Posts Tagged ‘Moderates’

The Anti-Ideology of Mushism

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

The Ideology of the Anti-Mind

Examining some of the things written by those who Josh Painter generously terms the “MittWitts,” what becomes clear is that some people are motivated solely by a form of reflexive tribalism.  Consider how so many choose their sports teams.  Many do so on the basis of geography.  A person from New York might well like the Yankees, while a person from Dallas might well like the Texas Rangers.  Most often, once those preferences are determined, fans of those teams will support them no matter the quality of their play, the conduct of their players, or any other characteristic one might wish to examine.  This is all well and good when we’re talking about sports that have no real consequence in the lives of most people, but when applied to politics, it becomes a more severe hazard, but it’s a hazard every major political party does its best to engender amongst its supporters.  The result of this approach to politics is what I term “Mushism,” the vague, noncommittal, unprincipled stance of he who wants to win and is willing to reject all ideas to do so.

The problem is that such thinking(or the lack thereof) doesn’t actually solve anything, or offer a path forward.  It results in a popularity contest that requires the dumbing-down of all participants.  You might wonder why this happens, but I’m afraid I’ve come to understand it, and I believe it really comes down to this:  By this form of choosing sides, one needn’t go through the trouble of examining any details.  One needn’t bother with records or those messy principles.  One needn’t know anything at all.  This is the realm of anti-ideology, wherein one’s support for an idea’s purveyor has nothing whatever to do with the character or quality of the idea.  Consider how so many come to support the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney.  It’s not that he’s actually good, or that any significant number of them have read his fifty-nine point plan for the American economy, never mind reading up on his record.  No, it’s all about the perception of him as having won, as having beat back all challengers, and that’s all that’s really necessary for a crowd of people known for simply following the herd.  I refer here to the muddled, mushy middle.

These are the same people who in 2008, followed Colin Powell’s lead and abandoned John McCain.  These are the same people who so easily bought the hype of Obama, and will now quietly change their vote, never speaking of their last one because of how it has come out.  They don’t really believe in anything.  They aren’t conservative, they aren’t liberal.  They simply aren’t much of anything, and yet this is the foolish segment of the electorate to which most politicians panders, and whose support many political analysts seem inclined to see as some sort of golden egg-laying goose.

For those who make their living by shifting this segment to-and-fro, I suppose it represents an opportunity, and one can almost understand why some politicians so frantically seek the support of this crowd.  The problem I have with those of this description is that they seldom learn anything, or having managed to learn something new, misapply the lesson in a helter-skelter fashion that evinces no intellectual consistency whatever.  These are the people who can at once denounce socialism, but at the same time extol the virtues of Obama-care, perhaps amended, but with the core program intact.  This is why “Mr. Repeal-and-Replace” is so thoroughly endearing to them:  They get to say they are opposed to socialism while actually supporting its implementation.

I’ve always been troubled by those who exhibit the symptoms of a mush-mouthed moderate.  It means they’re willing to choose, but only so long as they believe they will be able to avoid the consequences of those choices.  An oft-repeated example of this is in the realm of economics.  I listen to some of the purveyors of Mushism, and they allow that the free market system is absolutely the only system in which free men and women can obtain true independence and self-sufficiency, but in the next breath explain why it must be curtailed or somehow regulated in order to obtain the results they seek.  The problem is that they don’t see liberty as an end in itself, but merely as a tool that will help many obtain prosperity, and they are willing to suborn it to their master plans in order to, well, “spread the wealth around” [some.]

One might well wonder how a person could intentionally make such a mockery of logic, and such a fool of himself in public, but there is an answer, and it comes down to seeking popularity within the tribe.  Everybody’s tribe is a bit different, because each one includes different people.  These overlapping social circles mean that many people will say one thing while among one set of friends, while when with another group, say different things entirely.  This flexible persona requires flexible, fungible principles.  In fact, what it really requires is that all principles save one be set aside indefinitely:  “Be popular, and say or do whatever it takes to remain that way.”  It may also be related to the fact that some people ignore epistemic rationality, instead preferring an instrumental rationality.  In this sense, they follow no principles, but will do whatever it takes to obtain their desired end.  It’s the difference between following evidence where it leads, and choosing one’s course according to where one has decided to arrive.

Let’s be blunt for a moment and consider what this means in terms of our elections.  It means that once a politician becomes popular within his party, his candidacy at some point is nearly assured if he or she can obtain a critical mass of support.  Mitt Romney has demonstrated this in 2012.  People did not swell to the polls for Romney so much as others were discouraged from voting for alternatives.  The air of “inevitability” helped to maintain an illusion, and his support in decidedly blue[r] states elevated him to the top of the heap, along with some nifty advertising done on his behalf, furiously tamping down the others.  Having arrived with this “presumptive nominee,” who shall now tell me he is the best candidate to take on Barack Obama, lead the repeal of Obama-care, and extend long coat-tails deep down the ballot?

This is the inevitable result of permitting the non-ideological to drive one’s party.  This is how a party goes about making the worst possible choice.  It’s why I’ve left the GOP behind.  I simply cannot be part of this ideology of fuzz, this new Mushism that pervades the party since Romney’s apparent “presumptive” nomination.  This is another reason why I see the “anybody but Obama” theorem as somewhat dangerous.  Is it really so impossible to imagine outcomes worse than a second term of Barack Obama?  Admittedly, it would be awful in every dimension, but I can think of worse.  One of those possibilities is the term of a candidate who effectively permits most of the Obama agenda to stand, and who would replace embarrassingly few of Obama’s henchmen, doing as little as possible to rock the boat in Washington DC.  Where does that leave the country?

Mush is the order of the day, and for those who like it, I suppose that makes of it a good day.  Mush permits one to obscure the details of one’s vision, the facts of one’s record, and the motive driving either.  Mush relies on purely tribal thinking among one’s supporters, and it is this sort of intellectual laziness that characterizes the whole of the middle.  Perhaps that’s the part that troubles me most: If one hasn’t any ideas whatever, or perhaps worse, holds contradictory ideas with no attending effort to reconcile the intellectual chasm, how does one make the claim to have acted responsibly?  How does one make the claim that one’s candidate is the superior?  I don’t believe it’s possible to do so with any sort of credibility.  I believe ideas matter, but the absence of clear ones is not enough to overcome bad ones.  The evidence will come in the Fall.




The Willingness to Walk Away

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

If You're Ever to Win...

This evening, I had been listening to one of my favorite talk-show hosts, Mark Levin, and I came away a little disappointed.  My disagreements with Levin are usually trivial, and I hold most of his arguments in high esteem, but this time, I am not merely unconvinced by his rationale, but utterly astonished by it.  His argument is essentially that he will support the Republican nominee, even if it’s the establishment’s guy, Mitt Romney.  Where I am concerned, there aren’t any candidates in this field who I can fully support, as I’ve recently detailed, but I don’t mean merely in the primary.  Some, I can’t support at all.  There are those who will point to Barack Obama’s ridiculous assaults on the constitution, the uniquely American culture, and the pocket-books of working men and women of every description as moral imperatives that demand we all go to the polling places in November and support whatever candidate the GOP musters.  I’ve heard it before, and I’ve heard it until I’m sick to death of hearing it.  I’ve heard it in every election in my adult life save only 1984.  I will hear it no more.  This is my challenge to the GOP:  Find an actual conservative or watch me take a powder in November.

I imagine most have you have purchased an automobile or two (or twenty) over the course of your lives,  and the first principle I always apply when shopping for a vehicle is to have a maximum number of dollars I will spend for a minimum number of features, warranties, and the like.  I try to always arrive at a dealer’s location with a check already cut if financing will be part of the deal.  I know in most instances that I will find better financing through my own credit union than most dealers will offer.  It also effectively places me in the position of being a cash customer  from the dealer’s perspective.  They aren’t so accustomed to that, because most people stumble in looking to trade because their current vehicle is probably on its last leg, and only come to deal when the current ride is looking a little long in the tooth.  Therefore, my second rule is simpler still:  Never go to a car dealer when I’m desperate for a deal.  The reason is simplicity itself.  If I’m not desperate, I will have no problem exercising that option most critical in negotiating any deal, whether for a car, a truck, a house, a business, or a presidential nominee:  You must be willing to walk away, and if your basic criteria are not met, you must exercise that option.

If you do not walk away, you will be a patsy, and once you give ground on something so basic to your previously established rules, in the future, you lose all credibility at the bargaining table. Your adversary will smell blood in the water, and will know you are desperate, so that he can (and will) shove anything he likes down your throat, and while you may complain or carry on about the unfairness of it all, in the end, you will relent and take the deal offered.  This I have learned the hard way by permitting myself to be that desperate party, and permitting myself to wind up in the situation in which I am no longer a credible negotiator, and therefore unable to leverage my position since it consisted entirely of bluff and was completely without teeth.  If you want to be a perpetual sucker, place yourself in such a position repeatedly, and whether in business or in politics, you will soon find yourself unable to negotiate even the slightest advantage.

If you doubt me, I would ask you to review the performance of John Boehner and Eric Cantor as the top Republicans in the House over the last twelve months.  They have accomplished precisely nothing worth remembering, and at every opportunity have cut and run when the President and Harry Reid boxed them in.  Nothing.  “Biggest reversal in history” and all the rest, but in the end? Not a damned thing.  From the moment the House Republicans cut a deal on the Debt Ceiling rather than insisting upon Cut, Cap & Balance, it has been all down hill, and it has all gone Obama’s way since he figured out how desperate Boehner and McConnell(Republican Leader in the Senate,) really were.  From that moment, Obama has run the table on these clowns, and in the end, it makes them look all the more foolish because they spouted, and postured, and harrumphed, but in the end, they were willing to cut a deal, any deal, to be able to walk away.  Thus died the first allegedly “Tea Party Congress.”  It died precisely because your leadership wasn’t really willing to walk away.

The same is true of individual voters in their relationship to the party’s establishment, whichever party we may be discussing.  At the moment, that party is the GOP, and it’s right that we consider it as individual voters, making a bargain with the party chieftains.  Roughly 70-75%(depending on the poll you choose) of the Republican Party wants no part of Mitt Romney.  They see in him much of what they see in Obama, but worse in many ways, also what they see in John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  They’re right to be worried about a Mitt Romney presidency, that will be consumed with “making a deal” to the extent that it would make any deal, any place, any time, all in order to secure a deal of some sort.  Details matter not.  It is for this reason that for once, conservatives had ought to reject the voices of our friends who insist we “take the deal” (meaning: Romney.)   We must be prepared to sit out this election, at least on the presidential ballot, because we will not defeat him anyway with a guy who is in such a hurry to cut a deal, and even if he managed to win, would soon undercut us.  They’re already offering us assurances that we’ll be able to push or pull Romney to the right, but the fact is that I do not want a president who needs to be cajoled into conservative actions, because in accepting him to begin with, he will have learned something else: We’re not willing to walk away.

Armed with that knowledge, a President Romney will spend all of his time undercutting conservatives.  He’s a Keynesian, so he’ll increase taxes and/or use more massive government spending.  He will not reform entitlements, and if Obamacare is repealed, it will only be replaced by a program slightly less objectionable.  This is because Romney is a deal-maker, and he’s the guy for whom the deal is itself everything.  It’s about closing the deal, because he expects his commission, and while it may not be in cash, it will be in some false notion of prestige.

It is for this reason that I now inform the Republican Party to the knowing of the world that they either nominate a conservative, or wave at me on the sidelines, because that is where I will be.  A lifetime worth of hard lessons has taught me what I always suspected, but hadn’t the courage or patience to practice in my younger years, because they used my fear of uncertainty against me.  I don’t want the nation to collapse, and I don’t want the Marxist state they’re building, but I also know that a Mitt Romney presidency will only slow its advance, and maybe not by much.  I am no longer fearful of Obama’s predations, because I know that with another moderate Republican, those predations will continue.  I will not be driven to vote for a moral slacker because his opponent is a moral leper.

This evening I listened to a man I admire advance a notion that is ghastly to me.  He has already mentally prepared himself to accept and support a Romney candidacy, and he went on to discuss how he would demand that at least the Vice Presidential pick be a real conservative.  Why would Romney ever do that?  He might look for somebody who was somewhat more conservative, and brought something to the table, like Nikki Haley or similar, trying to energize you, but let’s be honest:  Vice Presidents don’t generally mean much.  To hear Mark Levin effectively suggest that we ought to at least get a conservative VP was saddening.  What it means is that he’s still more fearful of Obama than he is of losing the country, because in his mind, he’s merged the two, but the truth is that Obama is merely completing the job that was begun a long time ago, and has been carried on by successive presidents with damnably few exceptions, and Mitt Romney would do little of substance to change it.

You can listen to this clip from Levin’s show here:

There are those of you who will damn me for this position, but it is mine, and I’m standing by it.   I will not be herded into another vote for another moderate under any circumstance, because I know such a candidate will not likely win, and will surely not rescue the country if he somehow manages to defeat Obama.  To hear Levin saying that we “need a conservative in the second slot” is to admit he’s already conceding the first slot. What Romney and others in the Republican establishment will interpret this to mean is precisely what Barack Obama interprets Boehner’s endless concessions to mean: There’s an unwillingness to stand on principle for the sake of a politically expedient result, and one that is not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. They’ve placed themselves in the position whereby they’re now clearly desperately willing to “take the deal.”

You’re free to conclude what you will, but I would rather make it plain: If the Republican party nominates another moderate, I no longer fear Obama because I realize there are Republicans equally awful.   I am no longer convinced by the insipid argument that “any of these are better than Obama.”  I no longer believe that to be the case.  Some of them are every bit as bad, and to prove I believe that, and to stand by my principles, I am fully prepared to walk away. Might this lead to a second term for Obama?  Yes. Am I willing to confront that horrible reality?  Yes.  Rather than ask me if I’m willing to deal with that reality, you had better ask if you are.  You had better ask the Republican establishment that is busying itself with the chore of making Romney palatable to you.  You had better go ask your fellow conservatives, because while you can go along to get along if you like, I am prepared to walk away even if the Republican Party sends squads of establishment squawkers to damn me for it.  Watch me.  It’ll be my back side they see, as I disappear in the distance.  This year, no deals!