Why So Serious? Is Conservative Despair Justified?
So last week, in what was perhaps a moment of madness, I posted a request on my Facebook page: Tell me your political predictions for the year. Among the more restrained answers: "Hyperinflation," "Civil War," "financial collapse," "terribly awful things."
Optimist though I am, I can't help feeling there's something to this downhearted consensus. After living through the most peaceful and prosperous half century that any nation has ever experienced in the history of humankind, it seems impossible to believe we would re-elect a mediocre reactionary out to "fundamentally transform" our success into failure. But we did, and that's — well, let's call it "less than cheering."
On the other hand...
One of the central weaknesses of radicalism is that radicals seem to lose track of the causes and foundations of the things even they value. They don't understand that peace is always and everywhere the end result of superior firepower, improved health the result of greater wealth, wealth the result of hardheaded and often greedy business dealing, and liberty deeply linked to a specific concept of man's relationship to God. They never consider that it may at least be questionable whether the cornerstone can be removed without the structure toppling over.
Conversely, one of the central weaknesses of conservatism is that conservatives see all too clearly how every good thing we have is linked to everything else. They can trace in a moment how any change in the system might lead to disaster. Expand the definition of marriage and civilization falls. Raise taxes and end up in chains. Allow women to vote and government will become an all-embracing over-protective mother state infantilizing the population. Okay, maybe that last one's true, but you see what I'm getting at.
So in the interest of letting a little light into the room, and with a full realization that our president is doing a bad job, the congress incapable of stopping him, and the media protecting him with coverups and lies, let me list three positive trends that might transform our country for the better in the next two years.
1. Fracking. As I've said before, Obama and the EPA will ultimately be splatter on the windshield of this progress. There's energy in them thar hills and eventually we're going to get at it, whether these luddite environmental knuckleheads like it or not. That means wealth, energy independence, jobs, power and a reboot of Dallas. Obama may be choosing decline, but the rest of the country may well choose prosperity and growth in spite of him.
2. Federalism. Around the country, conservative governors are taking action that could galvanize reform nationwide. Right-to-work laws, state budget cuts, reduced property taxes and creative approaches to education. As prosperity follows these practices — and abandons California and Illinois and other lagging states — they will gain credence with the general population and make political stars of the governors who supported them.
3. Reality is on our side. When I call Obama a reactionary, what I mean is that he adheres to a grievance-based socialist ideology he learned in college from professors who were probably old even then. As these academics die and go to hell for all eternity, up-and-comers may begin to notice that the poor suffer under left-wing programs and rise under the free market, that education improves under conservative guidance and gets worse under liberals, and that big business actually gets more entrenched and powerful under the left while the right helps the little guy thrive. That, after all, will be the off-beat, radical position, and academics love to be off-beat and radical as long as everyone around them is being off-beat and radical too. A new generation is already on the rise that understands entitlements are unsustainable and that freedom works. It won't be long at all before we begin to hear their voices in the mainstream. I hope.
Look, I'm not exactly sanguine. Our republic has gone past the 200-year limit for republics. Islamist fundamentalists are on the march — and history shows religious fundamentalism is never a good thing for anyone. The free market is unfairly in disrepute and the family disastrously in decline. Non-fundamentalist religion is corrupt where there's any religion at all and atheism is massively destructive whenever it takes over the majority. Things, in other words, are almost as bad as they always are.
But while there are cycles and phases in history — and while everything made by mortals surely dies — modernity has shown itself full of unique moments and last minute rescues. I think of New York City before Giuliani; America before Reagan. Things can look pretty damn dark before the sun comes over the hill.
So really the only question is: you want to grumble and despair or start pushing the sun up the hill? That's what I figured. Start pushing.
Meanwhile, Barry Rubin asks: