Posted on | April 1, 2012 | 85 Comments
Today’s headlines perhaps explain why feelings of foreboding have recently overwhelmed my otherwise nearly infinite capacity for hope. In a private e-mail exchange today, I found myself explaining that what may appear to some a transient problem is, in fact, a predictable consequence of long-term trends. It occurred to me that, because I have always considered it foolish to talk strategy in public (the enemy can read our blogs, y’know), few of my readers had ever seen me in deep analytical mode, so I decided to share this excerpt:
For many years, going back to at least 2006, I have considered the problems of the conservative movement not episodic and random, but rather systemic and structural. The way the movement is organized, the incentives built into that organizational pattern, and the types of personalities that exercise influence within the system, are in some sense haphazard, reflecting the gradual accretion of institutional habit. At the same time, however, there is the factor of conscious human action involved, and thus the potential for change, if the people involved would attempt to look beneath the surface of day-to-day events and recognize how the incentives built into the system generate ineffective or counter-productive results. . . .
[T]he movement lacks a conscious, rational and critical understanding of itself from the standpoint of organizational dynamics. . . .
The system resists reform because those who benefit (or expect in the future to benefit) from the status quo are unwilling to admit that the system is flawed. Only when the outcome is clearly a failure — as it was in 2008 — is it possible to get leaders to take seriously the need for reform. Yet on such occasions the tendency is always to make ad-hoc patchwork changes, rather than to look at the deeper structural flaws of the movement in terms of organizational dynamics, and attempt to incentivize genuine success.
A major problem is the difficulty of locating the blame for failure in a system where many of the participants are experts at blame-shifting and only too eager to make unpopular scapegoats bear the responsibility of failure. This was what happened to Sarah Palin in 2008, and I claim no special prescience in saying I saw that coming and tried to warn against it. The Steve Schmidts and Nicolle Wallaces, however, had acquired influence which enabled them to manipulate perceptions in such a way that the crucial failure of the 2008 campaign — John McCain’s panicked reaction to the financial crisis — was forgotten, while Palin was unjustly blamed.
Now we come to 2012 and, if the pundits are to be believed, Mitt Romney is now the “inevitable” GOP nominee, despite the fact that he has to date received less than 40 percent of the vote in Republican primaries and caucuses. If Romney is nominated, therefore, it will be despite the opposition of GOP voters and the conservative movement. Many believe that Romney is doomed to repeat the Republican failures of 1996 and 2008 and, if those prophecies are accurate, there will be a reckoning after the November election, in which the leadership of the conservative movement will have an opportunity to examine the causes of its failures.
God forbid that it should take Mitt’s nomination and Obama’s re-election to force such a long-overdue re-evaluation, as one wonders what would be left for conservatives to conserve in the event of such unprecedented catastrophes. (“Sweet Meteor of Death 2012!”) Maybe the ancient Mayan calendar was right about this year being the end of the world. Nevertheless, if the world endures and we survive the electoral cataclysm, I will be interested in discussing exactly how we got to such a disastrous result as all the omens now portend.
On the other hand, let’s hope that the pundits and pollsters are wrong, that Rick Santorum is on the verge of a world-shocking triumph in Wisconsin, and that this “Roll Over for Romney” bandwagon can be halted before the GOP Establishment once more succeeds in saddling us with a doomed loser who will utterly demoralize whatever remnant of grassroots conservatism survives the looming debacle.
We haven’t yet scheduled “DoomCon 2012,” but if anyone is interested in sponsoring, attending or participating in such an event, holler back.