Posts Tagged ‘gop’
It is, of course, utterly inconceivable that the barbaric practice of the political paramilitary would exist in a civilized country; and to even suggest that major political forces would so much as allow themselves to benefit from such unthinkable obscenities is clearly absurd.
Borepatch and Aretae have put out endorsements for the 2012 election, so I figure I might as well also. (Let’s assume for the purposes of this post that voting isn’t just large-scale political homeopathy; where’s the fun in admitting that it doesn’t matter?)
If you’ve been reading this for a while, you can guess two things already:
1. Borepatch endorsed Obama and Aretae endorsed Johnson, so I’m going to endorse Romney.
2. It can’t be as simple as just endorsing one candidate.
And you would be right.
I don’t like Romney. I don’t think he’ll be noticeably different from Obama in most regards; they’re both unprincipled chameleons from a hardcore establishment background, although one small benefit to Romney is that he’s more obvious about it. (It really says something about a country that a black father is enough to make people not realize that the son of a senior economist and an anthropology Ph.D., who went to one of the most prestigious public schools in the country, ended up at Harvard Law, and subsequently went off to teach at the University of Chicago, is establishment.)
I don’t like libertarianism either, at least in principle; but in practice, a more libertarian presidency would almost certainly be a better one. A break from the nutty interventionism of the establishment, a veto-happy monkey-wrench in the gears of the Leviathan, may be just what we need in the White House, so the presidential race should be pushed in that direction. Unless Maryland turns out to be a swing state, which, considering that the parts that matter are BDH to the core and packed with USG employees, it won’t, I’ll be voting Johnson.
If I lived in a state where the election results weren’t essentially predetermined, however, I’d vote differently; in that case, sending a message is less important than voting the best realistic option. There are admittedly few differences between Romney and Obama. They’re both firmly on the side of “the 1%”, as much as I hate that term. But the differences are nonzero.
One benefit to Romney is that nobody likes him. He’s a Republican, so the Democrats (and the media… as if that needs to be specified) don’t like him; he’s a blatantly establishment Massachusetts Optimate, so the Republicans don’t like him; and he’s a pasty-white Mormon, so he can’t personality-cult the college demographic. (In the primary polls for my home state, Romney’s favorability increases with age, and Santorum’s, somewhat counterintuitively, decreases.) All other things being equal, the less liked president will be put under more scrutiny, and I’d prefer more to less. The Republicans and the Breitbart crowd have been going after him to a degree, but with few resources and most of the establishment firmly on his side, their capabilities are limited, compared to what could be done if both sides of the media hated the president’s guts.
Even a leftist would find it to their advantage to support Romney; they’re both neoliberals, but if you have to choose between two devils, take the one who everyone knows is a devil. There are still people in this country who think Obama is on the left in any sense but the meaningless electoral one; granted, the ones I know think that mostly because they think it’d be racist to think anything else, but they’re still dumb enough to buy it.
Another difference is that Romney’s appointments will draw from a different crowd. Obama was a college professor, and it’s obvious from his appointments. I can’t imagine Romney appointing someone like Eric “My People” Holder, and really, between his department providing guns to criminals, his lying about his department providing guns to criminals, his obstructing the Congressional investigation about his department providing guns to criminals, and his admission, backed up by his actions, that he sees 87% of the country as foreign, that near-treasonous nut is enough of a reason in and of himself to vote Obama out.
And… well, those are the only differences I can think of. They both make me sick, but one is clearly a lesser evil than the other, and, contra passivism, evil is to be opposed when possible. (Of course, if I had any desire for power, I’d force myself into passivism; but I’d really rather just fish, and the only reason I do anything more is that I can’t not speak out against immediately visible displays of utter idiocy. Besides, voting doesn’t really matter anyway.)
Contra Borepatch, I don’t think there’s much hope for America, and the little hope there is comes neither from the government nor the already thoroughly co-opted and establishmented(?) Tea Party: the government merely responds to the will of certain monitors, so the monitors need to be taken in order to effect any real change. (I hope someone throws Santorum on a talk show like they apparently did Huckabee; he’s the only one around who can articulate a real alternative to liberalism, and if one alternative makes itself known, the people will become aware that alternatives exist, and might even find more. Of course, on a metapolitical level, it’s entirely possible that almost any sort of consensus is better than none at all, but I doubt it, especially since liberalism is running out of unprincipled exceptions that can be reasonably eliminated, if it hasn’t already. And no, a liberalism that pretends that society doesn’t exist is not a real alternative. But that all is beside the point.)
So, to sum up: go Romney in a swing state and Johnson otherwise. Romney is better than Obama, but he still sucks, and Johnson’s platform is less bad, enough so that the GOP should be pushed in its direction.
As Ron Paul rises in the primary, a 15-year-old controversy rises again in the news: that of the newsletters published under his name, and the questionable content therein. A torrent of articles now pours forth from the pens of both the left and the establishment right, raising to a deafening roar the cries of racist! homophobe! antisemite! that, predictably, resurface whenever the machine deems it necessary to dismiss one of its components without calling into the slightest question its undoubtedly shoddy construction. A Twitter account tweeting lines from the newsletters has almost six thousand followers, and the prominent left-liberal magazine Mother Jones says, accurately, that the newsletters are Paul’s “one problem”.
This itself is a problem, and a serious one.
I am not denying here that the newsletters contain content that is, to say the least, highly problematic; I just see no reason why they are relevant. In similar cases of politicians’ personal beliefs or actions being called into question, there are two arguments that I have seen for their consideration: that those beliefs or actions can be used to predict the political behavior in office of the candidate in question, and that the personal character of politicians reflects on, or otherwise affects, that which they govern. These arguments are certainly not always invalid, but their validity in this particular situation is dubious at best.
For the first argument to be valid, there must not be a body of evidence significantly more useful for making such predictions. Expressed personal beliefs are certainly better than nothing, but as we all know, politicians say things to get money, votes, or media attention that they neither believe nor intend to implement while in office. Ron Paul is no unknown Chicago one-termer; in fact, as he said in tonight’s debate, he has served twelve terms in the House. One cannot spend over two decades as a politician without accumulating some sort of record, but Paul’s record appears to be a non-issue here. As for the second argument, any ‘racist’ message that Ron Paul’s election may send must be contrasted with the message of toleration for the disastrous neoliberal status quo that any other candidate’s election certainly would send.
Another argument, peculiar to this case, is that Ron Paul’s claims that he was not aware of the articles run under his name show a lack of management skill that makes him unfit for the presidency. This commits the same error as the first: it assumes that Ron Paul, a politician, does not lie. It is possible, of course, but it is far too convenient to simply assume incompetence, especially since Paul has not mentioned that the only byline on any article published in the newsletter was not his.
I suspect that the issue of the newsletters came about thus: Ron Paul, after being defeated in the 1984 Republican primary, agreed to the ‘paleolibertarian’ support-building strategy of Lew Rockwell, chief of staff for Paul in the House, vice president of the corporation that published the newsletters, and suspected ghostwriter, in an attempt to get back into office. This strategy consisted of, as reason put it, “exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist ‘paleoconservatives’” by including in the newsletters the rhetoric that is now being used against him. This explains the time table: Paul was defeated in the 1984 Republican primary and reelected in 1996, and almost all of the citations in the two TNR attack articles are from that period: (the only citation after 1996 is a 2007 campaign letter “invok[ing] the Branch Davidians [by questioning the necessity of the Waco siege, although TNR declines to mention that] and ‘the mysterious death of Hillary’s pal Vince Foster’”)
In other words, what we have here appears to be a politician playing politics, and then, in refusing to admit it, playing more politics, and if we take this at face value, the concept of playing politics is so new to the entire media establishment that they are scrambling to do something else with it. But if this concept is not new to them, their statements are not to be reflexively taken at face value; they are to be seen as a political strategy, the most thoroughly unsurprising thing in the history of voting, and the surprise of the pundits shows their utter lack of comprehension of the voting public, and most likely a disdain for democracy. (A disdain which I share, albeit for different reasons, but at least I admit it.)
I’ve referenced the concept of ideography before, but I haven’t given it a proper treatment yet. In short, an ideography in the political sense is a set of ideographs: terms assigned a particular emotional load by an ideology for use in its rhetoric.
The use of ideographs will often seem absurd to readers outside the ideology to which they belong. An average American going through Nazi political material would almost certainly find the references to Volksgemeinschaft, das Führerprinzip, and Jewry to be, at the very least, disorienting, similar to the feeling one gets when traveling to a foreign country and finding that the toilets have foot pedals instead of flush handles. But then, so would the average Nazi upon hearing the constant references of Western political material to the somewhat isomorphic concepts of liberty, democracy, and fascism. For an example closer to home, consider the reaction of the average American ‘liberal’ (I’ll dispense with my usual scare quotes from here on out; just keep in mind that, contrary to my usual practice, all terms are to be taken in their usual American senses) to Newt Gingrich’s “secular socialism” routine.
Can an isomorphic example, of a conservative reaction to a sound bite applying the liberal ideography, be constructed? It is possible to come close, with, for example, the constant charges of racism leveled at just about every conservative figure and movement, but there is one crucial difference: liberals don’t respond emotionally to “secular socialism”, but conservatives most definitely do to “racism”. In fact, as the conservative line on affirmative action demonstrates, “racism” is just as much a part of the conservative ideography as the liberal one. And, for that matter, the white supremacist one: David Duke uses it.
Pretty pervasive ideograph we have here, if a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan uses it to deliver the exact same emotional load as Tim Wise. They both agree that racism is a Bad Thing; the only difference is in the definition. Duke wants to apply it to Wise, and vice versa. Any debate between the two (ignoring that, in reality, at least one of the two would have to be carted off by security five seconds in) would almost certainly consist mostly of redefinitions of the term, and other ideographs common to the American political arena. These semantic games are common: witness the attempt of Roger Scruton, one of the few conservatives with two brain cells to rub together, to split the positions he disagrees with that can be supported by the positive ideograph “liberty” into a new, negative ideograph, “license”, instead of rejecting the ideograph altogether.
It is clear, then, that in addition to the conservative ideography, there exists an ideography shared by just about the entire American political arena, which I will call the American ideography. Its contents include, on the positive side, liberty, equality, freedom, democracy, progress, fairness, and justice, and on the negative side, racism, fascism, and anything related to Hitler.
The astute reader will, by now, have picked up on an omission: nowhere have I mentioned liberal ideography. There is a reason for this omission: there may be a few minor differences, but at least on the major points, the liberal ideography is the American ideography. Most ideographs used by liberals are also used by conservatives, and with the same intended effect. (This is less so on the alt-right; one of the many instances of convergent evolution between Mencius Moldbug and the European New Right is their explicit refudiation of that ideography.)
Now consider the history of the American ideography. Its terms’ associations have changed consistently, and in a consistent direction: leftward. Equality under the law became equality of opportunity, and is now becoming equality of outcome. Freedom from the tyranny of a single, unelected, overactive monarch became freedom from fear and want, and is now becoming freedom from any sort of moral judgment of all but the most repulsive forms of libertinism. And so on. Considering the structure and history of this ideography, and its identification with ‘Americanism’, there can be no American Right. The American ideography does not hold promise for conservatives, and yet they do not challenge it; in fact, they do the opposite, and in doing so, sign their own death sentence.
That is the failure of conservatism.
My respect for libertarianism of the odd liberal, market-fundamentalist sort that seems to be the only sort practiced today is only slightly greater than the same for left-liberalism or Stalinism, but I’m starting to think supporting Ron Paul might not be all that bad an idea.
I have next to no respect for that particular sort of libertarianism because it makes the patently absurd claim that the only source of power, or at least the only one worth worrying about, is government. The market libertarian argument is that market forces will ensure that this is true in the long run; worrisome uses of power by private corporations will cause those corporations to lose market shares to others less abusive of their power. But, since we are not ‘rational’ in the economists’ ridiculous sense of the word, not all non-governmental use of power is motivated strictly by the drive toward higher profits, and even if it were, as John Maynard Keynes, the devil of the market libertarian pantheon, said, in the long run we are all dead.
However, the most significant area that the president has control over is foreign policy, which is an area that Paul definitely gets right. Considering that neither Obama nor any of the ‘mainstream’ Republican candidates show any signs of reducing our military activities in foreign countries, and that the issues that Paul is worst on are the ones that the president has minimal control over (Obama’s use of his position and personality cult as motivators for specific legislative action notwithstanding), Paul could turn out to be a net asset to the country.
The ideal, I think, would be Paul as president and a Democratic majority in both houses, so the ideologue’s inevitable idiocy could be overridden when necessary, but bills could (and almost certainly would) be vetoed when not. In an ideal situation, I’d have no problem with a president as veto-happy as I’m sure Paul would be, but this is not an ideal situation and I do not trust ideologues.
I do not trust this specific ideologue because, among other reasons, he ‘knows’ things I do not; namely, that federal government intervention will not be necessary to deal with our economic situation, or any other situation that falls outside the boundaries of his own rather idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution. My paranoid tendencies lead me inevitably to the desire to hear a proof of that piece of knowledge, but government is not mathematics, so such a proof is clearly not possible.
What would it take for your belief to be falsified? I do not think Paul could answer that question, but I am not sure how relevant that is. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and utility must take precedence over ideological purity, especially since any ideology I could be said to hold is fringe enough to be not only unelectable, but utterly unheard of in the American political scene.