October 29, 2008

No conservative or libertarian can possibly contemplate voting for either of the “€œmajor”€ party candidates, this time around, on several grounds, the most conspicuous being their intractable and almost instinctive predilection for deploying the all-too-visible hand of government as the end-all and be-all of “€œsolutions”€ to our problems, foreign as well as domestic.

As far as the frontrunner, Barack Obama, is concerned, his vow to “€œredistribute the wealth”€ disqualifies him from consideration, although this hasn”€™t stopped the fabled “€œObamacons”€ from inventing the wildest, most extravagant evasions in order to rationalize their capitulation to fashion. Here is Andrew Sullivan, reigning monarch of the Obamacons, with his own quite typical apologia:

Conservatism is not an ideology. It’s a disposition. And sometimes it takes what [Michael] Oakeshott called “€˜trimming”€™  to keep the ship afloat. Moderation matters. In some ways, I see Obama as a return to moderation in American politics. And it’s conservatives who have become ideologues who cannot accept it.

Moderation in defense of liberty is no vice “€“ hardly a philosophy to inspire us to go to the barricades, but, then again, going to the barricades would itself be immoderate, and we can”€™t have that. By defining conservatism as a “€œdisposition,”€ Sullivan rather neatly segues into redefining it as his disposition, which is”€“as always”€“to go with the crowd, and, in this case, fall head over heels in love with the redistributionist messiah.

This isn”€™t conservatism, it’s narcissism”€“but to Old Musclglutes, no such distinction exists.  Everywhere he looks, he sees his reflection: his disdain for radicalism limns his own evolution from full-throated Jacobinism, in the heady days when neocon-generated war hysteria stalked the land, to Bush critic and war skeptic. It’s no coincidence”€“as the Marxists used to say”€“that these changing moods reflect the fickle gyrations of the general public: to say that Sullivan is a weathervane would be doing a great disservice to those ancient and useful devices, which herald the approach of coming storms.

Every movement has renegades [.pdf file], but the Bushian apostates are a particularly loathesome bunch. The whole sorry parade”€“from Ken “€œCakewalk”€ Adelman to reformed neocon Francis Fukuyama“€“has all the dignity and gravitas of a stampede to get out of a crowded theater after someone has yelled “€œFire!”€

What must be particularly galling to loyal party hacks is that these are the very people, in many cases, who set the fire in the first place: Adelman, for example, spent the better part of the previous decade agitating for a US invasion of Iraq. It hasn”€™t exactly been the “€œcakewalk”€ he and his fellow war-birds predicted. Yet he has the chutzpah to stand there and deny any responsibility, laying all the blame conveniently elsewhere.

It’s almost enough to make one sympathize with the McCain campaign”€“but not quite. For the simple fact of the matter is that John McCain is not psychologically stable enough to have his finger on the nuclear trigger. As Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi put it:

“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

A McCain presidency would involve us in any number of wars, not only in the Middle East”€“we”€™d stay in Iraq, indefinitely, and take on Iran and Syria to boot”€“but also in Russia’s “€œnear abroad,”€ including, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Belarus, and any number of Central Asian “€˜stans.

On the domestic front, McCain is right on, as we used to say, in telling it like it is and calling out the Dear Leader as a socialist, albeit not of the old-fashioned Marxist sort. (He’s closer to Tony Blair than Kim Il Sung, although his cult of personality is the hottest since Stalin’s time).

There’s just one proper answer to this McCainiac volley, however, and that is: Look who’s talking!

McCain not only supported the bank bailout, he issued a joint statement with Obama endorsing it”€“thus missing the one opportunity he had to really embrace a genuine populism and paint the Democratic nominee as the candidate of the elites. McCain could have won the election if he opposed the bailout—but that, of course, was and is impossible, since he represents a different wing of the same corporate interests.

The de facto nationalization of the banks is a giant step taken toward socialism, although it is a unique variant that I would call socialism-for-the-rich, or social corporatism. Before the world went mad and ostensible “€œconservatives”€ began making arguments for Big Government, the idea of a Republican presidential candidate defending such a measure would have been inconceivable. Today, however, in a world where everything is inverted “€“ including traditional political affiliations as well as cultural values—the only differences between the Democratic and Republican varieties of this ideological consensus are to be found in the fine print, with a magnifying glass.

The same is true in the foreign policy realm, where the only differences between the two “€œmajor”€ party candidates are stylistic. In the social-democratic equivalent of John Galt’s speech, we heard the Dear Leader inveighing against “€œRussian aggression“€ and vowing that he”€™d never let Iran get hold of the same nukes Israel has had for half a century. That the first phase of Obama’s war dance would feature a perhaps prolonged bout of “€œnegotiations”€”€“i.e. a series of hard-and-fast demands laid out by the US government, amounting to sky-writing “€œSurrender Dorothy!”€ over Tehran”€“should fool exactly no one. Yet millions are fooled”€“and won”€™t wake up until it’s too late to do anything about it.

No principled advocate of liberty can even consider the candidates of the two “€œmajor”€ parties: both are thoroughly reprehensible, and would take the country even farther down the wrong path”€“toward economic dislocation and war. Which leaves us with”€“what? Or, rather, whom?

I was an early and vocal supporter of Ron Paul, and yet he stopped campaigning precisely when he should have started”€“or, at any rate, re-started. His refusal to go all the way, and launch a third party bid has got to be one of the grandest missed opportunities of all time. To have predicted the banking meltdown, so loudly and insistently, and then have it occur just as the presidential campaign reached a crescendo”€“Paul could easily have garnered 10 percent of the vote, at a minimum, elbowing aside McCain as the authentic defender of what is left of our economic liberty.

As it is, the Paulian movement foundered, and became entangled in a sectarian battle with the Libertarian nominee, Bob Barr, over matters too inconsequential to detail. Instead of uniting the freedom movement, in his post-primary mode Paul and his organization, the Campaign for Liberty, divided his followers by endorsing the obscure Chuck Baldwin, the candidate of the idiosyncratic Constitution Party”€“some of whose top officials and activists were key Paul campaign advisors.

Barr’s arrogance and ultra-sectarian attitude did nothing to help the situation, but there was no need for Paul to take such an unnecessary revenge. The smallness of the whole sorry affair is what makes it so pathetic”€“and it’s a tragedy that the Paul movement had to end this way, at least in this phase of its development. Since none of these candidates and parties conducted themselves with anything approaching wisdom, neither deserves the votes of serious conservative and libertarian activists”€“because we deserve better.

And there is better: Ralph Nader.

On the defining issue of the campaign “€“ and the age “€“ Nader is spot on: the bailout of the banks, he avers, “€œwas clearly socialism bailing out capitalism.”€ Not that this version of capitalism has anything to do with authentically free enterprise: “This is the collapse of corporate capitalist ideology,”€ says Nader. “€œI emphasize corporate, because the only capitalism left now is small business. They”€™re the only ones who are free to go bankrupt.”€

On foreign policy, Nader is the only consistent anti-interventionist in the race, or, at least, the only one who makes this an important part of his campaign. Unlike McCain and Obama, who both revel in baiting the Russian bear, Nader asks: “Why don”€™t we leave the Russians alone?”€ Why, he asks, are we provoking Moscow into another cold war? Obama, the candidate of the supposedly “€œantiwar”€ wing of the Democratic party, is pledged to usher Georgia as well as Ukraine into NATO “€“ which the Russians view as an aggressive act. Both want anti-missile “€œdefense”€ shields in place in Eastern and Central Europe “€“ only Nader seems to understand that this is just a scam for enriching the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Nader is the Eugene Debs of our times: he is brave, intractably committed to principle, and disdainful of the limousine liberals and their “€œconservative”€ counterparts who grimace in maidenly horror at the sight and sounds of such truth-telling populism. Most importantly, Ralph Nader knows who are the real enemies of the American people, and what is the source of their power. He, alone, is serious about breaking that power. While I may disagree with some of his more socialistic proposals, and probably wouldn”€™t last very long at a Nader-for-President meeting before getting into it with his commie followers, I don”€™t know of anyone in American political life, at the moment, who has more genuine good old fashioned integrity. I also can”€™t think of anyone who annoys the limousine liberals and Obama-oids more”€“and since these folks are our future rulers, or so it seems, that is reason enough to cheer his campaign and his continued presence in public life.


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