Contrary to much of the mainstream commentary on the November 2002 election, it was very much about ideas—right ones and wrong ones. Shortly after the election, James Howard Gibbons wrote an editorial in The Houston Chronicle entitled “How a Tiny Tribe Won All the Marbles”, a screed about how the forces of evil, i.e., Republicans, won because of the void in the Democratic message as to persuasive policy alternatives. In a letter, I responded as follows:
“My first reaction to this incredible piece was, ‘are you serious?’ Then, I caught myself. Of course. Such is the arrogance of the left in America, which is disdainful of the voice of mainstream Americans and is condescending and insulting to the intelligence of the very ‘have-nots’ whose cause you purport to champion. It is a great example of the kind of snobbery described in Joseph Epstein’s new book, Snobbery: The American Version, as that of the ‘virtucrats’—those who, according to Epstein, ‘are convinced their views are not only correct but morally righteous, and who are the crème de la crème of political snobs’. Keep it up. You and your fellow-travelers will keep the Republicans in the majority for a generation.”
I’m not naïve. This country is still in the condition of political and cultural “stalemate” in many ways, as described by William Schneider last April (see my May 2002 issue), and the right certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but the political left has some problems, and they were brilliantly outlined in a recent essay by Paul Greenberg, part of which follows:
The trouble with the left is that:
*Its first, instinctive resort is to power rather than persuasion, to government rather than to liberty.
*It has fallen out of love with freedom, and in love with security.
*It has forgotten the power of ideas and thinks emotions, preferably fear and envy, will prove the ticket to success.
*It has come to believe that certain groups need to be privileged on the basis of their race, sex, or class.
*It has a surplus of compassion-often only in the abstract-and a shortage of common sense.
*It is addicted to victimization, and so invites more.
*It has come to prefer spin to principle and sound bites to ideas.
*It has lost touch with its religious roots and imagery.
*It may love the people, but not the individual, who might make choices the government would not approve.”
There is more, but you get the idea.
One election, no matter how decisive, does not constitute realignment. This will come only with a full frontal assault on the premises of the governing paradigm of the left. For this to succeed there should be the recognition that the recent election was decided on ideas, not spin, and that these ideas should now manifest themselves in bold, strategic, and transformational policy initiatives.