Thoughts on Codevilla’s “Ruling Class” article

Much has already been said about this excellent article.

Rather than pile on the (deserved) praise, I want to ask the following question(s).

How does one defeat this “class?” What strategies will succeed? What resources are necessary? I think these are important questions because the article succeeds in raising our consciousness to the problem, but doesn’t offer a game plan as to how to proceed. It is up to us (Country Class) to develop one. After developing it, we need to start executing, regardless of whether others come along with us.

Let me start with a few observations.

First, I argue that a plan of some sort is necessary. I’ll back that up by relaying two stories from last week. I was talking to a gentleman running for an IL state rep. seat. He’s right on the issues, he’s running for the 2nd time, and he actually does have a shot. He is also running un-aided by the ILL GOP (ruling class), who ran candidates against him in the primary and tried to bribe him out of the race. His race is microcosm of what Codevilla describes in his article. When asked to lay out how he was going to win, he ruminated about “this cycle” and the “Tea Party.” He had no plan. He had nothing to show a potential donor or supporter that could give them confidence that he knew what he was doing. If he wins, it will be luck.

The second incident occurred at a meeting of some think tank and activist types discussing the IL Budget and some strategies to address the issue. One of the attendees, a former operative of the ILL GOP machine (who started back when it could win a few elections), discussed the collapse of the party after Ryan, and pined for the days when the Thompson and Edgar Patronage system worked. (I laid out my view that these patronage Republicans are the ones who destroyed the party by creating a system that split the productive base from unproductive patronage pension suckers. But that could use a whole book to unpack.) This operative, however, did have one thing going for him. He had a plan.

Second, the ‘tea parties’ are NOT enough. They are already showing wear and tear brought on by their vaunted “independence.” (Some might call it lack of discipline.) Also, we ought not believe that the Tea Party is some new phenomenon. They have always been there. Their last iteration was the Perot voter. We are seeing something significant in their emergence absent a Perot. If there was ever a year/cycle where a slightly less crazed billionaire attempted to start a party, this would be it. A good chunk of Democrats, regular Republicans, and the newly active Tea Party could form a majority, and throw a presidential election to Congress.

Third, just like Codevilla makes us conscious of the failed and morally flaccid “ruling class,” we need to continue the process by identifying first the principles, and then the policies, that are supported by the “country class.” Conservatives need to understand that while the principles will look (r)epublican, the policies will, by necessity, have to seem much more centrist.

For my part, I remain pessimistic about the prospect of any nondescript movement ‘fixing’ or re-orienting the Republican Party. The party is too compromised to change. That is why I’m pretty sure that we need a 3rd party to develop. This party will either a) supplant the Republican Party, or b) threaten its existence to the point where they have no choice but to shed the “ruling class” members in favor of the “country class.” Either result is worth losing an election cycle, IMO. As of this moment, I’m holding out some hope that I’m wrong, and that the Republican Party reverts to its roots.

Fourth, it’s going to take money. A lot of money. This will have to be spent wisely on the right candidates, and will have to cover the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. And, while we are on the subject of candidates, if you are the type of person who reads and understands Codevilla-like analysis, yet don’t ever consider running for office, then I think you might start to see the scope of the task ahead of us. Look who you are leaving the political field to when you – and others like you – don’t even consider running, working your precinct, or encouraging other good people to do so.

I could write numbers 5-20 if I had the time, but those are the top 4 that come to mind when thinking about how to proceed.

Those are my thoughts, and I’m hoping your share yours. Just FYI, I’ve thought through some ideas regarding the articulation of our principles, a set of policies that might garner widespread support, and a potential strategy to execute it. I’m not sure it’s bullet proof, but it’s a damn site better than bloviating about how the “tea party will save us.” Read the latest headlines.

This is my view of the scope of the problem. How do we solve it?

16 thoughts on “Thoughts on Codevilla’s “Ruling Class” article”

  1. These are serious questions, meriting a serious response. I hope to have a post about Codevilla’s piece up in a few days, and I will offer somexresponses then.

  2. I would start with building a map of “network nodes” to orient a plan. Each node representing participants both willing and involuntary. Use these as anchors of interest, participation and reaction to most efficiently direct “attacks.”

    Start passing out copies of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and use his ideas to polarize these nodes of interest. Make the valuable points paragons of the cause and visible to every participant and demonize the nodes to attack. This gives everyone both willing participants and unorganized internet surfers a battle standard to draw confidence from and a target to focus their ire.

    Where the Tea Party excels is the unorganized network of participants. This is the perfect body for both fund raising and the horde of termites that can whittle away at a ruling classes foundations while building anew with the remains.

  3. Petey, by any chance, are you familiar with the story of the c.early-1920s Soviet deception operation known as “The Trust”?

    Just wonderin’…

    You do know that People on Top are usually “wise” to seemingly-brilliant ideas (perhaps because so many of them are also “brilliant” [and are easily connected with others at least as brilliant still]).

  4. I don’t think you are aware of the thousands of tea party members who are organizing and learning the basic techniques of politics. They are running for GOP (and a few D) local committees. They are planning for long term and, as long as the economic security of the country is threatened, I don’t think they will get bored and drop out. This year they are voters. in 2012, they will be party insiders and some candidates. In 2014, they will be state level candidates and some national candidates.

    I have participated in local politics at the city level. It is very hard to get anyone involved in politics are that level. City voters worry about trash pickup and street repair unless they live in a big with a high crime rate. It is an excellent place to learn about issues, small issues.

    I agree it will be difficult to oust the elites. I have seen reformers at the city level make new friends in one year and sell out their supporters. Still, we can keep chipping away at their foundation.

  5. I’m not familiar with “The Trust;” I will add it to the long list of things to look up.

    I was taking a few ideas from John Robb and 4GW, rather than looking at historical examples.

  6. I have now looked up Operation Trust. I was thinking of using networks of independent minds with varying agendas to bolster completing common goals at the lowest cost rather than the passive infiltration of Operation Trust. That’s not to say someone couldn’t buy a membership to Arthur Sulzberger’s favorite golf club and insert himself in the same way and build an counter-counter-counter intel cell.

  7. Petey, et al–

    You seem to have misunderstood.

    I suggested the story of “The Trust” *not* as a recommendation but as a **cautionary** tale. (Although, if you, et al, think you can learn from that story and think you can apply the lessons in the *other* direction, well, good luck and God bless with that).

  8. Got it. I was distracted by imagining the scenario being acted out by the Bolsheviks; it made me think about the movie “Oscar” and the potential for a comedy of errors. Though the Bolshevik version ends in a less comical “Train Ride to the East” instead of a wedding.

  9. Looking back in American history, the Whigs were replaced by a new party because they self destructed. The two party system is mathematically stable and favors just that even in the presence of multiple minority parties. I first read of this in the 70’s and the quick but not satisfactory reference I have is this.

    In the absence of such a self destruction, I think, the chances of change are vanishingly small. Both parties exist because they provide benefits for people that believe in them such as bureaucratic jobs, tax breaks and the like. It would take a very powerful shock to the system to do that. I do however believe in the “Great Awakening” theory of political development and the incompetence of Utopians and socialists to construct anything better. That change may take many decades and still only result in an imperfect system somewhat like now.

  10. It is a lifetime project.

    Involvement in local politics, and working upwards is one step. Involvement in education is anothe (and by that I do not mean indoctrination, but simply having a more diverse group of people within academia. And by diverse, I mean intellectual diversity. It won’t be glory, it will be duty. Focus on bringing back some common sense to education.) Involvement in the arts – again not to indoctrinate or to make propaganda, but simply become involved because you want to create and have something to say. If you are of a free-market bent, then perhaps the things you create will reflect that sensibility.

    A long, patient, hard slog. As with anything worthwhile.

    – Madhu

  11. threaten its existence to the point where they have no choice but to shed the “ruling class” members in favor of the “country class.” Either result is worth losing an election cycle, IMO.

    We’ve just lost two of those election cycles.

    The danger of losing another is too great — as we’re learning each day.

    A third party is foolish. Rebuild from within — it will take longer but has a chance of working.

  12. The Tea Party is an echo, an imitation of the original revolutionary patriot movement. This movement was just as chaotic and varied as TPM is today and generally went under the label Sons of Liberty. The Sons started organizing and working towards their goals a whole 30 years prior to 1776. I expect that TPM will take an equal amount of time to work its way through to its own conclusion too.

  13. Start local and start young. The money and the competition is less there than on the National level. State Senate/House and municipalities. Get a number of smart and charismatic 20/30yr olds elected and allow them to then make their way onto the National level.

    – Country class have more sway at local levels.

    – GOP/DEMS do not spend as heavily (at all?) below state level.

    – Win a few key cities or enough seats in a state’s legislature and you will get National Media attention.

    – If you’re looking for centrist conservative slant, focus on the Midwest, mid-Atlantic States, even most counties in California.

    – Focus on viral messages, it can be argued that the article you cite here went viral. simple, yet broad message. If it is a new party new ‘values’ will have to be explained. Values are inherently simple, keep them that way.

    It will have to be a generational change. But, the current state of politics are ripe for it, as there is a significant discontinuity between the people and the elected officials. The key is the right message, by the right person at the right time. Keeping all the variables simple will only add to the change of meeting those three criteria.


  14. How does one defeat this “class?”

    They die. Young people who have contempt for them replace them. It’s been working like that for generations.

    Even though the fallacies of the elders’ social contract are plain for all, including them, to see, they can do no other. It is too late to change. And they haven’t the energy. Or the imagination to consider another solution. Or the will to change. So contempt for them and their assumptions grows among the young. Until enough of them have lost power and the young seize it from those who are left. And the new generation arrives at its own settlements to address the problems left by the elders. And a new orthodoxy arises. And grows to absurdity when the elders are held in contempt by the young. And this too shall pass.

  15. Ok ok you all keep talking of hope in using political change. wake up!!! The game is over!! Been over for nearly one hundred years. The congress the president are all prostitutes. Bought and paid for. Fed Reserve, Jp morgan, Goldman Sachs, HSBC , RBS
    B of A. Wells Fargo. They are the whore buyers. you dont stop prostitution until you jail the “John” or run them out of our country. Wake up please!!!! Andy Jackson did it. Ran the bank of United States owners back to England and for it his wife was murdered and he had several attempts on his life.

    This is way more serious than most of you realize, We must stop the Whore buyers befor we can change our Politics or they will just buy new whores to offer us.GET IT. please Get it.


  16. The two parties are pretty entrenched and starting a third party is difficult for a couple of reasons. State ballot access laws criple third party attempts as the Libertarian Party discovers every four years. Thus the two parties make it hard for a new party to get off the ground. And at the national level, every four years both parties have access to public funding. Getting a few million injected into the national parties every four years can keep the parties on life support, so they don’t just die and disappear. Another asset the major parties have–at least the Democrats–is their propaganda arm consisting of the media. I can’t image netwrok TV or the Washington Post and New York Times supporting a third party. So, for example, a sickly Democratic party will get a transfusion every four years from public funding and will be supported by its media allies. Pretty hard to kill off that combination.

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