So... if it's true that, as I've claimed, this election will make no difference whatsoever... and I said roughly the same thing about the elections of 2008, 2004, and 2000... when's the last time we had an election that did make a difference? You might ask that, and I accept the challenge. But the problem is, life is not “experimental”, and politics is part of life. You can't run things one way, then another way, and compare the results. And contrary to the conventional wisdom, history never repeats itself – not really, not in the details, and not down at the grass-roots level where it really counts. If “all politics is local”, then it's even more true that all lives are local – even the lives of sworn globalists like Henry Kissinger. He still has to live somewhere, do something, at any given moment. He has to eat, sleep, and wipe his butt. And so do Bill Gates, George Soros, and all of our other international demi-gods of the moment. They are all of the human species, although they have been granted grossly inflated and undue power over the lives of others.
In any case, on thinking back, it's clear enough that if “Algore” had won in 2000, and the 9-11 attacks had still occurred (highly likely, since they had been in the planning stages for quite some time), we would still have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Al would have found a way; didn't his old boss bomb Serbia for no damn good reason? And if Kerry had won in 2004, would he have gotten us out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Yeah, sure – about as fast as Obama is getting us out of those shitholes. So no, those two elections were of little long-term consequence. But, you might ask, how about the economy? Would Gore and/or Kerry have led us down the same primrose path that Bush did? Ah, but let's not forget that Suspect #1 in the subprime mortgage meltdown that allegedly triggered the whole thing is Barney Frank. So if anything, it might have been worse. But it would still have happened – as would the bailouts. The Democrats are every bit as much creatures of Wall Street as the Republicans are – the only difference is that they're allowed to pretend they aren't, and to mouth words to that effect. When it comes to Wall Street, the Democrats are like moody teenagers who storm out of the house, vowing never to return... but a couple hours later they get hungry, and reappear on the doorstep.
Well then, what about 1996, which was Clinton's answer to the “Republican revolution”? Conventional wisdom in retrospect is that Clinton was a centrist in most respects, despite any personal beliefs he might have held to the contrary. The only problem with that theory is that Clinton _had_ no personal beliefs – except in himself. And his top priority in life was being liked by as many people as possible. And in a paradoxical sort of way, this type is more easily manipulated and persuaded to “compromise” than a true believer (like Hillary) would be. And Bob Dole was about as un-radical a person as you could ever hope to meet... so if he had gotten in in 1996 (and doesn't the whole idea now strike you as somewhat absurd?) we would have continued our “vacation from history” just as we actually did with the Boy President.
1992 was a contest between, possibly, the last Rockefeller Republican and “an obscure Southern governor” -- who has since been replaced in the “overnight success hall of fame” by Obama. Bush the First had already pretty much sold the Reagan ranch, so what was left? “No more taxes”, and he raised taxes. I guess the Branch Davidians would have been better off if Bush had gotten in, but other than that...
OK then, how about 1988? A Democrat who promised to deconstruct the Reagan Revolution, vs. a Republican who actually did – or started to. You tell me. Bush I was a committed globalist – perhaps the first we had as president. It was all about the New World Order – which sounded eerily like Hitler's “New Order”. But would Dukakis (who?) have been an “America firster”? Surely you jest...
1984? A second term for Reagan vs. a first term for what's-his-face. (Oh yeah, Carter's vice president. Try that out on your resume!) That election might have made a real difference. Economic and military recovery vs. Carter redux? And the election of 1980 made a huge difference – I don't think the country would have survived four more years of Jimmy Carter. He trashed the economy and sucked the heart out of the military like some B-movie monster. And likewise, the election of 1976 that put Carter in made a difference – it was Carterism vs. Fordism, and Fordism wasn't much different from Bush the First-ism. Sometimes it's OK to have things stay bland; Carter was much too exciting. I don't mean personally – personally he was a total wet blanket (still is!) -- but his administration put the Vandals and Visigoths who sacked Rome to shame.
In any case, there you have it – the, arguably, last significant presidential election was 26 years ago, the third of three in a row. But I would be remiss in ending this discussion without taking in a few earlier elections.
If McGovern had gotten in in 1972, he “might” have gotten us out of Vietnam – but the record of presidents who inherit wars is no cause for optimism. And, he would probably have managed to trash the economy four years earlier than Jimmeh did.
1968? “Dump the Hump” vs. “Tricky Dick”? In retrospect, not much difference. The Hump would have continued his old boss's war and meddled in the economy. Nixon took us off the silver standard and bombed Cambodia. But would The Hump have gone to China? Probably not – thus the paradox of what the different parties can do and get away with. Of course, we wouldn't have had Watergate, and therefore probably not Carter, so... but I'm only concerned with first-order effects here; the rest is just too complicated, like "bubble universes".
1964? We would have gotten just as embroiled in Vietnam under Goldwater as we did under LBJ, maybe with nukes added to the mix. (They might have taken out Jane Fonda, which would have been of immense benefit to all of mankind.) But! There would have been no “Great Society”, and we're still paying a steep price for that one. It brought the New Deal back to life, just like Frankenstein's monster. So you can mark that down as one that made a difference.
1960? JFK wasn't all that liberal by current standards, and Nixon was certainly no libertarian. Both were committed to big government; it took a Goldwater to question that core premise. So I say “little or no difference”. Except in iconography, of course. (And how would Nixon have handled Cuba? About the same, I guess – except he wouldn't have gotten cold feet at the Bay of Pigs. But it would have failed anyway.)
1956? Two big gummint guys. Some of the Kennedy/Johnson social programs might have come along earlier under Stevenson – but like most eggheads, he would have wound up woefully compromised.
1952? That one was a biggie. Eisenhower didn't succeed in sweeping all the commies and pinkos out of Washington – you know, the ones that had been accumulating under FDR and Truman ever since 1933. But he did manage to reverse a very dangerous trend – with the help of his vice president and a dude named Joe McCarthy (not that Ike wanted McCarthy's help – far from it). Of course, it was too late for the countries behind the Iron Curtain – they had to wait almost 40 more years, thanks to FDR, who by the time Yalta rolled around had been mesmerized by Alger Hiss. But I don't think hard-core communism on the domestic front was ever the same; they all retired and become college professors and folk singers. What we got instead was “socialism lite”, with Obama being just the most recent purveyor.
But it's a good thing communism managed to melt down in most places by 1990 – and show its true colors in sharp relief elsewhere (Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela) -- since the collectivist/totalitarian mindset is ever-present in a certain percentage of the population, particularly among academic, political, “artistic”, and media types. They will always be with us, and must always be resisted. And it's always the “plain people” who manage to put up a fight – even if they are, at times, woefully compromised (by unions and farm price supports, for example). And I suppose this particular version of the culture wars is going to go on as far into the future as we can imagine. It's always the “experts” and the know-it-alls vs. the unwashed/ignorant/superstitious – in other words the elite vs. the people. This seems to be hard-wired into our DNA as a mark of the human race. There will always be a minority who rule by force if need be, but preferably by persuasion (propaganda) and “expertise”. And “programs”. And the majority will always be too intimidated to question it – with a few notable exceptions, like the “tea parties”. But they always come along too late to accomplish anything. The core notion of “democracy” -- that, literally, the people rule – may turn out to be mostly, if not entirely, an illusion in the long run. What's more likely is that there is always a ruling elite, but that sometimes it rules more in the interests of the average citizen, and sometimes less. This is the way our own society has evolved – from an initial ruling elite (albeit benign), through an early form of populism (Jacksonian democracy), to increasing influence by industrial and moneyed interests – at the same time the progressive movement and the labor movement were getting up to speed. But this is not a paradox so much as a natural causal relationship. The rise of a visible ruling elite naturally stimulated populism – which, in turn, stimulated a greater consolidation of power by the ruling elite, et cetera.
Another question, when it comes to things that make a difference, is: At what point did the economic fate of this country pass, by and large, into the hands of foreigners – i.e. the European financial cartel, and the Chinese? And I know that not everybody is going to agree with this premise; after all, we wound up being “The” Superpower after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and still have the largest economy on earth, and the mightiest military, etc. etc. But at the same time we are at the military, political, and economic beck and call of people who are not us... and, as I've said before, it's based on our ideational habits – the fact that our “ideals” invariably make us go a bridge too far, so there is no turning back. And the cynics of this world are ever ready to take advantage of this, as they have done. So what we have become is not a helpless giant, exactly – but an underachieving giant, and one that is way too impulsive and delusional for our level of wealth and strength. So some rectification had to be made – either we get wised up, or we are relieved of some of our wealth and strength. Well, the “wising up” part didn't work (George W. Bush, anyone?) so what was left? Sap our strength by encouraging us in our follies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sap our wealth by aiding and abetting our deficit spending and borrowing... and by making sure the dollar stays on the defensive on the world market. And so, as “W” would say, “mission accomplished” -- we are now up the proverbial creek without a paddle, on all fronts... and the EU and China are looking on bemused, the way a cat would languidly gaze upon a crippled bird. Relax, you've got all the time in the world.
So let's say, for the sake of argument, that I'm right about the EU cartel and China – and it doesn't even matter all that much whether they are working in tandem or not, their long-term interests are quite in sync. But when did they gain the upper hand? Well, China is a relative newcomer to the international financial game, since it was an economic cipher until they got rid of Mao and the Gang of Four. Since then, they have carefully and gradually built up capital and equity, with their prime investment target being us. But it's not just about making money – it's also about world power, and I'm sure they'd be willing to take a financial hit if it meant cementing their dominance over East Asia and the Pacific. We just have to remember that, for them, reason has overtaken emotion – and this makes them dangerous in a new way... a way we're not yet used to. We still think of Mao and his lunatic notions like backyard iron smelters – but forget about it, the Chinese have come a long way, baby.
On the other hand, we have the Europeans, who have been planning and plotting in the international finance arena since the Middle Ages... and they have always considered us at once too big for our britches and too naïve. Or, just naïve enough to be duped on a regular basis. You know, like the way they talked us into joining them in World Wars I and II, in which the working and middle classes of America fought on behalf of the rich of Europe. So what happens is that they send up a siren song and attract all the top power players from this country over to their shores, for “conferences” and “consultations” and suchlike. And gradually, more and more American companies, especially in the financial sector, become subsidiaries of European firms. Shazam! Our economy, big as it is, becomes an economic subsidiary of Europe – at least at the very top levels, which is where it really counts. I mean... no one can claim that we dominate them, right? And yet we're playing the same game in the same ballpark, and someone has to be in charge, right? So it must be them. Never underestimate the power or cachet of old money... and I mean really old money, much older than anything the Rockefellers or du Ponts or Vanderbilts ever came up with. All money is not created equal, and all holders of wealth are not created equal. Our millionaires and billionaires are mere newbies compared with the venerable houses of Europe. And yet they want to be like them – and therein lies the hook. Or one of the hooks, at least. So you can play with the big dogs all you like over here, but there's nothing like playing with the big dogs in places like Zurich, or Brussels, or Amsterdam, or London... nothing like being accepted into those circles, even if you have a Slim Pickens accent.
So I ask again, when did our economy, and our fate, fall into their hands? Because fall it did, I'm quite certain of it... and it was at that point that our elections – your vote included – became meaningless. I mean, if someone else in in charge, what difference does it make? Decisions are being made elsewhere... not even by our elected representatives. Their job, figuratively speaking, is to put out coffee stirrers and tidy up after the meeting's over with. The people who are really in charge are not dependent on anything as foolish and pathetic as the American electoral process; can you imagine? Putting the largest economy on earth in the hands of ordinary citizens or their elected representatives? Why, the idea is absurd on its face. And yet, in the interest of propaganda, the show must go on, as it did yesterday.
And what does all this have to do with my whirlwind tour of “meaningful” and not-so-meaningful elections? Well, as I see it, you can date the globalist/internationalist takeover as far back as World War II, but no further. What we had at that point was the “military-industrial complex” that Eisenhower warned us about (and he should have known, since he was on the very pinnacle of the military); and this has evolved into what is today called the military-industrial-security (AKA intelligence) complex. But the intelligence component was alive and well during World War II as well, with the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. The military's entanglement with American industry goes back even further – at least as far back as the Civil War, but it really came into its own during World War I.
Another clue is what happens to the military budget over time. After World War I, it went back to peacetime levels – i.e. minimal. But after World World II it hardly receded at all, because then we had the Cold War -- very convenient, I must say. But what about after the Cold War? Well, then we had “terrorism”, after a brief but very upsetting (to the military) respite during the Clinton administration. Again, very convenient. So there's always a reason to remain on a full-blown war footing – and this has remained the case since 1941, and by the current definition of "terrorism" will remain so as long as the nation remains in existence.
Similarly, the intelligence agencies came into their own during World War II, and their missions and budgets have been expanding ever since, regardless of politics, world affairs, or the economy. “Intel” or “security” is a law unto itself, and a parallel government, a parallel economy. And it gets first dibs of resources – way ahead of the military, and certainly ahead of any social program or even entitlements. One can easily imagine a post-apocalyptic America where the only survivors are intelligence agents (with maybe some “special ops” military types thrown in for good measure).
So... can we close in on this question? I say the earliest realistic date is 1941, and the latest is the date of the election after the last meaningful election – namely 1988. But wait! -- you'll say – what about the New Deal? That goes back to 1933! Well, true – and that certainly established all of the necessary groundwork for big government. Once the New Deal was in place, we could be as totalitarian as we wanted to be – it was just a matter of priorities (and aesthetics). But it took World War II to convert that groundwork into the basis for the Perpetual Warfare State – and once plowshares have been beaten into swords, they are never beaten back. So I'll stick with 1941, but accept 1933 as a penumbra.
And actually, I think 1988 was a more critical year than I implied previously. We had a committed globalist in Bush the First, and I don't think Reagan was of that mind to any significant degree. And of his predecessors, JFK talked globalism a lot, but Nixon was more the genuine item (paradoxically, given his strong and, I believe, genuine opposition to communism early in his career). (Carter might have been more of a globalist, but he was too busy chasing off killer rabbits and collapsing while running marathons.) So it could have been Bush I who set us on the road to globalism, and therefore domination by the European cartel, later to be joined by the Chinese – and, not to forget, he had been ambassador to China (technically, the chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing) back in the mid-70s. Coincidence? You know I don't believe in that nonsense...
So while Reagan might have resisted globalization, I imagine that Bush I welcomed it, and that might have been the tipping point. It certainly couldn't have happened any later, and it might have happened earlier, Reagan or no Reagan. In any case, Bush I had four years to get the whole business up and running, and all Clinton had to do was put things on autopilot – which is precisely what he did. Then along came Bush II and 9-11 and... well, needless to say, we were dead meat as a sovereign nation at that point. Ever since then it's been a matter of how much can be given away how fast, while still maintaining the delusion in the minds of most Americans that they're “free”. Any American politician or captain of industry or finance knows that if he serves his European masters well, he will meet 72 virgins upon his demise. Well, I mean, there has to be something in it for them, doesn't there? They certainly don't enjoy the respect or loyalty of anyone here on earth.