Red Bull For The Soul, In Which I Pledge Extremism


It has been 10 months since my last diary here at Redstate, and frankly, almost a year since I’ve been actively engaged. There are many reasons and even more excuses, but in retrospect, they are just that: excuses.

Last year, when I attended the Redstate Gathering in Austin, I went as an aspiring activist, wanting to do more than just write blogposts from time to time. This year, I came to Redstate Gathering as a penitent, looking to be recharged, re-energized, and re-inspired. Thanks to Erick, the staff at Redstate, and the volunteers, I came away from the second day with just that.

This wasn’t chicken soup for the soul, but Red Bull. Time to wake up. Time to put away excuses, time to stop bemoaning not having time and to start finding some time to do whatever it is I can do. For just that, the trip was worthwhile.

But there is something else as well.

As all of you know, Redstate has grown in influence and stature way past being just a blog. It isn’t a typical political blog or online community that is but an echo-chamber of committed people talking to each other. It is a political power influencing national elections and historical events. We all may look back on today and realize that the fact that Rick Perry chose to announce his candidacy at Redstate Gathering instead of at the Iowa State Fair was a historical moment signifying an incredible shift of power from the old to the new.

At the same time, I don’t believe that Redstate gained this power under Erick’s leadership because of our superior blogging skills. Or because of excellent diaries. Or anything of the sort. I do not believe Redstate gained the power because the people of Redstate spend all their time just writing posts, diaries, and bashing Obama. No, Redstate became influential because the people who write, who read, who comment went out and translated thoughts and blogposts and information into action.

Whether that action was donating to candidates (like Nikki Haley, who mentioned in every speech that it was financial support from Redstate community that saved her campaign in its darkest hour), or organizing precincts, or taking over the GOP from within, the people of Redstate went out and did stuff.

So will I. I don’t yet know exactly what, since I’m a new resident of Houston, but I will. High on my list is to explore what I can do locally at the precinct level. And right behind that will be to do what I can for Ted Cruz, candidate for the Senate.

But what of online? Is there a point to continue blogging, putting up diaries, writing here or elsewhere, or any such thing?

I think I have found one answer. And I will be exploring it going forward.

Politics, it is said, is the art of the possible. Compromise is inevitable. Even as Tea Party candidates swear up and down that they will stand on principle, even as good-hearted men and women go to do battle with the right ideals, I know that they will need to compromise. I know that in order to get things done, sometimes, they have to accept a good-enough solution rather than hold out for the perfect one.

But online commentator types like me are not politicians. I am not bound by their need to compromise, by their need to do what is possible. Nor are any of you. So we push for “extremist” positions. We push for policies that are incredibly naive, impossible to achieve, and incompatible with political reality.

And that creates the operational space for the doers to compromise just a little less, to push the needle ever so slightly towards our side. This is, I think, the proper role of the online activist community: to create enough space for the policymakers to maneuver ever so closer to the ideal, while knowing that we will never achieve the ideal itself.

For example, in the Balanced Budget Amendment discussion today, I realized that the goal of setting a cap on federal spending at roughly 18% or so is highly desirable. I asked why not push for total repeal of the New Deal and the Administrative State that FDR’s brainchild brought us, and cap spending at pre-WW II/New Deal levels. The answer, of course, is that such a thing is politically impossible.

Yet, if the most “right wing” position is to settle for 18% of GDP, and the most “left wing” position is to push for roughly 45% of GDP (where some European nations are), it seems to me that the compromise position is well north of 18%. So, no thanks. I’ll push for 5% of GDP, the Left can push for 45% of GDP, and maybe that will give enough room for the good guys to go in and negotiate for 20% of GDP as a compromise.

Maybe if I’m crying full-throated to eliminate the Dept of Education completely, it’ll give some maneuvering room for our guys to cut its budget by 30% without coming off as “extremists” since they can always point to people like me as the real extremists. I’m okay with that. And back in the real world, I can always work to get guys who want to cut the DoE budget by 30% with boots on the ground and financial support.

Yeah, I’m feeling inspired again. Feeling energized again. Feeling… not quite forgiven, but at least with an idea that it isn’t too late to get back in the fight.

Oh yeah, and I’m coming out of the closet. I think I’ve kept the political persona separate from my personal/business persona for too long. For some good reasons, maybe, but… meh… what’s the point of hiding when staring armageddon in the face?

For anyone who cares, I’m on Twitter as @robhahn. And you can find me on Facebook as Robert Hahn. All of my political personas are going away after this weekend. Whatever consequences come, so be it.

Thanks again, Redstate.

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