It's Easier to Tear Down

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Via Instapundit, I have encountered an interesting analysis, from an Alinsky-ish perspective of Barack Obama's current political difficulties. This occurs in the first item of a Best of the Web feature at Wall Street Journal Online. As is so often the case with conservative analysis, its strength is generally better on the less abstract levels, but get far enough away from the concrete level and it falls flat on its face:

Which brings us to a word of caution for those who don't want to see Obama re-elected: Inasmuch as the condition of being leaderless gives Republicans significant tactical advantages now, they will not enjoy those advantages in three years. Even if Obama's performance as president leaves much to be desired, he could win a second term if the Republicans nominate an opponent who makes an easy target for ridicule. Just ask John Kerry. [bold added]
Or the Republicans could win, and find themselves eaten alive as their leader, now suffering the same tactical disadvantages Obama currently possesses, flounders about. Non-ridiculousness will get you only so far.

Why is James Taranto so blind to this? I oppose Obama's agenda and find myself wondering whether, at the rate things are going, we might want him for eight years. The lesson Taranto draws in the first section of this Best of the Web is something like, "It's easier to erode someone else's power than to wield it for oneself." That's true enough, particularly when that power is held at the pleasure of a voting public.

Part of the answer, to which I suspect Taranto is oblivious, lies in the very next section of his entry. Here, he discusses a fascinating aspect of the predictable calls for a boycott of Whole Foods by its predominantly left wing clientele in response to a recent editorial by its CEO, John Mackey. Taranto quotes Ann Althouse, a regular customer of Whole Foods:
The place was packed as usual--here in lefty Madison. It occurred to me that the boycott will not only fail, it will backfire. Whole Foods shoppers won't give up their pleasure easily. If they are pushed to boycott, they will want to read the Mackey op-ed, and if they do that, they will see it is a brilliant and specific analysis that is stunningly better thought-out than what we are hearing from Obama and the Democrats. Moreover, once they do that, they should be outraged--or at least annoyed--by those who called for a boycott, who sought to enforce such strict obedience to the particular of legislation [sic] that the Democrats in Congress have been trying to ram through. Maybe some of the people who want to support Obama and the Democrats will stop and think for themselves about what health care reform should be. [bold added]
Besides the fact that possessing power carries with it the tactical liabilities of having to maintain it, there is also the simple fact that if the truth is on your side, you have a huge advantage. Perhaps, in addition to being gutsy, Mr. Mackey is amazingly shrewd. If this pans out, I promise to go easy on the patchouli jokes when mentioning Whole Foods in the future.

Taranto appreciates how this battle is shaking out, but does he see how it applies to the war for America's political future? I suspect not, for the Republicans, insofar as they have become a party of big government and theocracy, also do not have the truth on their side. Taranto has repeatedly made it clear that, while he is useful as an opponent of Obama having power, his positive agenda would be little better. The truth is not on his side, so he does not appreciate its tactical value and arguably even fears it.

In some respects, the fact that neither side is aligned with reality bodes well for those of us who understand that the key to a good future for America is to fight against both theocracy and leftist collectivism, its secularized twin.

-- CAV


Paul Hsieh said...

Thanks again for another strong analysis. It may be that the best option in the short term is a weakened President Obama balanced by enough Congressional Republicans who will block each others' worst ideas.

In contrast, a President Mitt Romney in 2012 might feel compelled by cut a "bipartisan" deal with Democrats and impose a bad national-level repeat of the MA health care debacle that would not happen under a weakened Obama.

Of course gridlock would just a temporary measure to buy us a little breathing time until the right positive ideas can take hold amongst the voters (and later the politicians). But it may be the best path to that desirable endpoint...

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, Paul.

Your further point about what a Mitt Romney might do is right on the money.

All I would add is that, for our purposes, having the left in power is a little bit easier, since the right has the cover of so many people thinking it is pro-capitalist.

Mike said...

Yeah, but Gus, they're not following through with their end of the bargain! The Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority. It's best from our point of view for them to charge full steam ahead with their misbegotten legislation, so that they won't be able to sidestep responsibility when it all comes crashing down around their heads later. When the public has been relegated to a breadline and only one party has been at the wheel the whole time, even the dim bulbs will gain some notion of what's really going on.

Of course, the Democrats know on some level that none of their crap will work, so they try to balance everything on the precipice of enaction for as long as possible... as that will allow them to remain in power for as long as possible. How long can they keep it up? I guess that depends on how long a complicit media will cooperate.

Gus Van Horn said...

I don't think we necessarily need to be reduced to breadlines for the public to become aware that government control of the economy is not good. Articles like this one should show why. The Dems are helping just by not pretending to be capitalists while they try to enact what differs only in scope and speed of execution from what the Republicans would try anyway.

That said, you either bring up a good point or make me think of one: If we DON'T get this or that measure, we need to be ready to reply when, after the statism that we DO have takes us to the brink again, the leftists snivel that it's because we havn't tried REAL socialism yet.

That shouldn't be hard, but it's something to keep in mind.

Andrew Dalton said...

Mike -

I'm always skeptical of arguments along the lines of, "We need the worst-case scenario to happen and then people will finally realize the truth." The fact is that they won't, not unless they learn why the disaster occurred. Suffering is by itself a poor teacher. And federal legislation, particularly the kind that allocates huge sums of money, is very hard to undo.

However, there is an opportunity for instruction due to the Democrats having complete control in Washington -- in the sense that no one will confuse their policies with, nor blame the outcomes on, the free market. (With Bush, we had the dismaying and absurd spectacle of his policies being described as "laissez-faire" simply because they were not as aggressively statist as what the Left wanted.)

I'm in favor of having the Democrats in power and limiting the serious damage that they might do.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for making that point, Andrew. I completely agree.