Monday, January 23, 2012

A Dangerous Redefining of "Establishment"

With Gingrich's win in South Carolina, pundits are--as expected--falling all over themselves in an effort to explain what this means. Well, what it means is that Newt was better received by South Carolina voters than was Mitt or anyone else. No doubt, Romney's fumbling over his tax records played a role in this, as did the attacks on Gingrich's marital past (hands up, who didn't see that backfire coming?).

But there is also a lot of talk about the so-called "GOP Establishment" being worried about this, even frantic, because--apparently--the GOP Establishment is in the tank for Romney. Republican strategist Steve Schmidt tells Rachel Maddow:
And if Newt Gingrich is able to win the Florida primary, you will see a panic and a meltdown of the Republican establishment that is beyond my ability to articulate in the English language. People will go crazy...And you will have this five week period until the Super Tuesday states that will be just as unpredictable, tumultuous as any period in modern American politics. It will be a remarkable thing to watch, should that happen in Florida.
Wow, that's quite a prediction, so crazy that it's "beyond [his] ability to articulate" it. At least not in the English language. Maybe in Klingon? But it does beg the question, who is the Republican or GOP "establishment"?


Being a simple person, I had always supposed that the Republican establishment is that portion of the DC establishment that happens to be Republicans. And being a big believer in words having actual meaning, I always assumed the DC establishment consists of those politicians, staffers, bureaucrats, and peripheral officials who have an established presence in DC, who have been there for a while, have consolidated their power, and--knowing how things operate--play the game accordingly.

And like most true conservatives and libertarians, I don't care much for the establishment as a matter of course, given what's been going on in DC over the past couple of decades. Dan McLaughlin over at RedState, however, argues that the establishment is much more than that. It's a very long piece, as McLaughlin goes into an historical analysis to support his position, which can be summarized as this: the Republican establishment consists of those people--including voters--unwilling to take the necessary steps to make (in McLaughlin's words) "significant changes in our spending patterns as a necessity to preserve the America we have known."

Everyone got that? If you're not willing to take the "necessary steps," you're a part of the Establishment, period. And no doubt, McLaughlin will deem what those necessary steps are, I would guess, by virtue of his position as...a blogger.

I don't mean to sound unduly harsh, but it's stuff like this that really burns me up, people redefining concepts to serve their own agenda. And while I'm sure Dan's heart is in the right place, it's a bit much to suppose that he gets to decide who the "real" conservatives are and gets to put the rest into the "establishment" box. While I sympathize with much that is in his piece--particularly when it comes to arguig ideas--his conclusions, based on the faulty outsiders/establishment paradigm he has constructed, are wrong-headed.

He actually finds Newt Gingrich to be less of an establishment Republican than Romney, apparently willing to ignore the actual careers of both men (one has spent 20 years in office in DC, the other has spent zero) and willingly to take at face value whatever comes out of their mouths, even if it contradicts reality.

That said, I can accept that some people prefer Newt over Mitt, just as I can accept the opposite. What I can't accept is the idea that a regular voter is a part of the "establishment," just because he or she supports a particular candidate. At the end of the day, support can be based on a host of things. And demonstrating support via voting is--or should be--an exercise requiring one to use their judgement and conscience.

Supposing that people who disagree with your choice in this regard can be effectively branded as traitors--for that is what McLaughlin is really saying--is hardly in keeping with the spirit that spawned the Tea Party Movement. Or America, itself. It's the kind of stuff I'm used to hearing from the Left, groupthink and group rights, and it has no place on the Right, in my opinion.

Cheers, all.

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