Monday, July 26, 2010

The Cold Civil War

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's house conservative Kyle Wingfield reviews the week of Shirley Sherrod and the use of the race card. He worries that US "politics increasingly resembles a cold civil war", and that last week represents the first successful testing of the race card as a weapon of the right.

Of course it's a cold civil war. Clausewitz's dictum: "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means" applies to civil war as well as any other war. Domestic politics, we might say, is merely civil war by other means. The insults and provocations of the daily game of politics all point towards the ultimate domestic threat, the jump to real war rather than the normal "politics ain't no beanbag."

You get to civil war, in my view, when the Ruling Class gets clumsy, just like the bloody Brits in the runup to the Revolutionary War. The Obama administration is a good example. Obama ran for president as a healer who would calm the rancor of the Bush years. He would be post-partisan and post-racial.

Instead he and his counterparts in Congress have mounted an attempt at partisan breakthrough, attempting a huge liberal agenda that would be almost impossible to reverse. Thus the huge stimulus plan, which starts up a whole raft of new programs under the guise of one-time stimulus. Thus ObamaCare, rammed through on a party-line vote. Thus the Dodd-Frank financial reform that merely increases government control over the financial markets.

When you do that, you expose the fictions of politics. You expose the reality underneath the comfortable euphemisms of day-to-day politics, that we are all in this together, that each government reach for power is in fact a consensus of all parties, that government programs are kindly attempts to help people rather than payoffs to supporters. And you encourage a growing minority to believe that only force will serve to redress its grievances.

Today the Weekly Standard has a big piece on President Obama's shift to divisive populism: "The Unpresidential President." James W. Ceaser argues that a president makes himself bigger by being inclusive and presidential. He makes himself smaller when he gets down and dirty. And President Obama, as his problems mount, resorts more and more to naked populist demonizing of the opposition.

The president should take a look at the tactics of his predecessors. President Bush was presidential to a fault, avoiding partisanship except in the direct runup to elections in 2002 and 2004. President Clinton, in his inimitable way, faked bipartisanship even at his most partisan, as in: Those Republicans are opposing my bipartisan balanced budget.

The big question in the cold civil war comes down to this: if and when the American people, led by conservatives, decide to roll back the welfare state, will liberals accept the will of the people and keep their supporters peaceful, or will they "take to the streets?"

It's the difference between Ireland and Greece.

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