Freshly back from one of those political confabs where business cards get passed around like canapes and, ideally, fatigued activists get a boost, I’ve been thinking (still) about the grave problems that face the GOP, right-sympathetic Independents, and all the satellite organizations of the American Rightwing.
As such, this may come off as the product of a sleep-deprived mind inside a body whose feet still hurt from stiletto evening sandals.
There’s my first idea; this is not a will-they-or-won’t-they question about the Republican’s ability to return to relevancy and become a party that steers rather than reacts to events. This is the quite real matter of what, if anything, there is to do to halt the slide of limited-government and individual rights ideals into the irrevocably passe. You can despise the party-proper and still admit that GOP fortunes are a barometer for the fortunes of a larger collection of cause and groups.
It is barely within the realm of the possible that a better class of operatives will effect a quiet coup with the party’s most rarefied echelons, but allowing the GOP to go the way of Whigs without building something in it stead is no solution. Right now, the Republicans are dangerous. Say what you will, I am telling you the GOP is nowhere near death. Indefinite irrelevance with decay nibbling at the edges and occasional squawks of outrage from consultants on their way to lunch is a more realistic outcome for the current path.
I am not confident that Democrats will soon give America a screaming case of buyer’s remorse and that the GOP can collect the spoils of that. 2010, among other years, was an election where the center-right counted on Obama pissing off enough people that his opponents could profit off the misery. Hoping the bozo on the other side of the aisle stumbles badly and frequently is a given; it is not sufficient.
Such a strategy is just another manifestation of luxuriating in the failure of others and profiting from the misery immoral men inflict. Where’s the proactive and decisive GOP? Where’s the party that has anything – anything at all – that is an original idea, a contrast to big government rather than a reaction?
A lot of people who are not Republicans and who might become violent if portrayed as one still hold ideas about the rule of government that are gasping, if not moribund. Secretly wishing the GOP would just die already and let the competent adults fill the space deeply understandable, but the reality is, as ever, muddier. For one thing, what exactly is the ‘establishment’ of the right? The ‘establishment’ or the ‘ruling class’ are always composed of others; no one admits to belonging and some deny its existence. I can’t give you a hard definition, but I can tell you it’s vulgar, exploitative, contributes nothing to the culture, and, perhaps the prime trait, exists purely for self-enrichment.
Like porn, just less fun.
There’s another issue to be grappled with; do we even have a definable set of people who constitute the real decision makers within the GOP and its auxiliaries? Must they all go? How much is worth tolerating in order to achieve worthy aims?
I am, I think, willing to stomach rather a lot in terms of prima donna theatrics and generally loutish behavior from someone who can elect a great candidate or push through the right policy. Realpolitik is something you either learn to love or you remain a grotesquely ineffective armchair moral philosopher finding fault in every strategy without ever contributing anything constructive, talking as if the simplified hypotheticals of dusty textbooks represent the real world.
But I can’t readily think of any one of those prima donnas who does have a victory record sufficient to atone for his (or her) flaws. I think that’s something I’ve been saying for a while, now. Whatever skills they might have, the people at the top aren’t hard workers and they aren’t accomplishing enough to forgive them for the cronyism, the arrogance, the gut-churning fealty to clients over any of their publicly stated goals. We are, as a movement, past the point of deciding what we can tolerate from a capable star player. It’s time to consider how one might eject a ruling class and ensure the replacement aristocracy doesn’t rot quite so quickly.
One thing I have noticed from the chattering class is (Quelle surprise!) a proclivity to describe the problem, whine at bitter length, and describe the ideal outcome. That, my friends, is the Underwear Gnome approach to policy. ‘We aren’t winning! This is terrible! Let’s win! Let me spend twice the speaking time allotted to me to tell you what I wish we had!’
That is not a feature isolated to the right or even to politics. It’s actually what 99% of the people will do in any situation where there is a problem. Because it’s easy. Identifying what’s wrong with a given situation at the meta-level is actually very easy. Watch me do it right now. Children in poor nations die of treatable diseases. Ta-da! Really, plenty of people make a comfortable living by announcing the existence of problems and doing nothing else. The most worthless of the chatterers stick to whining about the class of problems where no one will challenge you – seriously, who is publicly going to disagree with the statement that children dying needlessly is a bad thing? If they do venture out of that safe zone, they frame their whining in non-normative tones or they lay the fault on people at the other end of the political spectrum.
For instance, when kvetching about all those suffering and dying children in the developing world, a really top-notch pundit pretends there are no obvious, if questionable, reasons why they problem isn’t long since corrected: treating everyone on the planet for everything is a massive expense, aide work can be wearying and dangerous, some regimes don’t want to allow First World agencies inside their borders, and on and on. Alternately, just blame the other side: Democrats don’t want to solve problems because then they couldn’t continue to use the problem as soapbox and Republicans aren’t interested in helping anyone who isn’t white and already rich. Both are tawdry and profoundly unserious stereotypes and neither does anything toward solving a problem. In fact, a good bit of what partisan pundits (which is all of them) really do is use prattling on about some woe as a pretense to lay into the guys on the other side. If you ever seen any programming on a political network, you know precisely what I’m getting at.
And I hypothesize that the same thing is going on with the current debate about what’s wrong with the right. Within the greater sphere of the right, the talk is too often a regurgitation of known facts, a bland restatement of already agreed upon foundational ideas, and then the fantastic painting of a gauzy future where all is right. When the left comments on GOP re-branding efforts, it’s overwhelmingly a sentence acknowledging that at least some right-wing operatives are trying to correct systemic errors and then a long rehearsal of grievances and a wildly biased summation to the effect that it won’t work because the GOP is full of human beings only one chromosome removed from being a demon. It’s very clever, all that. What takes the aspect of serious journalism about the crisis facing a major party almost instantaneously descends into the ‘People who won’t accept collectivism suck and are evil and we’re going to win’ article that left-leaning sites already publish roughly 47 bazillion times a day.
Just now, I think rightwing fortunes may be even worse off then I thought when first ruefully surveying the post-November landscape. The best the entire collection of right-leaning groups have done is admit there is a problem, more or less, and then cast blame into the vanishing distance.
Which about as far out as the next resounding political win for the right lies.
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