BORROWED WISDOM: Political Elites Rarely Grow Liberty

There are few out there that I deliberately make time to read every word with a very focused mind…mainly because they tend to impart a special brand of Top Shelf wisdom well above my pay grade. I used to be this way with the great Victor Davis Hanson back in his Works and Days period but I admit that now I feel so synchronized to his thought patterns that reading the current daily/weekly volume of material does not feel necessary because I’ve already largely reached the same point from the data inputs of the day. (Much like I mostly stopped listening to Rush after about 1999…by the time the show came on at noon, I already “got it.”.) But there are still some in that class…enter OleSummers of Ricochet Member Feed fame. All of his offerings are worth that type of focused attention and frequently they are simply “home runs.” He has given me permission to post his latest home run in its entirety here. (I hope to do so often and with others as appropriate under the Borrowed Wisdom headline and tag.) Who knows, maybe someday I can convince him to start posting his thoughts here directly. Anyway, enjoy:

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by OleSummers (Ricochet Member Feed, February 1, 2023)

I may spend most of this time talking about our political elites but rest assured, they have been among us throughout history. We will have them and those who aspire to be them for as long as this secular world lasts. But for all but a fraction of a fraction of humans’ time on earth, they have wormed their way in the affairs of men, mostly serving their own purposes. They have been circling the seats of power from isolated tribal chiefs, monarchies large and small, cruel dictatorships, developing republics and crumbling empires since even the lowest forms of rule. And they will continue to be. The real question is not how to eradicate them (that is only semi-serious) but to know who they are, see them for what they are and understand they can play a role but are not the path to human Liberty. That is, of course, if we are truly interested in the Liberty promised us as human beings.

If it is that Liberty we are interested in, then the topic moves to the political elites of the Republican Party and what is often referred to as conservatism. That is not because the GOP has been any great champion of either Liberty or conservatism for the last several years. But, at present, it is the single best vehicle available to defend and grow them – even if its record of doing so can be disheartening. I want the GOP to be that force and voice for Liberty. But it has to step up to become an active, bold and effective agent for the restoration of the republic as founded or get out of the way for something that will. If it is admitted or not them – and our republic – are running short of time.

The left has actively managed to put us on the national brink of squandering the heritage won for us not just by past generations of Americans but also by a few thousand years of struggle, hope and sacrifice by a human race which has known our sort of freedom for only a few brief seconds in its existence. But the left did not do it by itself. Just as important as their radical firebrands, maybe even more so, have been the elites of all stripes who crave calm power over what is often ruckus freedom. They have let it happen.

The GOP is not a conservative or Liberty-based party and hasn’t been for quite a while. Since 1960, there have only three periods when they can claim any brief advancement of such principles: the Reagan administration, the Gingrich Speakership driven by the likes of Phil Gramm and Dick Armey and the Trump administration. In each case, the progress made was mostly due to the grass roots base over the foot-dragging or outright undermining of the party regulars (either overt or covert). In each case, the commercial political class of the party stood ready to return to a more comfortable course as soon as the more conservative threat was lessened. Reagan wasn’t even out of office until Bush was running on the code phrase of “kinder, gentler” which was too easily read as a step back from the Reagan approach both at home and abroad. Even Bush One’s “read my lips” attempt at sounding more common man disappeared as soon as the same old concerns among elites of both parties raised their heads.

The first time that the Gingrich majority slipped some, the party hurriedly abandoned that course and were glad to see Gramm and Armey heading back to Texas.

Never had the resistance to actual conservative governance by the political classes, the compliant media, the entrenched bureaucratic and administrative parasites, the mostly worthless consulate class and the standard party regulars been more overt, openly nasty or deceitfully vicious than when the Trump administration was born from the frustration of the grass roots with the constant indifference of all those aforementioned (as well as a few more). These and all their enablers hid behind either a real or pretended offense to Trump’s personality and mannerisms. As real as some of those traits were (and still might be), the real issue lay not with his crassness but with the naked truth of the unaddressed concerns he gave voice to and a real belief by the plebs that he would actually attack those matters in a way all the “right people” refuse to.

Of course, it is hardly just at the national level that the grass roots plebs are constantly herded back into their proper places by either traditional or self-appointed elites trying to preserve political comfort instead of the Liberty intended with the Founding. The concern too often is much more about government itself, commercial political classes of both parties and securing positions and seats more than actually what will be done for Liberty with those positions and seats.

As an example, for years Texas establishment Republicans were more than happy to “share” power with Democrats and keep conservative reforms [swept] into the corner. Joe Straus served five straight terms as a Republican Speaker in the Texas House and always had the committee chairmanships almost even among Dems and Republicans. The more conservative voices were always left almost without platform. The lieutenant governor is the most powerful legislative officer in the state serving the same role in the Texas Senate as the Speaker in the House and the Senate far too often became the place where conservative legislation lucky enough to make it through the House came to be downgraded or shelved. A major crack in the hold of the establishment was when Ted Cruz was able to upset the sitting Lieutenant Government David Dewhurst in the primary for the United States Senate seat. Dewhurst then lost his bid for re-election as lieutenant governor. The state now has a much more conservative governing governor as well as Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor and Ken Paxton as AG. The difference is that they all not only actually push conservative agendas but they fight and fight hard and often creatively. That can especially be said of Patrick and Paxton who are under constant attack because they are effective and ever aggressive. The Speakership is in better hands but still far from what it can be. The ways of a false “bipartisanship” die hard sometimes. With a clear GOP majority in the House there are still far too many Democrats sitting as committee chairmen. That has led to tension between Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan about the nature of some of the legislation coming from the House and how strongly they address (or don’t) certain issues. Phelan, of course, has his defenders among the establishment types of the Bush/Strauss old guard.

But the state Republican Party has been going through some grass roots of its own and there are active representatives from the different precincts engaging with the legislators each session and accountability seems to be growing.

As I have said, we will always have some form of these critters. And they do have some uses. But if we are to function as a real republic based on Liberty, they have to be put in their place. And kept there as much as possible.

Some basic facts have to be remembered while trying to reshape a party to defend and advance Liberty. One is that in the past when the establishment GOP “won”, it didn’t mean that the base actually won anything. Some questions worth remembering include, “When was the last time that GOP wins actually resulted in a weakening of the power of the government over our everyday lives?” Or, “Did GOP seats stand in the way of the left’s attack on our national culture?” Or did those seats merely slow that attack a bit while the commercial political office-holders, the deep state leaches and the consultants maintained decorum as their own wealth, power and comfort grew? If winning a few seats only results in a slightly slower death instead of an immediate one, why not have a spirited, principled and determined fight to argue the case for Liberty. That might even prepare the ground for a more meaningful “win” in the future, one resulting in genuine advances toward Liberty.

Of course, just below the party elites sit a slightly different class clinging to the status quo. They are comfortable there. Some even see themselves as either a subset of that elite or among those who are accepted by the elite. This sets them (in their own estimation) between the elite and those less insightful or politically aware who make up the bulk of the voter base. They will never admit to it but they are the same useful shills to the elites that the elites are to those powers above them. They will bask in their own self-importance while defending those of the elite as being more “reasonable” and “practical”. When those of the base raise up to expect actual results from their continuous votes and contributions, these will join in the dismissive tone about their lack of depth and understanding [as] well as the name-calling condescension. Those wanting more accountability (and results) from the elites become “real turkeys”, “crazies”, “wacho-birds”, “yahoos” among a few other dismissive titles.  

Politics really is show business for the ugly. At least, for some it is more a means of importance (imagined or otherwise) and association than advancement of Liberty. The commercial political class hang around either as office-holders or consultants milking a growing pile of other people’s money becoming wealthy while providing little service. They glad-hand those just below giving them an importance at least in their own minds.  That imagined importance buys their resistance to the comfort of the accepted order.

If we are to look to a political party for the protection and advancement of Liberty, that party should live in a world of accountability. Those who make up the base certainly do. Their accountability is a daily matter beginning with the most basic elements of their lives. For the leadership of the political party not to live in that world is unsustainable, especially for the Liberty we claim as a national principal.

Perhaps the greatest failure of the GOP leadership and its elite, commercial practitioners has been the progressive surrender of the culture our nation was based and founded on. It has been a failure to openly defend the values and principals at the ground floor of that culture from the advance of the left. The discomfort that career, commercial politicos have with the “social issues” leads them to concede while claiming they are more concerned with the “practical” such as fiscal matters, which they do little about anyway. Surprisingly, it seems one can be a “fiscal conservative” and still vote for massive budget increases each year in the name of bipartisanship and the effort to “reach out” to mythical new recruits who never pan out. Even these “conservatives” seem to believe that it is better to “reach” people through government dollars spent than by reason, logic and common interests of family, faith and shared prosperity.

I really want to avoid examples of this since they are almost endless. BUT perhaps the most oblivious is the abortion issue. And I am sure that an honest word or two on the subject will raise a few hackles (where is exactly is one’s hackle anyway and how high do they raise??). For decades the establishment type “conservatives” worked hard to dance around the issue and distained their more plebian brothers who were vocal on the matter. Over-attention to such commoner concerns would surely costs “us” votes, especially among the more sophisticated and in turn “we” would lose seats, etc. How valid the issue was or how fundament was hardly the concern or the point.

But time, concerted and principled effort and the determination of a few who understood that politics and seats without moral substance lead away from Liberty, not toward it has brought us to a new place in regard to abortion. A terrible decision was overturned. I will not bother with counting the fresh, new lives that had to be lost in the meantime.

True, abortion is an emotional issue and requires both hard facts and spiritual and moral clarity to address. But still there are plenty desperately seeking a “common and reasonable” ground to lessen what they perceive as political impact. We are now at a point where the “science” makes it hard if not dishonest to deny that even in the earliest of stages it is an actual human life that is aborted. Those who support abortion are passionate and loud. They are divisive to the extreme. But once again I will state that sheer facts as well as strong moral and practical arguments fall mostly on the other side. Still, there are plenty who would push for a “reasonable” compromise, hopefully to win voters.

Many of them would point to a 15 week period before any ban on abortion in the false hope that would tamp down the reaction from the left and be a “safer” standard at election time. As usual, they either are dishonest in this or simply refuse to admit the left does not intend anything but complete acceptance of their wishes. The left doesn’t believe in or accept compromise. They will not stop until they have destroyed all standards and then will move to the next target. A simple fact is that over 90% of all abortions occur in the first 15 weeks. So if you believe that we are talking about an actual human life, the 15 week standard is still destroying that young life and your suggestion is merely politics as well as impractical in the long run.

Those facts above do not mean rejecting the standards you can get at the time. But they do demand continuing a fierce and determined effort. You call it what it is and don’t deem it as “reasonable” for political comfort.

But that is only one example. A political party is not an ideology. It is a tool with which to try and achieve a goal. The question asked of any party should revolve around those goals. I suggest the real standard applied should always be the Liberty intended by the Founding. And will the party as we see it now actually fix anything. The record for party elites the past few decades is not good, or acceptable.

I still contend that if there is an answer for the GOP, it lays at its base among those rag-tag plebs with muddy boots and dirty shirts and everyday concerns about family, faith and individual freedom. Their concerns and basic values make a much sounder foundation than the fad of the moment. If we are to rebuild our republic into something that more closely resembles the founding vison, it will have to come from the ground up. That means more involvement by those of us who don’t normally seek the company of those drawn to such things. But that is what is required of us, either in this party to right its course or in the next one. In either case the elites and the want-to-be elites will be there and they cannot be allowed to prevail. 

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There are many gems in there. I will come back later in the comments to address some of them.

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