Thursday, March 22, 2012

Williamsburg Is Coming (So Here’s a Huge Pile of Politics)

All right, my post-Groundhog Day extra six weeks of online political musings has clearly run its course.  

Spring has come, and it’s time to get off Blogger and Facebook until ready to present my revamped, Williamsburg-ready face to the world (you’ll see this site and my Facebook pages changing in bits and pieces over the next few weeks, probably even producing a short-term technical glitch or two, but don’t panic). 

One last big political entry before that (though I may tweet a little during the transition – and I’m sure you’ll get ahold of me one way or another eventually if you really need to):

•Romney now looks like the inevitable GOP nominee (regardless of whether he gets there via a brokered convention – and in spite of the fact that the Tea Party’s acquiescence to him has been exaggerated, a colleague notes).  Senator Sanatorium reminds us all that there are crazier things out there, and he may continue to do so as Romney’s v.p. running mate (gotta keep those socially-conservative states that are skeptical of Romney onboard somehow, I fear).  The man explicitly denounces Goldwater and the limited-government wing of the GOP – you can watch him doing it right here.

(Admittedly, there’s some waffling praise of decentralization...or the end, and I’m sure the resulting muddle pleases William Kristol and David Brooks.  I’ll vote for Ron Paul in the New York primary next month and, barring the highly unexpected, for Gary Johnson in November.)

Depressingly, Romney has to be asking himself who’s more easily alienated (as opposed to inspired) by his v.p. pick: social conservatives or libertarians?  I suspect we libertarians are more easily lost this time, though we were looking important for a month or so there (but here’s Sean Trende with some counter-intuitive insights on the real voting blocs).

•At least Santorum understands Goldwater means liberty and smaller government, even though he opposes them.  By contrast, the left probably can’t tell any of these people apart – nor can some on the right.  I’m reminded of an absurd piece – in National Review, I think it was – making Goldwater out to be a full-blown religious conservative.  Luckily, Drew Rushford has this Goldwater passage at the ready:

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

For me, the fundamental question for testing people’s political allegiances is something earthly-yet-moral like this: Do you want money and resources to flow away from stupid people/decisions and toward wise ones – or vice versa?

•“Punk rock Republican” Andrew Breitbart fighting from beyond the grave with Obama-from-twenty-one-years-ago over Derrick Bell at Harvard has to be one of the most Gen X moments in politics so far this year.  Ah, nostalgia. 

•But as for the kids these days: I am all for Occupants
occupying their own private property, but I really hope the Occu-pus is not going to make much-trafficked Union Square its new campground.  (This sentence may sound naive a few weeks from now.)

•Judith Weiss notes a good Ann Althouse blog entry about the absurdity that is Mike Daisey, adding his it’s-just-theatre rationale for lying about Apple to the long list of Foucault-like excuses from the left for fibbing (Robert Reich’s personal truth, Rigoberta Menchu’s national truth, James Frey’s lack of mind-altering drugs, etc.) – the same month that cynical relativist Stanley Fish praises political double standards and declares explicitly in the Times that “might makes right.”

•On a similar note, it doesn’t hurt to say once more, in the wake of the anti-Kony video producer’s arrest for masturbation etc., that Invisible Children is shady and the video plugging them is years out of date with its info

•Speaking of misunderstanding international matters, James Poulos notes that when conservatives worry that Obama has made the U.S. “like Europe,” they really ought to make clear whether they mean “welfare-statist” (that is, like a country in Europe) or “inclined toward increasing centralization” (which for Europe as a whole sometimes means becoming less welfare-statist).

•Meanwhile (as this piece pointed out by John Durant argues), the Southern Poverty Law Center probably ought to be a lot clearer about the difference between a hate group and a mere men’s group.

I really don’t mean to sound crass about such matters – I am no frat dude – but perhaps “trolling” is becoming more useful and efficient in some of these debates than the kinds of sensitive arguments that maintain one’s “credibility.”

I imagine, though, that a maximally-pithy argument between a right- and left-winger might go something like this: “History is on our side!”  “The future is on ours!”

We will resolve the tension between these impulses – and all others in the culture – at the new events series I’ll shortly host in Williamsburg, though. 

P.S.  Indeed, I have always held that fusionism is a sound philosophical impulse, not to mention a winning political strategy.  Indeed, the winning and unifying GOP candidate this year would have combined Paul’s free-market principles, a dash of Gingrich’s hawkishness, Santorum’s moralist streak (without his authoritarianism), and Romney’s overall moderation.  Instead, we have what most GOP voters see as a parade of semi-human fragments (paleo, neo, theo, moderate). 

In the next phase of things, we are simply going to have to try a radical new tack.  My establishment neoconservative friends should remember, though, as I prepare to cast my fringey-seeming Ron Paul vote, that there was a time when even George W. Bush sounded like this.  Times change.  They will likely soon do so again.  


Mitch said...

Why do you think that "the Left" (whoever that is) can't tell Santorum from Romney? Those of us who prefer Obama to either candidate understand perfectly that Santorum is not a libertarian - that's why we'd love him to be the nominee. His place atop the ticket would do the most to alienate a big part of the GOP base, after all.

As for Romney, if you can figure out what he actually believes about anything - literally any issue at all or even a simple fact - please let us know.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Seavey,

You do not appear to understand the content of that Santorum interview. What Santorum clearly says is that the Republican party of the post-Goldwater era was committed to doing nothing when in power. The intelligent subtext is that since progressive liberals already control 99% of the D.C. bureaucracy, a commitment to small-government-by-example is not enough to actually achieve small government. Thus the huge increase in deficit in the 1980s despite Reagan's firm commitment to reducing the size of government: simple commitment to a political ideology is not enough to achieve results.
Santorum's solution as expressed in the 2008 interview and elsewhere, with which he (optimistically) indicates he believes Republicans increasingly agree, is for the Republican party to actively promote policies which reduce federal power and return real control to individuals. This takes action, which means the Republican party must actually govern when in power.

Of course actually governing in a way that promotes individual liberty, in a country where a majority of the population doesn't know what liberty means, is a much more difficult proposition than simply campaigning on the issue of individual liberty. It's much easier to vote for Ron Paul, who has no plan to make good on any of his campaign promises. Mr. Paul is not stupid and realizes that he is lying to his supporters: it is neither possible nor, in most cases, Constitutional for a President to do all of the things Mr. Paul proposes: from reducing the size of the military to defunding government programs, the authority rests firmly with Congress, where Mr. Paul clearly intends to stay. Still, rather than craft an intelligent conservative agenda which actively promotes the principles of individual liberty, it's a lot easier to simply paste on a Ron Paul sticker, and then go write blogs and books about how horrible big government is and how stupid so many Americans are for not understanding. This is a lot easier, and potentially more lucrative, than accepting the responsibility to pursue real, active change in D.C. and in American society such that multiple generations of American government slaves are re-taught the basic principles and values of individual liberty while the entrenched structure of liberal bureaucracy is systematically taken apart by an active, engaged conservative political movement.