Patrick Buchanan has endorsed Romney for president. Obviously, Buchanan would not endorse Obama, but it is always interesting when an alienated and estranged “paleocon” condescends to support a Republican. I know his grief.
Buchanan’s endorsement begins with a sober reflection upon the state of the republic before it mentions Romney. The contrast between what is needed and what is offered is startling—so rare it is to see principled, thoughtful socio-political analysis juxtaposed with active partisan cheerleading. For real conservatives tend to dislike the Grand Old Party, even if we often end up voting for the bastards less wicked. Even if “Romney will be the most accomplished incoming president since Dwight Eisenhower” (according to Ann Coulter’s endorsement), does anyone believe that he is up to the task to “transform” America, albeit as a return to its roots? One emperor may cripple an empire, but the work of building it extends far beyond the ability of one man or even of one generation.
“Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.”
So wrote John Jay in Federalist No. 2, wherein he describes Americans as a “band of brethren united to each other by the strongest ties.”
That “band of brethren united” no longer exists.
No longer are we “descended from the same ancestors.”
Indeed, as we are daily instructed, it is our “diversity” — our citizens can trace their ancestors to every member state of the United Nations — that “is our strength.” And this diversity makes us a stronger, better country than the America of Eisenhower and JFK.
No longer do we speak the same language. To tens of millions, Spanish is their language. Millions more do not use English in their homes. Nor are their children taught in English in the schools.
As for “professing the same religion,” the Christianity of Jay and the Founding Fathers has been purged from all public institutions. One in 5 Americans profess no religious faith. The mainline Protestant churches — the Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian — have been losing congregants for a half-century. Secularism is the religion of the elites. It alone is promulgated in public schools.
Are we attached to “the same principles of government”?
Half the nation believes it is the duty of government to feed, house, educate and medicate the population and endlessly extract from the well-to-do whatever is required to make everybody more equal.
Egalitarianism has triumphed over freedom. Hierarchy, the natural concomitant of freedom, is seen as undemocratic.
Are we similar “in our manners and customs”? Are we agreed upon what is good or even tolerable in music, literature, art?
Do we all seek to live by the same moral code? Abortion, a felony in the 1950s, is now a constitutional right. Homosexual marriage, an absurdity not long ago, is the civil rights cause du jour.
Dissent from the intolerant new orthodoxy and you are a bigot, a hater, a homophobe, an enemy of women’s rights.
Recent wars — Vietnam, Iraq — have seen us not “fighting side by side” but fighting side against side.
Racially, morally, politically, culturally, socially, the America of Jay and the Federalist Papers is ancient history. Less and less do we have in common. And to listen to cable TV is to realize that Americans do not even like one another. If America did not exist as a nation, would these 50 disparate states surrender their sovereignty and independence to enter such a union as the United States of 2012?
Nor are we unique in sensing that we are no longer one. Scotland, Catalonia and Flanders maneuver to break free of the nations that contain their peoples. All over the world, peoples are disaggregating along the lines of creed, culture, tribe and faith.
What has this to do with the election of 2012? Everything.
For if America is to endure as a nation, her peoples are going to need the freedom to live differently and the space to live apart, according to their irreconcilable beliefs. Yet should Barack Obama win, the centralization of power and control will continue beyond the point of no return.
His replacement of any retiring Supreme Court justice with another judicial activist — a Sonia Sotomayor, an Elena Kagan — would negate a half-century of conservative labors and mean that abortion on demand — like slavery, a moral abomination to scores of millions — is forever law in all 50 states.
President Obama speaks now of a budget deal in which Democrats agree to $2.50 in spending cuts if the Republicans agree to $1 in tax increases. But given the character of his party — for whom Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, food stamps, Head Start, earned income tax credits and Pell Grants are holy icons — any deal Obama cuts with Republicans in return for higher taxes will be like the deal Ronald Reagan eternally regretted.
The tax hikes become permanent; the budget cuts are never made.
In the first debate, Mitt Romney said that in crafting a budget that consumes a fourth of the economy, he would ask one question: “Is the program so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?”
If a President Romney held to that rule, it would spell an end to any new wars of choice and all foreign aid and grants to global redistributionsts — such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It would entail a review of all U.S. alliances dating back to the Cold War, which have U.S. troops on every continent and in a hundred countries.
Obama offers more of the stalemate America has gone through for the past two years.
Much more than a reversal of Obamacare needs to be done to salvage the American nation. I am tempted to agree with the Marxist strategy of “the worse, the better.” Nonetheless, I voted a few weeks ago for Romney just as I voted in dismay for McCain and Bush before him. I disagree with the Orthosphereans who counsel us to refrain from voting. I wrote four years ago in “As the 2008 Election Nears, a Personal Story”:
Well, my love-affair with politics ended when I went to college. I entered with the intention of majoring in politics and international affairs only to have my belief in America, democracy, and liberalism smashed to pieces. I embraced Plato and threw away Locke. I saw how Thomas Aquinas made better sense than Madison. I came to see the cultural revolution that led to the destruction of Western civilization as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, not the 1960’s. Previous heroes like Jefferson became for me a source of disgust and shame—even a complex sense of betrayal. I refused to vote, as I did not wish to be implicated in the cesspool of American demagogic democracy. I realized that my own untenable liberalism was related to my unreflective belief in democracy as the only political system possible. For if we are going to governed by the ignorant, emotive masses, then the government must have very little power. At least, then, the wise can get along in their own pursuit of the good without being hassled by the herd.
I do not now think that any of those sentiments or judgments are wrong—except that we do not have the luxury of being apolitical animals. I know that many people disparage Leo Strauss, but on this point, I believe that he helped me temper my unrealistic absolutism. No one in the history of the world has lived in a regime that was wisely governed. Even if the occasional virtuous and wise man leads—if by divine design or chance a philosopher and a king happen to occur in the same person—such a person is yet a mortal living among mortals. There is only so much such a man can do to make his society conform more to the natural law. For passions, petty interests, ignorance, and vice are ever present in human affairs. I knew early on that human problems cannot be solved but only managed, but this insight did not translate for me into the obvious conclusion that we therefore should still invest ourselves with the management. For we are still political animals, even if we are fated to live in a fallen world. It is the mark of the fanatical purist to starve to death rather than to eat with the unclean.
So, as the Republic and the Laws make clear, we live in a world where the best and just social arrangement does not exist and frankly cannot exist given our contradictory nature. Utopian schemes fail to understand that truth about the human condition . . . they gasp and strive after that one more revolution, which we’ll finally get right. If only this or that cog in the system could be change, if only that obstacle, human or otherwise, could be removed, we would be closer to the just society. These folks learn nothing from books, history, or their own eyes—they just see the shining city on the hill, the existence of which would be worth any price, any effort—any sacrifice.
Knowing this, we must make do with what we have. I think of Gandalf’s wonderfully Stoic response to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring:
Frodo: “Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?”
Gandalf: “Such questions cannot be answered . . . You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”
Jackson’s film version also deals with it well:
Frodo: “I wish none of this had ever happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
These are very wise words, as we should expect from Tolkien. The absence of perfection does not excuse us of the duties of human life. As political animals, we have a duty to our community and to ourselves to engage ourselves in the life of the city for the common good.
Certainly, this involvement can and should take different forms for each person and each set of circumstances. Some may fulfill it most in teaching, or being an honest tradesmen, or raising good children, or conducting the power of the political regime with an impartial eye that seeks the good of the community.
Moreover, a representative democracy is what we Americans have. As I stated earlier, such a regime as now exists in the United States is a formula for foolish and unjust government. As Andrew says, belief in democracy is the commitment to the proposition that one half of the rulers should have below average intelligence, below average wisdom, below average virtue, below average experience in political affairs, and so on. It is pure madness, but it is what we have now—a republic, if we can keep it. Therefore, we should work to protect ourselves from its harmful tendencies. This is, perhaps, what the wiser of the American founders desired—a republic tempered against its inherent instability and flaws.
Some folks would counsel letting the sinking ship go down into the deep. All attempts to make it more seaworthy are just delaying the day when the vessel takes people down. I see reason in such ideas, but there is something rather inhuman about that calculating—it reminds me of eugenic infanticide. For the inevitable day might truly come, but it seems to me that we should defend the city nonetheless while we have strength. Perhaps, this is simply a matter of political sentiment rather than reason, but allowing one’s community to disintegrate, even with good long-term intentions, feels ignoble and wrong. You may put obstacles and difficulties in your children’s life because you love them and know that such challenges will make them stronger. No good mother, however, poisons her child so that another more promising child can come to take his place. Moreover, every sinking ship results in deaths and destruction; should we willingly stand by? Even terrible human regimes are often replaced by worse ones, which is a good argument against revolution. Radical social upheaval rarely—possibly never—does the body politic good. I’ll likely revisit this strategic-political topic in the future, but enough of it now.
September 11, A.D. 2001 likely had an effect on my anti-Americanism, as well. For I had a love-hate relationship with my society as I have a love-hate relationship with many things. Yet, when it actually occurred to me that the United States could be vulnerable (obvious enough, but the human mind is a silly power sometimes), my sentiments shifted considerably. Maybe I was just getting older and hopefully wiser. At any rate, I came to be more open to and honest about the great things of America. When you are in love with perfection, it is a an easy step to loathe the imperfect as such and not simply its imperfection. Annoying traits in your family might bother you more than the same behavior that you see in others. Hume appears correct here—our desire to think well of ourselves leads us to wish everything connected to us to be fine, as well, for our own sake. Vanity publically celebrates others while privately congratulating the self. Anyway, in my adult years, I have come to see the beauty as well as the ugliness in American life. As all things human, political society is complex, being both a cause for celebration and for mourning—a mark of pride and a stain in need of repentance.
So, having been convicted of civic irresponsibility, I registered to vote again as an independent. . . .
Regardless of the election’s outcome, Joseph de Maistre’s aphorism will hold true:
Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite. De longues réflexions et une longue expérience, payée bien cher, m’ont convaincu de cette vérité comme d’une proposition de mathématiques. Toute loi est donc inutile et même funeste (quelque excellente qu’elle puisse être en elle-même), si la nation n’est pas digne de la loi et faite pour la loi.