There is a natural order of customs: A value influences a practice that becomes a tradition. Once separated by time from the value, the tradition is questioned and abandoned as inconvenient and unjustified. That value either has merit and reemerges in a new practice or dies a natural death.
The trend in organized civilizations is to extend the life a tradition by making it law. This can either be a beneficent move that preserves perpetual wisdom or a sanctimonious imposition that attempts to put an end to the debate.
An admirable example of canonized wisdom is the American Bill of Rights; the first ten amendments to the American Constitution. Short-sighted liberals do not appreciate the sagacity of the free exercise of religion, the trust in citizens who arm themselves with powerful weapons, and the distributed authority of state governments.
On the other hand, a case in point for deserved obsolescence by those same founding fathers would be the white wigs that they wore. French King Louis XIII started the trend by covering his baldness with just such a wig and it caught on as a status symbol. That footling practice was put down either by the Revolutionary War or Telly Savalas; The history is fuzzy on this matter.
The Republican Party has been suffering a phase of being out-of-vogue in recent years. But I just had a glimpse backstage and it looks like a reanimated elephant is getting ready to step back into the center ring. Here’s how the customs cycle applies to the Grand Old Party:
Conservatism thrives within the party platform as the popular currency. But the party surrendered its majority vote in 2008 and again in 2012 during the process of selecting its standard bearing nominees. Traditionalists and libertarians found more differences than commonalities. And in both instances, the traditionalists prevailed (with nominees McCain and Romney).
Traditionalists unwittingly severed the natural alliance with their libertarian cousins with an attitude of exclusivity that was codified in new convention party rules. Traditionalists won the battle in the primary and lost the war in the general election when their fellow libertarian members defiantly withheld their votes.
Here is how I see the customs cycle building up steam for a Democratic Party comeuppance: Barack Obama won handily as the most hip cat to ever run for prez. What other nominee could pull off singing the riff of an Al Green song?
It is inevitable that the consequences of liberal governance will begin to metastasize over the next four years. Paychecks will become smaller, inflation will reduce the value of work, and aggravating regulators will control common behavior. Many thirty-somethings will begin to realize that they spent the treasures of their youth at the expense of their maturity.
And while the Democratic Party will begin to look like an aging Hillary Clinton (who will turn 69 years old at the next presidential election), the Republican Party will emerge as a youthful combination of philosophical enthusiasts like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. By 2016, libertarians will soon learn to operate effectively within the structure of the Republican Party. Sophomoric calls for unfettered marijuana use will mature into respectful discourse over the constitutional role of government.
American voters with a wish of longevity for this grand culture will experience a moment of illumination in a couple of years. The elephant will seem much cooler than the jackass. “Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.” ? Alice Albinia, Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River
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