Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Now?

It’s hard to overstate the significance of the Brown victory in Massachusetts. This is an incredible moment in American history. Obama statism has hit a wall, at least for now. The political and ideological vacuum I wrote about in my New Year’s commentary has widened significantly.

As I stated yesterday, this election was a win for the Tea Party Movement (TPM), not for the Republican Party. I believe that the Democrat electoral surge of 2006 and 2008, and the accompanying but brief surge of Leftwing legislative initiatives in Washington may well have signaled the last political gasp of socialism in America.

This does not mean, however, that the trend toward socialism will now end. Socialism has been dead as an ideal since the end of World War II, and especially since the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Yet it keeps reappearing, like a vampire in the night. Why? It has been advancing by default of a committed pro-capitalist political alternative.

Remember that the most recent lurch toward statism that triggered the TPM began with Bush. The Obama Administration accelerated an established trend and, more importantly, gave it intellectual clarity. The result of that clarity was the TPM. But the TPM is not just anti-Democrat, but anti-statism. As such, it is also largely anti-Republican, as well.

I foresaw the rebellion that I believed Obama would trigger, but the strength and startling rapidity of its success was well beyond my most optimistic expectations. This is a testament to the residual strength of the individualist American spirit that gave birth to this country. John David Lewis, in an Objective Standard piece entitled Obama’s Atomic Bomb: The Ideological Clarity of the Democratic Agenda, very presciently wrote last September:

Obama’s image as a radical leftist is accurate. Obama’s great vulnerability is that a silent majority of American voters will see this, and will recognize that he does not share either their values or their vision of what America was and should be. Although only a minority of Americans has joined in the [Tea Party] protests, many more are silently stewing over Obama’s agenda. As one writer put it, “It is not, in the end, the demonstrators in those town hall meetings or the agitation of his political enemies that Mr. Obama should fear. It is the judgment of those Americans who have been sitting quietly in their homes, listening to him.”13

This is the clarity that Obama has brought to the American political scene. To see a president’s clear and principled commitment to an ideology—any ideology—is precisely what America has needed for decades. This sight has helped many people understand the issues at a more fundamental level than they ever have. Obama and his congressional allies have unwittingly launched a grass-roots movement that is actively questioning the role of government in our lives. Although a large portion of the protesters remains confused about the principles at stake, an increasing number are gaining clarity. They are coming to see the Democratic proposals for health-care “reform,” for instance, not as a matter of new programs backed by good intentions, but as an attack on individual rights and an effort to impose a dictatorship—as signs at tea parties attest. And many are beginning to see that the Republicans as well have been guilty of such attacks.

Clarity is the first step toward understanding, and understanding is the prerequisite to rational evaluation. For three generations now, America has needed a blunt confrontation with the policies that have been leading the nation toward dictatorship and into bankruptcy. Such confrontations were stillborn in 1940, 1964, and 1980 because in each case Republicans failed to stand up, on principle, for capitalism, liberty, and individual rights. Republicans repeatedly collapsed into the quicksand of compromise and accepted the welfare state principles of their opponents while arguing about the “proper” amount of government coercion they would enact. The trend toward statism continued, because the incremental steps accepted by Republicans obscured the stark difference between America’s founding vision and its statist future.

Obama has given active-minded Americans a close-up view of this future. His vision—a government bureaucracy to administer medicine, an environmental agency to shackle industry, and the institutional mechanisms for bringing the government into the most intimate details of our lives—is where we have been headed for decades. But until now this destination has been hidden by the smoke and mirrors of rhetorical obfuscation. Obama’s strident efforts to impose this agenda are enabling people to see that future with clarity.

The lesson of the recent elections is that the “silent majority of American voters” now see it clearly. They are “silently stewing” no longer. The socialist/statist Obama agenda has been dealt a severe, if not a mortal, blow. The only thing that can save it now are the Republicans, if they repeat the mistakes of 1940, 1964, and 1980 – the three ultimately failed 20th century conservative waves.

The Tea Party Movement has the potential to fill the ideological vacuum, and kill the vampire of American collectivism once and for all. What it needs is a coherent political voice. In that regard, the TPM is tailor made for the Republican Party, if it has the courage to seize the opportunity. That will take nothing less than a Philosophical Contract with America, coupled with a comprehensive political platform of concrete proposals to implement those Contract principles.

The time is now. The GOP is riding the Tea Party wave and the Obama collapse toward big wins in November 2010. But the victories will be hollow and ultimately counter-productive without the kind of mandate only an ideologically clear pro-individual rights/pro-capitalist/pro-limited government agenda can give them.

It’s time for the Republican Party to match Obama’s radical-Left “Atomic Bomb” clarity with a radical-Right clarity of its own. It's time for the GOP to finally fulfill Barry Goldwater's pledge. It’s time the American people were given “A Choice, not an Echo”.

America desperately needs it.

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