Rand and The Establishment

I imagine quite the discussion going on at the RNC and within the broader establishment organs of the party right now regarding Rand Paul. He has just spent a full year demonstrating his promise in communities not known for voting Republican, while fending off vicious attacks from both left and right over everything from his thoughts on certain legislation from 1964 to charges of an isolationist foreign policy to his supposed support for “amnesty” (the latter claim is farcical, but popular in the comments of many a conservative publication). And he has maintained his popularity and appeal throughout, capitalizing on the mainstream media’s utter confusion about what to make of him, leading to their giving him all the more free publicity.

He essentially checks all the key boxes the party brass laid out in the 2012 autopsy as far as reaching out to new voters and expanding the tent for the GOP. In May, Paul polled 29% support among Kentucky blacks in a hypothetical 2016 matchup with Hillary Clinton. His outreach is working. If the GOP nominee in 2016 garnered even 19% of the national black vote, there would not be a bigger story in America. The blight of our urban cities and the fact that national democrats have cynically perpetuated poverty and misery for millions by cultivating victimization and contempt in the black community is an enduring national disgrace, and many blacks seem open to a message of just… something, anything different. Rand has been speaking to that in earnest for a whole year. 19% could be a low estimate of the breakthrough he could have with black voters.

And the same script applies to the youth vote, only double. Rand could easily win half the nation’s millennials, partly on the strength of his message and appeal, but also because they have been mugged by progressive economic reality and are ready to hear more about uber and less about the minimum wage.

The RNC and the big money donors have to see this. And yet, there is the obvious tension regarding foreign policy, which I think is overblown and based on a caricature of who Paul is, but nevertheless is grounded in principle and is a legitimate ongoing debate. But I really wonder what many donors and establishment types are smoking when they consider how Bush or Christie or Romney or Walker or even Rubio could make a serious dent in all these voting communities who have been giving Republicans the back of the hand of late. It really can only be Paul or Cruz if you want to be bold and grow the party through a concentration on liberty and reducing government’s imprint. They are really only the ones who both get it and can articulate “it.” I have my doubts that Cruz can expand the tent as much as Rand and I suspect he would ultimately lose, though I will not protest if he is the Republican nominee because at the very least he would offer the clearest of choices and is capable of eloquently making the case for free market capitalism and deregulation.

In the end, Cruz would be a great choice but Paul is the best choice.

And for all the anti-Rand sentiment that exists on our side, I do wonder why I never really hear anyone address how else to grow the party and make the brand more attractive to the young and marginalized who have been so dis-served by the left? Who else has a plan besides Paul? The establishment needs to recognize that it can’t implement its pet policies – whether on foreign policy or immigration or tax reform – without first securing victory. And if we know one thing about politicians of every shade and stripe, winning elections is the goal, as that is the business they’ve chosen. Given this simple reality and the fact that establishment consensus rests on another simple reality that says Republicans must reach out to non-traditional constituencies if they want to win nationally again, it seems obvious that Rand Paul and the establishment (particularly the foreign policy establishment) should declare detente and act together to leverage some of Paul’s outreach into a lasting presence with new voters. That cooperation depends on the establishment’s willingness to accept that the new voters Rand is courting are attracted to him because of his libertarian outlook on many issues. “Libertarian” still scares the pants off of significant swathes of the GOP, but thankfully libertarianism is trending in the right direction in the party. Rand has already demonstrated that he can be a team player and help elect establishment Republicans. In return, the Republican party impresarios need to acknowledge Paul’s inspiring effort to conduct outreach and resolve to see him, finally, as an ally rather than an enemy.

Social Politics

Progressives view American culture the same way that Vladimir Lenin viewed politics: “Who, whom?” Who will dominate whom? The rest is just noise.

Lenin’s understanding of political struggle turned out to be fatally flawed, as the twentieth century showed how societies are actually stronger when the operative impulse is less domination and more facilitation. Because what are democracies and republics if not vessels for facilitating free association and cooperation? Allied victory over totalitarianism was above all a triumph of capitalism over socialism, yes, but it was also vindication for a way of life over that of the martial collective operating with scientific efficiency and with one communal voice, visions shared by Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini and Roosevelt. The New Deal can be understood as one big effort to copy what Hitler and Mussolini were doing in the 30’s. Western elites and progressives were utterly enamored with Il Duce’s model in particular. What leftists of every stripe loved about these regimes was the way they used “science” to justify their vision and also guard them against criticism. Let the left and right argue over dogma; we disinterested observers are here with the science!Those wishing to turn politics into an empirical science are adopting a stealth approach to Lenin’s axiom. By claiming their so-called “pragmatism” will use disinterested and data-driven analysis to solve complex social problems, these wizards are promising an impartial politics of efficiency and prosperity attained through expert administration. But there is no algorithm that unlocks the secret to the free society. There is, however, that nagging question of “who, whom?” and still far too many who subscribe to the Hobbesian vision of nature that says man’s domination over man is the default condition of humanity. Those claiming the expertise have no expectation of landing on the whom side of the equation. And while we who stand athwart the collectivists know that Lenin’s question is ultimately wrong, we still must contend with the myriad forces that seek nothing less than total domination, even those who do so under the guise of disinterested civil servants.

Marx and the socialists were ostensibly defeated with the end of the Soviet Union. Communism’s ultimate discrediting was supposed to mean the end of history, when the superiority of capitalism was beyond dispute. But you don’t exist as a revolutionary movement for a century and a half and go quietly into the night, and socialism’s strictest adherents were never going to surrender their ideological commitments just because the Cold War ended. Rather, in their obscurity they re-evaluated where they had been successful and vowed to rise again against capitalism, through means other than purely economic. Thus do we see the utterly socialist aims of modern environmentalism, third-wave feminism and other movements of the anticapitalist left.* If they cannot dominate through economic doctrine, the war must be fought on the cultural plane.

Identity politics is just Marxist classism dressed up as enlightened diversity. The ultimate aim of Marxist-socialist theory was to give agency to disaffected and disadvantaged classes of people, and to encourage them to rise up and be heard in a world ostensibly dominated by rapacious capitalists. But as the economic prescriptions favored by these classes and their advocates proved utterlydisastrous, it was inevitable that the focus would shift from economics to culture. For it is just as easy to agitate on behalf of those superficially marginalized by race or gender as it is to do so on behalf of the poor. But what happens when such agitation is successful, as the cultural revolution of the 1960’s surely was in advancing equality under the law? Victory, right? Wrong. There is always be more oppression to fight, and always another injustice in need of eradicating. Thus is the great progress made on behalf of racial, gender, sexual and religious minorities deemed insufficient. It is not enough to ensure equality under the law; the new normal must be celebrated, not merely condoned. Thus does critical theory emerge and meld with postmodern instincts to treat truth as malleable. Moral relativism reigns. This is how modern academia comes to regard Israel as the enemy and Hamas as the victim. Truth is subordinate to injustice because facts are not as compelling as grievance.

Culture warriors understand a fundamental truth of human nature: we understand what we know and care about what we see. Economics escapes the average person’s understanding and concern because it is difficult for him to see it operate in tangible form. Culture, on the other hand, is ubiquitous. It is impossible to be indifferent towards culture because one is forever awash in it. And those whoinstigated the culture war in this country understandably became addicted to the psychic satisfaction that comes from expanding access to natural rights hitherto denied to certain people. (That the belief that successful movements for women’s rights and minority civil rights actually meant the initiation of new rights rather than the restoration of natural ones escaped them is another discussion altogether.) It makes sense then, that this social vanguard would continue looking for victims to unshackle, but at some point you just run out of victims, at least as far as the law is concerned. Suddenly we are concerned with a person’s “right” not to be offended, or we overcorrect to the point of seeing mysoginy everywhere. This is how suchabsurdities as #YesAllWomen and trigger warnings enter the lexicon.

And this new century of ours is particularly vulnerable to outright implosion if social politics continue to define us. Much of the advancement in tolerance, diversity and general acceptance is owed to the laudable impulses of the original culture warriors who came onto the scene in the 60’s. But just as Marxist economics failed because it lacked limiting principles, the culture wars will end badly because the agitators simply don’t know when (or don’t want) to stop. (Abraham Maslowwould agree.) In one respect, it is not hard to see why: playing identity politics and demanding new rights for an ever increasing number of victims will inevitably lead to bigger government and more bureaucracy. If it ain’t broke… That the aims of anticapitalists coincide with the culture warriors’ is also no coincidence. The desire to destroy laissez-faire through regulation does not meet pushback from those looking to invent new rights (right to healthcare, right to housing, right to food), usually because they’re the same people. And when the anticapitalists and social justiciars congregate – in academia, in federal bureaucracies, in Hollywood – the only thing that stands out is the utter lack of any actual diversity, that is, diversity of thought.

The cult of diversity has become so strong and pervasive that among young people in the 21st century it is now obviously safer to tow the line of superficial tolerance (i.e. to conform) than it is to express a heterodox opinion about something,especially something involving the hollow vapidity of our hallowed “diversity.” The word has literally come to mean the opposite of its literal meaning, as Daniel Hannan says. And yet, our future leaders are overwhelmingly consumed by the cult of physical (shallow) diversity. Millennials define themselves politically by social issues, not economics. It is a positional good, a way of signaling one’s status as a member of the tolerant, progressive, enlightened crowd, the group that shuns religion and tradition in favor of “science.” They are happy to tell you that they are better than you, owing not to any particular achievement or education, but simply to the fact that they are not the “other.” Despite marching in lockstep conformity of thought, they impugn their perceived enemies as hopeless and ignorant neanderthals, secure in the knowledge that their identity and worth are defined by what they are not.

It’s morality on the cheap; wholly unearned, but bolstered all the same by a profound sense of “being on the right side of history,” a Marxist trope if ever there was one. Culture matters, and caring about injustice is basic human nature. Much of the social progress that has been made in America and around the globe owes a debt to our friends of leftwing persuasion, even the virulent anticapitalists among them. But you must have a limiting principle, and leftists simply do not. The American Revolution was about restoring limiting principles to society, whereas the French Revolution had the Terror, the guillotine and ended in Napoleanic despotism precisely because there was no philosophical appreciation for such principles. The Jacobins believed they could remake the world entirely anew, that the past was irrelevant, tradition useless. The same phenomenon is again taking place today, only it is confined blessedly (for now) to the culture wars. Increasingly, these battles are bleeding into our politics, and that is a problem. Even worse, future generations are coming to view politics as merely an extension of cultural arguments, rather than of debate and deliberation on eternal matters like the composition of the state, the laws of economics, and the propensity for man to abuse power even when he doesn’t intend to.

If millennials continue to define themselves politically over the social issues they care about, this republic will be lost. The basic truth that 20th century tyrants understood about this country is even more profound today: America can never be destroyed by conquest, but only from within. The next few generations bear a heavy responsibility to not succumb to the cheap satisfactions and faux-morality of “social justice,” which is just a rebranding of class warfare in the most destructive sense. The kids need to get over themselves and their identity politics and understand that there is so much more to the relationship between citizen and state than a fleeting promise of more free stuff, like contraception. Whatever the government today grants you as your “right,” it can tomorrow take it away from you. Only our natural rights are sovereign and unassailable, and it is only the government that can infringe on those.

So this curmudgeonly millennial will end with a plea to his fellow generation: please stop with the identity and social politics. If Reason continues polling young people and continues hearing that they care less about economics and role of government than social issues, we as a nation are sunk. And as the carpenter said to Lord Business at the end of the Lego Movie, “you don’t have to be the bad guy,” so do I say “you don’t have to be the who, and we don’t have to be the whom.” Nobody has to dominate the other, culturally, politically, economically or otherwise. We are all equal under the law and free to live cordially in a pluralistic society that allows for wildly disparate opinions and perspectives. We are all “the special.”

Marxist Millennials?

There’s nothing more embarrassing than the left’s periodic flirtation with Marxism. Anytime a skeptical critique of capitalism is given a quasi credible veneer, the left goes nuts and forgets that their most successful (and cynical) tactic of the past hundred years has been to hide their very real and very confused hostility towards capitalism and markets.

So enter Thomas Piketty, who claims that inequality can only get worse with capitalism in his new book Capital in the 21st Century and leftist morons screech “See!!! Inequality is the only thing that matters!!! We don’t know anything about economics but we’re still certain that income inequality is a scourge because, well, because the proposed measures for addressing it involve expanding the reach of the federal government.”

Leftists hate the free market because a) the extent to which they comprehend it is roughly analagous to the depth of Hodor’s vocabulary and b) because free markets and a premium on individualism undermine the left’s sacred fantasy that society can be planned and managed and shaped to fit the majority’s will. The statist mind chooses not to accept the obvious superiority of free market capitalism over all the others because the statist believes, like a child, that perfection is possible in this life and utopia is attainable.

Utopia is impossible. Greed and avarice are innate characteristics of human beings. The least bad method for harnessing humanity’s fallible nature is to allow for maximum individual freedom. The absolute worst method for harnessing productive instincts in society is to concentrate power centrally; to trust other fallible human beings with “expertly” administering a just and equal state is to completely ignore all of human history. Leftists refuse to learn the most important lesson: that power corrupts absolutely, that there are no angels among men, and that central planners don’t fail because they have the wrong plan, but because planning (scientific, Marxist, Keynesian, etc) itself cannot work. Ever.

Are the progressives right to be so in thrall to Piketty’s work? Is their assumption that millennials and minorities will forever stay wedded to the tribe of identity politics and cultural conformity? Progressives used to genuinely champion freedom of thought and expression, but those days are over. In their pursuit to establish an unassailable culture of “tolerance,” the left has so convinced itself of possessing the moral high ground that it takes for granted that it has become indifferent to its own cynicism. This is how you get scores of bright young intellectuals at places like Mozilla and Brandeis acting like intolerant clowns by reviving timeless leftist traditions like censorship and the thought police. When you carry as an article of faith the smug certainty of your own right-thinking benevolence, you are more likely to turn a blind eye on obnoxious conduct so long as the culprits are on the right “team.” It’s all a long way of saying that I have no idea what the fate of millennial politics is. However, I suspect that Marx is the furthest thing from their minds in 2014, especially when Democrats and their Marxist-sympathizing base have had the run of the capitol for the past six years, and their ideas continue to get worse. As technology makes us more individualistic and libertarian every day, millennial lusting for a return of Marx strikes me as the left’s latest iteration of adorable wishful thinking. More likely, when the economy ultimately improves (a development sure to be delayed until our current regime steps down) and jobs are being created and filled by the chronically unemployed youth, millennials will begin to awaken from their stretched-thin hypnotism and absorb the wisdom that comes to all men with age: that government is incapable of delivering on its promises. Every effort to fulfill its promise serves to crowd out the productive private sector, which slows the economy and prolongs stagnation.

Maybe they won’t arrive at this revelation en masse, and maybe it will take longer than I hope for my generation to finally open their eyes to the awful truth of collectivism, but I will be more than a little surprised (and profoundly dismayed) should the millennial generation sustain its dalliance with the identity politics left that demands total fidelity to every aspect of the cause, with heretics put on permanent notice.