Saturday, March 07, 2009

Aimin' to Misbehave

Stephen Green has a post up on Pajamas Media in which he advises Republicans to stop playing nice with Democrats. He points out that regardless of what Republicans do, the Democrats will paint them as bad guys, so they might as well embrace the role and enjoy it.

Look. We cannot buy our way into friendship in Washington for the next four
years. We aren’t going to become popular by playing along with Harry Reid or
Nancy Pelosi or the president. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd aren’t going to
stop calling us names just because we vote with the majority. That’s not how
politics work, and that’s certainly not how these guys play ball. They play
hard; they play for keeps. And when their grand plans fail, they’ll need
someone to blame: us.

They’ll blame us in the corridors of power. They’ll blame us on the TV news. They’ll blame us on the blogs. They’ll blame us in a whole slew of new movies where evil white men are behind everything from the Democrat-created credit crisis, to the war we “lost” in Iraq, to a sand flea epidemic inflicted upon some poor, third-world nation. But we don’t have to let them get away with it.

I’ll give you another bonus quote from Serenity — again, absolutely free. Our intrepid captain, Mal Reynolds, tells of some sage advice once given to him by the late Shepherd Book, a former passenger: “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.”

Republicans spent the last eight years trying to do the “smart” thing, by buying out the Democratic agenda. It was “smart” to “take Medicare off the table” by
expanding it in ways so vast even Democrats hadn’t gotten away with it in 40
years. It was considered “smart” to “take immigration off the table” by forging a grand alliance with Ted Kennedy. It was considered “smart” to “take
education off the table” by federalizing it under No Child Left Behind.

Well, we’ve tried the smart thing and all it got us was a bigger, more
meddlesome government. Now it’s time to do the right thing.

The problem is that conservatives have a different notion of what it means to do the right thing, and that notion does not differ dramatically from the notion that the Democrats have. To both, being good means self-sacrifice. The Democrats are more consistent in demanding sacrifice from the population: higher taxes, more government giveaways, more regulation, abandoning industrialization on behalf of the rocks and trees, turning the other cheek to the enemy; the Democratic platform is self-sacrifice from beginning to end.

The Republican platform is to oppose those things... for two seconds, and then collapse. It isn't done from necessity either. Even when they had complete control of the government they enacted the Democratic platform. It is done because they believe in sacrifice too. To oppose the Democrats' calls for sacrifice, they hold up the image of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. That is not a refutation, it is an exclamation point. Instead of "sacrifice all," it is "sacrifice ALL!"

And to show they mean it, they practice the most fundamental form of sacrifice possible, which is to sacrifice one's independent judgment to the judgment of the mob. They have no principles that they will not toss under the bus the minute they feel pressured by public opinion.

Selfish? Not them! Bad guys? No way! They know how to go along to get along. They do it reflexively. They don't even have to think. They have a book that tells them what to think, and the book says: JUDGE NOT! TURN THE OTHER CHEEK! SACRIFICE!

The current right wing mini-rebellion against Obama's statist policies is taking inspiration from a different book, one by Ayn Rand. At the "Tea Parties" protesting the stimulus, we're seeing signs that say things like "Atlas is Shrugging," and "Ayn Rand was Right." On blogs people are discussing whether it's time to "Go Galt." That is appropriate, since Ayn Rand was the philosopher who provided a moral justification for capitalism. She is the one who said to each individual: your life and happiness are your most sacred values. Sacrifice them for no one! Is the rebellion a sign that her principles of egoism are gaining traction in the wider culture, or is this just a spasm? Is it just the worm wiggling before being speared by the hook? Or has the right finally found solid principles upon which it will stand?

Ayn Rand wrote an essay back in 1975 in which she compared conservatives to the White Army in Russia's civil war. Speaking of the Red Army vs the White, she said:

There was not much difference between them in practice, but there was in
theory. The Red Army stood for totalitarian dictatorship and rule by terror. The
White Army stood for nothing; repeat: nothing. In answer to the monstrous
evil they were fighting, the Whites found nothing better to proclaim than the
dustiest, smelliest bromides of the time: we must fight, they said, for Holy
Mother Russia, for faith, and tradition.

I wondered, even in those years, which is morally worse: evil--or the
appeasement of evil, the cowardly evasion that leaves an evil unnamed,
unanswered and unchallenged. I was inclined to think that the second is worse,
because it makes the first possible.

Conservatives have avoided naming the evil which underlies the left's ideology, because they would have to admit that they are clinging to the same evil idea: Sacrifice of the individual to a "higher power."

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