by N. A. Halkides 6/26/15
A Guide to Identification in the Field • The fissure in the Republican Party between Conservatives and what I’ve been calling in the pages of ST the “Establishment-men” is not a new phenomenon – we only need consider the 1964 GOP Presidential contest between Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller to realize that it’s been present for at least fifty years – but it is only recently that a condition of open warfare has existed between these factions. Why that is so is not hard to understand (the betrayals of the Conservative base of the Party by the Establishment and its repeated capitulations to the Democratic Left having brought the United States closer to becoming a bankrupt dictatorship than most of us would have believed possible), so it is not my subject today. Of greater importance at the present time is being able to identify the Establishment-men among us and so deprive them of our support, with an eye to taking control of the GOP.
This is critical not only because many Establishment-men (hereinafter “E-men” for short – not to be confused with a comic-book superhero team like the X-Men) have become quite adept at deliberate deception to obtain the support of the Conservatives they secretly despise, but also because Conservatives themselves, desperate for heroes, often mistake any Republican who isn’t an obvious RINO (Republican in Name Only, or Democrat calling himself a Republican) for the next Ronald Reagan. In past articles for ST, I’ve gone into specifics regarding why in my view certain Republicans are not Conservatives at all. What I’d like to do now is provide a more general understanding of the Establishment-man so that his species may be identified and targeted by Conservatives – sort of a political field guide.
The first thing that struck me when regarding known E-men such as John McCain, Mitt Romney, and of course Mr. Establishment himself, Jeb Bush, is the class characteristics they have in common with most businessmen. (I use the word “class” here taxonomically, not economically, although it will be noted that most Establishment-men are fairly well-off). Businessmen tend to be hard-working, yes, but they also tend to be un-intellectual, amoral, and myopically fixated on short term profits to the exclusion of everything else. Time and again we have seen that businessmen make disappointing statesmen when they go into politics, and that when they remain in the business world they eagerly cut deals with the politicians who would destroy them.
Consider, for example, the support of the insurance companies for Obamacare based on the short-term gains they would receive as the Individual Mandate forced people to buy their product, completely ignoring the fact that the Obamacare architects and Democratic politicians generally long to destroy the health insurance industry along with private medicine and replace it with a government bureaucracy (government-controlled medicine, euphemistically referred to as “single-payer”). That Obamacare brings their industry a big step closer to being either placed completely under government control or legislated out of existence entirely did not lead insurance executives to fight tooth and nail for their rights; instead they agreed to cut a deal which in the short term would bring them more customers and, through some complex machinations, guarantee them against loss. As Stalin so well put it, “When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use.”
Another obvious example is mass-immigration: most businessmen want cheap labor in the short term to increase profits, regardless of the effects on our country. Not only is this attitude unpatriotic, it’s also suicidal as third-world immigrants bring with them a culture in which private property is routinely seized and redistributed to the “poor”; thus to support mass-immigration is to support the eventual confiscation of one’s business (or its regulation to the point of destruction, whichever comes first under the rule of the Democratic Left). What good are increased profits next year if you don’t have a business at all the year after that? This is the kind of question most businessmen never think about – it’s apparently just too abstract for them, and the inability to think abstractly is a key characteristic of the E-man.
Now of course running a business is a practical affair, and when considering how to meet next week’s payroll or how much of a particular raw material to order no one would suggest that the businessman digress into abstract philosophical questions. But as we have seen from the examples above, which could be multiplied infinitely, when acting outside the immediate sphere of daily business operations, ethics and politics become crucial matters, ones the businessman with his elementary concrete concerns is ill-equipped to handle. We might express this more formally as the failure of philosophical pragmatism, or more ironically as the impracticality of pragmatism.
The most obvious common failing in the examples so far considered is that of myopia: the insurance companies cut deals that bring short-term profit and long-term extinction as private enterprises; the Chamber of Commerce favors more Third-World immigration which reduces short-term labor costs but results in long-term loss of private property rights as the Left seizes power when these immigrants start voting; the capitalist profits today from the sale of his rope to the Left which they use to hang him on the morrow. It is not, however, the only failing: the dislike of abstract thinking and moral concerns are prominent characteristics as well. For the capitalist to recognize the danger of selling the communists a quantity of strong rope, he must first understand that the communists want to hang him and why they wish to do so. This requires a considerable amount of abstract thought.
Let us return to the world of Republican politics to see how this ties in by comparing the Conservative to the businessman. The Conservative politician is motivated by a desire to conserve the political ideas that have moral worth and have lifted America to greatness, principally limited government and individual rights, but the businessman entering the political field has no understanding of these highly abstract concepts, his only guide to life being philosophical pragmatism. Thus he enters politics with no political principles to guide him, yet he must be guided by something – what will it be? Observation leads to the following answers:
- Bits and pieces of traditional morality, as he lacks the sheer lust for destruction that characterizes the radical (i.e. mainstream Democrat by today’s standards). Such men are often against abortion, for example. Nonetheless, they are generally inconsistent since moral consistency relies on adherence to fixed moral principles.
- The dominant philosophy of the time and place. This, unfortunately, is statism/collectivism, and if you’ve ever wondered why many “moderate” legislators and judges become worse after years on the job, the answer is that statism is an even more pervasive ideology in their new environment of Washington D.C. than it was wherever they came from, unless they came from the universities, in which case they would be radical Leftist Democrats from the beginning, and they pick it up by a sort of default osmosis.
- A desire for a kind of superficial stability, that is, to preserve the status quo. The businessman wants to preserve his own profits of course, but the truth is that change scares him and the idea of old businesses failing and going bankrupt to be replaced by newer, better businesses is upsetting to him even beyond the question of his own and his friends’ profits. A perfect example of this attitude was on display during the financial meltdown of 2007-2008, where the universally-accepted priority among non-Conservative Republicans was to keep major financial institutions from failing, even if they deserved to fail. (The Democratic Left cared little whether they failed or not, as long as increased government control of the financial sector was the result). That the status quo in America is an unstable mixture of freedom and government control that couldn’t possibly be preserved for very long even if it deserved to be never occurs to the E-man.
Now up to this point I have been focusing my attentions on the businessman to clarify the discussion, but we can see that exactly the same observations could be applied to the non-businessman, non-Conservative Republican because he shares the businessman’s general outlook. In view of #3 above, we might say that his desire is to preserve and protect the Establishment, meaning established (usually large) business interests, and we have at last achieved a comprehensive definition of the E-man. In fact, we can now glimpse one of the reasons for his hostility to Conservatives, who intend to conserve (really restore) freedom, which will upset the status quo and challenge its welfare state premises. We have not, however, entirely explained the E-man’s behavior or his failure to halt the progress of the Democratic Left, so let us do so next.
One key feature of the typical E-man is inconsistency; that is, a failure to adhere to a set of moral principles as noted in #1 above. The E-man thus accepts what he hears from different sources, even when those sources are contradictory, as for example traditional religious morality from his upbringing and the statism/collectivism that dominates American culture outside the home. This is why Senator John McCain can be simultaneously against abortion and in favor of censoring political speech (the McCain/Feingold bill and McCain’s attack on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case), or Ohio Governor John Kasich can be against abortion and yet accept the basic immorality of the welfare state – the idea that one man’s need gives him a claim on everyone else’s life. We should note that despite the early influence of traditional morality, the later acceptance of the welfare/regulatory state governs more of the questions that tend to come before a public official (abortion is in many ways unlike any other political question), thus the E-man is very often in agreement with the Democratic Left.
I have disparaged the superficial pragmatism of the E-man, but it does grant him a small measure of deference to the facts of reality that the radical Leftist does not possess. Bearing this in mind, we can now explain why the E-man is better than the Democrat on national security issues and why he is more concerned about deficit spending (a necessary consequence of the welfare state) than the completely unconcerned Leftist. Thus an E-man like President George W. Bush recognized the threat of Islamic terrorism, and viewed the ties of Saddam Hussein with his WMD programs to Islamic terrorists with great concern. We will not enter into a discussion of whether the Iraq War was good policy, but merely contrast Bush’s concern with the indifference of the hard-core Leftist, who views America as evil and therefore always at fault in international conflicts. (As a matter of fact, many Democrats agreed with Bush at the time (in 2003) that Saddam Hussein should be removed from power, but as their Party drifted Left, they pretended they had been somehow misled by Bush. The nauseating story is told in Party of Defeat.)
So E-men are better than Progressives on national security in that they actually do care about defending America from her enemies, but their intellectual limitations tend to lead to policy mistakes nonetheless. Many of the later problems we had in Iraq were caused by Bush’s reliance on conventional wisdom, represented by the counsel of Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, neither of whom apparently understood the fundamental nature of Islam or Islamic terrorism, or the difficulties in trying to build a modern Western nation in a land where tribalism and Islam together act as strong brakes on moral or political progress. Both had adopted the Left-contaminated ideas of the academy (especially Rice, who came from there) – a characteristic of the Establishment noted above.
When it comes to government budgets, the E-man nowadays is generally faced with large amounts of debt and unfunded liabilities caused by welfare spending and over-generous agreements with public-sector workers entered into usually by Democrats in exchange for votes and money (kicked back from union dues). He looks at these problems in a very superficial way, seeing the danger of continuing liabilities that will be difficult or impossible to pay but never recognizing the fundamental causes as (1) the welfare state, and (2) the collusion between Democrats and public-sector unions to fleece the taxpayer. Further, being averse to abstract moral considerations, E-men typically propose modest reductions in the previously-planned rate of spending increases as opposed to true spending cuts, perhaps together with tax increases.
The E-man (Governor or President) now runs into a brick wall: Democrats are unwilling to cut welfare spending because that’s how they buy votes, and on top of that they shamelessly demagogue the issue. Tax cuts may be easier to get if Republicans control the legislature, but without being coupled to spending cuts they may not help the fiscal situation (it depends on exactly how high the old tax rate was – see the Laffer Curve). The E-man’s reliance on pragmatism – looking for solutions without reference to any principles – means tax increases become as likely as tax cuts (see e.g. George H.W. Bush’s broken promise on taxes and Jeb Bush’s approval of same). With the E-man unable to make a moral case for spending cuts, spending tends inexorably to rise and the state (or federal) government moved further to the Left in consequence.
Another way to see the problem on domestic spending issues is that the E-man basically agrees with the Progressive Left on the most essential point: that it is the proper purpose of government to engage in various welfare programs which at base are no more than income redistribution schemes. E-men want the welfare state, but as “practical” men they want it on the cheap – “Dime-store New Dealers” to paraphrase Barry Goldwater – and of course they want their own hands on the levers of power. Once you accept this fatal premise, it is impossible to fight against any new spending undertaken on the basis of alleged need, hence the repeated Republican capitulations to Democrats over the past fifty years on everything from Medicare in 1965 to “Cromnibus” in 2014. To cut domestic spending would mean “not caring about people,” “Taking food out of children’s mouths,” “Throwing Grandma off a cliff” etc.
This is also one reason why Republicans (always led by E-men) have generally been far less successful politically than Democrats: they are less consistent. Both those who agree with the Democrats’ basic statism and those who disagree with it see little reason to vote for a Republican Party which recognizes big government as a good thing but is less willing to follow through on that assumption than their opponents.
Now for the payoff this article promised at the beginning: how can we identify these E-men the better to replace them with Conservatives? The E-man may be recognized by any of these common characteristics:
- No consistent political philosophy and in particular no commitment to limited government.
- A myopic fixation on winning the next election with no plan to do much after that but mark time and enjoy the perks of office (one the main motivations of the E-man to seek office in the first place).
- No firm commitment to spending cuts (reductions in planned increases are not cuts). Failure of a state governor to cut state spending (or at least attempt to do so on a per capita basis) should be considered a red warning flag – this governor isn’t likely to do much as President either.
- No unequivocal statement that the government is far too large and far too powerful for the good of the people (this is really a restatement of #1 above).
- A general dislike of abstract thinking. The self-described “problem solver” who promises to solve unspecified political “problems” with no reference to fixed political principles is certainly an E-man or worse. Never enunciating any basic principles is a dead giveaway that we’re dealing with an E-man.
Equally important, we must understand that Conservatism may not be inferred from any of the following positions:
- Cutting taxes – most businessmen are in favor of this.
- Being anti-abortion – this position can be left over from traditional moral instruction during the E-man’s early life (Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, John McCain).
- Being against gun confiscation (but often willing to go along with “common sense” regulations that always make it harder for good citizens to acquire arms).
The E-man, with his un-intellectual nature and disinterest in basic principles, has neither the inclination nor the mental equipment to fight the Democratic Left. What we need are principled Conservatives, i.e. statesmen of good character who understand and believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence: that the proper purpose of government is to secure liberty and property, not regulate every aspect of human life and provide “services” such as food, clothing, shelter, and cell phones at taxpayer expense to those who vote for a corrupt and redistributionist Democratic Party.
Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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