Monday, December 13, 2004

A Moose's Bone Needs Picking

Ever since BullMoose came back on line from his hiatus, we've read him with interest, but mild annoyance. I thought that the mild annoyance came from his attempt to re-diefy Teddy Roosevelt. There are great things TR did, but as Mencken* writes:

The issues that won him the most votes were issues that, at bottom, he didn't believe in; there was always a mental reservation in his rhetoric. He got into politics, not as a tribune of the plain people, but as an amateur reformer of the snobbish type common in the eighties, by the Nation out of the Social Register.

In other words, we don't regard him as a principled reformer, but as a guy who achieved good things despite his best intentions. Moreover, the good things he did achieve were due not to his internal desire for "reform", but came as a result of raw political necessity. In order for him to cultivate the adulation and power he craved, he had to make a good show of giving the people what they demanded.

This doesn't quite explain our distaste for the Moose, however. Americans diefy the wrong guy for the wrong reasons all the time. The Democrat's march to turn Bill Clinton into our last great president is another perfect example (Hey, we love Clinton, but he was - in the words of a greater mind than ours describing a really out of this world cat - "just this guy, you know?") And as a friend recently pointed out to me, the national myths about our historical figures are more important than their humanity insofar as they give us ideals to live up to. Besides, it doesn't really matter to us how you arrive at the obvious conclusion that a healthy dose of sensible populism would benefit our democracy.

No, what irks us to no end was finally summarized recently by the Moose himself. In the conclusion of a post summarizing a Weekly Standard article on Republican lobbyists, he laments the "perversion of the Republican Revolution". ARE YOU EFFIN' KIDDING ME?

This attitude - also reflected in the article he summarizes - that the Republican Party was at some long lost time the great white hope of reform, that the Republican Party has ever had core principles other than transfer of large sums of money from the taxpayers into private hands, that the Conservative Movement in this country stood on great principles such as "limited government" is at last as phony as TR's populist reflex. The Republican Party was indeed out of complete power for a short while, but their "reformer" pose was simply a ruse to reclaim what they thought was rightfully theirs.

I remember the Republican Revolution well. I didn't vote in that election, and on being informed of this, my brother called me and said, "Thanks a bunch jerkoff. You just gave us Newt Gingrich." This wasn't strictly true, but it stung. I also remember the "Contract With America". The policy aims in this document were quite simple. It sought to roll back as much social spending as possible, while making sure that people who didn't need economic protection got it in spades. That's always been the essence of the "small government" movment. The matter of principle at stake is not that "freedom" is ensured by "limited government", but that the rich in this country deserve what they have, and they shouldn't have to pay any taxes even when it's in their long term best interest to do so. If "small government conservatives" stand for anything, it is the desturction of the country. They showed it when they shut the government down "on point of principle". Need anyone be reminded that when Congress does anything "on point of principle", it should be translated as "we're doing it because we stand to make something on the deal"?

The Republicans at that time actually managed a rhetorical feat that would have made TR both jealous and proud. They couched their brutal agenda in terms of "libtery", "freedom" and other colorful language invoking the founders and our great documents. Because of this brilliant con they didn't succumb to the necessity of doing anything good. Instead they were able to implement their agenda almost unvarnished, all in the name of preserving the great principles of our country.

So the Moose is disillusioned with the elephant. This is good news, but how is it that he ever bought the lie in the first place? Why is it that political "experts" like the Moose aren't allowed (or refuse) to say the one obvious thing about our system? Reform is impossible as long as government is bought and paid for. People who run on the issue of "reform" have little interest in it since reform wouldn't serve them any more than it serves the current crop of hucksters. What's needed is not a "reform party", but a populace that is cynical and educated enough to know who is leading them, and angry enough to force them to quit screwing around. Neither party wants this, because it would really shake things up, so away we go with business as usual.

The worst part of this is the Moose's opening salvo:

As one of the Moose's favorite philosophers, the Who's Peter Townshend aptly said, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Well, the new boss in 1994 was the old boss of 1988 and 1984 and was the new boss in 1980. How is it the Moose missed it the first 3 times?

*We'd like to claim we're the proginators of the blogosphere's "The 21st Century: Mencken, Now More Than Ever" movement, but only because it's nice to know we beat Wolcott to something...