…and this afternoon I’ve been trying to come up with something worthwhile to talk about.
The topic they requested I speak on is an overview of where we are in the state and nation today, and where I see us going in 2014. Which is a pretty broad topic.
The thing is, I think I can do that in a way that amounts to something other than rambling. Because – and those of our readers who’ve been paying attention have already heard me talk about this – there’s a way forward for folks who comprise what would be the Reagan coalition if Reagan was still around. We’re talking about folks who call themselves conservatives, or libertarians, or even moderates.
In other words, the vast majority in this country who don’t identify themselves with the Left where the majority of public policy is concerned.
Since Reagan, who not only won two landslide elections but became the political personification of America in the age in which he governed, conservatives, Republicans and the Non-Left have struggled greatly to come up with an animating idea. They’ve tried promoting themselves as the champions of prosperity and business, but when you do that you become a slave to the business cycle. Both Bushes learned that lesson the hard way; Bush 41 was swept out of office when a bad economy and a bad tax deal with Democrats in Congress destroyed his economic credibility. And Bush 43, who was already down the tubes in the polls, saw his presidency completely shredded by an economic downturn largely caused by federal policies intended to promote favored industries like Wall Street, banks and mortgage companies.
Promotion of business and prosperity isn’t an animating idea for the American people. It’s too easy for Democrats to mimic it in rhetoric while killing in policy. You need something bigger.
And as we’ve discussed often, bigger is out there. Bigger is a vision of 21st century American government which looks like 21st century American society.
We’re not in the industrial age anymore, and industrial age institutions are completely incompetent to handle the challenges of the Information Age we’re now entering. So one-size-fits-all Social Security, which fits the definition of a Ponzi scheme Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford will spend the rest of their lives in jail for running in the private sector, is doomed. Medicare and Medicaid are doomed.
Obamacare, which is one more outgrowth of the coercive, massive and stupid Industrial Age bureaucratic model, is doomed.
So are idiotic agencies and programs like the EPA, the Department of Education’s various one-size-fits-all schemes, even the Fed’s Keynesian money-printing orgies. All of it – all of the Progressive movement’s grand plans – is doomed.
We’re in a society where you can, as Bill Whittle says, buy steel from China on your smart phone over lunch. We’re in a society where you can download 20 different songs from 20 different artists for under $20 in less than a minute at four a.m. in a cabin in the middle of a swamp. You can watch an entire season of Boardwalk Empire or Homeland on a rainy Saturday on your couch just using your TV remote. And you have the definition of hypothecate or preterition at your fingertips while waiting at a bus bench.
What use does the DMV or the passport office have for people accustomed to such a society? How do you think gun control can happen when you can 3-D print a gun?
The political entity which first grasps the fact that this new society needs a government which fits it will be the dominant political entity in this new age.
It’s tough to see how the Democrats will be that entity. Are the Democrats better at politics-by-the-news-cycle than Republicans are? Without question. They’re also better at unifying their base than the GOP is. Which would put them in a dominant position except for one thing – they can’t govern. Not only can’t they govern in general, something they’ve proven with their performance in running every big city in America into the ground, but they’ve proven with Obamacare that they can’t govern in specific cases.
Obamacare proves the Democrats don’t know how to govern in the Information Age.
Republicans and conservatives…might. But simply parroting Reagan and calling it messaging doesn’t work.
Are Reagan’s principles timeless? Yes. Is Reagan conservatism a good recipe for leadership and governance? Of course. But you’ve got to have a new animating idea, because the voters don’t remember Reagan. Not anymore. And the media won’t regale the public with hagiographic revisionism of Reagan’s time like they did with JFK and FDR, so you can’t sell the legend like Democrats can with their heroes.
You’ve got to have something new. And here’s a thought to what that might be.
From now on, conservatism needs to be dedicated to eliminating government coercion everywhere it’s possible. Be about freedom in law, and persuasion in culture, and you’re going to win elections in droves – and what’s more, you’ll actually be able to govern more effectively than the crowd in power now.
That’s it. That’s the animating idea. Freedom in law, persuasion in culture.
No part of the conservative/center-right coalition should be alienated by that.
It’s a domestic agenda, so national security conservatives can’t have a problem with it. Many of the smartest folks in that camp have already recognized that much of our international challenge is a cultural one – we need to sell the world on the American ideal which carries the torch for Western civilization, or else we’re likely to lose it to the Muslim fanatics or the Chicoms who want what we have.
The economic and small-government conservatives will love every part of this, except they’re going to be asked to recognize that while we’re no longer trying to coerce anybody to act the way we want them to, culture matters. There is weight to be carried, and decent folks who don’t want to bother their neighbors with petty rules and regulations about sex or whatever else are nevertheless going to need to stand with those who are willing to fight social and cultural issues in the culture.
And the religious and social conservatives, who might be the most “threatened” by this, need not be. They understand that the breakdown of the rule of law signified by the Left threatens to create a tyranny of the deviant. Just to take one issue in hand: When a militant gay couple can, on pain of imprisonment, force a Christian baker to produce a wedding cake for a ceremony which violates his conscience, or force a Christian photographer to do the same, the lesson of limited government becomes clear. And when over just 20 short years (or less) a universal principle like that which says marriage is between a man and a woman becomes tantamount to an expression of bigotry, the paramount importance of preserving and controlling the culture becomes clear.
And the beauty of the idea is that it’s not coercive. You don’t have to contribute to parts of this you don’t want to. We’re selling individual freedom here.
So that’s the large view. It drills down nicely from the national level, to the state level, to the local level.
And that’s what I’ll be speaking about on Wednesday.
DATE: Wednesday, December 18
TIME: Reception is at 11:30 a.m.; lunch is at 12 noon
PLACE: Café Américain, 7521 Jefferson Hwy. in Baton Rouge
COST: Lunch is $15