Incrementalism. It's a common cause for disunity among conservatives. Some just can't wait. Big and oppressive government, high taxes, picking winners and losers, failing education, decreasing prosperity, rights ceded to government, and bureaucrats running our lives and enabling the coarseness of the culture are among the many ills wrought by liberalism. But they didn't occur overnight. The Left patiently plotted, worked and plodded and, over several decades, got us into our current predicament. Get the people hooked on a little bit here and a little more later and before you know it, no one wants to, or can muster the courage, to disengage from government dependency or the status quo. Why go back? It makes the job of conservatism that much tougher.
It has also made for divisions within the conservative movement. How fast can we go? When should we go? What should our program look like? Some, want it all repealed yesterday. Some realize that we didn't get here in one day or year or even decade. It takes time to build support for deconstructing government. Unfortunately, to the former, if you take the approach of the latter, you're not all in and not a real conservative. Alec Thomas at Bearingdrift.com kind of gets at the idea here.
Coincidentally, Matt Archbold at the National Catholic Register today writes about incrementalism as it pertains to the pro-life movement. Ironically, it's the pro-abortion forces who are bitterly upset at the progress (setbacks in their world) that has been made by pro-lifers in state after state by remaining patient and getting it done piece by piece. He quotes Vicki Saporta, head of the National Abortion Federation as saying:
The anti-choice folks have gotten smarter. They’re no longer talking about overturning Roe, because there would be a huge backlash. But if you make abortion inaccessible in state after state, they are in fact achieving their goal while seeming reasonable, when they’re anything but.
He then drops this gem from Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast:
The anti-abortion movement has been making epochal advances using regulations that are as tedious to read about as they are to describe. In the abortion wars, boredom has become a powerful weapon.
This division of patience or eagerness often is portrayed as difference in philosophy, creating "right wing" and "moderate" camps within conservatism. Usually, the policy aims are pretty on par. It's the approach that differs. Many of the legislative wins in Virginia in recent years on abortion and education choice, for example, have come by tie-breaking votes in the Senate. The bills were as packed as tightly as possible given what could be stomached by the players involved. Change the players? Sure, but that's for campaigns, not policy. We must always strive to get what we can when we can or we lose ground. Every opportunity is an opportunity — to get something, to set the stage to come back for more. (Once you get legislators in the habit of voting the right way, it gets easier each time.)
As Archbold himself writes:
You see, pro-aborts are very used to having the deck stacked against pro-lifers. Along with their friends in the media, they've (with little effort) attacked and demonized pro-life leaders as kooks for years. But now the pro-life cause is being pushed in so many places and from so many faces that the smear machine can't fix its slimy gaze.
Incrementalism may not be sexy and it may seem boring. It's not glamorous but it's effective. Archbold affectionately refers to it as a yawn. The Secular Left sees us taking a page out of their operation manual. Perhaps some of our conservative allies now can see clearly what the Left sees because we do need to row in the same direction — now that the Left is onto us it will only get more difficult. But with all conservatives working together, the blocks removed from the government fortress will become larger and larger and the yawns will turn to shouts of joy.
Yawning for joy. These days, it's pro-lifers who are happily gaining victory after victory, even in unglamorous fashion. (H/T National Catholic Register.)