Today’s teachable moment
Erick Erickson, in what is an otherwise very nice post, writes:
Romney made a conscious decision to blow off Hispanic voters. Yes conservatives, we must account for this. The Romney campaign to the hispanic community was atrocious and, frankly, the fastest growing demographic in America isn’t going to vote for a party that sounds like that party hates brown people. That does not mean the GOP must offer up amnesty. It does mean that a group that is a natural fit for the GOP on social issues, must in someway be made to feel comfortable with the GOP.
It seems like this is becoming something of a tradition with me, making this kind of argument in response to an election postmortem written by someone on my side, but it has to be done, and I’m evidently the one willing to do it. So here it goes: the fact that constitutional conservatives / classical liberals / members of the GOP don’t actually hate brown people is what matters — not that, by the standards of the left, we are comprised, as a political faction, of those who sound like we hate brown people.
And that is the point that has to be made. Again, I have no problem with Erick’s suggestion that a group that he believes is a “natural fit for the GOP on social issues” be made to feel more comfortable with the GOP. This, demographically speaking, is a given. But what I sense lurking beneath that suggestion is that we take a more Jeb Bush approach to introducing ourselves to Hispanics — that is, we treat them as separate identity group to which we must promise special dispensations — rather than the approach we should have been taking all along, which was to introduce Hispanics to the ideas of individual sovereignty, religious liberty, a stable rule of law, and a system of government that, at its ideological core, promotes industriousness and innovation, freedom and self-reliance.
The free market doesn’t care what color your skin in. Individual liberty applies to everyone in a constitutional republic — and we can’t have it if we give over control of our natural rights to an ever-expanding nanny state. Not only is it unsustainable financially, but from an ontological perspective, it is transformative: free citizens become subjects, and the political class becomes entrenched, distributing favors, freedoms, and wealth in whatever recipe it must to keep power. This is the message we need to get across — and to do that, we must first stop accepting as a natural rhetorical baseline the way we are portrayed by the left. That is, we must refuse to allow the left to make us sound like we hate brown people, we must refuse to let them consistently define us, then react defensively to their accusations and slanders.
We needn’t pander or change our beliefs. We instead need to be willing to fiercely and effectively articulate and defend those beliefs, and when the left tries to race-bait and demagogue, we must refuse to accept their characterizations and grow vocally indignant or laugh bemusedly at their tactics, and more, point out those tactics: what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they hope to accomplish by playing to emotions while hiding the effects of the policies they hope to promote as a result of creating warring identity groups and economic classes. We must ridicule those tactics, expose them for the intentional and divisive distractions they are. We must teach people that when the left engages in such rhetoric, it is not only cynical, but it betrays their contempt for the very people they claim to champion, suggesting as it does that without their progressive favor, the poor brown people couldn’t possibly hope to compete in a free market under a system that insists on equality of opportunity, natural rights, and stability of law, but instead they must rationalize taking from others — their betters, it turns out, regardless of what nefarious way “the rich” got their money, because those rich were able to negotiate the system, and most of the brown people simply don’t have the mental wherewithal to do so, it would seem — being as they are naturally inferior creatures in need of white liberal charity.
I’m already hearing from GOP pundits that we must start putting up more Hispanic candidates — another “pragmatic” foray into the “us too!”-mindset that has always, since Reagan, kept us rushing to keep up with the left, to “disprove” what was never necessary to disprove in the first place. It’s a defensive posture, it smacks of desperation — I felt it at the last GOP convention, and I’m sure it seemed as hamfisted to many Hispanics as it did to me — and worse still, it performs the very Balkanization the left relies upon to keep its identity group politics paradigm viable.
That is, it agrees to play by the left’s rhetorical rules. And they who own the rules own the game.
We’ve tried nothing but “moderate” Republicans since Reagan. And that’s because the GOP establishment likes the idea of bigger government, more centralized power, and the ability to reach into every aspect of our lives every bit as much as does the left. They just wish to get there with lower taxes — and don’t insist upon the speed of the fundamental transformation the left so longs for.
This isn’t “pragmatism.” This isn’t about “winning” — because every victory would be Pyrrhic one under such circumstances, built on repeating the panders necessary to gain power in the first place while keeping hidden the core principles of conservatism, and so perpetuating the left’s paradigm for governance.
That’s no way to play. Either change the rules, or change the game. And to do so begins — as it always has — with language.
And the left controls the language precisely because we’ve allowed them to institutionalize linguistic and hermeneutic ideas that are a systemic foundation for tyranny and collectivism. Our language — how we conceive of it, how we believe it to function, how we’ve allowed its abuses to become found truths and bedrock foundational assumptions — is what is moving us inexorably toward authoritarianism.
The way forward is through a reclamation of language. Because a reclamation of language leads to a reclamation of epistemology — which in turn creates a problem for leftist indoctrination, itself reliant on those incoherent linguistic assumptions that they’ve managed to turn into perceived linguistic truisms.
Once we regain the ability to think in a way that is consonant with Enlightenment principles, we’ll then be able to begin our own long march through the institutions, clearing out the false prophets and would-be tyrants and all the jargon-rich sophistry they’ve laid as a fancy veneer over what is essentially a creaky, moldering foundation.