(James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York and author of Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids: What You Need to Know and Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics." His latest book is Direct Citizen Action: How We Can Win the Second American Revolution Without Firing a Shot. See his website.)
Note: This is an excerpt from Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America(2014).
The utter failure of conservative Republicans to combat progressivism in any meaningful way explains the nature of GOP politics today. Like the Seinfeld sitcom, it is much ado about nothing, but without the laughs.
Having failed to roll back any major progressive program in the last 100 years, how does the GOP manage to keep the votes and donations of the rank and file flowing in sufficient quantities to keep the GOP machine in power? Highly paid and talented GOP consultants have brilliantly risen to the challenge. There must be something that keeps the troops anteing up their votes and legwork and contributions to the mendacious Republican machine that talks smaller government but never delivers. There is. Here is how the scam works. The GOP whips up a personal hatred of prominent Democrats as a red herring to distract their own rank and file away from their lengthy record of failure.
How do members of the GOP machine—elected and party officials, government employees and contractors, lawyers, consultants, and lobbyists, keep the gravy train rolling? Not by proposing to roll back the very same progressive big government that the rank and file basically supports. That would likely involve losing elections which would threaten to cut off the money spigot. Rather, the GOP machine deliberately distracts the rank and file’s attention away from ideas, issues and policies, and manipulates the masses into personally hating the leading Democrats du jour. Brilliant! Well done. These operatives, by the way, think that Ron Paul and any other activists who really care about ideas are saps and they are laughing at us all the way to the bank.
Hillary was right. There is a vast, right-wing conspiracy to whip up hatred of Democratic icons like Bill and Hillary and Barack and Michelle primarily for their personal peccadilloes. So long as you hate Obama personally, you won’t be focusing on the GOP’s pathetic record of never shrinking government. Who cares if the GOP-controlled House continues to vote to fund progressive big government? What’s really important is that rascal Obama golfs too much and Michelle takes too many vacations. The nerve!
Conclusion. Conservatism is an idea whose time has come and gone. While historical liberalism has a long list of monumental accomplishments, one struggles to conjure up a single significant accomplishment of American conservatism. Conservatism will never wage a winning war against progressivism. Worse yet, because of its half-hearted defense of market economics; its glorification of militarism and war and law enforcement; its often hostile attitude towards civil liberties; and its endless compromises with progressives to maintain power, the Liberty Movement’s various dalliances with this failed ideology have produced nothing of value, have tainted the Movement and have caused confusion about its true nature. The Liberty Movement must sever its ties to conservatism and move forward.