Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Trade-Off

The rational among us are anxiously debating whom to vote for in November. From one perspective on the current race for the White House, we are faced with a choice of which devil to cut cards with (to paraphrase Wellington at Waterloo).

Do we vote for John McCain, who may or may not be better than George W. Bush in foreign policy and in adopting a semi-rational attitude toward America’s dedicated enemies, but who is “pro-American” in the same sense that Mussolini was “pro-Italian” and Hitler was “pro-German,” that is, in an un-American, nationalistic, service-to-your-country-in-a-higher-cause-than-yourself way, which implies the partial or wholesale regimentation of the American population to combat the bogeyman of the moment?

Do we vote for Barack Obama, whose anti-American, anti-military, anti-freedom, serve-your-country-until-you’re-flat-broke-and-living-in-penury-for-a-cause-higher-than-yourself solution to all problems, foreign and domestic, might mellow once he is in office and is handed on morning one the intelligence reports from the various security agencies on what our enemies (including Russia and China, not just the Islamists) are up to vis-à-vis tightening the noose around America’s neck? Or would he just grimace and think: We brought it upon ourselves.

Do we vote for McCain, whose “patriotism” would compel Americans to “give back” what they were never given, and who may or may not give the rational among us half a fighting chance to spread the word of reason? Would the Ayn Rand Institute and other pro-freedom organizations be safely sidelined by his domestic policies? Would conservative talk-show hosts be any more secure against censorship or persecution than under an Obama administration? Both candidates are preeminently anti-conceptual mentalities, but this does not mean they would not be aware of the peril of freely expressed ideas or organized opposition, and search for some means to squelch, silence, punish or harass the recalcitrant.

Do we vote for McCain, whose election might stave off another attack on America, because our Islamic enemies (Ahmadinejad of Iran, the Saudis, et al.) just might possibly believe that he would bomb Iran’s nuclear power facilities, or give the Israelis the go-ahead to do it themselves (Israeli intelligence on Mideast matters being vastly more informed than the CIA’s or the NSA’s)? Would McCain’s election give the Islamists pause? Or would they strike before Cindy McCain had time to redecorate the Oval Office?

Do we vote for Obama, whose election most assuredly would guarantee another attack on this country soon after his inauguration, just to test his professed “love” of America? Or would our enemies be ferally intelligent enough to realize that he would destroy it for them, stay their hand, and settle for ramping up their cultural jihad, knowing that Obama would applaud it in the name of multicultural diversity? It is not for nothing that the Muslim world approves of his candidacy and more or less has remained mum about his alleged apostasy.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia, of course, macho dictator that he is, would have Mr. Change that Matters for lunch, and use Senator Joe Biden as a serviette. Would Obama be a diplomatic match for the heavyweight thug of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, or Snake Eyes Ahmadinejad? It is indicative of the world’s hostility for America that every dictator, sheik and “social democrat” is hoping for an Obama presidency and the chance to stick it to this country even more, knowing that Obama would contritely claim that America deserved it, as a kind of reparations for what the U.S. has done to the world. Like save it twice at great cost in lives and treasure, and after that act as the world’s selfless policeman and “democracy” builder, also at great cost in lives and treasure.

McCain may or may not choose to go head to head with America’s enemies. Obama is not likely to want to butt heads with anyone. McCain’s brand of patriotism is similar to Teddy Roosevelt’s, whose political shenanigans gave us the father of all servitude, Woodrow Wilson.

When one studies side-by-side photos of McCain and Putin, one sees a similar, power-hungry glint in their eyes. One may legitimately suspect that the “reform” McCain promises is not so much of government, but of the American people. No, he does not believe in compulsory national service, but one may be sure of penalties if one does not “volunteer” for it. His vision of Americans united in a single cause differs in no fundamental from Obama’s, except in the path on which each wishes to lead them, “reformed” or “changed”: socialism with fascist overtones, or socialism for the sake of gutting the country of the remnants of its individualism and liberty.

So, the question is: Between the two candidates, where is the trade-off? What smidgen of the benefit of one’s doubts should one grant McCain and hope against hope that his administration would not be as disastrous and destructive as Bush’s? On what evidence can one hope against hope that Obama would “grow up” in the Oval Office and see the error of his ways?

The answer may depend in one’s estimation of how much one can bear the consequences of either candidate reaching the White House – coupled with how well one can second-guess. This much is certain, however: Politically speaking, whichever candidate is sworn into office next January, America is in for times rougher than those of the Great Depression.

21 comments:

Mike said...

It will take times worse than those of the Great Depression for liberty to finally become a priority. The vast electorate doesn't give a great goddamn about anything until it forces them away from their tee-vee sets and the latest season of American Idol.

J. Derks said...

Edward Cline wrote:

>What smidgen of the benefit of one’s doubts should one grant McCain and hope against hope that his administration would not be as disastrous
and destructive as Bush’s? On what evidence can one hope against hope that Obama would “grow up” in the Oval Office and see the error of his ways?

The only evidence I can see that there is some glimmer of "hope" for Obama is that he is (currently) pro-abortion. As for McCain, I can see no hope whatsoever: when a man aspiring to assume the role of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces expresses an interest in controlling the tissues inside of a woman's body, that one ought to be regarded as a dangerous, and probably hopeless, enemy of freedom. Any good such a one might happen to do in the short run, in the service of protecting other freedoms of a perhaps "less fundamental"--that is, somewhat less glaringly obvious--character, would be more than offset by what they wish to do and will do, if able: viz., control the tissues inside of a woman's body. (And incidentally, in this connection, your otherwise
thoughtful essay on the quandary we are in fails to mention "the Palin
factor"--which you really should have, given the all too apparent ill health of the lead candidate. I would not care to bet on the odds of McCain's serving out a full term; but as bad as that prospect is, I cannot imagine a worse outcome than having the shrill Evangelical neurotic he has ushered onto the national stage, ascend to the pinnacle of American power. Compared to that one, Mr. Obama is George Washington reincarnated.)

Anonymous said...

J. Derks: You're absolutely right about McCain's health, and the prospect of Hooters Palin becoming Commander in Chief. Also, there's the abortion issue, but I couldn't cover everything in the thought piece. I once thought that the Carter years were the benchmark nadir of American politics, but McCain and Obama and what they promise this country drops below even that bar. Deciding who to vote for, if at all, is much like going to a flea market and expecting on an off chance to find a lost Rembrandt for a dollar and a half. Or even a servicable set of Wedgwood Georgian china. But, it isn't going to happen.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I am still open to a superior method, but here is how I plan to decide how to vote:

General Guidelines (drawn partly from Dr. Peikoff's suggestions as I have understood them from his 2007 DIM discussions at OCON, available on CD):

1. Vote "wholesale," that is, by party, unless I can find an individual in another party who: has a serious chance of winning; loudly and articulately advocates objective principles of ethics and politics; and has enough integrity that he can withstand the contrary pressures of his party.

This "wholesale" approach might also be called a "mutual fund" approach. I don't want to spend much time investigating a lot of individual politicians. General knowledge of the parties may be sufficient.

Craig Biddle recently wrote, in The Objective Standard a short essay showing the results of his philosophical detection of the leading presidential candiates. I agree that PD is one tool--to be used on either individual candidates or whole parties or both (if one has that much time to do the research). But I think long-term effects on the Objectivist movement are even more important.

2. If the two parties are approximately equally corrupt, then look at their long-term effect. Over the next 20 to 200 years which is likely to have the least destructive effect as a barrier to the Objectivist movement?

Conclusion: Given this approach, I probably will stifle my gag reflex and vote straight Democratic Party, representing disintegrationists, for the first time in my life.

Setting aside my doubts about method, if I had to choose one simple "litmus test," so to speak, I would choose abortion. Despite claims of a "Republican majority for choice," I see the Republican Party--qua representatives of the most vocal and energetic misintegrationist religious movement, and an institutional power in Congress and state legislatures--as more likely to restrict the right to seek an abortion, compared to Democrats generally.

So my "mutual fund" test and my litmus test point--shakily-- in the same direction: the Democratic Party. I will be voting in a few weeks (by mail, here in Oregon). I am not looking forward to it.

(I would like to publicly discuss this with anyone who is willing to use his full name and willing to describe his position and methods.)

Anonymous said...

in response to burgess laughlin:
I'll decline your invitation, and remain anonymous. I'll also vote "wholesale" for the Republican party, so please consider your vote (nationally) nullified in that respect.

Dan G. said...

I think Craig Biddle's suggestion was most apt; briefly, not to get too wrapped around the axle about the election and just re-double your efforts on intellectual activism. I realize that the decision of who to vote for will directly impact one's ability to engage in I.A. (ahem, McCain/Feingold).

I agree with j. derks, the Palin factor (along with Mr. McCain's past actions against free speech) all but sealed the decision for me.

A couple of other ideas to consider: we don't want the GOP's economics policies to be misrepresented as Capitalism, nor their foreign policies as tough.

Additionally, while there are definite threats from abroad, it is difficult for civilians without the intelligence (information, not the capacity to think) on those threats to judge the actual magnitude of the threat. The GOP has used this to great effect to frighten the populace on to their side.

revereridesagain said...

I agree with Ed Cline on all points -- however, I will vote for McCain, albeit with great reluctance, because I believe the evidence points to Obama having been carefully (not quite carefully enough, as it turns out) groomed and positioned by the worst elements of the radical Left to function as a Trojan Horse for Marxist ideology, socialist policies, and Islamist sympathies. A better informed and prepared public might be expected to recognize the destructiveness of an Obama administration in time to prevent catastrophic damage, but we don't have an informed and prepared public. We have a largely clueless public who will bestir themselves to push back against Obama's thugs only after they themselves have been pushed to the wall through financial loss, socialist bullying and Islamist incursion.

McCain/Palin raises a somewhat different though equally real specter of America's fight against aggressive Islamism being defined exclusively in terms of a crusade to uphold the Christian religion. Anti-abortion, pro-creationism, Evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity will become the benchmark for loyalty and those who "subbornly cling to" their guns and their atheism and freedom of choice will be marginalized.

As the bumper stickers put it, either way we is scrooed.

Pater said...

Guys, if I may say I think you are blowing the whole "creationist, evangelical, anti-abortion" line way out of proportion. These are the talking points of the Mainstream media and represent a whole new level of ignorant and irrelevant coverage that unfortunately is largely all we get both from conservative and liberal commentators – don’t let it get to you.
What do you think it is about Sarah Palin that has so energized the Republican ticket? Her prayer for the troops? Her one off comment about creationism? The fact that she doesn't believe abortion rights should be federally mandated? No to all. It is the fact that she is actually a "small government" conservative that hasn't been seen in a long time. Despite the endless repeats of "pacified the base on abortion/creationism issues" no where near as many people care about this as legions of ignorant commentators would have us all believe. It’s the very real things that Sarah Palin has done (taking on corrupt republican boys club in Alaska, hundreds of millions of cut government spending, 2-years and 300 vetoes) - this is what has revitalized the republicans this election.
I also thought that someone like Palin would get more appreciation from Objectivist circles. She can hunt and prepare her own food, run her own business raise a large and well bred family, not afraid to take on the status-quo. She embodies so much of the American archetype - strongly individualist, self reliant and competent - like the early settlers conquering the savage frontier. Everything that posers like Obama and Hillary would like to pretend they are Palin actually is. She’s accomplished more in 44 years of life then McCain has in 72.
Now don't get me wrong, the arguments that are been made by Objectivists to vote for Obama have serious merit but in selecting Palin McCain has shown remarkably good judgement and has won back to his side a large number of voters who vote on the issue of “limited government” absolutely irrespective of their personal religious beliefs.

Ryan Redding said...

-> Pater said, "What do you think it is about Sarah Palin that has so energized the Republican ticket? Her prayer for the troops? Her one off comment about creationism? The fact that she doesn't believe abortion rights should be federally mandated? No to all. It is the fact that she is actually a "small government" conservative that hasn't been seen in a long time. Despite the endless repeats of "pacified the base on abortion/creationism issues" no where near as many people care about this as legions of ignorant commentators would have us all believe."

Speaking strictly from personal experience and what I have seen in "small town America," I think you are underestimating the power of her religous beliefs, i.e. anti-abortion, creationism, etc. My wife's family (thankfully not my wife) is very religous, evangelical, and some of them brought up the subject of politics the other day. Originally, they weren't thrilled with either candidate either. As a matter of fact, I would guess they were leaning Obama and his transparent message of change and hope. But with the Palin pick, they are 100% on board the McCain ticket now. From my observations, they base their vote almost strictly on religiosity. Anti-abortion, creationism, anti-gay, etc. That is also how the church they belong to is, and there are many many churches just like that here in small town Michigan. So I think it's incorrect to think that religion doesn't play as important a role in the way these people vote as we think it does. From first hand observation, I think it does.

Jeffrey Derks said...

Pater wrote:

>[Palin] doesn't believe abortion rights should be federally mandated….

This statement obscures the pernicious character of the actual threat posed by the Republicans. Rights are not “mandated” by government—but protected. Therefore, abortions are not and should not be subject to “mandate”—only to protection, and by governments at every level—Federal, State, and Local. The Republicans who now aspire to assume executive control of the Federal government aim, not to protect this right, but to prohibit its exercise: that is, to violate it, by force. Because the locus of this right is intimate in the extreme—the interior tissue of the individual human body—anyone championing its violation is an implacable enemy of freedom as such (whether they consciously intend to be, or not).

Adam Reed said...

I strongly disagree with the implicature that a rational vote should be based primarily on considerations of foreign policy, which impact my life far less than domestic issues such as freedom of scientific research, Supreme Court appointments, freedom of speech, and freedom from interference with my personal pursuit of rational values, starting with the pursuit of my own life and of my own happiness on Earth.

Christianist restrictions on science have less to do with government funding, which in any case is a fraction of what would normally be invested in new drugs and technologies by private companies, then with the Christianists' use of the FDA to hinder drug approval (the precedent of over-the-counter Plan B) in service of a faith-based, anti-science and anti-human-happines agenda. With a Christianist administration ruling over their largest market, there has been a complete shutdown of industry investment in cloning and other technologies that the Christianist fruitcakes disapprove of. I'm in my sixties and getting older, so I can't contemplate voting for the Christianists, or abstaining, without smelling the stench of suicide.

And no, science and abortion are not the only differences between the Christianists and their challengers in this election. There are Supreme Court nominations - a McCain-Palin Supreme Court will rip the 9th and the 14th amendments out of the Constitution. Jurispudence based on those amendments has finally reached the point of recognizing, in Lawrence v. Texas, a right to personal liberty that may not be abridged by any level of government. What would be the point of defense against collectivist and religious totalitarianisms from abroad, when the agenda of American Christianists is to impose an unlimited, majoritarian - Christian - totalitarianism at home? What is it, that blinds some "Objectivists" to the imminent danger of home-grown religious totalitarianism right here in America?

Jeffrey Derks said...

Adam Reed wrote:

>What would be the point of defense against collectivist and religious totalitarianisms from abroad, when the agenda of American Christianists is to impose an unlimited, majoritarian - Christian - totalitarianism at home?

Precisely so. And since the point bears repeating, I'm only too happy for the opportunity.

Rob said...

Pater - "creationist, evangelical, anti-abortion" may not characterize the Republicans where you live, but here in Oklahoma they certainly do. Take a look at this: http://www.reclaimoklahoma.org

Rob Abiera

Bruce V. Bracken said...

What exactly is the Ninth Amendment?

Philosophical Mortician said...

Paula Hall from NoodleFood has indicated at her blog that she's voting for Obama, probably for the same reasons Dr. Peikoff advised Objectivists to vote for the democrats last congressional elections. Makes sense.

Kat R. said...

The 9th amendment says that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution does not in any way indicate that other rights do not exist. This would be the proper legal starting point for Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately that decision was very poorly argued. At some point, the Supreme Court will have to start from scratch and when they do, pray that the justices are guided by something other than Judeo-Christian values. Interesting side note, James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, strongly opposed enumerating any rights for fear that rights not enumerated would be ignored. He didn't consider the 9th Amendment sufficient. Talk about foresight!

I have an issue with this view of keeping abortion rights as a philosophical victory. I think the Left actually agrees with the Right that a fetus is really a person, they just don't care about its rights any more than they care about the rights of actual people. It's just an extension of feminism. Take for example the Left's opposition to female "feticide." I have to agree with Ann Coulter that Leftists would probably try to prevent aborting feti with the "gay gene," assuming such a gene is ever found. I'd expect them to try to prevent white women from aborting mixed-race feti, too, but not until after securing a general victory for abortion. I think the liberal dream is unlimited abortions, paid for by the rich, for irresponsible sluts and party members, and miles of red tape for everyone else to protect against "fetus discrimination." Can anyone provide evidence that the Democrat's pro-choice position is motivated by pro-life values? (Sorry for the mixed terms, that's pro-choice in the abortion sense and pro-life in the Objectivist/life-affirming sense.)

Adam Reed said...

Kat,

Roe v. Wade's poor reasoning is the result of Warren's insistence on compromise to secure unanimity. However, a future re-basing of the right to abortion won't need to start from scratch. The court's recognition of the citizen's Ninth Amendment right to a much more general "liberty of the person," which is also protected by the 14th Amendment against state-level infringement, is a much better foundation than Roe v. Wade.

Jeffrey Derks said...

kat r. wrote:
>I have an issue with this view of keeping abortion rights as a philosophical victory. I think the Left actually agrees with the Right that a fetus is really a person...

I (for one) don’t consider the Democrats’ pro-abortion position as indicative of any sort of “philosophical victory.” But I also don’t think that that matters one whit, in the current context. The Left might well assume the positions you mention, in future; who really knows what in hell they will do? The fact is, they (typically) don’t pose such a threat or threats, as of now, by all of the available evidence—but the Republicans most assuredly do pose such a threat, as of now, by all of the available evidence. (And by the way, where is the evidence that “the Left actually agrees with the Right that a fetus is really a person”?) (Also by the way, the argument you make here seems ironically similar to the faulty one made by the anti-abortionists: you seem to be equating the potential [what the Left might become] with the actual [what the Left is]).

Joe said...

I'm not voting. Education comes first, politics much later.

It will make no difference at all who wins this election as the candidates are both bad... the only thing that will bring positive change is more Objectivist principles in the public discourse.

Ed Cline is doing the right thing... writing passionately from a pro-reason view... everyone who is an Objectivist should be doing the same, whether you have time for a post a day or once a year. The more we saturate the written media with our views the sooner we win.

Then there will be a candidate to choose from.

Adam Reed said...

Joe,

If McCain-Palin are elected, and appoint Supreme Court justices who will rip the 9th and 14th amendments out of the Constitution, then in a few years the last vestiges of America, as a country with a government limited to the protection of individual rights, won't be here any more. A few years after that, the remaining Atheists in what used to be America, including Ed Cline, will have been silenced, exiled, imprisoned or killed. And then you will dream about how different things would have been if you, and all the other potential Constitution voters, had voted to stop the Theocratic ticket back when they still had a chance.

Jeffrey Derks said...

(This comment is actually in response to a post made [by "Gideon"] at Nicholas Provenzo's September 16 piece on Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Down syndrome child. Since the comments section for that part of the site has been closed--for good and obvious reasons--I am posting here, in the hope it will be read by ... those capable of reading.)

Gideon wrote:

>Everything up to your final statement was well written and convincingly argued. But that final statement doesn't follow. George Will and the CWFA don't represent Sarah Palin. Who knows why she chose the way she did? She seems to love children, and maybe she does have the resources to care for a disabled child.

Well, her "resources" apart, knowing what else we know of Palin--that she is militantly anti-abortion (even in cases of rape and incest), that she wishes to force her views on the population at large, and that she is a dyed-in-the-wool mystic into the bargain (all of which traits also characterize both Will and the CWA)--I fully agree with Mr. Provenzo that it IS "hard not to see her choice [to knowingly bring a Down syndrome baby to term] as anything less" than "retardation worship." And on the contrary, it is much, much easier not to see her choice as indicative of a generalized love of children--for a good case could be made that one who truly "loves children" would do all in their power to ensure that their own child would be born hale and hearty, in mind and body; I can't imagine any even semi-rational parent wishing for less--or settling for less, if the choice is available. But Palin did.