So far, I’ve seen three very good posts at NRO today. We have, for example, Jonah Goldberg making the following observation:
For reasons, good and bad, voters don’t treat tax dollars the way they do their own dollars. They don’t demand quality. They don’t demand accountability. They don’t push for efficiency. Many people think the government should spend money as if it comes from someplace other than the wallets of citizens and that what we get for it should be graded on some spiritual, emotional, philanthropic or metaphysical curve. How we spend for X so often seems to matter more than how much X is actually delivered.
And that, dear friends, is why we’re trillions of dollars in debt. In reality, we should be clamoring for a full-blown audit of the federal government. Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted every year on things that don’t benefit the American people — yet every time this demonstrable fact is mentioned, the message-bearer is portrayed as someone who hates Granny, the poor, teachers, etc. It’s absolutely ridiculous and completely irrational. (And hopefully Matt will address it in his conservative charter.)
Meanwhile, Katrina Trinko accurately describes what we as conservatives really support:
We are all takers sometimes. (And we try to be makers to the best of our abilities.) The question is whom we are taking from: from the government, which forces our fellow citizens to give up their money, or from our fellow citizens directly, when they give to us of their own volition?
Paul Ryan, to his credit, did directly bring up this idea in a speech on poverty in October. “Most times,” he said, “the real debate is about whether [people’s needs] are best met by private groups, or by the government; by voluntary action, or by more taxes and coercive mandates from Washington. The short of it is that there has to be a balance — allowing government to act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do. There’s a vast middle ground between the government and the individual.”
The GOP vision isn’t about ruthless individuals, striking out on their own and thriving or failing as their luck and innate abilities permit. Instead, it’s about a society where merit and hard work are rewarded, where neighbors help each other in tough times, and where everyone works together to build a thriving nation. It’s about a country where religious organizations are allowed to follow their spiritual convictions, where capital flows from the rich to the start-up businesses, and where no one is as alone and friendless as faceless Julia unless she chooses to be.
But of course, as Trinko notes, we can only achieve that vision if we put some serious thought into how we can restore our civil society. When I was in college, I was a member of an a cappella group. To sustain our group’s expenses and raise money to record an album, we would often perform for the local Knights of Columbus or the Elks. And do you know what I noticed? These groups were dominated by senior citizens. This anecdotal evidence supports what Robert Putnam observed years ago about our society: We are no longer joiners. And yes — this trend is very destructive and very useful for the left.
Finally, Jim Geraghty makes good points about the uselessness of being nasty:
There’s a word that accurately summarizes the perspective of Republicans who believe that Latinos voted for Obama because they want amnesty for criminals and endless welfare, that young people voted for Obama because they’re ignorant and want free birth control, and that blacks voted for Obama because they wanted free cell phones: contempt. And it’s hard to persuade people to adopt your perspective, join your movement, or vote for your candidate when you speak of them with contempt.
I felt personally convicted in the Christian sense when I read that because I have been guilty of making those judgments. We all have to be careful, I think, not to let our contempt for the idea of leftism devolve into contempt for the people who vote for leftist candidates. Geraghty is right: We won’t successfully convince anyone if we put on an angry face. Let the leftists be bitter, arrogant, and small — and let us embrace optimism and compassion in response.