Add new comment

Principles, realpolitik, and party animals

Whenever I go to look up a word in the dictionary (I know—how anachronistic is that?), it always seems as though I come across infinitely more interesting words to read about than the one I was looking for. Similarly here: this essay that appeared on an Arizona blog this past summer was much more interesting than whatever forgettable item I was originally searching for:

We have a serious problem in the Pima County Republican Party, and it consists largely of registered Republicans behaving like democrats. I use the word “democrats” with a small “d” intentionally, because I am not referring to card-carrying members of the Democratic Party (though that comparison would work well too) but instead to the ancient form and theory of government that is democracy. Democracy’s premise, as we all know, is that every citizen participate full-time in the administration of government, which itself depends upon the input of every citizen for the settlement of every issue.
Contrary to popular opinion, America is not a democracy. Hopefully, it never will be, because democracies don’t work. They never have, which is why Aristotle called democracy a corrupt form of government. America is, and was intentionally established to be, a republic, one made different from any republic that had previously existed by its unique combination of extension, mixed government, checks and balances, and separation of powers. The two political parties that comprise our two party system today are named for the political philosophies they are supposed to most closely resemble. Republicans, in their policies, carriage, and character, are supposed to reflect the principles, values, and characteristics of republicanism. Democrats are likewise expected to reflect those of democracy...
Read the whole thing and the comments, too. The setting for this particular uproar is Pima County, AZ, but it could be almost anywhere.
Entire books (not to mention some Federalist Papers) have been written on the subject of political parties and the relative advantages and disadvantages of having them.  In the short term and as the system is currently constituted, though, electing candidates is a function of political parties.  I hear, however, what Bruce Walker is saying in his piece in American Thinker from 2010:
...Parties and factions thwart much of what the Constitution intended to maintain. 
Spoils and loot, promised offices, supercilious defense of the indefensible under the false banner of party loyalty -- all that and more flow naturally from the organs of political parties. Consider the almost supernatural abomination that is Obama health care. What gifts of our money were proffered to politicians for their votes? What threats of reduction in rank in party hierarchy were hissed? The obscenity of such grand arm-twisting and public bribery is so ordinary to us that we just assume that this is the way our government was supposed to operate.
But that is so very mistaken. Many of those men who wrote the Constitution also signed the Declaration of Independence. The purpose of government, they knew, was to preserve liberty. Political parties were as contrary to that purpose as political parties would be in the jury room of a trial. The absence of interest, the focus on the rule of law, the neutrality of government -- these were the values which the Constitution was intended to cherish and to nurture. Parties sneer at those noble ideals.
What would politics in America be like if we could make the political party a stigma of shame? Candidates would have to campaign on what they personally believe...
You know...their principles.  What an idea.  As it is, we do have parties that do have stated principles, but these often seem to get jettisoned in the heat of a campaign or in the midst of the fray on some particular issue. And what is often referred to as "the base" becomes disgusted as a result and rightly so. From a post at the American Majority blog Liberty Rising:
Whether it’s Penn State or politics, there’s always a reason why the masses never can quite fathom why what’s being done behind closed doors is actually being done, in spite of popular outrage or even votes at the ballot box. That’s because, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan—and in direct contradiction to our common sense and decency as citizens, as neighbors, as people—the first order of business for any entity, whether it’s a government agency, a church, or an NGO is to ensure its own survival. Self-preservation is job #1, anything else (including public sentiment or something as laughable as the “will of the people”) be damned...
Of course, thanks to The Godfather films, we all know that the Mafia has “Omerta”:  their own, lethally-enforced code of silence...political parties also tailor their own versions of the gangster’s creed of “snitches get stitches.”
There are the endless urgings for inspectors general or internal investigations only, for folks to “keep it in the family”, for members of one party not to “air their dirty laundry in public”...These, along with the various incumbent-protection programs sponsored at the organized, partisan county committee level all the way to the state party level (not to mention the national committees) are powerful barriers to real change ever being able to take place, at least in electoral politics.
Because anything or anyone who threatens real change is a threat to the system. To the Powers That Be. To the carefully cultivated and nurtured-over-the-years hierarchy that allows those who are kings of a particular hill to stay there, cries for reform or for an end to the insular status quo continually being ignored all the while...
And as Reagan also said, "Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'."
Things are changing, despite the difficulty of seeing that when you're in the middle of the maelstrom and despite the opposition of the powers-that-be. From zombie at PJmedia in August:
The Green Party faced off against the Tea Party on Saturday in Napa, California.
Democrats? Republicans? Snort. What do you think this is, the 20th century?
Neither of the dinosaur parties were much in evidence as the nation’s two new emergent parties did battle for the heart of America.
Green or Tea, which shall it be?...
In a piece entitled "Pouring the Tea into the GOP," Walter Hudson of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots gives a little background on this change that's afoot (emphasis mine):
“I want you to infiltrate the Republican Party.”
So said an August speaker at a meeting of the North Metro Tea Party in the Twin Cities...
...this speaker was no Tea Partier. This was Tony Sutton, the sitting chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. For those in attendance, his invitation was shocking...
...Regardless of motive, leaders of the Republican Party of Minnesota (MNGOP) have reached out to Tea Partiers and invited them to attend the caucus in 2012. Tea Party groups in the state had already been planning for caucus night. However, they had done so anticipating a hostile reception.
Now it seems the welcome wagon has been rolled out...
...In our meetings with MNGOP activist Jonathan Aanestad, who was assigned by the party to coordinate the Republican Midwest Leadership Conference breakout session, we discovered that there had been an ideological struggle taking place within the MNGOP between conservatives and moderates long before the Tea Party rose...Along with Pat Strother, CEO of the marketing firm Strother Communications Group (SCGPR), Aanestad conducted extensive market research analyzing the state of the Republican brand.
Though it was not their objective, what SCGPR found was nothing less than an empirical explanation for the rise of the Tea Party. They found that Americans identify as conservative 2 to 1 over liberal. They found that while the Republican brand was stale or negative among many focus group participants, conservative principles and values were dominant. They concluded that the Republican brand had been critically weakened by ideological moderation. In order for the MNGOP to increase their effectiveness, SCGPR concluded they must rebrand the party as decisively conservative and committed to four “pillars” – fiscal responsibility, sensible government, free enterprise, and personal responsibility.
...Particularly striking were those pillars. The three core principles of Tea Party Patriots are listed on their website as fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets. Many local groups add individual rights to the list. These four are all but identical to SCGPR’s pillars. In essence if not directly, Aanestad and Strother are saying that the Republican brand is failing because it lacks what the Tea Party is preaching. Isn’t that precisely what the Tea Party has said all along?...
...So it seems the Tea Party and the GOP need each other. The former needs the latter’s infrastructure to elect favorable candidates. The latter needs the former’s conviction and energy to revive its potency. Despite territorial protestations on either side, this is real politick.
Even so, the movement cannot wholly merge with the party. The lesson learned from the past 15 years is that the function of ideological formation must remain separate from the function of political action. One corrupts the other. A political party’s mission to elect candidates undervalues ideology. An ideological movement’s mission to promote principle undervalues the practical. So the two must maintain a delicate symbiotic relationship, keeping to their own roles and trading value for value.
One of the ways the Tea Party will retain its distinction is to remain effectively non-partisan. It is true that most of the movement’s political action will channel through the GOP. However, that is only because the GOP is most likely to embrace Tea Party principles. The Democrats are just as capable if not as willing to trend conservative. Indeed, engaging Democrats and trying to shift their party to the right must remain a Tea Party priority. It would be a wonderful day that would see the two major political parties competing to better steward individual rights. Such a day may never come if the Tea Party neglects Democrats...
Well.  Do read the whole thing for more historical perspective.

Like Captain Renault

some may be shocked, shocked, to find that distrust on the parts of both Republicans and Tea Party folk needs to give way to mutual benefit.

We're living The Clash of the Titans—if a party, its purported principles, and its base are not getting along then we have a huge problem from the village to the federal levels.

Walter Hudson concluded his column with this: 
In the short run, however, the immediate political emergency requires a uniform assault against President Obama and his leftist allies. That means working with the Republicans to restore the credibility of their brand, recast them as true conservatives, and take back our country for liberty.
Your call—tyranny or liberty?
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.