In which an older and wiser yet terminally earnest former liberal struggles to come to grips with the cynicism, hatred, and paranoia that plague both sides of the American political spectrum. "Can we all get along?"
"The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered."
Edmund Burke, 2nd speech on conciliation with America, Mar. 22, 1775 (Bartlett's 16th ed., p. 331)
Mrs. Powel: "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
Benjamin Franklin: "A republic, if you can keep it."
After Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Sept. 18, 1787. (Bartlett's 16th ed.)
"As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other, and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves."
James Madison ("Publius"), The Federalist Papers No. 10 (1787)
"Of the three forms of sovereignty [autocracy, aristocracy, and democracy], democracy, in the truest sense of the word, is necessarily a despotism because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the individual without his consent..."
Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)
"To act successfully, that is, according to the rules of the political art, is political wisdom. To know with despair that the political act is inevitably evil, and to act nevertheless, is moral courage. To choose among several expedient actions the least evil one is moral judgment. In the combination of political wisdom, moral courage, and moral judgment, man reconciles his political nature with his moral destiny."
Hans Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (1946), p. 203
"Thus, whenever a concrete threat to peace develops, war is opposed not by a world public opinion but by the public opinions of those nations whose interests are threatened by that war."
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations 6th ed., rev. by Kenneth Thompson (1985), p. 288
"The texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselves endlessly."
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (1979), p. 66
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
H. A. L. Fisher, History of Europe (1935), p. vii [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 80]
"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favour."
Robert Frost, 'Black Cottage' North of Boston (1914), [Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations (1991), p. 86]
"My thoughts encompass divinity, therefore divinity is. The divinity that my thoughts encompass is associated with the order that arises out of chaos... As we expand our knowledge of this realm, we ... see it in terms of one sublime order that awaits full realization."
Louis J. Halle, Out of Chaos (1977), p. 646
"Here, then, is the complexity, the fascination, and the tragedy of all political life. Politics are made up of two elements -- utopia and reality -- belonging to two different planes which can never meet."
E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years' Crisis, 1919-1939 2nd ed. (1946), p. 93.
"My biggest blunder in life was attempt to seek common ground with Keynesians, based on the naive thought that by putting my ideas in Keynesian language that I would make any dent on the Keynesians."
Milton Friedman, New York Times, July 4, 1999
"War made the state and the state made war."
Charles Tilly, The Formation of National States in Western Europe (1975), p. 42
"Americans like to mock Kuwaitis as rich and pampered and lazy and decadent, which is exactly what the rest of the world says about Americans. Actually, we shouldn't mock Kuwait at all. It represents the hopes and dreams of Americans of all political persuasions. For liberals, it's a generous welfare state with guaranteed employment and a huge government bureaucracy. For conservatives, it's a country with no taxes and plenty of cheap maids who aren't allowed to vote."
Peter Carlson, "Castles in the Sand," Washington Post Magazine Jan. 14, 1996, p. 32-33
"[Bill Clinton's] greatest strength is his insincerity... I've decided Bill Clinton is at his most genuine when he's the most phony... We know he doesn't mean what he says."
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, in a speech in Indiana quoted by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Apr. 27, 1996
"Whatever one thinks of Bill Clinton, his opponents [*] must be thwarted. They are enemies of democracy and of the Constitution that insures its possibility. We long ago lost the luxury of choosing our allies. This is war."
* (referred to elsewhere in this piece as "mad dogs bent on political annihilation")
Eric Alterman, "Democracy Disappears" The Nation, Jan. 11-18, 1998
"There are no enemies in science, professor. Only phenomena to study."
From the movie The Thing, 1951 (a Cold War sci-fi allegory)
Julia Roberts: "Can you prove any of this?"
Mel Gibson: "No... A good conspiracy is unprovable. If you can prove it, someone must have screwed up somewhere along the way."
From the movie Conspiracy Theory
THE 16 WORDS: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Pres. George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Jan. 2003
CATCHING UP: I know, the actual presidential campaign began last summer, or even earlier, but I make it a point to ignore the preliminary silliness. So, as the Iowa caucuses are about to begin (tomorrow!), I suppose it's time for me to make a few observations on this blog. (Facebook has largely, but not entirely, superseded my expression of opinions on the Internet.) In my interactions with other politically-minded people, I often ridiculed the idea that Donald Trump might be a serious presidential candidate, but after several months, his lead in the polls appears to be solid. Whether or not he in fact is a serious candidate, Trump has a better chance of winning the Republican nomination than anyone else at this point.
For what it's worth, here are my favorite (Republican) candidates
There's no point in listing the other candidates, from my point of view. I simply can't see any circumstances under which I would vote for either of the top two Republican candidates, and indeed I am open to the idea of voting for a third party candidate for the first time since 1992. (!) Neither Michael Bloomberg (former New York mayor) nor James Webb (former senator from Virginia) hold any appeal for me, however.
And on the topic of Donald Trump, who has a chronic problem with "verbal diarrhea," I'd just like to point out that Megyn Kelly of Fox News is a top-notch professional journalist. Trump is a jerk, to put it mildly, and there was no reason for Fox to try to persuade him to reconsider boycotting the last GOP candidates' "debate."
In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer discussed the "three-cornered fight" within the GOP, warning that the party faces a disaster if it succumbs to "the temptation of trading in a century of conservatism for Trumpism." To me, it is so obvious that Trump falls outside the parameters of conservatism that it doesn't need to be said. The fact that so many people on the right nevertheless think that he is a conservative savior in the mold of Ronald Reagan is deeply disturbing to me. Reagan had a solid, length record of responsible public service, while Trump has none at all. He is a loud, foul-mouthed demagogue who could be described as fascist. In Krauthammer's mind (and in mine), Ted Cruz is no better. Indeed, the GOP is on the brink of a meltdown as the dominant "grassroots base" faction pursues its goal of getting rid of the few remaining "RINOs" in the party -- Eric Cantor in 2014 being a perfect example of that.
In a similar vein, The Atlantic Monthly takes a look at the upcoming pivotal South Carolina primary: "Portrait of a Party on the Verge of Coming Apart." In a way it's too bad that the possibility of a brokered convention next summer is regarded by so many people as a bad thing. In my view, negotiations and compromises among the factions that comprise a party are perfectly normal.
Of course, I have unique insights on what went wrong with the Grand Old Party, having served on the Staunton Republican Committee for several years. I think the reasons for my non-involvement should be obvious to everyone who is acquainted with the Virginia political scene. I have made it a point to refrain from calling out the various kooks, extremists, and rogue elements in the party, in hopes that those in a position of responsibility would eventually wise up to what I had been warning them about. Some of them are wising up now, but it may be too late...
Democrats: socialist revolution!
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is mounting a surprisingly effective campaign against the presumptive nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a refreshing break with the past, he has proudly identified himself as a socialist, and he declines to say anything about his religious beliefs. (I'm fine with keeping politics separate from religion, but I would prefer a candidate who sincerely adheres to Christian beliefs and values.) As long as the Republicans control Congress, there's not much chance that a President Sanders could lead the United States on a course toward socialism. But, as the Trump Phenomenon shows, politics in this country is extremely volatile right now, and any number of big surprises could await us in November.
Every week there are more revelations about the classified information that was stored on her e-mail server, in clear violation of the law. Will she be indicted during the primary campaign? Not if the Obama administration can put enough pressure on middle-level prosecuting attorneys in the Justice Department.
Politics blog hiatus
The last time I wrote a blog post about politics was June 30, 2015: "Emmett Hanger wins GOP primary election." If the long intervening time isn't an indication of my utter disgust and alienation from party politics, I don't know what is.