September 20, 2010
The Counter-Revolution Has Begun
By J.R. Dunn
The Tea Party victories of last week have clearly revealed the movement for what it actually is: not a tantrum, not a voter mutiny, not a short-term insurrection, but something never actually seen before in this country — it is a counter-revolution.
A lot of attention is being paid to the candidates and their chances. Carl Paladino will have an uphill battle in New York, divided as it is between an ultraliberal NYC and environs, and Mohawk Valley and adjacent mountain regions, in which the population has been reduced to a peasantry doing what they’re told and voting the way they’re supposed to. (This explains the election of Hillary, if you were wondering.) So says this old Utica boy, and I have my doubts that Paladino can overcome such a level of stasis. As for Christine O’Donnell, I can’t do better than Peter Wehner’s comments here. O’Donnell has aroused a lot of enthusiasm in the past few days, but whether that will translate into votes in one of the most liberal states in the Union remains to be seen. Clearly, she is the most vulnerable conservative candidate in this election cycle. That said, there’s one thing that can’t be denied: she ain’t Mike Castle.
But such speculation, I think, misses the point, which is this: the Tea Party tsunami is knocking down every obstacle in its way, no matter if it’s Republican or Democrat. If there were Whigs or Ghibellines running, they’d be dropping too. The Tea Parties are a political phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes, one that occurs once every century or so. It is exhilarating to witness.
Confronted with polls suggesting an unprecedented turnover come November 2, the Dems have woken up to the fact that this is something extraordinary. Give credit where it’s due: they are throwing everything they can against it — racism, classism, homophobia, Palin-Beck-Limbaughism — but the monster just keeps coming. I have serious doubts that they will find anything in their arsenal that will knock out more than one or two candidates. The Republicans (and paradoxically, the GOP has suffered more to date than the Dems, with five major defeats of chosen party candidates) haven’t grasped even that much. They still seem to be operating under the assumption that they can move in and take over once the Tea Party votes them in. When Robert Bennett went down, I wrote that the GOP hierarchy needed to straighten out its agenda and get right with the electorate. But the party had other things in mind, and now the pirates are swarming over the gunwales, and it is just too late.
A counter-revolution — not merely a reaction against Obama, although he was certainly the trigger, but a nationwide backlash against politics as-as-usual as it has been defined over the past seventy years. Though the New Deal did nothing to ease the Depression, it did succeed in rearranging the political landscape, utterly wrecking the contemporary Republican Party, and converting the Dems to a working political philosophy of permanent revolution. Since the 1930s, American politics has been a madhouse of Fair Deals, New Frontiers, Great Societies, and Green this-and-thats, topped with a genuine, certified messiah to lead us all into the Promised Land. Liberalism was converted into an ideology, much like the other ideologies of the epoch, and with similar flaws: fanaticism, political blindness, and dedication to an invisible, ever-receding goal. It has left a trail of destroyed traditions, wrecked institutions, betrayed minorities, and failed policies (not to mention tens — and perhaps hundreds — of thousands of dead Americans). Its accomplishments are comprehensible only in terms of the ideology itself, which means that they are imaginary. This process has brought us to a point where we’re looking at the possibility of an actual authoritarian society comparable to the type that we destroyed wholesale across Europe and Asia during the 20th century. If this succeeds, it will be one of the most cynical and bitter historical ironies on record.
It took the GOP several decades to adjust to this state of affairs, but by the late 1950s, it had adapted a kind of modified “me too” stance, in which Republicans claimed to be able to achieve liberal social and political goals more cheaply, more effectively, and more in line with traditional values. This has been the strategy of the party’s liberal wing from the Rockefeller Republicans through today’s RINOs.
But the voting public wanted no such thing. Public opposition to the liberal program, whether Democrat or Republican, was expressed through the conservative wing of the GOP, which regularly produced such figures as Goldwater, Reagan, and Gingrich. Goldwater lost the 1964 election but set the blaze that culminated in a new and vibrant conservatism. The Reagan Revolution was effective at setting the leftists back, but by itself, it could not overcome a half-century’s worth of abuse. Gingrich had a serious impact but failed in the end due to lack of follow-through.
At the same time, the GOP elite, directly descended from the Rockefeller moderates, consistently steered the party back to the left. Congressional Republicans in large part were satisfied to remain a party of doppelganger Democrats, stifling any impulse for serious change. (A single example will suffice: In the midst of the Gingrich insurrection, with Bill Clinton on the ropes due to indiscretions with half the women on the East Coast, the best the GOP could come up with as an opponent was Robert Dole, Mr. Go-Along-to-Get-Along in the flesh.)
It is this establishment that the Tea Party counter-revolution is working to overthrow. This is not merely a matter of sending a few candidates to Washington in vague hopes of “reform”; it involves a complete upending of this country’s political culture. Not only the Obama leftists dumped on the curb, but the Republican trimmers piled right alongside them and a new, reformed GOP established that will stand for actual American values. This process is not limited to a single election cycle — it’s a long-term program. It is a counter-revolution.
Counter-revolutions can be tricky. Revolutions are straightforward — you simply destroy the standing system and replace it with your own. But the conundrum of the counter-revolution is that you can’t step twice into the same river. Due to passing time and changing circumstances, you can’t simply return things to the way they were. You have to adjust, to examine the system clearly and decide what has to go, what can be reaffirmed, and what needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, with the sure knowledge that the results will never be perfect. It’s in this that counter-revolutions tend to fail. As yet, the Tea Parties have not demonstrated that they are capable of carrying out such a process, or even that they even recognize that such a process is necessary.
But the important thing is that the American counter-revolution has begun. After the truncated Reagan and Gingrich revolutions, here is the real thing propelled and directed by the anger and will of the American people. O’Donnell and Paladino may well fail –many of the candidates may fail in one way or another either before or after the elections. But it will make no difference in the long term. It’s no longer a matter of counting seats, making compromises, and hustling deals; it is a matter of smashing a rotten, corrupt, and enervated system based on an errant and repellent view of human nature and replacing it with something perhaps not perfect, but at least in tune with our constitutional traditions, the political nature of this country’s people, and the century we live in. The people are leading, and the politicians will follow — or they will go to the wall.
At last, we have the opportunity to tear away the dead hand of collectivist ideology imposed during the ’30s. We’ve heard a lot lately about the “decline” of America, of our “diminished status,” our “lowered expectations.” This country isn’t in decline — it’s being held back. Throw off the restraints, and we will astonish the world.