March 25, 2013

Love the new layout, it's gotta go.

A lesson in conservatism.

Since I changed my blog layout a couple of months ago, I've really enjoyed the new look. It needs only a bit more tweaking to get exactly where I'd like it to be.  But it's got to go.  Blogger doesn't seem to like the customization and while I have been posting less than normal of late, the traffic levels have really plummeted since the change.  I must have interfered with blogger somehow.   So I'm going to try to change it back for a while to test my hypothesis.  If I am correct, the change will amount to a failed experiment in web design.  That's not a bad thing, in fact, it's a lesson in conservatism.

Progress, it should be remembered, is not linear.  Progress comes from building on past success.  The inventions of today are improvements or amalgamations of inventions and advancements of yesterday.  This is true not only for things like the Internet, or penicillin, it is also true for societal decisions.  Very rarely do great leaps forward ever occur.  What is more probable than revolution is evolution: the evolution of ideas, or traditions or norms.  Conservatism in America for example did not begin with Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley.  It had its roots in Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and their like.  The roots extend even farther back, often outside of America, though the principles of classical liberalism, which equate to modern conservatism, clearly flourished the most in the crucible of the United States.

The point is, Ronald Reagan was standing on the shoulders of giants.  He was building, and applying the lessons and achievements of the past to the current day.  He did not veer off in a random direction or chase some wild, unproven notion towards a Utopian society.  

Often, even small steps forward, building on the past go in the wrong direction.  But they are less likely to be disastrous than a giant leap. The consequences of slow steady development are more positive, fraught with less chaos and negativity than say a sudden, dramatic, 2700 page change to single payer health care.  That has disaster written all over it.  A smaller change would present an opportunity for a smaller success but the potential failure would be smaller, not catastrophic.  Like my website change, a rollback is possible, I don't need to blow up my website. And if the rollback is not the problem, I have accounted for that and planned for a 'reversion' to the new look.  Slow and methodical.  I didn't panic when my site stats fell.  I waited to see if the results were constant.  Sadly, they are.  But now I know that I was not reacting to an anomaly.

Not all new efforts building upon the past are successful.  We keep the ones that work, and discard the ideas that don't work.  The challenge is trying to recognize the successes and failures as quickly as possible.

The Republican party faces a similar dilemma today.  Are the results of the 2012 election the result of the party stepping off the shoulders of giants and pandering?  Is it bad candidate selection? Is it something else?  Does the party need to re-invent itself, accept gay marriage, accept a reduced international role and focus strictly on economic issues, ignoring social and international considerations?  Or is that re-invention stepping off the shoulders of giants?

I'd argue that the latter is the case.  Re-branding and learning to better connect with voters, and better integrate sophisticated data mining into election strategy and planning are all necessary.  Drastically needed.  But caving in on principles is a recipe for disaster.  If we follow the liberals and progressives down that path it does not matter if Republicans win elections - governing will be as misguided and rudderless as if it were being done by liberals.

One other note - the title of this post is "Love the new layout; it's gotta go."  The other notion is that you can't get wedded to an idea if it is a failing idea. Progressives are tied to single payer health care (for example). They WILL defend it to the last even if it is failing terribly.  They will blame Republican obstructionism and under-funding of Obamacare to the last and argue what is needed is an expansion to the true, full blown plan and of course, a lot more funding.  Conservatives need to remember to be wed to principles, not ideas.  Ideas can be wrong, but valuable principles, will stand the test of time.  Republicans should make this distinction when planning the future of the party.  If you stand by your principles, and you layer in perhaps some proven ideas you are standing on the shoulders of giants and not leading the nation blindly into the void through reactive, crisis-driven  panic management.  Leave that for the current oligarchy to own.

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