Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Some things to think about

Okay, everybody.
Let's take a good hard look at the current kerfluffle in the Great White North.
Many conservatives are up in arms over a pair of new Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Cabinet appointments.
There are two themes at play here, themes that show that conservatives are buying into the left-created structure of contemporary politics.
1. Optics are everything.
You don't here the phrase "optics" down here in the States. More's the pity. It nails the point quite well.
Think back a few short months ago to the reign of Mr. Harper's predecessor. If you had to point out a characteristic theme of the Martin regime, it was "optics are everything." Big, showy presentations, outlandish spending promises -- and no follow-through. It's the initial thought that counts, after all.
Think, too, of the U.S. Clinton administration... an eight-year exercise in public relations and spin and damned little else.
The left has turned optics into the end game. And many of us are following along.
Yes, the optics stink. But what is Mr. Harper's end-game? It occurs to me (and others, as Steve Janke has catalogued) that the end-game is a sea change in the way Ottawa works. Unfortunately, in order to change the rules, you've got to get into the game. Conservatives are now in the game.
Trust, but verify.
2. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Steve picked this line up from a David Warren post (see Angry for details). I've seen it in other forms in recent years.
In a perfect world, the controversial appointments would not have to have happened.
However... this ain't a perfect world. It's a grubby, messy sphere.
If you think back over the last 40 years or so, and the deconstructions of society foisted upon us by leftism (not liberalism -- in the dictionary sense, today's conservatives are far more liberal than those who wear the label proudly), it's because in virtually every case, the left didn't see perfection, so it engineered removing the standards or lowering them as to render them virtually useless.
"Defining deviancy down" is how the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, perhaps the last great moralist of the U.S. Democratic Party, phrased it.
If it's not perfect, throw it out.
Isn't that, at heart, what is being said here?
That's not the direction we want to pursue, I believe.
From those two points, there are others that must be made before I shut up.
1. Conservative revolutions take time.
Look down here for just a moment, if you will.
The conservative movement in the U.S. began in earnest in the 1964 presidential election. Yes, William F. Buckley Jr. was out there with National Review (disclosure: I subscribe to it), but it wasn't until a cantankerous, blunt-spoken Arizonan named Barry Goldwater ran for president that it began to take root.
Of course, Goldwater was defeated. Badly.
Conservatives took what could have been a death-blow with the Nixon disaster. As a conservative, Nixon was a farce. As an honest politician, he was a nightmare.
The movement survived.
Then the Reagan "revolution" came. We made significant progress.
The bumbling of Clinton's first two years made the Contract with America revolution possible in 1994, which gave conservatism a real opportunity.
Our current president isn't all that conservative in many regards, and some of the "conservative" leaders in Congress just might be as venal as their Democratic predecessors. But we're still in the game (though you wouldn't believe it if you only got your info from the MSM). Conservative thought and theories of governance are on the rise.
2. Don't underestimate the current leadership.
It occurs to me that a lot of people have lost quite a bit in underestimating Mr. Harper.
The Liberals, for example, lost their government.
Think about the Fortier appointment, which stinks from an optics standpoint.
You now have the Liberal opposition crying loud and hard about the appointment.
What standing will they have when Mr. Harper presents a proposal for an elected Senate? Their own words in the Fortier case will hoist their collective petards. They're in a corner now and really can't get out.
What credibility will they gain in Montreal for ripping Mr. Fortier, who is Montreal's man in Cabinet? None, I'd venture to say.
And, given the rash of scandals emanating from Public Works, wouldn't you want a bright spotlight on it as the abuses are uncovered, as they will be?
As for the Emerson appointment, Mr. Emerson is moving into a high-risk portfolio, one for which he is well-qualified. At least, I've not seen anyone denigrate his resume for reasons beyond political affiliation. Wouldn't you want the best for the job, especially if it's someone who finds that he can live within the philosophical structure of the governing party in place?
And aren't we seeking to expand our base, so that we can reverse the decline of the past decades?
Remember, too, that there was a fair amount of glee mixed in with the angst over losing a chance to topple the Martinites when Ms. Stronach departed because she was clearly in it for the power, not for the principles.
Unlike contemporary leftism, conservatism does not and should never march in lockstep. We can disagree, within the spirit of conservatism (something Buckley said 40 years ago). These debates are a perfect example of it.
And there should never be blind trust placed in any government -- the first principle of conservatism.
Trust, but verify.
When the actions start is when it will be time to kick it into high gear.