Sunday, February 04, 2007


Ideology -- n., a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society should work
A regular reader of WataugaWatch asked me if I'd seen the letter to the editor in Friday's Watauga Democrat. I said I had. The letter-writer wrote, among other things, that Republicans in Watauga County lost the fall elections "because they didn't deserve the votes of their former supporters."

My friend and I agreed this might be a sign of the times. Hell, it might be a sign of the end-times.

Gist of the letter? That "Republicans" generally, but more especially those in Watauga County, have gotten soft on conservative ideology, especially in the expenditure of tax money, and in being ... pure. "Do the Republicans stand for anything other than backing down on any of the issues that their supporters cared about? ...taxes, immigration, government spending, reducing government, gun control, property rights, socialized medicine."

Look closely at that list of specific beefs:

government spending
reducing government
gun control
property rights
socialized medicine

In some respects, a mystifying list, especially if the writer is trying to send a message to the Watauga County Republican Party, as opposed to the national one.

1. "Taxes" -- What local Republican has been in favor of raising taxes? For that matter, what national Republican?

2. "Immigration" -- Congresswoman Virginia Foxx beat that horse down every road in the district, but in her own county, her towering hypocrisy is better known. She preaches against illegal immigration while benefitting from immigrant labor. But I doubt the letter-writer was thinking of Foxx. He was thinking of his president.

3. "Government Spending" -- Ah! Now we're getting somewhere! The cost of the new Watauga County High School = concern over "government spending." (And that may also explain # 1 above in part, because support for a new school meant, naturally, raising the cash somehow, and though neither Republican County Commissioner ever voted for a tax increase, one of them did ultimately support the new school. Support of that new school meant you were guilty, de facto, of raising taxes, I guess (however modest the tax increase and smart the fiscal management).

4. 5. and 7. "Reducing Government," "Gun Control," and "Socialized Medicine" -- these issues have little or no obvious local application and may have been thrown in as padding. Count these out, and you're left with (slipped in next to last) the real heart of the matter in this mountain county to this particular ideological Republican...

6. "Property Rights" -- It's not surprising that, since 2002 and the "No Zoning" crusade gave the local Republicans their biggest local sweep in many years ... it's not surprising that nostalgia for 2002 might soar in 2007.

Here's the irony (cue the thunder & lightning, please): Zoning was a Republican invention. In 1916, in New York City, under the administration of Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, at 34 the youngest mayor in New York City history, "the boy mayor," who won election on the "Fusion Party" ticket, a combination of Republicans, Jews, and Protestant Reformers. "The Standard Zoning Enabling Act," which every other state of the union eventually copied, sometimes word for word, was the creation of young, forward-looking, conservation-minded Republicans.

But poor urban and rural Americans justifiably hated the uses and implications of zoning, because early zoning was too often used to draw lines of separation between "desirable and undesirable." It was an easy step from "desirable property" to "undesirable people" living on that property, even to the use of zoning to evict people for profit. The urban poor and the (often land-rich) rural people found themselves more often than not on the undesirable side of the line, even while their land was lusted after and gobbled up. Rural people especially resented the hell out of that. As well they should have.

It's a little different now. Zoning's a lot different now, but that's a whole 'nother argument for another snowy day.

What prompted the remarkable letter to the editor in the Watauga Democrat linked above? "It has been brought to my attention that the Republican Party in Watauga County is attempting to reorganize." It was apparently brought to the writer's attention because our former County Commissioner and defeated NC Senate candidate Mr. Blust has been calling everyone he can think of to help him reorganize and re-energize the local party. This letter was but one response to those phone calls: not only "no" but "hell no!"

Here's the deal. This letter to the editor is an important diagnosis of political ills. The recommended medicine? "There'll be no adaptation to changing times, no, never." Important (though not necessarily accurate) ... this rush back to IDEOLOGY, the constant beating on our heads about THE WAY THINGS OUGHT TO BE, and about how we're all going to hell muy pronto.

Our last post down-column, "Adapt or Die," gains additional dimension in light of this letter. Racing back to strict ideology is the opposite of adaptation.

Last night my friend said, "They can't adapt, because to change strategy would signal an admission that their core beliefs weren't correct somehow. It would mean something was wrong with belief itself, and they just can't go there."

Ideology, right or left, is its own iron prison.

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