The Party of the State

PartyOfStateby N. A. Halkides   11/12/14
The Democratic Party has long been referred to as “the party of government,” so I can lay no claim as to having invented this description, but as far as I know, no one has ever delved too deeply into exactly what it means.  Perhaps users have intended by the term to indicate that Democrats favor Big Government.  As true as that is, I would like to suggest another, deeper meaning.  I will attempt to show that the modern American Democratic Party is qualitatively different from any political party that has ever existed in this country, and has become, in fact, an organ of absolute rule.  To begin with, let’s consider the function of political parties, first in a free state and then under a dictatorship.

In an ideal democratic republic, something like the free portion of America was in its early days, everyone would agree that the proper purpose of government was to protect individual liberty and the only disputes would be about the best way to achieve that end.  Because one of the chief problems in a democracy is how the electors can place men of their choosing into office, opposing factions would naturally tend to come together as recognizable political parties in order to win elections and put their political program into effect.  That is not to say there would be no nastiness in politics, for when people disagree, even about relatively unimportant matters, they often disagree very strongly, and the early disputes between the Federalist and (Jeffersonian) Republican parties were vicious enough.  But the depths of partisan rancor such as we see today would be unnecessary.

To understand the particularly bitter flavor of contemporary American politics, we must remember that we are far from that ideal where the only disagreement is over the best way to protect liberty.  Indeed, today’s Democratic Party, a social democratic (i.e. socialist) party by European standards, is wholly dedicated to achieving absolute power, the exact opposite of individual freedom.  It is opposed by a Republican Party whose Conservative base is specifically anti-totalitarian.  Elections must be hotly contested affairs, for liberty and property can and will be lost every time the Democrats enjoy an electoral victory.  This would be even more obvious if the GOP were anything like the hypothetical “Freedom Party” I posit below – they would fight tooth and nail to stop every Democratic advance.  As it is, only the Conservative element within the Party really fights with any conviction; the majority of the partisanship comes from the sheer nasty hatred of those who wish to rule for those who refuse to be ruled – one of the psychological hallmarks of the Leftist mind.

We have briefly considered the case of multiple parties all dedicated to freedom and the case of one statist party against a party or parties only partially opposed to them (the current situation in the U.S.).  We next turn to the third case, in which all parties are statist, for this is sadly the most common occurrence.  Although there had been considerable freedom in England and even in the ancient republics of Greece and Rome before they degenerated into despotism, early America was really the world’s first attempt at true republican self-government, and not even the Founders were able to foresee all the consequences of party politics.  Experiments in freedom have been tragically rare in world history; most people have lived their entire lives under some form of dictatorship.  Yet these absolute governments also have political parties, and we must now ask what purpose they serve in countries like Islamist Iran or Nazi Germany.  Clearly it is not to enact one out of several competing political programs, for by definition in a dictatorship there is only one will and one program – the state’s (i.e. the ruling party’s), and whatever the details may be, the totalitarian character of the government will remain unchanged.  But those who exercise power, whether limited (as in a free country) or unlimited, must be chosen somehow, and so in a dictatorship the ruling party serves to choose those who will exercise unlimited power.

What about any non-ruling parties?  Even though one-party rule is a key characteristic of dictatorship, sometimes nominal “opposition” parties are permitted to exist, at least for a time, even after a ruling party has taken permanent power.  Such parties may help preserve the fiction that the people are still living in a true democracy rather than a tyranny with elections.  See e.g. the early history of the German Nazi Party after it prevailed in the election of 1933:  it outlawed the Communist Party first, then later the Social Democrats (both also totalitarian in their beliefs, we should note), and finally the remaining smaller parties.  An example of a different but still dictatorial approach would be modern-day Iran, where political parties may be created but are under strict control of the government and may not oppose Islam, which is itself more a totalitarian political system than a religion.

The function of the ruling party in choosing the country’s leaders may perhaps be seen most clearly in the case of long-lasting dictatorships such as Communist Russia and China which have outlived several generations of rulers.  Although the exact way in which individuals advance through the ranks of the Communist Party to become members of its Central Committee may be obscure, the essential fact is that this is how the leaders are selected.

Superficially, it might seem the function of political parties under freedom and dictatorship is the same since in both cases the parties serve as part of the mechanism for choosing leaders, but there is a crucial difference:  in a free nation a party is of the people, an instrument by which the people choose their leaders; in a dictatorship the party is of the state, i.e. of the permanent ruling class, and chooses who will rule (not serve) the people.  When a party serves only its own interests, that is, it functions as the mechanism by which the members of the ruling class divide and allocate political power amongst themselves, we may call it the party of government, or as I prefer, The Party of the State.

The Fourth Case Considered – Statism Opposed

The fourth and last of the important cases occurs when one or more viable statist parties are opposed by one or more anti-statist parties, which we reduce for simplicity’s sake to one of each.  We noted earlier that such a case will be marked by bitter partisanship, as the Left fights to seize power and the Right fights to maintain liberty.  (For the purposes of this discussion, the political Right will represent individual freedom and the political Left, statism).  Given the sorry history of the world and the terrible human desire for power, I am inclined to believe that this is probably the best case we can hope for in practice, and the next matter that comes to mind is the nature of the conflict between the two parties.

In a free and democratic nation, incumbency offers a few advantages, yet still parties may frequently displace one another when elections are held.  But as government becomes more powerful, it becomes possible for those in public office to use their offices to maintain themselves in power.  The general method is to dispense special favors, privileges, and unearned income to supporters while punishing or threatening to punish opponents with regulations that restrict their ability to function unless they “cooperate” by standing down (political opponents) or by coughing up money (businessmen who might otherwise resist) – in other words, by pursuing legalized bribery and extortion.  Eventually, a “Tipping Point” can be reached from which time on the ruling party is guaranteed of winning every election (see The Reality of the Tipping Point, and Its Consequences for more details).

When the government becomes powerful enough, it may actually begin to harass any opposition parties with intrusive investigations or trumped-up criminal charges, thereby threatening to imprison its opponents or bankrupt them with legal fees, and finally move to disarm the citizen and censor ideas which the rulers find dangerous to their continued exercise of power.

Notice, however, that a party dedicated to individual freedom could not engage in the above methods without completely abandoning its principles, while a party dedicated to the pursuit of power (the Party of the State) could and would be expected to do so.  This is the main reason why today’s Democrats pull every trick in the book, including vote fraud, in order to win while Republicans, though not the exponents of liberty they should be, in general do not (the exceptions are due to those statist characteristics Republicans have in common with Democrats and to individual corruption).  It is also the reason that non-statist parties are no longer competitive once the Tipping Point has been reached, and this is largely true no matter how terrible conditions become under the ruling party.  This is most plainly seen in America in large cities such as Detroit, where Democrats have long since achieved one-party rule that is still unchallenged despite the deplorable, even desperate conditions there.

Are the Democrats the Party of the State?

Let us now present a brief bill of particulars to indict the Democratic Party for adopting the methods of suppressing their political opponents described above.  I will not focus on the far-Left views of today’s Democrats, e.g. Barack Obama’s claim that businessmen “didn’t built that” (their own businesses!), but on these same tactics of suppression that are characteristic of dictatorship and are not generally engaged in by Republicans.

1. Legalized Bribery – as detailed in The Reality of the Tipping Point, and Its Consequences, massive income transfers and the employment of an excessive number of government workers creates a “dependent class” (or “parasite class,” to be less diplomatic about it) that can use its voting privileges to vote itself an unearned income at the expense of its fellow citizens by supporting the party offers to provide that unearned income.  I note in passing that one of the chief aims of any party aiming to restore American freedom must be to reduce and if possible eliminate the government’s ability to offer such incomes in return for votes.

2. Extortion – the Democratic Party must fund itself somehow, and its preferred method is to use the threat of force to obtain contributions.  It does so by threatening business with hostile and costly regulations unless the businessmen agree to make “contributions”.  “[Coelho] made a name for himself by perfecting a shake-down racket that enriched Democratic campaigns by threatening businesses. [Did Jesse Jackson study in the Coehlo School of Political Blackmail and Shakedown?] The Democrats are going to be in the majority for a long time, Mr. Coelho was fond of telling businesses and their political action committees. Get on board with the Democrats or suffer the consequences.” (Washington Times, 12-22-94)

3. Investigation/Prosecution – this is one of the more sinister developments of the past 20 years, for when the government can threaten its opposition with legal punishment, we know that tyranny has already begun.  Some notable cases:

A. Kay Bailey Hutchinson & Tom DeLay – Hutchinson was perhaps the first, in 1993, to be victimized by a political prosecution when Democratic Travis County (Austin, Texas) DA Ronnie Earle managed to get her indicted on charges so weak that he was forced to agree to have them dismissed one year later.  Earle then bided his time and struck again ten years later by indicting former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on charges of alleged campaign finance violations.  DeLay was eventually convicted in 2010 (remember that campaign finance laws are so complicated almost anything a candidate or his supporters do could constitute a violation), but an appellate court reversed the conviction.  (Lest anyone think Democrats have since grown a code of ethics, earlier this year the current Travis County DA, Rosemary Lehmberg carried on Earle’s disgraceful tradition by seeking to have DeLay’s conviction reinstated!  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the appellate court last month and left the conviction reversed.)

B. Governor Rick Perry – Rosemary Lehmberg again.  After Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 2013 and refused to resign from office, Perry threatened to use his veto power to defund her office, whereupon she indicted him for “abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant”.  That’s right – Lehmberg indicted a sitting governor for saying that he might use his veto power – a power granted to him by the Texas State Constitution!  To say she’s unlikely to prevail in court would be an understatement, but meanwhile Perry has to spend time and money fighting the case and is distracted both from state business and possibly from running for President again.  This is pure harassment, much like the IRS pursuit of the Tea Party, intended to make it difficult for the Democrats’ opponents to function, and if it succeeds it’s really irrelevant that the charges won’t stick.

C. Governor Sarah Palin – many people have completely forgotten about this one, because in fact no criminal prosecution took place, but what Democrats did was very similar:  they made numerous, groundless charges of ethics violations, and under Alaska State law Palin could not use State lawyers for her defense.  Facing mounting legal bills, Palin decided to resign the governorship and take advantage of her celebrity status following the 2008 election to become a paid consultant.  (She was cleared of all charges in 2009).  What is significant is that the Democrats succeeded in their goal – they drove her out of office as surely as if she had been convicted of a political crime.  What is to stop them from doing the same thing in the future?

D. Governor Scott Walker – Walker has been targeted by the Left in other ways, such as a recall election that he survived and a smear campaign waged by the public-sector unions he took on in a very modest way (see Scott Walker on Close Inspection for the gory details), but he’s also become the primary target of an “ethics” probe based in Milwaukee County – a Democratic stronghold.  (The situation strongly resembles the Texas cases, where Travis County was unwisely chosen as the location for Texas state ethics probes).  The wife of the DA, John Chisholm, is a school union representative who, we may assume, was not too pleased by Walker’s attempts to slightly lessen the bargaining ability of public sector unions.  Some of the disturbing details may be read at Legal Insurrection.com

E. Senator Ted Stevens – this is another case that has been too quickly forgotten.  From the Alaska Dispatch News: “In 2008, Stevens was found guilty of making fraudulent statements for allegedly receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars from friends and business associates but failing to report them on his tax returns or on Senate financial disclosure forms. The verdict was thrown out by a federal judge in 2009 after an FBI whistleblower revealed that prosecutors hid evidence that might have helped prove Stevens was innocent.”  The political effect was that Stevens lost his bid for re-election in 2008, allowing Democrat Mark Begich to cast, along with Al Franken, who took Norm Coleman’s Senate seat in Minnesota through vote fraud, the deciding votes in favor of Obamacare in 2010.

F. IRS harassment of Tea Party groups – this is as bad if not worse than the attempted prosecution of Republican office-holders but is complicated enough that space does not allow the details to be presented here (also, there are a lot of facts that haven’t yet come to light).  A good overview may be found at Discover The Networks.

4. Gun Control – disarming the people is sometimes advocated by “useful idiots” who apparently believe in all sincerity that taking firearms away from good people will somehow magically disarm the criminal class at the same time (and who further strangely believe that good people should be left to fight bare-handed against gangs of criminals quite possibly armed with other kinds of deadly weapons).  In fact, probably most advocates of gun control fall into this “useful idiot” category.  But there is a second group of gun-grabbers who recognize that a tyrannized people, if armed, may rise up in revolt at any time against their oppressors (who include, of course, the gun-grabbing contingent).  It is for this reason that dictatorships always establish strict gun control as soon as they take power in those cases where at least some gun rights had earlier been recognized.  While Democrats in contested districts (that is, where they have not already established one-party rule) pretend to support gun rights it is for fear of losing their seats otherwise; the Party’s overall attitude toward guns is plainly revealed in those areas where it is strongest, for example California, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.  The adoption of arbitrary gun rules and restrictions (magazine size limits, ordinary semi-automatic rifles being designated as “assault rifle” etc.) means that the governments adopting them could logically ban whole classes of weapons for no reason at all, while the registration requirements recently adopted in Connecticut are a clear prelude to confiscation (see The Importance of the Boy Scout Motto for more about the brave gun owners in Connecticut who have refused to bow to this tyranny).  Gun confiscation is obviously the long-term goal of most Democrats, but they are politically cunning enough to know that moving too fast toward it could mean trouble at the ballot box.

5. Censorship – this is even more blatant than the assault on gun rights, for it is impossible to pretend that criminalizing speech critical of the government would somehow contribute to public safety.  In Europe, censorship has advanced by positing the existence of a class of ideas, “Hate Speech,” which is not protected under law.  In the U.S. we have seen “Hate Speech” prohibitions advanced through college speech codes, but perhaps sensing how weak this argument would be set against the First Amendment, few attempts have been made to try to put “Hate Speech” exceptions into U.S. law (although Ed Markey and Hakim Jeffries have tried to simply ignore the existence of the First Amendment by drafting a bill regulating such speech and naturally the U.N. has been doing its best to adopt them).  Instead, the more common technique has been to attempt to suppress speech under the guise of regulating campaign financing.  Whether there should be regulations on candidates raising money is beyond the scope of this article, but it is clear that if you rob the private citizen, whether alone or together in incorporated groups, of the right to spend their own money disseminating their ideas, you have essentially silenced them.  (If this is not immediately clear, remember that you have to spend money to publish books or articles, circulate films, write essays on the internet, or broadcast on radio and television).  This is now clearly the Democrats’ goal:  they have made at least four attempts in the past two years to gut the First Amendment.  (The latest attempt, led by Democratic Senators, is discussed in Democrats’ First Amendment Problem by George Will in NRO, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s earlier attack may be found here).

Conclusion

The Democratic Party, then, is already adopting the methods used under totalitarian regimes to silence their opponents, and has tried to go much further only to be stopped by the remaining protections of U.S. law – for now.  These methods are unique to a Party of the State.  Note that as bad as the Republican Party is, it has not adopted any of the reprehensible methods of the Democrats with the partial exception that it does solicit large money contributions from special interest groups, something that is probably unavoidable until the government’s grip has been pried off the economy.

If anyone is not yet convinced that the Democrats are The Party of the State merely because they are attempting to ruthlessly suppress their opponents, consider again that such a party functions not to express the will of the people, but to select office-holders from the ranks of a ruling class, and then remember what happened during the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination process.  First, there were a number of suspicious facts arising from the Democratic state caucuses.  Barack Obama’s eleven highest winning margins over Hilary Clinton were all in caucus states, with none in primary states.  Even some members of the Left are concerned about how caucuses produce results that are less fair and less representative than primaries (see this story from TalkLeft.com).  The overall result was that 97% of pledged delegate difference between Obama and Clinton was directly related to Obama’s caucus victories.

Now this may be considered more a problem with the murky processes of the caucus system than the Democratic Party, and indeed I can’t find anything about caucuses to recommend them over primaries.  But let’s turn now to what happened when all the primaries and caucuses were over.  The pledged delegate count at that time was as follows:

Clinton: 1639.5

Obama: 1766.5

(2,117 delegates needed to nominate; the half-delegates were the result of a DNC penalty against certain states.  Source: RealClear Politics)

In other words, at the conclusion of the race, Barack Obama did not have enough delegates to secure the nomination!

How did it happen that neither Obama nor Clinton held a majority?  While there were some other candidates, the real problem is the fact that 823 Democratic Convention delegates are “super-delegates” not elected through either caucus or primary by the people nor accountable to them (some are elected officials) but rather selected by state party organizations.  These “super-delegates” broke 463 to 257 in favor of Obama over Clinton (I can’t account for the remainder but that doesn’t seem important here).  In other words, Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was chosen not democratically but because a majority of Democratic Party bigwigs selected him.  This is precisely how the leaders are selected in totalitarian societies.
The Democrats are indeed The Party of the State.


Nik is a freelance writer, former professor, and has written for FrontPage Magazine.
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6 Responses to The Party of the State

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Excellent piece Nik.

    One of the greatest dangers in what the modern Democratic party has become is that in order to compete with them, the modern Republican party will likely have to adopt many of the obnoxious measures used by the Dems. Otherwise, the inexorable march to the Left will continue. The problem is that obnoxious actions, even when done in the name of balancing the scales, have a tendency to become considered less obnoxious the more they are resorted to.

    I see the lawless acts perpetrated by the scoundrel in the White House as especially dangerous and despicable. He has opened the door to future tyranny by occupants of the Presidency. And how could one condemn a Republican for using the same methods the Democrats use? Like the question of returning to regular order in the next Senate, what possible advantage for Republicans can there be in doing that?

    By the way, I always remind conservatives that as far as politics goes, we are generally starting in a hole with representation. Anyone who runs for political office or works for government is almost certainly more in favor of large government than we are.

    • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

      Thanks very much for the support, KFZ! I often worry that with my longer, rather abstract pieces they’ll be too dry for anyone to take the time to wade through them, yet a through discussion of political ideas is irreducibly difficult, so I’m gratified by your attention and participation. You also raised two points that are worthy of far more time and space than we have here:

      (1) That Republicans might have to become like Democrats to compete with them. This was a tangential point I made in The Reality of the Tipping Point – once the Tipping Point is reached, the Democrats will have effective one-party rule, with the Republicans operating only as a dissident faction of the Democratic Party rather than as a truly pro-freedom (or anti-statist) party.

      2. Anyone who runs for political office or works for government is almost certainly more in favor of large government than we are. A very interesting point. I think Democratic politicians are generally to the Left of the median Democratic voter, while Republican politicians (e.g. Speaker of the House John Boehner) are quite obviously to the Left of the median Republican voter. One of the great weaknesses of representative government is that the representatives chosen may and often do fail to represent those who have elected them (see Mission: Take the GOP, where I make this point in reference to the failure of the Republican Party officials to act in accordance with the wishes of Republican voters). At a later time we might suggest ways to alter the American system of government so that the people have a direct check on their representatives – more direct even than elections.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    This is an excellent analysis of the modern Democratic Party. I was very pleased to see someone notice that Tony Coelho midwifed the use of extortion as a routine method of acquiring campaign funding (starting, as far as I know, after the Reagan landslide of 1980). One minor correction on the Democrats’ reliance on “lawfare” (using the legal system as a means of dirty politics rather than to produce justice): Ronny Earle was a corrupt political prosecutor long before Kay Bailey Hutchison became his target. Prior to the GOP takeover of Texas, he targeted Democrats from rival factions.

    One consequence of the Democrats’ being the Party of the State is that they are (and increasingly have been for a long time) intolerant of dissent, as you point out. This is the reason why I regard those libertarians who consider Democrats the “lesser evil” as either libertinist rather than genuinely libertarian — or utterly stupid. “They can’t see the forest for the trees.” In particular, they feel to see what has been obvious for some time, that whereas the GOP is corrupted by Big Government, the Democrats are the corruptors. There’s a difference that libertarians such as Reason have failed to see. They also fail to realize that, inevitably, the Party of the State (or Government) is also the Party of the Rulers. It’s no accident that most bureaucrats are liberals, and that the IRS abuses may have been the initiative of civil servants as much as of the politicians. Whether this (and the increasing liberal hostility to dissent) has finally opened the eyes of Reason and its fellow libertarians to just how totally pernicious the Democratic Party has become, I have no idea.

    • David Ray says:

      A former IRS gent called a radio talk show (Dennis Prager?) and divulged that about 90% of the staff were “in your face” democrats – Obama posters, buttons, etc. were normal manifestations. (He was the odd duck in the office and retired with relief.)
      The call was made about a week after the IRS scandal had come to light.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I commented on this regarding Bernie Sanders’s proposal to make Election Day a holiday. Of course, he could only make it a federal holiday; states and local governments could ignore it (for example, the city of Louisville garbage pick-up was NOT delayed a day by Veteran’s Day, as it is by Black Identity-Group Politics Day aka Martin Luther King’s Birthday), as could private business. So it would only apply to federal employees — who (as I pointed out in a blog posting) overwhelmingly support IngSoc.

  3. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    It’s no accident that most bureaucrats are liberals, and that the IRS abuses may have been the initiative of civil servants as much as of the politicians. Whether this (and the increasing liberal hostility to dissent) has finally opened the eyes of Reason and its fellow libertarians to just how totally pernicious the Democratic Party has become, I have no idea.

    That’s an interesting question, Tim. If all that hasn’t opened Libertarian eyes, I don’t know what will. (Interested ST readers may consult Tim’s Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Libertarian Follies for a further discussion).

    It’s interesting to compare Libertarians with Objectivists on this point. Ayn Rand’s intellectual heir Leonard Peikoff inherited Rand’s antipathy toward religion, and in fact may even have doubled-down on it. So extreme was Peikoff’s hatred of religion that he used to advise Objectivists to vote Democratic, the better to destroy what he viewed as the primary foe – religion, in the form of the Republican Party (please don’t laugh, everyone, at the idea of that gaggle of Establishmentarian, country-clubbing, Chamber of Commerce-loving un-intellectual dolts as being especially “religious”. Perhaps Peikoff thought that the GOP was under Conservative control, but how anyone could make that mistake I’ve no idea.). But when confronted with the obviously Marxist Barry Hussein Obama and the immediately dangerous Obamacare, Peikoff finally wised up and told Objectivists to vote Republican because the danger from Obama and his Democratic co-conspirators was so great. Let’s hope Libertarians can be as wise as that, anyway.

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