Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Republican Crack-Up -- and the Path Forward

It is all transpiring as I have foreseen.

Not only has the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress completely capitulated to the Democrats, on every point, in crafting the October 2013 "budget agreement" (i.e., signing terms of unilateral Republican surrender); in doing so, the GOP also has signaled that it will not even try to exercise any of its lawful leverage to oppose any Democratic initiative in the future. On any such occasion, both sides now know that the Democrats inevitably will engineer some new "crisis"; that they and their media lapdogs will blame it on the Republicans; and that the Republicans -- terrified about being unpopular -- will cave.

Thus, what I years ago labeled the policy of "anticipatory capitulation" is now rooted in the Republican DNA. Looking down the road, they will notice and anticipate any potential confrontation in which they will be subjected to criticism . . . and terrified over that prospect, they will surrender preemptively. They already are doing this on the immigration issue, for example: working feverishly behind the scenes to engineer legislation that essentially anticipates and preemptively ratifies everything that the Democrats have ever dreamed of enacting (in other words, a new "Dream Act").

Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh say they are "mystified" (his word) by how and why the GOP could so completely implode as any kind of alternative (let alone "opposition party") to the Democrats. Readers here know my answer:

He who shapes the Narrative, wins.

The Democrats have a Narrative. It is built on a primitive philosophical view of social relationships: a world of zero-sum tribalism, where all wealth is "social" and fixed in quantity; where it is not the product of individuals ("You didn't build that!"), but of the tribe, and thus tribally owned; where anyone's gain therefore comes only at the expense of someone else's loss; and thus where a benevolent Ruling Class elite must decide "fair" distributions of tribal wealth among all the tribal members. This atavistic worldview goes back to the dark days when people lived in caves; ironically, today it is labeled "progressive."

The Republicans, by contrast, have no Narrative. That's because they long ago abandoned the only plausible philosophical basis for a counter-Narrative to that of the Democrats: a worldview of creative, self-responsible individualism. In that worldview, human productivity means that wealth is not limited or fixed in quantity; it is produced by and therefore the property of individuals, not the tribe; social relationships therefore are not a zero-sum proposition, where some people gain at the expense of others: instead, they are "win-win," because productive people trade rather than take; and finally, no Ruling Class elite is wanted or needed, because it is both parasitical and dictatorial.

This modern, individualist worldview arose from the Enlightenment Era, and it represented a revolutionary advance over primitive tribalism. It is the worldview upon which Republicans could have fashioned a host of coherent, compelling, inspiring narratives. But it is a worldview that the party's liberal RINOs reject on principle, and that its Establishment pragmatists never understood.

The only serious repository for this individualist worldview in contemporary politics lies in one wing of the Republican Party: a loose, informal coalition of those labeled "constitutional conservatives," "libertarian populists," and "Tea Partiers." In the Senate, this wing comprises only a minority of the Republican caucus, which is still dominated by liberal RINOs (think John McCain) and pragmatic Establishment careerists (think Mitch McConnell). In the House, the conservative/libertarian/Tea Party wing actually constitutes a majority of the Republican caucus. However, among all House members, they constitute a numerical minority. That's because there are just enough turncoat RINOs and Establishment types (including Boehner and the leadership) to give Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats a de facto voting majority on serious issues.

That explains what is happening today (October 16, 2013) in the pivotal congressional budget vote, which ratifies not just everything that the Democrats wanted, but even ObamaCare funding.

First, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership "negotiated" terms of total and unconditional surrender to Harry Reid and the Democrats, rolling over the GOP "Tea Party" minority led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Then, in the House, the Republican Establishment leader, John Boehner, agreed to let the Senate bill come to the floor for a straight vote (one he could have blocked procedurally). Even though the majority of House Republicans, who are principled Tea Partiers and constitutional conservatives, remain utterly opposed to this bill and will vote a resounding no, there are just enough RINOs and Establishment "moderates" who will join Pelosi and the Dems to pass the bill there, too.

And so, the Republican leadership in both houses has set in cement the existing membership roles within the Bipartisan Ruling Class: The collectivist Democrats will remain in charge, setting the progressive agenda as the Evil Party, while the careerist Republicans will act reliably as their passive rubber stamp, ratifying the progressive agenda as the Enabler Party.

Where does this leave things?

Right now, there is a concerted bipartisan effort to use Saul Alinsky tactics to destroy what I'll call the "Principled Individualist Wing" of the Republican Party: the constitutional conservatives, libertarian populists, and Tea Partiers. The Democratic left and the GOP's RINO/Establishment types will try to isolate, freeze, personalize, and demonize this Principled Individualist Wing -- starting, of course, with Ted Cruz, the individual they most fear, and therefore must destroy. It's already begun, but watch this effort ramp up in coming months.

My recommendations now?

First, all-out war within the GOP against the RINOs and the Establishment. After all, that war has already been declared against Principled Individualists by the RINOs; so there is no point in pretending that the two factions can ever peacefully co-exist within the same party. They disagree in principle; no compromise of principles is logically possible. One or the other faction must go.

In the House, the Principled Individualist Wing has already achieved a numerical advantage within the GOP caucus. But they have not yet moved to seize the reins of party leadership there. Until they do, they should realize that when push comes to shove, Boehner/Cantor/McCarthy will always cave and sell them out at the last minute, as they did today, by letting the Senate budget bill come to the floor. That was a key decision; Boehner had the power to reject it; but the leadership team caved. In doing so, they proved, once and for all, that they ultimately are craven careerists, not principled leaders; that they are resigned to being de facto enablers of the Democrats; and that they are laughable as articulate advocates of any alternative Narrative.

In the Senate, the Principled Individualist Wing is a smaller but growing minority. Within the past two years they have established a strong beachhead within that body. Their members, though few, are young, superlatively articulate, and utterly intransigent -- in contrast to the old, mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed Establishment dinosaurs, who won't be around much longer. The goal here must be to hasten their departure, to knock off the worst of the Establishment and RINO population and replace them during upcoming primaries so as to achieve Individualist dominance within the Senate GOP caucus.

As that happens, the most important thing that must occur within the Republican Party is that its Principled Individualists learn how to craft NARRATIVES. First, an overarching individualist "meta-Narrative," telling the compelling, inspiring, positive vision of individual productive achievement and personal fulfillment under liberty. Second, drawing upon that meta-Narrative, specific "narratives" for specific issues and circumstances. 

Principled Individualists must stop communicating to the public at large in terms of wonkish abstractions and eye-glazing political-economic jargon. Instead, they must personalize and dramatize the issues, using the stories of real people who are either examples of heroic individualism, or victims of progressive oppression.

At a time when millions and millions of Americans are being individually victimized by leftist policies, who is telling their stories? Where are their champions? Why aren't they brought to appear, one after the other, before the cameras at congressional hearings? Why don't Principled Individualist politicians stand beside them at rallies, create photo-ops with them before local media, tell their stories again and again in their speeches? Where are the victims of ObamaCare, for example? Why do GOP congressmen ever bother to show up at a news conference without a host of them serving as their backdrop -- without telling their stories, or, better yet, letting them tell their own?

For many decades, the Democrats have become masters of the technique of turning victimization into political theater, in order to win public emotional sympathy. They have exploited such emotional sympathy to steamroller over every logical, theoretical, and empirical argument . . . they have none of the latter on their side. By contrast, while having all of those latter things on their side, why don't Principled Individualists use them as the basis for compelling, dramatic, sympathetic narratives? If they did that, then their arguments -- both logical and emotional -- would gain the force of a tidal wave . . . as Ronald Reagan knew and demonstrated.

This, I believe, is the path forward for Principled Individualists, whether within the Republican Party or out here in Flyover Country. 

Regarding the latter: I counsel you not to wait for some Man on a White Horse to ride into Washington as your champion. You have the power and intelligence to tell persuasive personal stories, drawing upon and applying to your own lives, families, friends, and circumstances. You can tell personal stories that embody and romanticize the aspirational elements of the American dream -- and that also dramatize and demonstrate the personal costs, tragedies, and victimizations generated by progressive statism.

If each of us does that, in his or her own life, then sad days like today in Washington will soon become fewer and less dispiriting. And eventually, we will be able to wake up each morning actually looking forward to watching a TV news program.

Take heart. We're only just beginning.