I fully understand that a part of politics is working with people that are less than sane. I know that people who sometimes work the hardest on campaigns are unhinged, to say the least. I know it might be the case that educated, thoughtful people can be very hateful and prone to vindictiveness and gossip, and that conspiracy theories are a form of this bile for people not as educated and perhaps a little too thoughtful.
It is possible, though, to win an election and spew so much hate and craziness that the country becomes ungovernable. I realize that the current President’s ungraciousness toward the previous administration is not helpful. It’s a tacit “every crazy theory we had during the election was correct,” and not an attitude fit for governance. But not only is responding with “well, we’ll just fight fire with fire” morally wrong – people who know better must act and think better – but it absolutely is killing the chances I and a few others might have in our lifetime to persuade others and get more reasonable things. Things like: getting the budget under control; simplifying the tax code; eliminating entitlements slowly so people aren’t hurt by the process; making sure Americans are more educated for less money; helping establish tighter bonds with other countries; helping people realize that families are a good; promoting tolerance and genuine spirituality; not throwing everyone in prison as a solution to crime, but working for equality of opportunity; making sure we have the resources and will to fight and win wars that need to be won, and then the resources and will to establish the peace.
All of that sounds like hippie idealism to some of you, but not only is it feasible, but in some quarters in America it is happening. In fact, one only need look at the enormous sacrifices the military is making. Libertarians and progressives that call everything the military is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan simply “killing” are not doing justice to the very real work done in making people’s lives better, that involves making sure thugs and murderers are defeated as a political force to begin with. And when you actually look at what other Americans, liberal and conservative, are working toward, I don’t know how one can so easily buy into any random conspiracy theory. Every day people are doing lots of good for each other in this country, not just beyond its borders. It’s not enough, granted, and sometimes all these good actions mask greater corruption. But you can’t just start with some theory and move quickly to “everything is corrupt” – the more you do that, the more you ignore the actual people around you, and only use them as political leverage for your crazy ends. Real politics may not aim at perfect equality, but it sure as hell tries to make sure that other groups don’t lose everything. The end of politics is a common good. Conspiracy theories tell you there’s some great evil that is other people which need only be destroyed.
With that in mind, I need not tell you that the John Birch Society’s co-sponsorship of CPAC is a disgrace. I know some of you want me to magically produce the next generation of conservative leaders, that you feel there is no alternative to getting on board with the current protest movement and I need to produce that alternative if I want to complain. All I can tell you is: I’d do it if I could. Right now, though, this is more pressing – the hate has the potential of just ruining politics for my generation and the next few. Politics should not be a choice between good and evil. The John Birch Society is very dangerous stuff:
- John Avlon, “Return of the Fright Wing” (h/t LGF) – from the article: What’s significant now is that as the fringe blurs with the base, the Birchers are closer to the conservative movement mainstream than they have been in half a century. They were railing against the Federal Reserve long before Ron Paul’s “End the Fed” effort. The neo-isolationist movement has given new encouragement to U.S.-out-of-U.N. efforts. The 9/11 Truthers parrot longstanding Bircher claims about the sinister New World Order. With the fiscal crisis, more people are willing to listen to tales about colluding bankers trying to undermine capitalism. When Judge Roy Moore railed against the specter of forced disarmament and “U.N. guards stationed outside every house” at the National Tea Party Convention to wild applause, he was singing from the Bircher hymnal. Whenever an anti-Obama protester accuses the president of trying to surrender U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. and create a one-world socialist state, he or she is echoing John Birch Society fear-mongering that is a half-century old. And when Glenn Beck warns that “We are a country that is headed toward socialism, totalitarianism, beyond your wildest imagination,” it is worth hearing his apocalyptic urgency alongside such Bircher Cold War formulations as “unless we can reverse forces which now seem inexorable… we have only a few more years before [the United States] will become four separate provinces in a worldwide communist dominion ruled by police-state methods from the Kremlin.”
- If that link isn’t enough to sicken you, here’s a piece on people who are praying for the death of the President.
- I should give some “kudos” to Mitt Romney for the defense of Bush at CPAC. That is a slap in the face to the Bircher crowd and its allied kooks. It would have been better if he repudiated the whole conference, of course, but at this point I’ll take what little I can get. I just hope he knows that, and alienates them in other, more significant ways (start attacking them for the excessive hatred of the current President, perhaps?). Governor Romney, it isn’t the worst thing to turn CPAC into a PR disaster for the Birchers and the like – if you take the time to anger them publicly, you have my full backing.
Alright. On to other topics. I can add one million more links here against the John Birch Society, and do more to marginalize CPAC and the utter thoughtlessness of the fringe there. I’m not going to do that because I trust you to stand against extremism, and to realize that winning elections isn’t really what politics is about. Really. Somehow, the election of the President didn’t change my values, but it drove a lot of other people crazy. Makes me wonder what “values” they had to begin with.
- Little things the GOP is doing right on a more local level – 2 special elections won, one in New Hampshire and one in Alabama. The significance at the state level is crucial. Anyone who sees how state spending has gotten out of control knows resources and energy are worth devoting to restrained budgets. Again, change doesn’t really start with grand theories about how the world works. It’s about taking self-governance seriously.
- Veronique de Rugy, “Congress’ Phony Price Tags” – from the article: In 1967 long-run forecasts estimated that Medicare would cost about $12 billion by 1990. In reality, it cost more than $98 billion that year. Today it costs $500 billion.
- Via Megan McArdle, this link about expiration dates. (remember that Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin said he doesn’t take any chances with a product that prints the date you might expire?) Reading the comments on her post there and wondering which ones are true: you can really tell if aspirin is any good by sniffing it?