Thursday, October 23, 2008

The November Rebellion

No, I'm not talking about the race riots almost sure to break out if "The One" blows his lead. This is about the conservative rebellion taking shape regardless of the elections outcome. A Democratic victory will cause a much more open revolt, but even a Republican win will not stop a general move away from the neo-conservatism that has been infiltrating the movement since the end of the Reagan era. Alvaro Vargas Llosa writing in The Independent Institute, identifies the battle lines:

The Republican Party has indeed deviated from conservatism as it is understood by those who consider Edmund Burke the founder of the conservative idea, William F. Buckley the intellectual midwife of modern-day American conservatism, and Barry Goldwater the flint that sparked a vast political movement in favor of small government in the United States.

This deviation expresses itself in different ways. First, in the confusion between Jeffersonian populism—a salutary mistrust of economic power allied to political power—and class-based populism, which is what Republican leaders promote when they scorn America’s coastal and big-city culture. Second, in the contradiction between a low-tax, low-spend policy and an interventionist foreign policy that, by definition, is costly—as every empire in the history of mankind eventually and painfully found out. Last, in modern-day Puritanism, which started, perhaps understandably, as a reaction against the cultural excesses of the 1960s but ended up turning into what H.L. Mencken described decades earlier as “grounded upon the inferior man’s hatred of the man who is having a better time.”

I'll admit that the philosophy of Edmund Burke is "above my pay grade", as they say. Of the three pillars of modern conservatism, the populist mis-trust of economic/political power and adherence to traditional modes of conduct, seem to be pretty well rooted in the Republican party. It's the small government versus strong defense problem that is the biggest obstacle to a coherent modern conservatism. Eisenhower's nightmare scenario of the "military/industrial complex" has not only come to pass, it has left the country behind.

A stout defense is essential in the modern world, but since the end of the cold war we have found ourselves with few adversaries to defend against. The current war against the Jihadi movement has proven to be an expensive undertaking with little to show for it. Killing a few terrorists with a multi-million dollar satellite guided smart bomb is just not cost effective. Meanwhile, NATO expansion and military commitments defending wealthy client states proceeds unabated.

What is needed to complete a Republican inter-party revolt is the recognition of the limits of military power. Either the hawks will need to find a new home, or the libertarian right will. With the neo-cons seemingly in full retreat, there is an opening here for the limited government/limited military option to recreate the third pillar.


Marion said...

I like the characterization of "modern-day Puritanism", that and the belief that we can spend more than we earn and that by fighting wars to bring freedom to the world we are doing "God's work" are my big problems with the current Republican party Maybe there is change int he works but who will be the leader? said... you've gone all intellectual and philosophical on me here before I've finished my massive doses of caffeine this morning...

Inasmuch as you have mentioned Goldwater here, I would commend to your reading pleasure "Conservatives Without Conscience" by John Dean (Nixon's WH Counsel) and the late Barry Goldwater. Barry began the book and Dean finished it after his death. It's a tome on Goldwater's conservative manifesto "The Conscience of a Conservative" indicting the R party of today as having nothing to do with conservatism.

Btw, Goldwater's daughters came out yesterday endorsing Obama.

Local So-and-so said...

My philosophical rants tend to strike without warning. Sorry about that.

I've always considered Christians to be a good ally. I've never really had a problem with them and don't see a "Puritan Menace" on the horizon. Any honest conservative movement should have a Christian influence. More peaceful assembly and less fire and brimstone, perhaps?

I have a real problem with any political book in that they tend to be dull. Probably due to the fact that they are ghost-written. I don't know if Dean writes his own books, but having seen several interviews, he seems to have been the only honest guy in the Nixon Administration.

Purging the neo-cons is step one of any conservative reorganisation. There have been so many names coming out for Obama lately, I half expect Don Rumsfeld to endorse any day now. said...

I'm not at all sure the Rs can repackage-relabel-reinvent itself again without some sort of leadership which they are completely lacking in now. Until O came along the Ds were pretty much in the same vacuum which was quite evident with Boss Reid as the head ass.

That being said, Dean's book is even more timely if Rs want to review their mistakes and really get back to the Grand Old conservative thing they once stood as. I'm unsure what the new D manifesto is but I expect O to set a totally revolutionary model as President and party leader. Hopefully the Reids et al. are out and wiser, cooler, more pragmatic heads are in. If the Rs and the Ds are smart they will quit the back biting and settling personal scores and get down to solving problems. I don't think O will settle for anything less or any more foolishness.

Ryan Jerz said...


Putting everything aside, wasn't Clinton supposed to set that revolutionary model, though? After 12 years of Reagan government, I thought he was viewed that way. What do you say the results were and aren't you a little leery of Obama not living up to that?

Ryan Jerz said...

Oops, by "that" I mean the revolutionary model thing, not living up to Clinton.

Local So-and-so said...

OK, I'll give Dean's book a try. But, not to dash your hopes, remember GWB came in with Paul O'Neal at Treasury, a Main ST., by the book conservative-gone in 2 years. Powell at State was a moderate-gone in 4 years. Rumsfeld was supposed to update and reform the military, and Cheney was to be the cool head giving sound advise to the new president.

I don't see any evidence that Obama is any kind of moderate. Pelosi et al will be out for blood and Obama is likely to let them have all they want.

With the economy likely to stay down for an extended time, I see things getting very bitter. I wish I could be more hopefull. said...

Mr. Jerz, Obama is not Bill Clinton so don't look for a Clinton II here. The main theme of the Clinton years - which was rapidly thrown away under 43 - was a balanced budget and reducing the defecit. Obama is coming into a world exponentially worse and more complicated than Clinton inherited but we will get back to this basic necessity of government. Yes - with higher taxes because the past orgy still has to be paid for.

And SOS, quite obviously (post mortem) 43's actions did not match his promises. I think there will books written about his bipolar illness which to date has excaped any scrutiny. Like the equally ill Hitler and Stalin, 43 had his own paradigm for world governance which was an equal disaster. What's left of the R party will face the consequences just as Hitler and Stalin's parties did.

I expect O will try to reach across the aisle initially to help heal the nation. If he draws back a knub then so much for that approach! The Rs will simply become more and more irrelevant if they just want to be obstructionist and not constructionist. I doubt there will be any chance to impose "conservatism" any more because that term now lacks any cogent definition whatsoever or any significant leadership to carry the banner. 43 has pretty well killed his own party.

With Biden at his side, O can be the good cop and Joe the disciplinarian. I see a lot of spankings being metered out to members of both parties if O is to proceed forward with reconstruction.

If there is a bright ray on the horizon it lies in you young people who write your blogs and are becoming involved in your world. Whether you are left or right or in between or simply don't know, it's your world to build or watch go to waste. Obviously the Reid-Gibbons-Derby-McCains are very wrong in where they are taking us all.

Local So-and-so said...

Tex, remember in 2001 when GWB spent a good deal of time and effort trying to "reach out" to a very enraged Democratic party? All he got was a face full of spit. What would Obama be willing to compromise on that a principled Republican could accept? I don't see anything. A resurgent Republican party will be one that sticks to its principles. said...

Sorry but I don't remember that at all! What I remember is W dead set (literally) on imposing his wacky paradigm on the world and then following through on it in a a clear history of genocide and financial failure to our country. That's what I remember and I think the history books will write about 43.

You'll have to ask O himself about what he is willing to "compromise" on. But considering the complete disaster of Repuglican "principles" in the last eight years just what are those "principles"? Are they Goldwater's or Reaganomics or the Bush Doctrine or just what? So exactly what are the principles the Rs will resurge on? This is a new world and new problems which needs new thinking.

In a way I wish we could go back to the Goldwater or Reagan years because things - good and bad - did emerge as policy. You sorta knew that Congress and the Prezz were actually trying to solve problems through passing legislation instead of seeing who could filibuster or veto the most. We've been through the worst Prezz and the worst Congress in our young history so whatever we do can't be what we have been doing.

And don't get me wrong here - there is plenty of blame for both parties to share. You're going to see me first in line in 2010 to vote against Boss Reid.