Saturday, August 16, 2014
It doesn’t take any great stretch of the imagination to conclude that the Republican Party is “dead meat” on the national level -- i.e. when it comes to the presidency. And I’m not being pessimistic here; the Republicans richly deserve extinction since their sins are great and many. Not that the Democrats are any better, but one must admit that the Democrats are still, in some ways, a party of ideas, wrong though they may be. But the cold facts, as many have pointed out, are that the Democrats have demographics on their side, and the Republicans don’t. We have evolved into a system where more than half the populace are tax receivers, as opposed to tax payers… and more are being added to their ranks each day. It’s not just that more are being born -- ironic, since the Democrats are nothing if not the party of “population control”, AKA abortion (free and on-demand). Thousands of immigrants -- call them “illegal” if you like, even if Obama and the media won’t -- are crossing our borders each day, and they are, at least if one believes Rush Limbaugh, guaranteed Democrat voters (once they all come of age if not before).
So… does this mean that the Republicans are delusional when it comes to the presidency, and they might as well just give up? Not even have a convention? No nominee? Well, in a perfectly rational world this might be an option, but we can’t expect them to just give up and lie down to be trampled by the forces of collectivism. But their platforms have, of late, been pretty pathetic -- mostly “me too-ism” with the message “We’re almost as compassionate as the Democrats”, or compassionate in a different way, or something. (And why vote for that when you can vote for the real thing?) Because it’s all about feelings any more, and even though the Democrats have ideas, their appeal is all on the feeling level -- the politics of envy… of race… of “identity”… of class warfare… of victimhood. They have a ready-made model for the way things ought to be -- or a number of models, actually, ranging from Scandinavian socialism to Soviet- (or even Maoist-) style collectivism and totalitarianism. Not that they identify it in so many words (they’ve even quit identifying themselves as “liberals”, and have returned to the nostalgic, good-old-days term “progressives”), but that’s what it amounts to.
Every domestic political issue of our time boils down to the same thing, basically -- “compassion”, which is the sole property of the Democrats, versus capitalism, “greed”, “hate”… you fill in the other dozen or so buzz words. And the Democrats have not only a solid demographic base -- growing every day, as I said -- but a united front in the form of politicians, the media, academia, the entertainment industry, the arts… really pretty much everyone except the “heartland”, fly-over folks who are ignored and belittled more now than they were in the glory days of the New Deal (and the slightly less glorious days of the Great Society). White, middle-class, non-ethnic, male, heterosexual, self-supporting Americans are under siege, not only in the demographic sense but also in the cultural sense; their day is past, and when they are all dead and gone and the rough places have been made plain, well… then we might, if all goes as planned, have a one-party system, not unlike… oh, let’s see… ah yes, the Soviet Union, or Nazi Germany, or China, or any number of other examples of good governance -- and we’ve seen what splendid results come out of those types of systems. Democrats long for the day when the party is the government and the government is the party; it would make things so much simpler… so much more humane… so efficient.
And it’s all about class as well -- as always. The dream of collectivists down through the ages has been to eliminate that annoying, pompous, complacent, bourgeois middle class and to replace it with a people’s paradise, overseen by benign and enlightened leaders. And never mind that there are “populists” on both sides -- think Occupy vs. Tea Party. The populists of the right are obviously misled and mistaken, and have to be educated out of their Medieval delusions -- by force if necessary (the job, first, of the public schools).
But -- you might say -- when it comes to immigration, haven’t we always been a “nation of immigrants”? True enough. But there’s a difference. The immigrants of old -- let’s say of the great wave in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries -- came here expecting to work. And work they did -- harder, in most cases, than the native-born Americans. They came to get the blessings of a “free country”, but had to earn them as well. And those “huddled masses” who showed up in the old days were not showered with gift baskets of benefits and entitlements the minute they stepped off the boat. They had mutual aid societies, brotherhoods, and charitable organizations staffed by people who would have been called social workers if the term had been invented -- but what they got from the government was, to use a Yiddish term, bubkes -- i.e. little or nothing. So they clawed their way up the social and economic ladder, and many of them succeeded in a spectacular way. But they could almost all claim to be self-made -- i.e. not merely wards of the state.
All of this began to change in what is called the Progressive Era, and it reached a fever pitch with the New Deal… but that was still nothing compared to the Great Society, with its full-blown welfare state… and that was still nothing compared to what we have (or are trying to have) today.
But -- you might say -- aren’t these good things? Isn’t compassion, even if the term is widely abused by demagogues, an intrinsically good thing -- the best of humanity, in fact? People helping people, etc.? Setting aside all Constitutional issues here (just as the Constitution itself has been, basically, set aside and relegated to the dustbin of history known as the National Archives), I propose a single word, or concept: sustainability. And no liberal can argue with this, since “sustainability” has been a kind of shibboleth by which one defines the merits of anything involving natural resources. Oddly enough, however, it’s very seldom applied to economic issues. No one ever wonders -- at least not out loud -- what happens when everyone becomes a tax receiver and there are no tax payers left. And this, in turn, is based on the premise that government is the source of all wealth and prosperity… that’s it’s a kind of magic cornucopia that even without input is capable of infinite output. More sober economists will contend that, in fact, the government doesn’t -- cannot -- produce wealth at all, that’s it’s basically parasitic, and owes its very existence to the dwindling proportion of productive citizens. Government cannot produce wealth, it can only redistribute it (while keeping a good chunk for itself) -- and human nature being what it is, productivity tends to decline when people discover that they can live almost as well not working as they can by the sweat of their brow. But this is an insight that has escaped the attention of nearly everyone in government as well as their facilitators in the media, academics, etc.
So the question is, how can the Republicans, especially given their ambivalence and demonstrated impotence on these issues, compete with this notion? The answer is, they can’t. The stars of “talk radio” and Fox News can scream all they want, but they won’t change anyone’s mind on these issues. Either you subscribe to some sort of economic sustainability concept -- however vague -- or you don’t, and in our time most people don’t.
How, then, will it all end? Are we dealing with some basic laws here, not unlike the laws of physics? Or will benign UFOs swoop down some day soon and shower us all with gold bullion (in which case, gold will be worth no more than tinfoil)? Where, in other words, is the escape hatch that will save us all from our folly?
Fortunately (or not), we have many examples from the 20th Century as to how this kind of thinking turned out. We have the Soviet Union, with its starvation, deprivation, and gulags… and we have Mao’s China, where it was necessary to exterminate hundreds of millions of people just to break even. Or on the extreme end, we have Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, which committed what I call “auto-genocide”. And yet, even those benighted societies turned around eventually, with varying degrees of success, and the process continues. What is left of the hard core -- the true believers? Arguably, North Korea -- a people’s paradise if ever there was one -- and, to a lesser extent, Cuba. And what do you know, not a day goes by but what some Democrat doesn’t hold Cuba up as an exemplar. (They aren’t quite as enthused about North Korea, although I expect that they secretly look upon the Kim dynasty with burning envy.)
So what’s a good Republican to do? Muddle along with those ciphers in Congress known as “the Republican leadership” (You know, those guys who were born without a spine, like the never-seen character on “Saturday Night Live”)? Embrace the Tea Party? The problem there is that it’s not a real party, and its ideas lack coherence. It’s “agin” plenty of things, but what is it for? All I ever hear are vague concepts and memes. Plus, it has a huge Achilles heel called “foreign policy”, which I won’t belabor at this point.
A search for honest, unapologetic conservatism might take one back to the Reagan era… or to Goldwater… or to Robert Taft. And that would be a start. But those strategies would still run the risk of being contaminated by nationalism (as opposed to patriotism) and empire-madness. No, what I propose is making a clean break -- going all the way. Rather than throwing the libertarians bodily out of the convention, welcome them with open arms, sit at their feet, and learn. By which I mean, learn sound economics, sane foreign policy, sustainable (that word again) domestic policy… and, most of all, regain some self respect. The libertarian philosophy contains much of what the Republicans have fought for in the past, with varying degrees of success, but without all of the accumulated baggage that has, in effect, doomed the Republicans as a party and as a political force, except on the strictly local, and occasionally state, level. Best of all, it would yield up a real position… a platform… a philosophy of government. And yes, it would guarantee a crushing loss in the 2016 election, but better to retire from the scene with some self respect than simply as a confused pack of losers. And who knows, it might plant some ideas in some people’s heads -- ideas that might be remembered, and even come to fruition, after the deluge is past (although that may take years… decades… even generations). It would be a way of saying to the Democrats, “This is where we stand. It’s honorable, it has a historical basis, and it works. Your program, on the other hand, is deceptive, cruel, unsustainable, evil, tyrannical, designed for your own glory and enrichment, and, ultimately, doomed. And we want nothing to do with it.”
Now that would be an act of defiance. It would be “TV worth watching”. And it will never happen. The Republicans have brought a curse upon themselves by being pale imitations of the Democrats, and they are suffering the appropriate fate. They are complicit in their own demise.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Well, I'm not. Never have been, never will be. And yet there she is, rising out of the murky depths of the sea (or of the Democratic Party, whichever is murkier) like Godzilla, making a bee-line for Tokyo – or, in this case, Washington. And no one can stop her (although Obama did, back in 2008). And, after all, what are the alternatives? Joe Biden? Please. Nancy Pelosi? No matter how deep you dig among the Democrats, you find nothing but unindicted felons, sociopaths, con artists, moral pygmies, and would-be mini-Stalins. And considering that the presidency has become a largely ceremonial office, maybe it doesn't make much difference. After all, Bill Clinton's presidency gave us more juicy scandals and laughs than any in recent history; who's to say Hillary's won't be just as amusing?
And yet there are differences. All Bill Clinton ever wanted, from the cradle, was to be president – but once in office, he ran out of ideas. Oh sure, he pursued the usual menu of liberal, totalitarian, nanny-state legislation and regulation, and was responsible for a few desultory mini-wars, but basically his administration was relatively benign since it was all about him and nothing else. Even “Clinton Care”, which was defeated thanks to a full-court press by the Republicans, was more aptly named “Hillary Care”, since she was spearheading the campaign. So he was not really an “idea person”, whereas Hillary is. She is, in other words, a true believer, though perhaps not as fanatical as the likes of John McCain (or – shudder – Sarah Palin). She has an agenda which she will pursue no matter who tries to get in the way, and I imagine that since Obama Care is “the law of the land” she will use it as a jumping-off point for further tyrannies.
Another difference is that the first Clinton administration was rightly called “a vacation from history”, and it was, in a way, kind of like a college spring break, with all the behaviors we have come to expect from such free-for-alls. But 9/11 changed all this, and we embarked on a War on Islam (to call it by its proper name, and the name by which I expect it to be called by future historians) which continues to this day and shows no signs of ending in our lifetimes or those of anyone else. America needs enemies in order to maintain its self image as savior of the world, and it was only a matter of time before communism (a bonafide enemy, in my opinion) was replaced by something just as big, bad, and scary. And what better enemy than Islam, AKA “terrorism”, which is everywhere and nowhere... where there is no agreement as to how it is to be fought, let alone what the criteria might be for victory. Communism, on the other hand, was everywhere in some senses, but it did have a solid geographical base, namely the Soviet Union, with China as a kind of secondary base. And Islam has a geographical base as well, but “terrorism” is truly everywhere and is thus an ideal perpetual enemy conducive to perpetual war – which seems to be the goal at this stage of the devolution of the American Empire. It's a goal, but really more of a process, since the goal is either undefined or defined in a nonsensical way, like “eliminate terrorism”, which is sort of like saying “eliminate bad weather”. Once we define an enemy that can't be defeated, and can only be barely defined, we are assured of endless conflict... and endless conflict is a tool of empire-building but it can also be a death sentence for empires. No empire in its right mind (so to speak) down through history has declared its mission to be the extermination of an idea that can arise in any place at any time. Communism came close with its war on “capitalism” and “imperialism”, but since it had its own version of imperialism it was compromised from the start, and “capitalism” is a much fuzzier concept than Marx or his followers would have liked to admit. Depending on which propaganda organ one read or listened to, “capitalism” could range from the stereotyped cigar-smoking, top hat-wearing industrialist down to some farmer who was slightly smarter than his neighbors and managed to have two cows when his neighbor had only one. (This was sufficient grounds for persecution and extermination, as we saw in the case of the Russian kulaks.)
So yes, Hillary is, unlike Bill, a theorist. Politics was a game for him, but for her it's deadly serious. She has an idea, a model, for the way things ought to be, and intends to pursue it with a vengeance. Obama has stolen one of her favorite ideas and made it work – sort of. At least he managed to make it into law (which he has no problem breaking from time to time, but hey, it was his idea so he has a right – right?). And yet, we also know (because the evidence is overwhelming) that Obama is no more than a figurehead – a face in a suit. He's a tool of Wall Street, of the armaments makers, of the international banking/financial cartel, and of Israel – and the neocons, who had a field day under Bush II, remain extremely influential in foreign policy (with the Evangelicals acting as a cheering section, even though they are despised by the Democrats). So... are these really the shoes that Hillary wants to fill? Because there are no other shoes out there, folks. The Republicans would like to fill those shoes in their own way, but the outcome would not be that much different. What I'm saying is that Hillary, once in office, will feel the full weight of all of these entities, which are much more than mere “interest groups”. These are the people who are in charge, and who have been for a couple of generations at least, and there is no way they're going to give up any of that power and influence. They'll have about as much respect for “the first woman president” as they have for “the first black president”, whom they treat like an errand boy.
So what does Hillary do, once she gets “the talk”? (You know, it's that “briefing” or “orientation meeting” that every president gets his/her first day in office, even before the inaugural festivities get under way.) Rebel? Appeal directly to the people? (Lots of luck with that.) Or, does she do what they all do, which is to resign herself to being a figurehead... to getting great apparent power but little real power... to riding high and lording it over the peasantry, while knowing that she will have to answer, for every action, to higher powers. Will, she, in other words, be as much of a willing tool as Bush II and Obama, or will she strain against the traces? And if the latter, what will the Regime's response be? All I'm saying is that they may be in for a surprise. So far, she has shown herself to be a good and loyal soldier and political operative – an “agent of change” extraordinaire, while at the same being conservative in the sense of never questioning the basic premises of liberalism, no matter how many failures and catastrophes result. But -- she hasn't been president yet. There is something about that office, with all of its perks and grandeur... living in that whited sepulcher called The White House... that tends to unbalance the mind. We've seen it before, most notably with FDR, Nixon, Bill Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. When you're crowned king (or queen) before millions of people and treated like some Oriental potentate, you start to believe it – and it's that belief that, as much as anything else, contributes to your downfall. You find that, far from being the most powerful person on the planet, you become the most pathetic of men (or women), answerable to unnamed and unseen powers while all the time pretending to be answerable to “the people”. You become no more than a glorified slave. And one could say, well, Hillary “ought to know”, by now, that that's the way things are – after all, wasn't she “co-president” for 8 years? And yet, denial is a powerful factor in people in general, and in politicians in particular. She probably thinks Bill sold out – which he did in some respects, because, as I've said, he is not an idea person. He's much more concerned about his image – about being liked – whereas she doesn't give a rat's derrière whether she's liked or not; in fact, I think she prefers hostility. It's more familiar, more comforting, and it removes any barriers that might exist to treating people like the maggots she's convinced they are.
So the real question is not whether we're ready for Hillary. The question is whether Hillary is ready for the grim realities of occupying “the highest office in the land” when that land is a fading empire ruled by people who care not a whit about the idea, or ideals – however unfulfilled -- of America. She may turn out to be one of those rulers, who knows? But it's more likely that, like nearly all politicians, she will wind up being one of the ruled. Someone once said that anything the public is allowed to vote on can't be that important – and the presidency is no exception. When democracy devolves from a political system to a intricate matrix of delusion, we can fully expect to wind up with candidates, and presidents, like Hillary.