Saturday, June 07, 2014

The left in America began as a political insurgency. Now it runs everything.

The GOP doesn't actually believe in anything. It's been through too many changes over the years. It's become a big tent for fiscal and social conservatives, as long as they don't actually try to set policy, for foreign policy hawks, as long as they don't push for anything Democrats are opposed to, and for an assortment of constituencies that add color and identity, but don't actually get their way.

Republicanism has become a bland colorless conservatism that stands for some sort of competence and a vague commitment to smaller government and a stronger national defense which exists in theory, not in practice. It's for morals, until they become too unfashionable. It's for apple pie, as long as it's not too fattening. It's for proving that the left is unfair to call it a crazy bunch of extremists.

In placid times, that can work. Ideology is tiresome and no one likes being yelled at. It's why the left does so poorly in most elections. But in troubled times, people want something to believe in. They don't want the hollow assurances of hollow men that everything is fine when it clearly isn't.

That's when the Republican Party actually has to stand for something and explain why it stands for it.

Neither party actually does that except in the vaguest of ways, but the public rightly senses that there is a system of coherent beliefs behind Obama. Many of them would run screaming for the exits if they had those beliefs spelled out for them, but they're not details people. They respond to passion and certainty. They like knowing that a candidate is animated by something more than careerism.

The public rightly sensed that there was no such system behind McCain or Romney. Both men believe things, but they're big on being pragmatists. Their beliefs adapt to the situation. They have their own moral centers, but it's not ideological. Their passions are personal, not political.

The Tea Party changed that.

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