Saturday, December 22, 2007

This dates to October 16, 2007.

On general principle, I try very hard to avoid disagreeing with my fellow contributors anywhere but in the comment sections of their pieces; generally, it feels unseemly to turn the front page, or diaries, into a back-and-forth on some issue or another. This is just me; Heaven knows others have different perspectives, and have displayed them.

That said, I'm breaking that personal rule this time to take issue with almost everything Erick said here. Before I wander out on this thin-looking tree extension, I'd note that I have no small amount of respect for Erick as both a man and as a thinker. Generally, I don't publicly disagree with him because I have the luxury of seeing most of what he writes as essentially correct. Nothing that I write here changes any of that.

With that said, I think with respect to this specific piece, Erick's wrong in general, wrong in his initial premises, and wrong in most of his conclusions. I'll explain why below the fold, but I do want to ask you to follow me there, because there is one thing I think he's absolutely right about; and that one thing contains within it so much awful truth, I'd like you to not only tell me why I'm wrong, I'd like you to prove it.

I take issue more or less from the start.

Erick quotes approvingly Peggy Noonan (whom, I should add, I heart), for her question,

But it's something I often wonder: Why don't people in Washington go home anymore?
This particular question has been asked, so far as I know, twenty-seven of the thirty-one years of my life (and probably many times before that), and pretty well since a smiling guy from California, Noonan's old boss, was sworn into office on a blustery day in 1981. The answer, to any conservative who is not (as Ms. Noonan is) actually in love with humans, is that these people are humans. They have found a niche in which they discovered a place for themselves, and that niche is loaded with power and money they would not otherwise have. Respectfully, duh. While not by any stretch of the imagination a fan of term limits -- I believe people deserve the representation they're stupid enough to elect -- this is the most persuasive case I can imagine for them: That the men and women we send to the halls of power rarely leave of their own volition, and they work to keep themselves there at all costs. We remember and admire Washington and Cincinnatus not because they were normal, but because they were strange, great men, and forsook power to go back to being normal men. Men like Franklin Roosevelt, a cretin who held power until Death came and grabbed it from him, are the norm.

And we -- we being conservatives, we being Republicans -- are particularly shafted, because we do not send, as a general rule, our A team to Washington, or indeed, into government in general. Odd exceptions like Bobby Jindal and a handful of others I'm blessed to know or have met or have read about notwithstanding, our smart and capable people tend to run screaming from government because, well, they're conservative. Government service does not pay well, government service does not yield opportunities to unleash the human imagination, government service saps all that matters in life -- family, home, peace of mind -- and leaves a gray film over it. So generally, we send the slightly (or severely) stupid into battle for us, the slightly dim cousins we thought were safely locked in the basement to press our beliefs and policies, and then we all stand gobsmacked when they either mess up the presentation, get co-opted by the opposition, wander naked past Capitol City Brewing Company in broad daylight, or, worse, decide they never want to leave.

In other words, this is part of our lot in life. Sad, but true. So while Noonan's amazement (and by extension Erick's) is somewhat off-note, it does tie into Erick's critically correct insight. Which you'll have to keep reading to get.

Next, Erick laments:

The GOP has ceased to be a party of ideas. We have John Boehner playing to keep Jerry Lewis on the Appropriations Committee, despite his FBI investigation. He's added to the Appropriations Committee Ken Calvert, also under investigation.
Properly, there are two errors in here, one per thought.

First, the GOP was never the party of ideas. In point of fact, except for a brief portion of the 1994 mid-term election campaign, the GOP has been pretty darned awful at even having ideas. (This is, like so many other things, both a good and bad thing.) We earned and have retained the title Stupid Party, and by God, no one will wrest it from our hands. Look back at the start of the modern political era, which I date to 1960. Name a single GOP-spawned political idea. Go for it. Not a conservative, neoconservative (sorry, Ron, but they were the idea guys for a couple decades there), or libertarian one; not an idea spawned in the think tanks or by samizdat communique between conservative university professors; a GOP-spawned one. Ya can't. And this is because, oh, you know what I'm going to say, we send morons to government. We are talking, folks, about people who sent an embryonic-stem-cell research funding bill to the President, the head of their own Party, in the face of his veto threat and significant warnings from large segments of their own base, in an election year where they knew they'd have trouble anyway, and gave their opposition a wedge issue. Does this sound like people who have ideas larger than Make belt match shoes, ugh? The GOP was never the Party of ideas; it was the party of men who tried vainly to put good ideas into play, and usually failed.

The second is the suggestion that profound, complementary butt-covering is somehow something new (and suggestive) in GOP politics. It is not. Again, because we send morons to do our dirty work, we get the Boehners, we get the Lewises and Youngs and Stevenses, and we get the Packwoods and Gingriches and... Newsflash: When you send idiots somewhere with money and power, they are going to mess it up, awful. They are going to ride their gravy train until it runs off the track, and then they're going to grab everything that isn't nailed down and bail.

Now, I have to confess -- and this is my own pet peeve, so bear with me -- that I took serious issue with this:

For the longest time, "policy as a game" meant supporting the social conservative agenda at the expense of the fiscal conservative agenda.
Actually, this is true only if "supporting" means "providing lip service to." Now, I will be the last to say that the GOP Congress, especially after getting spanked in the government shutdown over a decade ago, has shown the slightest tendency toward fiscal conservatism. Indeed, the GOP of the 1980s, say, thought they were showing their fiscal conservative bonafides with Gramm-Rudman, which was so brilliant, it never actually worked. In point of fact, the only fiscally conservative thing the GOP has done during my lifetime is cutting taxes -- I count four large tax cut packages during that time -- and that usually over a not insignificant amount of intra-Party opposition.

But. Let's consider the monstrous advances the social conservative movement has made since Reagan's inauguration. Well, hm. First, we got Roe reversed... no, wait. Well, we made sure that there would be no gay marr-- Ok, scratch that one. Oh, I know! We ensured there would be no Federal funding for embryon--

The social conservative movement has, in my lifetime, actually scored the following successes, through the Grand Old Party, at the national level: After ten years of trying, a ban on one particular procedure for a tiny handful of late-term abortions; a limit (not a ban) on Federal funding for slicing and dicing children for medical research; and a bill, signed by a Democrat President, that unconstitutionally denies Full Faith and Credit to contracts for gay marriage entered in one State in another. (I'm willing to toss welfare reform in there, but only as a joint victory for both the social and fiscal cons.)

What the Republican Party has been simply marvelous at -- no way around this -- is talking one Hell of a good game on social issues, even though it cares, sometimes, sorta, more about fiscal ones. Furthermore, all this talk about "who was suffered more from Stockholm Syndrome" is pointless, a waste of perfectly good energy, playing into our idiot opponents' talking points, and a good way to have a nice, futile, self-destructive intra-Party war. (On a related note, I'm neither convinced that Rudy Giuliani will actually give a running flip about what social conservatives think or do, nor that a man who called the progressive tax system the basis of our economy is going to be a great fiscal conservative. But that's me.)

Now, never let it be said that I don't think Erick is capable of high comedy:

Second, while you and I are having our pity party and observing the Republican party cracking up around a lack of ideas, there's life over at Mordor. They are mobilizing behind a set of ideas to entrench their power.
Give the man credit for a pitch-perfect feel for absurdist comedy. The very last thing we need to worry about is what a ravening horde of morons, led by a wedge of rotting cheese, will accomplish. They will accomplish what they've shown they can accomplish: Ruining perfectly good chances at victory by the strategic use of blackface; writing absolutely awful gibberish about Coretta Scott King; raising a lot of money from saps who think they care about change; and copiously abusing the English language, including but not limited to the f-word. It may be true that a million monkeys typing long enough will produce Shakespeare's works, but it is not clear that a million troglodytes banging out their rage at the behest of moral midgets and weeks-old gorgonzola are going to produce new ideas that will set the electorate on a left-wing agenda for decades.

And that leads to where Erick is both wrong, and right, and where I'd like you to prove him and me wrong. Don't just say it; do it.

Let's move beyond the punditry folks. We've got enough of those. Now we need thinkers and doers. And we online conservatives, online Republicans, we need to fight -- first to get our party back, then to get back the majority.
We don't need thinkers; we have those by the millions, and we have them in well-funded (though not well-funded enough, in too many cases) think tanks. And that's the last thing Erick says wrong -- and all the wrong pales compared to what he got right. We have, as Erick correctly noted, the entire right blogosphere, sitting here and sharing its thoughts en masse, and not doing anything.

That is Erick's critically correct insight: We are not a party of activists. The rotting pile of cheese curds mentioned above is indicative of why we're well and truly handicapped in our fight: They make time for government, and we do not. We whine about it. Take me; I'm an excellent example. I'm a father of four with a job that usually consumes 12-14 hours a day, every weekday, and far too often, weekends, too. I patrol the comments section here, I write the occasional piece of punditry (no longer even things like this -- and by the way, R and B, if you're reading this, and I hope you are, sorry I haven't written in a while; sincere congratulations; and avoid the name Arthur for that reason, and because, dangit, that sounds like an accountant's name). When I have money, I donate it. I vote in every election. I've even done some GOTV (including for Dole-Kemp, God help us all). And that's it. Largely, government is something that happens to me; I have too many other things about which to worry.

And pretty much everyone reading this is like that too.

C'mon. Remember last week, when everyone was yammering about some folks announcing that if Rudy Giuliani is selected for the Presidential run, they'll vote third party for the Presidency? Aside from the colossal stupidity of the uproar -- whether or not they vote third party at the top of the ticket, I think we'd like to have them all the way down the rest of the ticket, thanks -- no one really paid attention to what was happening. A group of activists was trying to change the direction of the party. In response, a large number of commenters yelled about it.

That is what we do. If we want to win, win big, and keep winning, we cannot. Take an easy example: When Louisiana Democrats try to paint Bobby Jindal as a bigot because not only is he Catholic, but he believes it, where are the conservatives, the Republicans, the libertarians, the anyone, getting in that idiot Mary Landrieu's face and asking her if Jindal's stated belief in the correctness of Catholicism is bigotry?

I'll tell you where: They were whining about it on internet boards.

Got another: ActBlue, which was actually a great way to help the left blogosphere feel good about itself, is nominally the gold standard in grassroots fundraising. On the right, we've been slow to catch up. Here on RedState, we hawked a few sites that were trying to close the gap. The response? Wow, these aren't just like ActBlue. These aren't as good as ActBlue. These don't allow you to make your own candidate list like ActBlue. Why won't someone make something like ActBlue? Ladies and gentlemen, you are that someone. We have phenomenal communication methods that can link individuals with identical interests and beliefs, and a wide range of talents, to produce something better than ActBlue, and yet it's been left up to a handful of brave folks to try to do all this -- and to the rest to whine that it's not happening fast enough.

So let me lay it out for you: We are, well and truly, toast. We lack the time, the motivation, the energy, and the will to get out there and cause change, to fix all the things our Party and theirs have done wrong, individually or in unison. That is where Erick is sadly, gloriously right, in a way he's been preaching since I first met him very close to three years ago: We have millions of pundits, and a bare handful or two of activists.

But! Here's your chance: Do it. Start a group here, or in our blogs, or on your own email list. Start working out what needs to be done, and do it. Don't comment except to try to get something started, and if that doesn't work, try it a different way.

My money says this blog entry will be read, noted, and ignored, much as Erick's ultimately will be. My money says folks will get fired up, then forget it about it, and wonder why we don't mobilize as well as the baby socialists.

Prove me wrong. Or prove me right, and let's see how the 1970s play out this time.

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