Conservative Fire Trucks, Tea Party Goers and the Flummoxed Establishment

Political liberals periodically go overboard – an inevitable development where spending other peoples’ money is concerned. Then conservatives are needed to put out the fire.

The reigning Washington elites, the ones who see history through a social-progressive lens, tend to accept conservatives as a necessary inconvenience to be briefly endured until the progressive train can get running again. For them, it’s never quite the pendulum theory of political change – which returns things to the status quo ante. Instead, it’s the “feast and digest” theory, epochs of steady progressive change followed by periods of digestion. You hear this sort of thing all the time when liberals chatter behind closed doors – “They (read ‘the people’) weren’t ready for (insert a particular progressive reform here) yet”. The “yet” qualifier reveals the underlying assumption of eternal progress in the same direction punctuated by brief periods of conservative slowdowns while the “people” are brought on board through “education”.

The current generation of progressive liberals never been faced with the prospect of outright rejection of their broader program, and they have never been forced to consider that significant elements of the current left-liberal dogma might actually be wrong. In the Tea Party rebellion, they face the prospect of a well informed (via the internet) populist movement that is completely out of tune with all of the left-leaning populist movements of the past. As I predicted in my articles on the Coming Populist Reformation, we are seeing the first signs of a popular coalition of the productive-creative elements in society against the non-productive manipulative elements. Nothing quite like this has happened before.

I believe that the reigning elites will attempt to “allow” the Fire Truck Conservatives to oust the current liberal clique and govern long enough to “responsibly” curtail some of the worst spending and borrowing excesses without fundamentally changing the fundamental power relationships.

But there is at least a 60% probability that the current elites will fail to retain control of the situation. This is much too big for control by the current elites, especially those who were “on duty” for some of the decades when the current fiscal and economic problems were neglected.

As of now: All Western developed economies have backed into an unsustainable reliance on public and private borrowing, crippling entitlement costs and punishing taxes. Consider the sheer scale of the problem: the multi-decade history of fiscal neglect, the staggering cumulative debt load, the crippling loss of productive capacity and the huge overburden of non-productive retirees, all of which circumstances are endemic in the US, the UK, Japan, Russia, Eastern and Continental Europe. Europe can play with the notion of bailing out little Greece or Spain, and the US can toy with the notion of bailing out California or New York, but these are temporary, half-fixes mixed with magical thinking.

No one will bail the USA or Russia or Japan or Western Europe because no one can. We now face gut wrenching change, including the end of need-based entitlements, the end of unfunded government spending, and the restoration of some traditional national and moral boundaries all accomplished in hard nosed, real world terms.

This is one reason that no particular leader has yet surfaced to lead the Tea Party movement. The situation calls for some very gutsy truth-telling.

Pundits and bloggers are like war correspondents huddling below the line of fire, free to write whatever they choose with relative impunity. But any putative Tea Party leader is required to stand up in the foxhole, exposing him or herself to sniper fire.

The first leader wannabes to expose themselves to fire will take damaging hits. We’ve already seen what the media was willing to do to the former Governor of Alaska just for looking like she might someday try to be such a leader. As a result we have a bunch of second tier leaders waiting in the wings for the situation to “mature” and for someone else to take the early hits.

Meantime, most conservatives, facing the most dramatic opportunity and the most peril for decades, appear hesitant and unsure of the terrain.

The current crisis is so serious that the social issues that normally fracture conservative groups are being selectively ignored, depending on the jurisdiction (as in Scott Brown’s Massachusetts race).

When the dust starts to settle, it will be increasingly clear: This is going to be about boundaries, coherence and character.

Conservatives, as the traditional advocates and defenders of boundaries, are the natural ‘go to’ people when we need to contain debt, restrain borrowing and limit punitive taxation.

California conservatives gave Arnold Schwarzenegger cautious approval in spite of his social liberalism because (it was hoped) he would be tough where fiscal boundaries are concerned. That hasn’t worked out.

Today, for many conservatives, the question has become one of character: If a leader is squishy about boundaries and limits on social issues, can he or she be trusted to be tough where other boundary issues are concerned?

Here’s the takeaway lesson: Social liberals can be accommodated within a broad conservative resurgence, but they will need to be able to explain or demonstrate with clarity and coherence why and how their fiscal conservatism fits within an overall belief system supported by strong moral character.


Leave a Reply