Quotulatiousness

March 6, 2017

Origins of the Tea Party movement

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Z Man provides a thumbnail sketch of the start of the Tea Party early in Barack Obama’s first term in office:

Back in Obama’s first months on the throne, Rick Santelli, a TV personality, was “reporting” from the floor of the stock exchange. He responded to a question about Obama’s housing plan with a rant about socialism, finishing it off with a call for a new Tea Party. Whether it was spontaneous or choreographed is hard to know, but at the time people took it to be entirely spontaneous. Santelli is a carny barker prone to getting carried away on the air and his rant had the feel of an old fashioned stem winder.

Regardless of the intent or the execution, the rant went viral and the Tea Party Movement was born. Middle America was ready to be pissed off due to the terribleness of the Bush years, so Obama’s poor start put the normies in a fighting mood. Before long people were showing up at town hall meetings, dressed as Samuel Adams, giving their congressman the business about reckless government behavior that had made a hash of things. Since the Democrats were the majority, they got the brunt of the abuse.

It did not take long for the moonbats to declare the whole thing a racist conspiracy cooked up by the twelfth invisible Hitler in league with the eternal cyclops of the KKK. This was when the fake hate crime stuff got its start as a daily phenomenon. It was also when it became apparent to a lot of people that the news is mostly fake. The increasingly deranged Nancy Pelosi, slurring about “Astroturf” was so weird, it begged a challenge, but the news people carried on like it was manifestly true.

The claim that middle aged suburbanites, dressed in tricorne hats, were paid agents of a nefarious conspiracy was so nutty that the response from the press should have been laughter and then derision. After all, it has been known for decades that the Left uses rent-a-mobs. They pay people to show up and hold signs. Unions have been doing this since the days of Jimmy Hoffa. For the Democrats to clutch their pearls and call the Tea Party inauthentic should have been too much of a farce for even the very liberal press corp.

February 13, 2017

Whatever it might be, it’s clearly not a “Tea Party of the Left”

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Jazz Shaw on the nascent anti-Trump groups that some in the media are hopefully describing as a progressive version of the Tea Party movement:

What we’re seeing today is almost entirely different [from the Tea Party]. I do not doubt the sincerity of many of the liberal activists expressing their outrage, but the mechanisms being used to engage and coordinate their efforts are both obvious and very different from the early days of the Tea Party. Social media chains erupt on a moments notice directing protesters to show up at town halls, airports, municipal centers or wherever else they may be needed. These “grassroots activists” seem to arrive in large groups, frequently with buses provided, carrying pre-printed professional signage and well orchestrated chants which they read off of their mobile devices like an army of Stepford wives whose programming has run into a critical error loop.

Another key difference is the fact that the Tea Party groups generally had a specific agenda of items in matters of governance which they wish to see changed. They were seeking to throw out the old guard regardless of party affiliation before even beginning a discussion of what the new agenda might be. Conversely, today’s liberal activists seem to have only one thought in mind: finding a way to end the Trump presidency before it even begins. Rather than fighting for change, they are heeding a call from someone – we don’t know who yet – to forcibly roll back the clock and replay the last eight years of the Obama administration.

These activities are certainly newsworthy and I don’t begrudge the media for covering them. But let’s not make a mistake here… this is not the Tea Party. It’s not even remotely similar. This is a finely tuned protest machine, bitter about the recent defeat and seeking to harness friendly forces in the mainstream media to reinforce a daily narrative that the winner of the election as failed before he’s even begun. If there’s any good news on the horizon, it’s the fact that much of the public doesn’t seem to be paying attention, or at least not blindly accepting everything they see on cable news.

February 5, 2017

“The left sought to reprimand the right. What they did was alienate it.”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

It’s been interesting watching the conservatives begin to adapt to (and in some cases surpass) the “everything is political” message that US progressives had embraced a decade earlier:

Which leads me to social media, Facebook specifically.

As this dramatic shift occurred, we began to see another shift within social media, one that reached its apex during the 2016 presidential election. That was the politicization of everything, not just by the institutional left, but by the soft left as well.

Where before the voters on the left were mostly passive receivers of Cultural Marxism, they had now become active participants via propaganda, slander, social shaming, and otherizing. This meant that conservatives were now being assaulted on two fronts, both from the institutional left and the soft left.

Every conservative who is active on Facebook knows what I’m talking about. After decades of Americans keeping their politics mostly to themselves, suddenly our feeds were jammed up with political invective.

It wasn’t just directed at politicians. It was personal — a relentless litany of insults and abuse, first at the Tea Party and then Trump supporters. Most of it was generalized, but the message was clear. They held our kind in contempt and didn’t care who knew it. In fact, they seemed to be in a contest to see who could broadcast it the loudest.

Most conservatives were hurt by this. We tend to keep our politics relatively private, both out of decorum and respect for our relationships with people whose politics differ from ours. The message that these public posts sent to us was that our “friends” on the left didn’t respect or value us enough to avoid giving offense.

As someone who has been following politics since high school, I tend not to trust my own instincts what the average voter thinks. I’m simply to close to the subject. My wife, however, is a fairly low-key traditionalist who doesn’t care to immerse herself in that world and so I use her as my political weather vane.

And so I knew that there was a storm brewing when she snapped down her phone over breakfast one day after reading Facebook and told me how sick and tired she was of her friends’ political posts.

“When they say those things,” she fumed, “they’re talking about our family.”

“I’m so sick and tired of being told that I’m a bad person because I disagree with someone’s position on abortion or transgender bathrooms. Who do they think they are to tell everyone what they’re required to believe?”

The hurt had turned to anger and quiet resolve.

The left sought to reprimand the right. What they did was alienate it. Their social media echo chamber only served to steel conservative misgivings about Donald Trump, if for no other reason than we simply couldn’t abide by being pushed around for another 4-8 years.

It’s one thing to know that your friends disagree with you. It’s another to realize that they think you’re stupid, uneducated, a bigot, bully, sexist, jerk and everything that’s wrong with the world.

My Facebook feed has almost completely bifurcated into two silos that don’t communicate much at all (Americans more than Canadians, but even my Canadian lefty friends are less likely to interact with folks on the right than they used to be). The libertarians are, as usual, not statistically significant (we’re used to that).

April 23, 2015

Rand Paul against the machine

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Timothy Carney says that the “war on Washington” that keynotes Rand Paul’s nomination campaign is “the fight America needs”:

Rand Paul launched his presidential campaign Tuesday, skewering the “special interests that use Washington D.C. as their own private piggy bank.” His campaign home page blared the headline “Defeat the Washington Machine.”

This sort of campaign against Washington is a cliché these days, but for Paul, it’s a real thing. He’s been fighting this fight since he entered politics. And that’s why the Republican Party needs him today.

Recall how Paul won his first political race: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had handpicked Secretary of State Trey Grayson for Kentucky’s open Senate seat in 2010. Eighteen Republican senators funded Grayson in the primary. Only one funded Paul. Grayson raised half a million dollars from PACs in the primary — 20 times what Paul raised from them. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Grayson in the primary. Paul attacked Grayson for the “AIG Lobbyists” who threw fundraisers for him, which were swarming with lobbyists.

This was the K Street/GOP Machine. Rand Paul demolished it, beating Grayson by 23 points. That victory, on May 18, 2010, was the day the dam broke in the Tea Party flood.

Since he’s come to Washington, it’s been the same story: Rand Paul against the machine.

August 12, 2014

Obamacare and the Tea Party

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:33

Megan McArdle on the direct relationship between the implementation of Obamacare and the rise of the Tea Party:

I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party’s perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacare collapses).

The rage was similar to what progressives felt as they watched George W. Bush push the country into a war in Iraq. That defined and animated the anti-war movement (which is why said movement collapsed when Bush left office, and not, say, when Bush agreed to a staged withdrawal of our forces). Yes, those people would still have hated Republicans, even if there had been no Iraq War. But they would not have been as passionate, as organized or as powerful without it.

Liberals tend to write off this anger as racism, as irrational hatred of Barack Obama, or as perverse joy in denying health care to the poor, but at its root, it’s the simpler feeling that your country is making a mistake and you can’t stop it because the people in charge are ignoring the obvious. Yes, a lot of money and energy was poured into the Tea Party by rich backers, but rich backers cannot create a grassroots campaign unless the underlying passion is there in the voters (paging Karl Rove and Crossroads). The Obama administration created that passion with Obamacare.

[…] I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.

March 11, 2014

QotD: “Moderates”, the Tea Party, and partisanship

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:34

This difference in outlook may be why the Republican leadership hates the Tea Party. The Tea Party gets pissed when folks they elect punt on the ideological goals they got elected to pursue. They have no tribal loyalty, only loyalty to a set of policy goals. The key marker in fact of many groups now disparagingly called “extremists” is that they do not blindly support “their guy” in office when “their guy” sells out on the things they want.

I have friends I like and respect — smart and worldly people — who are involved in a series of activities to promote political moderation. What I have written in this post is the core of my fear about moderation — that in real life calls for moderation are actually calls for loyalty to maintaining our current two major parties (and keeping current incumbents in office) over ideas and principles.

Which leads me to an honest question that many of you may take as insulting — can one be a principled moderate? I am honestly undecided on this. But note that by moderate I do not mean “someone who is neither Republican or Democrat,” because I fit that description and most would call me pretty extreme. So “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” is not in my mind inherently “moderate”. That is a non-moderate ideological position that is sometimes called “moderate” because it is a mix of Republican and Democrat positions. But I would argue that anyone striving to intellectual consistency cannot be a Republican or Democrat because neither have an internally consistent ideology, and in fact their ideology tends to flip back and forth on certain issues (look at how Republican and Democrat ideology on Presidential power, for example, or drone strikes changes depending on whose guy is in the Oval Office).

Warren Meyer, “Can One Be A Principled Moderate? And What the Hell Is A Moderate, Anyway?”, Coyote Blog, 2014-03-07.

February 18, 2014

The Tea Party’s vulnerabilities on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:21

L. Neil Smith agrees with a lot of Tea Party positions, but correctly points out that their determination to drag (some) religion into politics undermines them in three key areas with non-Tea Party audiences:

As for abortion, gay marriage, and immigration, I was taught in college (and have since confirmed) that the populist Grange Movement of the nineteenth century never quite got off its knees because white farmers didn’t want to share their cause with black farmers. The Tea Parties are demonstrating exactly the same kind of suicidal short-sightedness.

In the eighteenth century, most Americans were either passionately for or against slavery. When the Framers wrote the Constitution, they came to a compromise about the issue: slaves would be counted as three fifths of a person for the purpose of representation. They have been severely castigated about this compromise for a couple of centuries, but without it, there would never have been a United States of America.

I’m saying that similar compromises are possible regarding two of the three issues I’ve mentioned, and I have a question about the third.

Abortion first: I know that one side thinks it’s murder and doesn’t seem aware that half the population — with equal passion and sincerity — considers laws against it to represent expropriation and slavery.

A few years ago, I ran an admittedly unscientific abortion survey on my personal website for three years, asking this question: “Could you be satisfied with a compromise under which abortion would remain legal, but not a single cent of tax money would ever used to pay for it?”

The result was that an overwhelming eighty-five percent responded “Yes”, leaving, I assume, a disgruntled seven and a half percent at either end of the curve, who believe that women — or at least their uteruses — belong to the State, or that abortion ought to be an entitlement. Beyond the palest ghost of a shadow of a doubt, the issue is settled, then. We just need to pound it into our “leaders'” thick skulls.

[…]

The question I have about the third issue is this: by precisely what mechanism is my marriage of thirty-odd years to my lovely and talented wife in any way damaged or diminished by letting my friends George and Fred get married, too? I’m talking about nuts and bolts, here, palpable connections. I don’t want to hear about the Bible or your religion. Under the First Amendment, that’s excluded from the conversation.

Their taxes help pay for the courthouse and the judge’s salary. They are entitled, by virtue of that payment, to exactly the same services that you and I expect. What we’re talking about here is leaving George and Fred alone to live the same dream that Cathy and I have been able to live, I can’t find it in myself to deny them that hope.

January 26, 2014

The New York Times profiles Rand Paul

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:19

An interesting view of Rand Paul by Sam Tanenhaus and Jim Rutenberg:

As Rand Paul test-markets a presidential candidacy and tries to broaden his appeal, he is also trying to take libertarianism, an ideology long on the fringes of American politics, into the mainstream. Midway through his freshman term, he has become a prominent voice in Washington’s biggest debates — on government surveillance, spending and Middle East policy.

In the months since he commanded national attention and bipartisan praise for his 13-hour filibuster against the Obama administration’s drone strike program, Mr. Paul has impressed Republican leaders with his staying power, in part because of the stumbles of potential rivals and despite some of his own.

“Senator Paul is a credible national candidate,” said Mitt Romney, who ran for president as the consummate insider in 2012. “He has tapped into the growing sentiment that government has become too large and too intrusive.” In an email, Mr. Romney added that the votes and dollars Mr. Paul would attract from his father’s supporters could help make him “a serious contender for the Republican nomination.”

But if Mr. Paul reaps the benefits of his father’s name and history, he also must contend with the burdens of that patrimony. And as he has become a politician in his own right and now tours the circuit of early primary states, Mr. Paul has been calibrating how fully he embraces some libertarian precepts.

[…]

Since becoming a national figure, Mr. Paul has generally stayed on safer ground. His denunciations of government intrusion on Americans’ privacy have been joined by lawmakers in both parties and have resonated with the public — though no other member of Congress as yet has joined him in his planned class-action suit against the National Security Agency.

He has renounced many of the isolationist tenets central to libertarianism, backed away from his longstanding objections to parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and teamed with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for an easing of drug-sentencing laws. He recently unveiled a plan for investment in distressed inner cities.

Much of that is in keeping with the left-right alliance Mr. Paul promotes, an alternative to what he dismisses as a “mushy middle.” Such partnerships, he says, “include people who firmly do believe in the same things, that happen to serve in different parties.”

Of course, no profile of Rand Paul is complete without including his early influences, including his musical tastes:

Rand was engrossed in his own course of libertarian study: He received a set of Ayn Rand novels for his 17th birthday. And he followed the rock band Rush, some of whose lyrics had libertarian themes.

Gary L. Gardner Jr., a high school friend, said: “I remember even back then being on a swim team bus and a Rush song comes on. I think it was the song ‘Trees’ — and he said, ‘Man, listen to the words of this, you know those guys have got to be conservative.’ ”

“The Trees” tells the story of maples, overshadowed by tall oaks, that form a union to bring equality to the woods “by hatchet, ax and saw.”

Rand Paul influences

The pantheon of libertarianism includes economists like Mises and Friedman and the novelist Rand; Mr. Hess, a former speechwriter for Senator Barry M. Goldwater; Mr. Rothbard, an economic historian and social thinker; Ron Paul, congressman, presidential aspirant, father and “hero”; and Rush, whose lyrics were infused with libertarian themes.

December 10, 2013

The pundits are “mad as hell” and hope we’re ready to man the barricades for them

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:03

Jim Geraghty notes the common theme among anguished pundits both left and right:

One problem with the “this is intolerable, and we need an uprising!” cry is that we’ve already had at least two “uprisings” at the ballot box in recent years: The Obama wave of 2008 and the Tea Party wave of 2010. But their remedies for the “intolerable” condition are contradictory — one envisions a much greater role for government in Americans’ daily lives, while the other concludes government’s growing role exacerbates the problems instead of solving it.

Ironically, the two sides agree in their denunciation of crony capitalism, but what they usually mean is that they’re opposed to the other guy’s crony capitalism. Obama voted for TARP and then exploited its discontent, shrugged at the taxpayers getting stuck for the bill of Solyndra and other green energy boondoggles, then did his part to help walking conflict of interest Terry McAuliffe become governor of Virginia. The flip side of the coin too many Republicans are all too comfortable with their own versions of crony capitalism — loans and loan guarantees subsidize U.S. exporters, state economic development boards, and Bob McDonnell’s cozy financial arrangements with donors, among other examples. While crony capitalism isn’t really a driving force behind our national sense of diminishing economic opportunities, it certainly doesn’t help anyone except the cronies, and enhances the sense that wealth is built through cheating and secret deals, not hard work or innovation.

(Notice that this expression of economic discontent is so generic that everybody’s got a grievance, and nobody thinks they’re the beneficiaries. This is how you get multimillionaire rapper/mogul Jay-Z selling Occupy Wall Street-themed t-shirts, or the CEO of bailed-out insurance giant AIG explicitly comparing the treatment of his company to lynchings in the South, or the number of members of Congress who have complained about their $174,000 per year salary.)

October 30, 2013

The “Libertarian Moment” – or small government’s latest 15 minutes of fame

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:34

In Time, Nick Gillespie says that if “everyone from The Washington Post to NPR to The Atlantic are talking about some variation on ‘America’s Libertarian Moment,’ attention must be paid”.

The American Values Survey is based on responses gathered in late September and early October from a representative group of about 2,300 adults. The researchers used answers to questions about national security, economics, and “personal liberty” to create a “Libertarian Orientation Scale.” By such measures, 7 percent of Americans are “consistent libertarians” and another 15 percent “lean libertarian,” meaning they oppose increased government spending on things such as military operations and domestic surveillance, raising the minimum wage, and environmental regulations.

Such fiscal conservativism is matched by social liberalism, with libertarians in favor of legalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights, allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs, and keeping the Internet unregulated. Libertarians are much more likely than most Americans to be male, white, and under 50 years old. They are also far less likely than most Americans to be religious and to think that religion has a place in politics. This puts them at odds with “other key Republican base groups” such as the Tea Party movement and white evangelical Protestants.

As befits people who put a high value on individualism, libertarians don’t fit easily into existing political categories even as they are far more likely to pay close attention to politics than the average American (56 percent of libertarians versus just 38 percent) and to always vote in primary elections. “The Libertarian Orientation Scale and traditional measures of political ideology that run along a liberal-conservative axis are only weakly correlated,” according to the survey.

That means that the 22 percent of Americans who are consistent libertarians or lean libertarian are fully capable of throwing any election in their direction. That makes them the true wild cards of American politics. A majority of libertarians describe themselves as independent (35 percent), affiliated with a third party (15 percent), or as Democrats (5 percent), with the remaining 45 percent calling themselves Republicans.

October 21, 2013

All those boats have been burned

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:35

Megan McArdle on the problem with emulating the Conquistator model of operational planning and burning your boats:

There’s a legend that after Hernan Cortes and his crew landed on the shores of the New World, Cortes ordered that their boats be burned. The only way they would be able to get back to Spain would be to conquer the land, giving them the resources to build new boats. With necessity at their backs, his band of adventurers managed to conquer all of Mexico.

It’s not clear if this story is actually true, but it’s nonetheless beloved by motivational speakers. The last two weeks of political paralysis have been an excellent illustration of why you shouldn’t model your negotiation strategy on a guy who’s mostly famous for slaughtering strangers.

[…]

The state insurance exchanges aren’t working, Obamacare is in jeopardy, and Democrats are casting around for a way to blame this on Republicans. The answer they have settled on: It’s their fault because Republican governors did not set up exchanges.

Think about what they are actually saying: “We passed a law that was so incredibly fragile that it was destined to fail unless all the state governments controlled by the party that opposed this law worked hard to make the system a success.”

And why did they expect this to happen? The answer boils down to this: “After we burn the boats, everyone’s supposed to band together to fight the Aztecs!”

I’ve long criticized the health-care law for being a Rube Goldberg Policy Machine: There are dozens of pieces that all have to work perfectly. If one of them fails, the whole apparatus breaks down and the individual insurance market spirals toward death. That seemed risky to me, especially when the law was passed over fervent opposition — a fervent opposition that was smugly told that “elections have consequences,” without anyone apparently considering that future elections might have different consequences.

But in this view, the Rube Goldberg quality is actually a plus, because after all, if we do something that might break the insurance market unless Republicans enthusiastically cooperate, they’ll have to enthusiastically cooperate.

This is … what’s the technical term? Right, insane.

Start with the fact that the state exchanges — what we would have had if the Republican governors and legislatures had cooperated — aren’t all in such great shape, either. Don’t get me wrong; some of them are doing very well. But some aren’t really working at all, and in others the results are … unclear. And that’s in blue states where the governor and the legislature were hugely enthusiastic about this program and are going all out to make it work. As anyone who has ever implemented a new program (corporate or government) can tell you, one of the biggest hurdles is getting people who don’t care about your program, or who actively oppose it, to make their piece work. Even if they’re trying in good faith, they have neither your enthusiasm nor your deep grasp of the internal logic. In the best-case scenario, it’s not their No. 1 priority; when it competes for resources with stuff they really care about, it tends to get the second-string people and budget. This is one reason that promising pilot projects often fail when they’re rolled out to the larger organization—and one of the most important things that a corporate innovator has to do is to evangelize his program so that other departments get as enthusiastic as he is.

The Obama administration was not in a position to evangelize the president’s health-care program to Republican governors. If the law absolutely required that those governors be as enthusiastic about implementing a state exchange as the folks in the administration, then it was a bad law that should never have been passed, and the Democrats made a grave mistake that could destroy the nation’s insurance market.

After the boat-burning failed the first time, leaving it weeks from its debut without a working computer system, the administration seems to have decided that what was needed was simply a larger bonfire: Launch the nonworking system, because after all, once you’ve gone live, the potential catastrophe would be nearly upon us, which would somehow force those inside and outside the administration to somehow bring order out of the chaos they had created.

But Republicans should make this work! It’s the right thing to do! That is, of course, debatable. But aside from that, this is magical thinking — as magical as the Tea Partiers who responded, when I pointed out that the shutdown was costing them the support they’d need to retake the Senate and the White House and actually get some policy making done, that this was all the fault of the liberal media, which was just repeating administration talking points.

October 19, 2013

In which Jonah Goldberg compares the Tea Party to Nazis

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:02

This week’s Goldberg File email included a brief analysis of Raiders of the Lost Ark and tied it to the last couple of weeks of Washington political theatre:

If the Tea Party isn’t pissing someone off, it’s doing it wrong.

Like the skinny guy everyone in prison is afraid of, much of the Tea Party’s political power is drawn from the perception that it’s just a little crazy. Boehner’s hand has been strengthened over the last few years by his ability to tell Obama, “Hey, look, I’d love to cut a deal with you but you see those guys over my right shoulder? — DON’T LOOK THEM IN THE EYE! They are crazy and if I walk back there with what you’re offering they will rip off my legs and beat me to death with them. And then they will get mean.”

So why did I get crosswise with them this time? Because I didn’t think their strategy would work. But going over all that again feels like airing dirty laundry during Thanksgiving dinner just so you can get grandma riled up about grandpa’s escapades during the war. “You weren’t fighting Communists! You were fighting syphilis! We’re going home!”

Still, like most of my colleagues, I didn’t think the strategy would work. And that was a risk for the Tea Parties themselves. Sometimes to use power means to lose power. Good hostage-takers are always careful to ask for a ransom the victim’s families can afford to pay, otherwise what’s the point?

Indiana Jones and the Tea Party of the Lost Ark

In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon introduces his girlfriend, Amy, to the Raiders of the Lost Ark, which she’d never seen before. She liked the movie, she explains, despite the big “story problem.” Sheldon is aghast at the suggestion there could be any story problems with the “love child” of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. “What story problem?” he demands to know. She explains that Indiana Jones is absolutely irrelevant to the story. If he’d never gotten involved, the Nazis would have still found the ark of the covenant, they would have still brought it to that island, and they would have still had their faces melted.

I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s actually a very close parallel complaint to the one I’ve written about many times. My dad — who loved the movie — always laughed at the idea that the Nazis would be able to use the ark for their dastardly purposes. The idea that God would be like, “Darn, it’s out of my hands. I guess I have no choice but to lend you my awesome powers for your evil deeds,” is pretty ridiculous. They even returned to this idea in the third movie, when the Nazis tried to get their hands on the Holy Grail — because, you know, Jesus would totally say, “Nazis!? Rats. There’s nothing I can do. It’s life everlasting for the SS!”

I’m no theologian, but I just have a hard time believing that’s how God rolls.

Anyway, I bring this up because I think you can say something similar about the last few weeks. There was a whole lot of action, but at the end of the day, things worked out the way they were going to all along. I’m sure there’s a really good extended metaphor in here somewhere. Default was the face-melting ark, but we looked away at the last minute. Or defunding Obamacare was the Holy Grail, or something like that. But I want to get back to why I feel pretty good about how things worked out.

October 18, 2013

Republicans and conservatives

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:18

In The Atlantic, Molly Ball looks at the split between the GOP establishment and the increasingly angry conservative base:

On his radio show recently, Glenn Beck urged his listeners to “defund the GOP.” Sarah Palin has threatened to leave the Republican Party; Rush Limbaugh calls it “irrelevant.” The Senate Conservatives Fund has targeted mainly incumbent Republican senators for defeat. Erick Erickson, one of the right’s most prominent commentators, wonders if what’s coming is “a real third party movement that will fully divide the Republican Party.”

Conservatives have declared war on the GOP.

Tired of feeling taken for granted by a party that alternately panders to them and sells them down the river, in their view, Tea Partiers and others on the right are in revolt. The Republican Party itself is increasingly the focus of their anger, particularly after Wednesday’s deal to reopen the government, which many on the right opposed. Now, many are threatening to take their business elsewhere.

“Conservatives are either going to split [from the GOP] or stay home,” Erickson, the influential editor of RedState.com and a Fox News contributor, told me. “They’ll first expend energy in primaries, but if unsuccessful, they’ll bolt.”

Erickson, a former Republican elected official in Georgia, stressed that he wasn’t advocating such a split, only foreseeing it. “I think the GOP is already splitting,” he said, with grassroots activists feeling “played” by elected officials’ unfulfilled promises to defeat Obamacare.

The calls for a split mark a new, more acrimonious chapter in the long-simmering conflict between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. Steve Deace, an Iowa-based talk-radio host, said his audience has never been angrier. “They’re tired of electing a bunch of Republicans who care more about what the media thinks about them than what the people who elected them think,” he told me. “Why do I care whether John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House? Why do I care whether Harry Reid or ‘Ditch’ McConnell is the Senate majority leader? What changes? Nothing changes.”

Of course, most of this is froth and fuming — they won’t split the party or form a new one. Why is that? It’s because the GOP and the Democrats have got the system rigged so that only those two parties ever have a real chance at getting candidates elected to state or federal office. In some states, third parties have to petition for ballot access every election for every individual candidate. This doesn’t sound too unreasonable, except the threshold for gathering signatures is incredibly high in many cases (or time-limited, or rigged in other ways), so that without an active, fully staffed party organization only the top few positions can be realistically contested. Only GOP and Democratic candidates are included in polls, debates, and other electoral events covered by the media, so as little “oxygen” as possible is given to outsiders, independents, and third party candidates. Stories like this recent one in Reason happen just about every year in most states.

Having done their part to make the existing duopoly the only game in town, the conservative faction of the Republican party may gripe all they want, but they’re not seriously going anywhere.

October 17, 2013

The internal struggle for the Republican party

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:13

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Drew M. explains why the struggle within the GOP won’t be over quickly:

Part of the on-going GOP vs. “Tea Party” civil war is an insistence by the GOP that the tea party needs to focus more on Democrats than conservative “purity tests” […].

This illustrates one of the big problems in the current battle, Republicans still don’t get the nature of the insurgency movement. The “tea party” isn’t about going after Democrats, that’s the job of the GOP, conservatives are increasingly focused on policing the GOP.

For too long the GOP has wooed conservatives by talking tough but acting very moderate when elected. I think you can trace it back to George H.W. Bush breaking his “no new taxes” pledge. Conservatives rallied around the elder Bush and put aside their distrust and dislike of him mostly out of respect for Ronald Reagan only to find out he was exactly who he thought they were.

Last night on the podcast we talked about how a lot of these differences were papered over during George W. Bush’s tenure. I argued to a large extent that was a result of 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror. I said during the 2004 elections that had it not been for national security I would have wanted W. to face a primary challenge from the right and I think he might have been.

Conservative voters are feeling neglected betrayed and unappreciated by the GOP (and I think for good reason). Instead of telling conservatives to suck it up and fight Democrats, Republicans are going to have to treat conservatives as voters they have to woo. Maybe instead of telling conservatives to shut up and fight Democrats they should spend sometime telling conservatives what the GOP has done for them (and, “but the Democrats really suck” isn’t good enough). If the GOP has been so good for conservatives (and I mean small government conservatives here), it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a long list of positive achievements. Of course, there will be an alternative and likely longer list of GOP actions against small government conservative interests.

May 12, 2013

Modernizing the “rules for radicals”

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:20

James Delingpole suggests that the Saul Alinsky playbook needs a bit of updating for the current radicals (that is, not the broadly left-wing radicals of Alinsky’s day):

Why do we need some new rules? Because the old ones were written in the 70s by a Marxist community organiser called Saul Alinsky. He had some useful ideas, many of which we can steal or adapt. But some of them are ill-expressed or incoherent. Eg Rule 10 “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” I think he could have omitted that one, don’t you, without jeopardising his place in history as a great revolutionary thinker?

Who are we? Not the same as the radicals of Alinsky’s generation, that’s for sure. Alinsky’s radicals were broadly on the left: Che admirers; Black Panthers; communist revolutionaries; hippies; communitarians; environmentalists; radical feminists. The hegemony which they were trying to destroy was, very loosely, a conservative one.

Today, though, the positions have reversed. We new radicals are broadly — but not exclusively — of the right, not the left. Many of us would describe ourselves as conservatives, classical liberals, libertarians, UKIPers, Tea Partiers. Revolutionaries, yes, but in the traditions of Burke, Wilkes, Cobbett, and, indeed, the Minutemen and the Founding Fathers, rather than of Marx and Lenin. Some of us might not even think of ourselves as righties, but that’s OK, it’s the direction of travel that matters not the labelling.

We’re against: arbitrary authority; big government; high taxes; overregulation; corporatism; cosy stitch ups between the banksters, the lawyers and the political class; the EU; the UN; identity politics; eco-fascists; elf-n-safety; wind turbines; quantitative easing…

We’re for: empiricism; sound money; free markets; liberty; small government; low taxes; deregulation; cheap energy; rigour; meritocracy; integrity; equality of opportunity, perhaps, but most definitely not equality of outcome.

We’re on the right side of a culture war which currently we’re losing. Why are we losing? Not because we’re bad people. Not because we don’t have all the truth, all the logic, all the arguments on our side. We’re losing because, thanks to Alinsky, the enemy has a forty-year head start on us. They’ve got the techniques. All we’ve got is the moral high ground — except, the way Alinsky’s acolytes have brilliantly spun it, we don’t get to enjoy the benefits even of that.

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