Archives for category: Party Push and Pull

Freedom is a contextual concept: freedom of whom from what? Or, for that matter, freedom to what?

That “what” can vary.

That “whom” can vary.

Liberty is a synonym for freedom, derived from a different language group. But it is also often used as a term of art to distinguish one variety of freedom from another. Indeed, I use liberty as the best term for “the freedom that all can possess.” But my usage is not at all widely accepted.

In the American context, the distinctions of meaning can be bracing. Take Langston Hughes’s epigram on the subject:

There are words like Freedom 
Sweet and wonderful to say. 
On my heartstrings freedom sings 
All day everyday. 
There are words like Liberty 
That almost make me cry. 
If you had known what I know 
You would know why.

What is going on here?

Perhaps we can clarify this mystery, at least by a little, by consulting David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed (1989). In that mammoth volume, Fischer considered four sources of American culture in the folkways brought over to North America from four distinct regions of Britain. And among the folkways he considers are the power and liberty traditions. Here is the relevant passage on the Puritans’ concept of liberty:

So this “publick liberty” notion is the freedom of the community from foreign control to govern itself. It was definitely not about the freedom of the individual from control of others to govern him- or herself.

This is Yankee liberty, which is often quite oppressive of dissent, not friendly to renegades within the community. To this day, I catch a whiff of this sort of freedom from modern-day Democrats. When I was young, I thought I sniffed out its redolence in Republicans and conservatives.

If I am not mistaken, this is also intimately tied to the ancient notions of liberty discussed by Benjamin Constant.

To the south, though, another variety of liberty dominated culture:

Here we see the freedom of the superior individual from control by others, but to allow control over “inferiors,” however that may be defined. Langston Hughes probably knew who the inferiors were thought to be, all too well.

Much more congenial to my way of looking at liberty is the Quaker notion:

Here is a more familiar libertarian conception of freedom: of all from each others’ tyrannies and interferences to obey one’s conscience.

Finally, this freedom from restrain idea, for individuals, is even more thoroughgoing in the fourth folkway set that Fischer identified:

Here, the reciprocal liberty of the Quakers has the piety shaken free of it, for individuals’ freedom from interference and control is also a freedom to tell your neighbor to buzz off, if necessary, and without the nicety of “conscience.” It is a more muscular freedom, and not so much a spiritual matter as a defiant vulgarity.

The Puritan liberty is the freedom of all corporally, as determined by hierarchies as well as participatory governance; the gentlemen’s liberty,on the other hand, is their freedom, individually as gentlemen and within their class, but definitely not the freedom of all (not for the vulgar and inferior); and in the other two systems, freedom is reciprocal and universal, but with pious duty as a corollary in one system, and “mind your own business” in the other.

As I see it, all four strains are part of our everyday American culture, but the communal tyranny strains and gentlemen’s prerogative strains too dominant. Within the modern American libertarian movement the Quakers are represented by SJW-leaning beltway libs, and the backwoods boys represented by the more vulgar-tongued “right-wing” quasi-paleos.

I see some merit in both camps.

Liberty, as I see it, should be the freedom of all from interference and exploitation and control — from all others, to the preservation of their lives and the pursuit of happiness. How much freedom can actually be achieved? Partisans of the two major political parties think “not very much,” with the Democrats, especially, pushing Yankee busybodyism, but the Republicans still clinging to elements. And the Republicans see the world as far more dangerous than do Democrats, at least from foreign power plays, but under Trump the Dems have embraced an anti-Russian paranoia.

But note that even Benjamin Constant (1819) did not totally reject the political element of individual freedom:

Individual liberty, I repeat, is the true modern liberty. Political liberty is its guarantee; consequently political liberty is indispensable. But to ask the peoples of our day to sacrifice, like those of the past, the whole of their individual liberty to political liberty is the surest means of detaching them from the former and, once this result has been achieved, it would be only too easy to deprive them of the latter.

This lesson is something that libertarians will probably never be able to cease pressing to others. It is a lesson too easy to forget.

Meanwhile, of course, the dominant culture has forgotten everything important. Pierre Lemieux, in his foreword to the Constant edition, above, shows the danger of the ancient/Puritan power conception of liberty, and its continued emphasis in our post-modern times:

I fail to see much at all inspiring in any conception of liberty that is not, itself, understood in large part as incorporating individual freedom and personal responsibility.

In reading Benjamin Constant and David Hackett Fischer, I am moved to no small sadness for our culture, which has so far lost its way from the modern liberal progress, having reverted, instead — in our post-modern manner — to a vile, neo-ancient closed society illiberalism.

twv

Is being a Republican all about maintaining the established hierarchy?

…as answered on Quora….

No.

America’s Republican Party is a coalition of a number of anti-leftist interest groups, or, if you will, “tribes.” Though Republicans lean conservative, and conservatives tend to extol traditional hierarchies more than do progressives, it is worth remembering that almost all elements of American government were transformed in the first half of the 20th century by Progressives, and our institutions, today, are in the main both Progressive and hierarchical.

And it is Democrats (and those on the left in general) who urgently — and with increasing alarm — defend established hierarchies.

Consider a few of these:

  • the supremacy of the federal government over the states
  • the bureaucratic hierarchies of the Administrative State
  • the government of the people by the (now-armed) regulatory bureaucracies
  • the cultural hegemony of major media and Hollywood elites over “rednecks” and “fly-over country”
  • the power of major population centers over more sparsely populated rural areas

Take that last one, for a moment. Since the election of Donald Trump, Democrats have been spinning rationales for getting rid of not only the Electoral College but also the Senate, two hold-overs from the original decentralized federal system. There are not many remnants left of the original constitutional order. The whole of the Administrative state has metastasized far beyond constitutional balance, with the Executive Branch now quite dominant not only in the Imperial Presidency but also in the huge leeway the Legislative Branch has ceded to Executive Branch bureaucracies, to create and enforce and even criminalize its regulatory tasks. And the Democrats, apparently jealous of any non-technocratic hierarchy, increasingly want to rid the system of even the last vestiges of the Founders’ system. It is really quite breathtaking.

At this point, many readers will no doubt be wondering if I am a crazy man. Why, it is the left that is against hierarchies and it is the right that defends them! What kind of nonsense is this?

Well, in defense of my interpretation, I ask you to consider the difference between ideological fantasy and knee-jerk institutional practice. By their socialist-tinged fantasies, progressives (and Democrats) are indeed “egalitarian.” They talk up a good equality game, that’s for sure. But when push comes to shove, the pushers of equality shove hard, and quickly establish and defend the hierarchies that do the shoving. That is why socialism turns so quickly to hierarchical and class-based totalitarianism: because equality does not work in a unitary state, but hierarchies and class do. So allegedly “egalitarian and inclusive” leftists swiftly become tyrants.

And we see this even among our compromising progressives, who are on the whole at least not communists — they still balk at full-blown state socialism. (Though in recent years they have come out of the closet on their emotional allegiances, their commitment to the term itself.) They are now quite defensive and even hysterical about Republican attacks upon their beloved governmental hierarchies.

Another example? Public education advocates. Government k12 schooling has become less local and more state- and federal-controlled in the last half-century. And with it, the hierarchies of bureaucracy and unions and politics have usurped more and more local prerogatives. And just look how Democrats react to decentralizing notions like school vouchers, and to hierarchy-busting alternatives like charter schools!

It is not the Republicans who defend hierarchy in these cases. They seem to be leaning to decentralism.

Democrats, like technocrats, socialists and fascists everywhere, are big proponents of centralization.

And the centralism of a unitary state is of necessity hierarchical.

But is this traditional?

No. Well, not exactly.

Like I asserted above, the Republican Party is not a singular movement. It is a coalition of several major groups. And the different groups are differently conservative, if conservative at all. And though we have come to understand conservatism as being “about,” somehow, the defense of traditional hierarchies, which hierarchies are being defended in which group is open to debate.

Further, please note that the traditional American order is liberal, not traditional — Whig and not Tory, in British terms. That is, the original states of the union were sovereign in their original conception, and the union was federal, not national. Decentralist, in modern terminology — almost a distributed order.

Today’s conservatives, to the extent they hark back to the Founding period, are not talking up hierarchy, they are talking up a decentralized order of competing and balancing hierarchies.

But it gets more complicated, for the Republican Party basically overthrew the constitutional order that had failed before it reached the century mark, failed regarding slavery and the tariff. The new order delivered by Abraham Lincoln was nationalist. The Republican Party’s push for the supremacy of an imperialistic national government was far more hierarchical than the Founders’ order, and that order was not American-traditional, but European-traditional. And then came Teddy Roosevelt and a frankly imperialist Progressivism, which, in the course of both Republican and Democratic governments (the Democratic Party abandoning decentralism and constitutionalism with Woodrow Wilson), proceeded to restructure American government along centralist and hierarchical grounds.

So, while some Republicans may hold the constitutional order up as a sort of liberal/libertarian fantasy, in practice they are thoroughly nationalist rather than federalist, imperialist rather than nationalist, and wholly submerged in the trappings of the patriotic mumbo-jumbo of allegiance to the hierarchies established last century, not by the Founders. (Can there be any greater betrayal of the constitutional order than Republicans’ beloved “one nation indivisible” — written by a socialist?) Most Republicans are “conservative” by being Progressives of a hundred years ago. And Democrats are progressives of the flavor they got addicted to in the Sixties.

A more pathetic pair of bumbling parties could hardly be found. And of course, like most Americans, they were “educated” in America’s propaganda mills, the public schools. Which means, much of what they know ain’t so. Our national faith comes in two disgusting flavors.

Now, I admit: there is still something to the “traditional hierarchy” biz.

The kind of progressive that Republicans tend to be is the kind that pushed for Prohibition, way back when. You know, to “save the family.” Not the overtly technocratic kind, of John Dewey and The New Republic. The fact that their “conservative” variety of Progressivism was perpetrated in the name of the family might seem to indicate the defense of the trad hierarchy of domestic life — but that is illusion as well. Not only did Prohibition subordinate individual liberty to state and federal usurpation and totalitarian control, it was also a de facto rebellion of women against men, for the Dry ranks were largely made up of women and a few ambitious, moralistic male busybodies. The women were rebelling against a culture of male drunkenness. (More than understandable.) So modern social conservatism began with the overthrowal of the central element of a patriarchal hierarchy — quite anti-traditional — and then was roundly rebuked by the complete failure of said “experiment.” But did social conservatives learn? No. As alcohol Prohibition ended, new federal programs prohibiting other drugs grew and grew, and were used with startling cruelty against non-white, non-bourgeois out-groups.

Now is the time for me to try to make some sense of “left vs. right” in modern ideology. The rightward motion is not, I think, to defend “traditional hierarchies.” It is for the defense of some in-group against perceived or real out-group threat. And the left is the Cult of the Other, defending some out-group from exploitation or oppression by an in-group — some in-group “of the right.” Of course.

None of these are stable positions. Both sides defend and attack hierarchies, “depending.” Why? Because the in-group/out-group dimension maps orthogonally to the power/freedom dimension.

So, what to make of all this? Well, hierarchies of competence are good, while hierachies of “power” (if by this word you mean oppression or unjust exploitation) are indeed bad. Individuals and in-groups must be defended from criminals and oppressive powers, and individuals and out-groups must not be oppressed in service to the cause of the aforementioned defense.

What is good about “traditional hierarchies” is that they often defend groups that deserve to thrive or dissipate based on free association. What is bad about them is what is bad about new hierarchies: when they aid in centralizing agendas, oppression, and exploitation by class or by individuals . . . that is when they are evil.

So, to answer the original question — “Is being a Republican all about maintaining the established hierarchy?” — better here at the end than in the beginning: sometimes; depends upon which group and which hierarchy.

As for me, I think it is clear: the Republican Party is an ideological mess, conservatives are confused, and their opponents, the progressives, are even worse.

A pox on both their in-groups.

twv

While I should be writing something for pay, or mowing the lawn, today I wrote a bunch of answers on Quora:

Can authoritarianism come to America?

It’s here. In the platforms, habits, demands and reverenced rhetoric of both major parties.

And it is going to get worse and reach its full flower with the new coronavirus menace, for people of vacuous spirituality demand to be “saved” by the sacrifice of others’ freedoms.

That’s authoritarianism in a very popular form.

It is effrontery first, tyranny second.

twv (5/13/20)

Why is it that people either intensely love Trump or […] intensely hate him?

I do not either intensely hate Trump or love him. You may be surprised to discover that this attitude is actually very common in America.

I do find him funny, though. But his enemies are funnier, if not in a praiseworthy way. He is not the idiot that his detractors incessantly insist he is, for it is obvious that he is smarter than most of his political opponents.

But he really is a different creature in the White House, and he breaks many norms. Since presidents following those norms have led us to war and insolvency, seeing them broken does not offend me much. I laugh at those who are offended, but I also chuckle at his adoring acolytes.

As for what he has done and what he believes or pretends to believe? I dislike Trump’s protectionism, his know-nothing nationalism, his crankish approach to policy, his inelegant and seemingly racist speech, but at least he is not a warmonger, and I would never side with the Deep State that demands his ouster. I am an anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist. Trump’s forays against the empire? I had some hope for him. But we did not see his ideas put into play. We saw reaction. At least now we can see who the real rulers are, for they have come out of hiding by trying to remove Trump from office. I know who freedom’s real enemies are, and they reside in the national security state and in shady global alliances of the hyper-wealthy.

But that does not get to the heart of the love/hate, does it? So let us confront one obvious truth: the main bone of contention is his sexual style. He is a traditional “alpha male.” As such, this offends beta male cultures on the Christian right and the pagan left, as well as modish feminism. But most women are not feminists, and his style does not offend everyone. And the right-leaning Christians have lost so many battles that they have in a sense given up: if God gives them an imperfect defender, they no longer prissily complain.

And the enthusiasm for Trump appears to be enthusiasm for someone who regularly humiliates their persecutors — and if any group is openly scorned in America, it is evangelical Christians . . . by coastal cognitive elites. And Trump makes a mockery of them.

Besides, could it be that Americans are beginning to see an ancient principle at work?

The Law of Nemesis turns pride and hubris inside-out, into some form of destruction. Sometimes this occurs by flaunting a parody of one’s enemies against us, other times by turning ourselves into parodies of our own values.

Bush Era hubris brought the empty and ludicrous sanctimony of the Obama years, while the selection of the ultra-corrupt Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s standard bearer fed fuel to the rise of Trump. Part of the comedy here is that Hillary is thought of as a feminist, but she was cruel and unjust in persecuting her husband’s lovers and victims, so a parody of Bill Clinton became her conqueror. And Trump’s most infamous sexual indiscretion? That was his boast how women would fall over themselves for a rich and powerful man, even going so far to allow such men to “grab them by the pussy.” So what do Democrats now promote? A man accused of literally grabbing her accuser by the pussy, but against her will, not, as Trump said, by permission. This is almost a parody of the basic philosophies of right and left: the right produces and entices, the left steals.

All quite hilarious. I laugh at Americans every day. Sometimes I laugh at Trump, but more often I laugh at his enemies. Ridiculous is our descent into madness!

And why?

In times past I would have given reasons out of sociology and political economy — the Thomas Theorem, the Tragedy of the Commons, etc. — but now I suggest we wonder if the gods may not be jesting, playing with us. “The Progressives have had their century, and are a proud tower of folly; now we shall inflict their fall, as we take away their power, dignity, and reason for being.”

Why the love/hate? Because the participants are too entrenched in their own fates, unable to see the principles at work.

Take a step back and laugh with the gods.

twv (5/13/20)

Do you favor libertarian separatism?

I have written about this on my blog. I will summarize.

I support putting the general government of these United States under receivership. I think all the states should secede from the union and form several smaller unions, and those unions, or the departed states, should appoint the Receiver to liquidate the assets of the U.S.A., bring home from abroad all the military and divvy it up, with close attention to major contractors of the military-industrial complex, and pay off what debts can be managed without creating a worse situation than before.

I do not think there is any other way of restoring balance to our political-legal system. Culturally, financially, militarily, monetarily, the United States is a mess.

I liked the idea of the Constitution, I confess. Federalism — as conceived by the true federalists, called “anti-federalists” — is a pretty good idea. But it was a dead letter on accession in the early 1790s, and quickly became a mercantilist national state. The nationalism grew and grew, and morphed into a new form of imperialism.

I oppose nearly everything the United States have become.

So, this all assumes the persistence of large states. It also assumes that we might be able to make an orderly reorganization. This latter is a long shot. But barring this sort of thing, I foresee major chaos, and probably a triumph of totalitarian controls. Our nation of serviles is pushing for that now. Ugh.

What should libertarians do? I do not know. In a time of chaos it might be good to have a sovereign state with a concentrated population of libertarians. But if the totalitarianism comes, then they sure would be easy to round up.

Obviously, I support secession and voluntary, peaceable assembly. But the cult of the total state is getting ugly. And the cult’s acolytes are whipping themselves into a bloodletting frenzy. I know many leftists right now who would be glad to see me carted off to a prison camp.

The biggest problem? There are just so few libertarians. Congregating in one area will mean a slight increase in influence in that area, sure, but also would entail few per cultural checks in the regions abandoned.

If we have time, and if the Q Anon folks are wrong about what is really going on, a slow migration to specific regions might make sense. Perhaps to encourage the idea of restructuring by secession we should encourage the partitioning of a half dozen or so states. New York’s boroughs should be separated from the rest of New York; Chicago’s Cook Country should become a separate state; California needs to split into many pieces, with LA County being itself a separate state, and the much requested “Jefferson” created out of the north of the state snd southern Oregon; eastern Oregon and eastern Washington should become a new state of Adams; King Country, Wsshington, and the counties directly north, should become a separate state as well. The point of all this is to wrest power away from ruling cliques and make manageable states that could actually sport something close to founding era ideas of representation.

I think libertarians would have a better chance to influence politics for the better in any of the more rural new states: Jefferson, Adams, new Illinois, greater New York, etc.

But libertarians would be spread pretty thin. I fear that what will happen will be chaotic, tyrannical, and a horror. Pushing secession as a solution to problems might save the country, though, and, if not, allow for future formal bankruptcy proceedings, as I suggest up top.

I of course think all peaceful people should separate themselves from criminals, if they can. And the biggest criminal is the total state.

twv (5/13/20)

The New Hampshire primary results are fun to look at.

  • Bernie: 76,324 (9 delegates)
  • Pete: 72,457 (9)
  • Amy: 58,796 (6)
  • Donald: 129,696 (22)
  • Bill: 13,787 (0)

Trump blew away Weld: no contest, you might say. But that was arguably a fake race, since Weld’s campaign is one step from Vermin Supreme’s. So what is significant is that Trump, to all extent and purpose running unopposed, blew Bernie out of the water.

Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren — the dottering goofball and the shrill harridan — gained no delegates and proved their campaigns basically over.

Now, really what is at stake amongst the many Dems? The radicals vs. the moderates. Though the radicals have passion, theirs is a doomed cause, unless a financial collapse happens. A long shot? (I hope.) I expect to see a McGovern 72 repeat, if Bernie nabs the nomination. Perhaps worse.

Centrist Dems yearn to knock Bernie off the perch, and they now have only three options: Pete, Amy, and . . . Michael Bloomberg, who was not even trying in this primary, but can parlay mucho moolah.

Bloomberg is a nonstarter, though, no? He is a repellent figure, a bossy billionaire with weird racial and civil liberties baggage — in the age of marijuana legalization, he has made news by opposing it; his apology for his beloved stop-and-first gun control program, pathetic because hollow. And he has attacked consumers’ ability to get their Big Gulps. I suppose the food puritans on the left might get on board. But a short, whiny, supercilious Jew can hardly play well outside of a few coastal enclaves of whiny Bluery.

Pete Buttigieg is the best bet for immediate success, but, once again, how wide would his support be? White Americans wanted a Black Messiah, so Barack Obama filled an important ‘social justice’ need. I doubt that many Americans have an equivalent yearning for a gay man in the White House. Besides, the deep background of his support seems awfully CIA/Deep State, and his father was a commie. An Ugh Factor is strong here. Besides, his mayoral background is not impressive, and he has had the temerity to have once been nice to Tea Party folk — so the socialist radicals in the Democracy cannot have that. A Mayor Pete at the head of the ticket would send Bernie Bros into the Green Party.

Amy Klobuchar is a strange case. There is a personal unpleasantness about her, and she has less sex appeal TO HETERO MEN than does Mayor Pete [heh]. She often seems uncomfortable in public. Her ideas meander in a delta of indecision, but she can pull off seeming moderate, which might work for many folks who want an alternative to Trump, but the idea of her holding her own against Trump in a debate seems preposterous. Her biggest pull is the Innocuous Play. And the sexist/anti-sexist Woke Woman Vote. I am not sure she can do it.

Presumably Biden voters will go to . . . Amy and Pete. Warren voters will go to . . . Bernie and Amy. But if Pete and Amy stick to battling each other, it’s Bernie’s to lose.

This is no time to be a Democratic follower. Frustrating, it must be!

Well, welcome to my world, folks: there has never really been a satisfactory presidential candidate for me. Not since Grover Cleveland, and he just barely squeaks in to my approved realm.

Suffer, suffer — in your suffrage.

twv

The Democratic Party presidential race is in such disarray — with the Trump Impeachment about to implode — that I am not surprised to hear talk of late entrants bursting onto the scene and into the running. The funny thing is, the ones I am hearing about would be worse for the Democrats than most of the current batch: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama.

I assume that most Democrats would have the sense to reject either ‘candidate.’ Or perhaps I give them too much credit.

After all, the only decent candidates in the D-field are Yang and Gabbard, and they linger at the back of the pack. This despite the almost certainty that the latter could win against Trump even without an economic downturn, while the rest are basically non-starters and would be eaten alive by Trump in any public debate.

Tulsi’s a long shot, sure. But she’s at least a shot.

But the lack of interest in Tulsi Gabbard indicates to me that the Left Wants What the Left Always Wants: free stuff. No interest in stopping wars. Not really.

And the Center-Left wants that sense of security that only (for them) can be found in the gentle embrace of Leviathan. But, for all their hopeless statism. centrists and normal people are spooked by the socialists and woke scold harridans.

So it looks like the Democracy could very well split into two separate parties: the Woke Left/Commies versus the Center-Left/‘neoliberals.’ 

If chicanery happens and Bernie the Commie is robbed of the nomination, I gather a massive exodus to the Green Party happens next. Am I wrong?

Meanwhile, Democrat diehards are praying to Baphomet that the inevitable downturn comes before Election Day in November. So that even their repellent losers can have a chance.

twv

Baphomet in our time.

Sometimes we must take special note of the obvious.

Why? 

If the obvious can’t be taken for granted, what can?

Well, in politics, and perhaps some other realms of life, vast and audacious engines of hope and desperation mask the plain truth, obscuring what stares us square in the face.

Here is something obvious: it should be an easy glide into office for the Democrats this year, in their bid to recapture the White House. President Donald Trump remains as controversial a figure as he was when elected, and he had just squeaked in to office with slim margins. Any reasonable group of political strategists should be able to appraise the situation, push the most sane and accomplished of the moderate Democrats, and walk right into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It should be easy.

But it won’t be.

The party is in astounding disarray.

Oh, sure, it is the party of government workers and of the some of the biggest and most organized minority groups. It is the party that unashamedly promises to give free stuff to everyone. America’s oldest party has the natural advantage that comes with demagoguery.

But despite this obvious advantage, the party’s leftist ideology is so thread-bare that, despite all the advantages of selling magic beans to rubes, its members cannot help themselves. They are under a spell. The spell is so great that the New York Times, one of the party’s oldest propaganda mills, cannot even decide on one candidate to endorse — the Gray Lady chose two . . . on the apparent ground that both were women.

What a ridiculously superficial criterion.

This sort of shallow pandering becomes a hard sell to anyone with a lick of sense, even to independents who don’t like Trump.

They sure are in a pickle. A pickle jar. Tightly sealed. By their own mad fervor and desperation.

Obviously.

TDS, the malady of the age, leading to questions like these . . .

Why hasn’t Donald Trump been impeached yet?

. . . as answered on Quora, June 2, 2018 . . .

Every president in my lifetime could have been impeached on some grounds or another. Only one was. And that was for something rather trivial and stupid. Besides, the Senate did not concur with the House impeachment. So it was all a rather pointless enterprise. (Sorry, Bob Barr.)

And, to repeat, every president can be found doing something illegal. Why? Because there are so many laws to break. Just as every American is said to break “three felonies per day,” there are enough regulations hemming in political life that one infraction or another could be found.

Impeachment is not a criminal justice matter, in which Congress must react as a hanging judge over every crime committed by a president. Impeachment is a political matter, and it is by politics alone that the decision to impeach should be made — once a plausible ground for impeachment (“high crimes and misdemeanors”) has been found.

It looks to me that the Trump campaign did break at least one campaign finance law. It is still a bit obscure, but if Congress really wanted to, it could probably impeach him. But since campaign finance laws do not usually end up in prison time — with the exception of the Obama Administration’s successful prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza — one would not expect a simple abridgment of a goofy regulation to end in impeachment and trial.

Other than for political reasons.

And the Republican House is not likely to impeach its own party’s inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Democrats need to regain the House to hope to do anything of this kind.

Which brings us back to pure politics: if Democrats keep up talking about impeaching Trump for minor points of law, and keep conjuring up wild, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the man, they are going to wind up increasing turnout for Trump in 2020. Americans do not take kindly to the witch-huntery involved in this.

That is, hinged Americans do not. The unhinged remain enthusiasts of impeachment.

But back to my main point: Presidents commit crimes. Just as you and I commit crimes. Because there are so many idiotic regulations defining often quite innocent or at least tolerable actions as crimes.

What bothers me are the worse and worst things that presidents do — like authorizing mass murder overseas and the torture of combatant prisoners, not to mention all the unconstitutional actions the three major branches of federal government routinely engage in. These get scant pushback from the American people, partisans in particular.

It was not for bombing an aspirin factory that Clinton was impeached.

As far as I’m concerned, George W. Bush and Barack Obama should both be in prison for their foreign policy “missteps.” (They were not just mistakes.) But almost no one talks about that, and if they do, then only in a partisan way: Democrats wanted Bush in chains; Republicans wanted Obama under lock and key.

Perhaps because all this oppositionalism is mere partisan hysteria, our political leaders are — to too great an extent — unrestrained by the Constitution. Or by political pressure. Because sensible people dismiss it as idiotic. And because the really bad stuff is tacitly and explicitly supported by both parties.

We should not be talking impeachment. We should be talking, instead, about placing actual, effective limits on the Imperial Presidency.

twv

This month the administrative state and its allies — the major media most prominently, but also the left in general and the Democratic Party in particular — moved from dippy, loopy and creepy to fully lunatic, evil, and creepazoid.

We learned about the origin of the official investigation into the Russia Collusion scandal: it was after a cadre of Deep State operatives unsuccesfully plotted to leverage the 25th Amendment against an elected president, and undertaken on the flimsiest of pretenses (none criminal on Trump’s part).

We saw a series of elected Democratic officials in Virginia get caught up in uncomfortable ideological scandals, touchy subjects including infanticide, rape and blackface tomfoolery. With only the 30-year-old blackface photo really bothering journalists or Democrats in general.

A major “hate crime” scandal erupted with major Democrat pols coming out pushing additional (and quite unnecessary) lynch laws in response — only to discover the alleged crime was a hoax.

And, for the pièce de résistance, a new congresswoman made waves by offering something she calls a Green New Deal. This preposterous program, if enacted, would inflict upon these benighted states a wide array of social and environmental “reforms”: a universal basic income, a bizarre goal of reconfiguring every building in the United States up to a strict energy efficiency standard, and, within ten years, getting the country off of fossil fuels completely. When pressed, that congresswoman admitted that many homes would have to be torn down, that the airline industry would be permanently grounded, that flatulent bovines had to go, and that this all needed to be done so quickly because in twelve years, otherwise, human civilization would be over. This whole plan is radical hubris of an almost old-fashioned communist sort, and the doomsday cries were environmentalists’ typically paranoid catastrophism, offered without evidence — just assertions from “scientists” and “experts.” Reckless beyond any rational standard — crazy talk. Nevertheless, most of the declared Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race heartily endorsed it.

We might have thought that the Republicans, in electing Trump, had proven the old Millian charge about conservatives constituting the Stupid Party. But no. By electing Trump, Republicans have driven Democrats quite mad. And Trump may be well on his way to re-election.

Modern politics now reads like a Tom Sharpe satirical farce. I have been hankering, recently, to re-read Wilt, Blott on the Landscape, and Riotous Assembly, but it just really isn’t necessary.

Who needs satire when we have political reality?

I know it is cliché to say that, these days. My excuse? Each of the three terrific Sharpe comedies I mentioned sports the same sort of climax: an outrageous police siege with bloodshed, guns blazing, and plenty of explosions. Sharpe’s may seem as if mere cap gun pops compared to what we would witness were the Green Ten-Year Plan actually be implemented.

twv

The Sharpe novels readiest at hand in my library. Riotous Assembly must be somewhere….

Bill Weld, 2016 Libertarian Candidate for the U.S. Vice Presidency

After years of following Weld’s political career, there is only one thing about him I’m sure of: He regards politics as a form of intellectual entertainment, and nothing he says on the subject should be mistaken for conviction. . . .

There is no point seeking the philosophical thread that connects [his] meanderings. Weld has no fixed political or electoral outlook; he isn’t consistently conservative or liberal, and he’s certainly no diehard Republican. He has claimed since 2016 to be “Libertarian for life,” raising money, endorsing candidates, and assuring Libertarian Party leaders: “I’m going to stay L.P.” Yet if recent news reports are accurate, Weld is telling confidants that he might challenge Trump in the Republican primaries. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. 

A Weld run would enliven the 2020 campaign with erudition and quirky wit. That alone might be reason to hope he jumps in. Remember, however, that when it comes to politics, Weld will say and do just about anything to keep from being bored. He’s not likely to take a Weld candidacy too seriously. We shouldn’t, either.

Jeff Jacoby, “Bill Weld’s true north is that he has no true north,” Boston Globe (January 31, 2019)

But maybe “true north” isn’t the right metaphor…

The magnetic north pole moves towards Russia!

The north magnetic pole is restless.

Distinct from the geographic North Pole, where all the lines of longitude meet at the top of the world, the magnetic pole is the point that a compass recognizes as north. At the moment, it’s located four degrees south of the geographic North Pole, which lies in the Arctic Ocean at 90 degrees north. 

But that wasn’t always the case.

In the mid-19th century, the north magnetic pole floated much further south, roaming around Canada. For the past 150 years, however, the pole has been sprinting away from Canada and toward Siberia.

Shannon Hall, “The North Magnetic Pole’s Mysterious Journey Across the Arctic,” The
New York Times
(February 4, 2019)


Bill Weld, like most politicians, is attuned to the attractions of the masses and of the moment and of the most “meaningful” memes. But we are going through an ideological pole shift right now. So, if his moral compass has gone wild, and he cannot be trusted to remain true, that may be because he is most sensitive to the great ideological shift.

That doesn’t make him a leader, of course. It just explains his gyrations, especially near anomalies.

And nothing is more anomalous than libertarianism. Not even Trump.

Oh, and also: the Democrats are, like our planet’s magnetic north, speeding towards Russia.

My old-fashioned compasses. I have others.

twv


Which American political party relies on crafty maneuvering and identity tactics more than substantive policy?

as answered on Quora

Both do, but to different “identity” groups.

The real difference, though, is how they appeal to their respective groups’ fantasies.

The fantasy on the left (the Democrats) seems to appeal to people as belonging to (and framed as) out-groups, enticing them to obtain and wield in-group power. The official mantra is equality of some sort, but behind everything is the leveraging of special government programs to gain advantages for the interest group identified and solicited. The fantasy may be egalitarian socialism, but the technique is always technocratic dirigisme.

The fantasy on the right (the Republicans) seems to appeal to traditional family people and workers, promising to protect their specific groups (families, churches, businesses) from out-group interference (government interference, usually but not always) and the whole nation from out-group threats. The general idea here is often to assert a rule of law rather than regulatory agenda, and thus the fantasy, here, is something close to libertarianism — but it is onlya fantasy, for almost no one in this camp really wants to dismantle the administrative state that Progressives set up last century. They cannot even manage to repeal Obamacare, which was set up a few years ago.

So, the groups each party identifies as core constitutencies are catered to, by promising heaven on earth, are usually betrayed in specific ways — mainly because both fantasies are impossible.

Republicans’ fantasy of Liberty is not possible notbecause liberty is incoherent and unworkable, but because it is incompatible with the Progressive institutions that are in place but which few Americans — including most conservatives — are willing to give up. So Republican politicians walk a tight rope, promising, promising, but never delivering. Republican politicians cannot even deliver on something as simple and conservative as balanced budgets and debt reduction!

Democrats’ fantasy of Equality is ludicrous in the strict sense of the term, since people are not substantively equal and cannot be made so. And instead of offering the classical liberal (libertarian) rule-of-law notion of formal equality— equality of individuals before the law under a limited state — Democrats instead divvy up society into tribes and then appeal to those tribes based on grievances, resentments and envy. The current fashionable version of this promises “inclusion” into the mainstream by displacement of power rather than sharing of power. And always, in every iteration of left-wing activism, there is the implied notion that increasing the size and scope of domestic state governance is the very meaning of progress . . . with state socialism held up as the secret and now not-so-secret fantasied end-state. And socialism is unworkable at base, since it always degenerates into tyranny and poverty and outrageous moral horror.

So we have a culture war that is getting quite ugly. Both parties are unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, and both contain internal ideological contradictions that are dishonorable because unfulfillable.

And, yes, trickery, which is part and parcel of politics in any robust, extensive state, cannot help but be the modusof both.

It can only be thus, given the fantasies of the groups and the realities of human nature in general and our epoch in particular.