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Winning the System

Christie has endorsed Romney and Perry has turned out not to be as far to the right as people wanted to believe. Cain leads until the next slip. Palin will be courted by the front-runners and she will likely step forward to campaign for one of them. The big money is still on Romney who knows that he can wait out all the broken hopes and dreams to accept the nomination with a plastic grin.

And why should it be any different?

20091208_gov_mediumPoliticians are lawyers by training, actors by necessity and and negotiators by practice. Their job is to satisfy their top supporters, keep the system chugging along and smile for the cameras. They know that when the speeches are done they will have to go into a small room with a heavy wooden table and talk out the details with their opposite numbers.

Defense lawyers have more in common with prosecutors than they do with their defendants. That's why the image of the crusading lawyer has as much truth to it as that of the crusading politician. When they're not being played by Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck, they're just men doing their job. And their job is to play their role in the system. To represent their client not as he sees fit, but as they see fit.

Politics is a profession and those who work in it are part of a system. The people who are in that system understand it better than the outsiders do. The world of politics, like that of the justice system or the medical system or any other system, is a miniature reality with its own rules and practices. Anyone entering that world learns to play by its rules or washes out. And the actors in it may contend with each other, but like rival car salesmen trying to sell you a car, or two members of the hospital bureaucracy arguing about which ward you belong in, you are just a pawn in their system. Their job is to move you through their process. Not to allow an outsider to control the process.

Our political system is a way of forcing different factions to negotiate outcomes. One faction does not wield unilateral power for long because the public distrusts granting that kind of power. ObamaCare is a reminder why. Whatever speeches get made are carved apart by the negotiations into a compromise. Like most divorce settlements, everyone leaves unhappy and certain that the other party got a better deal. Usually they're right.

The left always understood that elected officials are the most flexible and the most useless part of the system. They're the part that takes the numbers that have been added up for them and decides how to split the difference. Instead the left has focused on being the people who tally up the numbers before they get handed to them knowing that the politicians will split the difference.

We haven't reached the current state that we are in because the left won a lot of elections, but because they won the system. On Global Warming or terrorism or the second amendment or on any issue, they are the ones who provide the numbers. They are the bureaucrats, the chiefs, the consultants, the dossier writers and spreadsheet makers. They are the ones who frame the problem and then smile while waiting for the tough no-nonsense politician to add it all up, grunt and lay out fifty percent of their recommendation. 

Too many people, myself included, went into this race thinking that we could find a great leader. That hope is clearly dying and it was never all that healthy to begin with. A surprisingly small number of presidents were all-around reformers who dramatically changed things without caring what the establishment thought. Small enough that it comes down to Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt, both of whom were national folk heroes who weren't supposed to be in office but managed to get in and just did what they wanted to do. And their legacies were mixed at best.

The odds of getting another man like that into office are vanishingly small in a system that is much more restricted than it ever was in their day. And even if we got another man like that, it would be as a forceful figure doing whatever he wanted and following his own prejudices. New York City has had two mayors like that and they salvaged the city and kept it afloat through tyranny. Tyranny is a solution when all else fails. It's better to have a competent tyrant than the figurehead of a corrupt and incompetent political machine. But they're both chains crafted from different materials.

Choosing between the tyranny of a tyrant and the tyranny of a system is not a very pleasant choice and it should be an alien one. Unfortunately as the tyranny of a system has grown, so has the search for the perfect tyrant. But no matter whom we elect, the tyranny of the system will keep growing. Hoping that a one man wrecking ball will collide with the system is not an impossible dream, but neither is it all that promising. It doesn't mean that we should stop trying, but it does mean that we need to think bigger.

Our struggle is not with Obama or Reid or Pelosi, it is with the system that they advance. A system of unrestricted power that mandates absolute dominance over all human affairs backed by an ideology that treats all human activity as political and in need of control in the name of the greater good. Getting them all out is a plus, but it's a battle, not the war.

Politicians are the visible part of a mostly invisible system. The part that seems approachable and fixable, but that's an illusion. Politicians can change the system, but the system is designed with the momentum on the side of government power. It is easy to create an agency, but very difficult to abolish it without replacing it or rolling it into another.

Things aren't the way they are because one wrong man got in, but because a million wrong men and women got in. And that number is a modest understatement. An election may slow them down, it may reverse them a little, but it will not stop them. We are fighting and losing a war for control of the system that runs our lives. Our choices are to take control of the machine, live outside the machine or stop the machine.

The left faced those same choices in the early 20th century. It chose a slow conquest from within. To repeat their achievement, we would have to do what they did. Train generations to take control of entire sectors and then institutions. Take control of the educational system and then the political system. Transform the entire discourse, turn their conventional morality inside out and tie them down. Is it doable? Yes. Are we likely to embark on such a project? Probably not. It would take too long, require a level of ideological coordination that does not currently exist on the right and by then the country will not be salvageable.

Living outside the machine is not an option either. ObamaCare is a reminder that the goal of the machine is absolute control of every aspect of human life. There is no off the grid when the grid is everywhere. There is no off the grid when every geographical area has its administrative bureaucracy charged with monitoring and bringing into compliance all persons living within that area. There is no off the grid when the use of off the grid technologies without a special permit is outlawed. Living like a rat within the walls of the state, or the forests, isn't completely impossible, but in the long run it's futile. It's survival, not much else.

All that's left is stopping the machine. That doesn't mean violent revolution, it means determined political change. The Tea Party was the first step of that change. It was extraordinary because for the first time in a long time, outrage at the operation of the machine brought massive numbers of people together around the country. Their principled stand was doomed to be muffled because the system has no interest in shifting power away from its institutions and toward the people. But it's only the beginning.

The system grinds on because it maintains the illusion of consensus. The Tea Party rallies badly shook that consensus. Long before there were crowds in Cairo, there were crowds in cities all across the country. Their message was that the machine has to stop.

In the face of the protests, the media turned into desperate pro-government outlets, and when the polls were done, the government took one of the worst political blows in history. Elections come and go, but this was more than that. A giant was slowly waking.

The task of the left is to complete its machine before the giant wakes. Our task is to wake the giant and point him at the machine. In that way the last three years have helped us more than they have helped the left, which could have made the same gains if it had waited and taken it more slowly. They put a face on the machine and that was their mistake. Now they're trying to take it back by putting Wall Street's face on the machine.

We will fight the good fight this election, and with the help of G-d may we win it, but it's the machine that is the real war. We cannot count on an Andrew Jackson to tear apart the machine for us. That will most likely come when the giant wakes and finds the continued operation of the machine so intolerable that he tears it apart. When the day comes that the machine advances and finds its path blocked by millions of people who are determined to stop it from operating then the people will have won over the system. And then the system can be scaled down to human level again.

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