Get Out Of Your Defensive Crouch

So, yesterday, Instapundit linked a piece entitled "Abandoning Defensive Crouch Conservatism." The phrase (by Randy Barnett, who led the fight against Obamacare all the way to the Supreme Court) struck me because I've heard it several times lately from others. One of those others has been asked to join the new administration.

I'd like to propose that you take stock of some of your recent reactions, to see how much of them entail a defensive crouch. Do you find yourself thinking or saying things like these?

* There's no point in working with the left, because they always change the rules.

* No part of government can be trusted.

* We can't afford to compromise or we'll get rolled.

Those are defensive reactions, which are understandable given eight years out of power. What you have in front of you is the opportunity to change these things.

* You won't have to work with the left, because Republicans will control the whole government. They have to decide whether to work with you. Are there things they want that you also want? Those things can now be used to your advantage, as reasons to get them to go along with your larger program.

* The broken parts of the government can be fixed -- or better yet, insofar as they conflict with the 10th Amendment, reduced or eliminated. The government will work a lot better if it is a lot smaller, for the reasons we've so often discussed regarding Schumpeter and ossification. It also happens to be the Constitutional thing to do.

* Don't get rolled, get involved. This is your chance -- and it may be the last chance -- to change the course of the American nation for something healthier and better.

Trump can't do it alone, and frankly he may not be up to the task. He lacks the experience we'd have looked for by preference, he does have some conflicts of interest that will dog him, and he may not have the proper temperament or mindset for the job he's undertaking. But all of you have something to offer to the things you care about most. Each of you has a certain expertise that could help in the monumental task of reform that stands ahead of us. It won't happen if we don't find ways to help make it happen.

I'm not suggesting that you should all rush off to join the Trump administration. It may be that more important things exist to be done at the state or local level, or that your own expertise better fits something closer to home. Nor am I suggesting that we should all pull together to support Trump, right or wrong. I think he'll be wrong a lot of the time, and one of the most important things we should be doing is pulling in the right direction when he tries to go in the wrong one.

I am suggesting it's time to stop thinking defensively about the government, and start thinking offensively. It's time to start hitting, making reforms, devising strategies and then implementing them. Do it wherever you can, wherever you are. This is a chance, but it's only a chance, it's no more than a chance, and it'll likely come to little good without you. Find a place to push.


J Melcher said...

The problem is staff. View "Yes Minister" episodes and recognize that Sir Humphrey is an UNDERSTATED caricature of the human obstacles to be faced.

Short experience. I ran for and won a seat on the local school board. The board divided on the question of the superintendent's pay raise and contract. I dealt with my elected peers to fashion a deal; voting their way on the pay question in exchange for their support on a contract provision change.

The LAWYER advising on the negotiations - between meetings, behind my back -- refused, neglected, or overruled the contract changes as I had proposed and the board unanimously approved; then the board president signed and published the renewed contract without checking, or perhaps even reading or caring.

It took me a full year afterwards to get that law firm and attorney, who acting generally for both administration and board, more of less demoted. I argued that the board needed independent counsel. Won that vote.

Didn't do any good. The new legal team also neglected the contract issue in the following year.

Oh, the proposed change? There was a clause stating that in the event a superintendent's goal or action conflicted with state law, the elected board supported the person over the law. Literally, governance of men, not of law. I proposed and won a vote reversing that priority. And the lawyers, officers of the court, successfully opposed the change.

Not a system in which I cared to continue participation.

Grim said...

OK, but remember the new context: For example, Rick Perry just got picked to lead the Energy Department. When he was running for President, he said he thought it should be disbanded.

This is a chance to dismantle the poison system. That should bring glee to anyone's heart.

Texan99 said...

I'm having similar problems with the law firm for the improvement district board I serve on. You really have to pick your battles with those guys; if they don't sense you have the votes to fire and replace them, they'll walk all over you behind the scenes.

raven said...


There is a reason Will came up with this.

Ymar Sakar said...

It won't happen if we don't find ways to help make it happen.

All it would require is that people bend knee to their new liege lord and messiah, swearing ultimate fealty to the Alt Right's God Emperor Ascendant.

The funny thing about internet propaganda and memes online is that it isn't serious, but when it came to crashing politics, it just got serious.

Ymar Sakar said...

I am suggesting it's time to stop thinking defensively about the government, and start thinking offensively.

Now you're adopting Ymar's style, Grim, this "offensive" mentality, although you would term it compromise and pragmatism rather than crushing enemies.

Offensive operations taken at the wrong timing can be just as disastrous as a cowardly defensive crouch. The question is do you have the timing right, and that is generally viewed with a broader perspective in mind on the strategic plane. I don't trust other people's idea of good timing, I only trust my own sense of the times.

Ymar Sakar said...

This is a chance to dismantle the poison system. That should bring glee to anyone's heart.

Abraham Lincoln's election should have brought glee to the Southern State's hearts, because Lincoln was a compromiser on slavery, from the Radical Republicans. And yet it did not.

People when they get used to overpowering their enemies, do not have the wisdom to halt when necessary. Consider Alexander's problem at the end of his campaign.

As for whose fault this is, I can say it is not mine. After all, I already warned people not to underestimate the Left or present a timid, weak, front to them. It was other people's decision to ignore the warning and go off on their own Pride March to DC. With predictable results. Humans are given free will to make decisions based on knowledge. When they are given knowledge and they refute and condemn it, their actions have a greater weight of consequence than if they had merely condemned it under ignorance. They are just as guilty under human law whether their mind was ignorant or not. But under divine law, that is what makes them guilty, the intent as well as the consequence of action.

douglas said...

"* There's no point in working with the left, because they always change the rules."

What remains to be seen is if we can work with the right- in the form of the DC Elite right. This is a golden opportunity to pour resources into a break in their lines and surge forward to make great gains. Will we? I'm more hopeful, but still hesitant to believe it. If we start really seeing the kind of push-back against the last eight years that we're starving for, then I'll believe that there's something worth leaning into.