April 25, 2008

Growing Up Socialist

Long ago, when Rush radio and the conservative movement hadn?t yet returned to their GOP-shilling and were actually criticizing McCain, they?d often preface their remarks with, ?John McCain is an American hero, but?? or ?John McCain served his country with distinction, but?? before launching into an attack on McCain-Feingold, McCain’s prescription drug plan, the ?gang of 14,? etc.

I sensed then that it was too easy to imagine that McCain?s liberal, socialistic tendencies and his militarism were unconnected, or even that he was socialistic despite his military background. Well, now Todd Crowell has put my hunch into words, arguing that one can understand a great deal of McCain’s liberalism by looking at his childhood as a military brat?one might say that this kind of upbringing seems to inspire leftism at the same levels as working as a community organizer in south Chicago: 
Few civilians realize that growing up in the military ? not to mention serving in the military ? is the closest to pure socialism you can come in America.

Nationalized healthcare? We’ve had it from Year 1. As a teenager living on an air force base in Japan, I even had my teeth straightened at US taxpayers’ expense. Housing is provided free of charge ? and it’s pretty nice for admirals ? or, if we have to live off base, it’s subsidized with a housing allowance.

Food is also subsidized. Well into retirement, my parents found it worthwhile to drive 50 miles from their Florida retirement home, past multiple civilian supermarkets to McDill Air Force Base to stock up on groceries at the commissary.

(Danile Larison?s helpful comments are here

I?d add that one can learn a great deal about candidate by his choice of rhetoric. Even if Dubya promised a ?humble foreign policy? in 2000, his ?compassionate conservatism? should have set off alarm bells?such a phrase prophesizes not only Bush?s budget-busting entitlement programs but the ?save the world? messiahism of his Second Inaugural. 

McCain doesn?t go in for ?freedom?s on the march? or ?an end to evil,? but instead glorifies the process of America coming together to fight an enemy: it?s about ?supporting the president,? ?self-sacrifice,? ?causes higher than one?s self-interest.? Such calls are appealing, even to conservatives, or perhaps especially to conservatives, but they are also the sirens songs of egalitarianism, leveling down, and socialism. It?s a short step to ?from each to his ability and to each according to his need.?

It?s thus not too surprising that when asked to address affirmative action a couple of days ago, McCain avoided completely the aspect of AA that most bothers people?its destruction of the meritocratic, agonistic qualities of hiring and admissions?and instead talked about how universities and firms should mirror the hierarchical/egalitarian structure of a barracks. AA should be expanded:

?If you?re talking about assuring equal and fair opportunity for all Americans and making sure that the practices of the US military are emulated, the greatest equal opportunity employer in America, then I am all for it,? he said. ?If you are talking about quotas, I am not for it. So all of us are for affirmative action to try to give assistance to those who need it, whether it be African-American or other groups of Americans that need it.?

Among the competing socialisms to chose from, I?m beginning to think I might prefer Hillary?s Nannyism or Barrack?s ?Hope for the World? over what McCain is offering.

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