The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
13.4 (Fall 2013)
THE POLIS VS. PROGRESS
courtesy of artrenewal.org
The Ideological Prospects of a Legitimate Second-Party Option in American Politics: A Position Paper
It has been said often that the American two-party system vastly out-performs multi-party democracies in the degree of overall satisfaction it bestows upon the electorate. European-style governments end up with reigning coalitions whose leaders have won perhaps one quarter of the general vote; America forces rather extreme constituencies to find common ground within one tent, so that the election’s victor usually leaves a slight majority of the voting public feeling that they have achieved some of what they wanted. This political bromide overlooks the possibility of a voter’s finding more satisfaction that three representatives out of a hundred truly share his values than in finding that forty or fifty hypocrites claim to share those values until flushed into the open. In more savory terms, our American presumption of superiority is based on the belief that we indeed have two real alternatives, not one with heavy seasoning and one without the onions.
More and more potential voters are simply staying home—especially in national elections, when the will of the unconnected wage-earner is most marginalized. The American public is often shamed, in fact, by those mouthpieces who style themselves the nation’s conscience because voter turn-out runs so low. Seldom does any such analyst pause to consider that the “did not vote” percentage is a silent, frustrated protest against the system for failing to offer meaningful alternatives.
Within this system, a third party has historically spelled immediate ruin not only for its own objectives, but for those of the other party (of the Big Two) most similar to its own; for from that other party would peel off many of the voters who might, had they stayed put, at least have won a modest victory for a watered-down platform. But what if a large proportion of both major parties’ traditional voters have grown deeply disaffected? What if the percentage of voters who identify themselves as Independents begins to swell larger than either the Democrat or the Republican numbers?
This paper submits that we are approaching that point. With a little calm, quiet reflection, one may find a dozen examples of a political position appealing to ordinary, sensible people on both sides of the aisle. Here, for example, are seven such positions that leap to the eye during the most casual observation:
1) While professional politicians and pundits cried for Edward Snowden’s head as a spy and a traitor throughout the summer, most Middle Americans were outraged in a very different way. Security is certainly an issue with them, but they sense major threats as issuing from other quarters. The sale of arms to Mexican drug cartels secretly plotted and executed by the ATF during Operation Fast and Furious has brought no upper-echelon reprimand or shake-up, although one U.S. border agent and dozens of innocent Mexicans (including several teenagers at a birthday party) were killed with the weapons distributed, and very lately a local Mexican sheriff. This is all very alarming to residents of the Southwest—not only the mere release of weapons to the criminal class, but also and especially the release’s design by those same forces that want Snowden clapped in irons. As Dennis Michael Lynch’s latest documentary, They Come to America II, graphically demonstrates, foreign nationals other than Mexicans (OTM’s) are also pouring across our southern border. Many might say that, if Snowden goes to jail, then his accusers should precede him there and be rotting away for another twenty years after his release; or as Diogenes put it, Hoi megaloi kleptai ton mikron apagousi—“The big thieves are arresting the little one.”
2) A related point where ordinary decency has a magnetic pull upon people who hoist warring candidate signs in their front yards during election time: privacy. Most of us don’t like being spied on—and any “spy” who reveals universal, systematic spying by a government on its citizenry is a hero to us. Few intelligent adults, upon reflection, really buy the “but government only wants to keep us safe” argument (heard FOX News Channel as often as anywhere else, by the way). The chances that highly dangerous terrorists have already slipped across our southern border in large numbers are immensely greater than the chances that vital intel will be lost if NSA doesn’t monitor our email. Our security officers were warned by Russian intelligence about the Tsarnaevs and did absolutely nothing preemptive. Who would suppose them competent enough to weed out one critical email from tens of millions in a timely manner—and why would anyone accept on faith that such is their primary objective after years now of the IRS and ATF targeting law-abiding citizens for their political beliefs?
3) Beneath this issue sprawls a much more general one that also pits the beltway against Washington insiders: foreign policy. Men and women in the streets (where drones may easily track them) would rather use national resources guarding geographical borders and monitoring immigration carefully than waging wars halfway around the world as immediate ports of entry are left wide open. Few in Columbus or Selma or Sioux Falls or Las Cruces are interested in a neo-conservative American Empire, nor in left-wing utopian crusades against tyranny that invite increasingly tyrannical rule in our own country. Ordinary Americans want to leave other people alone and be left alone.
4) The necessity of importing oil once made this a rather whimsical ambition. No more. Americans would like their government to lead them in developing new and viable domestic energy sources rather than standing in the way of such initiatives and prolonging foreign dependencies that put their children’s lives at risk. They are not, for the most part, indifferent to the environmental costs of energy production. Those who have not been brainwashed by the public education system and by the insipid celebrities of the Fourth Estate understand, however, that solar and wind energy are boondoggles. The former is slaughtering thousands in highly toxic Third World mining towns, while the latter has proved efficient only at exterminating rare bird species. Practically no one noe recalls that trains can move a given tonnage at about one-fifteenth the fuel consumption of big rigs on the highway. Lobbying destroyed our railways after World War II, and unions and lobbies continue to stifle common-sense energy solutions. Our society’s elaborate waste of energy is so deeply embedded in soiled traditions of political patronage and mega-unionization that the latest “miracle rays” are almost always mere political pay-offs. (Remember the ethanol/agribusiness connection?) The specifics of this waste, if little known, could readily and easily be broadcast to the rank and file if the political machine—both the Democrat and Republican cogs within it—did not constantly work at suppression.
5) Many voters of all political stripes would support reasonable term limits for federal office-holders. Probably every voter who has grown sick of pork-barrel politics—a hefty majority—would respond favorably if this were made a minor plank in a broader platform.
6) How many would get behind a fair tax or a sales tax replacing income taxes at all levels? Considering that about half of American adults pay no income tax at all, these numbers might not be overwhelming; yet the issue merely needs a good-faith presentation to the public. Nobody likes to think of himself as a parasite. Resistance to paying taxes among low-wage earners would be far less if blue-collar laborers were confident that the fabulously wealthy inhabitants of Knob Hill were not exploiting various loopholes in the system. Make the net a wall. This single change, it must be said, would dramatically affect our illegal immigration problem, as well. Most undocumented workers trek northward for jobs, true enough: but under the “job” umbrella must be included a bulging bag of goodies that contains free education, free ER attention, free police protection, and so on. Fewer non-Americans would come for American jobs if they also had to pay their proper percentage of American taxes, and not just a local sales tax.
7) Even on abortion, a meaningful truce is possible. Most people can agree that killing a fetus beyond a certain stage of development is brutal murder. High-tech contraception is also rapidly making the issue disappear. As a last resort, where no truce emerges, we may appeal to federalism, the principle of “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone” applied internally rather than to foreign powers. If Californians, New Yorkers, and others want to abort their progeny, let them do so within their state lines.
In They Come to America II, Dennis Michael Lynch found at least eight of these aid stations spread along our border in the desert southwest. The intent of these outposts, equipped with gallons of fresh water as well as with an emergency button, is humanitarian; but the fact that instructions appear not just in English and Spanish, but also in Chinese, bears a blunt testimony to the demography of trespassers that officials in Washington staunchly deny.
The intent of this discussion is by no means to minimize the differences between Left and Right by emphasizing a likely common ground on certain issues. Religious faith—or its utter absence—is the crack that rives our social trunk right through its oaken heart. Nothing can alter that reality. Progressives worship their own vision of the future, their own Star Trek ascent to manmade perfection and immortality; those who occupy the true Right regard such utopianism as childish fantasy at its best, and insane hubris at its worst. Controversies like that surrounding abortion obviously cannot sidestep our fundamental disagreements; for the progressive believes that transforming birth into something between puppy-breeding and á la carte eugenics will be indispensable to our species’ advance, while the believer in an ultimate reality not of man’s making does not claim to have all the criteria for a “useful” life.
Yet the following point is absolutely crucial. The alternative party will succeed in uniting a critical mass of voters if and only if it strongly and immovably endorses the principle of federalism. Thanks to the Tenth Amendment, Americans around the nation do not have to endorse the same values: they may, indeed, endorse diametrically opposite values on certain issues. What will unite them is a formal, codified agreement to disagree. Let inhabitants of one city or state sanction same-sex marriage or mandatory labor-union membership if they wish. Their “opponents” will support them, not—of course—in a specific position found obnoxious, but in the right to live out the consequences of that position. (An editorial comment: there is really no better way to dissuade people from degenerate behaviors than to let them plumb the depths of those behaviors: haranguing and threatening them, in contrast, typically causes them to dig in—for we humans are a stiff-necked race.)
Resisting the federalist argument would amount to saying, “No, you have to play my game by my rules—and those who don’t play get shot” (the Abe Lincoln approach). One would have to be a thorough cynic, indeed, to imagine that many Americans, or many sane adult human beings, would find such bullying attractive. (Lincoln’s was made so by a rewriting of history to put slavery at the center of his invasion of the South—this on behalf of a man whose speeches overtly and repeatedly declared that blacks were inferior to whites and must always be so.) The hard-line Gay Rights activists and trade-unionists will have nothing to do with federalism, true enough. They play for bigger stakes: they intend to put everyone at the table in their debt and at the beck of their ideological whimsy. We must believe that people of common decency exist among the rank and file that they despotically direct, however; and these decent people, presented with a concession of all they want on the condition that they concede to the other side what it wants within the space it inhabits, can hardly say “no”.
It is a fatal mistake of conservative exponents to clamor for a better, clearer rhetorical picture of their social vision. Talk-radio hosts often lament the absence from the political scene of an eloquent Ronald Reagan who can verbally project before millions a “shining city on the hill”. The language of these laments is as messianic as that of the progressive adversary, and is so because it shares in progressive utopianism. The political vision of the Constitution is not an exclusive and concentrated vision—a utopian blueprint—at all, but rather a set of rules that allows individual communities to pursue their own daydreaming within certain broad civilized limits. If the quest for a genuinely constitutionalist and federalist party degenerates into a contest of rival utopias, then it must end in futility. The only way that our fifty states can remain peacefully, productively united is if the basis of the union returns to an acknowledgment of individual statehood.
Conservatives, again, have fumed in protest over recent initiatives to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. They should evince more anxiety over the statist words in which that phrase is sandwiched: “one nation… indivisible”. We must arrive at humane, responsible “principles of divisibility” if we are to remain one nation (and these might include the right of “communes” here and there to renounce God entirely). The Pledge’s author, Francis Bellamy, certainly wasn’t as committed to the implicit profession of faith as he was to the explicit habituating of young minds to a single central authority. Bellamy’s project, launched in a burst of socialist activism during 1892, was to have his Pledge one day recited in all public schools. After a century and more of spectacular success, this adventure in brainwashing should at last be declared radioactive by the new party. No Pledge: instead, a recitation of the Tenth Amendment. For if it is to God that we owe allegiance, and if God has given us freedom (even the freedom to renounce Him) that we may strive to find the Law’s pathway through our own hearts, then an abject commitment to a secular, central authority’s will and the flag that has been declared its idol can have nothing to do with God’s purposes. Bellamy’s Pledge is a self-contradiction—and is wittingly, deviously so.
Is a third party, then, feasible from the two major parties’ residue of discontents? Consider the proposition in far less tendentious, more accurate terms. The United States does not (or “do not”, as Americans said before Lincoln’s war) currently have a functional two-party system. One option consists of public-sector elitists and salt-of-the-earth fellow travelers who see only ruthless greed on the other side; that other side consists of private-sector elitists and diehard constitutionalists who would rather be starved than beheaded. Both parties are led by an elite that views its proper duties paternalistically and deems its special privileges fully appropriate in light of its superior ability
So, yes, the quest for a majority repelled by elitist, Big Brother snobbery is wholly realistic, insofar as its objective is not a “residue” but the nation’s sinew and backbone. Adherents should not view their new party—and most certainly should not christen it—as the Constitutional or Federalist Party. They should decline trenchant, distinguishing adjectives which will at once be adduced to caricature by the busy, photogenic heirs of Josef Goebbels. Perhaps they should simply call it the New Party, or the Second Party… or just the American Party.
The contributor who employs this pseudonym regrets that he needs academic employment to survive materially and that expressing views even so patently bipartisan and sensible as these might threaten that survival. Such is the land we now live.
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