July 31, 2012

A jolt is need, a nudge may be all we get

Picture via Commentarama
The U.S. economy is still faltering while the federal government is barreling along towards a national debt default. What is needed to fix the problem is a major course correction. A jolt to the existing order is needed. Unfortunately in today's political climate, anything more than a nudge is probably impossible. Even if it was successful, it might result in a civil war. But there is a way to make a nudge work.

Let's assume that Obama loses the election and start with the obvious question - a civil war? Are you crazy? The country is unarguably very polarized right now. While the Tea Party has been characterized unfairly as violent at every possible turn, the real danger comes from progressive liberals. From violence at activist union rallies (e.g. SEIU) to the violence at the Occupy Wall Street to Bush Derangement Syndrome to meltdowns of on air personalities, the left or enough of it, truly does react violently when they don't get their way. Sure, it starts with protests, but it doesn't always stay that way.

Now imagine a repeal of Obamacare, or a revamping of Social Security (both would represent jolts) and what sort of backlash it would generate on the left. If not civil war, it would certainly cause some ugliness. Yes, a jolt is needed - profoundly. But is the gain worth the consequence of the jolt? Not necessarily - not if a nudge will work just enough.

Back in April 2011, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air added my comment to his post on Canadian conservatives and their place vis-a-vis American conservatives;
The conservative party of Canada is far less of a center-left party than you suggest. While it is not currently conservative in the sense of American conservatism, it’s still a center-right party. The way it governs is affected by the country as a whole. The conservative government is hampered by decades of liberalism and socialism, so moving the country back to the right will take considerable time. The country fears conservatives as being radicals and Prime Minister Harper has had to temper his lower taxes, stronger national defense, pro-business views to suit what is still a center-left country that is slowly testing the waters with a conservative government (three elections later).

Harper’s prudence isn’t as exciting as Reagan or Thatcher in a full on charge to the right, but it’s the smartest approach in a country ready to run back to the liberals at what it regards as the slightest hint of radical conservatism. If we are to get to a center-right nation, we unfortunately have to do it slowly.
As an aside, being quoted by Ed Morrissey is truly a highlight of my blogging career.

My point though was that a less obviously conservative course has been working for conservatives in Canada. Our move to the right is slow, but it is succeeding. It will indeed take years, perhaps decades, but it will succeed. In the U.S. the same level of prudence is not needed. But perhaps a series of smaller steps can accomplish the same thing with less visibility than game-changing legislation and repeals.

That sounds really unappetizing but the GOP are not going to win a filibuster-proof Senate, as much as we want them win. Congress and a questionably conservative president are not going to be enough to accomplish the major goals of fiscal sanity in one step. That's painful to hear but it is reality. Smaller incremental goals are necessary. If the Republicans can move the needle on the debt from $1.2 trillion back down to $100 billion in two years, and get unemployment actually moving in the right direction with some momentum, after two years of the public seeing that the bottom did not drop out of the country, the conservative movement, Tea Party activists, could be set to post some significant gains in 2014 and again in 2016. Show the public what a recovery actually looks like and you'll win a lot of support. At that point a real overhaul of Social Security and real, valuable health care reform may be entirely possible.

The temptation will be do what Obama has done, and try to get all the Holy Grails in one fell swoop, but if we should learn one thing politically from Obama, it is that over-reach does not serve leaders well. Yes, the country does need a jolt. Conservatives, myself very much included, won't be happy with the slow approach, but look at how liberals have worked, chipping away at the foundation for decades and it has been (pardon the pun) progressively successful. If we chip our way back, we are more likely to create the change the country needs. It sounds bad, and I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but I don't think I am wrong. Don't start calling me a closet RINO, I'd prefer it if you tried to explain why I'm wrong, because I really want to be wrong on this.

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