Conservatives need a new ground game

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 —

The Colossus of Rhodey

Don Quixote (at our own Bookworm Room)

Ron Radosh

Michelle Horstman

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  • Huan

    we need to wage a war in the cultural media and educate americans on why conservatism is better.
    in news, sport, entertainment, eductation, everywhere and anywhere

  • Danny Lemieux

    This will take time. To build on your analogy of the French Revolution, the revolution lasted almost ten awful, bloody years. Then there was a counter-revolution subverted by a rising Napoleon, who subsequently led France to momentary glory followed by monumental, horrific disaster. Only then, when the awful consequences of the French revolution had been absorbed 20-30 years after the revolution, did a semblance of normalcy return and a fundamental reassertion of the underlying French culture reassert itself. 

    Today, events move far more quickly in an age of electronic information exchange, so it probably won’t take as long for consequences to work their way through the system. I have no doubt that normalcy will return after we suffer the inevitable, horrific consequences of which we Cassandras have been warning. I also have no doubt that a very different America will emerge. Perhaps it is as they say, the natural lifespan of a democracy is 250 years.

    In the meantime, my attentions will be on my immediate family and figuring out how we will adapt and survive. Speaking only partly metaphorically, I will try to keep my family upwind from the blast zones.

  • PaulScott

    Thought you guys would like this:

    I never expected to ever say, “Poor Ann Coulter.” But – poor Ann Coulter. I really feel badly for her, in a manner of speaking. But not for the reason you think. Not because Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States. Rather, I feel bad for her because of her responsibility in that victory.
    Remember the famous video where Ms. Coulter says, “If Chris Christie doesn’t run we’ll nominate Mitt Romney and we will lose”?
    Now, I’m sure that many people, Ann Coulter included, think that this statement was prescient and shows her to be oh-so wise in her election prediction. Except that it doesn’t. It shows her culpability.
    Mitt Romney probably came closer to winning the presidency than any Republican could have this election. If Chris Christie ran, he could never have gotten the Republican nomination in this Republican atmosphere — compared to today’s radical far right, Chris Christie is a moderate. That wasn’t going to fly with today’s Republican electorate. So, Chris Christie wasn’t getting the GOP nomination if he ran, despite whatever the weeping Ann Coulter postured.
    However, what Ann Coulter did do was help build up the pedestal of Chris Christie among Republicans who didn’t really know him. She helped make Chris Christie seem to Republicans that he was The Republican Savior. She helped make Chris Christie’s voice so deeply important to Republicans that he became the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention.
    So, when it turned out that Chris Christie wasn’t exactly what Ann Coulter suggested he was, nor what she tried to get Republicans to believe, and Chris Christie then publicly and repeatedly and powerfully embraced the strong leadership of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it made Gov. Christie’s actions all the more significant to voters.
    Ann Coulter was not prescient in her election prediction. Ann Coulter helped in her own inimitable, thoughtless, empty, soulless way to help get Barack Obama elected. She created her own self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Poor Ann Coulter. She must be so pissed off. The heart bleeds.
    Mitch McConnell must be so pissed off, too. After doing one of the most irresponsible things any Senate party leader has ever done by declaring that his Number One priority was not working to help America but rather to make sure that Barack Obama wasn’t re-elected, he spent four years shirking his sworn duties and working instead to defeat the president. And after all of that effort, he wasn’t able to do it. Despite his great efforts of his Number One priority, President Barack Obama was re-elected. Mitch McConnell must be so pissed off.
    In fact, the whole Republican Senate must be so pissed off. When President Obama nominated Elizabeth Warren to be head of the Consumer Protection Agency, an important but reasonably piddly bureau, GOP senators fought her with the fervor of missionary crusaders and wouldn’t approve her for the job. And so, what Elizabeth Warren did next was announce her candidacy for the Senate in Massachusetts. If the Republican senators had simply approved Elizabeth Warren to head a simple bureaucratic job, she never would have run for the Senate, and Republican Scott Brown would have been re-elected. Republican senators must be so pissed off. Your heart really goes out to them. In a manner of speaking.
    And I know that Donald Trump is pissed off. After gathering all this evidence that Barack Obama wasn’t born in America and never showing it to anyone, and then having Mr. Obama re-elected to office anyway, it must be so galling to him.
    Imagine how pissed off Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson must be, having spent all that money to defeat Barack Obama — hundreds of millions of dollars — and having absolutely nothing to show for it. I spent ten bucks yesterday for lunch, and at least I got a sandwich and bowl of soup.
    All those people who’d been slamming Nate Silver must be incredibly pissed off seeing how remarkably accurate he was with his statistics. Again.
    Paul Ryan must be really pissed off, too. He had been a Rising Star Congressman in the Republican Party, and now he’s a losing vice-presidential candidate — not one of whom in the history of the United States has ever been elected president. That must sting.
    I suspect that Mitt Romney might be pissed off, though I’ve never quite had any idea how or what he feels about anything. For all I know, he’s just glad that he never had to reveal what was in his tax returns.
    Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock must be so pissed off at opening their mouths.
    But most of all, I suspect that the election results must be other-world mortifying to those radical far right Republicans who are so pissed off that everything they stand for has been repudiated. In a terrible economy, with 7.9 unemployment, a $16 trillion national debt and a $1 trillion budget deficit, Barack Obama still beat Republicans and won re-election. After lambasting Barack Obama for four years as a Socialist, Nazi, Muslim, terrorist Kenyan; calling him “retarded,” “lazy” and “stupid;” using racist innuendos to surreptitiously demean him, and making defeating him the Number One priority for four years, the Republican Party still couldn’t defeat Barack Obama. After all this, after all they’ve been doing for four years to enrage the American public… the American public wasn’t enraged. In fact, for all that, the mere fact that Barack Obama actually got re-elected President of the United States is one of the more remarkable victories and testaments of support (and renunciation of conservative agendas) as we’ve seen in America.
    And we haven’t even touched on Claire McCaskill, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Tim Kaine and the rest of the Democratic and progressive agenda victories, all of which point strongly to a rejection of the far right social agenda and support of the president’s leadership. Well, I guess that affordable health care won’t be dismantled now, the day after inauguration…
    The radical far right must be so pissed off. But they only have themselves to blame. Because they’ve built this rejected, Tea Party-ish bed for eight years.
    The rest of American — Democrats and Republicans alike — they see this as democracy. The way America goes. Differences of opinions, different issues, and you accept it and move on.
    But mainly, Ann Coulter must be really pissed off.

  • gpc31

    I think you might be in denial in the first part of your post, because you share a dubious yet key assumption along with the estimable Taranto, namely, that the American public will blame Obama for any failed policies.
    Had McCain been elected, given the economic trauma of the last four years, the Republican Party would have been destroyed forever.  (So, to that extent, I’m glad Obama won in 2008.)  However, no matter how bad things get during the next four years, the media will continue to cover for Obama.  Second, as I mentioned in another post, I question whether the American people are still able to connect cause and effect in the cultural-political-economic realm — it’s all evil Booosh’s fault.  Third, during economic crises people generally want more, not less government.  Fourth, given the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, are we past the point of no return?  Could we scale back government regulation even if we wanted to?  Finally, perhaps “the worse, the better”; perhaps heightening in the contradictions; perhaps it will take a complete breakdown in the blue model combined with simultaneous foreign crises to restore a republican (small “r”), constitutional government.
    Also, you will need to specify in advance what you consider “success” over the next four years before you prepare to revise your political beliefs.  For example, would the mere absence of calamity qualify as success?  A shallow recovery?  Saying that you will know it when you see it isn’t good enough because we are all vulnerable to post hoc rationalization (“it could be worse…”).  Plus Obama is a master of taking credit for anything good that happens (e.g., increased US energy production).
    All of the foregoing is not to deny the need for action; it’s important to question, to discuss, and to fight before embarking on the most effective course.

  • BobK

    PaulScott, I don’t know if the people you mention are angry.  I do know that you come across as smugly self-satisfied.  Today, you might have cause for that, because your prejudices and preconceptions have been validated by slightly more than 50% of your countrymen.  With the full intent of deflating your satisfaction, I invite you to carefully consider the REAL WORLD consequences of last night’s election, via Rev. Donald Sensing – father, veteran, minister of the Gospel: ***** Goodbye, party of Lincoln. It was fun while it lasted. Last one out turn out the lights. Before Democrat voters rejoice, they should soberly consider what this means:

    –  A permanent decline in your standard of living and especially that of your children,
    –  A permanently-growing federal government, consuming growing proportions of America’s wealth,
    –  And expanding government control or outright ownership of the country’s financial activity,
    –  Per-capita shrinkage of economic activity,
    –  An expansive federal bureaucracy, with exponentially exploding regulatory authority over the way you live your daily lives in ways you cannot even imagine yet,
    –  And therefore greater and greater restrictions on your freedoms to say what you want, do what you want, possess what you want, except you will have federally-funded sex lives without restriction, because Democrats think that you will acquiesce to being stripped you of all your freedoms without protest as long as they pay for your sex. And they are right. You will gladly exchange your liberty for censure-less rolls in the hay. 
    –  Crony capitalism? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Increasingly, government contracts and stimulus money (by whatever name) will be funneled to the ideologically pure. You, the ordinary Democrat voter, will be frozen out of this largess. You are of neither use nor concern to the Party except on election day.
    –  Diminishment of your health and shorter life spans because Obamacare is absolutely designed for the benefit of government and its licensed financial allies, not you,
    –  Expanding federal debt almost without end, meaning that even as your own personal income falls, you will pay an ever-higher proportion of it in taxes of one kind or another (but don’t worry, you will blindly drink the Kool-Aid that only “the rich” are paying more taxes),
    –  “Almost without end,” because the end will come to the gravy train, and it will be truly apocalyptic when it does. “Chaos” does not even begin to describe it; in fact, chaos will be the best outcome you can expect. Oh, when this happens (when, not if) you will lose absolutely everything you own. Ev. Ry. Thing. Because there is no one to bail America out.

    But remember: you asked for it on Nov. 6, 2012. As H. L. Mencken said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” You just got what you want. The hard part that you cannot even fathom is now being born. ***** Amen, Rev. Sensing! PaulScott, please look at each of these points and tell me, if you can, where Rev. Sensing’s analysis is off.  Perhaps your response will make me and others feel better about the years to come.

  • Charles Martel

    gpc31, I think you raise a good point about many people’s inability to understand cause and effect. (A fine example is PaulScott’s doubleplusgood duckspeak recital above.) Will the coming catastrophes—whether slo-mo or fast—be something they connect with Obama, or will poor W be doomed to play Emmanuel Goldstein forever in the “progressive” mind?
    But do keep in mind that 57 million people did not vote for Obama. They weren’t fooled by crass appeals to their genitals or sense of entitlement. Some might say that the number of antis will diminish as Obama’s raids on the economy continue and he brings more and more people into the taker fold.
    However, you point out that reality is a harsh mistress. As the federal gravy train runs out of other people’s coal, or the Chinese wallop our decimated navy off of Taiwan, or raging inflation means poor PaulScott is paying $27 for his soup-and-sandwich special in his all-white beach enclave, many people are going to realize that although W is like the perfidious Jews in the leftist mind, it’s just not that easy to wreck a country when you live on a dusty ranch 1,300 miles from the capital you left 10 years before.
    That means we’ll get some recruits the hard way. But once those eyes are open, they will never close.

  • Navy Bob

    Looming in the foreground is the “fiscal cliff” as well as the deficit that even the Democrats know must be dealt with.  How will the Republican House respond?  The old way is to block the called for tax increases in the House and we all know that leads to the MSM pointing at them shouting “Gridlock,  it’s all the Republican’s fault”.  Why not go along with all the tax increases agreeing that they will only be used to reduce the deficit.  An agreement we know the Democrats will pull away from as soon as they can.  Get all the Democrat house members to vote for it and the bare minimum of Republicans on board to get it to pass.  Give the economy four years to really tank, BobK has already laid out what is going to happen, let it really get bad and hope a majority of Americans will recognize the progressive way really does not work.   

  • Mike Devx

    An excerpt from Paul Scott’s long screed above.  I urge you to read this paragraph SLOWLY and let it really sink in.

    Mitt Romney probably came closer to winning the presidency than any Republican could have this election. If Chris Christie ran, he could never have gotten the Republican nomination in this Republican atmosphere — compared to today’s radical far right, Chris Christie is a moderate. That wasn’t going to fly with today’s Republican electorate. So, Chris Christie wasn’t getting the GOP nomination if he ran, despite whatever the weeping Ann Coulter postured.
    In fact, read the surrounding paragraphs to.

    Oh, the concern for our well-being!  The words of wisdom, urging us toward self-improvement, prescribed for us From Above.

    What this is, is a gleeful child visiting the conservative blog’s commentary area, purely to rub our noses in it.  For the purpose solely of self-gratification.

    Once you got done writing and you posted… Did it feel good once you posted this spurt resulting from those long minutes of self-gratification?  You do seem to have gotten quite excited at various times during the exercise.  Did you wake the neighbors?  Now that you’re done, and your emissions above sit there cold and inert, are you still as happy about the whole thing as you were at that moment of Ultimate Posting?

    How tawdry and pathetic.


  • JKB

    I was considering the hopeful part and realized a critical need.  As we saw when the Soviet Union collapsed, capitalism in the natural state people revert to when freed.  However, the former soviet states fell into the particularly brutal crony capitalism because they had not tradition of fair courts and the other assorted institutions that permit capitalism for all without favoring strongmen to flourish.  We must work underground to keep these traditions alive for when the social state with its favored cronies fails.  

    One part of the new ground game needs to leverage the internet to keep these western traditions alive for future generations.  Just places that progress from simple to detailed where the curious can learn how and why to implement the contracts, independent mediation, etc.   

  • Jose

    I don’t think there is any alternative but to let the big government movement play itself out, which will take a lot longer than we would like.  Look how long it survived behind the Iron Curtain, and many people there still favor it.
    This is a good start on that process: