Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Party’s Over...?

     Is it?

     If there was any question about the relevance of the Republican Party, this week’s budget deal removes all doubt. The Republican Party might as well close up shop and merge with the Democrats. Not as a merger of equals, but more of a capitulation, a surrender, a sellout. There is no need for two parties in Washington DC as only one party is relevant in terms of advancing an agenda. The irony is that the agenda driving party is in the minority and despite losing badly in two midterm elections, the Democrats are still running Congress.

     Author Brian Joondeph provides “a long train of abuses and usurpations,” all of which can be found in the omnibus spending bill that just passed Congress. He closes in a very dark fashion:

     If the [Republican] establishment manages to destroy Trump and Cruz, then it’s lights out for the Republican party. The base will stay home and the Founding Fathers will roll over in their graves. As for any future support for the GOP, my answer will be a Mrs. Clinton refrain, “What difference does it make?” The Republican Party will be six feet under and we will have one-party rule in Washington, DC.

     That “Clintonian refrain” is indeed the question of the day.

     How did one-party politics get this far advanced? The events of the Twentieth Century suggest two principal geneses:

  • The demise of the original Constitutional constraints on the powers of Congress;
  • The rise of perpetual warfare and unlimited American involvement.

     Before the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments and the creation of the quasi-private Federal Reserve system, federal politics was not a particularly enticing avenue toward personal power or wealth. Granted that there were career Senators and Congressmen even before 1913, their ability to porkbarrel in their districts’ and states’ favor was sharply limited. Similarly, there was essentially no regulatory “fourth branch” to support the favored tactic of the federal legislator for securing the support of his constituents: “constituent service.”

     Before the fatal amendments and the Federal Reserve, the sort of blatant vote-buying federal legislators practice today was almost entirely confined to the state legislatures, whose constitutions and charters allowed them, in Madison’s classic phrase, “numerous and indefinite” powers. Neither could governmental overreach be concealed by lodging it in an alphabet agency whose faceless functionaries could not be made to answer for their sins. Not coincidentally, the staffs of federal legislators were small...when they existed at all.

     The Great Depression and the two World Wars firewalled the accelerator. In his fine study of government growth Crisis and Leviathan, Robert Higgs delineates the emergence of the “crisis Constitution:” the proposition that in the midst of a “crisis,” however determined, the federal government acquires powers far beyond those delegated to it in the Constitution. Those powers did not lapse at the ends of the “crises,” despite adverse popular expectations. More, they gave Washington an incentive to “go looking for trouble.”

     If, pace Lord Acton, power tends to corrupt, its corrupting influence surely increases as the power itself increases – and if the evidence of the Twentieth Century is on point, much faster than linearly. Thus, the Nightmare Century produced America’s first true class structure:

  • The federal political elite, whose positions became ever less vulnerable as their power swelled;
  • The “insiders” who could bargain effectively with the political elite for federal favor;
  • The rest of us.

     Today, that class structure dominates politics, government, and everything they touch. There seem to be no bounds to it that anyone can rely on. Given the ease of re-election enjoyed by federal legislators of both parties, it is inarguably more important than any federal politician’s party affiliation.

     The evidence is unambiguous. We must accept that things are as bad as they seem:

  • That the GOP has annexed itself to the Democrat Party for the sake of the power, pelf, and prestige of its members;
  • That the nominal separation of the two merely gives the illusion of an opposition, without the substance;
  • That therefore, as matters stand the Republican Party is not a true friend to freedom or the Constitution.

     Can anything be done to restore electoral efficacy to the two-party system?

     One suggestion, which hasn’t yet been tried on any great scale, is to vote exclusively for Democrats regardless of any other consideration, so that the Republican Party would perish from irrelevance. That would clear the way for a new party, though there would be no guarantee that the new party would be any better. Indeed, it might well be merely a revenant of the GOP. There’s also the possibility that once the Democrats came to believe themselves powerful enough, they could erect legal barriers to prevent the emergence of a new, Constitutionally oriented party. Neither outcome would be a pleasant one.

     Another explicitly political approach some have recommended is complete electoral disaffiliation: to refrain from voting in any election, and to encourage others to refrain as well. The reasoning is that aura of legitimacy enjoyed by the existing major parties flows from the willingness of the majority of the electorate to cast ballots; without that support, disaffiliation from them would follow naturally. This runs up against the incentives in place to keep people voting. Former New York Libertarian Party chairman Bill McMillan reported the prevalence of this response in his efforts to popularize the LP in New York State: the dairy farmers in continental New York would routinely ask him “What about my subsidies?” Retirees want to know about the Social Security payments; welfare clients want their dole to be secure; government employees and vendors to governments have rice bowls to protect; and so on. When so great a part of the electorate is a net beneficiary of the regime, it’s effectively impossible to persuade enough people not to vote.

     Some, disgusted with the uselessness of electoral politics, have recommended what Glenn Reynolds calls “Irish democracy:” simply to ignore the political class and the regime generally. This is practical on the small scale, but it has an atomizing tendency: one must constantly be on guard against infiltrators and quislings. On the large scale – i.e., organizations of sufficient size to be unable to conceal themselves or their operations – it fails. Granted that the corporations that dominate the American economy today – roughly speaking, the Fortune 5000 – are clients of the political class and deserve to fail, perhaps half of the population of the U.S. is economically dependent upon their viability.

     While it is true that there have been cases of whole cities going “underground” in Italy and some other Latin countries, it’s unclear whether the results justify the tactic. Those cities are effectively owned by the large criminal organizations that make possible their de facto invisibility to the national government. Granted that there’s clarity in being ruled by criminals who make no pretense of being anything else. However, the practical aspects of the situation differ little from more orthodox arrangements.

     I assume that the true goal is not merely to have two markedly distinct political parties, whose turns in power are easy to distinguish. The true goal, at least among us in the Right, is freedom: whatever kind and degree of government is necessary (if any) to protect individual rights, national sovereignty, and public safety, bounded by constraints it cannot break. The above segments list the non-violent approaches I know of. All of them look like longshots at best. If we assume that there are no electoral or quasi-electoral approaches with a higher probability of success, what follows?

     The approaches that remain are to flee or to fight. Geographical flight is impossible at this time, though “virtual” flight – i.e., taking one’s life and enterprises underground – is possible for some. We know by direct observation that as bad as things already are, not enough Americans are willing to “take the musket down from the mantel.” How much worse things would have to get to change that condition, no man can say – but whatever the threshold might be, carnage would surely follow.

     In the above, I’ve largely repeated or rephrased arguments I’ve made in other places and at other times. It doesn’t matter; there are always persons unfamiliar with such ideas, and who are ready, perhaps even eager, to make their acquaintance. All the same, it often saddens me that they should be familiar to so small a minority in a nation that calls itself the Land of the Free.

     Quite a long time ago, libertarian writer Todd Seavey argued that the government-dominated mixed economy / welfare state might be much more stable than freedom advocates have assumed. The empirical evidence for his argument is distressingly copious; the de facto Democrat-Republican alliance in maintaining that state while railing against one another pro forma is the most ominous item of all. However, there’s no such thing as perfect stability. Even baryons decay. Freedom and tyranny are both temporary conditions, as is each of the possible states between them.

     If “the party’s over” for those of us who’ve hoped to use the Republican Party as a vehicle for restoring Constitutional government, we must either look in other directions or surrender our hopes. Though I’ve said it often enough and about enough other things, I find myself reluctantly compelled to say it again today: We shall see.


Col. B. Bunny said...

>> Granted that there’s clarity in being ruled by criminals who make no pretense of being anything else. However, the practical aspects of the situation differ little from more orthodox arrangements. <<

My, we are into understatement today.

A masterful essay, Fran. Just something that you dashed off, no doubt.

I still think the Mandate of Heaven idea will come to the forefront sooner rather than later. I fret at the slowness with which voters waste opportunities to remedy the abuses but that's human time I'm on and maybe Apple will market a watch that keeps cosmic time. The sickness is manifesting itself in the fiscal realm most urgently. The boil has been festering for a long time and any graph of the rise in public debt adequately represents the pace and direction of catastrophe. All the vote fraud, media bullshit, crony capitalism, GOP capitulation, betrayal by immigration, the subsidies, the special privileges, minority arrogance and parasitism, and the clever constitutional fiddling will be as though it never was when the 18-wheelers don't roll in the customary numbers and pension fund and municipal bankruptcies flourish like kudzu. There will be a reset and anyone interested can look up what Solzhenitsyn said about "the pitiless crowbar of events." Slightly different context but what's not to love about what he had to say about self delusions:

"There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of a petrified armor around people's minds."

Col. B. Bunny said...

By the way, if you coined the phrase "nightmare century" that's just excellent. The "end of history" silliness seemed to envision that we've arrived at something permanent and inexpressibly wonderful. Hardly. It's more accurate that the nightmare century taught no lessons whatsoever and that it's reaching its final flowering.

daniel_day said...

"I still think the Mandate of Heaven idea will come to the forefront sooner rather than later." Col. Bunny, I hope you're right, but the distrust in HRC's honesty expressed by a large minority of Democrat respondents in a recent poll juxtaposed with her continuing support (in other words, mandate) among that party's voters convinces me that DP voters are, with few exceptions, completely corrupted. I guess that the Mandate of Heaven will hold; barring natural disasters, the collapse will begin economically, when, for example, some financial institution somewhere "bolts", refusing to extend some critical loan or make a critical investment.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Amen as to the Dems. I had a v. liberal g/f at one point who voted for Obama AND thought that the Democrat Party is "the party of the little guy." If, at this late stage in the declining republic, that's the basis for your support of the Dems, you are just barely sentient. People who shake with fury at being stopped by a cop on the road will cheerfully hand all kinds of power to bureaucrats who are untouchable and arrogant.

Reason isn't going to reach people so we're back to the inevitable dynamics of the laws of arithmetic. With the budget that Paul Ryan and his Democrat masters have in mind we know that there will be a massive fiscal contribution yet again to the inevitable collapse. This just can't go on.

Unknown said...

Mark Levin advocates an Article V convention of the states to get the fed gov back in a box. Obviously a long shot. As you will notice, all the guvmints of the EU are exactly the same progressive coalition that we now have. So it appears to be a natural evolution of progressive-ism. What used to be undercover is now above board. Perhaps by short-circuiting democratic change our leaders can begin making realistic and sane policy decisions without fear of losing power.