I don’t give a damn for the same old played out scenes
I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens.
Honey I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now. –Bruce Springsteen, “Badlands”
A is A (A), is one of the foundational principles of Western Civilization, and by extension, America. A includes scientific law and math, but also the limitations of human nature. I’ve argued before that conservatives and libertarians have a firmer grasp of A regarding the domestic policies we advocate, but the left understands A better in how they sell their policies. Their belief that we can have a strong economy through punishing achievement is hopelessly naive, but the means by which they build support for those rates is cutthroat realism at its finest.
Alongside A, another principle is G, or the ideal. Not to conflate the two, but a hardcore fact of human nature is that we’re wired for G. We desperately want to believe in something beyond ourselves. Some of us are mature enough to recognize that we will never find Heaven on Earth, but that’s doesn’t stop us from craving it. Sometimes our G is faith-based, sometimes it’s more secular, but rare is the person who has given up on G entirely. Even atheists will often dream of some sort of rational paradise here on Earth. Ayn Rand most decidedly did not believe in God, but she was an idealist nonetheless. A is messy, naked self-interest, and tangible restrictions; G is comforting and clear: absolute good and evil, the beauty of what should be and the ugliness of those who keep us from it.
G can and must be tempered, focused correctly, and controlled, but it can never be eliminated (nor should it be). Unfortunately, the realism of the right has left the impression that we’re supposed to give up on our G, that we’ll never really win any political battles. The best we can hope for is slightly decreasing the rate at which the Washington monolith consumes us. Perhaps we can pass a conservative bill again in 2017 if we’re able to take the presidency, retain the House, and get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Maybe we’ll balance the budget by 2035, if we do absolutely everything right from now until then. How inspiring.
The left also compromises, but it does so while paying homage to G. Obama wheels, deals, and intimidates like any other machine politician. However, his rhetoric oozes G. During his first campaign he was idealisim personified. After he took office, he portrayed his opponents as pure evil, a variation of the absolutism that makes up G. It’s not normal Washington gridlock that keeps him from implementing his vision, but nasty old white men who want to further enrich millionaires and billionaires on the backs of the poor.
Even if the Democratic Party leadership doesn’t believe so themselves, they persuade their idealists that their lofty visions are actually within reach. Paradise is perpetually one election away. We roll our eyes at Obama’s talk of rolling back the seas and find his disingenuous portrayal of his opponents infuriating, but all too often we fail to recognize how downright effective it is. The ability to make the confusing seem simple and clear can distort things horribly and bring out the worst in us, but it is one of the traits of an effective leader. The voice of the man who makes all those infuriating shades of gray into pitch black and pure snow white it is the man who provides their lives with purpose. Hitler used this talent to help the Nazis take over Germany; Churchill used it to defeat them.
The left disappoints its idealists, but not nearly as much as our side has. First, almost without interruption since the New Deal, “compromise” has meant that the left gets only 50% of what it wants instead of the whole shebang. We have to comfort ourselves with having averted total defeat. Bush’s prescription drug plan may have been horribly expensive, but it wasn’t as expensive as what the Democrats wanted. Great.
But more importantly, with the exception of Reagan, rarely have we felt truly led by somebody who can get us to feel like we’re contributing to a purpose. If we briefly feel inspired like some of us did in 2010, within hours of taking office we’re already being told how we just can’t have it all. That’s just not how Washington works. The left frames its defeats as a righteous struggle coming up short. When we loose, Boehner makes us feel like we’ve just wet ourselves. Again.
And this is why, despite my reservations about Sen. Rand Paul, I see his filibuster as a substantial victory on at least three fronts.
First, I followed Rand’s filibuster on Twitter and only saw brief snippets myself. However, I saw conservatives and libertarians, young and old, moderate and extremist, simply feel good about something happening in Washington. I understand that drones are a complicated issue. I’m aware of some of Paul’s foreign policy stances and will require that he clarify them before I would consider lending him my support for a Presidential bid. Nevertheless, considering how utterly disheartened many of us have felt for God only knows how long, a few hours of inspiration counts for a lot. Somebody stood up to Obama boldly and without apology, and he won. It was the libertarian right that had its moment in the sun, but conservatives finally felt that their G actually meant something again. We can be a bit idealistic and get somewhere. We felt like we might actually acheive something without compromise. Say what you will, that feeling alone counts for a LOT.
Second, regarding the actual substance of his position, I agree. I believe that barring an immediate threat, if the US Government wants to take out a US citizen here in American, it should require due process. Restricting our use of drones overseas may or may not be “further on the left than Obama“, but restricting them here at home most decidedly is not (and there’s a hawkish case to be made against drones, too). Effectively protecting America from overseas threats is a decidedly conservative position, but so is keeping our own government in line here in the States. There will always be tension on the right between those who want to help law enforcement protect us from rapists and terrorists and those who emphasize the potential for the abuse of power. After all, a government that can quickly put a legitimate rapist behind bars might also be able to quickly put you behind bars. We don’t want murderers roaming our streets because the cops can’t approach them without a warrant, but have we forgotten Waco and Ruby Ridge?
There’s a delicate balance to be struck, and when the President refuses to clearly articulate that he doesn’t think he has the power to rub us out with no oversight, it indicates he’s not properly balanced. Watch the video here and tell me that our fears that our government might abuse its powers are as “absurd” as Sen. Graham seems to think they are.
Third, the Democratic Party has gotten away with exploiting its own idealists for far too long. The Democrats have taken for granted too many of those I described as “leftists” here, and Paul called the Democrats’ bluff. Repeatedly on Twitter I saw Benighted lefties asking “Where the hell is my party on this?” Nowhere to be found, they discovered. The Democrats are NOT the party of peace and justice, they are a party of cynics and opportunists every bit as power-hungry as the McCain/Rove faction of the GOP. Paul’s filibuster was not enough to dishearten them entirely, but it was a good start. Democrats have gotten away with portraying themselves as secular angels for far too long. This may be the start of what brings that facade crashing down.
Conservative and libertarian positions are largely rational, and that’s how it should be. Feelings do not a stable society or economy make, their not very good at keeping us safe. Nevertheless, feelings do determine how people vote far more often than their analysis of policy papers by the Heritage Foundation of the Center for American Progress stack up against each other.
Bringing Benighted lefties to our side will require that we demonstrate to them that their ideals (i.e. ending poverty) will never come to fruition because of the very policies they support (ever-expanding welfare programs). However, to even get them to the point at which they will listen to a word we have to say, we need to show them that we on the right aren’t cynics, either. Sure, we’re more realistic in that we understand how actual people and economies operate, but we support what we support because we also believe in something greater than ourselves.
The young especially are succeptible to an emphasis on G at the expense of A; we see this in both the hipster and the college student who just finished Atlas Shrugged. We can’t change this, but we can work with it. In fact, we have to, for if we don’t, the next Obama most assuredly will.
After all, we tried the whole McCain “I can reach across the aisle” while he does that weird thing with his arm approach and it failed. If you don’t like the Wacko Birds of your party, Senator, then come up with something else that works.
In the meantime, I’ll stand with Rand.