Notes on creative destruction

When Christine O’Donnell emerged triumphant over Rep. Mike Castle in the Delaware Senate primary contest for the Republican endorsement, Karl Rove turned up on Fox News vehemently denouncing Christine O’Donnell’s personal record. After his spirited denunciations of O’Donnell, he occasionally got around to acknowledging that Democratic nominee Chris Coons (a/k/a “the bearded Marxist”) had a few issues too.
Rove’s denunciation of O’Donnell is explicable by the disappointment of a political professional. He strongly believes that Delaware Republicans threw away a sure chance to take the Delaware Senate seat. Even if it was only disappointment speaking, his vehemence was striking.
The forces powering the Tea Party movement have to one degree or another brought us Christine O’Donnell as well as Marco Rubio in Florida, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and Joe Miller in Alaska. All four of the candidates they defeated had the backing of the Republican establishment.
The Republican establishment has at least nominally fallen in behind these candidates. Rove has endorsed O’Donnell, though in a manner that can be described as pro forma at best. With defeat staring him in the face, however, Charlie Crist bolted the Republican Party and set up shop as a hack with no particular address. His vacuity is of monumental proportions. In defeat, Castle has declined to endorse O’Donnell. In defeat, Murkowski has gone Castle one better and announced a write-in campaign to retain her seat. While the defeat of Castle by O’Donnell is not by itself a constructive development, it is part of a larger phenomenon that is indicative of renewal.
In some respects the Tea Party movement is working the kind of creative destruction in the Republican Party that Joseph Schumpeter attributed to the system of free enterprise in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Schumpter held that the “process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
Schumpeter described the natural cycle of innovation, growth, death, and renewal that is a necessary part of the free enterprise system. As the Wikipedia page on creative destruction explains, innovative entry by entrepreneurs was in Schumpeter’s view the force that sustained long-term economic growth, even as it destroyed the value of established companies that enjoyed some degree of monopoly power derived from previous technological, organizational, regulatory, and economic paradigms. Something like this creative destruction appears to be happening in the political sphere.
Self-interest and opportunism are essential parts of human nature, but in the persons of Charlie Crist and Lisa Murkowski (not to mention the ineffable Arlen Specter) we have been given incredible examples. Their removal from the scene is a consummation devoutly to be wished. They demonstrate the rot in the establishment of which they were a part.
The formation of the Republican Party in 1854 was followed in short order by the dissolution of the Whigs. The hand of creative destruction (via the Kansas-Nebraska Act) was at work. By 1858, Lincoln observed of the Republicans: “Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud and pampered enemy.” Among the “discordant elements” were nativists and anti-slavery men like Lincoln, who had been elected to the Illinois legislature as a Whig only four years earlier.
The work of the forces comprising the Tea Party movement so far has taken place to a significant extent within the Republican Party and has strengthened it. The Tea Party forces have raised a banner of constitutionalism and fiscal sanity that is greatly needed within the party. I hope their work will leave room for the likes of the ladies from Maine within the Republican Party, but they must be wondering where they fit in. in The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861, David Potter details the political ferment of the 1850’s. Even then Maine stood out by virtue of its powerful temperance movement.
Lincoln’s assessment of the Republican Party formed the conclusion of a political speech that is easily the most consequential in American history. He ended on a note of exhortation: “Did we brave all then, to falter now? –now, when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent? The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate, or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come.” So may it be today.
UPDATE: In their editorial today, our friends at National Review articulate a point that is implicit in my comments. Don’t miss “A monumental contest.” The IBD editorial “Rove rage” also elaborates on a point that is implicit in my comments.

Responses

Books to read from Power Line