An Invitation To Conservatives To Pick Up the Pace

change-ahead-power-point-1Come Quickly, Reality Has Been Waiting

And yet another highly regarded Republican writer and thinker, James Joyner of Outside the Beltway has decided that the his party has gone over the deep end.

His understanding of what is going on in his party is that most of the things his peers used to believe are no longer true and it’s taking far too long for them to adjust and their adjustment is not being aided at all by news media and politicians who are using their aged ideas and opinions for political power.

This makes a lot of sense to me. It explains how a good people can hold completely disturbing, destructive and hateful positions and seem to treat others inhuman and like garbage. Most of the people I’ve gotten to know here in Indiana are very good, caring people who are trying to make as much sense of the world as I am, albeit less inquisitively and reflectively (That may be a large part of it as well.).

Republican politicians argue that the American people need to hear the hard truths and that politicians not telling them that truth are doing them no favors. They say that we have a system that is unsustainable and we must do this or that. They scare their listeners using tribal tactics, arguing that only they can save the American people and the nation.

This is all a pack of lies. As Joyner explains very carefully, presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the most visible snake in the pit. Among the Republican candidates for 2012, he’s the most willing to pander to the fears and obsolete beliefs that the conservative electorate has taken as absolute truths.

These are the hard truths

If you’re over 50, especially if you’re not living in a major metropolitan area, the world we live in simply isn’t recognizable as the one in which you grew up in. I’m a bit younger than that and it’s shocking how much different things are than when I started high school. Married women now routinely have careers outside the home. Our industrial base, at least as we used to understand that concept, has moved to China, India, and elsewhere. Our social mores have changed radically on issues ranging from the coarsening of the language to gender rules to the widespread acceptance of homosexuality. (Royner)

The problem is that a politician telling the American people these hard truths will simply be met with denial and get shoved out of the party (see Bruce Bartlett) or marginalized despite having a strong political background (Ever heard of Buddy Roemer?).

It would be a failure of leadership to pander to these people’s worst instincts. At the same time, it would be counterproductive to challenge them directly and forcefully, since it would just be met with defensiveness and cognitive dissonance. (Royner)

What are other half truths that the Republican Party will never tell their tribal peers? David Brin has more:

Instead of the classic human social pattern — pyramid-shaped with a tiny, fierce nobility lording it over peasant multitudes — ours was diamond-shaped with a well-off middle that actually outnumbered the poor! A miracle nobody in all the past ever foresaw. Except perhaps Smith. Certainly not Karl Marx! In fact, nothing so undermined the honey-seductive mantras of Marxism so much as the living example of the U.S. middle class. Which the whole world wanted to join.

And now the penultimate point (before getting back to 1793 France). Our post-WWII flattened-diamond pattern did not quash or undermine competitive capitalism! Not at all. In fact, never before or since has there been such fecund, vigorous entrepreneurialism as during the flattest and most “level” social order the world ever saw.

As a matter of fact, what the Republican Party would today call socialist or communist was a very foundational part of the United States.

More from David Brin:

Hold onto your seat, because I’m about to tell you something about Washington and the others that you never knew… that they were “levellers.”

The founders started by banning primogeniture, so no family fortune could sit and accumulate, undivided, as a lordly demesne at the pyramid’s peak. Instead, they would get divided among the large numbers of children that folks had then — an intentional act of “social engineering” and outright “levelling” and don’t you for a moment think otherwise! They also seized the assets of the Tory lords and even neutral absentees and distributed them to the masses. And they made homesteading easy, with laws that favored Yeoman citizens. (All right, some of the lands they seized belonged to native American tribes – I never called these guys perfect, just smart, with a goal of not repeating the historical mistakes they loathed. Sure, they proceeded to make others.)

Never heard of these “levelling” acts by the founders? Heck, even liberals have forgotten them. Or they’ve become used to simply ceding Washington and Adam Smith to the blustering right, without even putting up a fight. Stupid-lame liberals.

Academics will be the first heretics

David Frum is a journalist, speechwriter and a political analyst. Bruce Bartlett is an economist and an American historian. James Joyner is a writer and analyst. These three individuals are academics first and political players second. First fell Frum with his critique of Republicans for not working with Obama and the Democrats on health care reform. Second fell Bartlett with a critique of George W. Bush’s policies and administration. Economist Scott Sumner is fed up with conservatives over their inflation hawkery and anti-Federal Reserve and monetary policy positions and rhetoric.

These gentlemen may speak out against the political rhetoric and the outdated policy positions the Republican tribe still subscribes to, and they may have an effect in their speaking out. Without news media and politicians to speak truth to the American people, however, we will only have conservative movement towards a greater truth and understanding of the changes that are happening already.

And this is where the problem really lies: conservatism. There will always be a demographic that will be slower to accept social change, but we’re at a moment in time when this slow pace is not simply frustrating to liberals but damaging to the nation in general. In a world where change comes at a rapid pace due to technology and a much larger number of economic players, waiting to quench the insecurities and ignorance of past generations will cripple social and economic progress. If conservatives think government cannot have enough knowledge and cannot act fast enough to act as a powerful manager of an economy, then conservatism itself is far too limited in knowledge, understanding and reflective thinking and is far too slow to adapt to change to continue existing without picking up the pace.


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