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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Put Not Your Trust in Politicians

The most obvious lessons of the defeat of gun control and the push for illegal alien amnesty is that politicians don't matter. People do.

The Tea Party invested its energy into electing the right people, but as Rick Scott and Marco Rubio showed us, there may be no such thing as the right people. Politicians are in the business of selling out. The difference between Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist was that Rubio hadn't really been tested.

But that doesn't mean politics is hopeless. It means politicians are hopeless. People however can still force politicians to do the right thing.

The NRA won its fight against gun control even though all the odds, political, financial and emotional, were stacked against it. Politicians had every reason to defect and evolve into a new understanding. And some did. But the ground held because enough of them knew that the NRA was in it for the long term and they would have to deal with it long after Bloomberg had moved on.

In 2012, amnesty and gun control both appeared to be equally unacceptable and were shunned by Republican politicians. If anything they shunned amnesty even harder than gun control. But one election loss later and most of the stalwarts, including Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan have jumped on the amnesty train.

Victor Davis Hanson observes that, "in these divided times ideology and politics can easily trump considerations about character." But accepting that character doesn't matter may just be practical politics.

There may be leaders of good character out there who firmly resolve to do the right thing and never waver from their course, but they are the exception and the political system is designed to weed them out.

The self-motivated politician who never wavers is a lot to ask of any man. Even Churchill eventually buckled to Stalin. What can one expect of the senator from Idaho or Virginia?

Politics is not about politicians. It's about people. Politicians are just the brokers in the political process. The real lesson of the Tea Party is not that you can intervene in a primary for the most conservative candidate and then sit back while he does the right thing, it's that the only way to get the right thing done is to have an organization that is constantly involved in the political process.

Prohibition, an insane policy, was largely rammed through by a clever and relentless organization that built alliances and forced the issue down the throats of politicians who didn't agree with it. The same tactics have been used for a variety of causes, including, most recently, gay marriage. In each case, most politicians who did not agree with a cause, came around on it because it was smart politics.

The politician who evolves concedes that he is up for grabs. Evolutionary announcements should be met with contempt, but they also signal that a politician who flips can be made to flop back again. Treating him as if he were an intelligent thinking individual with principles may be a mistake. It may be easier to assume that he has neither principles nor character and that he will go whichever way seems easiest. And the trick then is to reshape his environment so that he evolves into another shape.

For all the complaints that we need leaders, leaders may be the one thing that we do not need. The sort of people that we associate with leaders tend to be self-willed men with their own agendas. Christie and Bloomberg are both leaders, but their version of leadership is to pursue their private agendas without any accountability or regard for anyone else. What we need are not leaders, but organizations that are better at holding politicians accountable.

Hunting for principled politicians is like searching for buried treasure. It's nice if we find some, but we can't assume that we will.

The professional politician excels at pretending to have principles and then selling them out. Finding an honest one is like trying to buy a Rolex watch at a folding card table near Times Square. You may get the real deal, but the odds are that you will be ripped off because the people you are dealing with are trained con artists. They have pulled the same scam a thousand times. They are better at reading you than you are at reading them.

What politicians really do is move money around. They push pork for their friends and supporters who then reward them by making sure that they get reelected. It's a simple financial transaction and any principles can only get in the way of it. They are salesmen for government spending and like all salesmen, they need a pitch strategy because "I'm going to give 10 million dollars of your money to the people who contribute to my campaign and organize groups that support me" is not a winner.

We may have reached the point where it's smarter to ignore the pitch strategy, the stories, the speaking style, the declaration of principles, the Heritage approved reading list, and reduce everything back to a simple business transaction free of any hero worship or commitments.

It's not smart for small government conservatives to believe in politicians anyway. If politicians were worth believing in, then one of the main arguments against small government trickles away. If there were a breed of politicians that weren't hungry for power and able to find the balance between rights and regulations, why shouldn't we trust them to run things? Such a breed of philosopher-kings doesn't exist. And will never exist.

Most people, of all factions, rightly hold politicians in contempt and are suspicious of governments. The Tea Party would have done better to keep its distance from politicians, instead of allowing too many of them to wrap themselves in the Tea Party brand. Too much energy was wasted in getting behind politicians, instead of getting on top of them.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"was the old Roman question. Who watches the watchmen? Politicians are a poor accountability method. They aren't going to hold themselves accountable. Trying to play Diogenes hunting for an honest politician in Washington D.C. is an even bigger waste of time. There are hardly any and they may not be the ones you think are.

Politicians are tools. They were meant to be wielded by the people. A good politician understands that he is being held accountable. A bad politician doesn't. Politicians don't pay attention to people. They pay attention to organizations. The only way to lock in good behavior by a politician is to lock them into an organization that is capable of rewarding or punishing him.

The organization can't just be money. There is an entire political class built around activism that consumes money and does nothing. The 2012 campaign should have been an education in that.

The left isn't just successful because it has billionaires, but because it successfully organizes people. The successful organization of people is the difference between 2010 and 2012. If 2014 and 2016 are going to be any different, it will come down to building organizations that can transform the process.

Single-issue organizations like the NRA can be very effective. So can larger scale organizations. Many of them exist, but what they really require is ground level organizing. Money is cheap. People are hard to come by.

If conservative policies are going to win out, the decentralized conservative presence of the internet is going to have to be more directly leveraged in the real world. The people already exist. Bringing them into play in a structured way is what is missing.

The 2010 elections showed what is possible when the people get involved. And the 2012 elections showed what happens when the political class leaves the people behind. Sometimes the people class can win on its own, but even when it does, its victory, like all political class agendas, is a prelude to another sellout.

Principles can't come from politicians because politics is now largely an economic transaction. They can only come from people who do not benefit from those government class transactions. The left has built a shadow government of organizations,  but it has done so while linking those organizations to small, but sizable numbers of organizers and activists, who can rally the base. The right will have to duplicate its accomplishments if it doesn't want to see the politicians that it wastes money and energy electing constantly "evolve" to the left.

Some readers have complained that this blog is too hostile or negative toward Republican politicians. If anything it's not nearly negative enough. Cheerleading for favorite politicians is a waste of time. The solutions will not come from messiahs in suits. It will come when the number of conservative issues that politicians come to see as the third rail expands beyond gun control. It will come when the professional political infrastructure is contained by a conservative activist infrastructure that is as least as effective and powerful as its counterpart on the left.

It will come when we stop believing in electing the right man and accept that the honest politician is the one who stays bought. It may not be romantic or idealistic, but it is far more practical than waiting for the next Marco Rubio to come around.

17 comments:

meema said...

Humans, especially modern American humans, have been successfully conditioned to like and expect tidy stories. We have been groomed to live in a type of fictional formula where there is always a protagonist, an antagonist, other minor characters to flesh out the story evolution through conflict, tension, crisis and then resolution. We think in terms of everything in the context of the hero against the villain, the white hat against the black hat. But we also never doubt, even when all looks bleak, that the story will end well, the good guy will win. And then we’ll go on to the next exciting episode.

But real life is not a made-for-tv movie or an ongoing soap opera. In real life, as history testifies, more often than not the struggle is a black hat against another black hat and the minor characters are just collateral damage.

In the Matrix, the population at large is made up of expendable minor characters in the greater struggle of evil vs evil, power broker vs power broker, psychopath vs psychopath. Nothing is real, everything is virtual, changeable and a big fat lie.

Chris said...

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul is primarily addressing personal holiness when he writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ---

"...You are not your own; you were bought at a price...."

It has broader applications as well.

Just like old-school (or more astute current) stewards understood that those things with which they were entrusted were not THEIRS, but that for which they would have to give a personal accounting.

If I personally believe that "I'm my own man/woman(/thing?)" then I answer to no one else. It's a dangerous pedestal on which to stand. (Re: Shelley's "Ozymandias", from whence I have referred to Obama as "Ozymandias-on-the-Potomac" ever since his "ready to rule from day one" ascension to the Throne)

It's a long-lost perspective on those who now think of themselves as part of the anointed, eternal Ruling Overlord Class.

IgorR said...

Very insightful.

There is one reality that unifies both politicians and those who would organize the grass roots: there have to be people, figureheads or otherwise, who say the right things and can explain them well, sometimes spontaneously and sometimes under trying circumstances. As you point out, it's not all THAT important what they believe in, but what is important that they know enough about them and believe in them ENOUGH so that they can explain them without seeming fake.

We can all have pet theories about why Romney didn't win, but it's hard to argue that his inability to articulate conservative principles well enough so that real grass-roots conservatives didn't see his efforts as attempting to speak a foreign language didn't contribute to his loss. The flip side is that this is what makes Marco Rubio so dangerous: he can articulate conservative principles pretty well, enough to either fool or at least keep as non-antagonistic people like Limbaugh, Levine and many others.

But in any case: to win the top posts, conservatives (unlike liberals who have the media) HAVE to have people who can get in front of a crowd, excite the conservative in it and move the moderates in the conservative direction. This takes talent, and that talent has to be located, supported, and preserved along with setting up the organization to keep the pressure up on ALL politicians along the lines you describe.

Anonymous said...

Everyone it seems is waiting for the knight on the white horse. Or a leader to rally the people. The problem with the leader is that leaders do get stuck inside the system and become drunk with power. It might start out at the common council level (big fish in a small bowl) but that thurst for power can never be quenched.

I don't know of any low level politicians that are willing to go back to their regular jobs after completing his or her first term in office.


Keliata

Empress Trudy said...

Of course it's just as possible that voters don't care in the least for morality, values or integrity either. As if every voter has become a politician. They vote by brand and that's it. Sanford won because no voters, GOP or Democrat value those qualities we used to worry about. And since it's simply a matter of numbers, the candidate with the biggest base wins. This is why 98% of Congress is incumbent until they voluntarily don't run the next time. This is why all or nearly all elections are decided not by voters but by redistricting.

Rod Freeman said...

Wondering where you would put Ron Paul in this matrix. Seems to me he's pretty principled and doesn't play the political waffling game...

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Ron Paul is a pro, just like the rest, and knows how to play the game. He inserts pork into bills and then votes against it.

The professional politician's greatest trick is pretending to be an amateur.

Some dude said...

I like these insights. This is something to chew over.

In my personal life I've noticed something similar, my brother and I were talking and we realized that the only time we get blessing from Heaven on our work is when we are doing it directly. I think relying on whiz kids, some know it all, whether in business or politics is clearly a mistake. One has to roll up one's sleaves and make something happen.

To put it another way, if it's not important enough for me to be active, then why would anyone else find it important enough to risk their career over it?

patrick k. said...

These are all good points, but the problem is that progressives are, almost by definition, people who take a great interest in promoting political causes. Conservatives, on the other hand, generally just want to be left alone to work and raise their families. I'm not sure what's to be done about that, except perhaps getting over the fear of "imposing your values," particularly values derived from religious belief. This is something the left does all the time, except they use Marx and Freud instead of Moses and Jesus.

AG said...

I agree, you haven't been hard enough on Republicans. It is any easy trap to fall into, because the DemoKKKrats are so much worse. But the Republicans aren't that much better

Wombat said...

The Constitution would have been quite a tool if politicians were kept honest by the diligent application of a tall tree and a short rope.

Instead of watching the Supreme Court umm and ahh while Rome burns, let a patriot answer to the murder of a tyrant, saying "by rights, he was committing treason."
Whether convicted or not, the message to traitors remains clear.

Presently the only punishment for de-constructing the Constitution is a delay of that destruction by the Supreme Court. That's like deterring an invader by paving your driveway with treadmills.

There is no deterrent to malfeasance stronger than having to clean blood off of the sash your predecessor wore.

Just the observations of an Aussie on the other side of the world.

Naresh Krishnamoorti said...

What you've described is essentially the thinking of the Federalist Papers. It is the elevation of process over ideology. For some bizarre reason, American "conservatives" have got themselves trapped into this idea that we have to find conservative ideological heroes to lead us to the Promised Land. This tendency to form cults of personality would have offended the thinking of a Madison.

Instead we have to find decent men who will participate in the political process the way the electorate wants them to, and we have to organize ourselves in a way that will make the will of the electorate reflect our interests.

mindRider said...

The further ethics, morality and honest accountability are pushed back through a lack of introspection thanks to increased secularization the dirtier the job of politician shall become and the less politicians shall be interested in the common good.

james wilson said...

Over two centuries ago, Edmund Burke described our current state--"The parties are the gamesters, but government owns the tables."

The solution is to remove government from the tables from which it became so attached in 1933. Otherwise we are doomed to, at best, send the next batch of reforming ministers to the whorehouse only to become new customers.

Claude O.L. Greenlee said...

The big obstacle standing in the way of organizing true conservatives is that they are overwhelmingly White. Whites have now been demonized by the Left so thoroughly that any effective organization of Whites is doing to be attacked in the treasonous media as being racist.

One of the sources of the Republican Party's impotence has been the fact that the GOP IS the party of White people. That is simply a fact. Since this is almost illegal in today's Leftist tyranny, the GOP spends a huge amount of time and resources trying to appear to NOT be what it is. That means that it is impossible for the GOP to do anything about our biggest problem, third-world immigration or any other problem for that matter because a lying, traitorous Left has defined every issue in terms of race.

In order for conservatives to be effectively organized, we are going to have to openly organize as Whites. Openly and unapologetically, we must once again be who we are: The most successful people in history and the inventors of the modern world. Compared to White civilization no one else even comes close. We must rediscover that fact and act accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Milton Friedman: "I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office."

Anonymous said...

*thirst

keliata

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