I penned a special column for PJ Media on the 9/12 protests yesterday, pointing out the historical significance of the event; that it represents the first truly mass movement of conservatives in American history.
A sample that will no doubt bring the wrath of the right down on my head:
It is definitely an opposition movement, however. Certainly there is mass unhappiness with President Obama and his policies. And there is opposition to the Democrats in Congress. But does this really translate into electoral strength for Republicans? I am going to go out on a limb and say no. The anger here is a reaction (reactionary?) against a growing government, higher taxes, and the sense that the country that they grew up in is slipping away right before their eyes.
This is all fed, of course, by the pop conservatives on talk radio who have ginned up outrage against Obama and the Democrats. I say “ginned up” because what the president and his party have already done doesn’t need the added fear mongering being promoted by Beck, Hannity, Rush, and Savage in order for conservatives to rally. Raised taxes, cap and trade, health care reform, bailouts and takeovers, and other liberal agenda items should be sufficient to outrage anyone on the right and motivate them to protest these horrific policies. It is unnecessary to brand Obama a “communist” or even a “socialist” to realize that his policies spell disaster for individual liberty and the free market economy.
Getting caught up trying to guess the number of attendees at Saturday’s protests (as I and many others are doing today and will continue to do) is irrelevant. This is history in the making, something the United States has never seen: a genuine grass-roots conservative mass movement, activated by the new technologies, communicating effectively using the new software and hardware — and it is growing.
I received an email from a long time reader yesterday who was concerned I couldn’t see that the protests were, at bottom, “anti-American, racist, and dangerous…” There’s nothing “anti-American” about protesting anything. We are, after all, a nation born out of protest, nurtured in the bosom of contrarianism, and defining progress by going against the grain in order to right significant wrongs in our society. This is not “dangerous” by any stretch of the imagination - except to the comfort of the elites who always believe it dangerous when the hoi polloi become restless and disagree that only they in their superior wisdom are fit to tell the rest of us what to do.
As for the charge of the protest being “racist,” well, that’s nonsense. If you’re going to tar an entire movement with that epitaph based on the beliefs of a tiny fraction, then you should have no trouble referring to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s as a “Communist” movement since the CPUSA played a prominent role in the SCLC and other civil rights organizations. The same holds true for the anti-war movement where you couldn’t attend a protest without tripping over a Communist or two.
This protest movement encompasses the right in all its contradictions, it’s factions, and its various conceits. From far right nullification supporters to Rand Objectivists, conservatism in all its glory was on display. The dominant theme as it appeared to me was “Don’t Tread on Me” - the words emblazoned on the iconic Gaddsen Flag. This is both a warning and a statement of fact. The truth is, whether due to agitation by talk radio hosts or the very real belief held by millions that President Obama is going too far, too fast, in his quest to “remake” America, there is a sizable segment of the population who has stood up and said “enough.”
In their struggle to define what it is they don’t like about the direction Obama and the Democrats are taking the country, I believe they mis-identify their concerns as fighting “socialism” or “Communism.” But at bottom, I believe above all else, that they wish to “conserve” their own vision of what America is and what it should aspire to be. This vision is no more invalid than that of the presidents’ despite attempts on the left to delegitimize it. It is Burkean in its roots, and has to do with classic conservative values that have been at the root of conservative thought for as long as the republic has endured.
Change is coming to America. Change always comes to America because we are a dynamic society that stands still for no one. But the value of conservatism has always been that, in Bill Buckley’s words, conservatives “stand athwart history yelling Stop!” It is always better to manage change, to channel the revolutionary nature of our society into acceptable, and accepted paths that lead to consensual change. Any other path leads to blood and revolution. Just ask the French.
President Obama and the Democrats are moving too far, too fast. They have exceeded the comfort level for change that many Americans - perhaps most - believe is right and proper. You can argue the merits of the president’s agenda. That’s politics. But the pace of change is structural in our society. We aren’t set up for the kind of rapid, dizzying alterations that Obama and the Democrats are proposing. This is especially true because some of what the president advocates would change the fundamental relationship citizens have with the government.
“Small moves, Ellie. Small moves…” was the advice that Elenore Arroway’s dad gave to the youngster as she fiddled with the dial of her ham radio in the film Contact. By moving the dial in small increments, she was much more likely to be rewarded by making contact with another ham radio enthusiast.
Hundreds of thousands of people at the Capitol yesterday gave President Obama the same message.