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January 12, 2012

We Don't Need Another Hero

Out of the ruins. Out from the wreckage.
Can't make the same mistakes this time.
Looking for something we can rely on
There's got to be something better out there.

And I wonder when we are ever gonna change?
Living under the fear
Till nothing else remains.

- Tina Turner


Several weeks ago when The Real Conservative du Jour meekly volunteered to take an (utterly redundant and meaningless) no adultery pledge, I thought we had reached the veritable Shangri-La of Surrealism. But this pinnacle of pathetic disencluement was soon eclipsed by something even more bizarre.

I've been trying to figure out what bothers me so much about Newt Gingrich's impressive ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth. I've finally decided that my disgust has less to do with Gingrich himself than with our, and by "our" I mean Republican-leaning voters, odd belief that if we can just get the right person in the Oval Office, he will magically reverse over 75 years of steady growth in the federal government.

I have some doubts on that score, and so should you.

We seem to be taking that old chestnut about conservatives standing athwart history and yelling, "Stop" literally. Faced with runaway government spending and runaway government debt, it's a seductive fantasy. If only we could shout, "Enough!" - no need to discuss anything, no need for debate or compromise, the law be damned. I have a problem with this: I don't want a single person in either party to have that much power. And in point of fact the President of the United States doesn't have that much power under the Constitution. Our system of government was designed to ensure than no one branch and no one person would be able to bring about sweeping changes in the law without first building support for those changes.

Actually that's not true. SCOTUS seems to have that power and most conservatives would admit they aren't too happy about that state of affairs. Stop and think about this for a moment. We don't like that a nine person panel can enact sweeping changes to the law without going through the democratic process and the remedy to this problem is to give that power to a single person?

We didn't get where we are today without the acquiescence - the agreement - of a majority of the American people both liberal and conservative. Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit. The problem isn't Washington. It's us. Our silence. Our disengagement. And I fear, our unrealistic expectations and our willingness to buy fairy stories.

Our system of government was designed to force compromise between differing factions. The similarities between compromise and negotiation or trade are not accidental. Compromise is a barter system in which we give up something the other party values in exchange for something we value. Neither side gets 100% of what they want. This skill is one of the first things we teach our children. Over Christmas I watched my 4 year old grandson wrestling with the realization that he has to live in a world where other people's desires and rights must be taken into consideration. The toy he most desired at any given moment was the one in his little brother's hand, and the only way to get his brother to give up the coveted plaything was to offer his brother something he wanted just as badly.

Watching the GOP debates, one thing is clear: compromise is a dirty word. A candidate who is willing to work with the other party cannot be trusted. We want a leader who will stand firm - who refuses to budge - and the candidate who talks the most smack about how he is different from every politician who has ever gone to Washington only to discover (who knew?) that the enemy has a vote too is the one we trust the most.

It has been said that politics is the art of the possible. Why then, are we so willing to believe politicians who promise what both we and they know to be impossible (i.e., that we can effect sweeping change without getting at least some members of the other side on board)? Where is the credible argument - the precedent - for this belief?

Incrementalism got us where we are today and incremental change - small, sustained nudges in the direction of fiscal sanity - is the only course that doesn't violate everything we claim to believe in as conservatives. I can already hear the objections: that's too hard! Governing ourselves will join the long list of things I've seen conservatives claiming are "too hard", too expensive, too risky of late. No longer worth the trouble.



Being "forced" to take out loans you can't afford to pay back.

The common element in all these endeavors is the acknowledgment of tradeoffs. The truth is that life has always been difficult, expensive, risky. It is arguably less so now that it has ever been; than it was for our parents and grandparents. We have unimaginable abundance and choices our forebears could not have dreamed of, and our response to this is that everything is too hard. We dream of a return to how things used to be (without the tiresome necessity of living as previous generations did, of course). We would like the benefits without the drawbacks; all of the freedom modern life affords and none of the risks and restrictions of a time when young men and women asked permission before marrying, when they did not have the freedom to divorce, when women could not even own property in their own right, or vote, or decide whether motherhood or a career would take priority in their lives.

We don't need a hero who promises a quick turnaround or a permanent reversal of our present course. No politician - not even a dictator -can deliver those things permanently. Change is the one enduring constant of life and we have no choice but to adapt. We live in a country where people have deep disagreements about the proper role of government and the notion that any politician of either party can unilaterally override the objections of those who have a different vision ought to scare the hell out of us.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people is a hands on business. What's required is not a leader who magically fixes things for us by fiat, but the self discipline and will power to fix them ourselves.

Self reliance is hard work. I hope it's not too hard for our modern sensibilities.

Posted by Cassandra at January 12, 2012 05:30 PM

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Cass, darlin', we have to be patient until after the primary pandering has run its course and self-destructive bombastic cartoon gasbags like Newt return to wherever they came from. Only then can the actual nominees begin compromising every principle that they now espouse in return for the great bulge of undecided/unimpressed voters to whom all of the choices are compromises.

Posted by: spd rdr at January 13, 2012 12:21 PM

Only then can the actual nominees begin compromising every principle that they now espouse in return for the great bulge of undecided/unimpressed voters to whom all of the choices are compromises.

Hey young feller, I like the cut of yer jib. Mind if I use that?

Posted by: Self Destructive, bombastic cartoon gasbag du jour at January 13, 2012 12:51 PM

Maybe this guy would *do*. Don't forget to read the comments.

Posted by: Snarkammando at January 13, 2012 01:12 PM

Are you back forreals? Love it. I'm still voting for Gingrich as the last bulwark against Romney, but you're not wrong.

Posted by: alwaysfiredup at January 14, 2012 03:45 AM

I think so. We'll see how it works out.

I've always seen something different in Romney, so it doesn't bother me when people don't agree with me on that score :)

Here's a question for you all, though. What do you think is reasonable to expect from a rethug President if we take the Oval Office? And how should he go about trying to change course? What would be a reasonable (but more importantly, I think) a *sustainable* strategy?

Posted by: Cassandra at January 14, 2012 09:28 AM

Loved the Tebow link, by the way. That was inspired.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 14, 2012 09:29 AM

Heh. Just...heh.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at January 15, 2012 08:32 PM

"Here's a question for you all, though. What do you think is reasonable to expect from a rethug President if we take the Oval Office? And how should he go about trying to change course?"

We need a president to start putting out some pro-conservative rhetoric. Someone who goes on talk shows and explains why we need to cut spending, why Obama's actions made the economy worse, etc. Someone who will push against the interviewers' assumptions. That has to be the first step.

Posted by: alwaysfiredup at January 16, 2012 11:22 AM

I like that very much: the bully pulpit.

Posted by: Cass at January 16, 2012 11:41 AM

The bully pulpit is what we've had for many years now. It accomplishes nothing productive. I would, however, be in favor of a *Reality* pulpit. How refreshing it would be to hear a conservative president, senator or representative relentlessly pointing out what realistically needs to happen and why. Sadly, though, I believe such would just fly over the heads of many within the target audience.
One of my old music teacher's pet peeves was that he had to "spoon feed" students who were old enough to remember what he had already spoon fed them in previous rehearsals. As the decades have passed, it seems that those people were not in the minority as he fervently hoped, but instead went out into the world, procreated and perpetuated. And it is they, their progeny and associates who need to have the entire shite sandwich broken down into bite-sized pieces and spoon fed to them one bite at a time. Then be prepared to do the same again tomorrow for they will most certainly have forgotten by then.

Posted by: DL Sly at January 16, 2012 01:20 PM

I think there is value in having the President make the moral and political case for his agenda.

I also think his voice is more often than not drowned out, especially if he's a Rethug. We get a 5 second, Dowdified sound byte taken out of context to summarize the President's position, followed by reams of partisan blather rebutting an argument we never heard.

I still think it's worth doing, but I agree with Sly that it's hard to make a dent in public opinion when the public is spending most of their time at the mall.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2012 03:58 PM

"I think there is value in having the President make the moral and political case for his agenda."

I didn't mean to imply I thought otherwise. In fact, it still pisses me off that President Bush never stood up for himself and his policies. What I meant by "The bully pulpit is what we've had for many years now. It accomplishes nothing productive." was that the "bully" pulpit, as has been shaped by the progressive media and the DNC, has become an ineffective tool. It engenders either anger from those who are the target or subservience from those who are looking to avoid becoming a target. And they know it. It's why they feel absolutely no compunction about throwing out the most insane, inane and archane accusations imaginable. The bully pulpit has become nothing more than a monkey shite fight at the zoo. Either a more efficient means of reaching people has to found, or conservatives need to be more focused on voicing their positions and the reasoning behind them -- especially when the fan is turned in their direction.

Posted by: DL Sly at January 16, 2012 09:23 PM