July 18, 2010

WHAT TO DO? In response to this piece by Angelo Codevilla on America’s ruling class, readers wonder what to do. Well, a few things suggest themselves.

First: Mockery. They are very mockable, and they are very thin-skinned. That leads them to erupt in embarrassing ways. Use their sense of entitlement against them.

Second (and related): Transparency. One-party government makes you stupid, and although composed of both Democrats and Republicans the political class is basically its own party, and these people are pretty stupid. Point it out, repeatedly. Use FOIA, ubiquitous videocameras, and other tools to make the stupidity show.

Third: Money. Codevilla writes: “Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof.” The coming budget crisis — already here, really, but still largely denied by the rulers — is an opportunity to defund a lot of this patronage stuff. They’ll try, of course, to cut the muscle and preserve the fat, but that won’t work very well if they’re closely watched (see above). Cut them off in other ways, too. Don’t support the media, nonprofits, and politicians who support them with your money.

Also, make sure that money flows TO things you like: Businesses, alt-media, politicians who aren’t part of the problem, etc. Build up countervailing institutions that don’t depend on the government to survive.

Fourth: Organize and infiltrate. Take over party apparats from the ground up. Create your own organizations that can focus sustained attention — the “ruling class” relies on others having short attention spans while it stays focused on amassing and protecting power.

Finally: Don’t act like a subject. Rulers like subjects. Don’t be one. As a famous man once said: Get in their face. Punch back twice as hard. Words for the coming decade?

UPDATE: Reader Stephen Clark writes:

All the things you’ve listed are good. However, one of the most important is to get involved with politics. Local and state politics are the most accessible to citizen movements. Take advantage of that. This is one of the most important features of the Tea Party movement, in my opinion. Many of these organizations are focusing as much on local and state party apparatus as on the higher profile national offices and races. Local and state government is, or at least can be, the defense in depth needed to take on the class and its ambitions described in Codevilla’s piece. As he makes clear, this is not the work of a few election cycles.

A few other items I would add to your list: Get to know your representatives and their staffs well and make sure they know you. Don’t fall for the suggestion that the task of government has grown so very complicated that only professional legislators and staff are fit to govern. Apart from being self-serving on its face, it’s a damn good argument for cutting back and decentralizing the tasks of government at all levels. Frequent changes in legislative seats not only can bring fresh faces and new ideas, it builds a reservoir of talent and knowledge that can augment that defense in depth meant to keep representatives on a very short leash.

Indeed. And let’s be honest — the claim that only “professional legislators and staff” are smart enough falls apart once you meet a few of these people.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Andrew Wharton emails: “Be armed, both intellectually and especially with guns. The ruling class hates it, but more importantly, it mitigates their baser instincts.” Yes, they’ll do whatever they can get away with, so it’s important to be sure they can’t get away with too much.

MORE: Reader Joan Varga writes:

What to do? Have a back-up plan for your information web. Do we really think that the powers that be will allow us unfettered access to information for much longer? What’s our plan for staying in touch, for finding out, for gathering information, for disseminating information after the Internet becomes too big to fail and too sweet for Obama to resist?

Why we aren’t taking over television stations and Hollywood studios is beyond me. They did it in the 60′s because they knew where real power comes from. Focusing on politicians and politics is not going to win the day.

You answer audacity with something more audacious. And “serious” people will be trampled by the mewling mob of gored oxes and spoiled public sector unions.

Hmm.

MORE: Steve White of Rantburg writes:

A practical application of the point made by reader Joan Varga today was seen last year in Tehran. When the Mad Mullahs of Iran wanted to shut down the anti-government demonstrations, they did everything they could to interfere with cell phones, internet service, and Twitter. It largely worked, too, not that the western press pointed it out at the time.

A backup plan for communication for the day that the government becomes serious about stifling the free flow of information is a good idea, because if push comes to shove our ‘ruling class’ will indeed lock down communications. It might not be as abrupt as what happened in Tehran, either, it might be cloaked instead in a serious of interlocking decisions such as ‘network neutrality’, anti-porn, anti-hate speech, and so on. They have ways.

Well, this isn’t Iran, and there’s no Revolutionary Guard here. But backup plans are always good. There’s always ham radio, and probably a lot more out there. I believe some geeks are working on this.

STILL MORE: Reader Donald Golgert writes:

This piece finally codified what I’ve been seeing/feeling/living for some time now. I’ve been uncomfortable with Republican politicians and hated the Democrats as a whole.

I’ve done two things.

I’m now the Republican PCO for my precinct. I’ll attempt to fix the problems from inside. At 46, I’m the youngest acknowledged (out?) Republican in my very blue district in Seattle.

I’ve launched a Cafe Press store. The 1st design is built on the phrase “Depose the Ruling Class”. More to follow. Snarkier to be sure. Mockery laden even.

Snark and mockery?

MORE STILL: Reader John Steakley writes:

The founding fathers had the idea of checks and balances before parties emerged. Parties undermine C&B because we can’t expect the White House to keep Congress in check (or vice-versa) when they are both of the same party.

We need a third party (or maybe a fourth, too) dedicated SOLELY to either Congress or the White House. Let’s call them the “White House Party” and the “Capitol Party.” Each one fields candidates only for that branch of government, immunizing themselves of influence peddling from another branch. They could openly campaign against the excesses and abuses of the other branch, free from fear of party retribution.

Can you imagine the power a President would have if he could truly serve as a check and balance on Congress regardless of which party controlled it without fear of losing votes in the upcoming election? Can you imagine the power Congress would have if controlled by a party with no eye on the White House?

Since the third branch – Judicial – is unelected, the Supreme Court candidates would, by definition, have to be approved by BOTH parties.

Hmm.