Our problems remain epistemological.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

O'Sullivan's Law, in Real Time

O’Sullivan’s Law [named after British journalist John O’Sullivan] 
 states that any organization or enterprise 
that is not expressly right wing 
will become left wing over time.

Colin Powell joins 68 Republican politicians, donors and officials who are supporting Hillary Clinton
 It's not all grudging support, either. From the compilation:
"Grant Woods, former attorney general of Arizona -- "Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified nominees to ever run for president."
Brent Scowcroft, chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board and adviser to three previous Republican presidents — "The presidency requires the judgment and knowledge to make tough calls under pressure. ... [Clinton] has the wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time."
James Clad, deputy assistant secretary of defense -- "There is no choice: In razor sharp contrast to her opponent, Secretary Clinton is ready, steady and prepared. With a proven preference for bipartisanship, she must win this election."
Lezlee Westine, former White House director of public liaison and deputy assistant to the president — “Our nation faces a unique set of challenges that require steady and experienced leadership. That is why today I am personally supporting Hillary Clinton."
Jim Cicconi, former Reagan and George H.W. Bush aide — "Hillary Clinton is experienced, qualified and will make a fine president."
Meg Whitman, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and California gubernatorial nominee — "Donald Trump's demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character. America needs the kind of stable and aspirational leadership Secretary Clinton can provide."
I will tell you why I think these nominally conservative career Republicans are extolling the virtues of a pro-big-government, pro-living-constitution, pro-choice, pro-identity-politics progressive Democrat. But it will make you wince: 

Trump tells it like it is.
It is one of his supporters' most common praises of him. "He tells it like it is." Drives people crazy, and even perplexes Trump's more squeamish supporters: you just mean he's not a stiff, stock pol -- but you do see he's...off, though, right? 

No, Trump doesn't really tell it like it is. Not more (and probably not appreciably less) than any political candidate, who can rattle off a prepared factoid here or there but otherwise takes liberties in other to relate a broader narrative and offer authentic observations: "we don't make anything anymore"; "we don't win anymore." These are not accurate statements, but they ring true to many. These are what people have in mind when they explain: he tells it like it is.

But that is only the more obvious sense, a sense that does not explain why careerist Republicans and conservatives are supporting their putative antithesis. A sense that is true of any generic politician.

So what is so uniquely genuine about Trump that 68 career Republican politicians (not to mention the legions of pundits and public intellectuals who've put their "thought leadering" to other purposes) publicly supporting his -- their -- adversary? Why would they do this? 

The careerists would have you believe they are seeing the same things you and I are seeing, but, owing only to their savvy and experience, they simply have drawn a different conclusion than most of their current and erstwhile constituents. But I do not think so. I think, though I cannot prove, that these careerists have become used to listening for something from candidates, something they do not hear coming from Trump. They have tuned and adjusted their dials every which way, but get nothing but static. They cannot pick up that pirate-radio signal from Trump, the way they usually do, where -- while the candidate promises transparency and reform to the masses -- the pols, consultants, special interests, and think tanks, hear assurances that the old, familiar customs and channels for buying and selling influence will remain unchanged.

This much, at least, is certainly true: no one can accuse Trump of speaking in code, the usual way of attacking a candidate's character and motives. No, he barks his offensive remarks square in the ear. No one can attack him for telegraphing to donors and thought leaders that he really stands for the status quo, or that he does not intend any of his high-minded language about reform to upset entrenched interests. Trump is the political puppy that could not be house-trained. He struggles enough to convey his text; perish all thought of a subtext.

To repeat, I cannot prove politicians speak in subtext, let alone what the subtext says. But I can think of nothing else to explain why conservatives do not govern at all like they campaign. Paul Rahe:
We can elect conservatives. We can elect them in a landslide, giving them more governorships, state houses, and more seats in Congress than Republicans have had at any time since 1928 — and nothing happens. The administrative state continues to grow; the progressives in charge force the states to accept same-sex marriage and men in the ladies room; they persuade all the universities in the land to institute an inquisition to hound and ruin young men who have incurred the pique of a young woman or two by stealing a kiss or (more often) by ceasing to steal kisses; and they promise to censor political dissent by identifying as “hate speech” any statement that breaks from orthodoxy.

In response, what do the conservatives in office do? They cower; they run; when put under pressure, they fold (yes, Mike Pence, it is you I have in mind). And when the Presidential candidate foisted on their party by popular fury aimed, in fact, at them speaks an unpleasant truth, they wring their hands. Theirs is the party of the white flag. They show their talents best in retreat.
Prof. Rahe is too gentle. Republicans control the Congress, and not only do they fail to defund the reckless bureaucracy's leftist career civil-rights lawyers, they increased their budget. And when conservatives worked to put a gruesome Planned Parenthood scandal in the public record in time to remove its further funding from the federal budget -- a cause David Daleiden risked prison for -- Republican leadership did nothing.

Our politics may not work well,
but it works.

Politicians may not achieve what we want,
but they achieve what they want.

Trump is unique, in other words, not because what he says is true. He is unique because he says what he says -- full stop. What he says is often crass, but it is not coded. We may judge Trump good or bad, but he restores to us this forgotten privilege: that we may judge him as equals.

We have been electing people who say conservative things, but fail to do conservative things. These are the people who now would tell us that because Trump has not done conservative things, conservatives should not elect him. Forgive me, but I am more alarmed by the careerist conservatives, having taken of our time and treasure with no meaningful conservative accomplishments to show for it, now telling us the way to advance the cause is to vote against the insufficiently conservative candidate who promises progress against political corruption, in favor of the candidate who promises Progress against everything but. I cannot prove it, but I suspect these careerists can still pick up that pirate-radio signal from KHRC, broadcasting from a bunker deep inside fortress D.C., safe from the public, whispering in their ears: 'We're still here. You will be safe with us.'

To adapt C.S. Lewis, there may be two views about conservatives, but there’s no two views about things that look like conservatives and aren’t.


Tom Van Dyke said...

There's the lede.

And when conservatives worked to put a gruesome Planned Parenthood scandal in the public record in time to remove its further funding from the federal budget -- a cause David Daleiden risked prison for -- Republican leadership did nothing.

Mark D. said...

The political-industrial complex hard at work.

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