On Inauguration Day, Joe Biden took the oath of office, and former Sen. Jeff Flake published a column breathing a sigh of relief that Washington could get back to business as usual now that the Orange Menace was gone. That same day, tin foil hat enthusiast Marjorie Taylor Greene took a break from warning Americans about the Big Jewish Laser in the Sky to send out a fundraising email proclaiming, “I’m impeaching Joe Biden.”
What do these two things have to do with each other? Everything. When our leaders are incompetent, conspiracy nuts and radicals see their market share increase.
A big part of the upheaval we’re experiencing in American politics is because the leadership of both parties lacks any coherent vision. Far too many care more about getting re-elected, their lobbying gig, or their cable TV contract than they do, say, figuring out how we defeat China in the long term, not to mention telling voters the truth about our crippling debt.
Never mind solving big problems, the leaders of these parties can’t even keep their own caucuses in line.
Steve King was a mess for years, but nobody did anything about him. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi tiptoed around “The Squad” in the Democratic Party, looking the other way while they sent out social media messages helping rioters evade police during last summer’s unrest and otherwise encouraging riots that caused billions of dollars in damage. The Democratic Party can’t even bring itself to vote for a resolution condemning the bizarre antisemitic conspiracy theories of their own members.
Voters are frustrated, which is why they have started looking at other (sometimes bad) options. Yet it’s not a reality that can be entirely blamed on voters. It’s a situation borne out of desperation — an indictment of the people we have in charge today. As Washington, D.C. continues to fail the American people, nuts and radicals inevitably rush to fill the market demand for something new.
Until we get better leadership from the people who are supposed to know better, we can expect more upheaval at the fringes on both sides. Unfortunately, fixing this is going to require the kind of reflection most people in D.C. simply aren’t capable of.
Flake still has no idea why so many Americans voted for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in 2016. The diagnosis the two candidates arrived at, however, was quite similar: “Washington politicians are idiots, and they don’t care about you.”
If you’re a member of the political class who thinks Sanders and Trump are crazy, you need to ask yourself why they were so popular. Whatever else one could say about those guys, they at least made working people believe they cared about them, and they had plans — “Make Mexico Pay for the Wall” and “Tax the Millionaires and Billionaires,” to name just two — no matter how foolish or silly you might think those plans were.
It’s like this: if your wife is having an affair with a homeless meth addict, it’s time to look in the mirror and at least consider whether you’re a lousy husband.
It wasn’t always this way. The men and women of the Washington establishment who built the post-World War II order lived through World War I, the Spanish Flu, and the Great Depression. They’d fought a second World War to preserve the West. They’d seen friends die. They knew what they believed and why they believed it.
On the contrary, too many of our leaders today have done nothing, read nothing, sacrificed nothing, and believe nothing — except that they should stay in office. The old line from William Butler Yeats has never been more true, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” That’s why crackpots and radicals are rushing into the void even as our media complex profits from chaos, alternately turning clowns into viral stars or wrestling villains.
We’ve got a big human capital problem in our candidates. We need a different kind of person. I’m not talking about squishy, “No Labels” Jon Huntsman types. We need tough-minded, agenda-oriented conservatives. We need those skeptical of groupthink and risk-takers who have bet big before and been successful.
We need people who understand the disruption working families feel, have ideas to solve problems, and aren’t afraid of corporate media. Most of all, we need folks who don’t much care about keeping their jobs, because politics was never their dream job anyway.
Better politicians will not fix everything, of course. Most of what ails America, from the breakup of the family to our communities coming apart, is not actually about politics. But it’s also true that to just be a functional country again, we have to find different people to lead us.
2022 is an opportunity to begin again. From governor to Senate, to Congress to your local school board, opportunities abound for constructive, conservative outsiders to step forward. If we want to change Washington, we have to change the people we send there. Now, more than ever.