I try not to pay attention to them, but I haven’t been able to completely avoid hearing about the aspiring Republican candidates. Except for Gingrich, they’re not a bad lot personally, but all these primaries mean that we’re forced to look at the ugly reality that is “Republican ideas“. I’m afraid I don’t think that anybody who is sympathetic to the idea of imposing a flat tax or of bombing Iran has any business being anywhere near political power–the first because I can’t imagine why a massive transfer of tax burden from the rich to the middle class, and a corresponding transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich, would be a desirable thing, the second because I generally think wars are things to be avoided, at least when there is absolutely no reason for provoking one. Then there’s the whole “The national debt is out of control! We have to cut taxes!” think that just makes it hard to take them seriously. Yes, among the Republican establishment, we social conservatives are morons for supporting normative gender roles, but holding as dogma that the U.S. economy is always on the right side of the Laffer curve–that’s the heart of conservatism, right? It pains me to say it, but it is now the Republicans who are the class warfare party. Revenue neutral tax change by definition means a burden is being taken off one group and put onto another. Hence, neoconservative publications–even First Things, as I’ve noted before–have started making noises about how the bottom half aren’t pulling their tax weight, and republican virtue demands that those slackers pony up. On the other hand, corporate income taxes and capital gains taxes must be reduced. It was hard work, but the Republicans have succeeded in living down to image of them painted by their enemies. They do make the Democrats’ accusation of being the rich man’s party hard to dismiss.
Sometimes they try to prove that they’re the “conservative” party, but this doesn’t impress me, since the Republicans don’t know what conservatism means. I’m more reactionary than anyone registered with that party, and I see no reason why people shouldn’t be forced to buy health insurance–put an end to those free riders, I say! I also don’t understand this stubborn refusal to consider the possibility that global warming is real and man-made. What does any of this have to do with defending Christendom and the patriarchal family?
The Republicans simply can’t be trusted with power. They would do no good on the issues we care about, but because we are unfairly associated with them in the public mind, their incompetence would tarnish us. I can’t work up any desire to see them defeat even our unambiguous enemies–the baby-killing, sodomy-promoting anti-clerical Democrats.
Why, though? Why can’t a national party even appear to be worthy of public trust? The end of the Cold War has been very bad for the Republicans. Back when communism ravaged half the world and promised to bring its hellish rule to the other half, the Republican positions kind of made sense. It was good and necessary that the one nation capable of resisting the Reds should do so, making its own the interests of all mankind. Today, the Red menace is gone, and American hegemony has become a fact in search of a purpose. In the face of communist agitation, condemnations of “socialism” and defenses of the free market as by far the lesser evil were also good and necessary. Today, nobody’s talking about nationalizing industries, and all this talk about “socialism” is meaningless. The Cold War gave the Republicans a sensible stand on foreign policy and economics–the two areas in which they got a reputation for being “strong”. The lack of a communist threat rendered all of that irrelevant.
Still, one would think that the collapse and discrediting of socialism would have been more disorienting for the parties of the Left. Yet they got through it without a hitch, arguably stronger than before, now that they were no longer associated (fairly or not) with a brutal tyranny. And the center-right parties went into ideological drift, no longer sure what their purpose was to be, and easy prey to every charismatic charlatan looking for followers.
I think the ultimate reason is the rout of conservatives from academia. People on this blog–including, sometimes, me–attack the pretensions of experts, but one really can’t run a modern nation-state without them. The Republicans have no experts that they can trust, so they’re running blind. The physicists tell them that their missile defense plan will never work. That’s something we should be able to speak on. However, the Republicans knew that most physicists are commies and would rather America not be able to defend herself from Soviet or Chinese missile attack; therefore, the experts can’t be trusted. So the Republicans insisted on throwing more and more money at this boondoggle. The Republicans decide that we should put a manned base on the moon, and then put men on Mars. Where did they get this hare-brained idea? Certainly not from the astronomers; we would have told them what a waste of money this is and how it will cripple the valuable space exploration and science work that NASA has been and is doing. But most of us are commies, so another boondoggle had to be carried along until a Democratic president thankfully killed it. And those are just the two biggest partisan issues in my personal field.
The Republicans thought they could do without the universities, because they would have think tanks instead. This has obviously not worked out. Academia’s peer review process is certainly imperfect, but the think tank system seems to be totally without merit. Throw enough money at unaffiliated intellectuals, and you’ll find people to tell you want you want to hear.
I of course have a prejudice, given where I work, that universities are the center of the world. There is some truth to it though. I would rather that my beliefs were respectable among the intellectual elite than that they could win votes among the masses. The masses have inertia but no initiative. What the elite want them to believe, they will believe; it just takes a generation to make the shift.