Monday, August 28, 2006

Politics and the Clueless

Well, I have finished my first week of MBA school, and while that’s a lot like bragging after you’ve gone only five feet up a mountain, I have already begun to notice some things about my fellow classmates. Some of them have jumped right in and got busy with the assignments and discussion boards. Good thing too, because those DBs count towards the grade in every one of the classes. And more, the professor in each of those classes is going to start closing the old DB and open up a new one each week, meaning that to get a score for participation, the student had better not dally. Which of course brings me to the fact that a fair chunk of the students are dallying, not posting even a single thought on the DBs so far. Yes, it’s early yet, and even if they miss the first set of boards (in one class, the first set of boards is supposed to close tonight at 11:59 PM), they could make comments in other boards and bring their numbers back up a bit, but frankly that’s a poor plan, to fall behind even from the start. The schedule is only likely to get faster and tougher, and if someone is lazy in August, I wouldn’t say they will have a good time the rest of the semester.

What that has to do with Politics is this; we are all of us creatures of habit, and it’s a strong urge we fight to keep doing things the way we always have been accustomed to do, and to think in ways we always found to be our habit. There’s a real laziness to that, and it’s just not smart. While I will be quick to admit that there are Republicans who fall into this trap, mostly it’s a problem for the Left. And if you think about it, it makes sense.

Republicans reached a rough stretch from 1964 to 1978. They put up candidates who were experienced, smart, principled, but they lost, pretty much across the board. This forced Conservatives to reconsider not their ideals, but their delivery, and to expand their tent to grow the party. In that time, Republicans evolved from the principled loser Goldwater to the principled winner Reagan, while the Democrats went from the pragmatic LBJ to the clueless Jimmy Carter. A key insight to how the two parties differ in their development, is that Republicans are able to accept that Richard Nixon was bad for the country, yet Democrats cannot accept that Carter, for different reasons, was as bad or worse.

We see the symptoms in the public forums as well. I compared the present war to World War 2 in a number of articles in the past few years, and supported it with rhetorical and historical parallels. I never expected Democrats to agree with my conclusions, but it is disappointing to observe that I have never yet seen a thoughtful response from the Left in rebuttal. Personal insults and derision may make them feel better, but it does nothing to advance the debate or illuminate the issue. It occurs to me that the reason Democrats do not debate this conflict on the merits, is because they have lost the ability to debate in terms which accept the fact of their own errors, or that their opponent should be respected for those places where they are right.

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