One of the things I have learned in my brief time on this planet is that knee-jerk post-mortems are often wrong. I find that blame and recrimination are too often part of the process, and it tends to cloud thinking and obscure what is important. The post-mortems of the 2012 elections have been no exception. And while I would dismiss many of them outright because of the desire to point fingers and lay blame, I have to confess the one that surprised me was the one offered by my brother from a different mother and father, Rosetta.
Here in my own state of Washington, we had gay “marriage” and pot legalization on the ballot this year, both of which passed, either on the strength of what I call “reefer logic” or warm and fuzzy lies, but both offer insights into what happened nationwide.
First, the gay marriage referendum, R-74. In 2008, our legislature passed the State Registered Domestic Partnership Act which allowed people to form officially sanctioned relationships with a member of the same or opposite sex, conferring all the same benefits that are conferred by marriage, except for the name. This meant that same sex-couples would be eligible for “spousal” benefits offered by employers, inheritance rights, and community property rights, as well as all other benefits conferred by being in a state-recognized relationship. But that wasn’t good enough. And after waging a campaign that cynically stated that redefining the term marriage would grant same-sex couples the right to hospital visitation (a lie, as thank to HIPPA, even “straight: couples need to execute Medical Powers of Attorney to make medical decisions for incapacitated spouses, and to have a free and full exchange of health information with their spouse’s medical doctors.), and as a “civil rights issue”. It became a cause celebre of sorts to change a centuries-old specific legal definition, and the fact that it was based on a blatant lie, and the diminishing of a genuine “civil rights” issues, didn’t detract at all from the allure that this measure held for proponents. No doubt it made those who voted on it feel good, and it was certainly easier than thinking. I’m sure that some of you are asking “So they redefined marriage. So what?” Well, it may seem like a small thing, and an easy thing, and not worthy of the effort to stop. Except that for every change we make to the bedrock of the law, robs what remains of a little of its meaning. Do this enough, and then it gets easier to look at the law and say “It doesn’t make sense, so let’s just chuck the whole thing.” I know that the possibility seems remote, and as long as you are only surveying from each incremental change, this only seems more certain to be the case. But think of it as being in a boat on the ocean. Off to the left, you see a rocky shore. There are no oars in the boat, but you have an anchor, which keeps you from being pounded against those rocks, no matter how high the waves get. Now imagine a fog bank that conceals the shore, and the rocks. And that fog bank lingers for days. Maybe you hear the waves braking on the rocks, but aren’t able to interpret what you hear. Maybe you can’t hear it at all. And then you wake up one day, and decide that it is pointless to have that anchor. Now you are heading for those rocks, and you don’t even know it. And that’s where we find ourselves today, as we collectively pat ourselves on the back and feel good about our enlightened view on the matter.
Our other ballot measure was one to legalize possession and use of up to an ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years old or older in this state, which plays into the first suggestion made by my friend Rosetta to help Republican’s be successful in future elections, which was “Legalize Marijuana”. Both he and the proponents here in Washington share the idea that this isn’t a serious crime anyway, and therefore, it doesn’t make sense to be enforcing it. Rosie’s point is that we can empty a lot of prisons; the argument pre-election here in Washington was that it would free up law enforcement resources to prosecute “serious” or violent crimes. I remain unconvinced. Rosetta also shares the belief with advocates here that this will be a revenue opportunity for the state, because a legal trade can have the snot taxed out of it. And finally, he glosses over the idea of collateral damage as being minimal, and something that should be the interest and crusade of private killjoys, rather than the government. Yesterday morning, I heard the Seattle City Attorney being interviewed on the radio while I was driving to work. He employed what I call “reefer logic” in talking about the reasons for legalizing marijuana, and what happens next now that Washington has said “Yes.”
Among the rationales he described was that it is just “sound policy”. He stated that the “War on Drugs” has been a crashing failure, which has cost trillions of dollars, and therefore, it just makes sense to end that war for those reasons. At this point, I was shouting “GREAT! Since that is the measure of “sound” policy, I expect that we will also end the “War on Poverty” tomorrow, since the government has also spent trillions of dollars with little or no objective success to show for it!” (I know, I know. That’s been about creating dependency, not fighting it, so there is no reason to expect it to be measured by the same standard.) He then expressed his belief that the Federal government would resist this, and that it would end up in Federal court, which he welcomed because it would allow for an “adult conversation” about the concept of federalism, which is only proper as “it concerns the decisions made by the people of two sovereign states”. At this point, I could not believe what I was hearing. Abortion was not an issue for a discussion about federalism? Welfare was not an issue for a discussion about federalism? Not Obamacare? Not environmental regulations. But Pot…Pot was a hill to die on with concern for Federalism.
Frankly, I think the idea that this was going to free up lots of resources for law enforcement isn’t necessarily so, but the bigger issue is that of collateral damage. I am concerned that the idea of tax revenue being a primary driver of legalization. There is a moral component that doesn’t appear to have been considered, that being government sanctioning a vice not out of a belief that the individual has a right to self-destruct without interference, but because it can make money from it. I can hear you. dear reader, as you say “But we tax alcohol, and we tax cigarettes. Why is this different?” the short answer is that those taxes are incidental to their legalization, and not the reason for it. It is a fine distinction, but I have a hard time believing that government should be more concerned about what’s in it for them, rather than the effect on the individuals and the society in general. Then there is the matter of feeding the beast…the fact that government almost NEVER uses these kind of tax revenues for stated purposes, and instead uses them to find more ways to regulate things that are none of their business.
Then there is the question of impairment. We all know a functional alcoholic, or those who drink to excess too much. But the collateral damage to society has become a bigger issue than in past decades. Driving drunk is frowned upon, and prosecuted severely because of the potential of harm to others. In many ways, though it is still not often characterized as such, we no longer think of drinking to excess as being harmful to only the person imbibing. And yet we still allow people to characterize pot as a “victimless crime”. While the majority of studies appear to have been published by NORML or similar groups, I think most people have at least empirical experience that would call into question the issue of impairment with marijuana use. Even more laughable is the notion that by taxing and regulating, we will be able to keep it out of the hands of young people. Ask police departments about the resources they spend addressing the purchase and sale of alcohol with teens, or dealing with the effects of underage drinking. And many of us have had the experience of asking adults to buy alcohol for us. Now consider the fact that a gram of pot is much easier to conceal than a six-pack of beer.
The second idea for new success is simplification of legal immigration. I actually like the idea. And the way that my friend presents is unobjectionable, because it is still based on an exchange…you have to meet the requirements, and you still have to pass the test. If there is a point that I would like to see shored up, it would be to manage the skills of those we allow in under this program. While there is something to be said for filling jobs that qualify as unskilled labor, there is also something to be said for future generations learning the value of work. No one should have their first job be their career. Flipping burgers and working retail will teach the value of labor, the pride of making your own paycheck, and the importance of being on time and having a good attitude. And given the current unemployment rate of teenagers, the current high rates should not be exacerbated with a policy that allows them to be constantly undercut in the labor market.
The third idea proposed by Rosetta is a $50,000 payment to anyone of verifiable slave heritage. My response? Absolutely NOT. The reasons are simple. First, this won’t be the end, matter how much you try to tie the payment of the cash to the condition that they finally lose the attitude that they are somehow owed something because of a practice that was ended 155 or so years ago in the greatest shedding of American blood in conflict ever. The idea of reparations is one that is a remedy to the person who actually suffered the harm, which is why, although still offensive, the reparations made to the Japanese American survivors of the World War II internment could at least be defended on a quasi legal basis. An argument could be made that the Great Society and the War of Poverty has damaged blacks and especially black families, with a policy of deliberate infantilization, and dependency on Uncle Sugar. The part where the analysis breaks down is the fact that the federal government hasn’t been doing this to just blacks, but has been waging this without regard to skin color. The other component would be that the victim should recognize that they are a victim, and as the election proved, the victims don’t see themselves as victims, and instead think that they can and should be “punishing” others who don’t share their servitude, and who recognize that a shiny shackle is still a shackle. Finally, the idea is the kind of irresponsible spending by government that we as conservatives are supposed to oppose. This is not about “justice”, and cannot seriously be considered as such. It is a cynical attempt to buy an attitude that is contrary to that which is fostered by decades of government spending, and continues the idea that peace or more abstractly, salvation, can be found if you spend enough of other people’s money. It’s an idea that has brought this country to the brink of disaster and ruin, and it is hubris to think that we can use the same tactic and get a positive result.
The fourth idea posed was that contraception and abortion are for the beneficiary to pay for. I can agree with half that concept. Contraception can and should be the province of those who use it. The inherent mistake was accepting the notion that abortion is valid as contraception, and it is ok because it is inherently a “private” act. Although the legal rationale set forth in the Roe decision was dubious at the time (the 14th Amendment doesn’t apply, because…well, because it doesn’t, so don’t ask again) the truth is that the science has advanced even further. It only underscores the hypocrisy of a society that can shed buckets of tears for whales being killed and forests being clear-cut, and not seem to give a second thought to the slaughter of thousands of children in the womb annually, without sparing a thought to the fact that each one of those children is a separate being, with its own organs and DNA, and the same government that has been founded on the principle of an unalienable right to life sanctions this ongoing genocide without any due process, or even thought given to it. This happens daily, in very profitable centers set up to perform them, and human beings who have committed no offense other than being conceived are killed with less due process than we demand be afforded to child rapists and cop killers. This is a shameful stain on our national character, and should be no more encouraged than giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
Finally, my friend suggests that these ideas are not damaging to the ideas of libertarianism or republicanism. While that may be true for the principles of libertarianism, I think the question is a bit more difficult when applied to republicanism. Largely because I think people couldn’t tell you what the republican party stands for. And that is reflected in the candidates we have had since Reagan. While I believe that many of the party’s standard bearers since Ronaldus Magnus have been good men, I don’t think that they have done a great job clearly stating clear principles that offer powerful explanation of why conservatism is a better alternative to what the left offers. Instead, we have relied on candidates who were chosen because they wouldn’t allow themselves to be pinned to an ideology, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t stand on principles because they couldn’t persuade others why they were right. It doesn’t make sense to lose because you didn’t have the courage to be yourself. And telling yourself that your win is more important than a choice between clear ideas is a recipe for failure.
But this is only one part of the puzzle. We are faced with an electorate that would rather have Idiocracy, and that has decided that bread and circuses are better than personal responsibility and the right to determine their own destiny. It’s hard to fight the idea that free stuff is better than freedom. It’s hard to fight Greed’s retarded sister, Envy, and the idea that successful people are responsible for your lack of success, and should therefore be punished is a seductive one. If you think that a candidate can or should overcome these factors, will combatting a negligent and complicit media, then you aren’t seeking a candidate, you are seeking a savior.
Circumstances can and will contribute to the recognition that what was chosen on Tuesday was the sad and tired ideas that have failed and made things worse for people who have had to live with them whenever they have been tried. And it sucks that those of us who already knew this will have to suffer with those who still have to learn. But we share in this failure because we refused to demand something better from those who would be our standard-bearer. And we share in this because we each have to be the standard-bearer for conservatism ourselves. We have 70 years of indoctrination and sloppy thinking to counter and bypass, because the obvious is anything but for people who have been taught to look past it.