A New Anti-Concept?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Switching planes at Washington National Airport yesterday, I was surprised to find printed copies of Politico in a waiting area. Until then, I had thought it was strictly a web publication. Needless to say, I took a copy and thumbed through it during takeoff.

Within was an installment of a feature called "Arena Digest" titled, "Should GOP worry about tea parties?" I found the following comment by law professor Sherrilyn Ifill interesting:

Tea party conservatism is a help to the image of the Republican Party as an opposition party in a time of Democratic control of the White House and Congress. That's great for TV appearances. But tea party conservatism is a hazard for Republicans seeking a return to power because the kind of anger, vitriol and take-no-prisoners tactics of tea partyism is not a recipe for electoral success or for governing. A majority of Americans still want leaders who want to, and can, actually govern -- that means talking to people across the aisle, compromise, counting votes and advancing policies that bring positive results in the lives of constituents. Tea partyism is not a set of governing ideas. It's a nonstop protest against whatever is the status quo. Unless tea partyism can lose its fringe sensibilities and have as a central animating principle the idea of governance and not just protest, it will never return Republicans to power. To the contrary, it will continue to function as a barrier to "governance" Republican[s], who are the only hope and future of a party that has lost its way.
"Governance Republicans," eh? I've never heard big government Republicans called that before, but Ifill's comment did remind me that I have seen the term "governance" used by certain big-government conservatives here and there. (See David Brooks for a particularly sickening example.) Furthermore, I recall the usage always being in ways that seemed to mildly suggest that the government ought to be running our lives, while at the same time, not putting it quite so bluntlyl. The dictionary gives an ambiguous pair of definitions, and Wikipedia suggests I could be right to be suspicious of the term.

In any event, Ifill is half-right, half-wrong. She corrrectly identifies the Tea Party Movement as a somewhat blind rebellion in need of intellectual leadership, but speaks as if she is oblivious to the idea that laissez faire could be a viable political philosophy. Indeed, she even seems to equate it with anarchism up to and including imagining the same angry type of spirit that animates the anarchist running amok within that movement.

If I am correct that the term "governance" is (or is being used as) an anti-concept, then it would appear to serve mainly to obliterate the proper concept of a government that solely protects individual rights and replace it with statism. As the Tea Party movement evolves, so are its opponents, who are smearing capitalism even before the tea partiers themselves fully realize that that is their natural goal.

-- CAV


Mo said...

She talks about "compromise and bringing policies that will help in the lives of constituents" sounds more like an invite for big government on her part.

Gus Van Horn said...

Exactly the point: She believes -- or wants others to -- that the Tea Party movement is unviable unless it stops fighting off statism.