Mitch McConnell, the Culture of Nice and the Constitutional Fire
Ordinarily we only like to publish what I call “findings”, but I admit a difficult time getting my arms around this subject, so will just throw it out there, as a way of trying to dissect the elements that takes a one-time robust conservative like Mitch McConnell and turn him into a country-club accommodationist. Or was he a true conservative, in the first place? McConnell is only a foil in this regard.
Why this is important is that fairness requires us to be careful and correct in the brickbats we throw in the direction of anyone, especially McConnell, Cornyn, Michael Steele, the GOP congressional leadership and the entire “culture” of leadership in the Party….excepting maybe Lindsay Graham…who I’ve found brings out both an instinctive and intuitive dislike in many people.
They occupy a position of leadership we would like to see true conservatives occupy some day, and unless we want to stampede GOP headquarters like the Wahhabis did Medina, stomping Qu’rans in their wake, it might be worth our time to consider just how a fellow like Mitch McConnell, who I watched when he beat a fellow named Todd Hollenbeck for chief executive officer of Jefferson County, (Louisville) Kentucky back in the 70′s, could become so, well, whipped.
We would do things very differently, we say. There are things inside the GOP that are vile and insipid. But there is also a “culture” there, a culture we need to know, as a surgeon might know a cancer, just so we don’t cut out perfectly healthy organs in the process of removing the bad ones. So many have gone there as true-blue conservatives, then been reduced to this. How?
First, there’s no turning back. There has to be a change at the top. As I’ve said before, I’m a December 8th’er, and have long been thankful that when America found her back up against the wall she could always rely on having a Lincoln who would by-pass a dozen generals to bring in a whiskey-drinker like Grant, or a Marshall, who would elevate an unknown brigadier to five-stars (eventually) to carry an entirely different kind of war to Germany. In all likelihood only Ike could have done that. It was George Marshall who made it all happen. And it was Marshall, who, on December 8th, 1941, decided US military forces could not fight or win with the “culture” that had existed before Pearl Harbor. So, for the most part, he fired the whole lot of them. History bears witness to the correctness of that call, no matter the wounded egos and ruined careers. Some were fine men. No matter.
The formula is clear: Have a decision-maker who 1) knows the Enemy, 2) knows the stakes and 3) is not afraid to step outside the box to make the hard calls.
So that part of the Republican Party culture, we know, has be be changed. On all three counts the Republican leadership, up and down the line, seem to have failed in these three simple criteria that matter when survival is on the line. Well, not Party survival, and that may be problem here. While we all know there are no “profiles in courage” to be found in the Democrat Party, the same can be said about the GOP, it seems. Ben Nelson, and really, many others, came to a crossroad, then, as Yogi Berra said, “took it.” And will again, in all likelihood. But the GOP came to the same crossroad and bared its belly like a whipped dog, really unsure about taking either. Why?
Part of the answer may lie in the most recent Democrat complaint that this new health care overhaul plan, other than being deficit neutral (a lie so big only Al Gore could embrace it without a smirk) is no different that the half-trillion dollar Medicaid plan run through Congress in the Bush years, which the GOP backed. The GOP will huff and puff, for it’s true, the plan added billions to the deficit. But let’s wait and see in coming days how many GOP members actually draw the most glaring lines between their Medicaid Bill and this one…1) that gun at the head of every American who must now buy it, and the constitutionality of that sort of coercion…what’s that all about?…I could stop here…2) federally funded/mandated abortion, 3) the Medicaid Plan worked, and is popular. This plan cannot work, and everyone knows it, and 60% is only the tip of the iceberg against it. It will work so well, in order to get some senators to vote for the bill their state had to exempted from all or part of its provisions, another constitutional overreach…and expect that number to grow as the bill works its way back to the House, (The Bill is beginning to look like one of those “special dispensations” the Catholic Church used to dish out, “This Bill is eternal…except next Thursday for anyone participating in the scrap drive”…George Carlin, RIP), 4) make your own list. Simply watch the GOP hem and haw, and I guarantee 3 or 4 senators are sweating blood right now over this apparent image of hypocrisy, as leveled once again by the Democrats.
I know many of you, just by your tone, would like to string many of these folks up. Moreover, many would prefer to take your ball and bat and go form your own party, in part, to rub the GOP’s nose in its historic but jaded brand. Get even. Let me dispense with that notion here and now. While fine minds can always disagree intellectually about the shape of a perfect world, this quickly evolving imperfect one simply won’t allow us that luxury. To me, that’s a given. You at RedState (and other places we visit) need to arrive at a strategic consensus among yourselves very soon, that it is the Republican Party or nothing, for unless you are willing to suspend this battle with the Left over to say 2032-2040 or so, the Left is within just three years of being able to insure that will be your next window of opportunity.
In other words, as much as the fire of anger burns deep in your soul, the simple truth is, the Left is by far the more dynamic of the contestants right now. They have a plan, they are sticking to it, and with each passing day, their strength grows. So far they have known all our counter moves, and had a plan to counter them. They have a solid leadership which to date has been so good, for the most part you (we) still don’t know their names…for sure. And worst of all, a significant portion of the GOP still isn’t even sure there is an enemy, let alone who it is.
Finally, they are certainly using speed to their advantage. We don’t have time to do the third party thing…again, unless you are young enough to be looking forward to those 2034 midterms. It’s now or never, with whatever tools, intellectual and otherwise, we can muster. (Again, we still have certain advantages, which no matter how hard they try to defend, they can’t. But we have to employ them, first.)
Besides, the Republican brand isn’t so much tarnished or jaded as it had just been put away into cold storage along with grandmother’s old mink. It can be brought back…and in short order, I might add. With the right stride, posture, set of the jaw, steely gaze, wry grin…you get my drift…the party can be back within 90 days. But that’s just the image stuff. Cosmetics. And that won’t work if Mitch comes back in January dressed and grinning like The Kurgan in Highlander. He has cast an image that is quite frankly, inerasable in the public mind; quiet, pleasant, well mannered, accommodating, and ever so gracious in defeat. The slumped shoulders of supplication do not inspire.
Then there’s the substance. The Republican Party ended slavery. The Republican Party made the death of Jim Crow a reality. And the Republican Party has stood fast against all the enemies of Liberty and democracy, from Stalin to Al Qeada. It is the originator of the “American Doctrine of Liberty” (George William Curtis, 1863.) The Republican platform, whether anyone there actually believes it or not, still reads like a final exam on the Constitution in high school.
And yes, even as it is the party of the true engine of freedom in America, and greatest repudiation of Karl Marx…small business…it is also the party of big trusts, big business, big banks, and big, big, big, all dressed out in the black tie and tails of an upper class that somehow some randy Irish gigolo from Massachusetts and a Wikipedia-intellectual from Nashville actually want to call their own now.
So then, there are two Republican Parties, and there always has been…just as there are two kinds of conservatism.
To me conservatism has always existed on two planes.
First of all, conservatism is logical. It requires critical thinking, and the ability to reason….whether you are discussing foreign policy, taxation, limited government, or abortion. This by itself these days is a recruiting tool, those things being so far out of fashion for years. Scientists who love the “science of it” tend to be conservative while scientists seeking grant money tend to be liberal.
But this also means of course, you can be a conservative and still not really give a hoot in hell for your fellow man. The GOP platform is still conservative, containing planks that have stood so long we can recite them as a Methodist recites the Apostles Creed, a Scout his Oath, or a creepy-crawlie Leftie the first four lines of The Internationale.…in other words, as a rote remembrance almost devoid of substance, which many in fact do.
Conservatism is clinical and correct, so touches a part of many of our inner souls, including our vanities. We like people who can think, and we don’t like empty recitations, which for many years now has been the domain of the Left, but once was what they said about us…well, they still say about us, except a generation ago it was more often true. And many of them are just as maggot-infested as their parents were at Woodstock. We prefer more hygienic company.
In the end, conservatism is a body of cold, clear rational thought, which like laws on the book down at City Hall, can be bought and sold as easily as Judas did Christ, for a bag of nickels. Just as a cop can be paid to look the other way, a conservative can be seduced to do almost anything that doesn’t require selling off a piece of his own soul…and if the Constitution is not a piece of that person’s soul….? I submit, for most, it is not.
Sorry, that’s how I see the culture of nice.
But below the fold of a line-by-line recitation of the elements of conservatism there is a fire…a fire that seems to have all but vanished until the rise of the Tea Party Movement.
Ben Franklin proved that you can have that fire in your belly until you close your eyes that final time. Malcolm Muggeridge, C S Lewis, Buckley, to name a few, proved likewise. And all proved that the fire is what makes up much of the handshake between the brightest of minds in the world, and the most ordinary. It is what binds us.
Just don’t confuse that fire in the belly with being full of vinegar. To be full of vinegar suggests the intemperance of age, which is a different set of luggage altogether.
Since Reagan, the conservative (I prefer “constitutional”, just to end the quibbling over what a conservative is or is not) fire has been mis-defined, i think, as many portray it as a raging cauldron that makes snot bubbles come out of your nose, and drool run down the side of your mouth. That’s more often the aforementioned vinegar, or rage, but as we can tell from the feedback, that image doesn’t sit well with a segment of the population, even when it is justified. And it doesn’t sit well within the the current culture. Makes us appear “red-throated”. Indeed, I’ve been confronted by enough “constitutionalists” who, had they not taken up studying the fine print of the Constitution would have been hanging out in biker bars correcting everyone’s grammar, to know much of this disdain is hubris, me-smart, you-stupid, and not unlike the symptomology of the Left, defining oneself by what one hates. (We all do this from time to time, by the way…it’s just a tic we need to be aware of, since it makes us no better than them when we put it on display. It comes from having read a book we think no one else has.)
In Mitch McConnell’s day, conservatism was much less “me-me-me” than it is today, this I know, but despite Ronald Reagan, conservatism’s true fire even then could only be found in certain quarters, mostly intellectual. As a fan of both Aquinas and von Hayek, I found that Aquinas had it, while von Hayek, at least as a spiritual element, did not. I admire them both, but as Kirk and Spock, coming to the same conclusion by two entirely different roads. Their blending, then reduced to common sense, which Ronald Reagan did so well, is the perfect conservatism. But among most chapter-and-verse conservatives, that deeply felt passion is hard to find…in their speech, their tone, their body-language.
By that fire, I mean a white heat, no flame, just heat over white coals, that sits there all the time, only to arise to remind ourselves and others of the rightness and wrongness of a thing because of a code we swore fealty to years ago, and to choose a course for us…in the hope others might follow. It is indeed spiritual, inasmuch as the idea of Liberty, especially to those denied it, is spiritual. Once realized, the fire is built, then stoked, and over years, banked, so as to burn endlessly. Without it, I was once reminded, the Constitution reads like the articles and by-laws for a high school history club. It’s the meaning behind the words, found in many sources, The Federalist, but also the Bill of Rights, Jefferson’s Declaration that define it. DeToqueville recognized it in our people in the 1830s, a Frenchman no less. Dvorak saw it also in the 1890s, and penned no less a declaration of love for this new sense of freedom as DeToqueville had. Listen to the 2nd Movement of his 9th and you will see what I mean. Dvorak saw what 95% of American law professors and constitutional scholars still are unable to see. The Declaration of Independence was that handshake with the Bill of Rights that provided a continuity between the spiritual notion of human rights and law….thus making the Constitution, and whole ideal of Liberty, both a legal and spiritual one. Artists and philosophers saw this before most lawyers and politicians. That is almost always the case.
You can tell this fire by the way the way the Constitution is mentioned, as well as its underlying themes, human dignity and Liberty. Just in mentioning it, there is a hint of reverence as well as defiance, for free men are always defiant to tyrants just in the way they walk. I haven’t seen a modern politician speak in that manner in years….nor stride that stride. The Senate has all but barred that scent from its chambers since LBJ. I haven’t seen defiance in the tone or stride of any Republican since Reagan, (well, maybe a couple) still, that “defiance” is a officially a part of the Party platform.
Ronald Reagan had that fire, and many of us recognized it in him almost immediately. His tone when he mentioned “America” was from one absolutely smitten with freedom, and unabashedly sentimental about human dignity and the prospects for the down-trodden once cut loose from the binds of statism. We also recognized it in the writings of William Buckley, even as he was spinning some dry yarn about what to do with the USSR. It was that fire that set WFB apart from neocons. Like me, WFB was always willing to make common cause with them, always because of the Enemy of course. But intuitively, they were at arms length. Buckley knew that Communism really does mean very little without the fire. He wrote for years, but never about being right, only about defending the right.
But he also instructed us in how to work alongside those without the fire, who like old dogs, are probably too old to ever be taught…which sounds a little like Mitch McConnell. I see this fire all the time on RedState. In the ordinary course of day-to-day business, which is politics here, it plays little role. But it always heats up when we come to a crossroads, a choice where the rightness and wrongness of a thing means turning one way, while the profit of it, e,g., wealth, status, success, may mean turning another way. We all came by our fire a little differently, but no doubt the ways of passing that fire down have all diminished over time. Every institutional vehicle for transporting that fire has been attacked, as judgmentalism, just for saying “that’s just plain wrong”. As we know, the defiant can weather that criticism but the others cannot, which brings us right back to the “culture of nice” inside the Republican Party.
This is why we lament the loss of Ben Franklin, our keeper of the flame, in the councils of power, while noting Mitch McConnell had at least three, but ignored them. This is a clear signal for a needed intervention.
We have been sending “findings” to state GOP HQ’s, congressional district GOP HQ’s, and RNC for over a year now, asking them to reach out to their local Tea Party groups, by whatever name they go by, and ask them to join them around the council table. Some may even have done this, as that is clearly the common sense thing to do. I suspect a few have, (not at our bidding, I think), for what’s an extra seat at the table if their own self-interests, the apparatus, is protected.
But by inviting us to sit at the table, there is still that “culture” thing, which to many of the RINO’s, is little more than the same sort of class consciousness that has owned the Left since really the 1840′s. And there is also the bureaucratic angle to consider, the apparatus. The party apparatus to a lot of people represents a sweet gig. So sweet, in fact, I am quite certain that many GOP staffers would be quite willing to be perpetual No 2′s to the Dem’s, just so long at they can hold onto their clubhouse privileges at National Country Club. They’ve been Michelized to the core.
So, more than a few GOP party staffers deserves at least a bum’s rush out the door.
The plan, of course, is that we (you) will take the party back, one precinct at a time, from the bottom up, rather than storming the Summer Palace in St Petersburg. In a perfect world, come November we (you) and the GOP would take forty plus seats away from the Democrats in the House, sweep the Senate…but also toss half a dozen or more wishy-washy Republicans in the Primary, strengthening our place around the table. That way, everyone will play nice. Rather than storm the party, we have a solid conservative caucus inside it which one day will be the core; the heart and soul of the Party. I like Fred Thompson’s idea of a magnet rather than big tent.
I like this strategy. I even think it is doable. But if we fall a little short, there is still that troubling, pregnant silence around the conference table of power within the Party…of the two forks, Whither do we take?
Take solace in knowing that you (our side) will be the only ones with a plan to actually go out and meet the Enemy. Their plane will be to protect their culture, their apparatus, and their world.
I can’t explain the state of mind that causes a person, under assault, to choose to wait until the front door has been kicked down and is backed into a corner to begin to fight..after all hope is gone, versus, knowing the Enemy is out there, to go out and meet him at the edge of the town, the county, or even the water’s edge. Natural laws of behavior (territoriality) might explain some, a female only fighting when her cubs and nest are in imminent danger, the male sallying forth sometimes just for a joy ride, to pick a fight just to cut the edge off an otherwise dull day.
But this explanation probably belongs more to the natural world than the human, since, from the rise of Obama, I’ve seen as much, if not more, Alpha behavior in women than men, along with more extraordinary powers of observation and reasoning. The old laws don’t apply and that is probably a good thing.
I do know, however, that once a home invasion has been made complete, the confinees’ behavior becomes predictably placid, for survival is then reduced to the lowest denominator. That is where one bares his belly every time he hears a snarl…or is shown a Queen of Diamonds. Or maybe he is shown a dirty 8 x10 glossy of himself and his neighbor’s goat. (The only limitation on this is what in your own mind, you think the limitation’s would be on Harry Reid’s conscience.) A kind of Stockholm’s Syndrome sets in. There is an old saying that if your best friend is beneath you in rank and power, and lies to you, you will end it. If he is your equal, you will set a greater distance between yourself and him. But if he is your better, and sometimes this is only known psychologically, you will ignore the lie. That he was ever your friend will never enter the equation. You will bare the belly when he barks. He will own you. Accommodation sets it. Yes, Boss. No, Boss. Begging your Lordship’s pardon. It’s the only explanation I can find as to why an entire body of people can be b***h-slapped for fifteen years, but still begin every sentence, describer their tormentor’s as “My dear friend”…
One final word about that fire… it began in a cave in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.