Has America Changed Too Much?“Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.” — Barry Goldwater
In 1960, Barry Goldwater published The Conscience of a Conservative. In it, he noted:
“Conservatism is not an economic theory, though it has economic implications. The shoe is precisely on the other foot: it is Socialism that subordinates all other considerations to man’s material well-being. It is Conservatism that puts material things in their proper place — that has a structured view of the human being and of human society, in which economics plays only a subsidiary role.
The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that Conservatives take account of the whole man, while Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature.”
Fifty-three years later that remains a constant. Unfortunately for conservatives, much of the hand-wringing over paths forward to victory involve haggling over taxes and balanced budgets and spending and debt to GDP ratios, etc.
Writing in Real Clear Politics Ben Domenech gets to the heart of this:
“The choice for the Republican Party is whether to invest more in the 2010 strategy of this populist strain, to refine it and connect more policy proposals to it … or to embark on an effort to restore the party’s standing as the adult in the room – the competent, clean cut, good-government technocracy that sees the chief appeal of Republican politicians as combining agencies and seeking out efficiencies rather than rolling back government power and draining bureaucratic swamps. The GOP swung back to this technocratic approach on a national scale in 2012, and let’s just say the electoral results left much to be desired.”
The budgetary and economic wonkery only gets the GOP so far and that isn’t far enough to victory.
In truth, I think it will take a magnetic personality to pull the GOP out of the gutter. We live in an age of personality politics. But that personality will have to have a message that resonates with the American public. What resonates right now with the American public is a deep-seated distrust of government. Any Republican way forward must capitalize on this. In other words, the faces in Washington who can play the role are very limited to people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and — if immigration can go away as an issue and the base forgives him — Marco Rubio.
The message to seize on is pretty straight forward. Under Republican and Democrat policies in Washington, particularly accelerated in the past five years, the United States meritocracy has given way to an aristocracy.
Only those of means can get ahead. Increasingly, they view their role as making life comfortable for the less well-off instead of enabling the less well-off to become well off. Wall Street, banks, major corporations, politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and the rich are the only ones who can prosper because they are the only ones who can either navigate the system or afford to pay others who can figure out how to navigate the system.
For the rest of Americans, from small business to the middle class, the only path is one of dependence on a governmental structure too byzantine to figure out and, should one be smart enough to figure out, too costly through litigation, regulation, and complication to navigate through.
An America where, as Lincoln said, every man can make himself, is replaced by an America where men are made by how the government takes cares of their individual circumstances. Students are no longer trained to be creative, entrepreneurial citizens, but to be workers for others. The self-employed are encumbered to the point of needing to be employees of others. The nuclear family is disincentivized and destabilized.
The America where one could work hard and get ahead is less and less possible because Democrats wish to force us all onto a safety net on which all are entangled, ensnared, and punished if we escape. Republicans, for fear of being disliked, would rather nibble at numbers than paint a picture of a better America for everyone.
Just one fact worth noting: under the present system, enabled by Republican and Democrat alike, a single mother on $29,000 a year and government benefits would have to get to $60,000 in salary to make it worth her getting off the safety net. This is a bipartisan construct, but one only an outsider conservative can build a campaign around fixing to the betterment of the single mom and everyone else.
Ideas of the 1960s have now grown reactionary in our world that is vastly different from a half-century ago.
Take well-meaning subsidies for those over age 62. Why are there still senior discounts, vast expansions in Social Security and Medicare, and generous public pensions?
Five decades ago all that made sense. There was no such thing as double-dipping. Seniors often were physically worn out from blue-collar jobs. They were usually poorer and frequently sicker than society in general. The aged usually died not long after they retired.
Not now. Seniors often live a quarter-century or longer after a mostly white-collar retirement, drawing subsidies from those least able to pay for them.
Seniors are not like today's strapped youth, scrimping for a down payment on a house. Most are not struggling to find even part-time work. None are paying off crushing student loans. In a calcified economy, why would an affluent couple in their early 60s earn a "senior discount" at a movie, while the struggling young couple with three children in the same line does not?
Affirmative action and enforced "diversity" were originally designed to give a boost to those who were victims of historical bias from the supposedly oppressive white-majority society. Is that still true, a half-century after these assumptions became institutionalized?
Through greater intermarriage and immigration, America has become a multiracial nation. Skin color, general appearance, accent or the sound of one's name cannot so easily identify either "oppressors" or "victims."
So who exactly should receive privileges in job-hiring or college admissions — the newly arrived Pakistani immigrant, or the third-generation, upper-middle-class Mexican-American who does not speak Spanish? Both, or neither? What about someone of half-Jamaican ancestry? What about the children of Attorney General Eric Holder or self-proclaimed Native American Sen. Elizabeth Warren? What about the poor white grandson of the Oklahoma diaspora who is now a minority in California?
Even if the 21st-century state could define who is a minority, on what moral grounds does the targeted beneficiary deserve special consideration? Is his disadvantage defined by being poorer, by lingering trauma from his grandparents' long-ago ordeals, or by yesterday's experience with routine racial prejudice?
If Latinos are underrepresented at the University of California, Berkeley, is it because of the stubborn institutional prejudices that also somehow have been trumped by Asian-Americans enrolling at three times their numbers in the state's general population? Are women so oppressed by men that they graduate from college in higher numbers than their chauvinist male counterparts?
Of all the consequences that would result from amnesty, one that hasn't been discussed enough is the expansion of affirmative action.
Affirmative action takes existing racial grievances, institutionalizes them, and then magnifies them. Affirmative action encourages "a victim-focused identity in minorities" and fosters "a parasitic diversity industry"
Sixty-five percent of Hispanics believe that affirmative action should be used to ensure that more Hispanics get to college or university, and 68% support affirmative action in employment, according to a 2011 Angus Reid opinion poll. A 2012 Georgetown University poll showed that 63% of young Hispanics (18-24) support affirmative action to "redress past discrimination," along with 75% of young blacks, but only 19% of whites.
Of course, making up for past discrimination doesn't apply to people whose ancestors never set foot in this country, but fairness was never the goal of racial preferences; former Democratic Senator James Webb famously noted that affirmative action simply favors "anyone who does not happen to be white."
The policy is bad enough. The greatest harm is the poisonous racial grievance reinforced by the policy.
People who believe that their racial group is often discriminated against will support affirmative action. On this point, the open-borders Republicans have done an extremely poor job of understanding Hispanic viewpoints about how this country treats them. Sixty-four percent of Latino adults claim that discrimination against Hispanics in schools is "a major problem," and 58% said the same of the workplace, according to a recent Pew poll.
There are very few policy issues that liberals don't reduce to supposed racism. Even "righteous indignation against diversity and reverse discrimination" is one of the "implements of racism" for upper-class whites, according to law professor Mari Matsuda, a founder of the highly influential critical race theory
It's safe to say that when a racial group perceive a high degree of supposed discrimination, they will not be voting for limited government, but will instead favor reverse discrimination. Those who assert the contrary — pro-amnesty Republicans — have the extraordinary burden of showing some basis in history or logic for believing that groups with a racial victim mindset will reject racial preferences.
It is a false hope that any significant number of those who receive amnesty will vote Republican, unless the GOP gets in the affirmative action game. Give a group amnesty, and they'll be thankful to all Democrats and a few Republicans, but Democrats will give them more of what they want from the state. The choice will be simple.
Consider also the calcified assumptions about college education. The expanding 1960s campus was touted as the future gateway to a smarter, fairer, richer and more ethical America. Is that dream still valid?
Today, the college-educated owe a collective $1 trillion in unpaid student loans. Millions of recent graduates cannot find jobs that offer much chance of paying off their crushing student debts.
College itself has become a sort of five to six-year lifestyle choice. Debt, joblessness or occasional part-time employment and coursework eat up a youth's 20s — in a way that military service or vocational training does not.
In reaction, private diploma mills are springing up everywhere. But there are no "diversity czars" at DeVry University. There is no time or money for the luxury of classes such as "Gender Oppression" at Phoenix University. Students do not have rock-climbing walls or have Michael Moore address them at Hillsdale College.
The private-sector campus makes other assumptions. One is that the hallowed liberal arts general-education requirement has been corrupted and no longer ensures an employer that his college-graduate hire is any more broadly educated or liberally minded than those who paid far less tuition for job-training courses at for-profit alternative campuses.
Scan the government grandees caught up in the current administration's ballooning IRS, Associated Press and Benghazi scandals. In each case, a blue-chip Ivy League degree was no guarantee that our best and brightest technocrats would prove transparent or act honorably. What difference did it make that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had degrees from prestigious universities when they misled the American people or Congress?
The now-aging idealists of the 1960s long ago promised us that a uniformly degreed citizenry — shepherded by Ivy League-branded technocrats -- would make America better by sorting us out by differences in age, gender, education and race.
It is now past time to end that fossilized dream before it becomes our collective nightmare.
But, to begin, the Republicans must be able to relate. With distrust in government at an all-time high, a relevant Republican is probably going to be a guy who hates the status quo, not one who talks Washington wonkspeak.
As Domenech concluded:
“The Republican Party needs to understand that shrinking its policy aims to more modest solutions is not going to be rewarded by the electorate. Yes, they need to tailor their message better and find policy wedges which peel off chunks of the Democratic base (winning political strategy is built on an understanding that every drama needs a hero, a martyr, and a villain). But what’s truly essential is that the party leadership rid themselves of the notion that politeness, great hair, and reform for efficiency’s sake is a ballot box winner, and understand instead that politicians who can connect with the people and deliver on their limited government promises – not ones who back away from them under pressure – represent the path forward.”
Unless the Republicans can find candidates who can eloquently express true conservative they will not win. Just putting up candidates like Mitt Romney who had one note to play is not enough. They must convince the majority of the electorate that only through a return to the values of our Founders and the Constitution can this Republic be saved from the tyranny of bigger and bigger government.