Shifting Sands - 1st Installment

Friday, September 23, 2005
I've written a few comments over at Roger's Place concerning politics and I intend to write a few posts here at YARGB on the same subject. Given the sad state of my own party in the years since Lord Rockingham's demise (and Fox's perfidy), I find it necessary to seek safe harbor with the Republicans pending the renaissance of a true conservative party. While the Republican Party offers only a ghostly simulacrum of conservatism, it does shine brightly in contrast to the dull statism of the opposition. I wouldn't wish to hide any potential bias from an unwary reader.

The question then becomes; "How fares the simulacrum at this point of the interregnum?" and to find an answer I often turn to surveys conducted by the Pew Foundation (yet another liberal trust posing as being "independent"). I do so because they tend to be a bit more honest in presenting the actual data from which their carefully shaded conclusions are drawn. They also provide a bit of humor from time to time as they seek to obfuscate glaringly apparent truths with smoke and mirrors rhetoric that extends even to the titles of the pieces. A fine example of this type of flummery is to be found here. The title of the piece, "GOP Makes Gains Among The Working Class, While Democrats Hold On To The Union Vote" implies an equivalence that does not exist. Union membership applies to about 13% of the gainfully employed population. That's 13%, down from a high of 33% and continuing to fall. Although union members tend to vote at a much higher rate than those who do not belong to unions, 40% of them vote Republican. The statement; "Democrats continue to hold a strong majority among a declining segment of the populace" would be a bit more accurate.

Pew also manages to bury the real import of the report by placing it further down in the summary. The shifts in favor of the Republicans in the 3rd and 4th income quintiles are astounding, the 4th more so than the 3rd. The Republican strategy of empowering the disadvantaged through ownership options and opportunities is paying very large dividends. The Democratic strategy of 'depending on dependents' is also reaping its just reward. It appears that the Democrats have yet to reach the absolute bottom of the hole being dug, given that even in the fifth quintile (also known as the non-productive section of the populace, or rent-seekers) there is a small increase in Republican support. Looking at the political situation today, it is entertaining to consider the fervor with which the Democrats continue to dig. It is as if there was an expectation that an exit will be found at the bottom of the hole.

10 comments:

Knucklehead said...

Mr. Ballard,

Once I got beyond my initial reaction (that freakin' Ballard needs to put down the crossword puzzle!), I quickly arrived at, what a great question!

How fares the simulacrum at this point of the interregnum?

It is my belief that the operation of the government, and the political parties, we currently have is, indeed, an increasingly unreal or vague semblance of the government, and political parties, we require.

Grabbing hold of the union membership and it's influence with one of our two political parties, is instructive.

As per the Pew Foundation report you linked to, only 12.5% (one of eight) of those of us gainfully employed are union members. I only scanned the report but I failed to detect that it mentions that somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of that membership are government employees.

There is something fundamentally amok when 1/8th of the gainfully employed citizenry has such enourmous influence over a political party.

When one recognizes that this number drops to roughly 1/12th when unionized government employees are subtacted, the issue is even larger.

If one backs up a moment and recognizes that it is the very employees of the government we need to serve us who are a large and powerful part of this disproportionate influence on our political process, the issue becomes nearly frightening and certainly daunting.

But it is not only this matter that is stultifying. Our current federal system, and also the state systems, focus on providing a number of services we either need or demand and remediating or mitigating an number of problems.

Just to quickly toss out a short list of these sorts of services and problems, consider: defense, law enforcement, education, welfare, civil rights, immigration.

With each of these it often seems to me we are hopelessly mired knee-deep in some thick goo that has been congealing for nearly a half-century. The nature of each of these has changed radically over time but our notions, and programs, to deal with them have not. We keep trying to solve problems that are merely a simulacrum of the problems the solutions were designed for.

Are we actually at a point of interregnum? I like to think we are but am I engaged in wishful thinking? What forces are at work to have brought us to some point that is between what was and what will be? Are we, indeed, on the cusp of change?

David Thomson said...

“Are we, indeed, on the cusp of change?”

We are indeed. The Democratic Party never had the better arguments. No, it had its power due to the loyalty of the liberal establishment comprising the MSM and intellectual institutions. They never hesitated to financially harm dissenters. In 1987 the stuff really started to hit the fan when the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. This allowed Rush Limbaugh and others to win the competition of the airwaves. Matt Drudge revealed the Lewinsky scandal in early 1998. The blogs came into their own soon after the 2000 elections---and the Democratic Party has been in downward spiral ever since. Is the Internet essentially egalitarian? Not in the least. It is a ruthless meritocracy which allows the cream to rise to the top. I expect matters to only get better in the future.

What might destroy our hopes? We must beware of attempts in the courts to bring back the Fairness Doctrine and limiting free speech on the Internet. These challenges may be the greatest threat we face in the next few years.

Rick Ballard said...

Knuck,

I keep trying to compose an epitaph for the Democratic Party but every time I say to myself "Finally", they jerk the stake out of their heart and stagger to their feet.

If I were forced to write one today, it would simply say "They succeeded." I don't think that I would mention that their success killed them.

What would an Okie transported from Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" have to say about the state of the poor today? In all probability he would be flabbergasted that people so fat could be considered poor. He would also be flabbergasted at the square footage of the Section 8 housing that the fat poor people inhabited, at the fact that public schools also fed the fat poor kids and that regular health care was available for children at a premium of 50 cents per month per head (in '36 dollars) in most states. He would probably feel vindicated for having deified FDR during his lifetime.

I believe that we are at the point of change but I cannot say with any certainty what the change will entail or what a new party will look like. We can't go very long with single party dominance before corruption will take hold.

David,

Wasn't the Fairness Doctrine a regulation promulgated by the FCC rather than a statute? I suppose that the FCC could try and promulgate such a regulation again but that would require a Democrat administration in power. Clinton didn't try it, so it must have been considered politically unfeasible at the time. That or Miz Hilary was caught up in the fantasy that all that was required was a talented liberal voice to counter Rush. I think that it is too late for such regulation to be reimposed. The howling would break the Dems ear drums.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

The Democrats have mutated completely during my lifetime from the party of the little guy to the party of the elitist trustifarians. The fight now is between the elitist trustifarians who already have it completely made and can collect $300k/year without ever having to lift a finger on the one side, and little guys who are trying to get a piece of the pie by dint of their own labors on the other. The Republican party has become the party of the little guy who wants to make good. The Republican party is the party of the American Dream.

The Democrats can only hang on by cobbling together their McGovern coalition of elitist trustifarians melded with that ever-dwindling group of dependents they can keep on the plantation. The advantage they have over the Republicans is that the increasing wealth of the country creates more trustifarians all the time.

Knucklehead said...

David,

Hope all is well. Some portion of the storm must be getting near by now. Keep us posted.

The Democratic Party never had the better arguments.

This may well be true, but at least once upon a time they weren't afraid to try to solve the nation's problems. Or more accurately, perhaps, there was room within their party for people legitimately interested in trying to solve problems.

There was, of course, the profoundly reactionary portion of the Democratic Party that constructed the post civil war, Jim Crow South. And the greeedy, oportunistic part that constructed the big city political machines and made common cause with corrupt labor unions and such.

Regardless of all that, however, there was some portion of the Democratic Party that helped push us to accomplish the sorts of things Rick pointed out. There are no more Joads. The sweatshops are gone. Rivers are cleaned. They may not learn anything anymore, but all children have a school to go to.

Perhaps they ran out of energy or just held power for too long or have become hopelessly addicted to their wealthy benefactors. Probably some combination of all three, and more.

Now, however, they are just reactionary. They cling to past problems as if they cherish them. There was a scene in one of the woman living with the gorillas or chimpanzees or orangutan movies where a mother ape, of whatever sort, carries her dead infant around for hours or days refusing to acknowledge that it is dead.

The Democrats treat the nation's problems that way. They carry them around and pretend they are still alive. Pretend to feed them.

We need them to move on, to recognize and make some attempt to solve the new problems and the seemingly intractable remnants of the old problems. But they don't want to move on, they want to MoveOn.

As Rick also pointed out, it won't take an eternity for the one dominant party to go corrupt. It is the nature of things.

When I am optimistic I like to believe we are poised for change. When I am pessimistic I fear we are at an impasse.

How much better, and easier, things could be if they would only try to help. Fortunately, for my sanity, I understand that change is a generational thing. And I have some reasonably faith in the "doers" portion of the generation I've done at least a little bit to help raise.

truepeers said...

Rick, one wonders how the ownership society could offer anything else in the way of a political party than simulacra of conservatism or liberalism. The rapidity of exchange that is integral to the mature market economy in which even the poor may now cast off (i.e. exchange their pity for) the self-righteousness of the importunate entitlements politicos, necessarily blurs, if it is never able to eliminate, our ability to distinguish between representation and reality, inasmuch as reality becomes more and more a world in which everyone has increasing powers of representation and hence an ever more specialized audience share.

The party that wishes to sum up these many narrator/audience niches at the polling booth must affirm the implicit impurity of the political negotiations that are its raison d'etre. When the Democrats get over their current puritanical kick - Bush lied people died, no blood for oil - then they may be able to renew themselves as a part of reality, in which the values of liberalized exchange, not highminded perfectionism, rule the roost.

In the "new conservatism" of today, everyone can perform his own variety of conservatism by way of the market necessity that each individual become a sacred center, and a site of free exchange, as we can no longer tolerate the violence and inertia implicit in any collective deferral to highly-defined common values. Curiously, it is the Democrats who still show more of the anachronistic desire to organize around common victims/heroes, thanks to their snobbish, victimizing, "egalitarianism".

Rick Ballard said...

"In the "new conservatism" of today, everyone can perform his own variety of conservatism by way of the market necessity that each individual become a sacred center, and a site of free exchange, as we can no longer tolerate the violence and inertia implicit in any collective deferral to highly-defined common values."

That sounds suspiciously like the conflation of libertarian precepts with conservative principles. It is an elevation of the individual above his station. That is not to say that there are no individuals capable of the self actualization necessary to live as true libertarians but I have seen no arguments that would lead me to believe that the extension of liberty to the point of license would in fact result in a higher level of freedom for society as a whole. Violence (if by violence you mean coercion) and inertia are instrumentalities of societal cohesion. I can posit a utopic society where such constraints might not be necessary but I cannot visualize the realization of such a society.

Wrt the Democrats - abandonment of the Hegelian master/slave construct remains impossible. What pass for the intellectual leaders of the party are actually flies caught in the amber of the dialectic. Dead but amazingly lifelike in appearance.

truepeers said...

Rick, I am in no respects a libertarian. Politics ultimately trumps economics and we cannot pretend to escape the former through the latter. And it is one thing to respect a democratic market society as a mode of social organization, quite another completely to give yourself over to it and the whirlwinds of consumer desire. The kind of neoconservatism I am envisioning turns on recognition of a need for people to learn for themselves, via a process of market exchange, the limits by which they will know their station. Everyone should define a center for themselves - i.e. become a center, hopefully a worthy model to be exchanged with others in the polycentric marketplace - because no great communal center can any longer be expected to hold all together, given the great amount of resentful desire that would today have to be situated around it. Consider, for example, the great and inevitable failures of the UN to serve as a moral center for some new world order. ANd you may well be right that the Democrats' desires speak to the same impossibility.

Accenting the necessary centrality of each individual is not a question of utopian thinking. I too cannot imagine a world without conflict and violence. It is simply the less violent world we need to favor. Consumer society is less violent than socialism. Yet if we are no longer initiated into our stations by the rest of the community - previous generations having largely rejected the coercion and scapegoating this entails - we still have to do it to ourselves and this comes with many problems and conflicts. Depression and vacuous victimary ideologies, for example, are both rampant in the land.

Rick Ballard said...

Truepeers,

Let us suppose that a coherent (understandable to a fourteen year old) vision of what you describe is developed. How would the concepts and practices involved be introduced and transmitted?

The transmission of the Hegelian construct appears (in retrospect) to have been a rather simple matter. There is always a segment of X size within any population that will accept an appeal to envy - especially when it is well masked with altruism. Depression and the acceptance of victim status is a necessary corollary to the Hegelian construct just as envy is the engine which drives it. Do you believe that the X segment is capable of the self control necessary to take advantage of the manner of thinking that you propose?

I would love to see the language developed to allow people to reach the self understanding that you describe and perhaps the development of such language would lead to a functional method of transmission. Without seeing the language I'm rather at a loss as to what further to say. Do you have any examples prepared?

truepeers said...

Well Rick, you've probably seen enough of my writing to have a sense of what I can and cannot do. It is still only my dream to develop new ways of writing to reach young people, to be able to do an end run around the academic establishment, so as to redeem my own failures in academe by helping others avoid them. I have some hope and evidence that I can occasionaly reach the thirty-somethings + , i.e. people with some experiences and failures under their belts. Furthermore, the general rejection by the conservative blogosphere of postmodern victimary thinking is evidence of new openings. It suggests that there are a few twenty-somethings - and i see evidence of this - ready to think in new ways. The hip hopped teenagers are probably still largely beyond anything much we can articulate at present, though no doubt some are rebelling against the PC that rules the school system.

As I've mentioned before, I completely understand and sympathize with your critique of Hegelianism, but I am still in some respects a Hegelian. I still think of history as a dialectical process, though my "anti-puritanical" comments above were meant as a critique of those who take the dialectic to be a progression towards some pure end point. The key, as I see it, is to see history as a revelatory unfolding of the possibilities inherent in its origin, and not, as did the Marxists and others, to see it as a progression to some future inevitability or final conflict. End-game thinking is a corruption of true faith in history and humanity.

What needs to be taught is how to see how history remains open-ended, i.e. what the suicide terrorists and their sympathizers today cannot imagine. It is understanding how we got to this point from the beginnings of humanity that remains key to intellecutal health and a spirit of open-endedness. We need clear-headed stories of how we got here, via a dialectical progression from rather equalitarian, but ritualistically bound, hunter-gatherer societies, to freer but much less equal agrarian empires, and then to the rise of the victimary mentality in early industrialism and the recognition of formal equality - civil rights - but also to the many situational - occupational and consumer - differences on which the exchanges of a mature market society necessarily depend.

You can certainly point out some of the many elements of this story in a piecemeal fashion to a teenager, if it is clear in your head and you have an ability to put thoughts in plain language. THe teenager, of course, will not immediately grasp your implicit story line - e.g. progress as the deferral, but never overcoming, of conflict - but you may be pointing him in that direction. Putting it all together is an intellectual challenge that will never be mastered at a young, or perhaps even old, age, especially at a time when reading is giving way to more direct forms of imagery and attentions spans are shortened.

Hence the appeal among teachers of the young of victimary ideologies which simply feed on quick and easy revelations of the many situational differences in a world that nonetheless officially professes a formal equality of all people. But what victimary thinking can never provide people is an explanation of how the world came to be the way it is - that is, explanations that are anything other than conspiracy theories. THere are some very sophisticated conpsiracy theories promoted by the academics today, yet ultimately a conspiracy of evil patriarchs is all the "learned" generally have to offer. The kind of originary and historical thinking that can best explain how we got to where we are is largely ignored by most academics. I have only hope that this ignorance will change slowly, one decentralized exchange at a time. We can never dwell too much on the preconditions for the world in which we live. It is not pragmatic for most people to do so. But on the other hand, such questions are essential to any deep self-understanding and there are times when we need to pursue spiritual and not simply pragmatic ends. However, it is probably best with fourteen year-olds to focus largely on the pragmatic.

To say this is to have no great hopes for fourteen year-olds as fourteen year olds - since it is the accumulation of experiences that leave one with the spiritual need to go beyond conspiracy theories to some more profound understanding of one's humanity - but neither is it a call to despair. Conspiracy and victimary theories - what is known in the universities more simply as "theory" - have probably reached their intellectual peaks and what is now on offer is their simplification and corruption. Perhaps increasingly the brightest of the young will see through the victimary veneer and begin to imagine and achieve what their elders in the system could or would not.

The blogosphere makes this more and more likely each day. But the answer will not unfold all at once from some solitary thinker. While the essential work of synthesizing experiences and knowledge can only ever take place in the individual mind, not in any collective (un)consciousness, we are increasingly learning from the syntheses of many minor writers, rather than from any hallowed few.

Productivity in the marketplace obviously requires a certain self-discipline but it takes a good deal of experience and time to throw off all the deferring tactics of the schools and universities. While the allure of victimary thinking is not going to go away anytime soon, we are increasingly less likely to take victimary claims at face value. They are more and more to be investigated, discounted, and negotiated, rather than simply taken as objective reminders of our white guilt. This is the lesson of 9/11 and it is slowly sinking in on various levels. The MSM hysteria, e.g. BDS, is only evidence/denial of this.