Monday, November 17, 2008


Sundry panels, editorialists, and a seemingly endless parade of shirt-tail pundits are busily whiffing the "Future of the GOP" shuttlecock back and forth over the net. One sober commentator after another declares that the party must appeal to a broader voter base if it expects to remain a viable political power. A rather smaller subset maintains that the path back to power must have the potholes of creeping GOP liberalism paved over with core conservative principles before any electoral success is achieved. Most of this rather misses the point. The point is that if in fact a person has developed what they consider to be a set of personal cultural and economic principles, describable as conservative, centrist, progressive, libertarian, or whatever the heck else, then that person should live, act, and vote on those principles and resist swaying with the winds of the political moment. If you do not have any solid base of principle then it may well be that the urge to craft policies that will cultivate the supposedly malleable middle is the way to power fame and glory. How very--progressive.

The main thrust of argument seems to be that if you are a conservative well then just cut it out already! Those annoying inconvenient bedrock conservatives are just getting in the way of the GOP being more "inclusive" and cultivating the biggish chunk of the electorate styling themselves Independents. Can't have all those "idealogues" mucking up the party's chances in the next election cycle. In current media parlance the term ideologue is merely code for "extreme right winger" which is further code for anyone a half notch less liberal than Barney Frank. The media are helpfully redefining just what is "right wing". For instance John McCain was redefined from party "maverick" to panting Bush lap dog in mere weeks by the Grey Lady as a contingency plan to reduce any possible threat to the Triumph Of The Will, oh pardon me, The One.

I, as a self-described radical centrist, don't really give two and half hoots in Hades about the GOP. That does not mean that I loath the bottom-feeders across the aisle any less. I am certainly not so puerile as to assert that the absolutely smallest government that is at all possible is automatically best but by no means should that infer I have sympathy for the progressive attitude that there is really no such thing as too much government. If this sounds like wanting to snarf some cake and possess it as well then too bad. It is hardly an outre' principle to hold that government may be necessary but that government "action" should the very last resort as opposed to the progressive attitude that it is the always the first and best response to all "problems". Any government's ability to solve economic and social problems is extremely limited but their ability to make things worse is essentially infinite. Politicians of all stripes but especially modern liberal ones simply do not admit to the existence of the iron law of unintended consequences. As far as the concept of the cost/benefit analysis is concerned progressives, hard core environmentalists especially, would sooner disembowel themselves than admit it even exists.

This this then is my guiding principle. You may or may not have one but I do and it owes loyalty to no party. So why should I mourn the tribulations of the GOP? I voted for McCain to no one's surprise I'm sure. The venerable black economist Thomas Sowell, when asked why he was voting for McCain when he had previously been so critical of him, replied, "I prefer a disaster to a catastrophe." I suspect the bulk of the conservative base felt the same way. It was either vote for McCain or stay home because third party candidates are pointlessly Quixotic and voting for The One was not a sane option for any proponent of any limitations on gummint. So McCain lost and the the big O won. Que sera blah blah. I voted on principle and not because of a failure to parse which party was more "inclusive." The principle in this case means simply voting for whatever candidate is less enthusiastic about statist intervention--in anything. So despite the fact that the McCainster was the least conservative GOP candidate in living memory he got my vote but only due to The One's near infinitely statist proclivities.

The bulk of the electorate is not greatly "ideological". That is to say that they have little in the way of thoughtful economic or political principles to get in the way of being swayed by whatever direction the media wind is blowing. Perhaps this is not so much a flaw as a feature of the modern zeitgeist but nevertheless it has clearly borne fruit. He who most convincingly promised the most goodies and the most government action to fix, well, everything, was the winner. That combined with the near priceless cultural cachet of a smooth talking candidate being a member of a historically repressed and eternally aggrieved minority helped matters along nicely.

The Republic will survive B.H.O. even if it takes a generation to undo his economic and social meddling. This centrist, lately redefined by the media as a conservative, will stay the course whatever the electoral fortunes of the GOP and whatever feckless calls for "unity" are thundered from the progressive pulpit. And bugger the relentless whining from progressives that this that or the other pol, pundit or blogger is being "divisive" when in actual fact the complaint is merely code for not showing approval of the standard prog. line. The audience for this blog, which admittedly could fit in a small closet, can rest assured that the sundry lunacies of the left and right will not escape whatever rhetorical horsepower I can bring to bear. Creationist nitwits and re-distributionist bird-brains can expect equal time. If being no one's lap dog means being no one's friend then so let it be written and so let it be done.

No better comment on the conservative philosophical bent (centrist or otherwise) is available than one from the Man.

"When one declares oneself to be a conservative, one is not, unfortunately, thereupon visited by tongues of fire that leave one omniscient. The acceptance of a series of premises is just the beginning. After that, we need constantly to inform ourselves, to analyze and to think through our premises and their ramifications. We need to ponder, in the light of the evidence, the strengths and the weaknesses, the consistencies and the inconsistencies, the glory and the frailty of our position, week in and week out. Otherwise we will not hold our own in a world where informed dedication, not just dedication, is necessary for survival and growth."

William F. Buckley Jr., Feb 8, 1956, NR


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