December 18, 2010

KEVIN WILLIAMSON ON THE VALUE OF FEAR:

Something has got into the Republican leadership, and that something is: fear. Wonderful, salubrious fear. For this we can thank the Tea Party movement, for several reasons. The first is that, while our European cousins are out rioting in the street for more and more government spending, the one significant, genuinely popular movement afoot in American politics is demanding the opposite. No Washington poobah wants to get yelled at by rowdy constituents at a town-hall meeting back in the district. They really hate that.

Funny what catches the notice of politicians. I was a newspaper editor for years, and I’ve had at least a dozen politicians tell me: “We don’t really give a damn what you write about us in the editorials. We don’t even really read them. But if we start seeing letters to the editor, we notice. Any time one constituent is ticked-off enough to take the time to write a letter, that’s significant. One guy writing a letter means that there are 500 more who agree but don’t take the time to write.” One guy writing a letter represents a few hundred people in the mind of Joe Congressman. Those Tea Party rallies, too, loom a lot larger than the raw numbers would suggest, impressive as those raw numbers have been. Joe Congressman does not want to see that crowd camped out on his doorstep.

The second reason used to dabble in witchcraft. Say what you like about Christine O’Donnell and her incompetent nut-cluster of a campaign, she showed the Republican establishment that the Tea Party, and the fiscally discontent at large, are willing to run a kamikaze candidate against any RINO target of opportunity.

Yes, that was the best argument for Christine O’Donnell. She scared the right people. Plus this:

The third fear factor is: reality. In Washington and in statehouses around the country, the reality of the pending Fiscal Armageddon is starting to seep into the thick skulls of the elected class. Jerry Brown pronounced himself “shocked” once he got a good peek at California’s balance sheet. Off the record, politicians of both parties are starting to concede that a lot of the old ideological disputes at now moot, because there simply isn’t any money. It’s not a question of whether there are going to be deep cuts and fundamental restructuring, but when and how much.

Indeed. The answers, by the way, are soon and rather a lot, really.

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