Saturday, August 16, 2014
One Last Gesture of Defiance
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.