Friday, July 30, 2010

Preening For 'Principles' Isn't Prudent

"Should I vote for Candidate A and measure B, even though neither one is my ideal?"

Alright, this is not philosophy, it's politics. Politics is engaged in to get political measures accomplished. The 'getting accomplished' part is easily seen as a revolting part, a part which I, and most of us, would like nothing more than to distance ourselves from, but too often that sentiment is one which is taken as an easy opportunity to place ourselves upon a pedestal far above that of those lowly politicians, and as an opportunity for us to bask in the approval of our own preening gaze.

But unless you are endorsing dictatorial powers, you don't get to enforce your views upon others, no matter how 'right' you may be convinced you are, and so as a person who reveres liberty, you must work to reach agreement with those who don't see things the way you do, and that requires of you both the ability to engage in some of the give and take of compromise, as well as the ability to see when the process is demanding too much and passes beyond legitimate compromise and into the realm of violating your principles - or theirs. There most definitely are agreements that should not be made... and it's important to recognize those situations, but it can't be done with the equivalent of a bumper sticker being used in place of a principled reasoning.

This isn't an easy process and it most certainly isn't a clean and neat process, but it is the one that is required of a people who intend to be, and wish to remain, a free people.

Politics is not a static, mechanical process, it doesn't lend itself to scenarios where you can say

"In all cases, when issue 'A' occurs, respond with issue 'B', until issue 'C' results, then return to your starting point"
Sorry, no, doesn't work that way, and it doesn't work that way for the same reason that YOU don't work that way, for the same reason that YOU don't think that way, and for the same reason that YOU wouldn't put up with living that way, and that is because it would be unreasonable and inhuman.

We are (even when you might attempt to avoid it) thinking creatures, hopefully rationally thinking creatures, who have the ability to Reason and hopefully some skill in reasoning, and we must attempt to apply those skills in our lives as much as possible. Rousseau and the rest of leftist thunkers would have us think that we are merely reacting creatures, creatures whose lives, thoughts and actions are determined entirely by external events and ingrained and uncontrollable passions which it is the duty of the elite legislators to control through the use and application of political powers - and that my friend is the very basis for every leftist and statist program out there, from free lunch at school, to being provided a free living, lunch, dinner & doctor and pension at retirement.

But we are not animated pinball machines, and if we tried to live without actively thinking we'd be devoured by nature in nothing flat. And thinking is not akin to following a checklist of static do's and don'ts in a flow chart. Everything that occurs, occurs within a given context, contexts which include not only their own specific and immediate environment, but numerous factors leading up to them and surrounding them, and a varying likelihood of other factors following from them, and the never to be escaped uncertainty as to what exactly might happen next, which may well confirm, alter or blast all of your expectations to pieces.

Politics, like life, requires attention to the moment, awareness of the past, and a canny view of what's coming down the pike. What may have worked at one time, 1992 for example, is unlikely to produce the same results today, and even if they did it's highly likely that those same results in the different context of the here and now, would be entirely undesirable.

Principles give you general rules for reasoning, they tell you how to think, but they cannot tell you What to think, and to use them as if they give you particular answers, rather than as guides to discovering the best answers, is to mistake their purpose and to destroy the good results you had expected the use of them to achieve.

Principles are a vital component of reasoning, and vital to a successful, worthwhile, moral life - but they are tools to aid you in thinking, not tokens which can substitute for thought, or aid you in escaping the effort of reasoning.

John Burns, of the St. Louis Tea Party Coalition, recently put up a very good post on Gateway Pundit (get well soon Jim Hoft!), conservatives in general and those of us in the Tea Parties in particular, that we must THINK in choosing our candidates and issues, and that insisting on 100% compliance with your personal litmus tests, and of refusing to work with, or even denouncing, those who don't meet your pre-formed positions.

"Winning back the country from the grasp of Socialists is difficult work. It’s a task that will take many years and the tireless effort of countless individuals. But although this is a long-term process, winning this election is important. Because of this, we can’t get bogged down in internecine warfare, turf battles and ego clashes. And it may seem highly counter-intuitive, but for this specific election cycle where so much is on the line, we can’t forget that “perfect” ideological candidates (candidates who are “perfect” on all of our issues) aren’t always the best choice at the polls in the primaries."
But many folks out there are loudly, and boastfully, insisting on particular, litmus test approved 'perfect conservative' candidates, or else they'll take their vote, uncast, and go home, and as John points out to them, this is a suicidal idea,

"Another sure path to failure: making the perfect the enemy of the good. This election cycle is very similar to triage in an army field hospital on the battlefield. If you’ve got one man shot in the arm, another shot in the chest and only one doctor, some quick, decisive decisions must be made if both men are to survive. The doctor must attend to the chest wound first because it’s the most serious."

and it is a recipe for the defeat of every value these people claim to hold dear. Jim Durbin also posted on the subject, as did Bill Hennessy, who had an excellent observation,

"On November 2, I will follow the advice of the wisest man I every met, William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley’s rule for picking a candidate was simple: “Always support the rightward-most, viable candidate.”"
These posts brought out comments there, and throughout facebook & related sites about these people being moderates and RINO's. Pause and just let that sink in for effect, John Burns, Dana Loesch, Jim Durbin & Bill Hennessy as moderate RINO's... if you know anything about any of them and that doesn't make you laugh at ROFLOL strength, you're funny bone has quite possibly become cancerous.

What's worse, and more to the point, is they, and those who supported their positions, Dana Loesch for one (and yep, me too, just your average moderate RINO - SNORT!), are being used as opportunities by their critics to make these grand sounding statements,
"I won't vote for anyone who's less than 100% conservative! That's how we lose our movement! same old b.s. that the Republicans must be moderate and compromising with the Dems which by the way is what lost the congress to the dems in the first place..." and my personal favorite "... this negative ‘do it for the good of the party’ lecturing is starting to sound an awful lot like another frequently echoed mantra..“Everyone Must Sacrifice For the Greater Good”... or "You guys all have it backwards. And I can't tell why you are doing it. Bad strategy or strategy. Rinos confuse me..."

These statements are made while puffing their feathers out, as if they've just made an admirable declaration of Conservative Principles, then they preen a moment and bask in their own pure glow, and then sneer at anyone who questions the wisdom of what they're saying as being moderates and RINO's.

What's blatantly on display here, and symptomatic of the very issue they think to criticize, is an absence of context and inability to reason with prudence. Context has been an item in the news lately, as a result of Breitebart's NAACP video, and it's often noted now that when you drop the context - either from the narrow particulars of the issue involved, as was partially done in regards to Sherrod (the joke is that within the full text of her speech, the was much said that was far worse than the feeble implications of her 'turning point story'), or from the real point of Breitbart's video, not the narrow focus upon Sherrod herself, but the approving responses of the NAACP crowd attending to her speech.

Context must be taken into context
Even Context must be taken into context - or else you risk dropping it altogether!

So, lets look for the context that these faux-principled preeners are dropping. Let me give an example of similar statements and actions that were given, properly, in a very different context, when I, and many others, did and said seemingly the exact thing these folks are advocating, but which in that context, was a proper, well reasoned position to take.

In '92 we still had a relatively rational world (in comparison to that of today), the communists were openly in the governments the USSR, not the USA, etc, and so when Bush 41 broke his "Read my lips: no new taxes!" pledge, I and many others, refused to vote for him or his RINO supporters in the next election. As a result, Bush lost, and a large number of RINO's were purged from congress.

Because we did, a newly galvanized conservative base insisted upon, and very soon got, the "Contract With America" and the 'Republican Revolution', which among many other things, shut down welfare, HillaryCare and in general managed to stave off the proregressive socialistic assault for almost 20 years.

There was, however, a counter balance to that surge of course, in consequence of it we also got 8 yrs of Clinton, and I don't think most people realize how damaging it was, legislatively and morally, to the nation and to our understanding of who we are - but even so, on balance, much was accomplished which I don't think could have even have been hoped for, if Bush 41 had won the election, rather than Clinton.

The point is, that you've got to look at the full wide-angle lens picture and realize that it is highly unlikely that you'll ever get the luxury of having a clear choice between Good and Bad situations or perfect and botched candidates; far more often than not we are presented with a situation where we only have the choices of 'not so good', 'worse' and 'much worse', and we must make the effort to realize that that situation doesn't exist in a vacuum, separated from the rest of the world, we have to remember to evaluate not only the immediate goal, but the lesser and later implications of that situation as well, which will soon, in all probability, come to the fore and become the primary issues to be dealt with.

In '92, it was a reasonable risk to allow the Presidency to be lost, in order to galvanize the like minded and make a strategic gain in the mid-term elections. Clinton, foul as he was, was a Democrat, not a full blown proregressive leftist, and we were also not faced with a full democratic congress and president whose leadership and advisory teams are openly admiring of socialistic, and even communist, leaders and 'principles', armed to the teeth against us with new thousands of pages of (unread) legislation in place which, if not repealed, could conceivable mean that our remaining constitutional liberties will be lost... for a very long time.

Then And Now
But as well as that earlier strategy played out (there was far more than Welfare that was stopped in the following years Gingrich years, it's worth going back and looking at what the 'Contract With America' accomplished not only legislatively, but in the rules which congress and it's committees operate by), it would be foolish to forget that we also lost important ground (literally in some cases, Utah lost millions of acres of statehood to the Fed Govt, because of Clinton's actions), due to our principled stand then.

The gamble was that for the loss of short term gains, we'd make some more valuable long term gains, and that given the then current climate and foreseeable future from the vantage point of 1992, it was worth the gamble, and on balance I think it did prove worthwhile.

In 2000 I did not vote for Bush 43 in the primaries, it was obvious to me that he was what he proved to be, a moderate, and in some areas a progressive leaning candidate, I feared he'd be a disastrous choice (and his Medicare Prescription bill, Amnesty, and disastrous bailout approving measures bore me out), but come the election, between him and the greenie meanie algore... good God, there was no choice whatsoever.

2004 was another year of a same issue, but between the moderate progressive Bush, and the vacuous leftie Kerry (can you imagine if John Edwards had been even close to having power?!), I simply could not sit that one out.

2008, again, the exact same issue came around, but this time deciding to 'stand on principle' was a suicidal venture. I personally had many times over stated that I would never vote for the proregressive, little 'r' republican McCain, that Teddy Roosevelt progressive in conservatives clothing... but in the context of choosing between McCain, and Obamao, it would have been, and I think has proved to be, suicidal to have chosen to sit out the election, rather than forcing yourself to swallow hard, hold the nose, and vote for McCain.

Because so many so-called 'conservatives' took their bumper-sticker 'principled' stand - without consideration for the full context of the issues and realities involved ... they literally left us to our present fate.

In the climate of 1992, it made sense to stand on principle and sit out the election or to vote for a 3rd party, but that was not the situation in 2008, and it is most certainly not our climate today.

And it is also important to note that the bumper-sticker faux principled stand was NOT the right stand to take in 1992, taking it only happened to not produce a wrong result - that is a far cry from being the right thing to do. It's akin to saying that putting on a blindfold, spinning yourself around and then 'choosing' between a glass of arsenic and a glass of wine - if you happened to select the wine... it's lucky you didn't pick the wrong glass, but I'd hardly call that a correct Choice!

The context, and the method of reasoning you use in making your choice, is as important as the actual choice that is made.

We simply cannot afford to sacrifice a broad midterm election today (though there may still be some isolated instances where it might make sense to, the earlier NY 92 with the Scozzafava scenario comes to mind), in order to make a point for a future election - that is a myopic, and IMHO, a foolish, meaningless, effort, made more with your own puffed up self regard in mind, rather than the real good of the nation. For the same reasons, it was a wise move to campaign in that NY 92, even though whatshisname lost, AND it was right to do so for Scott Brown earlier this year (and really, anyone who didn't realize he was a RINO, and that he would perform just as he has, wasn't paying attention - but in the context of that election and the looming healthcontrol vote, it was clearly the better choice, in Massachusetts, between a poor candidate and a worse one), for those very same reasons, it is a wise move today to look less at the blustery (and self defeating) faux 'statement of principle', and look at the wider context and Prudent, choice.

As Bill Hennessy noted above,
"Always support the rightward-most, viable candidate..."
, any candidate, and believe me, it galls me to say it, but ANY candidate today, that is less left than the leftist candidate, is worth your voting for, and is worth your making an effort to get others to vote for them as well.


Because it is wiser to hold our nose and vote, and to work for, a lesser quality candidate now, DOES NOT mean that we stop or pull back in our efforts to lay the ground work for the more perfect candidate in future elections. It does not mean that we accept, as a matter of course the idea that we have to 'Go along to get along', or that we (choking back vomit) "Must be more bipartisan". It does not mean that we stop letting those in the various legislatures and levels of political machinery know that we are STILL GODDAMN PISSED OFF and are coming for them, that their moderate RINO butts are being targeted, and when the ammo is available, they will be fired - when it benefits US, our real Rights, and the interests of the Nation, to do so.

Our modern system of education has nearly eradicated all knowledge and comprehension of the virtue of Prudence - I'd suggest that we all pull out our Aristotle ('Practical Wisdom' is how it's often translated in Aristotle) and Aquinas and study it well - make no mistake, without it, the Republic will be lost (and BTW, Prudence held big time sway with the Founding Father's generation... go ahead... have a look at what they had to say) - it doesn't mean the finger wagging, temporizing of Dana Carvey's Bush 41 "wouldn't be pruuudent!", it is a vital Virtue, perhaps most important of the Cardinal Virtues, and absolutely key to the process of reasoning.

Bumper-Sticker 'Principles' Simply Wouldn't Be Prudent
In reality, the faux principled stand, is just another instance of top down thinking, more suitable to proregressivism, than to what we typically call conservatism, or more correctly, Classical Liberalism. Principles are tools of thinking, not mindless statements to help you escape the effort of thought.

Making a supposed stand for 'Principle', in the absence of the wider context, divorces that stand from any claim to Principle. Principles are not some fixed statements, Kantian imperative that can be applied in any and every context without thought - to do so is just an excuse to avoid thinking - and insisting that they be taken as such has been a tool of the left to destroy the very idea of being principled! As I noted a couple years back,
"...Kant then enforces his fantasy worlds through the Categorical Imperative, which is supposed to be a statement of ethical conduct that will be true in all situations – regardless of context. This is a typical example of what comes from Elites who not only distrust peoples ability to act morally, but fear their ability to judge for themselves. Typical of Listicism (the attempt to substitute “To-Do Lists” for active thought), is it's intent to make thought unnecessary and judgment replaced.

It is interesting to note that his own categorical imperative “Never Lie” is in direct opposition to “I have found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith.” – or do you think such categorical statements allow for little white lies of omission? Nah.."
To be Principled, requires a clear awareness of the facts involved, and as much as is possible (and wise), the facts which make those facts possible - or in other words, the Context, and then carefully reasoning with that principle, and actively applying the principle to the full context of the issue, in order to come up with a prudent, principled, response. Any claim to being principled, that isn't also Prudent and integrated into the full context of the decision, is NOT a principled action, just a shallow aping of principle.

In 1992, given the full context of the times, it was a principled stand to vote against Bush 41, and because many of us did so, we got the Contract with America, and set the socialist agenda back almost 20 years.

Today is nothing like 1992, it would be a betrayal of principle, and of the Republic, to sit this election out, or any of the foreseeable elections, because the available candidate (or 'rival' Tea Party group) doesn't meet a perfect 'principled' litmus test.

If we're going to prevail, we're going to have to think, and that means going beyond a bumper sticker grasp of the principles this nation was founded upon. If you trully want to stand for Principle, and see those principles followed by others, you'd damned well better be out there beating the bushes to get your message across and understood - and I don't mean just at election time - elections come at the end of the political process. Do so now, and next month, and next year, especially if you know that your views are in the minority. To simply stand in the way, shouting 'Stop!", chest puffed up, and congratulating yourself on 'standing for principle!' is foolish at best, and such posturing for 'principles' displays no comprehension of what they mean or entail.

I do understand the sentiment of the preeners, I don't like the moderates and RINO's, or those who seem to propose compromise as a valued end, rather than a, at times, grudgingly necessary means. For instance, I'm not a fan of Newt Gingrich as a candidate, because he is, it seems to me, oriented around Gov't being a useful tool to solve problems, rather than what it should in any active sense be, a dangerous tool used to defuse specific obstacles to the exercise of individual rights, protecting property rights and securing the Rule of Law. Newt, for instance, would happily involve govt in the system of healthcare, involve it is putting govt initative's behind efforts to modernize the healthcare system and developing electronic records standards - good God! (Anyone out there ever been involved in any Gov't electronic 'standards'? Ever try to decipher HIPAA standards for use in a large IT System?!) But he is obviously an intelligent man, has done much for this nation, and if he were to win the primaries, and if the climate is anything like today, I might find myself in a position again where I'd need to hold my nose, as I did for McCain, and vote for him... but given a different climate, one more like 1992 for instance, I'd eagerly send him packing pronto.

The context matters, context is King, and to forget that is to hamstring your mind, and far from 'standing for Principles and Freedom!', you're far more likely to bring about a hyper pragmatic tyranny.

In short: Think first, then "... support the rightward-most, viable candidate.”"


xlbrl said...

I don't think you have been honest with yourself, or you would not use the term "preener" to describe those who might see that the game is fixed and object to playing it to the point of self-abuse.

When a slot is rigged to give a payout of 48% that is so far above the average that the sucker is grateful to get it, but fewer now have the illusion we are even getting 48%. That is progress.

The left scarcely can live without the Republocrats to repair their worst excesses. Without them, the whole thing would collapse. The problem with McCain and his type is that he is so enthusiastic about his role. I did not vote for McCain in '08, and he is the only Republican I did not vote for--I would be very sorry were he President now. Obama is only a symptom and symbol of our condition, which is at least eighty years in establishing itself. The hounds are loose, and it is a good thing.

I will no doubt hold my nose and vote again in November, but there must be limits. Having those politicians like McCain and Castle over the line in our camp is more damaging by far than having them where they belong--with Specter in the Democrat party.

It would all be a brilliant leftist strategy if it were a strategy, but is really only a sign of the advanced nature of our decayed republic and permanent government.

I do not know how this could play out for the better, but that is not because I do not believe it can turn around. It is only means that I do not know how. But what it could not be is a careful taking back of powers wrongly taken. It will be sudden, or it will be nothing.

BTW, I take no offense whatever at anything you have written, and know you will not object to me whacking at your toes with my toy hammer.

mushroom said...

I think we could do away with or at least declare a moratorium on 'RINO' -- unless you can make it funny. It's kind of like "hitler", "nazi", and "racist". It's really just a way to shut somebody up and not debate the issue. I don't think "neo-con" is a very useful term anymore either.

Van Harvey said...

Xlbrl said "I don't think you have been honest with yourself, or you would not use the term "preener" to describe those who might see that the game is fixed and object to playing it to the point of self-abuse. "

? No, I was being very honest with myself... didn't take a whole lot of introspection to do either, I was speaking exactly to those I've had several conversations with, face to face, who just get the prissiest expression on their faces and say "Well Iiiiii only vote 100% Conservative!", and who, btw, can rarely tell me just what that means, or even give a rough definition of what political Rights are and what they require. They're pretty damn quick to blather on about how great the Founding Father's were, but can't quote more than a phrase from the Declaration of Independence or much beyond the words "1st Amendment", etc... the inability to quote wouldn't be a problem of course, but for the obvious ignorance of anything they actually said or understood.

In short, the people I was particularly speaking to are preening themselves in a phrase they've decided puts them into a 'holier than thou' light, and it just galls me.

Now of course there are areas where there are grounds for disagreement, someone can certainly make an argument for voting for, or against, a particular candidate, and even for a broader principled stand - having evaluated the situation thoroughly, weighed the possibilities, and decided on their position. I likely don't agree with their conclusion, but they are the ones I'm talking about.

Maybe I should have made that clearer... and more of a "some people preen...", I can see how you wouldn't want to be lumped in with them - sorry about that - but, yeah, about those folks, I was being very honest.

"Obama is only a symptom and symbol of our condition, which is at least eighty years in establishing itself."

Well, other than stretching the timeline back to about 150 yrs, you know I agree with that, no particular vote is going to truly fix anything, we've got to fix ourselves before any real solution will take root, but all of the particular votes do matter on the way to that.

"The hounds are loose, and it is a good thing."

They certainly are loose, as I've said before, over the previous 20 yrs I've found about 3 people willing to talk about these issues, since Bush began the bailouts... I couldn't even begin to count them - that much is a good thing, definitely.

"BTW, I take no offense whatever at anything you have written, and know you will not object to me whacking at your toes with my toy hammer. "

Toy hammer? When did PlaySkool start making ball peen hammers?


No, no offence whatsoever taken, always enjoy & welcome reasoned disagreement!

xlbrl said...

I would like to know, borrowing my magic wand, if you would like to go back in time and see to the election of John McCain. I think that would be a continuation and acceleration of disaster for conservatives, and that the election of Obama began a process of discovering the true condition of our country. Tom Paine got that one right: Evils, like poison, have their uses, and there are diseases which no other remedy can reach.

Purity does not cross my mind, putrefaction does.

Van Harvey said...

Xlbrl said "...if you would like to go back in time and see to the election of John McCain. I think that would be a continuation and acceleration of disaster for conservatives, and that the election of Obama began a process of discovering the true condition of our country."

Ya know... I've given that some thought, and I think my view can best be summed up as cancer survivors often say (Tony Snow too, if I remember right) "It was awful, but with what I learned from it about myself, my family and friends, I wouldn't trade it for the world"... but the fact that something awful did produce something good out of it, is, I think, hardly the same as saying "I recommend that everyone go out and get cancer".

Yes, Obamao's election (actually Bush's bailouts did it, Obamao just... er... capitalized upon the situation) does seem to have finally awakened the sleeping sense of the American public - hopefully in time, but still, given the choice again.... I of course don't think I could pull the lever for a proregressive marxist, and I don't think I could stand by and skip a vote that might help keep him out - even if it's for someone closer to Obamao's ideas, than mine, as McCain is.

Just too sickening a consideration.

But now that the cancer is here, I welcome the beneficial side effects, no doubt.