Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reinventing the Republican vision

Bobby Jindal, Catholic convert
Up until now, I’ve been avoiding any breakdown of the last election, largely because of shame.

If you read some of the posts, you can tell I’d allowed my hopes to rise despite my conviction that selling Mitt Romney as The Only Possible Victor Against Obama was a strategy doomed to defeat. I’d even gone so far as to predict that some of the loonier aspects of the Democrat campaign would be net negatives, like the “war on women” meme — especially Sandra Flake’s mind-boggling vision of misogynist hordes waiting to (re-)enslave women while the Code Pink vaginas danced and demonstrated outside the DNC — and that stupid freakin’ Lena Dunham “Your First Time” commercial. And I have to tell you this, Mr. President: I do not belong to the government; the government is our servant, not our master.

As you’re no doubt aware, the GOP also had its share of bizarre moments: Clint Eastwood’s supposed-to-be-funny “dialogue” with the empty chair at the RNC, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin’s facepalm-inducing remarks about forced sex, Mitt’s “binders full of women” and the cringeworthy “47 percent” remark. 

But more critical than these were the Republicans’ overall failure to present an attractive and compelling vision of what a GOP victory would mean for Joe and Jane Schmuckatelli, their failure to connect with women and Latino voters — not to mention their ongoing concession of the African-American vote — and their ill-advised, quixotic attacks against Obamacare in general. Moreover, the “Chick-fil-A flap” and Catholic opposition to the HHS mandate handed the GOP a genuine, this-gets-us-where-we-live issue — the First Amendment vs. progressivist tyranny — and they wasted it, ceding the mandate spotlight to the “war on women” meme and largely passing over the LGBT “two minutes’ hate” with an embarrassed silence.

And I still predicted a Republican victory. *sigh* All of which is part of the reason that my crystal ball is less accurate than your typical weather forecast.

Much has been made of the GOP’s need to reinvent, rebrand and/or reimage themselves. According to liberal commentators like CNN’s John Avlon, the GOP’s only hope is to become a second Democrat Party — concede everything the leftists hold dear, and differ on everything that doesn’t really matter. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sees the same thing:

For [the liberals in the media], real change means supporting abortion on demand without apology, abandoning traditional marriage between one man and one woman, embracing government growth as the key to American success, agreeing to higher taxes every year to pay for government expansion, and endorsing the enlightened policies of European socialism. That is what real change looks like to the New York Times editorial board. But that’s crazy talk. America already has one liberal party; she doesn’t need another one.

Jindal’s overall approach to rebranding includes not only a dismissal of identity politics but also a short-circuit of traditional class politics, the constant pitting of rich versus poor, in favor of rebuilding the middle class — the class that does the bulk of production and consumption. Jindal calls conservative principles “aspirational”, but he also recognizes that the “American dream” isn’t of mansions and limos but of decent houses in clean, safe neighborhoods and late-model cars that don’t have to be held together with Gorilla Glue and duct tape.

But while I appreciate Jindal’s focus on rebuilding the middle class economically, if we don’t rebuild the middle class socially and politically then we may as well try to bail out Lake Superior with a thimble. Jindal tells us that “what we’re doing to govern ourselves is not just wrong” but also “out of date and a failure”. That’s the case Republicans have to make, but they can’t make it on economic grounds alone.

If the basis of a strong, growing economy is a strong, stable middle class, then it’s founded on strong, stable families in strong, stable neighborhoods and communities which are grounded in shared, cohesive mores.  Today the American family and community suffer under attacks from two directions: 1) the breakdown of the nuclear biological family under the assault of “sexual liberation” and the moral relativism which provides its intellectual cover; and 2) the creation of an anomic nation of “transient residents” in Gesellschaft “communities” that are really no more than collections of individuals temporarily lumped together by circumstance.

If the key to winning the election is to win the argument, as Jindal (quoting the late Margaret Thatcher) holds, it’s here that the liberals have been winning through absence of effective opposition, even unthinking concession. The key to winning the argument is to establish the need for change, and the way you establish a need for change is a thorough and comprehensive indictment of the present system. It’s not only liberal economic policy that’s wrong, out of date and a failure; “progressive” social and political policies are also badly flawed and counterproductive, “progressive” only if you consider a totalitarian government run by a utilitarian caste to be the goal for which we should strive.

To win the argument, the GOP must break the implied connection “progressives” have forged between traditional moral/political values and bigotry. As part of that, I believe the GOP must actively recruit minority and women candidates without respect to district to reinforce the premiss that conservative values and principles don’t belong solely to straight white male Christians. E pluribus unum: let the “progressives” emphasize that which divides us, and let conservatives emphasize that which unites.

In sum, while Jindal is right that “obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet” presents too mean and small-minded a picture of conservativism, we need more to fix the present system than just a better way to make more people materially comfortable.  The differences really do go all the way down; we can’t build the conservative “Great Society” on a progressivist social foundation.

The hour isn’t merely late; it’s running out. As the final grains on the economic hourglass drain away, American dissatisfaction with the status quo is increasing, distrust of the government is increasing, distrust of both parties is increasing. And talk of secession, rebellion, and revolt is increasing as well.

 The sooner the GOP adopts and fleshes out a new vision, the better for all of us.