCOTUS – not to enable the various and sundry, often illegal, moves of government but to keep everyone inside the corral. It hasn’t worked that way. SCOTUS, and Roberts particularly in the Obamacare case, simply didn’t do their job.

    No one denies the left the ability to change the constitution. Indeed, they managed to do that over senatorial elections, a huge mistake for the nation, and establishing income tax. I may not like those amendments but they were done properly (sort of – there is some evidence that the legislature lied about the income tax state passage). This is just lawlessness – which is what the left does best.

    • NandaNanda says:

      With you here, Dev…Find myself leaning toward Austin Petersen (LP). He says: “I’m running to leave you alone.” [Coolidge-style] Pro-life, pro-2A, would put Andrew Nepalitano on the SCOTUS. Not religious himself, but feels we must safeguard religious liberty; no federalizing of abortion, marriage, healthcare, allow opt-outs of Social Security for Millennials, means-test, “penny plan” for budgets/balanced-budget amendment, flat-tax, etc. What say you, now that Mattis has definitively declined?

  15. Avatartitus says:

    So about the relation between the powers of government.

    1. I think it’s a matter of fact that abortion is not a political fight for Americans. I will try to show this, taking for granted that Roe v. Wade & the other decisions did violence to the Constitution & to our understanding of what’s right!

    Conservatives are sometimes tricked into saying things that outrage the part of the people that shows outrage. But that’s it. After more than forty years, no one is willing to do anything about Roe v. Wade. No real fights. There has never been a presidential contest about it; nor an intra-party platform fight.

    Liberals are not afraid anymore of conservatives. Conservatives had their shot with Casey–& they not only messed it up, but have never tried since–& nobody paid any price. Liberals correctly understood that conservatives would not organize to overthrow the ugliest piece of law since segregation! Conservatives have not managed to get the GOP to fight for their conscience. & they have not done anything else. In more than forty years–more than twenty since Casey. It’s because Americans do not really care.

    Ask Americans their opinion: Mostly, they’re conservative on abortion–not as firmly as some of us would like, but far closer to us than to the liberal position. There was a time when this scared liberals into the Clintonian phrase ‘safe, available, & rare.’ Which was a lie that comforted the nation. Now, not even that is necessary. Because we do not fight.

    I don’t mean it’s the fault of one politician or a few justices or something like that: All of us, it’s our fault. There is no outrage that moves people enough to form institutions & change the way we think enough to change the way politicians talk & act.

    2. The New Deal. FDR said times changed & democracy in America required new institutions. SCOTUS fought him for a while, but then they gave up, in fear. FDR had a party. The party ran Congress. Congress has the constitutional authority to change the number of Justices &c. FDR’s courrt-packing scheme was so vulgar that his own Dems rejected it. But had he not had his way about the New Deal, they would not have rejected it. FDR ran all three branches of government. Not in a direct way, or unfailingly, but I feel that our moral outrage leads us to underestimate the man & his times.

    America, faced with FDR, wanted more FDR. Reagan & Ike were ok with lots of the New Deal. It has been constitutionalized the way Americans prefer: By subsequent elections. It’s un-Constitutional, but it’s part of the constitution. Its status is not settled, but nobody is trying to undo it. Americans do not have another recourse beyond elections–that is electoral majorities. FDR inaugurated liberal domination in Congress for more than half a century. There is a reason for this. The GOP did not have real fight in them. This is not necessarily the party’s fault–Americans may simply have not given them a chance.

    But these are important facts to consider. The Constitution, happily, has never been transformed, such that if Americans want to learn from it, they still can. But the conservative fantasy of a pre-New Deal America does not correspond with the politics of America since the election of 1936. That began the practical process of ratification of FDR’s New Deal. Like 2012 began a new process.

    These are not necessarily forever or for long in the case of Obamacare. But if conservatives now try like they tried in the ’30s to go back to Coolidge–it’s going to end up the same way. Coolidge had no idea what was coming in the new age of democracy. FDR did. In order to be as respectable as Coolidge, we can only do one thing: Become as astute as FDR. Both are important to America, but only one knows democratic politics.

    We will learn or we will lose again. I’m for learning. I don’t think the Constitution is the beginning of politics. It is the end–the purpose–we will get more Constitutional politics if we start from where we are & move in that direction, guided by both the Constitution & the most astute politicians, friendly or unfriendly.

  16. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    I would agree that “learning” is figuring out how to win. Winning will take a lot of convincing of people. It will most likely take a gradual change in how things are done rather than a revolutionary change. Still, one needs to form the intellectual floor for such change.

    The constitution is a paper. In that sense it can be studied to try to glean from it wisdom, which is surely found in its construction. However, you are correct that so far no conservative has managed to find the correct message to motivate the people.

    But it will come. I listen to my children and their friends and they all speak of how they have been screwed by our generation. That happens to be true. With some more zest there we might find the essence of the revolution there. Certainly the current crop of “conservatives” have been hopelessly futile in their efforts.

  17. Avatartitus says:

    Oh, I agree about the fallout from the Boomers! I’m not sure how politics will change to face it. The last act of the Boomers is yet to be consummated: Politics will be redefined by healthcare costs. The Boomers, for all that ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’ stuff, might teach America that the future is old people, not children. These are strange times.

    This rather worrying change, especially because it will force younger Americans to pony up, might indeed offer conservatism an opening; younger people might see some sense & meet conservatives part of the way. I am less sanguine about the chances for conservatives to figure out where the voters are & take it from there.

    Often, with conservatives I’ve talked or read–it seems to offend them that they have to respect the opinions & deal with the experiences of people not as moral or responsible as themselves…

    • MLHMLH says:

      The boomers are pretty demanding and, I’ve been saying for at least 4 or 5 years, they are going to bankrupt us. At the time, I didn’t think they’d do so morally, too. (Full disclosure: born in ’60, I’m one of them.)

    • Avatartitus says:

      You’re one of the good ones, M!

      That’s a strange joke to make. For most of the last half-century, America has been to a large extent caught up with what will the Boomers do next. I think the public imagination might now be taken over by the young, but I’m not sure the Boomers have had any real competition since the mid-60s. There was always an assumption that innovation is pretty good & that they’re all about innovation. That’s how they’d escape the fate of all generations: Becoming part of the past. This would be the first American generation not set in their ways–their ways would keep changing & not merely in a slavish way–not merely as imitation of newer generations.

      This was high ambition in a way. But old age & necessity & fear come upon them now. It started with Medicare & it’s ending with Medicare part D. It shoulda been called Medicare Act III. I’m afraid of how much influence the cost of medicine will have on people’s lives, thoughts, & politics. I think even the Boomers deserve better than to be defined by it, but it might happen…

      Well, I won’t keep ranting about this–it just came to mind. I think that maybe your responsible attitude & knowing who you are will not only serve you well, but make you stand out in the future even more than now. To live your life in some relation to your judgment–which, really, is what is possible for us by way of living in the present–might mark you for a creature from a lost past as people become future-obsessed in fear, as opposed to the previous times, when future-obsession was hopeful…

  18. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    Well, I’m at the front of the Boomers, being born in ’46. And I for one would love to see a market resolution to most things, since I firmly believe that the market offers the most economical resolution of all things economic. It just needs competition, and that generally means keeping the government out of it. Those turkeys keep thinking they are smarter – or better – or more “kind” – or who knows what and every time things get worse.

  19. Avatartitus says:

    Yeah, I’m for the market, too. I’ve always been rather poor, but it does not really bother me; certainly, it does not change my opinions about the soundness of the old liberal ideas about the marketplace.

    What has changed is this. When I was a boy, I thought libertarian arguments were going to revolutionize the world. After Reagan & Thatcher, over a decade or two, people were going to change–Messers Clinton & Blair had felt the need to reformulate their own parties’ platforms to accommodate the new libertarianism in economics. Surely, that would mean an important, maybe even decisive victory for the free market. I saw in my own woe-begone country what miracles the free markets make possible! But it is not so.

    I think I am not a boy anymore; I no longer believe arguments make that much a difference or that speeches or even manipulation make that much a difference. The parties are locked in a far too serious fight. & it is turning into a class difference.

    Conservatives & libertarians have proved unwilling or unable to persuade the poorer people in America–& elsewhere–to have faith in the free market as a kind of national community–not the only or most important one, but the one needed to stave off government control of, eventually, everything!

    If I could persuade people to turn into free-market libertarians, I’d do it–not too enthusiastically, but I’d do it. My reservations about the kinds of people who become very public, influential success stories are great; but my fear of a breakdown in confidence & national community is far greater. I’d rather put up with fools like Mr. Zuckerberg than see America turn to class warfare like in Latin America.

    But none of us can do this–it is going to take something else than free-market arguments to do it. Milton Friedman in every home is not going to make Americans trust the markets, like you & I do. I used to recommend to everyone to read Hayek or Mr. Sowell or what have you; had dozens of books of theirs; I spent a year away from school reading up & thinking through our latter-day free market economics. At the end, I had changed my mind. So I have turned away from libertarian economists. They’re good people, but they don’t know politics.

  20. DevereauxDevereaux says:

    “Knowing politics” is hardly an ideological trait. Yes the communists are better propogandists, but only for a bit. In the end, they fail because their system fails. So will ours.

    The question, then, is not will this system succeed – it will until it fails. The question is how many can be made to remember what freedom is like and what it requires.

    The 4 basic virtues are great stuff but they require an additonal component – neighborliness. One has to be willing and to actually DO help out one’s neighbors. Society is a self-help organization. To the degree that everyone is simply out for dog-eat-dog, nothing progresses. We lose. It’s the will to pitch in and help that makes a society worth living in.

    • Avatartitus says:

      People don’t see it this way & I don’t think there’s any reason to expect enough people will change their minds to form a majority. & we’re talking about America, almost the only place where people do live together as neighbors in peaceful prosperity.

      Is there any likely event that would persuade people to act more in the way conservatives prefer?

      If not, it is high time for conservatives to change their mind about what politics means. People who believe in their hearts that only a flat-tax free market system is just–people who believe in their hearts that most of the government should be dismantled–these can be good people or decent people, but they cannot involve themselves in national politics.

      The people does not believe what they believe. & in politics one does not get to transform the people in the name of one’s wisdom. It’s tough, but that’s what it is…

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