Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Presidential Campains

     No, that’s not a typo.

     Here are the already declared candidates:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • Ted Cruz
  • Rand Paul
  • Marco Rubio

     Here are the candidates likely to declare in the foreseeable future:

  • James Webb
  • Martin O’Malley
  • Jeb Bush
  • Rick Perry
  • Ben Carson
  • Rick Santorum
  • Mike Huckabee

     Here are the public figures who have declined to participate in the 2016 race:

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Mitt Romney

     Why do I suspect that not one of the above-named persons will maintain his current position – i.e., that not one of the declared candidates will still be in the race at the finish line, and that neither of those who’ve declined to run will stay out of the race entirely? Is it just my reflexive skepticism about the sincerity of politicians and political statements, or do we have a good reason to doubt them?

“People lie; evidence doesn’t.” – Gil Grissom on C.S.I.

     I’m already weary of the presidential campaign. I can’t wait for it to be over...and at some deep level I don’t believe it will matter who wins. The country’s problems aren’t due to the sins of one party or the other. They stem from pervasive hyper-politicization: the premise that any and every aspect of life and society should be subject to political control.

     My great fear is that that premise has sunk too deeply into the minds of too many persons for it to be undone by anything short of bloodshed. I’ve never before wanted quite so desperately to be wrong about something. But I don’t think I am.

“They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road....To oppose something is to maintain it.” -- Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness

     One of the very best things said in a recent presidential campaign came from George W. Bush. In his first run for the presidency, he was posed a question about education – primary and secondary education, in which Washington has only recently (in political terms) become involved. Part of his response was “I’m running for president, not national superintendent of schools.”

     Of course, there is no national superintendent of schools in the United States. I can’t help but wonder how many of those listening to Bush’s words reacted by thinking “Thank God for that,” and how many thought “Well, there ought to be a national superintendent of schools.”

     Imagine if there were. You think Common Core is bad? Imagine a federal superintendent of schools, empowered to intrude into the decisions of every local school district and to override any local decision on funding, staffing, curriculum, extracurricular activities, and so forth. Would we even bother to have local school boards after that?

     I can’t name a candidate for the presidency who’s willing to say “the federal government has no proper role in education.” But then, I can’t name a candidate who’s willing to say “the federal government has no proper role in X,” where X is whatever you like. It’s a large part of my reason for detesting politics.

     Federal involvement invariably and inevitably sucks powers out of the hands of the states, counties, and municipalities. The Founding Fathers had a sense for this dynamic. So did the governors and legislatures of the thirteen original states, which is why the Constitution explicitly lists the powers of each of the three branches of the federal government. The Bill of Rights emphasizes this critical aspect of federalism in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments...which is why power-obsessed federales have strained to ignore them.

     I wrote recently that a direction highly likely to be constructive lies in localized apolitical privatization. The core idea is that of personal engagement with local problems, rather than the usual course of appealing to political bodies to “help.”

     The powers that be would naturally oppose such a current...but are they strong enough to stop it, once it’s in motion? Even more critical: Are we, already so badly enervated by political intrusions and exactions, still capable of initiating that current?

     The most visible symptom of hyper-politicization is The Never-Ending Campaign. There are people who detest sitcoms. There are people who detest soap operas. There are people who detest “reality TV,” which might be the most unreal thing ever to infest the little screen. I detest them all...but I’d rather endure a 24-hour siege of all three than put up with another campaign for public office.

     Worse, every glamorous newcomer to the national stage is immediately greeted with speculation: “Does he look like a future president?” It’s colored the tenures of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul almost from the day they took their Senatorial oaths. As soon as Scott Walker beat back the municipal unions, the presidential talk began about him. Rick Perry has intrigued the watchers since 2007 at least. We have reason to believe that Mitt Romney has aspired to the Oval Office from his 1994 campaign for the Senate from Massachusetts; after all, it was his father’s aspiration as well.

     Then there are the unglamorous candidates, of whom one stands above and apart from the rest: Hillary Clinton. Her campaign for the White House began in 2000 and has never ceased. She sidelined it for her tenure in the U.S. Senate and as Secretary of State, but her essential passivity in those offices made it clear that her ambitions lay elsewhere. And let’s not forget Al Gore, who first put himself forward for the Democrats’ presidential nod in 1988.

     It’s become too much, too continuous, and too BLEEP!ing omnipresent.

"It is said the ancient Greeks used a simple method to prevent the multiplication of 'laws.'...Anyone proposing a new law had to do so standing on a platform with a rope around his neck. If the law was passed, the rope was removed. If the law was voted down, the platform was removed." -- "John Galt,"Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics As If Freedom Mattered

     Should present trends continue much further, something of the above sort is inevitable. Would you be unhappy to see it? I wouldn’t.

     Yet politics is the subject I write about most frequently, and what an irony that is. Of course, the reason I write about it is my unhappiness with the way things are. But the process has become tiresome in the extreme. Perhaps these essays are becoming tiresome, as well.

     One way or the other, we have nineteen months of presidential campaigning before us. I can’t imagine enduring it without regular screaming fits and copious administrations of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. And no doubt these essays will continue to pour forth, as much for their cathartic effect as for any other reason. But I really wish I didn’t need so much catharsis. I yearn to see a day when the most interesting news items are about axe murders and charity auctions...you know, the sort of event about which the only things one could sensibly say are “That’s nice” or “That’s awful.” Well, unless the murder victims are politicians, in which case I might mutter “He had it coming.”

     Have a nice day.


Russell said...

"The country’s problems aren’t due to the sins of one party or the other. They stem from pervasive hyper-politicization: the premise that any and every aspect of life and society should be subject to political control."

Hear, hear!

This is a deeply moral problem. I have no idea how to resolve it peacefully.

If the entire political system drove off to retire in Tijuana the US would be a far better place.

KG said...

These essays are not "becoming tiresome".

xmaddad1 said...

Oh Francis, in your doddering old age how could you possibly missed the fact that the former Governor of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has thrown his hat into the ring and announced for President. Yes you heard that correctly http://www.chafee2016.com/ is the website of his exploratory committee. Yup, no joke, Governor Gump, Ole holiday tree himself is going up against the Hillster. How could you have missed this.

Anonymous said...

"..To oppose something is to maintain it.” -- Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness"
NOT ---- time to revisit the culture that MADE America.
Try movies like "Liberty Valance" and Gary Cooper movies where "RULE of LAW" was the ideal ..... rather than today's garbage that FALSELY teaches that torture and ignoring the LAW is good.