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This comment on the moving post by Dr. Bastiat metastasized such that I offer it as a post.
Once upon a time, the American political establishment was confident and successful. Government interventions may not be deemed efficient but we believed them to be designed by smart, well-intentioned people. We fought racism and poverty and we kept the Communist juggernaut at bay. Conservatives like William Buckley were fun to listen to but were no real threat to the consensus that kept the right sorts in power. Vietnam and urban riots elected the despised Nixon but even he actively expanded the administrative state.
Our confidence in the establishment began to wane in the Carter years. “Malaise” combined with a directed acceptance of a lower standard of living and the intentional decline of national power conflicted with the decades-old post-WWII narrative of success and competence.
Reagan seemed to offer a corrective. In reality, the twofold bad news about the Reagan victories is that we would eventually (slowly) realize that (a) the populist right is largely incapable of effecting systematic change or reforming, much less shrinking the administrative behemoth the establishment built and (b) that establishment itself has learned nothing and is also incapable of rethinking itself and stagnated.
Our politics is sick because it is an accurate reflection of the state of things.
The right offers no clear vision of what government can and should be. Republican congresses don’t cut spending. The one agency the GOP once expressly promised to end (Education) is still alive and more pernicious than ever. Any Republican electoral victory means a slight slowing, a mere timeout for trends and government actions that conservatives viscerally despise.
The old establishment left cannot understand or accept why its useless, fossilized ideological carcass has been devoured by the absurd new left. How low does one have to fall to lose power and intellectual leadership to the likes of AOC or Kendi X? Or decline to a point where Bill Maher has a more mature take on politics than academics or congressional leaders? How flaccid and empty so as to be pushed aside in academia and corporations by woke commissars and second-rung HR functionaries? Conservatives were not in control in those institutions. It was the old establishment left that was defeated and displaced.
The left now needs the politics of division.
The party of Truman or even of Bill Clinton could plausibly claim to want to see the average American working family to get ahead. Biden cannot even convincingly fake such a desire. Allocating jobs and education by race, not providing enough energy, denigrating normalcy, crushing economic growth and opportunity, and instead devoting massive efforts to spin, lies, and suppression is not a winning formula.
The new establishment can no longer produce the kinds of leaders who crafted the New Deal, the Civil Rights bill, and the ultimate victory over the USSR and, most importantly, delivered and protected the steady, inexorable rise of the American working and middle classes. And they have no gravitas. The Biden cabinet, like the president and Vice President, is a bad joke. University presidents wet their pants if called transphobic. Our generals now only fight systemic racism. Competence, integrity, honor, and virtue are dangerous in the bizarro world regime that now wears the skin of the dead old order.
All rhetoric about division serves the interests of the debased left (including 2A bushido on the right about ultimate forms of resistance). Their hold on power depends on convincing enough people that their caricature of the right poses a mortal threat because that is all they have left.
On the one hand, the perception of division is clearly the fault of the intellectually and morally bankrupt left for their depraved but predictable intention to make our politics about fighting the mythical MAGA dragon. But we on the right must accept some blame for not demanding leaders capable of both crafting a clear, novel, detailed vision of government and selling that vision. Although valid, it is not enough to simply point out that the entire political and institutional leadership of the left is comprised of malignant buffoons who hate everything that is best about America and its normals.
It is not enough to win elections but to force the terms of the debate to be about a positive vision, not just comparative evils.
The left will lose control eventually due to the simple fact that reality always wins and their program is objectively a disaster. The only issue is how much damage they will cause in the meantime and whether the political right will then actually effect structural change or merely delay another round of harm. One byproduct of true change would be an end to the politics of bogus divisions to be replaced by healthy debates about the role of a government circumscribed by the rights of its citizens, debates resolved by free and scrupulously honest elections.
If the elections in November and in 2024 are only about whether Trump was cheated in 2020 and whether the partisan FBI is a disgrace, the left wins even if they lose the election simply because their preferred faux politics of division and accusation will still be in effect–and their failures not front and center and no alternative vision put in play. Other than the end of the evil clown show that now controls so much of American life, what exactly do conservatives want that the great majority of Americans also want? We need to go there and go hard.Published in