Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Comes Next?

Pat Buchanan says that this election is the "Last Hurrah" of the "New Majority" put together by Richard Nixon.  In 1972, Nixon "annexed the Northern Catholic ethnics and Southern Christian conservatives of FDR's coalition to win 49 states in 1972."  With the Todd Akin gaffe on "legitimate rape" that whole coalition seems like an embarrassment.

Come on Pat.  The social conservative majority had its Last Hurrah with Bush's 2004 reelection, and collapsed in the shame and ignominy of 2006 and 2008.  And if Todd Akin is a laughingstock, then the idea of the abortion ladies headlining the Democratic National Convention next week is absurd.

Nixon's majority has been history since 1992.  Instead, we are at the end of the Third Way era, the idea that you could have your cake and eat it too.

Here's what I think.  I think that the American people are confused and waiting for leadership.  You can see that from Frank Luntz's experience with undecided voters here.

After the exhaustion of the Bush years, the Democrats had a once in a generation opportunity to create a new coalition based on the promises of America's first black president to get beyond the partisan divisions of the previous decade.  People were hoping we could get beyond the race wars and the culture wars.

Instead, President Obama has intensified partisan division in the country.  Instead of putting race behind us, he has unleashed the race-card sharps.  Instead of using his majorities in Congress to craft a bipartisan consensus on economic policy, health care, and environment that would co-opt Republicans as junior partners in a new era in federal policy, he rammed stupid partisan garbage straight down the nation's throat.  President Obama has thrown a gigantic opportunity into the garbage can, and so everything is up for grabs.

My own view, expressed yesterday here, is that we have reached the end of the stunningly hypocritical "socially liberal, economically conservative era."  For years our top 20 percent has been happily talking socially liberal while acting socially conservative.  Meanwhile the bottom 30 percent has been descending into social hell, with reduced marriage for women and less work for men and shattered homes for children.  Our Democratic friends like to say that we should return to the days of high tax rates and good unionized jobs at good wages of the era from 1950 to 1979, but they are longing for a time that can never return.

Socially liberal and economically conservative are like oil and water.  If you want to be socially liberal then you are going to need a big government welfare state to pick up the pieces of shattered lives.  If you want to be economically conservative then you are going to have to be socially conservative too, because a small government requires big, responsible citizens.

So what does that mean for the future?  You could simplify it all into two ideas, but that would be too naive and simple.  But what the heck.

First of all, we need an America where ordinary people get to solve their own problems in their little platoons.  That means that liberals must stop "confiscating" problems and insisting that only they have the chops to solve big national problems.

Second, we need a social culture symbolized by the idea that abortion should be "safe, legal, and shameful."  In other words, we shouldn't be trying to legislate morality.  No indeed.  But humans are social animals.  That means that we collectively, in our conversations, rough out an idea of right and wrong, and then we properly judge those people that violate our ideas of right and wrong.  I'd say that one thing Americans ought to be able to agree on is that taking the life of an unborn child is not a good thing.  Sex is a serious business, and pretending that it is recreational, or just a matter between her and her doctor is a lie.  But criminalizing social issues is stupid.

Freedom means nothing if it does not mean the right to make a mistake.  But actions have consequences, and, socially liberal or socially conservative, economically liberal or economically conservative, a mistake is a mistake.  The question is: how do we, as social animals, help our fellow citizens in avoiding stupid, life-harming mistakes?

The second question is: when do we stop lying to ourselves?

Once America's top 20 percent resolves its stunning hypocrisy on the "social liberal, economically conservative" issue then the confusion of the Frank Luntz's undecided voters will disappear.  They will all start mouthing the platitudes of the New Responsibility consensus.

And the political party that best communicates the ideas of the New Responsibility era will win most of the elections.

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