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Friday, November 02, 2012

The Choice

I heard on the radio today that this year's presidential election has effectively been reduced to whether America will follow the principles of her own Revolution, or those of the French Revolution. Because I'm not sure the extent to which the French Revolution's ideals truly have survived even in France, I'm hesitant to jump on to that suggestion.

In reality, the image I have is more along the lines of the beginning of An American Werewolf in London:
Two American college students, David Kessler and Jack Goodman, are backpacking across the Yorkshire moors. As darkness falls, they decide to stop for the night at a pub called "The Slaughtered Lamb". Jack notices a five-pointed star on the wall. When he asks about it, the pub becomes very quiet and the pubgoers start acting very strange and hostile. The pair decide to leave, but not before the others offer them pieces of advice such as "Beware the moon, lads" and "Keep to the road." Whilst conversing with each other and wondering what they meant, they wander off the road, onto the moors.

Back at the pub, the owner gets very distressed and suggests that they go after the pair. As she says this, a sinister howling is heard. The rest of the pubgoers, having barricaded the door, decline. Back out on the moors, Jack and David have also heard the howls, and they seem to be steadily getting closer.
In this telling, our choice is whether we scamper back to the road, but even if we try, it's not certain we will find it and keep from being "fundamentally transformed." Yes, the stakes may be that high.
“Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.” That was Barack Obama in 2008. And he was right. Reagan was an ideological inflection point, ending a 50-year liberal ascendancy and beginning a 30-year conservative ascendancy.

It is common for one party to take control and enact its ideological agenda. Ascendancy, however, occurs only when the opposition inevitably regains power and then proceeds to accept the basic premises of the preceding revolution.

Thus, Republicans railed for 20 years against the New Deal. Yet when they regained the White House in 1953, they kept the New Deal intact.

And when Nixon followed LBJ’s Great Society — liberalism’s second wave — he didn’t repeal it. He actually expanded it. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), gave teeth to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and institutionalized affirmative action — major adornments of contemporary liberalism.

Until Reagan. Ten minutes into his presidency, Reagan declares that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Having thus rhetorically rejected the very premise of the New Deal/Great Society, he sets about attacking its foundations — with radical tax reduction, major deregulation, a frontal challenge to unionism (breaking the air traffic controllers for striking illegally) and an (only partially successful) attempt at restraining government growth.

Reaganism’s ascendancy was confirmed when the other guys came to power and their leader, Bill Clinton, declared (in his 1996 State of the Union address) that “the era of big government is over” — and then abolished welfare, the centerpiece “relief” program of modern liberalism. continue reading...

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