When Does Policy Matter?
Some of you remember me from the TEA Party days, attacking the Republican Establishment and helping to lead the charge to oust a powerful potential future Speaker of the House, in Eric Cantor. You read my diatribes on Virginia Right, warning of fiscal corruption and run-away spending. You felt my vitriol toward a government that simply did not reflect the “will of the people.”
Tom White was the proprietor and editor at Virginia Right. When it comes to policy, I agree with him on a swath of seriously important issues: then and now. But when Donald Trump entered the race in 2016 and it became clear that our website would be Trump’s platform in Virginia I left.
Many of you may be familiar with me from my days at The Bull Elephant. This was a conservative blog, one which at the time seemed amiable to my 2016 Republican candidates of choice. Senator Rand Paul and Senator Ted Cruz got a lot of respect there. But I think most of the folks there understood that Rand Paul’s campaign, youthful, energetic, and incompetent as it was didn’t stand a chance. So, like myself, many of them embraced Senator Cruz’ message of fiscal conservatism and constitutionalism.
Yet, as Trump ascended, many of them, in order to “own the libs” jumped on board the Trump Train. To this day, The Bull Elephant has become a Trump Train Publication. They don’t care about policies. They care about beating Democrats.
Once again, my opposition to a specific strain of viral populism forced me to leave.
Here we are today. I’m writing side by side with authors who question my worldview, disagree with my paranoia in the face of debt when it suits them, and who do not share my Classical Liberal ideology.
Here’s what I’ve learned in all my movement amongst Virginia’s conservative ideological wings: We’re too focused on ideology and we pay too little attention to policy and the philosophical/moral foundations that support them.
I have many Democratic-voting friends. But rarely do our civil conversations touch upon the fundamental policy questions requisite a worldview capable of producing meaningful legislative compromise. What’s strange is that this is equally impossible amongst my Republican friends.
When you focus on actual policies (as opposed to ideologies) you are forced into a corner of compromise, limited to objective data, and incapable of making arguments of sentiment. The idea that I can use “what-about fallacies” becomes untenable. Just because Democrats have bad policies doesn’t make a Republican policy I support valid.
You can’t discuss policy without understanding the content area.
Somehow, over the years, an understanding of content area has become utterly irrelevant to an activists’ respect for an opinion concerning said content.
We have Republicans attacking the Department of Education as if our schools weren’t funded primarily by state and local taxes. We have folks voicing their opinions on education standards, without understanding how little the federal government actually does to establish them.
We have big opinions on trade and taxes, without understanding who funds what, who taxes what, and who benefits from said funds and taxes. We have big opinions on economic liberty, without meaningful discussions about the costs associated with both liberty and regulation.
In truth, we’d all be moderates if we understood how local, state, and federal governments actually operated and understood what was required to improve our collective processes and procedures. We’d all be moderates if we understood the opportunity costs of our ideological intransigence.
I’m a Classical Liberal. I believe strongly in the philosophies and traditions that established foundations for the majority of the economic opportunities we enjoy today. I don’t piss on the electoral college when it doesn’t work for me. I don’t celebrate executive overreach just because “our guy” is the one overreaching.
I’ve watched as leaders in the Liberty Movement have sold their souls in order to “own the libs.”
I’ve watched as the smartest people I’ve ever met, squandered their intellectual leadership to score populist favor and fervor.
I couldn’t care less what you say. I care what happens. And I have to ask the question, that in the wake of the liberty movement, the TEA Party, and the Conservative Movement, have any of us moved the ball on policy?
Of course we haven’t.
We hated the ground we stood on. We gave power to those who fell in love with the idea of “burning ‘it’ to the ground.”
What we never accomplished was an attention to detail. Republicans haven’t developed better policies since 2003. We haven’t made the schools better. We haven’t made the bureaucracy better. We haven’t made the military better. We haven’t made local and state government better.
All we’ve done is won and lost primaries and won and lost elections. And most of the morons you’ve come to love over the years have made a decent living doing exactly that. You believed in something. They took your money. Everything stayed the same.
Most Democrats I know feel left out. Most of the Republicans I know feel ignored.
Yet, all of us depend on one another to force legislation capable of establishing a better cultural, environmental, and economic playing field within which to operate.
Republicans have spent the better part of the last several weeks attacking one of their most capable Congressmen, because he officiated a gay wedding. This asshole had the nerve to recognize both the values and liberties of some of his biggest supporters. You didn’t help him get elected, but you hate him for showing love to those who did. You couldn’t name, understand, or appreciate a single piece of legislation he’s introduced or supported in his time in Congress. Yet you’ve got these big opinions. You’ve got to attack him, because what you really love is theocracy.
You’ve defeated Delegate Chris Peace. That’s great, if it was about policy. If this was about healthcare, you have my complete support. If it was about Trump, you don’t.
I hated Delegate Peace’s legislative record, but that doesn’t make me assume that Wyatt is somehow going to be an improvement. I know Hanover County. I know how you handle your business there. Do you really expect me to believe we’re better off today without respect to the policies that are likely to come forward over the next two years?
I think Hanover County activists will support massive tax increases and all manner of perversions against the conservative agenda, insofar as, and as long as, Delegate Peace pays for his sins against the Republican Creed.
Nothing we do seems to be about policy. Therefore, nothing we do will win anyone over to our side.
If African Americans felt that Republicans offered them policies that would help their communities, they’d vote Republican. If minorities felt that Republican policies were aimed at their benefit, rather than aimed at their subjugation, they’d support them.
Is it true that Democrats have enjoyed access to identity politics without being accused of being racists, while an old, rather orange, white man engages in the exact same behavior gets accused of exactly that? Yes. That’s true. If Trump’s white identity politics is racist, then so is the entire Democratic Party. But so what?
Did Trump rid us of the scourge of identity politics? No. He brought us into it. Did he make race less of an issue? No. He made it more of the issue. Did he bring minorities and Europeans closer together? No, he made damn sure that we’d stay apart.
If that’s the Republican Party you want to support, then you are the problem. If you’re going to try to represent the liberty movement, or the constitutional movement, or the anti-debt movement, or the conservative-movement, while supporting Trump, then you are the problem. You are.
Those of you who made it this far and know that I love you, probably took this last paragraph kind of hard. It’s the Democrats that are hurting us and we’ve got to Own Them! Surely I can’t call you a hypocrite for doing that.
Yes I can. Yes I do. Yes I will.
Because you are. And you’re stupid for thinking that selling out to populism is the best way to get where you want to go.
Selling out to Trump and his white-identity politics demonstrates that you aren’t the moral, philosophical, or ethical leaders we thought you were. You’re just a “Burn It To The Grounder” whether you like it or not.
If you love liberty.
If you fancy yourself a conservative.
If you believe in the Constitution.
Then you need to focus on policies. You need to advance them. You need to win voters over to their merits.
Everything else you do is a waste of your gosh darn time! STOP IT!
Be the adult in the room. If you lose, you lose. If your activist friends call you a Cuck, if they look at you like you’re as horrible as Shaun Kenney, if they think you are everything that’s wrong with Republican Politics then you know you’re doing the right thing.
If you don’t fit into their theocracy, good. If you don’t fit into their electoral strategy, good. If you’re mocked, good.
If you are a Christian with passionate values and beliefs, you have the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of Peter. You don’t have to support people and movements that don’t align with your values. You don’t have to deny your values, your philosophies, your well-educated positions on policy.
You do not! You can say, “Yes, I know him! I love him!”
Be yourself. Stand up for what you believe in! You’ll sleep better at night, even if Facebook and Twitter despise you.