Saturday, October 18, 2008

Goodbye Gridlock

In the current political and ideological climate, where increasing statism is the major trend, the ideal situation in Washington is gridlock. Because nearly every action taken by the government makes things worse and further attacks our freedoms, a gridlocked Congress and Executive is the best we can hope for.

We have consistently had some amount of gridlock since the mid-60s, with either a mixed majority in Congress, a president of a different party than the Congressional majority, or at least, as in the Clinton era, a Senate capable of filibustering.

It seems that's about to change.

Democrats are poised to take the presidency, and make major gains in both houses of Congress. It now appears that a liberal supermajority -- making even a Senate filibuster impossible -- is not only possible but likely.

A frightening editorial in the Wall Street Journal details what we might expect from such a supermajority:
A strongly Democratic Congress is now likely to lay the final flagstones on the path to government-run health insurance from cradle to grave.

...Democrats could cause the economic downturn to last longer than it otherwise will by enacting regulatory overkill like Sarbanes-Oxley.

A tax-and-regulation scheme in the name of climate change is a top left-wing priority.... Without the GOP votes to help stage a filibuster, Senators from carbon-intensive states would have less ability to temper coastal liberals who answer to the green elites.

A liberal supermajority would move quickly to impose procedural advantages that could cement Democratic rule for years to come. ...the Fairness Doctrine is likely to be reimposed either by Congress or the Obama FCC. A major goal of the supermajority left would be to shut down talk radio and other voices of political opposition.

This is just a sampling of the terrible possibilities our country will face if the Democrats become filibuster- and veto-proof. I find it necessary to state here that I would be equally concerned if a religious conservative president was elected when Republicans were poised on grabbing a supermajority. Neither party is a friend of liberty. But we have historical precedent to show us what happens when the Left takes over completely.

The WSJ article ends with the following chilling paragraph:
In both 1933 and 1965, liberal majorities imposed vast expansions of government that have never been repealed, and the current financial panic may give today's left another pretext to return to those heydays of welfare-state liberalism. Americans voting for "change" should know they may get far more than they ever imagined. [bold added]

As I mentioned elsewhere, it is possible that Obama could play FDR to Bush's Hoover, and we could see a New New Deal in the coming years. Laws that were passed in the 1930s are still hurting us today, and helped lay the groundwork for the current financial crisis. Hopefully America will retain enough of its sense of life and core respect for individual rights -- its very American-ness -- through the next 4 or 8 years to come out on the other side, ready to rebuild.

Key to the rebuilding effort will be laying the ideological foundation now, by loudly and consistently making the case for capitalism as the only moral and practical political system.

As Ed Cline's Sparrowhawk series demonstrated, it was the revolution in men's minds, decades before any shots were fired, that made the American Revolution possible. As the drumbeat of statist attacks on liberty grows louder and louder, nothing short of that type of philosophical revolution will be enough to combat it.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

An excellent forecast of the fate of America under an entrenched, self-perpetuating Democratic regime by C. August here. And I think one thing that will make it all the more horrible is the fact that as the motor of the world, and especially of the U.S., sputters to a stop, to cough and gasp its last, the statists, as they do in Atlas Shrugged, will impose even harsher controls and perhaps even overt censorship (in distinction from the side-door kind via the Fairness Doctrine) in a futile attempt to sustain a disastrous status quo of their own making, but all of which will simply accelrate the collapse. Then we will be faced with one of two alternatives: the dawn of a new Dark Age, or the completion of the American Revolution.

Ed Cline

Galileo Blogs said...

The prospect of a new New Deal is chilling, but we must remember what made it possible: Herbert Hoover Bush and his unprincipled Republican cronies.

I am hopeful that if the Democrats do run wild, enough Republicans will be elected to Congress in the midterm elections to raise hell and bring us back to divided government.

Bring back the 1994 Swing to the Right, hopefully a truer Right that is for slowing down government growth.

When Clinton faced the Republican revolt in 1994, he ended up cutting back on the growth of welfare spending and declaring that the era of big government is over. He didn't really mean it, but his results were far better than the the horrifying Big Government Republicanism we got under Hoover-Bush.

As a sign of a more energized Republican Party that may emerge under the boot of Obama, consider the House Republicans near-revolt over the bailout bill. Those are the type of Republicans we need to see gain voice.

McCain advocates many of the same programs as Obama. If he were president, he would get all of it passed without any Republican opposition, because the Republicans in Congress would not oppose a Republican president. This is how Bush got higher tariffs, the prescription drug program, greater federal control over education, etc., through a Congress where the Republicans held a majority in both houses.

Obama will make the better elements in the Republican Party angry again. That will be better in the long run than four more years of Hoover/Bush/McCain, even if we must face several intervening years of Democratic onslaught to get there.

It's a miserable choice. Bad laws are going to get passed. Let's let the community organizers, socialists, and terrorist-pals take the blame for the bad consequences, not the erstwhile "free market" Republicans.

Anonymous said...

While I admire his optimism and share his hope that Americans will in the future return to a rational philosophy and politics, I really must say that galileo blogs' ideas with respect to the present election constitute nothing so much as a [self-sacrificial?] pipedream. I view them as wishful thinking that has no recent historical precedent.

Governments that assume the kind of totalitarian powers the anticipated leftist supermajority would assume do so within the context of certain generally accepted philosophical premises. Barring the complete collapse of those philosophical premises themselves, these governments do not roll back or give up those powers . . . certainly not peacefully.

It is my view that, given the current philosophical climate, even if a horrific Democrat supermajority were to be diminished by an interim Congressional Republican reversal if not a Presidential one four years hence, those Republicans would do what they have done in the recent past: to whit, they will merely reconsitute those totalitarian powers in terms of the concrete particulars of their own special image, an image that is at this stage of the "game" firmly rooted in the same philosophical ground as that of their leftist opponents.

C. August's citing the results of LBJ's administration is illustrative here: it was the Republican president who followed him who, in fact, signed LBJ's vision into law. I would also cite the example of the former Soviet Union wherein the practical collapse of the Soviet system was not precipitated by or rooted in a disavowal of the philosophical premises that fueled it.

I should like to know what hard evidence there is to support the notion that a Democrat victory in November will prompt the kind of fundamental philosophical revolution upon which your -- and, indeed, my own -- dream for the NEAR future (i.e., within our own liftimes) must ultimately depend.

Andrew Dalton said...

anonymous -

There are two separate issues that many Objectivists have been considering for this election:

1) Whether one should try to punish the *Republicans* in general, in the hope that they will be motivated to adopt a better philosophy;

2) Whether one should vote for (or at least prefer the victory of) Obama over McCain for president, based mainly upon how bad McCain is.

As for me, I consider John McCain to be a uniquely dangerous politician for his nationalism and record against free speech--far worse than the run-of-the-mill, me-too Republican like, say, Mitt Romney. I am weakly hoping that Obama will win, but I will not be voting for either candidate. (I live in California, so my vote has no chance of mattering anyway.)

On the first question, I agree that it would be foolish to *assume* that the Republicans will be forced to improve if they suffer a resounding defeat. Any movement of the Republicans back toward limited government and/or away from religion will depend critically upon intellectual activism by people such as ourselves during the post-election wrangling.

I myself plan to vote for Republicans in Congress because of the short-term risk of having an all-Leftist government.

Galileo Blogs said...

Anonymous,

You mis-read me. I am calling for divided government. When the Republicans are in opposition, it seems to bring out the best that does *in fact* exist within the Republican party. That is, it brings out the elements that call for a more limited government and less regulation (or at least a slowing of regulatory growth). That is what happened in the 1990s when the Republicans opposed Clinton.

There is a reason for this. In opposition, the Republicans must *oppose* the Democrats. On what basis can they oppose statist policies? Yes, they can certainly try to "me-too" the Democrats with their own versions of Democratic statist policies, as McCain is now doing.

On the other hand, they can choose to oppose the Democrats' ideas with ideas that are genuinely in opposition, at least to some degree. That was the form of the Republican opposition to Clinton in 1994 that forced Clinton to back down from his most statist policies.

That is what I am aiming for here, not some sort of naive Objectivist revolution.

Incidentally, it will take a thorough drubbing of the Republicans in this election before they begin to realize that "me-too'ing" the Democrats Bush-style is a bad idea. That is why a Democratic victory this November will be better for us in the long run than a victory by the Bush-clone McCain.

Anonymous said...

1) Whether one should try to punish the *Republicans* in general, in the hope that they will be motivated to adopt a better philosophy;

2) Whether one should vote for (or at least prefer the victory of) Obama over McCain for president, based mainly upon how bad McCain is.


Point 1 is as utterly illogical as it is altruistic. The only message that Republicans -- and, in fact, Democrats -- will take away from an Obama victory is that you want what he is selling. This is a decidedly questionnable point of influence that will bring the predictable negative result, in this case a continuation of that long march (growing shorter by the minute) toward totalitarianism in America.

As to point number 2: I have concluded that only if one ignores and/or refuses to consider who and what Mr. Obama is and has been his entire life, and only if one ignores and/or refuses to consider who and what his "retinue" of assorted America-haters, Jew-haters, Marxist-inspired Black racists and unreformed terrorist alies is and has been to and for him throughout his life can one assert that Mr. McCain, who has nothing like Mr. Obama's protective shell of support and the consistency of purpose it provides, is in any way "worse" than Mr. Obama. Although this does not mean that Mr. McCain represents a better alternative to Mr. Obama, it is, in my judgment, an incomprehensible argument. In fact, I view it as having all the characteristics of an evasive rationalization.

Finally, self-interest is the only appropriate basis for voting in any election. It remains a mystery to me how voting for either of these individuals can advance my life on this earth. This is what is of interest to me.

Andrew Dalton said...

anonymous -

Your condescension ("incomprehensible argument," "evasive rationalization") is annoying and adds nothing to your argument.

And why would argument #1 be "altruistic"? It may be an incorrect argument (and I already stated that it can't work automatically; that is, without repeated and public arguments telling them the lesson that they should learn)--but since Objectivists are not Republicans, who is the "self" that would be sacrificed?

No Objectivist blogger that I've read thinks that a slam-dunk case can be made for either candidate. Both are very bad. So stop using rhetoric that implies that there's one obvious answer to this question, and that anyone who disagrees with you must be fool or evader.

J. Derks said...

Anonymous wrote:

“The only message that Republicans -- and, in fact, Democrats -- will take away from an Obama victory is that you want what he is selling.”

But surely politicians are aware of the tactic of “voting against” (one) by voting “for” (the other); hence they must know that there’s no way for them to know how many votes “FOR” are actually just that, and nothing but. And none, then, can safely draw the conclusion you specify, however much they may wish to. But, be that as it may….

Anonymous also wrote:

“…self-interest is the only appropriate basis for voting in any election. It remains a mystery to me how voting for either of these individuals can advance my life on this earth.”

I find it impossible to identify any essential ideological difference between the two pairs of candidates in this election—except for one; and that is, their respective positions on abortion. The Republican pair aim to abrogate the right to choose the procedure, while the Democratic pair aim to protect the right. Since I value a woman’s right to choose an abortion, I do not wish to see the Republican pair in power, because it will not be in my self-interest. And since I know that one or the other of the two pairs WILL be elected to office (barring some outrageously unlikely outcome), then, once again, since I value a woman’s right to choose an abortion, I will cast a vote FOR the Democrats—because it is in my self-interest to do so: I will be acting to protect the only fundamental right that is truly in contention between the two contemptible sets of candidates in this election. I find it simple (…in fact--painfully so).

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when somebody would bring up the shibboleth of choice.

Go ahead and vote for Obama on that basis, then. I'd rather fight an attempt to undo Roe vs. Wade in court than to hold back a tide of capital gains, estate, and income taxes.

The "Objectivist" antipathy for the "Religious Reaction" is pathetic.

Anonymous said...

No matter who is elected President in November, we will suffer.

However, the US must survive physically, for any revolution in philosophy to affect change in politics. (Rand: "Politics is the last to change" in a culture.)

McCain's curtailment of the First Amendment (campaign finance reform laws) is one of the severest blows against freedom in decades. He believes, openly, in self-sacrifice as a major virtue. However, I have no doubt he wants America to survive, and he would defend America from attack. Also, his talk of sacrifice, to my knowledge, is more abstract than Obama’s. McCain invokes it generally, and expects people to voluntarily choose it. Obama has actual plans for all of us that he will implement, or attempt to.

Obama has said he will go to Iran, our arch enemy, and talk with the tyrant-in-charge, unconditionally. Obama is an entrenched Marxist. He is friends with a terrorist who, on 9/11, proclaimed he was sorry he hadn't killed more people. Obama has lied, consistently and well, throughout his campaign, even on national TV, by presenting himself as a moderate middle-of-the road when his policies, his autobiography, his ideas are Marxist. BO finds America, as she is, unacceptable and needs to be "changed". Given that, given his autobiography, the communist mentor, the terrorist friend, the racist family friends, I see him as a hater of America.

I am concerned that he will work, consciously, to disarm us so that we will be more easily attacked. Rand said, in any conflict between two ideologies, the more consistent of the two will win. Between Christianity and Islam, it is Islam that is the more consistent. The main religious threat I see to America is Islam, not Christianity; enacting laws based on religion will be started by the Christians and taken over by Muslims. BO does not see the Muslims as a threat- both he and they hate America, i.e., Western Civilization, and merely want to “take over”, each in his own way.

Israel will be bombed by Iran with nukes, if Israel and/or America does not stop Iran. That is a fact. (Interesting how the entire subject of Iran’s nuke capability has been dropped from discussion by Mainstream Media.) I am concerned that since Iran can hit Israel, they can help someone hit us with nukes, too. If that happens, I do not want Obama in the White House, deciding what should or should not be done about it. The man is an absolute cipher, literally. He is incapable of grasping reality or acting on it. I’ve read his words, watched him and there is nothing there. He gets annoyed when he is questioned closely, he cannot explain anything complex. He uses floating abstractions and approximations in describing his programs. He is aware of his chameleon-like ability to have people project onto him what they think he will be and he is actually proud of it. He talks like a preacher when “lecturing” to the crowd, invoking emotions with abstractions that make no sense (or could mean anything) but said so thrillingly. The last word I would use in connection with him is “rational”. He fakes being rational- he has studied those who are and he is a convincing actor. (Maybe that’s why Bush is seen as a half-wit. Bush is only half-rational, but he’s never tried to fake being rational. His semi-rationality shows through, at times, and he comes across as not too bright.)

Damage will be done by either man in the White House. But Barak Obama is a human “loose cannon” and although he will do enough damage to discredit the Democrats for a long time to come, the damage will be deep. Remember, we have to live through it.

If he is elected, for every Objectivist, it should be like that famous quote of a man who was about to be executed. He said being in that position focuses the mind wonderfully.

Roxanne A.

Anonymous said...

This is the first anonymous from above.

J. Derks wrote:

I find it impossible to identify any essential ideological difference between the two pairs of candidates in this election—except for one; and that is, their respective positions on abortion. The Republican pair aim to abrogate the right to choose the procedure, while the Democratic pair aim to protect the right.

Can you provide a reference for your assertion that this "Republican pair" AIM to abrogate the right to choose [abortion]" or that this is a central element of their platform?

As a person who holds as an absolute the individual's right to his own life, I fully support a woman's right to abort a fetus if she chooses to do so. However, I do not hold the Democrats' support for abortion rights to constitute an "essential ideological difference" with their Republican opponents. Quite the opposite: their platform, seen in its entirety, is an explicit refutation of the very principal of individual rights upon which the right to choose an abortion rests and only in terms of which that right can be effectively defended. While the Democrats' support for abortion rights is better than nothing (and better than many of their opponents' explicit rejection of it), it is at best a profound and ultimately insupportable inconsistency within their own thinking. At worst, it is a carrot thrown to one particular GROUP solely for the purpose of keeping that group glued to the general collective, a tool for collectivization and not a corollary of the individual's absolute right to his own life.

Galileo Blogs said...

This *pseudonymous* person laments the difficulty of distinguishing one Anonymous from another Anonymous.

Paul Hsieh said...

I agree with Galileo Blogs. We will be in for rough times regardless of who is elected President. But I think it is a serious error to assume that our foreign or domestic policy will be any better under a McCain administration than under an Obama administration.

In foreign policy, McCain may talk tough (as Bush did), but there's no indication that he recognizes Iran as the key to the Islamic Totalitarian threat (as written about extensively by Yaron Brook and John Lewis), or is prepared to decisively and permanently eradicate the threat.

Instead, he offers merely more of the same wishy-washy policies we've already seen the past 7 years.

In McCain's own words, from his website:

http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/News/Speeches/872473dd-9ccb-4ab4-9d0d-ec54f0e7a497.htm

"We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

"Our goal must be to win the 'hearts and minds' of the vast majority of moderate Muslims who do not want their future controlled by a minority of violent extremists. In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs."

McCain says that as President he wishes to defend America, but his vision of America is one where (in his words) you should "sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself". His own website elaborates:

http://www.johnmccain.com/causegreater/

"I am running for President of the United States because I believe in the greatness of this nation as a beacon of goodwill throughout the world. My friends, each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest."

He proudly uses the collectivist concept of "national greatness conservativism" on multiple occasions.

This is the America that McCain wants to defend. Even if McCain were marginally better than Obama at protecting the physical security of America, if he pushes us towards a culture of collectivism and self-sacrifice, then he will have destroyed the essence of America for more effectively than any foreign terrorist could ever have dreamt of.

There are still some better Republicans who have a decent understanding of individual rights, freedom of speech, and free markets. Unfortunately, by words and deeds, McCain has proven that he's not one of them.

Even worse, under a President McCain, those better voices within the Republican party will be marginalized and drowned out when McCain "reaches across the aisle" (as he's proudly proclaimed he's done on multiple occasions as Senator) to work the Democrats to implement green regulations and more government controls over the economy.

And America will suffer.

I am definitely not defending Obama here. Obama's ideas are loathsome and dangerous.

What I am doing is challenging the notion that McCain would actually be better than Obama in any fundamental sense. And in the long run, I believe a President McCain could actually do more damage to America than an explicit leftist like Obama.

J. Derks said...

Anonymous wrote:

“Can you provide a reference for your assertion that this ‘Republican pair AIM to abrogate the right to choose [abortion]’ or that this is a central element of their platform?”

McCain explicitly stated (or perhaps I should say, “admitted”), in the final debate, that he advocates making abortion a matter to be “decided” by the States: isn’t this tantamount to saying, “In my role as Chief Executive of the United States, I do not wish to protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion: rather, I advocate relegating that responsibility to the States—IF any decide that that right is worthy of protection; and if none so decide, so be it (or—so much the better)”? Being unwilling to assume responsibility for the defense of a right can, I think, at least in this context, be reasonably construed as a first step toward outright abrogation; hence my use of the word, “aim”. One could also cite McCain’s freely-chosen cohort’s militant opposition to abortion as supporting evidence of an aim to abrogate—especially since neither of the pair has ever issued any such statement as, “While I am personally opposed to abortion, I do advocate and will defend a woman’s right to choose it.” The flags here are bright, bright red, and they’re all flying sky high.

Anonymous also wrote:

“I do not hold the Democrats' support for abortion rights to constitute an ‘essential ideological difference’ with their Republican opponents. Quite the opposite: their platform, seen in its entirety, is an explicit refutation of the very principal of individual rights upon which the right to choose an abortion rests and only in terms of which that right can be effectively defended … [T]he Democrats’ support for abortion rights … is at best a profound and ultimately insupportable inconsistency within their own thinking.”

Well you could certainly marshal this argument for ANY position that either party takes, on ANY matter: they are all, Democrats and Republicans alike, walking bundles of contradictions, and they could all be taken to pieces starting with any issue whatsoever. So your point concerning the Democrats’ stand on abortion rights is well taken, but not decisive. Whatever their ultimate motive, whatever their underlying contradictions, they do assert their intent to “respect” (by which I hope they also mean—protect) a woman’s “right to choose”—and the Republicans do not so assert. When the issue is a right this glaringly obvious and intimate (if I may so term it), I am reluctantly willing to cast my vote on the hope that the assertion does not prove to be mere lip service; and even on, for that matter, the extremely faint hope that it actually augurs something better than what all the rest of their platform—and ideology—has to offer. (Fat chance? Probably; but not, I think, certainly.)

Anonymous said...

McCain explicitly stated (or perhaps I should say, “admitted”), in the final debate, that he advocates making abortion a matter to be “decided” by the States: isn’t this tantamount to saying, “In my role as Chief Executive of the United States, I do not wish to protect a woman’s right to choose an abortion . . .

No. Not necessarily. The statement is far too vague to draw any definitive conclusion.
For example, it could just as easily mean that Mr. McCain has no intention of addressing the matter, either one way or the other, as a central plank of his administration -- no doubt a cowardly position, but one that suits me just fine given the questionnable philosophical premises that govern both sides of this debate.

The question as to whether abortion is properly a matter for Federal intervention or whether it falls under the prohibitions against Federal action as per the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Bill of Rights is one that I have not yet worked out fully in my own mind (question: if abortion is a specific Federally protected right, should the government censure or punish physicians who choose for whatever reason either not to perform the procedure or not to council their patients in it?). I am inclined to think the 9th and 10th Amendments hold here.

Paul Hsieh, MD said...

For McCain on abortion, here are a couple of references:

http://www.ontheissues.org/2008/John_McCain_Abortion.htm

He would ban abortion except for rape, incest, and danger to life of mother.

He would prosecute physicians that performed abortions that were then illegal.

On his official website:
http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/95b18512-d5b6-456e-90a2-12028d71df58.htm

"John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned..."

"However, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion. Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion... The pro-life movement has done tremendous work in building and reinforcing the infrastructure of civil society by strengthening faith-based, community, and neighborhood organizations that provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need. This work must continue and government must find new ways to empower and strengthen these armies of compassion. These important groups can help build the consensus necessary to end abortion at the state level."

Clearly, the goal is to:

1) Overturn Roe V. Wade.
2) Fight it out at the state level and support laws to ban it (except for the rape/incest/life-or-mother clause)
3) Prosecute physicians who perform any other type of abortion.

Plus he sees a legitimate government role to help empower the anti-abortion forces (which he calls "the armies of compassion".)

As a radiologist, I personally do not perform abortions.

But I know other physicians who do. I can't think of a more egregious violation of individual right than jailing a physician for providing a medical service that is a legitimate political right (and is often the morally right choice) for many women.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you, Paul, for the links. They were informative, though not surprising. They also helped to solidify my initial decision to abstain from voting this November, a decision I had begun to reconsider over the last several weeks as the frightful possibility that the unacceptable Mr. Obama might just win this thing. I see that my original thinking on the matter was correct, since neither man is worthy of my vote.

Jim May said...

It is worth noting that Obama has a magic talisman that dissuades any in-depth investigation into his actions or his past, and blunts all incoming criticisms: and that is the race card.

That talisman, which I expect to see played with increasing frequency and fervor as things get worse, will make it much harder for his opponents to keep him in check. That is apart from any supermajorities he may have at his disposal.

John McCain has no such talisman.