Social movements create change. Politicians absorb social movements into their power base and, once they gain critical mass, exert legal power over society to appease the movement. Once a movement’s central objectives have been absorbed into legal change, the movement dissipates. All movements have a catalyst which galvanizes members into action, wrapped in the concept of “should”. The question I want to answer is what it will take for a conservative movement to achieve critical mass at the federal level.
All movements begin with should. All men should be free. No one should drink alcohol. Children of undocumented workers should receive in-state tuition. Drinking water should be clean. Black people should be able to use the white restroom. And so on.
The reason why something should be or should not be vary. Politicians are very adept at listening to what voters think should happen, and then convincing them that as an elected official they would enforce the change or the status quo, whatever matches the sentiment.
Over the course of the 20th Century, there have been some notably successful movements. The most powerful movements have generally affirmed a positive right (women may vote, blacks may sit at the front of the bus, eighteen-year-olds may vote). Most prohibitory movements have ultimately failed (no abortion on demand, no pornography, no alcohol sales, no war participation). There are always a few exceptions to the rule (prayer in schools both as a positive right and as a prohibition, protesting abortion, to a minor degree, as a positive right and as a prohibition).
In almost every case, the movement’s first objective is to criminalize or decriminalize behavior through legislation (e.g.- Civil Rights) or judicial interpretation (e.g.- Lawrence v Texas). Second, the movement seeks to enforce the law through stronger sanctions or protections (FACE, hate crimes, DREAM, etc.). Third, the movement seeks to silence any oppositional debate or behavior through education and social pressure (when is the last time you saw a debate on the causality link between second-hand smoke inhalation and cancer vs. cell phone addiction and comorbidity with brain cancer?).
Germany took fewer than nine years to accelerate from a movement to criminalize the behavior of certain citizens to legal genocide. Every step was legal in its inception. Every step was taken with the full knowledge of the public of the potential outcome, if not its tacit acquiescence, although a blissful ignorance as to the full implication of the process. The controlled media and political machine were adroit in painting the issue as one of the rights of the 99% Volkdeutsche versus the 1% “other” (i.e.- Jews and foreigners).
Whatever the issues we currently have in our society, the front-line battles are all being waged through legislation and adjudication: abortion, crime, race, income, income tax, foreign policy, environment, etc. Our laws are being crafted and interpreted to punish opposition to abortion, punish enforcement of conservative laws, punish opposition to affirmative action, punish opposition to wage regulation, punish conservative thought through selective taxation, punish the military selectively, punish those who deny climate change, etc. There is a tight connection between the majority of lawyers and more liberal movements, as there is a great deal of money to be made from most of the progressive movements.
Since 1865, the States have been getting their collective rear-ends kicked. Some of the time the kicking has been commenced by a majority sentiment, but often not. Over the past 61 years, the Supreme Court has been the primary driver of infringing the rights of States for the rights of minority groups, whether racial or moral or whatever case. Books like The Brethren shed some very detailed light on how the inner-workings of the Court brought about many of these decisions.
The coalition of larger associations with federal regulation has tilted the balance of power extensively toward centralization. It’s much like gravity, in that the pull is toward the center and parties that understand that nurture it to the detriment of those that do not. It explains why people like [mc_name name=”Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)” chamber=”house” mcid=”B000589″ ] and [mc_name name=”Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)” chamber=”senate” mcid=”M000355″ ] are mostly ineffectual at deregulation.
It is those who grieve who are the most welcome partners to social change. Sometimes these are people affected by the rules and sometimes they are people who want to be liked by those who are affected by the rules. Watch the Wire sometime to get an accurate, fictionalized account of Martin O’Malley’s rise to power.
Make a 25-year-old pay the IRS every year without subsidy for their healthcare obligation and we will see swelling opposition to Obamacare. Cut the requirement to fund a union mandatorily and you will see the rapid reduction in union membership. We all see the problem, but our politicians are not being held to any type of accountability.
I would argue that the most pervasive damage to our freedom has been the erosion of States’s rights, where such erosion has gradually placed us all at the mercy of the prevailing winds of Washington, D.C., where very little is truthful, ethical or moral. The power vacillating through the halls is its own aphrodisiac and turns our fighters into liars. There is little to no accountability, other than to special interests, of this we can all agree.
I believe that what we need is a unifying theory of States’ rights, not one that has been recast as a very fallible defense of racism. The Supreme Court has enforced a one-size fits all solution into many issues which had and have no place in federal jurisprudence. States should have more power in almost every arena, including environmental protection. Let California do what it will and leave the rest of us alone. Let Massachusetts think its way out of its own dilemmas.
When we watch the coming Presidential debates, I would like to listen to each candidates views on this issue. I am wary of those who espouse federal solutions. To decommission federal agencies would be a good start, but Congress has little stomach for that fight absent an economic crisis. What the President can do is to use the power of office to assist and support all 50 States in regaining some level of regulatory balance. I would like to see them pick issues on which every State basically agrees and head from there. What about government surveillance on U.S. soil? Would we not rather have DHS involve local law enforcement? Isn’t that something upon which we might all agree, that as Citizens, we do have Constitutional rights which must be honored? Why can’t we focus on the issues which unite us in opposition to centralized authority and get a candidate who espouses these views?
Along those lines, we have a growing persecution of Christianity which is a mortal threat to Freedom of Religion. It would be good to have a candidate that pledges to thwart any attempts of the U.S. Government to go and persecute Christians. This is not only about Congress, but how the DOJ is being used currently to go out and influence bullying. We need to address this and there is a groundswell of support for it.
Third, I want a candidate who will articulate a Pro-Life view on abortion that is common sense and reflects the will of the majority. How hard is that? You would think with the most supportive Pro-Choice President ever that there would be a further backlash, but the whole debate on LGBT rights seems to have blunted the issue, at least in the biased media.
Liberals are darn good with symbols. “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is such an easy-to-swallow phrase to encapsulate the moral supremacy of a viewpoint. Conservatives tend not to do this very effectively (remember Nixon with the peace signs?). “Just Say No” has been universally ridiculed for thirty years, and I am not ashamed to say that I was in that camp of feeling this was very dismissive of a much deeper social ill.
Why can’t we co-opt the opposition, like taking a famous advertisement for the Volkswagen Beetle, “Think Small”, and applying it to abortion to make people reflect? Or how about showing two members of the KKK at a bakery in Harlem telling the baker to write “No Blacks Allowed” on the cake? Or how about arguing that California should be redistricted to allow for illegal alien-majority areas, such as Santa Ana, where they can vote for statewide office and elect representatives? There are so many ways we can turn arguments on their head. We already have seen that open borders are dangerous.
We have what many believe to be a very strong crop of candidates. Can we please coalesce around one candidate as quickly as possible, who articulates a minimal set of values that are aligned with this movement? I know there is a great deal of disagreement on which candidate, but if we can even agree on who we should not support, that would be great.
I remember at President Clinton’s first inauguration, they played Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” and there was a sense that Baby Boomers had ascended to the highest power, completing the raising of a middle finger to the prior generation begun in the 1960’s. Then President Obama showed that White people weren’t all that bad, at least those who voted for him twice. He campaigned on economic woes and honestly, how many small business owners feel better off than they were eight years ago?
Forget about Reagan’s mantle. We need someone who in and of themselves inspires the kind of respect and admiration that JFK or Reagan produced. Reagan was hated by liberals, but won two landslide victories. He spoke to the middle-class, not cynically like Hillary Clinton, but directly. President Clinton may have sold us out to the Chinese, but he was very pragmatic with a divided Congress. President Obama, by contrast, has ruled by fiat since Day One. There are many liberals who have attempted to assert that it is racist to have that opinion, especially asserting that President Obama has used Executive Power far less than President Bush, but this does not take into account that fact that for two years, there was no opposition and for another four there was no Senate opposition and for the entirety of his presidency, both Houses of Congress have been timid and reluctant to take the fight to him, even on issues with clear support from their respective constituencies.
How difficult is it to support either a flat-tax or leveling the playing field by taxing U.S.-based corporations fairly? Why not just be honest that the government is incentivizing businesses to offshore the majority of their labor with tax breaks and a very robust reduction in paperwork by doing so? Why not speak directly to people being allowed to pursue a living wage based on a fair set of rules? We don’t seem to have a candidate with their finger squarely on that pulse, although I am very willing to be contradicted.
In short, we need someone articulate and principled to light this torch for the majority of us to follow. Someone who understands the basic flaws in the whole income inequality argument and will take it straight to the Democratic nominee, whomever he/she/it/pick whatever politically-correct pronoun might be. And someone surrounded by a team that is loyal, intelligent and current. And not a Bush, please. Been there, done that twice, with little to show for it.