The Future of American Politics
On December 23, 2021, I began to assemble chapters in a new book that I titled “The Future of American Politics” from “blog posts” I had accumulated starting in 2011. Something was afoot in American politics and I wanted to examine what that was.
The defeat of Donald Trump in the Presidential election 0f 2020 had been predictable ever since the by-election of 2018. Donald Trump didn’t understand that, however, and ran for re-election. When he lost, he claimed that “the election was stolen” and organized an attack on the Capitol to delay certification of the election of Joe Biden.
Never in the history of the United States had a sitting President attempted to circumvent the process for election established in the Constitution of the United States and the future course of American politics had suddenly been saddled with a very big question mark.
Twice Impeached, but not convicted, Donald Trump could be expected to run for President again or stage another coup d’état.
Donald Trump was prominent in this mix of ambitious politicians, but he was not alone. Liberal Republicans like Nikki Haley and Conservative Republicans like Ted Cruz and the “Neoconservatives” had entered politics by becoming champions of the Republican Party’s Donald Trump. This turn “rightward” began 44 years from 2016 when the Democrat Party took a radical Left turn and nominated U. S. Senator George McGovern for President in 1972.
Lust for power is addictive and during the forty years between 1972 and 2012, Neoconservatives lived and breathed politics so much that I made fun of them in a little essay that I titled “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.” In that essay I took my “Neoconservative” friends to task for their desperate search for a Presidential candidate in the election of 2012.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar
August 25, 2011
The behavior of our Neoconservative friends at Roger Ailes’ Fox News, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, National Review and AEI is reminiscent of the 1977 motion picture, “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.” The heroine, Diane Keating, cruises bars looking for sexual excitement much like Bill Kristol and his band of neoconservative wonks are cruising for a presidential candidate.
At first, it seemed that Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana would be the neo-conservative savior, and then the torch was passed to former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. When Pawlenty’s campaign tanked, our boys then turned to Paul Ryan who declined the honor. Now Marco Rubio is the center of Neocon attraction.
There is a common thread that runs through each of these candidates: no fear of war.
Marco Rubio appeared before a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to announce his support for the NATO invasion of Iraq, America’s third invasion of a Muslim country. What was curious was the argument that Sen. Rubio gave on that occasion. He said that the Declaration of Independence affirms that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and when a foreign government denies those rights and threatens its citizens with death, the United States should act to keep that from happening.
This week, MSNBC political commentator, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell stated on “Morning Joe” that America should always act to stop genocide citing two NATO invasions: Kaddafi’s Iraq under President Obama and Kosovo under President Clinton.
That, of course, is a theme right out of a 1960s television series— “have gun, will travel.”
Sen. Rubio has lots of good points and is an attractive face in a crowd of largely unattractive Republican officeholders. But we should be mindful of signs that he appears to have been co-opted this early in his career by the War Faction within the Republican Party.
Beginning in the second Reagan Administration from the neoconservative enclave being creating at the American Enterprise Institute by the late Irving Kristol, neoconservatives positioned themselves to obtain political appointments from the Reagan White House. Frustrated by a Democratic Party moving quickly to the left impelled by the anti-Vietnam war movement and culminating in the nomination of Sen. George McGovern, Kristol and other neoconservatives defected to the Republican Party. A genius at manipulation, throughout the 1970s Kristol carefully placed his men in powerful positions at non-profit foundations, and in think tanks like AEI. By Reagan’s second term, his men controlled the Bradley Foundation, something called Institute of Education Affairs, and the Richardson Foundation. In the first Reagan Administration he added conquest of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Neoconservatives love power.
Unfortunately, they don’t fear it. On or before George Bush was elected president, the libido of Irving Kristol’s neoconservatives metastasized into what I call a “second growth.”
The first neoconservative “growth” was very traditional, sound on Economics and its analysis of what Kristol called a “New Class.” There was little to be uneasy about neo-conservatives during that early period of growth, except for their past affiliation with the left and their belief that the power of the state was “good.”
Those of us who did not grow up on the left wing of American life feared the coercive power of the state— “the power to tax is the power to destroy”—didn’t like Democratic welfare programs even before they proved dangerous to civic morality and were attracted to politicians like Bob Taft, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Kristol’s neoconservative didn’t like Taft, thought Goldwater was a joke, and never supported Reagan when he ran for president before his election in 1980 and thus were on the fringe of things when Reagan won. If there was anything that Irving Kristol was not, he was not a “quitter.” By 1984 his maneuvering had charmed the White House “wise” guys and the second term of Ronal Reagan’s administration loaded up with neoconservatives.
Then something very bad happened that even Irving Kristol warned against.
The most significant change in America, he said, was the transition of democracy from a political philosophy to a religious belief.
It’s pretty easy—as Marco Rubio demonstrated—to cite the ringing words of first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence much like Christian’s recite the Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer. But the hard work of understanding what really the American political tradition is lies in study of the Old Testament’s covenant of Yahweh with the Hebrew clans, the break with mythic order by the Greek philosophers, the Gospel movement, the development of Roman law and the English political tradition. That takes long study and more than the few minutes needed to absorb the religious connotations carried in the words of Thomas Jefferson.
What caused otherwise rational and very bright and educated political minds that are found in neoconservative circles to adopt an irrational American democratic religion and to advocate using the American armed forces to create a New World Order of democratic regimes?
Though the term “realism” used in international relations theory sometimes has bad connotations as “immoral” and insensitive to the plight of millions of people throughout the world whose freedoms and lives are abused by autocrats, there is a point at which a nation’s resources can be exhausted in a frenzy of imperial warfare. At that point, a “realistic” foreign policy is called for.
After a decade of war and deficit spending in Iraq and Afghanistan and now an invasion of Libya, the United States is broke. Yet that democratic religion that worried the neoconservative godfather, Irving Kristol, continues to stir the minds and souls of young adults like Bill Kristol, Douglas Feith, Michael Gerson and an otherwise appealing young Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio.
Where does that kind of thinking come from? And what are its consequences?
Bill Kristol, son of Irving Kristol, had launched The Weekly Standard in 1995 and used that as a vehicle to achieve political influence.
Years before, I had become friends with Bill Kristol due to our joint interest in “Conservatism” and, when in need of employment in 1992, he used his influence as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle to secure my appointment to a position in the Office of Communication Technology at the U.S. Social Security Administration in Baltimore, MD. There I was responsible for all satellite telecommunications and television productions of Social Security Administration’s communication department.
I could claim some expertise in that field because in 1983 I had produced video discussions on public affairs for World News Institute and attempted to finance their distribution via cable television. Paul Weyrich was inspired to create Empowerment Television as a result of that effort.
Though I earned a Ph.D. in Government, I am not welcome in American higher education because I am a political conservative and I committed a grave sin by working for President Ronald Reagan.
But, if truth be told, I am what can be called a “Wandering Armenian,” a person who is happiest when self-employed.
After working for President Reagan I did not return to a tenured teaching position at the College of New Rochelle and from 1987 to 1995 I kicked around Eastern Europe working for a German state university and “doing deals” in Poland. On the weekend prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was in Warsaw. Still unable to find work as a college teacher, I founded my own for-profit university in 2000, and for the next sixteen years waged battle with the education Cartel that controls American higher education.
I made a good effort, but I had to find accredited investors willing to take a chance on a conservative Online university just as the “dot com Bubble” of 2000 collapsed and the American people elected a Liberal Republican as President–Bush 43.
“The 2000 election was the fourth election in U.S. history in which the winner of the electoral votes did not carry the popular vote. It was the first such election since 1888, when Benjamin Harrison became president after winning more electoral votes but losing the popular vote to Grover Cleveland.”
The policies of President George W. Bush, culminating in the invasion of Iraq, fostered “war weariness” among American voters who elected a trained Marxist as President in 2009. That occurred just as Yorktown University attained “national accreditation” and assured that for-profit education would be severely attacked.
I fought as best I could in every forum that would listen:
Profiting from Ivory Towers, Cato Institute, November 30, 2010
But ultimately the education Cartel won by removing our hard won accreditation.
Over the nineteen years between 1992 and 2011 when I made fun of Neoconservatives for “looking for Mr. Goodbar,” Bill Kristol’s family ties to the Democrat Party and idealism of the “New Deal” and “Great Society” were strengthened and he was moving quickly to the political Left.
Bill and his Neoconservative friends were seeking a candidate on whose wings they could safely land in the world of Presidential power, prestige and political appointment. Failing in that, in 2016 Bill Kristol became a leader of the “Never Trump” movement.
The GOP and the “New World Order”
Political stability in free societies is not only valued, but a necessary condition of life. For that reason, American government is grounded in a Constitution designed to assure stability by means of principles of limited government.
James Madison succinctly summarized the problem in The Federalist, #51.
It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
The “enlightened” ideas that most of the Framers of the Constitution shared, rooted in the liberal “Social Contract” ideas of John Locke were sufficient to establish a stable representative government in the United States –until the Civil War. That political crisis, accompanied by Darwin’s Origins of Species and the introduction of German idealist humanism by the American “Transcendentalists,” challenged a dominant political order founded on Protestant Christianity. Once that shared theological system was broken, the America of the 18th Century was flung into a cauldron of more “modern” intellectual currents shaped by political ideologies.
In succeeding centuries, many Americans came to see themselves as political conservatives in opposition to Marxist revolutionaries and utopian Socialists. They sought ways to preserve and disseminate the principles of traditional order that preserve political and economic freedom. Most were believing Christians who understood that “salvation” was not to be found in this life, and thus they shared a political philosophy that rejected political and economic remedies that relied on the State. When confronted with “final solutions” of totalitarian movements they banded together to protect their way of life.
World War I and the Great Depression gave power to idealists, intellectuals and “experts” in the use of the powers of government and wiped away the restraints placed on the national government by such 19th century institutions as the Protestant churches and the many private colleges and universities established to shape the character of Americans, train the Protestant clergy, educate a class of attorneys at law committed to the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of conflict. That essentially Protestant Christian culture prepared and trained a military elite to protect the nation and preserve the principle of civilian rule.
In mid-twentieth century, each of the pillars of the former political culture that, in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution, sought to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” had been destroyed or shaken.
The original system of independent States was dominated by an aggressive, centralized, bureaucratic, administrative State.
Protestant and Catholic churches were guided by Pastors, theologians, Popes and priests who sought to assure salvation in this life through Social Justice. And American colleges and universities were transformed into a system for indoctrination in “Progressive” political ideology.
In 2021 to all external appearances a new President, Joe Biden, will attempt to revive that previous consensus and return to what for many is a comfortable civil religion of “Liberalism.”
Already, I get ahead of myself.
I’ve said too much by using the word “State” without explanation to describe the administration of government by agencies led by “experts” and nothing about those who share a “civil religion of “Liberalism.” And by portraying President #45’s policies as a reversal of a consensus of the role of the United States in an “International order” that some call a “New World Order,” I use a term without explanation that evokes conspiracies surrounding the names “Davos” and “Soros.”
I shall argue that the election of Joe Biden in 2020 embodied what more accurately may be a “correction” in tone, not the aspiration of his advocates of an “ideology” that intends to destroy real achievements of government. Those radicals are visible in the persons recently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Talib of Michigan.
Joe Biden will, I predict, preserve and protect the administrative State of Democrat Presidents from FDR to Barack Obama. If he will jeopardizes those efforts with more radical policies he will revitalize the GOP.
For Joe Biden, D’état, c’est moi, means “our administrative state is safe with me.”
Admiration of the Strong, Race and Immigration
In American politics, Donald Trump is unique, but if we look to England of forty years ago, we’ll find someone very much like “The Donald.”
In the mid-1960s, a British member of Parliament, Enoch Powell, commanded the attention of the British public by his stance against immigration and the British Labor Party’s Race Relations Bill.
Collapse of Britain’s empire after World War II generated a flood of immigrants from British India and other Dominions that threatened the racial makeup of England.
By the late 1960s, Indian Sikh’s were visible on British transit as bus drivers and Council Housing that had served a largely white British working class was roiled by the admission of non-white immigrants from the Dominions.
Enoch Powell’s stand against immigration attracted the support of British workers who had never supported Britain’s Conservative Party, but felt threatened by the influx of immigrants. When the Conservative Party won the 1970 general election, Powell’s supporters claimed that Powell’s stance on immigration guaranteed the Conservative victory.
Powell, unlike Trump, was an academic, a classicist and student of philosophy who early in his career was fascinated with the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. “Will to power” is a strong impulse in all politicians, but Enoch Powell’s identification with Nietzsche went beyond the pale of English politics and raised concerns that Powell had not learned lessons from Britain’s battle with Nazi Germany.
Opponents of Donald Trump express concern about his frequent verbal slights against women (the weaker sex), his failure to search for specialists in public policy who might inform and enrich his views, his self-confidence and absolute belief in his own intuition and judgment.
Those characteristics are compatible with Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman or Übermensch.
Trump’s appeal to strength against weakness is not necessarily Nietzchean, but we should not be surprised, therefore, that a businessman, seemingly unprepared for public office, has found approval with Republicans after years of pursuit of the “Democratic Project” that drove the purpose of American foreign policy and embroiled the United States in “nation building” and military action.
Trump ran against the expansionist foreign policy decisions of George W. Bush and defeated candidates who drank “W’s” Kool Aid. Politicians motivated in the belief of their own superiority, however, are not likely to retreat from using force in any confrontation.