The Republican Self-Perception Problem

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“As government regulations grow slowly, we become used to the harness. Habit is a powerful force, and we no longer feel as intensely as we once would have [the] constriction of our liberties.” – Judge Robert Bork

This is a simple principle that the Liberal-Progressive understands all too well. He cleverly warns the Conservative that he dare not  promote certain positions,  either because they are not supported by public opinion, or  alternatively because even if the public agrees, they see certain other matters as higher  priorities within the country.   Meanwhile, he himself devotedly pursues policies with which the public disagrees, doing so through indirect non-legislative channels such as the federal courts and bureaucratic  bodies. He quietly endeavors to establish these policies on the basis of the belief that if he can just get the policy in place,  the people will  become habituated to the new reality over time.

Many modern Republicans have internalized the warning  just outlined, given to them by their political opponents.  They are continually in the grips of a timidity, and a fear of offending the American people that for some reason the opposite party does not  seem to possess.  It is the deep conviction of these Republicans (especially within the world of Journalism) that the wisest political strategy and the highest priority for the party as a whole is to appear as innocuous and as harmless as possible; not to ruffle any  feathers. But  can the other driving desire within the modern Republican party;  the desire for the emergence of a model of leadership in the mold of a Ronald Reagan coexist with this approach? If the resolute,  and self-certain attitude for which  President Reagan was famously known were transported into the present,  and applied to the issues of our own day, it  would certainly (at least in the eyes of this author) violate the squeamish standards of political safety embraced by many modern Republicans.

“But” someone will say,  “Reagan compromised, he raised taxes 11 times during his administration.”  Yes he did, and given the fact that over the course of his administration the top marginal tax rate was cut by about 40% (more than any president in  modern history)  I am certain that  today’s Conservatives would be more than happy to embrace such a scenario of compromise. “But those were different times,  “a different moment in history, things have changed.”  History is not something that happens to us, history is what we do, it is what we make it. This is one of the most important principles of a free society. If things have changed in this area, it is because the conduct and attitude  of Republicans have changed. In fact, the statement just cited actually refutes itself. For if  things have changed, that means that they were once different. When they were  “different”,  Liberal- Democrats  did not despondently say to themselves, as  some current day Republicans do,  “This is simply our political reality”. No, they set about changing that reality.

The Republicans in question must ask themselves how it is that  Liberal-Democrats seem to always be able to set the political mood and tone of American politics while they are stuck with the task of  “facing the political reality”.    As long as one is too timid to challenge the political reality and attempt to persuade his fellow Americans, he will always be confined by that reality; he will always be in the position of reacting, and you cannot prevail in politics  by reacting.

“But as you yourself said, Progressives have accomplished many things  through the use of less than respectable tactics, by concealing their true agenda from the American people and implementing it covertly.”  Yes, and what precisely does the strategy advised by the Republicans that we are describing  involve? If we will not come out and boldly declare and defend  our beliefs,  then we  instead conceal and hide them for practical political purposes with the intention of quietly implementing them when we finally assume power. But we will not beat  Progressives at their own game.  We cannot employ tactics contrary to the ideals of liberty and representative government in order to advance them. Liberty does not connive for power, it believes in the individual and as a consequence inspires him to understand all that he is,  and all that he can be.  This is the only way that liberty can exist and operate. Tyranny can be established covertly, freedom can only acquired in the light.

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