An Alternative Vision Posted by: Bryan Pick
on Saturday, December 27, 2008
Having power, and knowing what to do with it: two different things, as the Democrats are already learning. The voters who swept Republicans out of power and elected Democrats are finally starting to ask exactly what kind of Change the president-elect has in mind. Turns out, a lot of them had no idea what Obama and other Democrats really stand for; they were tired of Republican mismanagement and corruption, and they hung their Hope on the shiniest alternative.
Jon pointed out some time ago that Obama is a “Kumbaya Progressive” (and Hillary a Fighting Pragmatist) at a time when Progressives are looking for a Fighting Progressive. No doubt that yearning has only sharpened with a second electoral smashing of the GOP. Progressives who long ago tired of “incrementalist bulls**t” understandably believe they have a mandate, and that it’s time for bold Progressive governance.
Their tolerance for even purely symbolic outreach to the center or Right, such as the Warren invocation, is thin. The Progressives, who get so much mileage out of bald identity politics, are irritated that their preferred quotas of black and female (and whomever) cabinet members have not been filled.
After all, they have a crisis to exploit. The concept of having to make trade-offs and compromises between different factions of the Left, like unions and Greens, is just starting to dawn on them. They’re no doubt going to be frustrated with all of the following facts as the Democrats take office in January:
that they lack anything like a “Democrat budget” (just as Bill Clinton did in 1993 after the first Bush left office) with room for extra spending,
that Democrat politicians can’t raise taxes in the middle of a sharp recession,
that much-vaunted infrastructure projects don’t make a good economic stimulus, and
that the only remaining option (besides cutting taxes and spending) for financing Big Government, which is printing a bunch of money, will only make things worse.
I don’t envy the Left their control of the federal government right now. There are no good Progressive options left.
Raise the minimum wage at a time when firms are already cutting labor? Raise protectionist barriers in a recession to “protect American jobs”? Yeah, let’s resurrect Sen. Smoot and Rep. Hawley to push it through. Stimulate the economy with military spending? Opposition to all this adventurism is what brought the Progressives together in the first place!
Now, we could wait for the Progressive “solutions” to these challenges to fail, and hope that after a short period of Democrat dominance, the American people drag Republicans back into power a la 1980 or 1994.
But whatever good the GOP did after those successes, it also failed in several critical respects. The Republican Revolution of 1994, for example, had a limited series of positive reforms, the Contract with America—a concept the American people embraced. But they also had a crippling aversion to the business of governance, which the American people will not tolerate despite their broad skepticism of government.
The Right should have at the ready an alternative vision, including an alternative set of policies to address our current ills and to lay the foundation for lasting prosperity. Through this, we can not only show that we’ve learned our lesson and rejected the bad Old Guards of the Republican Party, but also set ourselves a plan of action so that when we do achieve the power to govern again, we’ll have something positive to do with it.
The conservative-libertarian coalition has a sterling opportunity to reform its agenda and offer the American people a mix of policies aimed at limiting government and getting the economy back on track. From our minority position, where Republicans have frankly been most true to themselves, we need to offer a bold and workable alternative. It would have been nice to do this before the 2008 election, and have a new brand of Republicanism to contrast with the legacy of the Bush years, but now we must do the work of an insurgency.
For that, I will offer in my next three posts a series of proposals, each simultaneously more risky and less sweeping than the last, that the GOP should adopt to address our country’s current economic struggles while remaining true to the principles of limited government and personal responsibility, and simultaneously give the country a reason to vote it back into power.
As with any policy proposal, it involves trade-offs. The idea here is that the Right needs policy ideas around which a viable coalition can coalesce.
I'm not expecting these proposals to be perfect in their current form; they undoubtedly need refinement, so I submit them with that in mind, and accept criticism in the spirit in which it is given.
Turns out, a lot of them had no idea what Obama and other Democrats really stand for...
When your country is at war, and the external threats (like Iran, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Pakistan, etc.) are piling up and not going down, when the world is in an economic slump, you can change parties - I for one will never argue against that, because that is what democracy is all about. But you do not take a nuclear weapon and hand it to a man who has had no experience whatsoever and who is a complete mystery even to his most devout supporters.
THAT is irresponsible. I said a few days ago that I have a friend in Florida who voted for Obama because she was afraid Palin "could" become President if McCain should die. "Could" is a rather large word. Obama "will" be President, without anyone dying. As far as those people who voted for this man, they put this country in danger.
Remember, and I repeat it here: McCain was no thrill. I for one met McCain a number of years ago and the man is a certifiable pr!ck with a capital P. But he would be a far steadier hand on the trigger of American power than Obama the neophyte. His naivete and lack of experience (legislative, executive, etc.) scares the bejesus out of me. It should scare everyone with a brain.
"...much-vaunted infrastructure projects don’t make a good economic stimulus, and that the only remaining option (besides cutting taxes and spending) for financing Big Government, which is printing a bunch of money, will only make things worse."
They aren’t capable of comprehending either one of those points.
At the heart of progressivism, I think, is the belief that if a policy is sufficiently well-intentioned, and marketed to its intended victims with the right flavor of emotional hogwash, it will necessarily have positive effects: If you’re a good person, nothing can go wrong. Hopeanchange! Progress!
So, when it does go wrong — and on some level they do understand that it will — it must be somebody else’s fault. So then they get to run around punishing scapegoats and making things even worse. See also Chavez, Hugo, Economic Policies of. I doubt that they’ll be able to get anything through Congress quite as crazy as what Chavez has done, but they’ll do it if they can. Remember the New Deal. We’re not immune.
They aren’t capable of comprehending either one of those points.
Some of Obama’s economic advisors have, in their academic careers, explicitly made the point about tax cuts being a better stimulus than infrastructure. So, some of them can comprehend the point — we just need them to teach the rest.