Ancien Regime

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Yes, I do my share of mudslinging at the Democratic administration. And no, I don’t think it’s right for the Democrats to accuse the Republicans of being “the party of no” (we’re likely to hear that a few million more times this year). I am still a vigorous advocate of voting for the lesser of the two evils, believing that to do otherwise is to vote for the greater of the two evils. And this year, my accolade for “greater” goes to the Democrats.

But I still haven’t shaken off the horrors of the Bush administration. There’s nothing like a big-spending, war-pursuing, morals-mongering, lying bunch of fatcats stuffed into thousand-dollar suits to depress you for a decade or so. And my rule for political good conduct is, when your party has been discredited, throw out the people who discredited it.

Bush and his closest advisers were, in effect, thrown out of the GOP. But the people who have taken their places in the party leadership appear virtually identical — with a few even more depressing exceptions. I do not regard Sarah Palin as a breath of fresh air. When the Democrats talk about how dumb she is, they just remind me of how dumb they are; but then I hear her talk, and I realize that yes, she’s just as dumb as I thought she was.

The Tea Party members? I’m glad they came to visit, but I hope they don’t stay for supper. They’d either chug all the beer in my fridge or insist that I serve only lemonade. Then they’d requisition the TV for a few dozen hours of football and go through my DVDs hunting for something to censor. No, I don’t trust their populism or their talk of rights. Some of them know that rights exist in every area of life; others just want them for themselves. In other words, they’re normal human beings, and that’s not nearly enough.

Less than normal are the congressmen who remain at the top of the Republican totem pole. Aren’t you sick of them? They’ve been there forever, just like the Democrats, and what have they done that’s right? Tell me. I hope there are a lot of things I’ve missed.

At this juncture, I could call for a great intellectual resurgence, for leaders who will stand up and talk, in the most affirmative and optimistic manner, about all the ways in which freedom ennobles and enriches everyone. But you can’t have an intellectual resurgence without intellect, and you can’t have decent talk without decent talkers. With the exception of a few young candidates — often, I’m happy to say, women and members of ethnic minorities — and a few cogent reasoners and talkers in the media and the thinktanks, I don’t see many people who can lead the GOP toward a better future.

The best that can happen in 2010, I believe, is that the Democrats will be soundly defeated, and that the Republicans will then perform their function of blocking as many of the Democrats’ big-government initiatives as they can. That would create some time and space for the republic to breathe, for economic investment to return, and for younger and brighter people to emerge.

This probably doesn’t sound very cheerful. It isn’t meant to sound cheerful. But if libertarians are right, and I’m sure that we are, a free society has immense powers of self-regeneration, so long as the clash of political and economic interests opens that vital time and space for individual thought and action.

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