Monday, April 20, 2009

We Are The Pols Who Cain't Say Yes

White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel recently stated that Republicans have become the party of “no,” “never,” and “no new ideas.” The deployment of this prog-forma snark is akin to accusing water of being wet since Republicans, at least putatively, are supposed to be political and economic conservatives whose inherent world view is one of skepticism to new, untried, and potentially highly dangerous or foolhardy "ideas". They have not "become" the party of No but rather have always to greater or lesser degree worn that appellation with pride.

In fact the godfather of the modern intellectual conservative movement, the inestimable William F. Buckley famously charged his fledgling National Review magazine with the injunction to "Stand athwart history yelling Stop!" Progressives of all stripes, now and in the past have regarded this tendency with reactions ranging from haughty disdain to voluble profanation. Progressives like to paint themselves as thoughtful pragmatists and conservatives as sinister "ideologues" which is usually taken to mean grumpy reactionaries whose "ideas" are not only nugatory but fatally mired in the less enlightened past.

So in reality conservatives have plenty of ideas it's just that progressives despise them. The Rahm sneer would have a bit more resonance if the "ideas" that are currently being fetched up against the political wall were any "newer" than the first part of the last century. A standard litany of long floated progressive policy prescriptions hardly counts as new thinking. Indeed most of these "ideas" have been shopped around for the better part of a century without having passed substantial muster in conservative, moderate, or even centrist liberal circles. Presumably the "We Won" attitude snarkily percolating through liberal policy salons somehow qualifies a tired collation of sundry well-worn New Deal and redistributionist mantras as "new thinking".

The gyrocopter, the flying car, the Edsel and cold fusion were new ideas. They were also spectacularly and variously unworkable, unsalable, or irrelevant ideas. The newness of an idea confers no special inherent quality of goodness, efficacy, scientific accuracy, or even sanity.

So little wonder that Republicans balk at all this "newness". They now seem significantly more no-ishly conservative than before for the simple reason that the new administration is significantly less so than any in living memory. Indeed the One's outlooks and demeanors makes the Clintons look like gravely sober-sided center-rightists by comparison.

Last fall I voiced the hope that sitting in the big chair would make the One face global realities in a manner at some grown-up remove from his puerile electioneering. That faint hope has permanently dissolved in the face of his recent Apologiapallooza Tour and his fawning glad-handing of sundry tin-pot thugocrats. His politics have lunged smartly past the water's edge and swept leadenly around the globe in the pursuit of "engagement" with our putative adversaries. Much of recession plagued Europe has spurned this engagement for their own parochial, and entirely warranted, reasons but it has played most marvelously well with such liberty loving stalwarts as Ahmadinejad and Chavez.

On Le Front National the new admin. perches over a wide-mouthed legislative funnel flooding in not only oceans of fiat cash but also a gullywasher of progressive programmatics in the hope that something makes it out the narrow end past growling rottweiler paleocons and gimlet-eyed blue dogs. Luckily, as has been the case since the founding of the Republic, liberal action provokes an equal and opposite conservative reaction. Being a reactionary is, as they say these days, not a bug but a feature of conservatism without which said Republic would be infinitely worse off. As I have averred in this space before partisanship is to be celebrated not bemoaned for it is the life-blood of representative democracy.

Of course much indignant huffiness is on display by the liberal punditocracy now that the dissent is on the other foot. Apparently upon the moment of the One's ascendancy a switch flipped and dissent promptly transmuted from the highest form of patriotism to the last refuge of scabrous reactionaries. Naturally the Mother Of All Bombasts, R. Limbaugh, is to be vilified to the greatest extent possible for having the temerity to wish for the failure of the One. Ignoring for the moment the widespread context-free reporting of his oft-stated contrarianess at the very least it can be counted as a form of the dissent so recently held bosom close by liberals.

Of course even a whiff of actual context explains El Rushbo's remarks nicely. I dare anyone, liberal, centrist, conservative, libertarian, anarchist, what the hell ever to disagree with the proposition that wishing for the failure of policies with which one heartily disagrees is anything but plain old freedom-of-speech in action. No one wishes for Obama's failure per-se, not even Rush, and certainly not the failure of the country, but how can anyone be expected to entirely separate an individual from his political proclivities? Goodness knows GWB was relentlessly vilified and heartfelt wishes for his abject failure on every front sloshed freely about the progressive poli-sphere.

This is scarcely a new phenomenon and dates back at least as far as five minutes after George Washington's inauguration. Political infighting and voicing hopes for the failure of one chunk of legislation or the other is the true name of the game and not a lamentable anomalous happenstance. As far as conflating a leader and the the State goes we benighted Colonials have not for a goodish while ascribed to the notion that a politician may legitimately channel the Sun King and declare "L'etat, c'est moi". The proper response, in current parlance, is "Oh no you ain't".

Ah well at this point one is forced to quote noted political analyst Johnny Mercer from his seminal work on policy issues, Lil' Abner:

Them GOP's and Democrats
Each hates the other one
They's always criticizin'
How the country should be run
But neither tells the public
What the other's gone and done
As long as no one knows
Where no one stands
The country's in the very best of hands

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