What’s In It For Me?
Toward a More Cynical Theory of Politics
posted at 9:32 pm on May 19, 2009 by The Other McCain
It’s not every day I get quoted by the New York Times, which doesn’t begin to make up for my recent 0-for-the-season streak at the Hot Air front page. I’m thinking of changing my name to Doctor Karl Slublog Zero and hoping Allah doesn’t notice.
Ah, but the New York Times didn’t quote Allah, did they? No, no. When they needed insightful analysis about the “Republican Crackup,” they quoted me:
Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure. A political party that is disloyal and disrespectful toward its core constituents, as the GOP was during the Bush/Mehlman era, will not attract new adherents. Who wants to sign up to be treated like a doormat?
The Bush-era GOP believed that its base would be satisfied with superficial gestures (e.g., the Terri Schiavo drama) and ignore the party leadership’s pursuit of policies (e.g., McCain-Feingold, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D) which were directly at odds with the party’s fundamental principles.
This perverse conception of one-way loyalty — where the underlings are expected to show a loyalty toward the elite that the elite is never required to reciprocate — is characteristic of any dysfunctional organization. “The beatings will continue until morale improves!”
Humor is an excellent instructional method and the perceptive reader instantly grasps the nexus between the self-mocking “poor little me” intro and this excerpt about GOP dysfunction quoted by The New York Times. If I’m feeling neglected by Allahpundit, if I feel he’s playing favorites to my detriment, two obvious explanations present themselves:
- It’s Allah’s fault — He is selfish and vindictive, persecuting me unjustly. He is jealous of my superior blog-fu, and doesn’t promote me to the front page out of pure, malicious spite.
- It’s my fault – My blogging sucks worse than Meghan McCain. I am a worthless, pathetic excuse for a human being, undeserving of any praise or reward. Everything I do is wrong, and if I were Allah, I wouldn’t link me, either.
Since I don’t have any friends and have been a complete failure all my life, then we know it’s not Allah’s fault. It’s my abject suckitude which is to blame, and there is no hope at all that I will ever make it to the coveted Hot Air front page. My lifelong ambition thus permanently thwarted, excuse me while I swallow a bottle of Seconals, wash it down with a quart of Chlorox, slash my wrists, get in my car and go drive off a bridge.
Which is how the Republican Party’s conservative grassroots feel, or at least it’s how they would feel, if they believed the defeatist claptrap they get from those I call The Republicans Who Really Matter:
In your meteoric ascent through the ranks of the punditocracy, be sure to choose as your friends only those who are important enough to be helpful in your career. Take care never to stake yourself too clearly to any policy position that might be unfashionable with the producers of “Nightline,” and avoid directly denouncing any Democrat named Kennedy.
This way, no matter which party is in power, you’ll never be out of work and you’ll always be invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner because, after all, you’re so gosh-darn influential. In short, you will be one of The Republicans Who Really Matter.
You can go read the whole thing, but you probably won’t, because I suck and nobody likes me. Like the conservative grassroots of the GOP, I’m disrespected and abused because all the “influential” and “respectable” Republicans are quite naturally embarrassed to be associated with me. Ignorant backwood hillbillies like me, we never get invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner, never get promoted to the front page, because everybody knows that we’d show up barefoot in bib overalls asking to see the “cee-ment pond.” Je suis un Americain Ordinaire.
Ah, but I speak in the hypothetical. This is how the grassroots feel only if they accept the defeatist claptrap spewed by Brooks/Parker sort of Republicans, just as this is how I feel about being shut out of the front page if I listen to the gloomy voice that tells me I’m the laughingstock of the blogosphere.
Personal pride, and whatever positive feedback I encounter from sources other than Allah, tells me that I am worthy and competent. And the average grassroots Republican is far from being the dismal toothless rube you might think him to be if (a) you’ve never actually met him, and (b) all you know about him is what Kathleen Parker tells you. (“[T]the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows.”)
The decent, hard-working Republican activist in Tulsa, Tuscaloosa, Toledo or Tucson — who believes the same things he has always believed about God, guns and guts — is rightly suspicious of the defeatist explanations offered by the sneering elite. He heard no such thing in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1994, 2002 or 2004, years when the mighty conservative Red State tide crushed the hopes of liberals.
“Times have changed!” say the GOP elitists. “We need to move on and find ‘new ideas’ to address issues that confront us today, like global warming, health care, and the need for more tolerance toward lesbian Girl Scout leaders . . .”
Well, I could tell you what the grassroots say to that kind of talk, but this is a family-friendly blog.
You see, the grassroots conservative might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. He remembers very clearly hearing this same kind of claptrap before, from the same kind of “centrist” wienerheads who always seem to gravitate toward the top of the GOP prestige pyramid. They’re not much good in a fight, these elitists, because they are ambitious cowards.
Since my blogging sucks so bad that there’s no chance that you’ll actually click that link, I’ll explain to the two or three people who actually managed to read this far what I mean. In a society dominated by the perverse falsehoods of liberalism, where political correctness exercises such fearsome power within the precincts of the elite — media, academia, politics — ambition requires that one never question or dispute liberal dogma.
Only by becoming an independent success, like Rush Limbaugh, or by foreswearing any ambition that would require mute acceptance of elite orthodoxy, can you have the freedom to say out loud that abortion is murder and sodomy is sin. So the churchgoing small businessman in Topeka or the tattooed truck driver in Tallahassee is utterly unintimidated by slurs like “sexist” and “homophobe,” and he can’t understand for the life of him why the Republican politician he elects to public office doesn’t stand up on his hind legs and fight for the truth.
Ah, ambition, you see! The Congressman hopes to become Senator, and the Senator aspires to be President, and none of them fancies the reputation he’d acquire if he started quoting the first chapter of Romans in his speeches. The arbiters of respectability in Washington — and the consultants and strategists who dispense political advice — don’t go in for that Bible-thumping holy-roller stuff, and ambition makes the politician a coward.
You perceive, therefore, why the orthodoxy of the elite is sacrosanct, while the fundamental beliefs of the average Republican in Temecula or Tupelo almost never find a defender in the political class or elsewhere in the elite. For what is true of the politician is true also of the journalist, the professor, the beauty who hopes to become an actress or model. To identify yourself with the Ordinary American — plain-spoken rustic types like Joe the Plumber and Sarah the Hockey Mom — is to abandon any prospect of being accepted by the arbiters of respectability.
An old friend of mine spent his career working for the U.S. Postal Service, the kind of dysfunctional organization that makes “bureaucracy” an epithet. My friend once said to me, “There are two kinds of people: People who make lists, and people who are on lists.”
No better expression of the top-down, hierarchical, control-oriented method of organization is possible. In describing that kind of operation, it is absurd to use words like “teamwork,” “morale” and “communication.” There are merely bosses — “list-makers” who monopolize all the prestige and authority of the organization — and the poor shmoes who show up, clock in, put in their hours, clock out, and pray for the weekend.
This is what the Republican Party has become, and this is the deadly spirit of “bossism” that has destroyed the grassroots energy of the party.
Unlike the dysfunctional workplace, however, nobody in the conservative grassroots is obligated to show up for “work” on Election Day. He doesn’t have to put up yard signs or volunteer to canvass neighborhoods or contribute money to the party. If the Republican Party is going to adopt a go-along-to-get-along policy, enact a me-too Liberalism Lite agenda, and never speak up for the values that the grassroots believe in . . . well, the grassroots will just go fishing instead.
A commercial enterprise can function — perhaps not function very effectively, but function nonetheless — despite the toxic workplace environment created by a heavy-handed hierarchical “boss” style of management. So long as the business remains profitable and the workers are paid, the employee who quits after becoming disgusted by his abusive supervisor will be replaced by a new hire.
This is not true of a voluntary organization like a political movement. The grassroots political activist is not motivated by desire for material reward, but by the expectation that the movement will advance his personal ideals. When political leadership becomes tone-deaf, when decisions that contradict the ideals of the movement are made by a consensus of the leadership cadre, without grassroots approval, and then implemented over the objections of the grassroots — and when those decisions lead to repeated electoral defeat for the movement — then disintegration comes swiftly.
A movement that fails to reward the efforts of its core loyalists, that fails to heed the voices, espouse the ideals and implement the values of its grassroots, will soon find it has no effective grassroots. Such is the present condition of the Republican Party.
The complaints that you hear from me and others about the RINOs and sellouts and phonies who are trying to lead the GOP away from its own core constituency are not, as some would tell you, an expression of rigid ideological fanaticism. The recently-heard complaint of the elite that the Republican Party has become “too far right” is counterfactual. But most of the demands for “moderation” and the calls for “new ideas” are coming from elites who have a professional interest in the outcome of the contest. Honest calculation explains this divergence between the elite and the grassroots.
Like the corporate manager who loses sight of his responsibility to the customers and to the stockholders, the Republican elite have lost sight of whose interests the party was intended to serve. What is really at issue here is, “Whose party is this?”
Is this a party that belongs to Republican voters? Or is it a party that belongs to the hired consultants and strategists, the think-tank wonks and lobbyists, the Kathleen Parkers and David Brookses? And of these two groups, which is more responsible for the GOP’s recent defeats — the elite or the grassroots? On Election Night, I wrote an American Spectator column with the title, “You Did Not Lose,” which I think accurately answers that question.
Republican voters are more powerful than the Republican elite; the latter are dependent on the former, and not vice versa. If the elite no longer serves the interests of the voters, a new elite can be easily created. Ambitious young Republican political operatives are a dime a dozen in Washington. It is only because the grassroots don’t know their own power that they have put up with the elite’s abuse as long as they have.
If you volunteer to be a doormat, don’t complain about the footprints on your back.
Oh, well. Nobody will ever read this, and I don’t know why I even bothered to write it, since I suck so bad. I just have nothing better to do with my time, except to drive off that bridge. Tell Allah not to blame himself. It’s all my fault. Because I suck like a grassroots conservative, and I don’t even deserve to be linked.