Archive for October, 2013
I have intentionally steered clear of a lot of political commentary and when things do have political overtones they have typically been about health care policy and demographics. However, the current government shutdown has me thinking about my Dad who was professor of political science at the University of Arizona and a Republican politician. In 1963 he wrote a short book “The Republican Dilemma” about the tensions between the more conservative elements of the Republican Party and what were then called Eisenhower Republicans who were more moderate. His main point was that these tensions started in the 1930s. He also predicted the rise of the Goldwater wing of the Republican Party that had many of the same basic positions now being promoted by the Tea Party Republicans.
The 2.0 Version.
Ideological tensions in the Republican Party have been discussed over and over again and you hear a lot in the current crisis about divisions in the Republican Party that mirror what my Dad wrote about. As I looked a little deeper into this I found something from 1981 about a book called the “New Right”. The book was written by Alan Crawford who is a self-described conservative and has written extensively about conservative issues. The New York Times review of the book makes an interesting summary comment:
“The New Right knows how to create and organize dissent, but it is less than adept at gaining and exercising power, Mr. Crawford concludes, because of its insistence on purity, which has no meaning in politics. Thus a Reagan presidency would not necessarily mean that his New Right followers would assume positions of power. They would be more likely to splinter away.”
The 3.0 Version.
That sounds an awful lot like what I used to hear from my Dad at the dinner table growing up and it certainly seems like it has come to pass. If Crawford’s analysis is the 2.0 version of what my Dad and others were saying in the 1960s, here is a 3.0 version from Ross Douthat from a couple of days ago that is an excellent summary and also very insightful.
“So what you’re seeing motivating the House Intransigents today, what’s driving their willingness to engage in probably-pointless brinksmanship, is not just anger at a specific Democratic administration, or opposition to a specific program, or disappointment over a single electoral defeat. Rather, it’s a revolt against the long term pattern I’ve just described: Against what these conservatives, and many on the right, see as forty years of failure, in which first Reagan and then Gingrich and now the Tea Party wave have all failed to deliver on the promise of an actual right-wing answer to the big left-wing victories of the 1930s and 1960s — and now, with Obamacare, of Obama’s first two years as well.”
Principle vs. Pragmatism
Politics is a messy business, and democracy is especially messy. Having grown up in a political family I may be a bit more understanding of the posturing, compromise, and short term thinking that is part of politics. That having been said here are two quotes that our elected officials should keep in mind as they try to dig out of the current mess. The first is from Everett Dirksen the iconic Republican Senator from Illinois. He commented:
“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”
The second is from President Reagan :
“If you agree with me 80 percent of the time, you’re an 80 percent friend and not a 20 percent enemy”
Last time I checked FLEXIBILITY and FRIEND are not four letter words.
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