I had always thought this type of romantic posturing more typical of the hard left. The world is going off a cliff of inequality and capitalist oppression — so pitch a tent in Zuccotti Park. Achievable results, even reasonable demands, are irrelevant. What the revolution needs is fearless consistency. Movement conservatism, meet Occupy Wall Street.Indeed the striking things about the Tea Party are its despair about where the US is headed and its contempt for the usual methods of American politics. I guess we'll see if their strident language and obstructionist tactics do anything to advance their goals, but right now things don't look very promising. They seem determined to damage our country as much as they can before the "surrender caucus" finally outmaneuvers them, leaving piles of wreckage strewn along a twisted path back to the status quo. It's very discouraging, really, not just about American politics but the whole notion that human behavior can be rational. Here's hoping the reasonable people of the nation can get together and put a stop to this before the harm gets much worse.
There is a difference between tactics that are difficult to implement and those that are unviable from the start. In this case, the effort had little to do with governing and everything to do with positioning — the ideological maneuvering of tea party leaders. And they will certainly take the defeat they invited as further evidence of the GOP impurity they decry. When intentions are all that matter, no outcome can be discrediting.
But sometimes, it’s been said, the greatest courage is displayed in standing before a crowd and affirming that two plus two equals four — now the main Republican challenge. Political morality is determined not simply, or even mostly, by intentions, but rather by results. There is a virtue in achieving what is achievable — in actually making things better than they are.
Effective leadership requires large, visionary goals — Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms or Ronald Reagan’s post-Soviet world. But it connects vision to strategy. It stretches the boundaries of reality without denying the existence of those boundaries. It both opens vistas and draws maps. The political world is moved by optimistic pragmatists, not by despairing utopians. The best leaders give romance to realism.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Michael Gerson Speaks for the Nervous Majority
It is a measure of the bizarre events taking place in Washington that I find myself nodding in agreement to the comments of people I almost always disagree with: Pat Buchanan, Jennifer Rubin, etc. And now Michael Gerson has written a terrific essay explaining that the Tea Party is more like the crazy left than actual conservatism. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and their ilk, he says, combine apocalyptic rhetoric about where the country is headed -- “We have a couple of years to turn this country around,” said Cruz, “or we go off the cliff to oblivion” -- with childish ideas about how to achieve their goals: