Despite proclaiming the advent of a counter-culture in the Sixties, Democrats believe that only the Right is engaged in a culture war. Out of the Marxist conviction that history has a defined path and that they know it, Democrats have convinced themselves that conservatives, driven mad by “progress” and social change, are engaged in a rear guard action which is doomed to failure, but which can certainly make trouble in the present. Needless trouble caused by impotence and rage.

This pseudo-scientific belief is comforting to Democrats, not only because it places in them in a position of superior knowledge, but also because it discredits every argument put forth by the Right a priori. It eliminates the need to engage conservative challenges to the Democrat worldview. The science is settled, as one Democrat famously put it in another similar context. Wouldn’t it be easier to just shut up and get with the program?

What is most galling about this presumption is that it shields the opposite state of affairs. As has been well-documented and evident to anyone who has been alive in the West since the middle of the 20th Century, it is the Democrats – the Left – which declared war on Western culture and traditions. “Hey, hey, ho, ho; Western Civ has got to go!” went the campus chant that sought and succeeded in overthrowing the academic canons. It is the Left which has been conducting the offensive operations against convention; the Right has been engaged in a defensive struggle, a counter-attack aimed at holding ground, not claiming new territory.

But even worse the preening self-confidence of the Left comes at the very historical moment when it has run out of ideas. As sovereign debt in European welfare states explodes, threatening to take down whole nations in ruinous red ink and civil unrest, and as entire Democrat-dominated US states (California, Illinois) join the long list of Democrat-run cities collapsing into bankruptcy and social deterioration, featuring one group of privileged Democrats battling another for a shrinking benefits pie, Democrats have no answers at all. Instead they look back wistfully at FDR and at the very “Wonder Years” and “Happy Days” of the Eisenhower era that their liberal parents used to hold in such disdain. They write paeans to life-time employment at the factory – no longer the mind-numbing, soul destroying, robotic work it used to be known as – and spend billions on “light rail,” the New Democrat equivalent of the subway, to get people out of their pernicious cars and to battle “sprawl.”

When it comes to progress, it’s all back to the future with today’s Democrats. Captivated by such illusions, it seems only natural that they, like any other group insulated in a comfortable bubble, do not want to hear a discouraging word.

One thing that you could be sure would be advocated in the Giffords aftermath is that special protection be provided to our wonderful representatives and federal judges. The people demanding such special guards will be our wonderful representatives, federal judges and their lapdogs.

This request should be rejected out-of-hand. Our wonderful representatives and federal judges are no more deserving of special protection than you, me or any other citizen. Average Americans are sometimes subject to random acts of violence. If average Americans are not worthy of any special police protection, then neither are our wonderful representatives and federal judges. They should no more be immune from random acts of violence than anyone else in this country, other than the Chief Executive. To believe otherwise is to give second-class citizen status to everyone other than our wonderful representatives and federal judges.

If our wonderful representatives and federal judges believe that they need special guards and protective services, they can purchase such services with their own money, just like any shopkeeper, celebrity, homeowner or other private citizen in this country.

Americans will be grateful to our wonderful representatives and federal judges for making the one salary we pay each of them “create” one or two more jobs, thus helping the economy.

Our wonderful representatives and federal judges can even get handguns for self-defense and protection. As they very well know, it’s Constitutional.

Tea Party conservatives say that they don’t really trust Republicans to cut spending and reduce the deficit; they fear that Republicans will turn out to be all talk. Republicans say that they don’t really trust Tea Party members to support reducing the deficit; the Republicans fear that as soon as they propose cuts in the middle-class entitlements that fuel the deficit the Tea Party will turn out to be all talk and run back to the Democrats to save their “rights.”

I believe in the goodness and the common sense of the American people, and that includes the Tea Party. I believe that a politician of integrity who speaks plainly about what deficits are and how they can be tamed can carry the country with him. But it is vital that such a politician not be suspected of ulterior, self-seeking motives. To propose sacrifice but feather one’s own nest as the Democrats traditionally have done is precisely what has caused the widespread mistrust of Congress and of politicians in general.

Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels are two cases that lend credence to my belief. And the criticism that Christie is getting from the Democrats is illustrative: Democrats are saying that the only reason why Christie is doing what he is doing is in order to advance his national political prospects. They want to undermine his integrity, knowing that without it the NJ Governor becomes an ordinary politician. But unlike getting rich, which a politician can do with the help of just a few well-placed people, becoming a national figure requires popular appeal. Christie is enhancing his national reputation by doing hard things that New Jersey residents like. Are the Democrats saying that Christie should be doing only difficult things that are unpopular, both in New Jersey and across the country? Is that their definition of integrity?

As a matter of fact, it is, because doing things that are unpopular is the very essence of Democratic integrity, a term which describes a patronizing elite governing against the will of a benighted people. That’s why Democrats are so negative about the Tea Party: contrary to me, they do not believe in the goodness and common sense of the American people. Their actions – the way they rule – and their reactions – such as the incredible way they consistently try to mischaracterize a bourgeois political movement into a den of hate and radicalism – testify to their lack of belief in mainstream America.

Neo-libertarianism is my term to describe a species of white, middle-class, college-educated conservatives which became disaffected and frustrated by the Republican Party in the last ten years. Although in most respects their positions are identical with “movement” conservatives, they have grown weary of defending the GOP’s positions from left-wing assault and have retreated from many – but not all – conservative stances, especially those which demand that they assume authority and enforce limits.

They describe their new political position as libertarian. It is better described as “Leave Me Alone.” While they remain angry at the cultural drift of American society and hold much of it in contempt, the ageing neo-libertarians have ceased trying to right it. “If it doesn’t immediately affect me or my family, I don’t care,” is their reaction to many social issues. It is pitifully solipsistic.

Whereas a neo-conservative was once defined as a liberal who had been mugged, a neo-libertarian is a conservative who has given up fighting the muggers. The neo-libertarian retreats from the public square and stays behind his locked door, secure in his certainties and cursing the passing street scene from his window.

The reason why this hybrid species is not really libertarian is that it has visceral disagreements with libertarian theory, a theory that has tenets of long-standing. Here are some examples. 1) Libertarians are anti-war; neo-libs are not, they just oppose current wars. 2) Libertarians are pro-recreational drug use without limit; neo-libs may favor Prop 19 in California, but few of them want heroin, methamphetamine or LSD sold openly and legally. 3) Libertarians are anti-borders, anti-protectionism, in favor of the free movement of capital and in favor of unrestricted immigration*; neo-libs want the southern border fence, oppose illegal immigration and amnesty, and condemn out-sourcing of jobs by so-called rogue corporations.

Neo-libertarians are, it seems, highly selective about what tenets of mainstream libertarianism they adopt. The rule of thumb appears to be, once again, whatever doesn’t bother them right now or overly offend their a priori cultural sensibilities.

*The 2010 Libertarian Party Platform: Section 3.4 – Free Trade and Migration

“We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape
from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the
crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human
as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.”

I read “A Modest Proposal” and its long thread of comments on “The Burning Platform” website last week. I found the essay to be the usual wish-list of reforms of the neo-libertarian “Leave Us Alone” brigade, redolent of the stale and self-referential air of the college bull-session, without even a hint of a plan to enact any of its recommendations. Nothing surprising there: practical politics are routinely disdained by many neo-libertarians, the better to be immune from the criticism that would come from having to take responsibility for ever actually doing something. It is far easier and much more pleasant to compose lists and call other Americans “sheeple” for not agreeing to them.

Jim Quinn’s recommendations touched on energy, education, foreign affairs, the constitution, term-limits, immigration and other issues. But one thing was striking about the proposal itself and the multitude of comments that followed it; there was a subject which it and they didn’t address at all. An invisible concern.

A writer and a group of men who obsessively and endlessly voice their complaints about their own oppression by the Fed, the IRS and the government – so much so that they want those oppressors overthrown, abolished or radically altered – failed to take the slightest cognizance of that group of Americans whose 400-year history defines oppression in the United States: black Americans.

On The Burning Platform it seems that there is no particular “black problem” in America, except perhaps for the problem of affirmative action. Laws were passed back in the Sixties, the neo-libertarians of TBP seem to say; Civil Rights and Voting Rights. Jim Crow is gone and segregation, too. We’re not prejudiced anymore. We promise. Honest. It’s time for you blacks to get over it, to move on and to join with us in limiting the state.

At best this is a pitiful failure of the imagination. At worst it is the very epitome of the ideology of white skin privilege. Think about it: A segment of society which chafes mightily at every encroachment upon its own freedom and autonomy by the government is oddly oblivious to or cannot understand the centuries-old concerns of another group of Americans for whom society was always the oppressor and government was the liberator.

On these pages, day after day and month after month, the problems of black Americans do not register. Like Ralph Ellison’s protagonist they are the “Invisible Men.” And don’t tell me it’s because TBP is primarily fixed on economic matters. I’ve been a member here long enough to know that no subject is off-limits in Jim Quinn’s Wild West. Anything goes.

Such blindness is politically crippling, too. Last year I challenged the many advocates of third parties on these pages to tell me when they were going to start organizing in Camden, in East St. Louis, or in Harlem, rather than in the already conservative middle-class cities and towns of Middle America. Missionaries, I pointed out then, go where the potential converts are. I said this for a reason: only a broad-based political movement, which can speak to all Americans who are oppressed by our soft despots, will succeed in moving, as opposed to dividing, the country. Solidarity is the key.

If neo-libertarians have nothing to say to black Americans other than “here’s your vote” and “here’s your voucher;” if they refuse to acknowledge that the memory of Jim Crow and “whites only” is still present and strong in the personal histories of hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen; if they do not take into account that millions of black folks may fear them much more than those blacks fear the federal government that the neo-libs scorn; if the neo-libertarians do all these things then they are admitting that they speak only for their own group, and thus are marginalizing their own cause, as well as being obnoxious and stupid.

If you have nothing to say to say to black Americans, don’t be surprised when they turn to others who do, and to other prescriptions, even if those prescriptions are for snake-oil.

And if you do not take into account the unique individual and group history of the person you are addressing, that person will never listen to you. That axiom is true when you talk to your children. It is true when you approach your clients and customers. It is true when you want to appeal to your fellow Americans.

Don’t misunderstand me: this is not to say that we should elevate or kneel to the wrongs of the past, or indulge in the guilt-ridden condescension that is so common among liberals. What it does mean is that we should frankly and openly acknowledge the past as a sign of genuine respect.

Shelby Steele said that “Conservatism offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism – human, rather than racial, dignity.” But in order to offer it, we have to demonstrate the respect that will allow our message to be heard. That should not be difficult: isn’t the story of blacks in this country worthy of tremendous respect?

Conservatives and neo-libertarians have ceded this field for too long, and we have the doleful results that prove our neglect. We illustrate a terrible paradox – a political philosophy with exactly the right medicine for what ails our most beleaguered fellow citizens, being outsold in the market by patent-medicine hucksters because we won’t advertise intelligently to those needy citizen/customers. That is a state of affairs that is bad for us, worse for black Americans and worst for the United States.

“A Modest Proposal” and its commentary illustrate this sad state of affairs by ignoring 13% of our population. Jonathan Swift’s original “Modest Proposal” sought to solve the “Irish problem” of his time by urging the eating of Irish children to make the problem go away. For Jim Quinn, it would seem to be enough for blacks and their unique problems to simply disappear. His proposal for reforming America certainly doesn’t see them, or think it needs to.

Liberals have been loyal to the Democratic Party because they were sure that at its core the Democratic Party substantially and reliably represented their interests. Conservatives have never been similarly sure of the Republican Party. The basis of both the conviction of the liberals and the doubt of the conservatives is the position of each of the parties on the size of government. The Democrats favor increasing the size and the scope of all government, whether at the federal, state or the municipal level; the Republicans have no firm position on that question.

The disparity between those two positions is the reason for what is often called “the ratchet effect,” the tendency for government to grow inexorably no matter what party is in power. That effect is usually ascribed – by James Madison, Robert Higgs and Rahm Emanuel – to the natural reaction of government to crises. But what is really the cause of the ratchet is the distinction pointed out above. When two groups are fighting for the tiller of a ship and one group knows where it wants to go, and the other group isn’t sure where it wants to go, you can be pretty certain that the first group will generally control the direction of the ship.

The Delaware Republican primary for US Senate is illustrative of conventional Republican ambivalence on this central issue and the new unacceptability of that ambivalence. Mike Castle ran a lot of ads late in the campaign, as did Christine O’Donnell. But a Castle ad inadvertently told the real story. In a graphic flashed on the screen in one of them, the Castle campaign touted the fiscally responsible Castle: “He opposes double-digit increases in the federal budget.”

 That’s great. What a guy! Of course, implicit in that statement is the assumption, proven by Castle’s years in Congress and by hundreds of his votes on budgets and appropriations, that he’s OK with single-digit increases in the federal budget. And that is exactly why he and moderate Republicans like him are now being shown the door by grass-roots conservatives.

The first question that anyone vying for nomination as a Republican should be required to answer is how much he or she intends to reduce the size, power and budget of government. A conservative will have a percentage target, such as 5% or 10%; a moderate will say he favors holding the line exactly where it is, essentially zero; a liberal will take no position, probably for a wide variety of reasons. The liberal should then be made to realize that he or she does not belong in the Republican Party.

The size of government must be the bedrock, determining issue between the two parties. Just as Democrats all agree that government must get bigger and then fight over how that pie will be divided, confident that the pie’s inexorable growth will ameliorate all disputes in the long run, so Republicans must all begin as a first principle with the conviction that government must shrink, and the intra-party disputes should be over what gets cut and who gets fired. In the long run that’s the way that conservatives will become as loyal to the Republican Party as liberals are to the Democrats, because they will know that the default position of the GOP is less government, which also means more freedom. 

Today Americans as a whole believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction. That won’t change until the Republican Party, for now the chosen instrument of the conservative plurality, agrees on the overall direction they want to steer. It’s not “tax cuts,” or “strong defense,” or “judicial restraint’ or even “limited government;” the direction is toward Freedom, and that mandates reducing the scope, power and cost of government. It means smaller government at every level.

That doesn’t mean that Republicans should refuse to work with Democrats. What it does mean is that Republicans should happily engage any Democrat who is willing to “reach across the aisle” and join with them to shrink the federal government.

Once the position that government should be smaller, poorer and more constrained becomes axiomatic among Republicans – and the reaction of the party leaders, like Karl Rove, to the Castle defeat shows that it is not axiomatic yet – then on that day conservatives will be able to wrest the tiller of the ship of state from liberal hands.

That will also be the day when the relentless drift of American politics and culture to the Left, a movement that has continued unabated for 50 years despite the presence of conservatives in the White House and Republicans in charge of the Congress, is finally reversed.

The current-day commissars of the Obama Administration now want to inflict their versions of the old Soviet “Five Year Plans” and Chinese Communist “Great Leaps Forward” every 12 months! The fact that their grand designs for economic renewal never have the desired consequences does not faze them in the least.

Progressive Democrats in 2010 remind me of the lyric in Pete Seeger’s old song:

“But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We’re — waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.”

Guess who’s the “big fool” now, liberals?

General Petraeus’ inept promotion of the stunt of an obscure minister and his over-concern with Muslim sensibilities makes me think he spent too much time around General George Casey, another politically correct high-ranking officer.

If Petraeus is truly worried about the safety of his troops as they hand out chocolate bars and build libraries, perhaps he should remember that they also have guns. Letting them use those guns by changing the ROE might not be a bad idea, either.

It may be time for a re-appraisal of General P. Yes, he’s intelligent, dedicated and charismatic, no doubt about it. But that description also covers another man, one we laughingly refer to as the President of the United States. Those qualities haven’t seemed quite sufficient in his case, have they?

Plus, Petraeus is an oddity, a leading general who does not have a famous military victory in his resume. True, he directed the surge in Iraq, but the surge’s success was mostly due to the “Sunni Awakening,” bought and paid for with US dollars. That strategy was certainly smart, but it was essentially bribing one foe to play it off against another – Byzantine, not Roman. No rival army was defeated in the field, no superior force was outflanked and destroyed.

Petraeus is a fine American, but maybe there is a little less there than we thought. 

Lincoln scholar Alan Guelzo said this morning on “The Bill Bennett Show” that the element in the black American psyche which the Democrats have successfully exploited to gain political advantage is anxiety. Blacks really do worry that if they as a people let up, if they stop making demands, if they allow themselves to not promote a united front and to be individuals – that white racism will come back. Blacks worry that those old white sheets have been put away, but that they will be taken out of the bottom of the drawer where they were stashed as soon as blacks show “weakness.”

This anxiety makes blacks susceptible to the dead-end appeal of the “Big Man,” the loud-talking, preening militant. In post-colonial Africa some of the names of these self-aggrandizing leaders were Nkrumah, Mugabe and Kenyatta; in post-segregationist America the names are Jackson, Sharpton and Farrakhan. The game is the same: act tough with Whitey for the masses, while you enrich yourself from Whitey with backroom deals. In both cases of course the only losers have been the majority of blacks, in Africa and in the inner-cities of the US.

Conservatives, perhaps even more than Republicans, should pay attention to this anxiety in our black countrymen. Conservatives were late to the struggle for black rights, more so than the GOP, and that tardiness did not go unnoticed. It has hamstrung conservative reaction to the failure of liberalism and central planning to solve black poverty. Conservatives feel ashamed at their inaction during the 1950s and 60s. That shame leads to defensiveness and to weakness in the face of the very charge of racism that the cynical militant black considers his ultimate weapon. We too empower them.

We also lose our one argument if we refuse to recognize the sincerity of black American anxiety. As Shelby Steele has pointed out, conservatism has only one thing to offer black Americans – the respect of being treated as an individual human being. Both segregationists and liberals look at blacks as a group and define their responses to blacks based solely on that racial identity. Conservatives do not; but our outreach to them as individuals will be suspected of a darker ulterior motive unless it is informed by an appreciation and a respect for both the historic black struggle and for the vestigial black anxiety that it could happen again.

The whole situation is understandable, saddening and infuriating, because at its core it is exploitative. The Democrats cynically use this anxiety to keep black Americans in line politically; Democrats, the descendents of the old Jim Crow affirming elite, remain the engineers of fear, pointing to racism where it doesn’t exist; slandering one segment their fellow countrymen in order to exercise power over all of them.

It’s despicable. Someone ought to call them on it.

In the aftermath of the press coverage of Glenn Beck’s August 28 “Restore America” rally in our nation’s capital, one discouraging aspect was missed.

Beck had said on his TV and his radio programs that one of the motives behind the gathering was to “reclaim the civil rights movement.” This assertion, taken together with the fact that the rally was held on the 47th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, had drawn the ire of Al Sharpton and the self-appointed successors of MLK. They claimed that Beck was trying to hijack their legacy.

But what was truly appalling was the dominant theme of the press coverage, which focused obsessively on the “predominantly white,” “overwhelmingly white” make-up of the participants.

In spite of all of the references to Dr. King and his legacy, the mainstream media insisted on judging the Beck Rally by the color of its skin, rather than by its content or its character.

And Al Sharpton proved himself – as if this needed further demonstration – an unworthy epigone of MLK, a man who, like those in the MSM, may have heard those famous words, but still has not taken them to heart.

Sad, really.

Freesmith

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