If Rick Perry’s speech in New Orleans is any indication, the Texas Governor should be the Republican nominee for President. His rousing defense of unembarrassed conservative principles is exactly what is needed to defeat a progressive practitioner of techno-politics eager to use the coercive power of the state to implement dubious utopian schemes.
The most important of these principles is the freedom and autonomy of individuals as the foundation of the social-economic-political order. Selling that freedom for a mess of entitlement pottage––with its false promises of protection from the slings and arrows of existence, and liberation from personal responsibility–– paves the “road to serfdom.” Long before Hayek coined that phrase, Alexis de Tocqueville had noticed the dangerous penchant of egalitarian democracies to risk autonomy for comfort: “It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquility of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life.” More practically, this ceding of personal responsibility to the government is expensive, as we are painfully learning. The next President will have to be willing to take on what Perry called the “entitlement mindset” in order to protect our political freedom and get our fiscal house in order.
Equally important is the Governor’s salutary call for conservatives to stop ceding ground to the progressives and crediting their hypocritical demands for sensitivity and civility. “Stop apologizing,” Perry counseled: “Our opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them.” For too long too many conservatives––Senator John McCain comes to mind––have been too anxious to avoid the charges of insensitivity and hard-heartedness always flung by the liberal establishment whenever the discussion turns to the hard decisions and tough choices that have to be made to avoid the Grecian financial debacle waiting down the road. Just ask Representative Paul Ryan, whose plan for reforming Medicare has subjected him to hysterical Mediscare demagoguery. Apart from being counterproductive, this anxiety over liberal opinion legitimizes it, and colludes in the big lie that progressives––who as a group are more elitist and politically vicious than conservatives, as George Bush can testify––are sensitive populists concerned about the average Joe, even as their policies are reducing him to a dependent ward of the nanny state. It’s time we see through the therapeutic velvet glove that hides the progressive iron fist of state power.
Perry’s advice is particularly important for the next election. Barack Obama should be political toast by now, given his manifest failures both domestically and abroad, his thin-skinned narcissism, his Ivy League leftist hauteur, and his political tin ear evident in remarks such as his recent lame quip that his costly “shovel-ready” programs weren’t so shovel-ready after all. But he still has huge advantages: a spaniel media eager to fawn on him and ignore his failures, and his race. John McCain tiptoed around the contradictions of Obama’s racial identity and his long record of collusion with leftist anti-Americanism, and John McCain lost. Better this time around to take those issues on directly and forthrightly, and counter-attack vigorously whenever the media howls about “racism” or “incivility.”
Democratic politics, which expresses deeply held, frequently colliding principles and beliefs important to millions of diverse citizens, has always been rough. Worrying over the other side’s propaganda of civility and sensitivity achieves nothing but failure. If they want to win in 2012, conservatives need to be confident in the rightness of their beliefs and argue for them passionately as well as rationally. Anything else will give us four more years of progressive drift down the road to serfdom.
(photo credit: Ed Schipul)