Putting principles first?

In a remarkable piece titled "The Alinsky Administration," Jim Geraghty demonstrates how the Obama administration is following the Alinsky model -- with detailed line and verse examples. It's a must read, and the bottom line is that this is not about ideology, but power:

...an Alinskyite's core principle is to take any action that expands his power and to avoid any action that risks his power.

As conservatives size up their new foe, they ought to remember: It's not about liberalism. It's about power. Obama will jettison anything that costs him power, and do anything that enhances it -- including invite Rick Warren to give the benediction at his inauguration, dine with conservative columnists, and dismiss an appointee at the White House Military Office to ensure the perception of accountability.

In a conclusion that might be unsettling to those who place principles first, Geraghty maintains that it's all about power:
...evidence suggests that rising in that party's political hierarchy requires some adoption of a variation of the Alinsky philosophy: Power comes first. Few Democrats are expressing outrage over Nancy Pelosi's ever-shifting explanation of what she knew about waterboarding. Those who screamed bloody murder about Jack Abramoff's crimes avert their eyes from John Murtha. The anti-war movement that opposed the surge in Iraq remains silent about sending additional troops to Afghanistan. Obama will never get as much grief for his gay-marriage views as Miss California.

It's not about the policies or the politics, and it's certainly not about the principles. It's about power, and it has been for a long time.

What's fascinating about this is that while the Alinsky crowd busily consolidates their power, their political opponents busily debate their principles.

But will the voters ultimately perceive that the choice is between those who care more about power than principle, and those who care more about principle than power?

How much would that matter to most ordinary voters?

Bear in mind that from the voters' standpoint, both sides always say they care more about principle than power, and they always say that the other side has no principles. I think voters tend to be more cynical than is customarily believed, and certainly they're smart enough to realize that to most politicians, "principles" are all about talk. Something the chattering classes and political junkies might debate, but nothing for which any rational politician would risk losing his seat. Besides, how are ordinary people supposed to evaluate the legitimacy of rival politicians' claims to having "principles"? I think it's more likely that in the end, voters will do what the politicians do, and conclude that it's all about power.

If this is the case, they may decide that the Alinsky Adminstration has too much.

Barack Obama remains personally popular. But the Democratic Congress is not. Collectively, Obama and the Congress have way too much power right now, and its sting is only beginning to be felt.

Stephen Green warns of what's coming:

A massive underground economy. An ever-more massive federal government. Major manufacturing and financial industries in the hands of the president and his cronies. Unprecedented debts we'll have to either repudiate or inflate away. A business climate based on fear and favor.

In other words, welcome to the Banana States of America.

Hmmm.... Sounds like Alinsky on Hugo Chavez steroids.

And while Barack Obama might be popular, the voters may see the wisdom of counterbalancing too much power in his hands, regardless of debates over principles.

There's still an opposition party, right? Maybe they'll realize that in the next couple of years a lot of voters might just want to vote for them -- whether because of their principles or in spite of them.

UPDATE: My thanks to Sean Kinsell for the link, and the kind words. Plus, Sean has some advice for the right:

...it's not just liberals who openly romanticize government who vote for meddlesome nanny-state policies and distortionary entitlements. There are as many on the right as on the left who could stand to bear in mind the old libertarian saw that it's dangerous to increase the powers of the state under the assumption that your friends are always going to be those enforcing them.

posted by Eric on 05.15.09 at 09:00 AM


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