Straussian Bust Out

By now, regular readers know I’m more a man of the Old Right than any other grouping. I’m not inclined to think the neoconservatives are part of a global conspiracy, but I think Leo Strauss was full of baloney, at least when it comes to politics. His “distinction between exoteric (or public) and esoteric (or secret) teaching” was just an excuse to project his own opinions onto the classics. Jacques Derrida went down the same road, except he was carrying a copy of Reveries of a Solitary Walker instead of the Torah.

That said, I think the neoconservatives want to reach the right answer. At least, I’ve always assumed that to be the case. The primary difference between the Rousseau-ist cults and classical liberalism is means and ends. The former is unconcerned with the means as long as they reach their desired end. The latter is willing to accept imperfect ends as long as the means comports with ordered liberty. Neoconservatives try to fuse two antithetical world views by using liberal means to reach conservative ends.

They argued that the ends could be achieved through politics. Low taxes, limited government regulation and a defense of traditional values could be made by winning control of the state. They also bolted on hawkish foreign policy attempting to create a three-legged coalition. One leg is social conservatives primarily concerned with the culture. One leg is the low taxes and regulation and the other is the hawkish foreign policy. George Bush the Younger won the White House on that coalition. The 2000 election made clear the neoconservatives had routed the Old Right in the fight for the GOP. Karl Rove was triumphantly talking about the big tent and a permanent majority.

Here we are in 2014 and it is clear it was a disaster. Bush gave the social conservative nothing. In fact, he screwed them with his expansion of the state into charitable institutions. In 2000, the idea of two men getting married was an absurdity. Today, homosexuals are allowed to force normal people to work for them. Small government types were screwed over so bad they no longer exist. The small government wing of the GOP was raped to death by the Bush people. When he took office Federal spending was roughly $1.7 Trillion. When he left is was just under $3 Trillion. Foreign policy speaks for itself. Everything they predicted turned out to be wrong. The world Bush left was much worse than the one he inherited.

There’s no shortage of who struck John debates about how all this came to pass. I’m not sure it really matters. What’s important is recognizing that it was a big fat failure. People fall for all sorts of dumb ideas. The smart ones figure it out and learn from the experience. That’s not what has happened to the neocons. They can’t seem to accept what seems blazingly obvious to most of us. For instance, guys like Ramesh Ponnuru keep insisting that a new round of social engineering through the tax code is the golden ticket. The guy is obsessed with child tax credits, like they are special magic.

On the foreign policy side, guys like John Bolton want to carpet bomb the world until they stop acting like the rest of the world. We have been bombing  and saber rattling for two decades now. The world is not safer or more peaceful. In fact, it is going to shit and that’s mostly due to our policy of busting up the existing arrangements. You would think that two decades of failure would humble a man, but these guys keep screaming for more blood.

I could understand it if the public was falling for it or even giving them the benefit of the doubt. The Left is just plain crazy at this point anyway. Less crazy could be a decent strategy, maybe, but that’s not the case. The upcoming election could very well be the most favorable to Republicans in a generation. Everything is in their favor and they still can’t get the public interested in yet another round of neoconservative policy making.

This column in the Spectator nails it, I think.

Rove says the Republican “wave” everyone expects this fall isn’t materializing as yet because Democrats are outraising and outspending Republicans across the board. As evidence, he cites that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had outraised the National Republican Senatorial Committee by $1.6 million in August and, as of August 31, was sitting on a $5 million larger war chest. Rove also noted a study by American Crossroads which concluded that so far Democrat political entities had run or placed some $109 million in campaign TV ads, while their Republican counterparts had only run or placed $85 million.

Rove asserts, “The midterm environment is terrible for Democrats,” and reminds the reader of all the conditions we already know about this cycle.

In his assessment of the atmosphere surrounding the midterms, if not much else, Rove is correct. This is an environment in which there ought to be an electoral decimation of Barack Obama’s political fellows, and with a Senate that is embarrassingly dysfunctional — there are more than 300 bills passed by the House of Representatives sitting on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk awaiting a vote — an expectation of a Republican wave is anything but wishful thinking. Needing to gain six Senate seats to retake the majority and consign Reid to irrelevance, it’s virtually assured the GOP will pick up half that number from Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. There are eight other seats — from Louisiana, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan — that Republicans in a real wave election ought to be able to steal away from Reid and Obama.

And yet, as of now, such a wave is elusive. Even in states like Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana, where Democrats as a party are clearly on the way out, polls don’t show GOP blowouts. And in races in Kansas, Kentucky, and Georgia, deep red states all, Republican victory is hardly assured.

Rove’s alarm about fundraising might be more self-serving than instructive. The money shortage is but a symptom of a larger disease. The Republican Party, in part thanks to Rove’s actions, lacks credibility and trust with voters and activists — both of which it must have.

After all, how does the GOP sell itself as the party of reform when it’s asking voters to replace Harry Reid with Mitch McConnell? How does it sell itself as responsive to voters when John Boehner inexplicably touts amnesty for illegal immigrants as “good for the economy”? How can it stitch together a broad coalition of voters or present fresh ideas when senatorial fossils Pat Roberts and Thad Cochran can’t even get a majority of Republicans in their states to vote for them?

Moreover, Rove’s hands are not clean in the party establishment’s all-out war against the Tea Party earlier this year. A major effort was made to decry the practices of Tea Party groups using populist messaging as a fundraising tool for selfish profit rather than to move the electoral needle, and that criticism is valid. It’s true that many of the D.C.-based Tea Party outfits are running a racket on conservative activists and donors. But while the argument holds water, Rove and other Beltway GOP gurus like him are the wrong people to point fingers, because that’s precisely what they’ve been doing to their own donors.

In 2012, Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS raised some $325 million to purportedly help Mitt Romney and the GOP’s Senate candidates win elections. The results were catastrophic. But the media buyers who work for those organizations banked their 15 percent agency commissions anyway. Fifteen percent of $325 million in TV ads sure is a handsome sum, especially when those ads fail to sell.

What we are seeing is an old fashioned bust out. In the 1980’s, a natural coalition of normal people rebelled against the Liberals. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, a lot of people got rich selling books and TV shows to people on the Right. Much of it was sincere, but a lot of it was cynical. Now, it is just a bust out. Guys like Rove are stealing every nickel they can get. That old conflict between means and end is no longer operative, as Ron Ziegler used to say. Instead it is all about raking in the cash from voters desperate to counter the liberal onslaught.

This column from Quinn Hillyer is a good example. Hillyer is a decent guy and he means well, but his column is nothing but a thinly veiled fundraising plea. Ed Gillespie is a perfect example of the cynical grasping of GOP Inc. Gillespie is an open borders fanatic. He has also spent the last decade working with Jack Quinn, a liberal democratic operative, pitching big government on Capitol Hill. His list of clients is a laundry list of barnacles sucking the life out of the American public. His candidacy is a joke and now the establishment is trying to get conservative voters to pay off his campaign debt – all owed to carbuncles like Karl Rove – a man getting rich from the great Republican Bust Out.


Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

It is finally becoming clear to a lot more people that The Elected, of either party, no longer represent We the People. Yes, many would say it has been thus for quite some time. The Elected live in a rarified bubble environment, never mixing with the Great Unwashed. They now believe they are our betters, that they can and will make decisions affecting us that we do not want, ie., Obamacare, and the coming amnesty. They either have no clue what the majority thinks, or they have a clue but just don’t care. After all, what are we going to… Read more »

5 years ago

See, this is why I still pay for The Independent Review, (ironically out of California) and have let my subscription to Foreign Affairs..uh…”lapse”.

stephen b
stephen b
5 years ago

While busy unsubscribing myself from every GOP fundraising e-mail I get, I’m still going to hold my nose and vote GOP, even here in CA, where it is pretty pointless. Only then can I rest in knowledge I did not let those other guys win by default.