Monday, March 2, 2015

The Real Challenge for 2017

Linked today on RealClearPolitics.com is Russ Smith, once "Mugger," on Scott Walker and the Republican candidates for president. He writes that
not a single candidate has articulated a coherent strategy to resuscitate the United States once Barack Obama’s tenure mercifully ends.
Then he notes that Scott Walker is pretty light on foreign policy.

I think that's baloney. I think that it's pretty clear what is needed to "resuscitate" America in 2017. The big question is how.

By that I mean that it's pretty obvious that we need honest money, budget cuts, an honest Obamacare that puts the subsidies into the federal budget and leaves the rest of the health insurance market alone. It's pretty obvious that we need a generational cleansing of the income tax code and a start on entitlement reform. It's pretty obvious that we need to reformulate our strategy vis-a-vis Islamic radicalism that stops short of occupying the Middle East. We need to draw a line on immigration somewhere between the people that want to send all the illegal immigrants home and the open-borders folks that want to register as many new Democratic voters as soon as possible.

The problem is that we conservatives don't want to do this the liberals did it, by ramming everything from Obamacare to gay marriage down our throats either by partisan cramdowns or by Salem-style witch-hunts. We want to reform America with bipartisan bills that represent a rough consensus of the American people. We want to observe the Moynihan rule, that you want to pass important reforms by 70-30 votes in the US Senate. Otherwise we have done nothing except stir the pot and create opponents to our programs.

Do we want to reverse all the Obama executive orders on January 20, 2017? Should we cram down a reform of the independent regulatory agencies so that the FCC Obamanet decision can never be repeated? Should we reverse Obamacare with a partisan vote without bothering to get a single Democratic vote? I don't think so. Because then we have licensed Democrats to do the same to us in eight years.

One of the reasons I don't want to shove conservative victories in liberal faces is the grim message of René Girard's notion of mimetic rivalry. His theory may not explain everything, but it does illuminate pretty well the tit-for-tat folly of excessive partisanship. Full-on partisanship doesn't achieve lasting reforms and social consensus. It just inflames passions and raises the stakes, as the presidency of Barack Obama has done.

The problem is, of course, that Gramscian strategies of a march through the institutions, the Alinsky tactics of constant street action and deliberate humiliation of the opposition, the grievance ideology of the left-wing academy, all these left-wing notions are innocent of the idea that we humans are social animals not soldier ants. They completely miss the point that the point of politics is to damp down differences before they escalate to civil war. It is one thing to rail against the Man when you are outsiders battling the system. It is another thing to continue such "outsider" tactics when you own the culture and the elite institutions as liberals do.

But how can we communicate to liberals the danger in their tactics? How can we implement a program of conservative reform by co-opting liberal fence-sitters instead of ignoring them?

Chances are that in 2017 Republicans will have a Republican president and decent majorities in both houses of Congress for the first time since the 1920s. But it's not enough to have the power. The challenge is to persuade your adversaries, not just roll over them.

And that is the real challenge of 2017.

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