Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Shape up or ship out

After Rand Paul won the GOP U.S. Senate Primary, the first statewide victory for any Paul involved in politics, there was something about his acceptance speech and the way he spoke which didn't seem quite right. My impressions at that time was that he almost seemed indignant and uncomfortable that he won rather than looking celebratory for the accomplishment it was, beating Mitch McConnell and the state GOP machine starting from scratch.

I bring this up because a new article about the Paul campaign for President in 2016 is basically saying Paul's heart isn't into it, not just the campaign but in politics itself.

I'm sure it has to be demoralizing to Rand to see all these so-called "anti-big government" conservatives and libertarians demanding things from government as a price for their donations, especially the Koch brothers. A skilled politician could taken the Koch brothers rejection and turned it into a positive, that he's not for sale. But the main point of the article isn't fundraising, its whether Rand Paul really wants to be a politician at all. It's not a question of groveling before rich strangers. He can't even get the people he knows or would have affinity with or be able to share ideas or even laughs with to give money to him. Let Pete Thiel just drift away? Why?

Sure, he can fire up the base of his father's supporters (the one's still around who haven't been alienated by the claque which surrounds the Paul family, more interested in making money than in the movement) but he's been told by any number of politicos that to do so would upset his carefully crafted "everybody's second choice" strategy (and no one's first choice). It's funny that Donald Trump can call out Charles Krauthammer and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and lead in the polls. The grassroots no doubt wanted the Pauls to call out this trio of scum for years but we were told "Oh no, we can't do that, we might alienate people in the party." Right, now we know what people in the party really feels about the three stooges. Another case of bad timing and missing one's chance.

All of this begs the question what is Rand Paul in politics for anyways? Does he wish he was back at his practice in Kentucky? Fine then, just do it! Walk away. Don't run for President, hell don't even run again for Senate. I wouldn't be disappointed because at least then other people who aren't going through a mid-life crisis can step up while he steps aside. But at least then the campaign won't be a gigantic fraud sucking money from Paulites with nothing in return for their efforts. You expect people to give money to a man whose heart isn't into this? I not giving to make Doug Stafford rich or have a six-figure salary. No way!

Shape up or ship out Rand, you've got a week to decide. But please don't go through the motions or turn this into another money-making enterprise for the political class.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Put it out of its misery

So conservatives are mad that Donald Trump is sucking up all the oxygen from the other candidates running for the Republican Party nomination, taking attention from things they wish to campaign on, even insulting the candidates and prominent members of the party. Why are they so mad? Ann Coulter couldn't have run a better Presidential campaign with largely the same playbook. Trump's audaciousness, boldness one might dare day, is no different is no different than any Brieitbart videographer or front companies being used for the purposes of making heavily edited undercover videos.

You've got to hand it to Trump, he knows a racket when he sees one, a profitable racket. Now he's trying to muscle in on it and some people don't like it. Tough. Maybe if they are that concerned about what Trump could do to conservatism and the Republican Party if he stunned the universe and won the GOP nomination, maybe now they'll realize it's time to put an end to everything once and for all.

Trump is the hidden fear of the Republican Party, the secret they don't even tell themselves. The fear of many in the party brass (and this was a fear of Rush Limbaugh during his heyday) was that a prominent member of Conservative INC., one with a large following of readers or listeners, would take his flock and leave, start a new party or movement with all those potential voters and activists and, most importantly, donors following. Indeed, Trump has dropped hints, or at least not discouraged, speculation, about a possible independent run for the White House, which would all but doom the party's ticket to defeat in 2016.

Parties and movements don't last forever but the GOP has been around since 1854, that's a lot longer than a Conservative Movement which pretty much can be traced back to 1960 with Barry Goldwater's ghostwritten book Conscience of a Conservative. Conservative thought has been with us since the beginning of time. That it chrystalized into a popular mass movement with its own heroes, history, scholars, writers and canons of books and magazines and think tanks was remarkable in that persons took what was the anthesis in comparison to other popular movements (labor, antiwar, environmental et al.) and made it into a "movement" itself with all the same characteristics. Conservatives (or Tory parties) political parties in the West have always been seen as aristocratic, more concerned with protecting property and status than anything else. What changed of course was that a growing middle class would embrace such conservative tenents as well and largely for the same reasons: protecting one property and in many cases hard won status. Throw in protection of traditionalism and you have a formula for people like Margaret Thatcher and  Ronald Reagan, both persons of modest means growing up, to become ideological and political conservatives.

The problem is in this day and age, the West has become much diverse in color and religion and thought because the capitalism and free markets it promoted in order to provide for growth of persons property and wealth (in response to socialism) provided for such diversity. It was inevitable. But these conservative parties are stuck with political bases which are largely homogenous (i.e. white and Christian). Of course conservatism can integrate diversity into its ranks. It has done so in Canada over the past decade with good success and there are some prominent Republicans of color as well (the same hasn't worked as well in the UK or Europe). But this becomes hard to do when a party's political candidates or workers are notorious for their anti-immigrant and some cases outright racist views. When Donald Trump calls Mexicans rapists, he saying this not just about the illegal crossing the border but also the owner of a grocery store in Los Angeles, a banker in South Texas, and artist in Chicago. Thus, such persons, who might have conservative leanings when it comes to property and tradition, cannot vote for conservative parties who don't want them as members. And the only response to this dilemma for some is to double down and presume to get more voters like themselves rather than expand the base.

Sadly, so much of went into creating the "movement" (for conservatives and libertarians too in some cases) had to do with race more so than class (or even religion going back to the rise of the Religious Right in the 1970s). The documentation is out there, there's no denying it. Just pursuing a "Southern Strategy" and appealing to the worst in people's natures, even if in code, is damning enough alone and there's much worse if one cares to look. Movement leaders on an early time deserve a good deal of the blame for allowing it to happen or thinking through the consequences of aligning themselves with unsavory elements until it was too late. Purging a political party of much of it elements just to align it ideologically all but assures the party is at the mercy of those ideological forces. The GOP can do nothing to stop Trump even if it wanted to. It may not have to, but his rise shows a party can only do so much to deal with those willing to seize it for their own purposes if that what its voters wish to do. And those forces now have the means once only reserved for parties to basically create their own politics with the party nothing more than just a brand label.

But this goes to the larger problem of the "movement" itself. Like all political movements, they eventual degenerate from mass participation and promotion of new ideas into special-interest category more worried about sustaining itself than bringing grassroots opinions and ideas to the front there never had a chance before. To do this the "movement" encourages the more flamboyant and the more entertaining and more confrontational in order to rile up those who are its patrons and ensures that they continue giving if even they're better off saving their money. It's the only way they can throw their weight around and prove they are relevant. And as it tries to sustain itself it becomes largely a business unto itself . Such filthy lucre then brings out the charlatans and the hustlers looking for a piece of the action, people like Donald Trump. For someone who was once very pro-immigration (as judged by public statements years ago) to speak like a nativist has nothing to do with a change of heart but everything to do with marketing oneself to a target audience. We're not talking ideas anymore, we're talking a business and that's what it has become. And that's why its called Conservative INC.

The only way to stop this is for statesmen and businessmen and scholars and writers and just ordinary people to rise up and not buy what the business sells anymore and thus starve it of funds, deprive it of listeners and take back scholarly institutions and make them do actual research instead of producing talking points for political parties.  Unfortunately this will not happen until such persons see beyond the impact of immediate politics to a future of thought which influences everything around it. That would require conservative persons to do so but it remains to been if there are any still left out there.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

War, cosmotarians and the Confederacy

War, like politics, can sometimes make for strange alliances as they are intertwined there are plenty of examples throughout history when such grouping happen. Stalinist Russia allied with the democracies of World War II or Royalist France aligning itself with a rebel movement in American against a fellow monarchy or Tsarist Russia and Republican France before World War I against a rising Germany. Self-interest when it comes to nations knows no ideology and neither do political groupings either.

The Second Gulf War in Iraq and all military operations in the Middle East after 9-11 operated in the same fashion when it came to politics when it came to opposition to the war. Since Vietnam, peace movements have largely come from the Left of the political spectrum and that was true for Iraq as well. But the war also gave an opening for a new group who was also anti-war but from a different point of view to enter to the coalition and to benefit from it by starting a movement. Sadly however, this movement's ties to an older and less savory politics and points of view may well keep it still pertinent critiques from reaching a broader polity.

Critics of U.S foreign policy from what's commonly characterized as the Right of the political spectrum began to pop up with the end of the Cold War and with the first Gulf War of 1990-91. The most prominent of these being Pat Buchanan but others like National Review writer Joseph Sobran. Likewise from the Right-libertarian faction, former Congressman Ron Paul and his followers at the Von Mises Institute were also critical of U.S. foreign policy post-Cold War as well. They opposed first Gulf War and many other U.S. military operations as well throughout the 1990s, especially the bombing of Serbia,  and into the next century with the war in Iraq.

These critiques ultimately led to a new political movement. The "Buchanan Brigades" had played themselves out politically after the 2000 presidential campaign and while non-interventionist were not explicitly antiwar. The Ron Paul Revolution on the other hand was the epitome of antiwar from a strictly non-Leftist perspective. It was much broader and it's basic point undeniably libertarian: to reduce the size government one had to reduce the size of military-security-industrial state. It was a point many on the political line could come to some tacit agreement.

The problem was there were many libertarians, particularly those living in Washington D.C., who bought the government's war in Iraq hook, line and sinker. They immediately went on the attack on Ron Paul and his movement for his opposition to the war. The "cosmotarians" they were called or better the "Orange Line Mafia"  named after the D.C. Metro subway line which carried many of these persons to their places of employment. Their attacks upon Paul, centered around the infamous "newsletters" to which Paul put his name to and Lew Rockwell edited, helped to wreck the potential of the movement and campaign, both in 2008 and 2012. The war was one reason for these attacks and in some cases outright smears. But there was deeper division involved, one which haunts what's left of the Revolution and asks forlornly what might have been?

There were many literary figures and scholars of a conservative bent who for long time, since the end of the War Between the States, regarded Abraham Lincoln and his rhetoric as a forerunner for future totalitarianism, from the New Deal to some extreme cases Communism and Fascism. Many of these figures were Southerners to be sure (Mel Bradford for example) but anti-Lincolnism had its supporters all over the country and for largely the same reasons. Given this, it was only natural libertarian scholars also opposed to totalitarianism would pick up this mantle. And once having picked it up, it was also inevitable that sympathy for the Confederacy which opposed Lincoln while downplaying its most odious features, would follow. Thus, think tanks like the Rockford Institute, (of which this writer wrote pieces for its magazine Chronicles) the Von Mises Institute and writers, scholars and editors working for them, think tanks that were far away from Washington D.C., were the most prominent.

None of this was inevitable. Why criticism of the nationalism and Whiggism which followed to ultimately lead to the U.S. Empire needed to include corollary support for Confederacy, which was also expansionist in its nature (many Southerners looked to annex Cuba and prominent "fillibusters" like William Walker who once tried to take over Nicaragua were Southerners) is puzzling from this author's viewpoint and regrettable as I once shared it too. There is nothing about the Confederate government in its polices like slavery, conscription or paper monetarism, which is worthy of  libertarian or conservative sympathy at all. That it came to such is largely because, as stated before, in war and politics, in this case the struggle against "big government", made for strange bedfellows. Murray Rothbard is good example of this. The libertarian scholar and writer went from Strom Thurmond confederate to Robert Taft Republican to New Left sectarian and then all the way back to Pat Buchanan, all in an effort to ally himself with anyone in his mind running against the central state or war state for that matter.  Yet all this political posturing and historical downplay for ideology's sake leads such libertarians and conservatives down an ideological cul-de-sac as this Newsweek article states. To deny the role slavery played in the secession and the eventual outcome of the war i.e why the North ultimately won, and to deny the role the matter of race plays in the larger political context has done enormous damage to their larger purpose.

It was these connections which prevented the Paul Revolution and others who shared the same critique of U.S. foreign policy from breaking out from the Right for a broad antiwar coalition which could truly change the country. Now there's not much of an antiwar movement anywhere (the Left having sold itself out to the Democratic Party and surrendering to its new nationalism). Rand Paul doesn't suffer from the same destructive innocence of his father when it came to lending his name to people who thought they could win the David Duke vote only to watch themselves run from their paleo Frankenstein monster. But he also finds himself constricted in what he can campaign on, no doubt embarrassed by such past ties (as PAUL Fest back in 2012 no doubt showed).   It hasn't just been the Pauls either damaged by such ties. The Second Vermont Republic and persons like Kirkpatrick Sale hurt themselves with its associations to the League of the South through secession conferences and gatherings because they saw secession as an ideology rather than thinking through why certain groups of people wish to secede from larger political entities in the first place

It may well be the fault of such writers and scholars and editors for allowing their work to be tainted but it is also the fault of "cosmotarians" indeed cosmos of all stripes on the Left and Right whose support of failed policies such as the war -  policies which well beyond their own ideologies in an effort "to get along" as many did in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 - caused many to seek alternatives, some more radical than others. Those whose opposed and who shared the critique of the militarized, empire state the U.S. has become, made friends wherever they could find them, not an unheard of tactic in politics (or war for that matter). Yet there comes a time when you have to forsake political friendship to keep your own intentions true. Outside of being someone honoring their actual ancestors, there's no reason to fly the Confederate flag to honor it or think a political statement or try sanction one's ideology based on historical revisionism or engage in cheap politics based on where you think the votes are. Those who have done this now find themselves on political and ideological islands in this day and age and the effort against the Empire pretty much has to start all over again and away from these same groups.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Era of the mirror

I was going to write this after the recent UK election a few months ago but didn't get a chance to. But after watching a lot of BBC political documentaries on You Tube, I've come to the conclusion what happened was the end of an era which lasted from 1979 until 2015, an era in which both major parties of British politics, Labour and Conservative mirrored each other in their experiences as parties both in and out of power. Both parties were in power for long stretches of time (Conservative 1979-1997) and Labour (1997-2010 although the Tories went 18 years like Labour without a majority) and both parties went through painful "wilderness" years which brought about gut-wrenching change to both of them. In fact, both parties were such mirror images of each other, you could even line-up some of the politicians involved and they would compared very nicely with each other. For example:

1). Tony Blair = David Cameron  (The PMs who were the party modernizers)
2). Tony Benn = Margaret Thatcher (Ideologues with adoring fans who tried to give their respective parties purpose and ideas but also were very divisive figures)
3). Michael Foot = Ian Duncan Smith (Good studies in what happens to organizations when people not suited for leadership lead them)
4). Denis Healey = Kenneth Clarke (The respective best leaders neither party ever had)
5). John Smith = Michael Howard (Transitory figures to the party modernizers)
6). Neil Kinnock = William Hague (Opposition leaders in difficult times for their respective parties)
7). Jim Callaghan = John Major (You can make the case for comparing Gordon Brown with Major but the deep splits in both parties during their wilderness years began with both men's PM tenures)
8). Gordon Brown = Michael Heseltine (Important party figures trying to plot their way to the top with Brown ultimately making it but soon crashing and burning. Only Heseltine's health kept him from being Conservative leader.
9). Robin Cook = Geoffery Howe (Men of conscious resigning in the wake of policy differences)
10). Roy Hattersley = Michael Portillo (Not a neat comparison but not exactly loyal deputy leaders)

There's also some corresponding events as well. Black Wednesday (1992) = The Panic of 2008. The Winter of Discontent = The Poll Tax. The ouster of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 via parliamentary coup and the near coup by Gordon Brown against Tony Blair in 2007 and subsequent leadership elections as well.

There are others I'm sure you could make on a cabinet level but you get the picture. The rise of the SNP has basically ended one era of British politics and now we're in a new era that will need its own story to be told 15-20 years down the road.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The coming conservative-America crack-up

On this Fourth of July weekend I saw a cartoon posted on Facebook where a young boy looks up to his grandfather during a fireworks show and asks "What are we celebrating?" and the grandfather responds "That we were once a free country". The grandfather is holding a newspaper announcing the recent Supreme Court decision on Obamacare. It shouldn't surprise you it was drawn for a conservative website.

The Supreme Court decisions on the ACA and same-sex marriage were triumphant capping for what I called the "Nationalist Left" in an article for the American Conservative. Although such triumphs should not have come as a surprise because the court itself and the commercial interests it has almost always represented have been the greatest centralizers and nationalizers in American life. When a patchwork quilt of laws adopted by the states interferes with commerce in any fashion the court more often than not will side with those commercial interests to standardized the whole country for sake the efficiency which leads to more profit. There was no way the court was going to allow either the ACA or SSM to exist in such a quilt-like fashion, It was either going to be the law of the whole land or wasn't. That's how its has operated since 1787.

What's different this time its the political Left reaping the patriotic benefit from nationalization and the political Right being alienated from it. This wasn't always true. Since the Cold War and especially during the Vietnam War, it was the political Right seizing patriotism as cause for itself. Dissent against American foreign policy, the notion of there being a "Blame America first crowd" the expounding for "American Exceptionalism" have found expression on the Right side of the political ledger. But the events of the previous few weeks may well have been a turning point and the relationship of the Right, both political and ideological, towards America may well have changed to the point where the hills one side or the other occupies may well be matched down and switched.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore reportedly broke down in anguish at the court's decision over SSM. One can imagine the anguish the former Vietnam Vet through the sum of his life experience is going through as he realizes that a country like Uganda for example, bans SSM and the U.S. does not. So what's so exceptional about America anymore? He has to ask himself. And if it's true as he says Christians will now be persecuted for opposing SSM, then the process of alienation from the nation upholding what they feel is a Godless law, will only increase. Those opposing the ACA because it is "socialist" will certainly feel the same way. Republican candidates will certainly talk about repeal and Constitutional amendments during the upcoming election, but with sizable majorities of the voting public supporting both SSM and much of the ACA (except for the part known as Obamacare) they will do so at their only at their own political peril. Indeed, such persons can't even retreat to the Confederacy, the alternative America they defended in the past now that its symbol has passed from a narrative of valor to one seen in the context of present of being a toxic symbol of hate and murder.  

So what's left those on the Right if patriotism becomes the last refuge of the Leftist? We hear talk of Benedict Options for the religiously minded, about breaking away and tuning out, retreating exile from the America of 2015 and of the future. At least such talk is the acknowledgement politicians and parties aren't going to save them. But then what can? If it's true, Rush Limbaugh perceptively said recently, "We fine-tune socialism and call it conservatism" then perhaps the best course is acknowledging this and moving on.  We may well be a far cry from Reagan's envisioned "City on a Hill" rhetoric ideologically but politically to do so would be poisonous, as it was for liberals before the end of the Cold War. Indeed, the spectacle of those on the Right trying to pontificate what America means to them given the realities of America 2015 and beyond will be incredibly difficult. If they only pine for the past they will only be supported in such places which also do so. If they announced hatred for the present they will noted and accordingly be punished. They can try to think anew but cannot do so outside of the context of the current USA and what will be. If that's too big  a burden to bare they should run to the hills as some have suggested but don't expect separation will lead to renewal and don't expect it will lead to peaceful isolation. The America of today doesn't provide a lot of room despite plenty of elbow room when it comes to all the wide open spaces. Of that, the Supreme Court has made sure of.