Monday, June 08, 2009
Glenn Reynolds asks,
CAN MITCH DANIELS SAVE THE GOP?If you aren't from Indiana, you might well stop asking, "Who is John Galt," long enough to shrug and ask, "Who is Mitch Daniels?"
He's the governor of Indiana, and at least by today's mixed economy standards, he has an impressive-sounding resume:
There's no doubt Daniels is an intriguing prospect [to head the 2012 GOP ticket]. A former corporate executive and foundation head, he was George W. Bush's first budget chief, serving from 2001 to 2003. Going home to Indiana, he not only was elected governor on his first try, but won a second term last November by 18 points -- at a time when a Democratic presidential candidate won Indiana for the first time in 40 years. In victory, Daniels attracted a lot of Democratic votes, and 20 percent of the African-American vote. He inherited a deficit and turned it into a surplus. And he has a huge job approval rating -- almost 70 percent.Clearly, Daniels can get reelected. He seems, at first blush, to have some inkling of fiscal restraint. He can connect with a broad cross section of the voters, including Democrats. These have all been glaringly absent from his party in recent years.
Daniels' stock with the national party began rising as the full extent of last November's damage began to sink in. His reputation has gone up still more as his performance with Indiana's economy continues to shine amid national financial calamity.
But then, for those of us who want a meaningful alternative to the Democrats, the other shoe drops.
Then came May 10, when Daniels gave the commencement speech at Butler University in Indianapolis. Facing graduates born in the late 1980s, Daniels delivered a roundhouse condemnation of the selfishness of the Baby Boomer generation and a call for today's young people to live more responsibly than their elders.Yes -- and this wasn't just another journalist giving a sloppy summary of someone else's words -- Mitch Daniels condemned selfishness. In fact, he places it at the lowest rung of the hell of short-range moral dereliction:
"All our lives, it's been all about us," Daniels, who recently turned 60, said of his generation. "We were the 'Me Generation.' We wore t-shirts that said 'If it feels good, do it.' The year of my high school commencement, a hit song featured the immortal lyric 'Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today.'" [bold added]
As a group, we have been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and all too often just plain selfish.To be completely fair, Daniels's speech is inconsistent about the meaning of the term, confusing (or package-dealing) it with legitimate vices, but the fact remains that his words are at odds with those of John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (which is prophetic for a good reason). In a time of crisis such as this, there is a dire need for moral clarity.
John Galt was clear that actual selfishness is anything but short-range or whim-driven and, most importantly, not sacrificial -- of self to others or of others to self. Consider Galt's Oath, taken by the strikers in the novel:
I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine. (675)The Baby Boomers certainly did their share of asking everyone else to live for their sake, which is actually anything but selfish. But the course taken to be the opposite (and too frequently equated with "responsibility" today), sacrificing oneself to others, is also wrong. It is also -- like that of the Baby Boomers -- the very morality of altruism to which the GOP has succumbed, and which has driven it to become the other big government party rather than a proper government party of freedom and individual rights. Mitchell is certainly a proponent of this morality, as evidenced by a favorite government program of his.
If there is one major change America needs post haste, it is to pull back from the current orgy of human sacrifice. There is an alternative to being a moocher versus being a sucker, and that is to choose to be neither, to be an individualist. Daniels, by condemning the only morality that supports such a choice, has made it clear to me that he doesn't have the big moral guns needed to point the GOP in the right direction, much less save it.