Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trigger Trippers

Lately we've been hearing a lot about concern over "trigger words," particularly in universities and other large institutions where the perpetually aggrieved and hypersensitive tend to congregate. Frankly, I couldn't care less about such self-victimized fainting flowers. Their complaints tend to trigger me, in a fashion they would be unlikely to enjoy. And yes, like most persons who vent their opinions on public policy subjects onto the Net, I encounter them here as well. They receive a response calibrated to discourage their return to Liberty's Torch.

But "trigger trippers," generally, are a matter of interest to me for a different reason: the effort we in the Right have to exert to avoid being provoked by the things that punch our buttons. A few items from that list:

  • Being told we lack "compassion;"
  • Being accused of miscellaneous venalities and hypocrisies;
  • Having our motives impugned for daring to disagree with the Left;
  • Having some leftist accuse us of the very conduct he himself has displayed.

It's been a postulate of conservatives' public posture that we should behave like gentlemen, remaining perfectly civil and courteous, even when our opponents are at their worst. I've begun to think that that's no longer desirable...indeed, if it ever was.

Just yesterday, the Dishonorable Harry Reid, who must surely be in terror of his imminent descent to Minority Leader status, vented in a most exercising way over the Bundy Backdown:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says “something is going to happen” to get Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to stop letting his cattle graze on federal land.

“It’s obvious that you can’t just walk away from this. And we can speculate all we want to speculate to what’s going to happen next,” Reid told KSNV-TV. “But I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen. We are a nation of laws, not of men and women.”

Reid called militias staying at Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch “domestic violent terrorist-wannabes.”

It's already been revealed that Reid's son expects to profit personally from the elimination of the Bundy ranch, which is bad enough. As for "domestic terrorist wannabes," well, you have to expect that sort of rhetoric from a Democrat who's having a public tantrum. But that "nation of laws" business is the Ace kicker

  • The Bureau of Land Management has attempted to eliminate the Bundys' longstanding prescriptive grazing rights by simple fiat, not by law;
  • The BLM is about to do the same thing to 90,000 acres of privately owned land that abuts the Texas-Oklahoma border;
  • There is no provision in the Constitution authorizing the federal government to own land for an arbitrary purpose, and none for the protection of a supposedly endangered species.

Quite a lot of conservatives' triggers are being tripped as we speak -- and it's well that it should be so. Reid has attempted to put a "nation of laws" veneer over a plainly unlawful act. That it's in his character to do so -- this is a thoroughly duplicitous man, deeply steeped in the philosophy of might-makes-right -- does not reduce the offense it does to our sensibilities.

Should the GOP retake the Senate this coming November, perhaps his party will administer a suitable chastisement to Dingy Harry...but it won't be for his lies, his slanders, or his venalities; it will be for having lost. And that's a trigger-tripper of another sort.

The Supreme Court's recent McClatchy decision, a cheering thing for those of us opposed to racial preferences, evoked an angry dissent from "wise Latina woman" Sonia Sotomayor. In her 58-page shriek of dismay she claimed that to end racial discrimination we must discriminate by race, though her phrasing was nowhere near that compact. But the most striking thing about the dissent wasn't its illogic or its plain self-interested pleading; it was the hysteria that screamed from every sentence.

Sotomayor is the Left's most highly placed Hispanic. She was put where she is to perpetuate racial and ethnic preferences, among other things. Her rant may be viewed in that light as an expression of the general alarm on the Left, which has fought successfully for preferential treatment of its mascot-groups up to now and regards those efforts as essential to "keeping them on the plantation." McClatchy endangers those preferences, thus endangering the Democrats' grip on voting blocs it must retain to remain a major party.

Clearly, the 6-2 majority that confirmed Michigan voters' privilege of amending their state constitution triggered Sotomayor. Equally clearly, Sotomayor's hysterics have triggered us in the Right...mostly to laughter, as this beneficiary of preferential treatment reveals, decision after decision, how little she cares about the law or the Constitution.

And now, Gentle Reader, allow me to trip your triggers:

Every word Senator Paul said in that video is absolutely, verifiably accurate. He has not distorted the smallest thing. But if you go to Breitbart and survey the comments, you'll find that many of the commenters are furious with him for daring to state verifiable facts that appear to cast a shadow over the Reagan legacy.

Of course, the context matters:

  • Reagan prioritized the restoration of the military above all else, believing that a rapid increase in the defense budget was the best way to overcome the threat from the Soviets;
  • The Reagan era mushrooming of federal tax revenues, made possible by improvements in the tax code and the suppression of the growth of the regulatory burden, gave Congress's appetite for spending a huge boost -- and had the special interests slavering for their piece of the pie as well;
  • In the Administration's internal debates over federal spending, the advocates of reductions lost to those who derided their preferred policy as "root canal politics" that would cost the GOP its dominance, and succeeded in persuading Reagan that the unchained American economy could "outgrow" the federal deficit;
  • Democrats on Capitol Hill, who controlled the House of Representatives throughout the Reagan Administration, succeeded at holding the Administration's desires for defense budget increases hostage to massive increases in spending on social programs and the general expansion of the federal bureaucracy.

As Thomas Sowell has noted, there's no amount of money Congress cannot overspend -- and Congress spent every dollar it took in and quite a few more. Every extra dollar Congress received in federal revenues, which nearly doubled from 1981 through 1989 -- was "overspent" by about $1.30. Reagan's few vetoes did little to stem the tide of red ink. The period was, inter alia, a perfect demonstration of the old maxim that the only way to get the King to spend less is to give him less money.

There's no avoiding the conclusion that Reagan was partly responsible for the deficit explosion, at least in that he regarded increasing the defense budget as too important to permit the Democrats in the House to impede it, and in accepting the advice of the preponderance of his counselors about avoiding "root canal politics." But such is the reverence and affection conservatives feel for the Gipper that many are simply unwilling to hear it.

Trigger upon trigger upon trigger....It seems we're all hypersensitive about something. Worse, the somethings have been multiplying like toadstools. Everyone is offended; everyone has outrage to vent. Shrunken is the remnant that prefers to discuss law or policy dispassionately, from a Constitutional perspective, with proper regard for the lessons history teaches us about political economy and political power.

There might not be much to be done about it. Yet I cannot help recalling what Robert A. Heinlein noted in Stranger In A Strange Land: that obsession with the news is the single largest driver of neurosis and unhappiness known to Man. His character Jubal Harshaw called it "wallowing in the troubles of billions of strangers," and he may have been more right than even Heinlein knew. It might be the supreme irony of our time that the general tendency is to inject ever more such troubles into our consciousness with every passing day, as the relentless politicization of anything and everything drives toward its foreseeable conclusion.

And with that, Gentle Reader, I think I'll lie down quietly with a cool cloth on my forehead until the steam has ceased to pour from my ears.

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