Reclamation Points

I tend to put too much time and effort into respond­ing to provoca­tive arti­cles and FB posts. So I’m reclaim­ing my own detri­tus from the sea. This is response to a friend who wrote that “I sup­pose its a hard thing for Democ­rats to under­stand but Repub­li­cans aren’t just for cut­ting pro­grams for aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures but rather desire gov­ern­ment efficiency.”

I’d just argue slight­ly with you when you say Repub­li­cans “desire gov­ern­ment effi­cien­cy.” That was true 40 years ago. It was true 20 years ago. There was a time that I can still remem­ber that a Repub­li­can was always the smartest guy in the room. They were hard­ened by tough eco­nom­ic real­i­ties in the late 60s and 70s, and their vision was­n’t cloud­ed by lib­er­al dreams of some utopi­an peace plan­et. They want­ed to lim­it, not destroy the gov­ern­ment. They want­ed to lib­er­ate, not dec­i­mate, the marketplace.

Even when they were wrong, they were hard to argue with. They sup­port­ed import tar­iffs and farm sub­si­dies, and they could­n’t stop them­selves from see­ing war as a shiny eco­nom­ic get out of jail free card.

But those guys are gone. I’m nev­er going to be nos­tal­gic about Rea­gan because I tru­ly believe he was a dim and destruc­tive fool, and his admin­is­tra­tion’s “trick­le down the­o­ry” is still clog­ging the Repub­li­can toi­let today. Clin­ton was just as bad in many ways, so don’t think I’m only attack­ing the right. Clin­ton suc­ceed­ed because he basi­cal­ly co-opt­ed the right’s eco­nom­ic focus and strat­e­gy when they weren’t looking.

But as bad as those guys were in many ways, they weren’t polit­i­cal extrem­ists, the equiv­a­lent of a sui­cide bomber who just wants to make a mess and go out with a bang. I’m all for dis­rup­tive change, but it has to be change that is vot­ed for by the electorate.

There are mod­er­ate, smart Repub­li­cans around today still, and I respect them and learn from them. But they are not in Con­gress. The Jeff Daniels char­ac­ter in The News­room (a net­work news anchor) gets in trou­ble for call­ing the tea par­ty the Amer­i­can Tal­iban. But I don’t see how that’s wrong. They don’t desire gov­ern­ment effi­cien­cy. They want gov­ern­ment to dwin­dle and dis­ap­pear, like an umbil­i­cal cord. They’re con­vinced that lib­er­ty and indi­vid­ual free­dom are the only prin­ci­ples that define Amer­i­ca. Not free­dom to do some­thing, but free­dom from some­thing, free­dom from being asked to coöper­ate, to rec­og­nize that as indi­vid­u­als, we are weak, but as a coun­try we can be not only strong, but efficient.