Belmont Club

Making Things Work is a Revolutionary Act

There’s a saying it’s better to light a single candle than curse the darkness. The Washington Examiner notes that the GOP is finally realizing there’s a leadership vacuum that needs filling and is actually trying to chart a course distinct from the “yes-but-not-so-fast” attitude they’ve taken toward the president’s proposals. As one wag once said the only idea the GOP ever had about a Democrat proposal to burn down something was to suggest it be done in gradual stages. But maybe that’s changed.

While the GOP is not planning to draft a new Contract or Pledge, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are working to develop an agenda based on a handful of proposals on issues such as taxes, jobs, energy and health care that will give candidates something to tout in their campaigns.

Gone will be the endless repeal-and-reject votes on issues such as Obamacare, said insiders. Instead, Cantor is bringing together several ideas on issues like health care to develop a single plan for each.

One initial example is a resolution just offered by House Republican Policy Committee Chairman James Lankford of Oklahoma, one of the party’s fast rising stars. His idea: Help states enter into health care “compacts” to offer insurance, putting the power in local hands, not Washington. Several states have already adopted the idea, and the Tea Party backs the idea, which would even allow those with Obamacare to keep it.

Offering conservative alternatives to what the Democrats want is “essential” to identifying the party, Lankford told Secrets. “The 2012 campaign really ran on the concept of ‘We’re not them’ and really didn’t help. People need to know who we are. People want to know who they support, not just who they oppose,” he added.

Note the mention of the Health Care Compact. The Health Care Compact, readers will recall, is one of the ideas that was kicked around on this very site. Back then it seemed like a crazy long shot. Now that 8 states have signed on to it (Kansas is now considering it) and a request for the Compact’s approval is now moving through the Federal Government, it doesn’t seem like such a long shot any more.

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And now Boehner and Cantor have discovered it. Why? because it might be a winner. In general they’ve found that doing something can sometimes be preferable to just throwing peanuts from the gallery. Of course the Health Care Compact is not the only alternative to Obamacare being proposed. The National Review described the 2017 Project. And of course there’s the Coburn-Burr-Hatch counterproposal.

So much the better. As Lankford said in the video above ‘may the best man win’. The unique thing about the Health Care Compact approach is that it isn’t really a jealously exclusive option. It allows Democrats to adopt an alternative to Obamacare without necessarily choosing a Republican branded option. That’s because the HCC is about “who decides”, not prescribing what you do.

But there’s another reason why counterproposals are springing up like mushrooms.

As the Obama administration runs into more difficulties, both internationally and domestically, it will no longer be possible to simply choose between criticizing or supporting a given political line. With Washington DC imploding and declining in relative importance,  it is no longer the defining attractor it used to be. Once the only thing that mattered was “whose side are you on?” But that was back when DC was the center of the universe.

Now it’s just Lost in Space. The press of problems means that it is no longer possible to stand around like peons waiting for a new king to be proclaimed. People will have to do something in the meantime because bills are due next month or maybe the dam is bust right now and you’ve either got to run or drown.

This is likely to take the form of formerly passive institutions reluctantly assuming the initiative for things.  It’s happening already. Overseas, American allies are making their own arrangements in the face of Washington’s abdication. Japan, Australia, the EU are all flexing their puny muscles because Obama is out playing golf and talking to himself in front of murals of the Sun Man.  It’s necessity.

Necessity means there will be a growing clamor both in the Federal Government and the states to simply “fix” things because of course Obama’s not. Bureaucracies do that all the time when things need to get done. It’s amazing how many agencies operate in a manner that bears no resemblance to the specified procedure.

Not surprisingly, people are doing that too.  Glenn Reynolds has talked about the seeming outbreak of civil disobedience, citing the reluctance compliance — actually noncompliance of Connecticut gun owners — with a registration requirement, as an example. But what may be emerging as the Obama administration turns out the lights on itself more important. Something that might be termed positive civil disobedience.

People — including states — are taking on responsibility to keep things going because somebody has to do it. And they often don’t have time to wait for the blessing from on high. Fixes are undertaken unless otherwise directed (UNODIR) or more accurately unless otherwise stopped (OOS). This kind of positive civil disobedience is very different from the traditional negative kind; usually a protest sending a signal of defiance to the government.

UNODIR or OOS civil disobedience takes the form of “whaddaya want? I am busy, would you like to lend a hand?” The principal revolutionary act consists of making stuff work. This is the market niche into which counterproposals to the Obama administration’s grandiose initiatives occupy. In a dysfunctional universe, success is sedition. The Health Care Compact is a classic. It essentially just picks up the abandoned tools and gets it going.

Positive civil disobedience — which once used be called “taking care of business” — is largely nonthreatening. In fact it is usually validated post facto. This was how fracking went from being the worst evil conceivable by the Obama administration to one of its proudest accomplishments. The frackers just presented the bureaucracts with a wow outcome, and the bureaucrats, never averse to taking credit, gladly cut the ribbon.

There’s an old adage which says that ‘victory has a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan’. But the reason why this is maxim true is largely unexamined. Victory does have a thousand fathers. It is the guy who insists on controlling everything who usually winds up defeated in a corner, rolling ball bearings in his hand and muttering about strawberries. Smart leaders know the advantages of letting freedom — and initiative — take the lead. Or as Ronald Reagan once said: it’s amazing how much you can do if you don’t mind who gets the credit.

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