Memo to Conservatives: If you don’t show the President respect, conservatism is doomed

I don’t care whether showing up with guns where the President will be was a publicity stunt or not – it’s highly inappropriate and should be illegal (I don’t care that the White House is cool with this because it makes conservatives look bad. It’s the height of irresponsibility on their part, too). The 2nd Amendment does not give you the right to brandish arms to “intimidate” people because you feel like it, much less the President of the United States. If the Supreme Court decides that people have the right to wave guns wherever and however and at whomever they like, then count me in for advocating the formal repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

But there’s a deeper problem with the insanity I’m seeing now – the “Obama = Hitler” signs, the town hall yells, the forum topics ever so subtly titled “Is America heading toward dictatorship?” Let’s say these are just fringe lunatics saying this stuff: in fact, I do think that is the case. We still have a huge problem because those lunatics are dictating the tone of politics generally, and informally representing all of us who are making vastly superior arguments without all the extremist rhetoric.

The upshot is that yeah, this health care thing (hopefully) will get sunk. We can’t afford a takeover of 1/5 of the private sector, not now. But we’re not only not going to get a party out of this – all that will happen is fringe candidates will win a bit more – but we’re not even going to get a solid, feasible vision for the future. And it’s the latter that conservatism needs fast, because we need to offer something to voters as an alternative to all the junk that’s out there, tie it together, and start making that the agenda.

I’m not saying putting together such a platform is hard. It’s actually pretty easy: it probably would consist of the flat tax (or some other tax code simplification/tax reduction), tort reform, school vouchers, a commitment and funding to actually win in Iraq and Afghanistan and continue prosecution of the War on Terror, an end to federal scholarship aid/grants for higher education (all this does is drive up the cost of tuition), an energy policy that gets us the energy we need, prison and jail reform, definitely some drug law reforms (we can lessen the penalties for possession so that we don’t have to throw everyone and their mother in jail), etc.

Am I the only person in this country that actually looks ahead to what issues we face, or are going to face? I mean, seriously – all this time spent demonizing the President, and yes, in the process offering some solid arguments about why health care “reform” won’t fly. We’ve got other issues to press on, other concerns that are of critical importance. Part of the problem with declaring oneself “anti-Obama” is the fixation on the agenda as the President sets it. A viable party launches initiatives on multiple fronts, and the state of education in this country is a perfectly good issue to start hammering the President’s party on now, especially since President Bush’s NCLB hasn’t turned out to be all that bad, but needs some serious fixing.

22 Comments

  1. The American 2-party system operates like an American football game. The Democrats who control the Executive and Legislative Branches currently have the ball. That means they dictate the offensive agenda and their Republican opponents are forced to play defense. The GOP agenda-setting offensive coach is somewhere in a corner, thinking ahead to when their team gets the ball back, but all the current focus is on stopping the Democratic attack. The GOP doesn’t get to propose an agenda under present circumstances.

  2. @ TheBigHenry – it doesn’t get to propose a feasible agenda, that’s true, and being a political scientist I’ve said that elsewhere and at other times. But let’s get clear on what the upshot of only putting in resources to stop the Democratic attack means – it means that the GOP is stuck with people who bring guns to rallies as their “spokespeople.”

    The task of statesmanship is twofold: not just to “derail” the opposition’s agenda, but to have an eye out for what sort of behavior needs to be promoted. If the task of opposing is going to deform us this badly as citizens, at some point this isn’t worth doing.

    *edited, I am very close to saying somethings that shouldn’t be said.

  3. About the Fella with the “assault” Rifle…
    I am almost convinced that he was trucked in by the Anti-Gun crowd. What a Photo Op and it has happened before.
    As For the rest of your Platform. Count me in. If you run Let me know;))

  4. @ David – I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of plants; what I’ve seen of progressive organizing has convinced me that there are newer and newer lows people will stoop to.

    But I thought about this, and I realized something: whether this dude is on the Left or Right, what on earth would possess him to think that a stunt like this is appropriate? And remember, there are cheerleaders for this kind of stuff on our side.

    We’ve gotta raise the level of debate and fast. This could get out of control, and we’ll win, but it’ll come at a huge cost – the Left is controlled by DailyKos and HuffPo who were playing roughly the same game with the “Bush = Hitler” junk. I know liberals who are intellectuals and serious business: I’m hoping to get them over to our side precisely because of that craziness.

  5. I am very disappointed that every conservative I’ve heard bash the 1960s in the past, well…is acting like a child of the 60s. Bill Voegeli @ Claremont had a great write up on ends and means, but it would have served him well to look at the Right instead of focusing on the Kennedy seat controversy: the lesson should have been ‘don’t act like them,’ not ‘they do it too.’

  6. This president has shown little respect to Americans calling them out by name, and trying to pass uniquely UN-American legislation, card check, fairness doctrine (radio czar), nationalized healthcare and threatening to do so by FORCE, and people are becoming unhinged. The office asking for info on incorrect info as they saw it…was a straw that broke the backs of some democrats…He is being shown the same respect he dishes out. The man that showed up with the gun had a legal concealed carry permit, guess they forgot to mention that ….ooops

  7. @ Tamara – not gonna fly, and you know it. If some Leftist came within vicinity of President Bush with a gun claiming he had a concealed carry permit, would that be okay?

    We could lose on health care – that’s a very real possibility – and it’s not because of President Obama. The Senate and the House will vote this thing, and a number of Americans will be convinced it is good: just go to liberal websites right now, there may not be a majority of them, but there are plenty of them. We have to get ready for the fact – already – that this is just one (metaphorically speaking) “battle.” We’re not ready for that, and that’s part of the reason why health care is getting loaded with ideas like “this is about dictatorship and fascism,” as if this issue is the end of the world. I don’t want this thing to pass, and I do think it is dangerous ultimately, but we gotta start thinking ahead, otherwise we’ll end up like DailyKos, fixated on one person – not just one issue.

  8. I agree that we cannot fixate upon one person or one issue but must address this “idea” being shoved upon us in UN-imaginable ways.

    Sweetie did you think the liberal websites would describe the healthcare as a bad thing…I do not think so…they will rally to the cause of the idea and have bought into they entire show long before this bill came up.

    Understand this bill is packed with hidden treasure. Unionizing the largest workforce, by force is no little thing. Having every healthcare worker in the SEIU would just about kill your “issues” with anything else you got a grip about.

    Maybe you need to sit down and really look behind just the the issue of the bill and see what is really happening.

    If we let healthcare pass….your issues are not going to fly….anywhere!

  9. @ Tamara: I’ve linked to a number of articles demonstrating that we couldn’t afford this thing even if it were good. I have linked only once to the union violence thing because the stories of SEIU and their thuggery are well documented by Instapundit and Malkin; Britain and Canada’s own wrangling with their health care failures I guess I could provide links to now:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/ian-birrell-why-i-dont-believe-that-the-nhs-is-sacrosanct-1775088.html

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1206149/STEPHEN-GLOVER-I-deeply-resent-Americans-sneering-health-service—thats-truth-hurts.html

    – Some prominent Canadians want their system to open to private competition; I can’t find that link right now. –

    But I am wondering how long we’re supposed to stay angry, given that there might not be a vote on this thing for a while. And that difference between the vigilance needed and the anger we’re using to some effect now (notice that shouting at Arlen Specter didn’t quite work, he’s still for a public option and his reelection prospects are grim) is a tricky thing.

    Yeah, I don’t quite know how we’re gonna move from anger to vigilance, but I know that’s a real issue for all of us. The nuttiness is only going to get worse as time goes on: we’re in the minority party to a huge extent, and we do need leadership and focus. A major issue is whether the anger is helping bringing independents on board, or making the GOP unelectable. I’m kinda thinking both things are happening at once.

  10. I do not believe we need Anger…One of the other sides of unions is the right to work http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog

    They have plenty about the low actions of what seem to be a union unionization of bad behavior from all unions…including the notorious SEIU. Everyone has a right to work. Everyone should have the freedom to start their own business. As Mark Mix, president of the Right tot Work foundation states…”they trying to remove the American Right” The actual right…. See y FB page for a link to an email he sent to right to work supporters..

    No we do not need anger! We must be consistent and in unison and people who are active on the net who believe in freedom of choice but are not speaking out …need to open their mouths…..and SPEAK! We must ignore the race baiting….and focus on the issues of freedom of choice for all people. One reason that I did not like the story u were pointing to was that the gun or rifle toting incident was blamed on a white man…..but it was not! Do not buy into that crap…Lets hope no one on either side resorts to violence. However respect will be given where respect is due…the office of the president carries a certain amount….but the rest is up to the person that fill the position. My grandmother says “handsome is as handsome does”

    Pouring letters into the white house helps….It one thing to send an email and another to have the postman dump 50,000 letters of” don’t even think about it” on your desk.

  11. @ Tamara: While I’m a bit confused about where I stand on foreign policy, it might be worthwhile to remember the lesson of Macbeth: the end doesn’t justify the means. That is something the left has been doing very badly with for a long time, and we don’t need to join them (if we haven’t already). Victor Davis Hanson considers this quite well with regards to one of our favorite lefties, Bill Ayers:

    I don’t like dry-gulching journalism, but there was a strange scene when the Fox reporter caught up to Bill Ayers and stuck a microphone in his face as he went up the sidewalk of his rather impressive home: Ayers, with a bright red star on his T-shirt, shoos away the reporter with the apparent mumble “this is private property” before the police arrive. How strange that an advocate for communalism and an erstwhile attacker of police stations reverts to the notion of property rights and police to protect him from an intrusive reporter. Right out of Thucydides Book III and the strife on Corfu, when the historian warns that those who destroy the protocols of civilization may well one day wish to rely on them.

  12. @ashok on August 21st, 2009 3:17 pm

    Part of the problem here, as elsewhere, is that it is very difficult to comment narrowly, without having others impute generalizations to one’s focused remarks.

    I did not say it was the opposition’s exclusive task to “derail” the opposition’s agenda. Nor did I imply anything about the desirability and the propriety of bringing guns to rallies. I support neither of those contentions.

    My only point was that under the current constraints for a minority party, the limited capacity of the minority to prevent the majority’s freight train from demolishing the minority’s agenda, is to focus on derailing the freight train.

    I have no quarrel with you concerning the outrageous behavior of crazies on both sides of any dispute. Let’s at least be clear on that.

  13. @ TheBigHenry – Point taken.

    I think in terms of craziness we might be beyond fixing this: on one forum I’ve been active on, there are soldiers writing everything short of “I don’t want to serve under this President,” in addition to the almost-now typical “you don’t believe people should bring guns to rallies? You’re a liberal.” And if it were just one or two saying this, ok. We’re talking tens of people at least, on this given forum.

    The fringes are in full force and the people who have bully pulpits aren’t using them: you see Instapundit and Malkin, for example, only picking on the MSNBC race-distortion issue re: the gun carrier. Moreover, LGF is compromised in another way: by only displaying craziness, he never explains how some people who may have valid arguments may go too far. He can’t provide the knowledge needed in order to separate the necessary from the good, which is what you need to curb extremism (i.e. what some feel is necessary is actually quite debatable).

    I guess part of this whole experience is realizing just how dumb the blogosphere and our media really are: I say it here and there, but I kinda don’t believe it because I find smart, thoughtful stuff all the time. I think what I’m forgetting is that “I find” is the key to that observation, and realizing that when it hits me in the face is a pretty painful experience.

  14. Ashok,

    Thanks for this. You’re stance on this is principled and honourable, as I would expect.

    Despite the fact that, ultimately, you and I disagree on this issue (I kind of understand the fiscal arguments that you’ve made, but I otherwise don’t really see what’s wrong with the bill), but putting that aside: let’s say, for a moment that the bill is indeed bad policy. I don’t see it, but then no-one really needs to convert me as I can’t vote.

    But if it is a bad, misguided bill, it requires opposition by people like yourself, making rational, sober arguments (pertaining to the budget et cetera), as you have done.

    Surely, it’s in the long term interest of the GOP and the country NOT to whip up hysteria of a “anything can and should be done to stop the imminent Stalinist coup/we should not serve this President/we must go into bunker mode, because any moment now the concentration camps will be built…this rhetoric is so disingenuous, and so unhelpful.

    Furthermore, surely someone must take responsibility for whipping up the craziness with all the utterly disingenuous talk about ‘death panels’ and so on. Why won’t more conservatives openly distance themselves from that kind of rhetoric? I always thought that moderation was a virtue in politics adn that prudence was the god of the lower world (Burke) and that kind of thing. Making people think that they need to make war on their government to save them from a non-existent threat can’t help anyone.

    Best,

    -Mal

  15. I was in Wal-Mart this weekend with my wife and we witnessed a man berate a female employee because there were no sanitary wipes in the dispenser near the shopping carts. (Actually there were wipes in the thing, they just weren’t visible to him). The complainant looked like my grandfather: a clean cut, well dressed, church-going, Cadillac-driving, golf-playing, upper middle class type. The type of man typically standing up as a pillar of the community. Yet he was using the most foul language, behaving like a raving lunatic, and treating the poor greeter like a piece of garbage. All because of a minor, truly insignificant, inconvenience.

    I stepped in to show him how to get at the wipes and put him on his way, and I apologized to the greeter on his behalf. Afterwards, my wife, who isn’t remotely interested in having conversations about ethics, morality, or philosophy put it all in place with her comment, “What is wrong people today, doesn’t anyone have any honor anymore?”

    That has to be our focus in our opposition. Part of what makes us Christian is our unending focus on our own behavior in all that we do. Not only can we win without going ape-nuts, we have a better chance of winning by behaving well. Anyway, even if we don’t win, it is better to keep our honor in defeat than to lose ourselves for victory.

    Saying all that, I still must say that news-hounds like us are getting a skewed perspective. Bloggers tend to be the hyperventilating sort. And a gun wielding loon makes better television news than an interview with VDH. There are conservatives calling for moderation. It is our duty to help promote them.

    As for that particular guy with the AR-15, he has been identified as a LaRouche activist, so he’s not even a representative of the right lunatic fringe.

    It is just a sad indictment of media (TV, radio, and internet), that with literally millions of passionate yet well-behaved citizens taking responsible action on this issue that it all gets hijacked by a single trolling LaRouche nutcase with a unloaded assault rifle.

  16. @ashok on August 23rd, 2009 6:17 pm

    You have my blessings and support to try and fix the craziness, but I seriously doubt that was ever within the realm of possibility. I have often felt dismayed not only by the crazy behavior but also, and perhaps more so, by ignorance and irrationality, which I find to be ubiquitous. I make no pretense of knowing what can be done about it, but I have made an attempt to play some small role to sooth my soul, so to speak. I try hard to refrain from relying on hyperbole in my blog posts, and make an effort to express my opinions rationally, and occasionally with a sense of humor. And I have decided that our (collective) best strategy, regardless of political affiliation, is to vote AGAINST any incumbent, in every election. If enough people adopted such a strategy, we would end up with de facto consecutive-term limits. That would go a long way to curing what ails our political system, which, IMHO, is that the greatest effort on the part of every politician is devoted to re-election.

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