In the wake of the November elections there’s been a fair amount of what can only be described as Republican triumphalism. Certainly the past decade has been very good to the GOP, and bad for the Democrats, and that trend doesn’t show many signs of reversing in the immediate future. More broadly, the years since 1980 do show a longer-term trend towards the Republicans, as I noted here. But even if the claims of realignment are correct, does that mean that the nation is actually moving to the right?

This story from The Economist (HT: Redstate) suggests not. On many key issues younger voters are perceptibly more liberal than older ones.

This ties in with my sense that the shift in political fortunes has had more to do with changes in the parties than in the electorate. Anecdotally, it’s easy to find people who started voting Republican in the past several years who describe the change using words like “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; it left me.” It’s not hard to find GOP supporters today who sound a lot like John F. Kennedy. (Bush himself sometimes sounds like JFK; there are passages from JFK’s first inaugural address that could just as easily have been placed into GWB’s second inaugural.) At the same time, radical left-wing moonbattery has become much more mainstream within the Democratic party in recent years than it ever was in the early 1960s. And Goldwater-style limited-government conservatism seems to be a waning force in the Republican party.

Putting the point another way, had Kennedy not been assassinated the 1964 election would have had Goldwater on the right side and JFK on the left. In 2004 we have a JFK-alike on the right side and Kerry/Dean/Pelosi on the left. The Republicans are turning into the Democrats and the Democrats are turning into the Greens. While this may be a promising development for Republican party operatives as they win elections, it isn’t such a good thing for pro-freedom, pro-individualism, limited-government folks like me.

Ayn Rand was, once again, right. The fundamental forces pulling America towards totalitarianism are philosophical. Without a philosophical shift in the culture we’re winning political battles while losing the war.

8 Responses to “Beware Triumphalism”
  1. Al says:

    ‘Moved right’ and ‘moved left’ can’t adequately describe the actual motion in 47-space. (Or however many different axes one might imagine.)

    The key rise seems to be in the ‘South Park Republican’ vein. That is: socially you do anything you darn well please, just leave me out of it. I’ll swear if I want to. Fiscally: keep your hand out of my pocket or lose it + there is no such thing as a free lunch. There’s no point in having either non-enumerated laws or unenforced laws.

  2. Mithras says:

    Yes, W is JFK. Ayn Rand was a prophet. The Republicans are liberals.

    Thanks for the chuckle.

  3. Kyle Haight says:

    GWB is more like JFK than he is like Barry Goldwater. In many respects the contemporary GOP is more liberal than the Goldwater Republicans.

    Ayn Rand was not a prophet. But she was right about many things, and I think the idea that it’s possible to win tactical political victories while losing the broader cultural/intellectual war is one of them.

    Would you care to address any of the claims or observations I actually made, or would you rather stick with misrepresentation and sarcasm?

  4. Avenger says:

    I think you guys have more than enough of the ultra right wing neocons, the mid-left and leftists, but nearly not enough of the softer, right wing guys like yourself (you are softer than you think, I read some neocon stuff it’s scarry).

    This makes it look as if your left-right dilema in the US is a good-evil dilema, not an ideological one (because your red states are so out of touch, almost as much as the extreme hippies). That and the fact that you are, consciously or not, imposing your current government on otherwordly factions make it look very grim when in effect, it’s just another way of thinking.

    You guys need to get back to debating ideas over just wanting to grab power and then proceeding to make it so the next governments can’t undo what you have done.

  5. Mithras says:

    Would you care to address any of the claims or observations I actually made, or would you rather stick with misrepresentation and sarcasm?

    Sarcasm and misrepresentation are what I do best.

    The fundamental forces pulling America towards totalitarianism are philosophical.

    No, they’re not. They’re dumbassical. A majority of Bush voters thought Saddam was involved in 9/11. People who support privatizing social security don’t know the facts. In short, they’re stupid, and they vote in great numbers because they’ve been told by a big propaganda machine that their way of life is under attack. Personally, I blame TV.

    The Republicans are turning into the Democrats and the Democrats are turning into the Greens.

    This is such a wildly incongruous statement – so out of contact with actual fact – that I didn’t feel compelled to answer it.

    The Republicans are executing a long-term strategy which involves massive government debt in order to bankrupt and discredit it. (Needless to say, this does not make them Democrats.) They’ve been on this march since, oh, say, St. Ronnie said, “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.” Again, dumbassery. It was wildly applauded by people who were fat, happy and stupid, and thought, “What the hell. I need more money, and I believe (some insane) libertarian rhetoric about the market solving any problems.” And you should tell a Green the Democrats are becoming them, and see what the Green says. That would be funny.

    It’s not hard to find GOP supporters today who sound a lot like John F. Kennedy.

    Sure, and their vision seems to extend to oil-producing nations and not one mile further. Hypocrisy in action.

    On many key issues younger voters are perceptibly more liberal than older ones.

    It doesn’t matter. Voters regularly agree with the Democrats on the issues, but then vote for Republicans. You guys have the mighty Wurlitzer, and when you have that, you don’t need policy that makes any sense or accords with voters’ preferences. As Bush has ably demonstrated.

  6. Anne Haight says:

    Mithras, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but I’m calling “troll” on you. Nobody says that many stupid things in one post while simultaneously being able to spell unless they’re trolling.

  7. Tom says:

    Actually, Anne, you do know me, and I think Mithras is more right than you’re willing to credit. Another example of deep assumption clash between the “two sides”.

    I think in making his points Kyle’s being a little selective. I see more and more moonbattery on the Republican side these days; how can Kyle ignore that?

    And, hey, even the “dumbassical” charge is in line with Rand – didn’t she think that it was logically evident that the totalitarian approach didn’t work, but that people who didn’t think carefully would support it? (Dusting off memories of Atlas & Fountainhead from back at Lincoln…)

    I’d agree that the Republican actions on their face are more totalitarian than small government, but they’re more feudal/facist/? than welfare-state (e.g. I continue to disagree with Kyle and think that the proposed Social Security reforms are likely to leave me poorer and expose me to more risk than I want to bear, necessitating severe rebalancing of the rest of my retirement portfolio – something most people won’t do), so comparing them to Democrats on that axis is going to strike lots of people as cognitively dissonant.

  8. TTK Ciar says:

    I’ve been seeing both, “dumbassical” and philosophical motivations behind mainstream America’s shift towards fascism. People are not thinking critically about what they are being told, and are swayed by hellaciously flawed arguments. At the same time, people espouse notions that suspects should be treated as guilty, and that it is better to see innocents persecuted if it helps prevent the guilty from going free, philosophies antithetical to free society.

    These attitudes seem pandemic; I see them exhibited equally by constituents of the left and the right. I do not know what to do about it. I feel as though America has been lost. How do you reverse such a sea change in mainstream thought? The course of history has been determined by such changes, and littered with the corpses of people and institutions which thought to reverse them. The popularization of democracy swept europe with revolution and transformed its many governments into their modern forms. Do we dare believe that the popularization of fascism will prove any less disruptive?

    On the entirely different subject of social security reform, I think many people come to the conclusion (correctly, imo) that a partial privatization program can be made to work well, but don’t bother to think beyond that conclusion. It is assumed that because it is possible, the administration will achieve it. But successful implementation also depends on the administration’s benevolence and competence, which should not be so easily assumed.

    This is the same administration which claimed that the war for Iraq would be paid for out of oil revenues, took the oilfields, put them in the hands of halliburton, and stuck the American taxpayers with the bill. They stole from America to rob Iraq, while lying to both. Why should we expect them to behave any less criminal or larcenous when it comes to social security reform?

    I believe replacing social security with private investment could be a very good thing, more fair and profitable to those who pay into it, and more beneficial to the nation’s economy. However, I do not believe that this administration should be trusted with the responsibility to make that transition. Despite the current system’s many flaws, siphoning the social security funds into the pockets of republican lapdogs would be worse.

    — TTK

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