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Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’

Obama has repeatedly reached for one of the lowest and most insulting rhetorical tricks in the book:  begging the question. In his inaugural address, for instance, he labeled all criticis of government spending as “cynics” who “fail to understand . . . that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”  In other words, I’m right and the only question now is the details.   He just wants “common sense” on gun control and other areas.  Any high principled reason for avoiding the big government fad of the moment  is cynicism and never accepted as a stand for high principle or constitutionalism, nor even as reasonable disagreement.

Consider his defense of the pork-laden “stimulus bill” authored by his fellow Democrats in the Congress:

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We’ve seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

In spite of indefensible pork, a dubious theory of government spending increasingly discredited by economic historians, and a growing national debt that has more than a little to do with why we are here, Obama assumes his mandate is whatever he happens to want at the moment, regardless of how it deviates from his campaign themes.  He did not run, after all, on big deficit stimuli but instead on “middle class tax cuts” and a return to sanity on foreign policy.  In fact, he spent a lot of time criticizing Bush’s pork and fiscal irresponsibility.

One thing every elected official must understand is that his mandate is more often pretty weak; it’s not a license to do whatever he wants whenever he wants without regard to public opinion.  People will turn against policies that were never explained earlier or seem extravagant and wrong-headed.

Obama’s own sense of incorruptibility may be his political Achilles’ Heal.  Obama’s appointment of the tax cheat and former healthcare lobbyist Tom Daschle for HHS, the tax cheat Tim Geithner to the Treasury, and the occasional military lobbyist, William Lynn–it’s all just corruption with a human face, in this case the reassuring face of Obama.  “Don’t worry kids, I know what I’m doing.  I’m incorruptible, and me breaking my own promises for a ‘new tone’ and a ‘new ethical climate’ is not breaking promises.  I know when to follow the rules and when to make exceptions.”

At times like these, we should not forget that he is a South Side of Chicago politician, a man formed in a a onepartytown of ethnic spoils and big government.  Chicago is a place where no one, including the opposition, respects limited government and fiscal responsibility.  It’s winner take all.  Obama’s arrogance, his roots, and his free pass by the media are leaving him vulnerable to his tin ear for the apolitical sense by many Americans that a government spending spree during a recession may not be the best idea on earth. But, I guess all those people are just devoid of common sense and cynical.

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If America lurches towards dictatorship, it will be more with a whimper than a bang. We won’t need to fear secret police so much as the oppressiveness of mass conformity, social pressure, the siphoning of wealth, and the spread of “official” viewpoints. I realize Americans’ fears of one’s political opponents assuming dictatorial powers are a bit overwrought and overdone. Neither W, Bush Senior, Clinton, nor Reagan was in any real sense a potential dictator, even though all three were reviled and feared by many opponents. Nonetheless, with the perspective of time, we see that their imagery, styles, goals, and personalities were American through and through.

The times and the place create the leader, and our post-religious, meaning-starved society more than ever wants atonement, purpose, and passion. The Obama message to white and black alike has resonated.  To the former he promises forgiveness, to the latter, dignity and power.  But his style, his words, and the imagery of his campaign are all new, whether in the form of enormous adoring crowds or the creepy posters. Coupled with an existing economic crisis and the Bush administration expansion of executive power, Obama certainly could move us in a very bad direction from which it would be very difficult to return to ordinary, constitutionally limited government.  Some of the brakes we take for granted will be absent.  Obama can cry racism, for instance, in the casual, insinuating way he did in his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.  Further, his supporters and his support is both intense and untethered to specific actions.  It is hard to imagine that Obama will be forced to deflect the kind of criticism Bush has been subjected to from the right. By 2004, Bush was widely treated by conservatives as a mere magistrate and widely defended simply as the lesser of two evils.

The best analog would probably be someone like the Four Term leader, FDR, who retained a cult-like level of respect long after his death among working class survivors of the Great Depression. In reading a collection of contemporary essays, I was struck by the prescience and continuing relevance of the following passage by Herbert Agar:

Our real danger is from people like the late Huey Long, or the amiable Doctor Townsend. If fascism comes to America, it will not come as the result of a comic-opera putsch in which Wall Street buys an ex-general of Marines to lead a march on Washington. It will come as it came to Europe, as a revolt of the lower middle class, of the people who want to be self-respecting proprietors, but who find themselves-dispossessed–proletarian in fact, but not in feeling. These people are easy game for the demagogue, for the man who will promise them the moon and promise it quickly, who will tell the desperate middle class the the problem of making them all kings, or all financially independent, is perfectly simple.

If the middle class is sufficiently desperate, it will vote the demagogue into power. And when the demagogue comes to power, he will find that his ‘age of plenty’ is not so easy to provide. At that point fascism is born. At that point the demagogue, threatened with a breakdown of the whole economic system, turns to the Lords and Masters whom he has been abusing, and makes a deal.  The demagogue stays in office and keeps the people quiet.  The Lords and Masters stay in power and run the economic systems just the way they ahve always wanted to run it.  The corporate State is monopoly-capitalism made safe, monopoliy capitalism with the whole power of society behind it.

The economic bailout rammed through Congress will give Obama and his future treasury secretary incredible leverage over every sector of the economy.  Apparently “helping” our basket case auto industry is now on the agenda, but everything will have a catch:  obeissance to whatever faddish idea Obama has about giving his constituents a fair deal, anti-free-market environmentalist extremism, and who knows what else.  The worst thing about this will be that Bush’s corporate welfare was always rightly labeled as such by genuine free market critics.  Obama will have his mass movement in his corner, denouncing critics as retrograde special interests and uncompassionate failures.  He’ll tie the passions of young people with the most small-minded and short-sighted indulgences in mercantalism.  Judging by the way he handled things in Chicago and on the campaign trail, don’t expect kid cloves from The One, especially when he’s pursuing bad policies that help the connected few at the expense of the many.

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I thought Steve Sailer’s analysis of McCain’s loss was useful.  Some of the right’s best wedge issues–immigration, gun control, big government, and a bit surprisingly, gay marriage–were items which this faux maverick took great pleasure in bucking the GOP to the delight of his friends in the media.  He was a terrible campaigner with terrible ideas and a terrible presence and personality who  I am not the least bit surprised (nor terribly chagrined) to have seen lose.

Steven den Beste and Lawrence Auster both make a good case that there will be some positives of an Obama presidency, not least that he will be more required to appeal to Republicans and moderates than a McCain, who would have been demoralized by the prospect of defeating the history-making Obama candidacy.  I think for these reasons he’ll be less inclined to push for an irreversible amnesty, which has been Bush and McCain’s obsession for a number of years.  I do think national health care will be a major problem, and a hard to reverse one.  It will make our health care worse.  That said, I don’t think health and health care are always correlates; for a lot of reasons we probably spend far too much on health care as a society.  Government controls will add error to correct an error in the form of the existing tax-subsidy for health benefits.  But we’ll survive.  France and Sweden, though far from ideal, are not Bolivia.  Nor are we, yet.

We face many threats to our traditional way of life.  The mass culture is toxic.  The economy is unstable, ridden with debt, threatened by hyperinflation and mass disenchantment.  Related to these, we are more threatened by our continued addition of millions of less productive, low skill workers from the Third World into our increasingly generous society.   Between the issues of health care and immigration, the latter is more damaging and it has long been McCain’s passion.  Like Bush, his presidency would have led to far too many compromises by conservative critics, who would embarass themselves by making excuses for the globalist, big government managerial gobbeldy-gook of a McCain administration.  Obama at least will sharpen our focus and remind us that in the game of tribal politics, only the majority has engaged in unilateral disarmament.

I’ve talked to a number of Obama voters and was happily suprised to see that the cult-like enthusiasm seen on TV is shared by relatively few of them. They simply judged him the better of the two and feel he deserves a chance.  The intensity of the Obama-worshippers in Grant Park should be contrasted with these folks, some of whom entertained the hope that his presence might lead to more honest and realistic race relations and a revival of morale leading to improvements in the various social problems facing the black community.  Perhaps. 

It all remains to be seen what Obama will do, how he’ll govern, and whether he’ll be a centrist in the manner of Bill Clinton or a committed leftist who can finally advance the race-class-gender-justice policies that he fought for so passionately as a young man.  In either case, we need some sense of proportion as conservatives and as Americans. Even before and after LBJ, America was still America.  Its core values in tact.  They’ve slowly been sapped, transformed, and weakened, but they’re not altogether absent.  Among these, our civic rituals of peaceful transfers of power and respect for the office are valuable.  Our generosity, lack of narrow tribalism, and magnanimity as a people should not be dismissed too quickly by anyone.  And, even though the Obama presidency is worrisome and will likely at times be offensive, conservatives certainly should not induldge the kind of stupid hatred and conspiracy thinking that the Left spewed at Bush for the last eight years. 

I think the Obama presidency will likely be an unsuccessful one, beset by exagerrated hopes, missteps, the evils of party spirit, and Obama’s own hitherto unexamined leftism.  But it all remains to be seen, and there will be plenty enough time in the next four years for gnashing of teeth.

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The story of Rhodesia is an inherently tragic one.  Europeans, who came to Africa in search of economic progress and confident in their power to spread Christian Civilization, soon found themselves swamped by demographic trends and nationalistic political ideas.  These trends were the products of the very medicine and education that Europeans had brought to Africa.  Of course, things could not have remained forever as they were with a small white minority forever ruling a black majority.  Yet the alternative of majority rule in a continent notoriously tribal, corrupt, and inefficient has proven to be a disaster for most Africans.  Both white and black Africans have endured wars, mismanagement, corruption, and a decline in every measure of civilization since the emergence of independence in the sixties.  

Rhodesia disappeared.  It’s now Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.  And the last few years have seen the terrorist philosophy he embraced come to fruition.  In a last ditch effort to reward his supporters, white farms are being distributed to black Zimbabweans and soon ending up in a state of disrepair.  Food is now scarce.  And his political opponents, white and black, are increasingly being arrested, harassed, or murdered outright. 

Apartheid-style policies were unsustainable and unjust.  So too were the communist “class justice” policies proffered by the likes of Mugabe, Mandela, and their peers.  As conservatives we should acknowledge that steady and measured change towards greater political equality would likely have been more sustainable than the blood-soaked politics of revolution.  And, regardless, we can admire the courage, tenacity, and discipline of the Rhodesian military–a force that attracted adventurers, idealistic anti-communists, and professional soldiers from the world over to fight a an ultimately doomed war against the rising tide of African nationalism in the seventies. 

The video above shows some of the peculiarities of their fight:  black and white soldiers, side-by-side, fighting for a regime that excluded blacks from political power; modern jets and horse cavalry; and amazing sophistication and improvisation in a nation cut off from aid through UN embargoes.  These men  ultimately fought for their country and their way of life against an enemy that indiscriminately employed terrorist tactics.  But their defeat also shows another fact of modern life:  even a fight with flags waving and extraordinary courage and determination can still be lost if the political system to which it is attached is too far out of step with the tide of history.  Their extraordinary military effectiveness and amazing kill ratios (25:1 or more) should also give pause to those who believe we can easily win in Iraq if we just “take the gloves off.” 

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