Monday, November 1, 2010

“Who's In Charge?” - Part 5 - The New Red Outsiders

“Who's In Charge?” - Part 5 - The New Red Outsiders

Who stands against the Elite? Let's call them the New Red Outsiders.

Defining the New Red is difficult because it has so many facets. It has no privileged podiums, and speaks with many voices, often inharmonious. But - It shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and self-important. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers' defining ideas and proclivities -- e.g., ever higher taxes and expanding government, subsidizing political favorites, social engineering, approval of abortion, etc. Many want to restore a way of life that has been superseded. Demographically, the New Red are the other side of the Elite coin: its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice. Both groups include the professionally accomplished and the mediocre, geniuses and dolts, the New Red are different because of its non-orientation to government and its members' yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.

Even when members of the New Red happen to be government officials or officers of major corporations, their concerns are essentially private; in their view, government owes to its people equal treatment rather than action to correct what anyone perceives as imbalance or grievance. Hence they tend to oppose special treatment, whether for corporations or for social categories. Rather than gaming government regulations, they try to stay as far from them as possible. The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo, which allows the private property of some to be taken by others with better connections to government, reminded the New Red that government is not its friend.

Negative orientation to privilege distinguishes the corporate officer who tries to keep his company from joining the Business Council of large corporations who have close ties with government from the fellow in the next office. The first wants the company to grow by producing. The second wants it to grow by moving to the trough. It sets apart the schoolteacher who resents the union to which he is forced to belong for putting the union's interests above those of parents who want to choose their children's schools. In general, the New Red includes all those in stations high and low who are aghast at how relatively little honest work yields, by comparison with what just a little connection with the right bureaucracy can get you. It includes those who take the side of outsiders against insiders, of small institutions against large ones, of local government against the state or federal.

The New Red Outsider is convinced that big business, big government, and big finance are as linked and interconnected as never before and that ordinary people are more unequal than ever... and this is Not A Good Thing.

Nothing has set the New Red apart more than the Elite's insistence that Ordinary People (i.e., not the Elite) are intellectually and hence otherwise humanly inferior. Persons who were brought up to believe themselves as worthy as anyone, who manage their own lives to their own satisfaction, naturally resent politicians of both parties who say that the issues of modern life are too complex for any but the Elite. Most Outsiders are insulted by the Elite's dismissal of opposition as mere "anger and frustration" (implying stupidity). The ask the question: Since when and by what right does intelligence trump human equality? Moreover, if the politicians are so smart, why have they made life for all of us WORSE?

The New Red Outsider actually believes that America's ways are superior to the rest of the world's, and regards most of mankind as less free, less prosperous, and less virtuous. It manages to take delight in croissants and thinks Toyota's factory methods are worth imitating, but it dislikes the idea of adhering to "world standards." Also, the Outsiders takes part in the U.S. armed forces body and soul: nearly all the enlisted, non-commissioned officers and officers under flag rank belong to this group in every measurable way. Few vote for the Democratic Party. You do not doubt that you are amidst the New Red Outsiders when the American flag passes by or "God Bless America" is sung after seven innings of baseball, and most people around you show reverence.

Unlike the Elites, the New Red does not share a single intellectual orthodoxy, set of tastes, or ideal lifestyle - and have desire to try and establish one. Its different segments draw their notions of human equality from different sources: Christians and Jews believe it is God's law. Libertarians assert it from Hobbes and Darwin bases. Many just consider equality the foundation of Being American. Some just hate snobs. Some of the New Red follow the stars and the music out of Nashville and Branson, Missouri (entertainment complexes larger than Hollywood) because since the 1970s most of Hollywood's products have appealed to the mores of the Elites and its hangers on than to a large percentage of Ordinary Americans. The same goes for "popular music" and television.

Each of the New Red's diverse parts has its own agenda. Independent businesspeople are naturally more sensitive to the growth of privileged relations between government and their competitors. Persons who would like to lead their community dislike the advantages that Democratic and Republican party establishments are accruing. Parents of young children and young women anxious about marriage worry that cultural directives from on high are dispelling their dreams. The faithful to God sense persecution. All resent higher taxes and loss of freedom. More and more realize that their own agenda's advancement requires concerting resistance to the Elite ruling class across the board.

Not being at the table when government makes the rules about how you must run your business, knowing that you will be required to pay more, work harder, and show deference for the privilege of making less money, is the independent businessman's nightmare. But what to do about it? The penetration of needless bureaucracy into government and business (e.g., the network of subsidies, preferences, and regulations) is so thick and deep that independent businesspeople cannot hope to undo any given regulation or grant of privilege, simply because the people "at the table" receive and recycle into politics tons of money to keep the status quo going. No manufacturer can hope to reduce the subsidies that raise his fuel costs. No set of doctors can shield themselves from the increased costs and bureaucracy resulting from government mandates. The agenda of Independent Business has been to resist the expansion of government in general, and of course to reduce taxes. Pursuit of this agenda with arguments about economic efficiency and job creation (typically with support of the Republican Party) usually results in enough relief to discourage more vigorous action.

Thomas Jefferson said, "The sum of good government,” is not taking "from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." For government to deliberately advantage some at the expense of others, he said, "is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association." More and more independent businesspeople have come to think of their economic problems in moral terms - few realize how revolutionary that is.

As bureaucrats and teachers' unions disempowered neighborhood school boards, while the governments of towns, counties, and states were becoming conduits for federal mandates, as the Elites reduced the number and importance of things that American communities could decide for themselves, America's thirst for self-governance has reawakened. The fact that public employees are almost always paid more and have more generous benefits than the private sector people whose taxes support them only sharpened the sense among many Outsiders so that they now work for public employees rather than the other way around. But how to reverse the roles? How can voters regain control of government? Restoring localities' traditional powers over schools, including standards, curriculum, and prayer, would take repudiating two generations of Supreme Court rulings. So would the restoration of traditional "police" powers over behavior in public places. Bringing public employee unions to heel is only incidentally a matter of cutting pay and benefits. As self-governance is crimped primarily by the powers of government personified in its employees, restoring it involves primarily deciding that any number of functions now performed and the professional specialties who perform them, e.g., social workers, are superfluous (or worse). Explaining to one's self and neighbors why such functions and personnel do more harm than good, while the ruling class brings its powers to bear to discredit you, is a very revolutionary thing to do.

America's pro-family movement is a reaction to the Elite agenda: emptying marriage of legal sanction, promoting abortion, and progressively excluding parents from their children's education. Americans reacted to these challenges primarily by sorting themselves out. Close friendships and above all marriages became rarer between persons who think well of divorce, abortion, and government authority over children and those who do not. The home-school movement involves not only each family educating its own children, but also extensive and growing social, intellectual, and spiritual contact among like-minded persons.

Few of the New Red have any illusion, however, that simply retreating into private associations will long save their families from societal influences which exist to discredit their ways. But stopping the Elite intrusions into every day life would require discrediting its entire conception of man, of right and wrong, as well as of the role of courts in popular government. That revolutionary task would involve far more than legislation.

The Elite's efforts to discredit and drive worship of God out of public life convinced many among the vast majority of Americans who believe and pray that today's Elite regime is hostile to the most important things of all. Not even the Soviet Union arrested students for wearing crosses or praying, or reading the Bible on school property, as some U.S. localities have done in response to Supreme Court rulings. Every December, they are reminded the Elite deems the very word "Christmas" to be offensive. Every time they try to manifest their religious identity in public affairs, they are deluged by accusations of being the "American Taliban" or trying to set up a "theocracy." Let members of the New Red Outsiders object to anything the Elites say or do, and their objection will be characterized as "religious" in nature (e.g., “irrational”), and not to be considered on a par with the "science" (of which the Elite are the sole interpreter). Because aggressive, intolerant secularism is the moral and intellectual basis of the Elite claim to rule, resistance to such rulers, whether to the immorality of economic subsidies and privileges, or to the violation of the principle of equal treatment under equal law, or to its seizure of children's education, must deal with secularism's intellectual and moral core. This lies beyond the boundaries of politics as the term is commonly understood.

Worse, the Elite appetite for deference, power, and perks grows and grows and grows. The Outsiders now disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The Elite ruling class is convinced the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all - stupid. The Outsiders are ever more convinced that our politicians are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The (Elite) rulers want the ruled (Outsiders) to just shut up and obey. The Ordinary Americans want self-governance.

The clash between the two is about which side's vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side - especially the Elite class - embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side's view of itself. One side or the other will prevail - but the outcome remains unpredictable.

Frankly, the Elite hold most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. Changing this situation will involve far more than electoral politics. The New Red Outsiders face the uncomfortable question: must we to accept what was done to us just because it was done? Sweeping away a half century's accretions of bad habits (and trying to preserve the good things hidden among the bad) is going to be difficult, to say the least. Establishing, even reestablishing, a set of better institutions and habits is much harder, especially as the Outsiders, by definition, lack organization. By contrast, the Elite holds strong defensive positions and is well represented by the Democratic Party. A two to one numerical voting disadvantage would lean toward defeat for the Outsiders, while victory would leave the Elite in control of a people whose confidence it cannot regain.

Certainly the New Red Outsiders lack its own political vehicle. In the short term, the Outsiders have no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not exist to represent the views of the Outsiders. To do so, it would have to become principles-based, as it has not been since the mid-1860s. The few who tried to do that were treated by the party as rebels: Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. The party helped defeat Goldwater. When it failed to stop Reagan, it saddled his and subsequent Republican administrations with its own Elites who, under the Bush family, repudiated Reagan's principles as much as they could. Barack Obama exaggerated in charging that Republicans had driven the country "into the ditch" all alone. But they had a hand in it. Few Republican voters, never mind the larger group of New Red Outsiders, have confidence that the Republican party is actually on their side.

In the long run, the Outsiders will not support a party as conflicted as today's Republicans. The Republican politicians who really want to represent the Ordinary masses will either reform the party in an unmistakable manner, or start a new one - just like Abraham Lincoln started the Republican Party from the Whigs in the 1850s.

Regardless of names and labels, American politics in the future will be a confrontation between the Outsiders and the Ruling Elites. The Democratic Party having transformed itself into a unit with near-European discipline, challenging it would seem to require a rival party which is at least as disciplined. Any country party would have to be wise and skillful indeed not to become the Democrats' mirror image.

Unfortunately, to defeat the Elites, a new party has no choice but to imitate the Democrats, at least in some ways and for a while. Consider: The Elite Ruling Class denies its opponents' legitimacy. Democratic officials rarely speak on public affairs without reiterating the litany of his class's claim to authority, contrasting it with opponents who are either uninformed, stupid, racist, shills for business, violent, fundamentalist, or all of the above. They do this in the hope that opponents, hearing no other characterizations of themselves and no authoritative voice discrediting the Elites, will be dispirited. For the Outsiders to seriously contend for self-governance, the political party that represents it will have to discredit not just such patent frauds as ethanol mandates, the pretense that taxes can control "climate change," and the outrage of banning God from public life.

The Democrats, having set the rules of modern politics, require opponents who want electoral success to follow these rules. This means a New Party would have to attack the Elite class's fundamental claims to its superior intellect and morality in ways that dispirit the target and hearten one's own. Such attacks themselves are highly distasteful to Ordinary Americans already weary of negative campaign tactics and the politics of personal destruction.

Suppose that the New American Party (whatever its name might be) were to capture Congress, the presidency, and most statehouses. What then would it do? Especially if its majority were slim, it would be tempted to follow the Democrats' plan of 2009-2010 - which was to write its wish list of reforms into law regardless of the Constitution and enact them by partisan majorities supported by interest groups that gain from them, while continuing to vilify the other side. Whatever effect this might have, it surely would not be to make America safe for self-governance because by carrying out its own "revolution from above" to reverse the Elite ruling class's previous "revolution from above," it would have made that ruinous practice standard in America. Moreover, a revolution designed at party headquarters would be antithetical to the New Red Outsider's diversity as well as to the American Founders' legacy.

Achieving inherently revolutionary objectives in a manner consistent with the Constitution and with its own diversity would require the New American Party to use legislation primarily as a tool to remove obstacles, to instruct, to reintroduce into American life ways and habits that had been cast aside. Passing national legislation is easier than getting people to take up the responsibilities of citizens, fathers, and entrepreneurs.

Reducing the taxes that most Americans resent requires eliminating the network of subsidies to millions of other Americans that these taxes finance, and eliminating the jobs of government employees who administer them. Eliminating that network is practical, if at all, if done simultaneously, both because subsidies are morally wrong and economically counterproductive, and because the country cannot afford the practice in general. The electorate is likely to cut off millions of government clients, high and low, only if its choice is between no economic privilege for anyone and ratifying government's role as the arbiter of all our fortunes. The same goes for government grants to and contracts with so-called nonprofit institutions or non-governmental organizations. The case against all arrangements by which the government favors some groups of citizens is easier to make than that against any such arrangement. Without too much fuss, a few obviously burdensome bureaucracies, like the Department of Education, can be eliminated, while money can be cut off to partisan enterprises such as the National Endowments and Public Broadcasting. That sort of thing is as necessary to the American body politic as a weight reduction program is essential to restoring the health of any human body degraded by obesity and lack of exercise. Yet shedding fat is the easy part. Restoring atrophied muscles is harder. Re-enabling the body to do elementary tasks takes yet more concentration.

What will be required is a level of political action and activity of the body politic far beyond voting in elections every two years. If self-governance means anything, it means that those who exercise government power must depend on elections. The shorter the electoral leash, the likelier an official to have his chain yanked by voters, the more truly republican the government is. Yet to subject the modern administrative state's agencies to electoral control would require ordinary citizens to take an interest in any number of technical matters.

The Law can require environmental regulators or insurance commissioners, or judges or auditors to be elected. But only citizens' discernment and vigilance could make these officials good. Only citizens' understanding of and commitment to law can possibly reverse the patent disregard for the Constitution and statutes that has permeated American life. Unfortunately, it is easier for anyone who dislikes a court's or an official's unlawful act to counter it with another unlawful one than to draw all parties back to the foundation of truth.

How can Ordinary Americans drive home Lincoln's lesson that trifling with the Constitution for the most heartfelt of motives destroys its protections for all? What if an Outsider majority in both houses of Congress were to co-sponsor a "Bill of Attainder to deprive Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and other persons of liberty and property without further process of law for having violated the following ex post facto law..." and larded this constitutional monstrosity with an Article III Section 2 exemption from federal court review? When the affected members of the ruling class asked where Congress gets the authority to pass a bill every word of which is contrary to the Constitution, they would be confronted, publicly, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's answer to a question on the Congress's constitutional authority to mandate individuals to purchase certain kinds of insurance: "Are you kidding? Are you kidding?" The point having been made, the New American Party could lead public discussions around the country on why even the noblest purposes (say, Title II of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964) cannot be allowed to trump the Constitution.

How the New Red Outsiders and the Elite Ruling class might clash on each item of their contrasting agendas is beyond the vision of these posts. Suffice it to say that the Elite's greatest difficulty (aside from being outnumbered) will be to argue that in spite of Real World observations to the contrary, the revolution the Elite desires to force upon America is sustainable. For its part, the Outsiders greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it by force.

After all, America has been imposed on enough. But the Revolution is upon us.

- Steve

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