NC GOP and Vanguard Politics

by | Jul 30, 2013 | Features, NCGOP, Political Theory, Politics | 2 comments

In my efforts to try and wrap my head around the Republican political agenda I’ve been thinking about what’s gone on this session in terms of political theory (if only to make me feel better about having a political science degree).  After examining the policies enacted, and the way they were implemented, I feel pretty safe describing the politics of the NC Republican Legislature as Vanguard Politics.

Vanguard politics is a transformational political theory most commonly associated with far-left political theory of the first half of the 20th century.  First espoused by Lenin in a piece about the future of the communist political movement, it has been most strongly associated with Stalinist and Maoist politics of the 1930s-1950s.  The central idea is that the political/economic ideals of the minority espousing them are “better” than those of the majority, and only by the minority seizing the reins of government and implementing them over the objections of the majority, can the majority be shown the superiority of the Vanguard movement’s ideas.  The theory is best illustrated by Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” and the forced collectivization and urbanization during the Stalin Regime in the USSR.

On the surface NC’s far-right has little in common with the Communist regimes traditionally associated with Vanguard Theory.  However in practice their top-down, transformational, “we know better than you” approach to politics is remarkably similar.  On issues ranging from abortion to gun control to tax reform, Republican lawmakers have charged ahead despite polls showing a majority of North Carolinians oppose the way they have pursued each of these issues.  It’s tough to describe these efforts as simply partisan when even a majority of Republicans disagree with the direction the legislature is taking our state in.

The fact that many of these laws come out of ALEC only strengthens my argument.  For forty years ALEC has been striving to change state laws and constitutions to conform to their idea of what government should look like.  Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of ALEC even stated that he doesn’t want everyone to vote, because when more people vote it waters down conservatives’ political power.

Here’s the thing though; Vanguard politics always backfires.  Primarily because people don’t like having the minority’s ideals forced down their throats without debate or recourse.  Despite any progress created by Stalin or Mao’s policies in the long run, both were vilified by subsequent governments because of their high handed attitudes and draconian tactics.  So while they’re all busy patting themselves on the back for their work, maybe the NC Legislature should take a look at the past, and adjust their tactics before they’re “consigned to the dustbin of history.”


  1. Matt Phillippi

    Glad you liked the piece, and actually thanks, your comment actually covered a few of the specifics I would have like to have tackled in the piece, but couldn’t for brevity’s sake. I wasn’t sure if this kind of heavy political theory would go over well, but you’ve proven to me that it can, so thanks for that.

  2. Paleo Tek

    Interesting analysis, Matt. It rings true to a significant degree. There’s little question that the true believers like Berger and Moffit are sure they know what’s best for us, so that part is spot on. The ironic part for me is that the ideals and goals espoused by the current GOP are essentially reactionary: rolling back voting rights, tax cuts for the rich, ending worker and environmental protections, and slashing education. Since they’re funded in significant part by Team Koch, this crew are the genetic and philosophical descendants of the John Birch Society. It’s as if the Vanguard were a bunch of tsarists rolling back the revolution.

    The contemptuous regard of the existing order supports your theory: completely overhauling the tax code of a state of 10 million people with fifteen minutes debate is an impressive example. It’s silly to pretend that the entire GOP caucus understood what was in that bill, they just went along with the prevailing ideology that it was “right”.

    The NCGA is having a reactionary spasm to benefit power and privilege. Being out of power or junior partners for so long has given them a caucus that doesn’t know how to govern, but does have a thorough disregard for negotiated agreements. Their narrow demographic base gives them a narrow agenda and a narrow worldview. I don’t think they have much idea how upset a lot of low information votes are with them right now.

    Thanks for the insight!

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