A changing pardigm – can the Republicans adapt?
In my last post “Not so much a conservative victory, as a victory for state rights” I focused on analyzing the outcome of the election of Scott Brown. I knew it would take some time for both sides to digest the results and it’s meaning. For the democrats it means they stand to loose control in the midterm election. What I was looking for was the response of the Republicans. I am a Republican, and I wanted to see how my party would integrate the lessons of Scott Brown’s success. Would they only see it as a refutation of the Obama administration and the radical progressive agenda, as they sought after reinforcement of their own ideology, or something else?
I have listened to the pundits, the pronouncements from both sides, the State of the Union address, and the reaction looking for insight to there plans. The cabal controlling the Democrat party will double down. Pretend that the last year never happened and concentrate on exercising their power to push their agenda. Success isn’t as important as effort. Progressives judge ideas on intent, not results, so they will deliver their good intentions in a flood of red ink. Republicans are focusing on not being Democrats. Sure the Republicans spent too much money when they had power and that is bad> But the Democrats spending is many times worse, and worse is not the opposite of bad. People wanted change, but worse is not the change they wanted. So it appears that the Republican leadership plans only wait and capitalize on not be Democrats to regain their power.
But will the voters come back to the Republicans for more of the same? The voters will if the Republicans understand what the voters want. What the voters want however, may not be what the Republican leadership wants, and could be very uncomfortable for any politician accustomed to doing things the “same old way”.
So why is the paradigm shifting. There is a rule of thumb that applies to all aspects of life and work. The 80/20 rule. In government as well business 80% of the results are produced by 20% of the effort. It is a recognition of the limitations of activist federalism that is driving the new paradigm.
The election of Scott Brown can be viewed as the iconic moment signaling the a paradigm shift in politics. But before we can begin to predict where this latest paradigm will lead it will be advantageous to understand the paradigm that has driven politics for the last half century. Regardless of the party in power, the paradigm remained the same, and it began with an Icon moment when President John F Kennedy nationalized the Alabama National Guard and General Henry Graham confronted Governor George Wallace on the steps of the University of Alabama. From this point on, an Activist Federal Government was accepted as the political norm. The differences between Democrats and Republicans was in style on how to govern in this environment.
The action at University of Alabama did not happen in a vacuum. What proceeded it, and followed reinforced the change. Perhaps it was the TV coverage of the riots, Bull Conner’s reaction, Martin’s imprisonment. Maybe it was just the TV itself, a new medium really penetrating the family home. Roosevelt only had Radio and print media in his day. But Kennedy was faced with graphic pictures broadcast into the majority of homes ever night. This level of penetration was new. This visceral witness to the horrors of segregation was new. Like today, the activities that brought about the paradigm shift was infighting among factions within the democrat party played out in the public eye.
So as not to be misunderstood let me state clearly. What we have accomplished is amazing. I have said that John f Kennedy gave us the iconic image that defined the political paradigm of my adult life. I embraced this paradigm like most of my generation and it defined our expectations of the proper role of the federal government. For lack of a proper description I will call it ACTIVIST FEDERALISM. It began with high ideals and impossible goals. Putting a man on the moon, ending legalized segregation, bringing about an equality of opportunity by breaking down barriers of race, religion and sex . We demanded great advancements in medicine and took on polio, measles, tuberculosis, cancer, trauma, delivering solutions including procedures and medicines that would appear nothing short of miraculous to President John Kennedy. Inspired by his emphasis on science and investment in scientific research and by the activist federal role in underwriting scientific research we take for granted a world of technology that would have seemed too advanced for Star Trek in President Lyndon Johnson’s White House days. Activist Federalism changed the way people look at old age, disabilities and the under privileged. We have gone through several variations on solutions since the days of President Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. Some worked better than others, some ideas had unintended negative consequences and failed miserably only to be replaced by another idea. But generally we live in a world that is far better at all levels of society for the American citizen then the old political paradigm produced.
The powers at the top of both parties cut their political teeth on the successes of the new activist federal paradigm. Barrack Obama, rather than the transformation figure he wants us to believe is only a product of the progressive movement, the undisputed champion of an activist federal government. Not just big government, but big government that champions federal solutions to address all inequities.
The election of Scott Brown marks the turning point in decades of belief in the power of the federal government. It is the iconic moment when the paradigm shift becomes apparent, complete with new media, new meaning, and new heroes. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but it happens when the various factions of the democratic party are very publicly at war with themselves. That the moment involves a Kennedy who was an icon of the old paradigm is coincidental but memorable. But a shift has occurred.
In my analysis I mentioned a caller from Massachusetts, Patrice, who called the Bill Bennett Morning in America radio talk show on the morning of election day. She explained she was a liberal, supported liberal ideals, thought the universal health care was good, and that the medical care was the best in the world. She had only two complaints with the democrats. One, she didn’t want to ask Chuck Schumer for permission for her son to get a procedure, and two, she didn’t want Nancy Pelosi deciding the priorities for her tax dollars. Redistributing the wealth was OK, Nancy Pelosi deciding who receives what is not. She declared she would vote for Brown to stop the madness in Washington.
Not to send a message. Not to reject the ideals of progressivism. Patrice embraced the same desires that drove the founding fathers to reject taxation imposed by the parliament. Lack of authority to tax her without representation. Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reed, Charles Rangel, Chris Dodd do not stand for election in her state. She can’t vote for them, so they don’t represent her. Patrice made the point that Massachusetts had a solution for their uninsured. It was progressive, and they liked it. It worked for Massachusetts. If they wanted to tweak it, they could do so through their local elections.
To be a paradigm shift, takes more than just a shot heard round the world. People through out the country must embrace the idea. Which brings me to an unknown caller to an evening talk radio show. He was from Louisiana, a retired military medic. He declared that there are no uninsured people who can’t get health care in Louisiana. As he put it, we have universal health care. Of course it is different. Louisiana runs a system of charity hospitals. No one without money or insurance has to go without medical care. And, the caller pointed out, Louisiana isn’t California. They balance their budget every year, and still fund the charity hospitals. In short, they had a perfect solution for Louisiana to deal with the same issues that Massachusetts faced. How to care for the poor and provide quality health care to everyone.
These juxtaposed calls define the new paradigm. The days of activist federal government are over. The pendulum has shifted in the direction of minimal federal activism and SCALABLE LOCALIZATION. Successful will be the politician who can effective fight the growth of the Feds, and put forth solutions that leave more of the power to the local voters. Local voters have the power to solve problems with reasonable cost controls and make the hard choices that people can embrace. Local, state and regional solutions provide the opportunity to address the 80/20 issues with adequate support for the costs and implementations. The more money that the federal government doesn’t take from the tax payers the more success the new politicians will enjoy.
In future posts I plan to explore the ways and means of advancing traditionalist values among voters who are active, involved and have concluded that the Federal Government is the problem, not part of the solution.
Cross posted at Freedoms Light