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4/1/2009
THE ILLUSION OF OPPORTUNITY

Patrick Ruffini wrote a post on his Next Right site yesterday where he sees a golden opportunity for the GOP to gain some political ground by running on an agenda that includes healthy cuts in the size of government. He believes the GOP is “galivinized” to make cutting government by a third - back to 2007 levels - the centerpiece of a revival even if, as he realistically points out, not much will change given the huge advantage currently enjoyed by liberals in Congress.

It’s an ambitious proposal and is predicated on the idea that people will reject the naked statism being advanced by President Obama and come home to the party of smaller government as a reaction to the bail-out culture as well as the heavy handed attempts by the Administration to gain outright control of companies like GM and AIG.

But will they? Obama still enjoys broad support among the American public and beyond that, you have to wonder how much people really care that government has instituted policies that are destroying the free market and limiting freedom. The small percentage who are paying any attention at all to what is happening in Washington will hear this by Obama and be satisfied:

Let me be clear: the United States government has no interest or intention of running GM. What we are interested in is giving GM an opportunity to finally make those much-needed changes that will let them emerge from this crisis a stronger and more competitive company.

If the lie is told often enough, people will believe it - especially when the media doesn’t think it’s their job to call Obama out for his prevarications. Have you seen any article (outside of the Wall Street Journal and a few reactionary newspapers) or any news broadcast beyond a few CNBC and Fox segments that even discusses the possibility that what Obama is doing is nothing short of a government takeover of GM? If you can fire one CEO, hire another, force bankruptcy, and guarantee warranties, not to mention deciding which “changes” GM should make in their business plan, that sounds an awful lot like “running GM” to me.

But the average voter doesn’t hear any of that. All they hear is the president standing up on national TV and solemnly proclaiming one thing while his Administration is blatantly doing exactly the opposite. The key to any good propaganda is to make the lie believable. And for the moment, the people trust the president to tell them the truth. Right now, people just aren’t that upset with what is going on save the minority of us who are paying a little closer attention to what’s going on in Washington. And don’t forget, there’s another minority of people paying attention who are supporting the President and urging him to do more. Liberal activists have only just begun to hold the president’s feet to the fire and before all is said and done, America could potentially be a place that you and I wouldn’t recognize from just two years ago.

Patrick makes this point in his post:

The end result of this agenda, the size of government at 2007 levels, may seem minimalist in any broad sweep of history, but it is galvanizing in a way it wasn’t before because of the sheer scope of what’s changed in six months. The yawning gap between where we are now and where we were two years ago gives conservatives an ambitious goal to reach for and a reason for being again, even if the end result is little change over time. And if we get a mandate to actually cut government significantly — and I think the public mood will shift there in a few years if not sooner — it might not be that much harder to cut it to below pre-Obama or pre-Bush levels because current levels are so out of whack that people would not be able to tell the difference between that and what the status quo was in the mid-2000s — only that it is change.

Unfortunately, history is not on Patrick’s side. The most conservative president in history couldn’t shrink the size of government. The most conservative Congress in history barely made a dent in the size of government during the 1990’s and then turned around and became the biggest spendthrift Congress in history. “Shrinking” the size of government to 2007 levels can’t be done simply because it is not 2007 anymore. A great tide washed over the country last November and when it ebbs, no one knows where we will be. But there is an historical certainty there will be no road back the way we came. As powerful as the Obama wave seems to be today, even he cannot erase all the contours of what Reagan built many years ago. Similarly, if, as many suspect, Obama’s victory was a transformational moment in history, the next wave of change cannot entirely undo what has been done by his Administration.

The game has changed. Nationalized health insurance is on the way, more top down solutions to education are being contemplated, wholesale changes to business and industry as a result of the green craze will be forced on the economy, the defense budget will be drastically cut, and that’s probably only the beginning. Patrick believes the voter will rebel against these changes. That remains to be seen. But what is certain is that they won’t turn to Republicans for the answers no matter how “galvanized” the GOP becomes.

For Patrick’s proposal to succeed, the word “Republican” will have to be rehabilitated with the voter. The damage done to the party during the Bush years - as Patrick rightly points out - will not be fixed by simply reiterating what the party’s message has been since LBJ’s presidency. It won’t be repaired by offering the same small government mantra no matter how much “big government” is screwing things up. Ruffini points to history to buttress his argument:

The Welfare State mentality of the ’60s that created the conditions for 1980 and 1994 systemically excused bad behavior at an individual level, creating millions of individual tragedies. Obamanomics systematically excuses bad behavior at the wholesale macroeconomic level, creating a vicious circle of irresponsibility with major consequences for every American.

If nothing else, the first 70 days of Obama — with an assist from the last 4 months of Bush — has left government economic policy so off-kilter that it may take a decade or more to fix. Remember that exhausted to-do list? Not a problem any more.

For the first time in decades, Republicans could run on a platform of cutting government by a third and not seem wild-eyed or mean-spirited. When we talk about the dangers of governments running private businesses, we will have contemporary object lessons to teach with, not bogeymen that are decades old or oceans away. When we talk about getting the government out of our lives, more people will nod their head knowing exactly what we mean, having just footed the bill for bailout after bailout, instead of yawning or dismissing it as a non-issue as they did in the prosperous, laissez-faire post-Reagan America.

All of that would be true if the GOP wasn’t totally and deeply discredited as a political party. The difference between 1980 and 1994 and the situation today is that in both those eras, Republicans were competitive across the country. Now, whole swaths of the United States are almost no-go zones for the GOP. Bereft of national leadership, having no counter-agenda that is accepted by the party regulars, and unable to escape the economic legacy of George Bush, Republicans have a lot of work to do in order to be taken seriously - even when they pledge to “shrink” the size of government.

And it isn’t just the map that is the problem. Vital segments of the voting public have decisively rejected the party including the 18-35 age group and Hispanics - two groups who are growing in number and becoming more politically savvy at a time when the Republican social agenda is receding in importance to voters and on issue after issue a decisive advantage accrues to the Democrats. Couple this with the thought that Congressional districts will be redrawn in 2010 with a probable increase in Democratic seats as a result and you have not only problems with party ID but systemic hurdles to overcome as well.

Patrick is not talking about an opportunity for the short term but it is hard to fathom at this point where the GOP can begin to close the gap. Ruffini is attempting to reduce the online activism gap but that too is a long term project. Can these problems be overcome by running on a platform “We are not socialists?” In the end, I think Patrick expects too much of the voter, projects our own anger on to them when I am convinced it will take more than what Obama has done so far to rile them up.

What Patrick has latched onto is an illusion of opportunity. The people aren’t ready. The party’s not ready. The elected representatives certainly aren’t ready for what he is proposing. And before we’re through, history will have a say as well. For that, no one can predict what the outcome of Obama’s assault on capitalism will be nor how well the GOP can respond given the limits imposed on them by their own stupidity and arrogance in the past.

By: Rick Moran at 8:11 am
18 Responses to “THE ILLUSION OF OPPORTUNITY”
  1. 1
    Gayle Miller Said:
    8:55 am 

    The vast majority of Americans are too busy trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables to pay attention fully to what that s.o.b. in Washington is pulling in his heavy-handed authoritarian march to full rule over their lives. Those of us who do pay attention are horrified at the erosion of our Constitutional Rights and are preparing to do something about it. What about the Tea Parties planned for April 15th around the country? Granted the Mainstream Loons won’t cover it but somehow news will be getting out that there are Americans who are lovers of their freedoms and rights as given them - not by Obama and the Dems but by God. He will not be mocked and these Leftwing cretins are busy doing so.

  2. 2
    funny man Said:
    9:58 am 

    Being competitive again doesn’t come overnight. I think having a positive agenda will help e.g. creativity versus government regulations. Of course that doesn’t work in every area. We surely need some new economic regulations. However, Reagan was positive and I’m just tired of hearing this lingo (e.g leftwing cretins; don’t mean you Rick) all the time. That’s no way to win over (sub)urban voters. Just rational analysis and political suggestions!

  3. 3
    Bob Said:
    10:52 am 

    I don’t think the opportunity is an illusion. It just needs a bit more time to blossom.

    Many people I have talked to recently, people who drank the Obama cool aid during the election, while not ready to give up on him yet, are a bit concerned about some of the things happening, and are certainly not as gung ho as they were 3 months ago.

    How to best nurture that opportunity, and take advantage of it is the question. The old parties are not drawing people the way they used to. The Democrats didn’t win in November because of their party. They won because of a slick talking, charismatic speaker, who represented not only Hope and Change, but the opportunity to vote for the first black president in our history. Obama could have run as a Republican and won just as easily.

    So how do you counter that phenomenom? You can’t do it just by “getting the Republcan party back to its roots” as so many are preaching. Although it *does* need to get there. You need to fight fire with fire. We need a candidate who can match Obama in charisma as well as ideas. Newt said he would run in 2012 if needed, and Newt certainly has the ideas in spades, so does Buchanan, but neither has the right persona and charisma to win over non political people!

    Where to turn? Jindal? No way! Romney? Too stiff. Any of the Bushes - Nope! Huckabee? Maybe, but not sure we can trust him on immigration any more. Juliani? He’s got the charisma, but I suspect his time has passed. McCain? Too old now, and anyone who picks the true architect of the banking and oil crises of the past 4 years (Phill Graham) as his financial advisor cannot be trusted anyway. Ron Paul? Can’t handle a debate. Tom Tancredo? Worth considering, but hard to say.

    Who’s left? We need to find someone. The only one I know who could do it is already what you might call “damaged goods”. If he was still some unknown radio talk host in the sticks somewhere, and we could spring him on the country without the baggage he has already accumulated, Rush could handle Obama as he states he does every day - with one hand tied behind his back. But alas - that would probably not work now.

    Suggestions?

  4. 4
    JPR Said:
    10:58 am 

    Gee, I wonder why the GOP is losing among the young……..duh, could mass immigration of poor, under-educated folks have something to do with it? Why my common sense tells me poor, under-educated folks are just natural conservatives/republicians, no? (please see Latino drop out rates, criminal gang membership, lack of English/assimilation, poor academic performance, etc.)

    More amigos…..we must have more and more amigos so as to prove we are not bigots! More under the table labor! More identitiy theft! More social security fraud! More bi-lingualism! Empty out Mexico, bring them all here for we’re all immigrants, right? (wrong) We’re a nation of immigrants, right? (wrong) We must have more!!!!

  5. 5
    John Howard Said:
    11:21 am 

    Success is where planning meets opportunity. The important thing for now is for conservatives to adopt a core platform and beat that drum loudly and consistently. The full bill for the Democrats’ policies will likely come due in 5 years or so, when inflation, entitlements, and expensive energy begin crushing American dreams.

  6. 6
    Silvio Said:
    12:35 pm 

    It’s still early. I recall 1993 and 1977. It takes time for disillusionment to blossom…..but it will!

    At the moment, Pres BO enjoys a honeymoon but eventually it will start to take its toll.

  7. 7
    bsjones Said:
    1:09 pm 

    In exchange for continuing the “small government” (bailouts for auto companies) policies instituted by Republicans at the end of 2008, Obama should have demanded drug tests from all the leadership at GM and Chrysler. This would ensure the next round of taxpayer money will not be misspent by drug addled crazies.

    If the senior management at the auto giants do not want to subject themselves to frequent random drug testing, then they can pursue the free market solution–RAISE PRIVATE CAPITAL. If the market does not want to provide the capital, the companies can sell off their assets.

    The auto companies came to Washington in 2008 with hat in hand. General Motors and Cerberus (formerly Chrysler) took home a 17.5 billion dollar “bridge loan”. We didn’t even get drug testing. Where is the accountability for our dollars. Epic fail by Republicans and Democrats alike!

    What A Sham!!

  8. 8
    bsjones Said:
    1:24 pm 

    It’s weird. Bush II was much like Reagan in many of his budget balancing priorities. Both men cut taxes. Both men increased government military expenditures.

    Both men cut taxes.
    Both men increased government spending.
    Supply Side says his stimulates economic growth.

    Why didn’t it work for George W. Bush?

  9. 9
    busboy33 Said:
    2:22 pm 

    @Gayle Miller:
    What Constitutional rights are being eroded?

    @Bob:
    Dems didn’t win because of immigration or poor. Dems didn’t win because of Obama. Dems won because of Bush and McCain/Palin. Bush made Republican synonamous with “lying incompetent weseal”, and McCain/Palin, despite all their talk of change, appeared to the vast majority as Bush II. If the Dems had nominated a dead goat, it would have won.

  10. 10
    bsjones Said:
    2:34 pm 

    Rick said:
    “All of that would be true if the GOP wasn’t totally and deeply discredited as a political party.”

    Agreed.

    Perhaps the problem with the Republicans is the huge gap between what they say they will do and what they actually do.

    Reagan said he would shrink government and government expenditure. Not true.

    Bush I ran on no new taxes and tried to raise them.

    Bush II ran on shrinking government, reducing government expenditure, and balancing budgets. Did not happen.

    The only people left who believe Republicans are the party of “small government” and other silly talking points are locked up in their houses watching Fox News with Glenn Beck and the “Factor”. Everyone else has stopped listening to the fairy tales coming out of the GOP machine. There is more truth (and value) in Goldie Locks than in the Republican budget.

    The problem is most people think the Democrats will govern differently.

  11. 11
    Joe Said:
    6:01 pm 

    Rick is one of the few republicans who actually speaks the truth on the health of his party. Damn thats refreshing. Most of his party is the Limbaugh, leftwing cretins wing. That’s the wing that lost the youth vote, moderates, and independents. Am I satisfied with my Democratic leadership? No, but compared to Palin, Sanford,Joe the plumber,etc, I will continue to pull the lever for Democrats. Where were all the gop fiscal hawks from 2000 to 2006? Only now when their out of power are they concerned with deficits. That is so transparent to us who live in the real world. Thanks Rick for your article, your honesty is why I keep coming back here.

  12. 12
    JPR Said:
    6:25 am 

    Who are these people (adults?) who actually agree with the liberal/democrat philosophy of more government? Who are you folks? Why do you think the way you do?

    You despise Palin. Exactly why? She’s actually a moderate conservative. Bush? Moderate to even liberal conservative. McCain? Liberal-conservative.

    There are basically no true conservatives in politics today. No nationalists, which by definition is one of the big tennets of conservatisim. They are all internationalists. They all seek to dismember the USA, disable our sovereignty. Most liberal voters don’t even know what sovereignty means. They only hate the rich and successful and want the “taxpayer’s money back”, as if they are going to get checks from the government. What nonsense.

    It’s about philosophy. Reagan had the right philosophy. No one is perfect, much less Bush but he at least had a correct ground rules, that too much centralized power is a mistake and goes against the American tradition. Barry Dunham is a classic central planning, Fabian socialist type. Spare me his intellectual pretensions.

  13. 13
    jackson1234 Said:
    9:38 am 

    Ruffini is right and you are wrong, but not for the reasons stated. The public is nervous, and the economy will be in deep shit for several years. I expect a Democratic bloodbath in 2010 that will rival or exceed 1994 simply because you can’t spin an empty stomach. You probably will have to live with a Republican surge, Rick. Trust me, it won’t be any worse than the insanity we will have to endure until Obama is castrated next year.

  14. 14
    busboy33 Said:
    1:43 pm 

    @JPR:
    You claim all politicians want to “dismember the USA”. Name one.

    “[Bush] at least had a correct ground rules, that too much centralized power is a mistake and goes against the American tradition”

    Yes . . . When I think of W’s tenure, the first thing I think of is an aversion to centralized power. Really his defining characteristic, don’t you think?

  15. 15
    grognard Said:
    5:34 pm 

    This reminds me of an old joke called the train to Communism.

    Lenin gets everyone on board for the great train to Communism but before the train can leave the station he dies. Stalin takes over and when he realizes the train is not moving he executes the engineer, fireman, and the conductor. Stalin dies and Khrushchev takes over, he hires another train crew but before the train leaves the station he is removed from power. Brezhnev takes over and orders the blinds over the windows to be drawn. He then says ”Pretend we are moving”.

    Conservatism is the same thing, for some reason he train never leaves the station. Other than bashing the left you got nothing.

  16. 16
    Nick Said:
    8:34 am 

    It is amazing how much smarter than EVERYBODY else you right-wingers think you are. I guess thats why you’re IRRELEVANT, INSIGNIFICANT, and on your way to OBLIVION. Godspeed to you all.

    Since you are too stupid to respond to anything I wrote, the question is why leave a vapid, truculent, meaningless comment? Obviously, it made you feel better - at least on the childish level your mind operates. It actually reminds me a little of the sounds of satisfaction my infant nephew makes when he wets his pants.

    ed.

  17. 17
    Nick Said:
    10:03 am 

    Thats right Rick, we’re all “dim-witted” liberals….. so, since we kicked your f#cking asses, what does that make you idiots? You, at least, sometimes make more sense than Michelle “Bitter Beer Face” Malkin and her supporters…. but not much more. Don’t worry, you won’t have to ban me from writing… I’m done with you morons.

    More childlike wisdom from a clown who has yet to comment on what I wrote and insists on using playground epiteths and braggadocio. I’d ban you for being too young to comment here but I am glad you recognize you simply can’t hold your own against most of the posters here.

    ed.

  18. 18
    busboy33 Said:
    10:35 am 

    Nick:
    For the “liberals” here trying to exchange ideas with citizens of all stripes, please STFU.
    You didn’t beat anybody. You didn’t run for office. Nobody voted for you.
    If you actually wanted “liberals” to be seen positively, please don’t make such an a$$ out of yourself in “our” name.

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