A warning from the left

Stephanie Hitt, at American Thinker, braved a Chicago meeting of the forgotten left wing radicals.  Speakers included Cindy Sheehan and Bill Ayers.  And they can’t understand how they’re no longer relevant. 

I braved a flood of radical leftist whining, disdain, and petulance. Calling themselves a band of “disinviteds,” the three leftists spoke on censorship, free speech, and the revocations of their invitations to speak at various events.   

What started off as a diatribe against the infringement of their right to free speech and their proclaimed right to be heard quickly turned to a litany of complaints against the government, and really, the “Military Industrial Complex” in its quest to suppress free speech and political activism. 


Despite being the least focused and least strident of the three speakers, Cindy Sheehan was in many ways the most insightful. In addition to admitting that her speech was freer under Bush (under Bush, she never spent a night or more than eight hours in jail and never had a restraining order issued against her; under Obama, she was once jailed for 52 hours, and the White House has a restraining order against her), she also questioned why under Obama, the antiwar movement doesn’t seem as important or interesting. In my favorite analogy of the night, she said she felt like the Maytag Repairman of activists. Without actually answering these questions or even expressing a curiosity about this apparent irony, she was able to at least posit that the antiwar movement, when it was popular, was really an anti-Bush movement and that without Bush, no one seems interested in protesting progressive issues. 
Neither Bill Ayers nor Sunsara Taylor was as thoughtful or reflective as Ms. Sheehan, instead blaming censorship and the declining support for radical activism not on the lack of interest in their retreaded “think speak,” but on some conspiratorial notion that people are not able to share their ideas freely. 

It’s a fascinating piece, and I urge you to read the whole thing.  But one thing I kept thinking was that, when these folks were useful, they were lauded and cheered.  Now that they are not, and the now-in-power left suddenly sees the necessity of so many of the hated Bush’s hated policies, they are swept under the rug. 

It could happen to us, too. 

Out of power, many Republicans are eager to embrace the Tea party and its limited spending rhetoric.  When they were in power, however, things were quite different.  When the Republicans return to power, they will be sorely tempted to spend and grow government, and the tea partiers will be forgotten and marginalized. 

This is not a bit to say that the Republicans shouldn’t return to power; when the only alternative is the left, it is necessary to our way of life that they do.  Remember that the Tea party is nothing like the radicals represented by Cindy Sheehan and Bill Ayers, who always appeared somewhat as kooks.  The Tea party, however, is highly representative of America, and many, many citizens share its values.  It will be up to us to remain dedicated and cooperative to ensure that we are not pushed to the sides and marginalized like this when the Republicans suddenly have an incentive to turn their backs on us.


The People Don’t Know What They Want: A Review of John Samples’ The Struggle to Limit Government

The folks who oppose the TEA Party movement love to bring up some of its less logical members’ ill conceived demands to “keep government out of Medicare.” However, these demands perfectly sum up the will of the American populace as a whole, which tends towards a fickle ambivalence on what form it wants government to take.  John Samples’ book The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History, tracks the history of that ambivalence.

The Struggle to Limit Government begins with a brief overview of progressivism leading up to Franklin Roosevelt. He and other progressives cloaked that ultimate big government program, Social Security, which currently accounts for about 20 percent of our national budget, behind an aura of personal responsibility. He argued, correctly as future would show, that once the wage earners were forced to buy into the system, benefits could never be cut, lest those who paid in would lose their investment. We continue to struggle with this problem today. Social Security was politically designed to persist, and it was designed well. As time went on, the program continued to increase through an ever-growing feedback loop; the benefits would increase shortly before elections, then taxes would necessarily increase once power was comfortably entrenched.

The next major wave of government growth came with Lyndon Johnson and his great society programs. LBJ saw government as a way to remake society, and the people went along. Republicans at the time saw little to gain from opposing governmental growth policies, as the growth benefited them as well, so they did not object to LBJ’s intentions to use government to achieve his goals. LBJ’s programs were bolstered by the enormous support that they provided to higher education, leading universities to be stacked with liberals supportive of his goals. Samples points out that the war in Vietnam served the same goals as the war on poverty at home- to remake society. Government continued to grow unabated.

Reagan’s policies represented a radical new kind of Republican; inspired by Goldwater, he ran on a platform of reforming the old system and actually shrinking government. He argued for cutting taxes first, on the theory that by starving the beast, reduced revenues would force government to contract. He was largely wrong, and his policies led to unprecedented borrowing, still a problem today.

However, Reagan was not a complete failure. His theories changed the public’s perception of government growth. Some of Samples’ most interesting anecdotes are the statements that pre-Reagan politicians made about government’s goals. LBJ, for example, openly called for equality “in fact,” that is, equality of both opportunity and outcome, something no modern politician could call for. Had it not been for Reagan, Obama’s famous answer to Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth around” would not have been likely to even raise eyebrows. Although government never actually shrank under Reagan, he did herald in an era of illegitimacy of government that even the most liberal candidates still attempt to give the appearance of embracing today, by claiming that their policies will lower taxes and shrink government. By offering reforms, though, Reagan was ultimately an upholder of the old system; his policies allowed big, centralized government to perpetuate.

Samples is not kind to the Republicans who followed Reagan. While the Gingrich revolution brought about significant change by forcing Clinton to moderate, it delegitimatized the movement as well. When Gingrich and Clinton forced showdowns that led to temporary government shutdowns, the people, comfortable in the booming ‘90’s, favored Clinton and abandoned Gingrich’s attempts to reduce spending. Bush, with his compassionate conservatism, failed to focus on spending much at all and grew government to unprecedented levels. Samples derides the Republicans for focusing on moral issues, rather than fiscal, and losing sight of the need to shrink government. Led by the moral majority, Republicans forced their own kind of progressivism; even the Iraq war, in its intent to remake Iraqi society, was paternalistic and progressive in nature.

This book provides a wealth of interesting, relevant information. While most political junkies will be familiar with the broad history, Samples breaks down the goals, incentives, and public reaction in great detail, allowing the reader to fully understand how government was made into the looming, centralized power that it is today. However, if I have one complaint about it, it is that this is not the sort of book that you can curl up and get lost in. It reads very much like a textbook, with a broad amount of information, but very little narrative flow to keep the reader engaged. The wealth of information makes it well worth the read, but slogging through it is likely to be difficult for the casual reader.

The book’s conclusion appears to break down to the fact that Americans, in their voting habits, simply cannot make up their minds about whether they want larger or smaller government. The common cliché of the citizen wanting government spending cut on everything but what is important to him is a true one. Neither party helps this issue, as both tend to offer their own takes on progressivism in efforts (sometimes misguided) to stay in power. It is our ambivalence, and give and take back, that keeps us on the path that we are on, and that ambivalence will have to change in order to end the struggle and truly limit government.

How tremendously terrible are the Democratic nominees in Shelby County, TN?

So bad, they’re not even pretending they’re not.  And they expect voters to just deal with it. 

It is understandable — if a tad abrupt — that a spokesperson for one of the two major parties in Shelby County should dismiss the other party’s freshly minted nominees for county offices as “duds.”

That’s what Shelby County Republican chairman Lang Wiseman, extolling his own “great candidates,” had to say at a post-election GOP rally concerning the Democratic victors in May 4 primary voting.

What is less customary is that such a spokesperson’s opposite number — in this case, Gale Jones Carson, one of two campaign co-chairs (the other is Dave Cambron) for the August 5 general election — should be advising Democratic cadres at a post-election rally to “hold your nose” and vote for all her party’s nominees “whether you like them or not.”

What are you going to do, Memphis, vote Republican?

Maybe a Woman Can’t Handle It

A review of What Sex is a Republican? Stories from the Front Lines in American Politics and How You Can Change the Way Things Are Terri McCormick, M.A., former Wisconsin state congresswoman.  Published by The Capital Press. 

Everybody knows that politics is broken and filled with corruption.  Everybody wants to change the way things are.  Terri McCormick entered the world of politics with the intent to do just that. 

Ms. McCormick started her political career by working to get a charter school law passed in Wisconsin, working against a great deal of opposition from teachers’ unions and other groups dedicated to the status quo.  She tells several harrowing tales about the resistance she faced from those who wanted to retain the status quo.  Particularly disturbing is a tale about her daughter, apparently because of her mother’s activism, had her desk moved to the back corner of the classroom and filled with boxes, presumably at the hands of a teacher who wanted to single her out.  On another occasion, an anonymous phone call warned her to check under her car before strapping the kids in.

Although these incidents are striking and legitimately disturbing, most of the rest of Ms. McCormick’s war stories fall flat.  Ms. McCormick presents virtually every case of opposition against her candidacy or her propositions as if it as well were a personal and unfair attack against her.  One incident, for example, involves her publically disagreeing with the Joint Finance Chair’s criticism of the governor.  Although she presents this issue as if she faced some sort of harsh and unfair retribution for daring to speak out, the story culminates with nothing more than a couple of her party members being critical of her.  Similarly, when describing her visit to Washington in an attempt to run for a national seat, Ms. McCormick spends a great deal of time decrying one sitting senator’s unethical behavior, which turns out to amount to nothing more than him telling her that he would be supporting her opponent.  Her outrage at the party and its treatment of her simply does not ring true, and is difficult to sympathize with, leaving me to wonder whether her lack of success was the result of her own weaknesses and thin skin, rather than any unfair outside forces. 

Throughout the book, Ms. McCormick presents herself as a populist, and asserts the values of grassroots-based populism.  However, in stark contrast to her expressed love of “the people,” Ms. McCormick makes numerous attacks on the credibility of bloggers, always speaking in broad generalities with no specific examples.  She ignores the extraordinary number of times that the “elite” media has mislead its viewers, and makes a case for us to trust the media based only on its alleged credibility.  In my mind, this reads as if Ms. McCormick has a chip on her shoulder about bloggers and is somewhat disingenuous about her love of populism. This, when combined with the stories above, lead the reader to question whether her biases are only based around those that have supported her verses those who have not. 

Indeed, the title of this book is perhaps most misleading.  Although she occasionally pays lip service to ideas involving sex and gender, and sometimes, when describing so failure of support, she throws out the question (without an answer) “Was it about sex?”, she never once gives a credible reason to believe that any of the actions against her were based on her gender.  In this way, her assertions appear no different from Obama supporters asserting that opposition to his policies are founded in racism.  From a description of the book provided by the publisher, some opponents of the GOP may hope that this book will reveal some hidden sexism that pervades its ranks.  They will be sorely disappointed. 

Approximately the first three quarters of the book are largely devoted to Ms. McCormick’s stories from the front lines of politics.  The remainder, however, is devoted to explanations and guidelines devoted to the second promise, how we can change the way things are.  Although many of the examples given are generalized and somewhat uninspired (“get involved!” “vote!”), she also provides a great deal of explanation as to how a political campaign is actually run. She encourages all who are interested to get involved and run for office at the local level.  She encourages people who want to make changes and solve problems to run for local office based on grassroots efforts.  Where all of that encouragement would be nice but somewhat banal, she separates this book by actually providing an action plan that describes, from start to finish, how such a campaign can be run and won.  Additionally, she provides examples and instructions involving how bills can be written and passed in order to allow her readers to take action.  These instructions and examples, things that I have always been curious about but do not believe to be widely available, could make this book unusually valuable to those who are interested in making a difference.  This may make up for the book’s other weaknesses.

“Americans didn’t stop liking what the Republican party is supposed to deliver. They stopped liking what the GOP actually delivered.”

Jonah Goldberg suggests that the GOP look to Dominos (no, not the old person game, the pizza chain) as a model.

Dick Cheney? Really?

Real Clear Politics lists their idea of the “dark horse” candidates for the 2012 GOP nomination. 

Too bad it almost certainly won’t happen.”

Blasphemous? Really?

I just received an email from the Tennessee Republican Party, lamenting Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)’s idiotic remarks on healthcare reform.  It said, in part:

As some of you may already be aware, Democrat U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) last night made the following statement while giving a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives:

“This is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly!” (click here to view video)

Along with his blasphemous speech, Grayson used a series of charts to illustrate his point:

Now, I’ll be the first to say that Grayson’s statement was stupid, dishonest, unbecoming of a Representative, and simply uncalled for, but blasphemous?  Is there some definition of that word that I am not familiar with?