The Party's Over, Once Again: Another Election, Another Reflection

Well, we’re here again.  Four years ago after the 2008 debacle I wrote my piece The Party’s Over: A Post-Election Reflection, and that’s as good of a point as any to start from.

It’s fair to say that the Republican Party is history as a national party in the U.S.

Oh, it’s true that it will continue to be an important regional party, and certainly the party of choice for Caucasian Evangelicals.  But as a national party, its continuance is impossible.  Although American history buffs may look to the Whig split over slavery before the Civil War as a fitting historical precedent, a more relevant analogy is the transition from Liberal to Labour Party in the UK as the predominant left wing party, a transition driven by social changes.

That’s more in evidence now than it was four years ago.  After the beating our economy has taken and the nearly universal belief that it’s the government’s duty to unilaterally fix the problem, getting Barack Obama out of the White House should have been as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.  It wasn’t.

A great deal of the problem is that Americans, in spite of soaring rhetoric, are not as aspirational as they used to be.  They have accepted the “zombie” economy we have which features massive, debt-financed patronage in many forms, (it was the UAW bailout which won him Ohio), misallocation of capital from productive uses to non-productive ones, and regulations to insure that certain segments of the economy–usually containing political opponents–will never be in the ascendancy again.  That acceptance, part necessity for some and part ignorance for most, is hard to buck.

It’s tempting to say that, had Romney run a different campaign, he would have gotten a different result.  Political pundits will debate this ad nauseam, but the truth is that both candidates made serious mistakes along the way and both probably ran the best campaign they could–best to get them elected–under the circumstances.  The Republicans’ problem is that the American people are no longer receptive to a message which features self-reliant economics and self-disciplined morality, and pushing either too hard gets a blowback.

And as for Evangelicals…

One thing that American Christians need to adopt in a hurry is a more transnational attitude.  If the Democrats can have a transnational group at its core and still win in this society, why not us?  If our real citizenship is in heaven, why can’t we act like it?  It won’t be easy, but, as the Anglicans have found it, it’s worth it.  In addition to forging needed foreign ties, it would also be a gateway to rectifying one of the more shameful acts of the Republican Party: it’s total failure to come up with a realistic solution for illegal immigrants.  The abandonment by Hispanic Protestants of John McCain was an unnecessary blow to both the unity of the Body of Christ and the expansion of the Republican Party.  At this point the party may be unfixable, but the Body of Christ is another matter altogether.

We obviously haven’t done this; we’re still victims of our own triumphalistic rhetoric and unrealistic expectations.  We’ve taken some blows the last four years, but had Barack Obama taken my “advice” and launched a more administrative “kulturkampf” and not wasted political capital first on healthcare, it would have been worse for everyone and this election would not have been the “horse race” it was.

The best thing that could happen to Evangelicals would be for all of us to wake up later this week speaking a different language and sporting a different skin colour.  That way we could engage in the horse trading for patronage while our “politically incorrect” views on life would go unnoticed.

As far as the idiotic chatter about the Republicans in Congress “working with Obama”, the blunt truth is that Obama doesn’t need the Congress of the United States any more.  He can ride through the next four years on executive fiat and get away with it, irrespective on who controls the institution.  Obama’s biggest problem is that there are too many unexploded grenades out there in the world economy; if one or more of them go off, he may wish that Mitt Romney had beaten him and he was out playing golf.

Then again, that’s where he’ll be anyway…

Do We Really Want to Go the Way of Argentina?

For students of Latin American history, the serious question:

President Obama’s response to the Great Recession and then a pallid recovery has been guided more by “fairness,” a thinly veiled code for redistribution, than by free-market principles. As it stands now, the top 1 percent of Americans generate 16 percent of the nation’s income but pay 40 percent of the income tax. This isn’t enough for Obama: he’s pushing for still-higher taxes on those who create jobs while increasing transfer payments and entitlement spending for everyone else. Recent publication of a 1998 video in which Obama declares, “I actually believe in redistribution,” helps reveal the philosophical underpinnings of his economic agenda.

To see the long-term consequences of these policies, Americans can look to Argentina, a country that was once strikingly similar to the United States. As outposts of the “New World,” both were settled by frontiersmen who tamed a wild landscape, setting the foundation for valuable agricultural and livestock industries. The frontier spirit contributed to strong federalist traditions, which in Argentina’s case drove the outlying regions to take up arms against the dominance of Buenos Aires throughout the nineteenth century. Free trade with Europe powered both nations’ economies, attracting foreign investment and millions of European immigrants between 1880 and 1930. By 1930, Argentina’s GDP and per-capita income rivaled those of Germany, Canada, and Australia. This period was Argentina’s golden age, and the country remained a free-market bastion through the 1940s. Buenos Aires was the “Paris of the South,” with a trove of cultural and architectural treasures that reflected the country’s wealth.

Too many on the right are quick to compare Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler, but the comparison between the two–and the Americans and the Germans for that matter–doesn’t stand up.  A more fruitful comparison is with Juan Peron, and it’s one I’ve made on many occasions over the years.  But alas Americans’ ignorance of Latin American history is even more profound than the ignorance of their own.  And it isn’t just Obama either; it’s the entire Democrat Party approach to life, as I discussed re Hillary Clinton.

And, of course, the result of Peron’s policies are well-known:

Perónism’s effects were soon clear. Between 1945 and 1948, Argentina’s $1.3 billion trade surplus was eviscerated. Argentina borrowed heavily from the United States, forcing the nation’s central bank to print money to service the debt, devaluing the peso by 70 percent between 1948 and 1950. Political leaders made some genuine attempts at reform, but Perón’s overhaul of economic institutions and tradition of central planning proved hard to undo. After decades of high inflation and continued stumbling from one crisis to the next, the country defaulted on its debt in 2001 and had to be bailed out by the IMF and other international lenders.

Argentina’s fall from grace remains unprecedented in modern history. It was driven by the hubris of a government that took its country’s affluence for granted and thought it could manage the economy better than the private sector could. And it shows what America could look like in 30 years. The size of the U.S. government has accelerated measurably under the Bush and Obama administrations. From 1980 to 2000, government spending held steady between 30 percent and 35 percent of GDP, but it jumped to 37 percent after Bush’s second term and is now at 41 percent as Obama’s current term comes to a close. As government grows, so do annual budget deficits, themselves a brash assumption that economic growth will continue indefinitely. Interest rates today are at rock bottom, penalizing those who would save or invest conservatively. The Fed’s current expansionary policies may devalue the dollar by as much as 33 percent over the next 20 years.

It’s not a perfect choice we have.  But ultimately it’s a choice about ourselves and the kind of country we want to be.  And, at least, we have a candidate who knows how to keep track of money.

Harry Reid and Mitt Romney: When the Aspiring Gods Fall Out

When they’re a)Mormon and b)in American politics:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a response to Mitt Romney’s claim that he will “reach across the aisle” to work with Democrats in Congress, if he becomes president: Don’t bet on it.

“Mitt Romney’s fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his ‘severely conservative’ agenda is laughable,” the Nevada Democrat said in a statement Friday morning. He went on to list a series of Republican-backed measures he said Democrats would never support.

Reid even goes on to attack his fellow Latter Day Saint in that role:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pivoted from his baseless charges that Mitt Romney doesn’t pay taxes to a new criticism that Mitt Romney is a bad representative of the Mormon religion.

Reid held a conference call ahead of Romney’s upcoming visit to Utah, where Reid said the Republican will meet voters who “understand that he is not the face of Mormonism,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune’s Thomas Burr.

In my piece Half a Million Roubles. Is it Enough? I noted the following:

This is the promise of Mormonism; to make men gods. Their missionaries use this as an incentive, and portray this as superior to Christians’ promise of eternal life with the one true God. The problem is this: once you’ve made millions of men gods, what does it mean? How significant is that, even if you give them authority to rule, as Mormonism does?

A good illustration of this is the current situation in the United States Senate. Senate Majority Leader and Mormon Harry Reid, resplendent in his Temple underwear, wanted to get his and President Obama’s agenda through the Senate, if for no other reason than to show who’s boss. So why did someone who is waiting for deity have so much difficulty pulling this off? Because there are one hundred senators, and many of them didn’t agree with him! And one of these was none other than Temple Mormon Orrin Hatch! How can someone expect to rule with millions of other gods around when he couldn’t even rule over one hundred senators, and in many cases over all of those in his own party? Or his own religion?

Looks like Reid’s “LDS Poop List” is getting longer.  But, to be fair, I should note that a) Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican, so Harry’s the black sheep of the group and b) Mitt Romney is by far a better example of what the LDS church can produce than Harry Reid will ever be.

North Korea Calls It Quits on Karl and Fred

And Vladimir, too:

Recently journalists from The Guardian newspaper reported an important change during stays in Pyongyang: two large portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin – long a prominent feature of Pyongyang’s central Kim Il-sung square – were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the images have been replaced by a more dominating portrait of Kim Il-sung.

This news was repeated by countless outlets worldwide, but the reports were slightly outdated. In fact, the portraits were removed almost half a year ago, in early April 2012.

In a sense, the disappearance of the portraits is yet another sign of the ongoing ideological transformation in North Korea. Even though it is routinely described as a ‘communist country’ by outsider observers, North Korea has long ceased to label itself as a Marxist-Leninist state.

For someone on whom Marxism has made a significant impact, this is a jolt.

In fact, this has been the pattern of “Marxist-Leninist” states in Asia.  Kim Il-Sung, like Mao Zedong, was a peasant fighting for national independence and self-determination (well, determination by its leader).  Unlike the ideologically obsessed Europeans, for the Chinese and Koreans Marxism was a means to an end.  The Soviets recognised this in the Chinese Communist Party from the start, which is why for so many years Stalin and his minions supported the Kuomintang.  It was only the Kuomintang’s serious flaws and corruption (which lead to its decline) that forced the Soviets to finally back the CCP, a backing that ended in the early 1960’s when Mao excelled the Soviet “experts” from China and Communism became plural in the world.

The difference between China and Vietnam on the one hand and North Korea on the other is that, over time, the Chinese and Vietnamese have used their nonchalant attitude towards ideological purity to incorporate capitalist features in their economies and thus improve the material prosperity of people and country alike, with the North Koreans have gone the other way: tightening the rigidity of their system to make state control of everything and everyone all-pervasive.

One aspect of Marxist-Leninist thought that the North Koreans were glad to dispatch was its denunciation of religion.  The religious nature of North Korea’s regime’s hold on its people (one which also has a parallel in Chinese Communism, especially when Mao was alive) is simply a given; denunciations of religions in Marxist literature only undermine the main program.  That’s a warning to atheists in our own society who are debating “Atheism 2.0”: atheism with religious trappings to milk its benefits while denying its theism.  After years of promising to abolish religion, the reality is that atheists on both sides of the Pacific were only gunning to change it, which in part explains why Asia has been fertile ground for Christianity.  They’re not going to abolish religion, why should we?