Maybe I’m in denial, but I’m feeling less depressed than I felt last night and this morning. Part of my more sanguine attitude is based upon a Taranto principle, which is that Obama now owns the events of the next four years:
Obama has spent the past four years explaining away his failings by essentially arguing he is the best of all possible presidents–that he has done as well as any man could given the “mess” he “inherited” from his predecessor. It is certainly true that he took office under adverse circumstances. But so will whoever takes office Jan. 20. In fact, things are about to get a lot worse because of decisions taken but deferred during the Obama years.
The mess today’s winner will inherit includes not only high unemployment and slow growth but impending policy changes that threaten to make those problems worse. On Jan. 1, unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts expire–or, to put it another way, “massive, job-killing tax increases” are about to take effect (that quote is from President Obama). If Obama gets his way–which he likely would if re-elected–Congress will forestall the hike only for taxpayers making under $200,000 or $250,000 a year. That would be good for those fortunate enough to have jobs, but it would not change the tax increase’s job-killing nature, as it would hit investors and small businesses hard.
Then there’s ObamaCare. Although enacted nearly three years ago, it was written so that most of its provisions would not take effect until the next presidential term. “The bottled-up rules to set up President Barack Obama’s health care reform law are going to start flowing quickly right after Election Day,” Politico reports. “As soon as Wednesday, the gears and levers of government bureaucracy are likely to start moving at full speed again.”
The scale of the messes Taranto describes makes it unlikely that Romney could have been a successful president. At best, he might have stemmed an economic or national security collapse, but I doubt he could actually have improved things. The systems for self-destruction — massive debt, vast entitlement expectations, ObamaCare beginning to weave into the warp and woof of our social and economic fabric, a dangerous world outside of America’s borders — are already deeply entrenched. Four years won’t fix them. (Which may be why voters ignored Obama’s empty 2008 promises and decided that he really need 8 years to fulfill the hope and change manifesto.)
But, but . . . what about Reagan? He also inherited a dangerous world and an unhealthy economy. That’s true — but he inherited a different ground game. Political correctness didn’t exist then. Skin color diversity (offset by ideological homogeneity) was at the beginning of its trajectory, not the peak. People still viewed government aid as something one first earned or, if one didn’t earn it, as something one accepted with some degree of embarrassment. Now, even with no pay-in, they view it as a right, with no shame attached. In Reagan’s day, our troops hadn’t been fighting a blood-and-guts war for eight years (as opposed to a massive Cold War chess game) against an enemy that neither the Republican nor the Democrat President willingly named. In Reagan’s day, the intelligentsia may have tried to downplay the Soviet Union, but ordinary people still knew that it was indeed the Evil Empire. Israel was still loved, not hated, so Americans supported a president who supported Israel.
The ground game has changed. As Roger Simon says,
So we have a problem with democracy. It’s not working or, more specifically, has been turned on its end, with the masses manipulated against their own self-interest, creating power elites similar to those described in Milovan Djilas’ The New Class.
How did that happen? I think many of us know there are three pillars of our own destruction: the educational system, the media and entertainment (the popular arts).
Those three areas are so corrupted those who legitimately are on the center-right (or anywhere close to it) will increasingly find themselves swimming upstream against a current so great who knows where it will take them. (Think Hayek, Orwell, etc.) We must address ourselves to these three immediately before it is too late. In many ways, it already is. Culture is the mother of politics and mother is turning into Medea.
Okay, fine. We fight the wars we’re given, not the wars we want. So here’s my thinking.
As I said, I’m less depressed than I was because I think our culture is such that, no matter who occupies the White House, bad things are going to happen. Really bad things, both with our economy and our national security. Seeing as I think the coming hurt is inevitable, I’d rather it happens on a Democrat’s than on a Republican’s watch. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat crow and begin to consider whether my political leanings of the past eight years have been a temporary aberration, and I’ll even contemplate returning to my liberal roots. (Unlikely, but if the next four years are an American boom time, we’ll all need to rethink our belief systems.)
Accepting the inevitable, how do we fight back? As polite conservatives, we’ve always tried to work through the ballot box. We’ve decried the bias in media (including PBS, which we pay for), academia, and education, but we really haven’t done anything about it. We tried to vote for people who would stop funding PBS and we whined on websites about the indoctrination at our children’s schools. We’ve still paid to watch movies and we tune in to TV.
We resent the system, but we work within in. For all that we talk about the ageless wonders of our Constitution and free-market principles generally, we are short-term thinkers, who keep believing (all evidence to the contrary) that we can kill the Progressive tree, not by attacking the roots, but by taking an axe to the tip-top of the tree through honestly brokered elections. The fact is that the cultural battle is so one-sided (against our side) that we’d probably lose even honestly brokered elections, ones that did not involve massive fraud and media malfeasance.
We keep doing trying the same failed tactic, even though we recognize that the strong Democrat victories resulted, not because the Left voted, but because they spent 60 years going after America’s social and intellectual infrastructure. The numbers of actual Lefties are probably pretty small; the number of people who have been taught to vote Democrat without thinking what it really means, is huge.
William F. Buckley figured out the problem in the 1950s and started a cultural counter attack, which ended with the Reagan ascendency. Whew! That was it. We won. Yay. We won forever. NOT. The Left never stopped its ground game. Indeed, during and after the Reagan years (including during the Clinton years), the hard Left consolidated its hold over cultural institutions. We just watched and whined.
We cannot do that anymore. For the next four years, conservatives need to stop worrying about this candidate or that candidate (which is all we ever do) and we need to start wooing the masses.
My friend Lulu, who comments here and who has been an occasional guest poster, called me today with a wonderful idea: Star Parker. Okay, you’re right. Star Parker is a wonderful person, not a wonderful idea, but she’s the symbol for my friend’s idea. We don’t need to run Star Parker for office, we need to run her for talk show host, a la Oprah. She’s engaging, approachable, intelligent, conservative and black. I hate to add the last, because I don’t like to judge people by the color of their skin, but I’m in minority. I live in my head, so I relate to people intellectually. Most don’t. They need other people to look like them in order to start feeling comfortable with their ideas.
The talk show idea, though is the right one. We know that most people aren’t high-level thinkers when it comes to politics but are, instead, low-level, emotional reactors. I do not mean that they are stupid. I just mean that, when it comes to politics, they engage in a non-abstract, non-theoretical, non-intellectual level. The old saying is that, if the mountain won’t come to Mohamed, than Mohamed must go to the mountain. We need to reach out to non-engaged voters by meeting them at their level, rather than insisting that they meet us at ours.
Admittedly, our conservative social infrastructure is limited. Liberals own the media and the entertainment world. But how did they get there? They pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. We need to start pushing too. We need talk shows, even if they start on cable or internet. We also need to take a page out of the Leftist handbook and start using the courts. For example, Lulu suggested that, as taxpayers, we have standing to sue PBS to demand that, as long as public broadcasting gets public monies, it must devote 50% of its programming time to conservative programs. After all, for decades, simply because they rented public airwaves, TV and radio were required to be neutral. Why isn’t PBS?
When it comes to Hollywood, we need to come together an create alternatives. Stop spending your money on movies by people who hate us. Why are we doing that? And we should take the money we didn’t spend on the haters and invest it in movie makers (such as Declaration Entertainment) that will make entertaining movies that don’t hit us over the head with their message, but that feed it to us subliminally. (When we do make movies we always go for the iron hand, rather than the velvet glove). The Left figured this one out, as Ben Shapiro explains in Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV. We too can change the paradigm without being obvious.
And why are we, who pay most of the taxes, allowing publicly funded schools to discriminate against conservative teachers? We sit back and cheer when an individual conservative teacher sues after being denied tenure, but we’ve never had a taxpayer suit saying that, just as student body’s have to be diverse, so should faculty — and that this diversity includes not discriminating against belief systems. In other words, we have to redefine diversity so that it encompasses ideology as well as (or instead of) skin color.
We also have to advertise ourselves better. As Romney’s campaign (and McCain’s and Bush’s too) showed, Republican political “leaders” find our ideology embarrassing and seek to wrap it up in gauzy, often impenetrable, platitudes. One of my readers, Fern, suggests that our campaigns have a musty, fuzzy look. The Left identifies us as backwards, reactionary, etc., and we yield. We’ve certainly given the Left linguistic control. They’re “Progressive” and “Forward.” We’re fuddy-duddy “conservatives.”
Obama, a child of the Left, understands that words matter, more than the fact that these so-called Progressives keep trying to recycle ideas that failed in all nations that have tried them. They’ve got the glamor and the gloss, and those gimmicks sell in a superficial world.
One of the first and easiest things we can do is to start with re-branding. Keep in mind that calling conservatives “right wing” harks back to the 18th century French parliament, when the non-revolutionaries sat on the right side of the hall. Is that how we want to identify ourselves — as relics of the ancien regime? “Conservative” too makes us sound like a bunch of reactionary codgers who can be painted as desirous of slavery (never mind that the Republicans freed the slaves), Jim Crow-lovers (never mind that Republicans opposed Jim Crow), and misogynists (never mind that Republicans are in the vanguard of fighting Muslims and Chinese Communists who treat women and girl babies like disposable property).
It turns out that, in a media rich world, Shakespeare was wrong. That which we call rose, by any other name does not smell as sweet. With that in mind, how about starting to call ourselves “Individualists” or “the Freedom Party” or something like that? Liberals successfully (and mostly under the radar) rebranded themselves as Progressives, leaving behind the musty Victorian taint of “liberalism.” If they can do it, why can’t we?
Truly, the wake-up call we received yesterday is not about 2012 or even about 2016. It is about our finally understanding that the opposition has long had a better strategy and endless institutional patience. We won only when there were still enough voters who hadn’t been indoctrinated. In 2008, there weren’t enough of us remaining to tilt the scales. The Left attacked America at the root, and we need to take it back at precisely the same level.
The battle is over. The war has begun. Consider this post Ground Zero. If you have ideas — practical, non-whining ideas that ordinary people can put into effect — post them in the comments section, and we’ll see how far we can disseminate them. For starters, I am no longer a conservative. I am an “individualist” who supports a “Freedom Party,” as opposed to a “statist” who supports “Big Government.”
UPDATE: Others thinking about a new ground game too —
Don Quixote (at our own Bookworm Room)