Saturday, May 05, 2012

Strategic error

Talk radio is awash with blowhards who seen to believe that one wins arguments by shouting more loudly than one's opponents.  Dennis Prager is a noble exception to this general rule.  I don't often listen to his program anymore, but I still read his pieces from time to time.  In his latest, he explains why the 2012 election is "the most important in our lifetime."  Sadly, this is not the case.

He writes:

If Americans re-elect the Democrat, Barack Obama, they will have announced that America should be like Western European countries -- governed by left-wing values. Americans will have decided that America's value system -- "Liberty," "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum" -- should be replaced...

The right, on the other hand, seeks to maintain America's values. Conservatives want to improve America, but, as its name implies, conservatism seeks to conserve, not transform.

There are two problems with this argument.  The first is that while the left's rhetoric is not consistent with the values enshrined in our Constitution, the right governs within the same progressive tradition as their ostensible opponents.  If Obamacare transformed our medical system--and I'm not certain it does, since so much of our healthcare system was Statist even before that incomprehensible bill was passed--then did not Bush's Medicare Part D Act similarly transform America?  At best, Republicans accept and defend the amount of Statism we presently endure; more frequently, they increase the power of government while preaching the value of limiting its scope.

The second problem is related to the first.  Defense is not an effective political strategy, and, at its best, conservatism is merely defensive.  The strategy does not work because our present course is unsustainable.  We cannot allow the State to continue to spend far more money than it collects in taxes--not that raising taxes would do much to solve the problem.  Balancing the budget--to say nothing of paying down our debt--is politically impossible.  The wonkish solution proposed by Paul Ryan, and endorsed by Mitt Romney, doesn't balance the budget for more than thirty years.  Tinkering with the budget is simply not enough, yet this is all the right is advocating. 

Let us suppose that Romney wins this election, and that the Republicans take back power in the Senate and retain it in the House--a best case scenario for Prager.  And let us further suppose that they use this power, not to start a war with Iran, but to trim the deficit.  Does any of this make it less likely that the next Democratic candidate will be able to transform America?  In other words, does electing a Republican help in any way, save to buy us some additional time before we are again confronted with another Most Important Election Ever(TM)?

The answer is plainly, no.  Conservatism may keep the wolves at bay, but it can not make it any less likely that they will attack at a later date.  If things are as dire as Prager believes; if we are really this close to a progressive precipice, then a bolder strategy should be adopted.  In order to make America secure against the forces of progressivism, all semblances of leftist governance must be extirpated.  So long as a large number of Americans benefit from government largesse, Republicans will be winning battles to lose the war.  The other advantage to eliminating a program in its entirety is that it is much more difficult to establish a program than to expand it.  That said, the infernal Republicans had no trouble using hysteria over 9/11 to create another bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, whose main goal, it seems, is to allow the TSA to frisk children and grandmas so as to provide security theater.

Returning to Prager:

Instead of asking, "Are you better off than you were three years ago?" Every Republican needs to ask, every day, "Do you want to fundamentally transform America?" If they do, Barack Obama is their man. If they don't, Mitt Romney is.

The reality is that American has been transformed already.  Hence the better question to ask is: "How quickly do you wish the transformation to continue?"  If you prefer that things proceed slower, Romney is probably your man.  But do not confuse delay with prevention.  The transformation continues apace.

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