When the Russians invaded Georgia in August, Republicans must have smugly thought, "Good. When issues of national security dominate people's concerns, they vote Republican!" History had returned, the glib saying went, and that was good for McCain.
In this bizarre election year they should have known history had some more to say. What do we get in September? The greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. For whatever reason, this seems to be helping the Democrat.
The graph in this post by Jay Cost shows McCain's poll numbers falling with each bit of financial news.
This election is beginning to look like an absurdist comedy to me, especially if Obama goes on to win. Obama is a comic character. What has he done in life but run for office? He voted present over 120 times as a State Senator. He's a guy who stays quiet and goes along with the machine.
During the negotiations for the bailout bill -- despite what you think of the bill, and I do not support it -- McCain went to Washington and was in the trenches doing whatever Senators do. Obama did nothing. The bill collapses and Obama's lead over McCain grows.
Jim Simpson thinks something more sinister is going on, something called the Cloward-Piven Strategy.
In an earlier post, I noted the liberal record of unmitigated legislative disasters, the latest of which is now being played out in the financial markets before our eyes. Before the 1994 Republican takeover, Democrats had sixty years of virtually unbroken power in Congress - with substantial majorities most of the time. Can a group of smart people, studying issue after issue for years on end, with virtually unlimited resources at their command, not come up with a single policy that works? Why are they chronically incapable?
One of two things must be true. Either the Democrats are unfathomable idiots, who ignorantly pursue ever more destructive policies despite decades of contrary evidence, or they understand the consequences of their actions and relentlessly carry on anyway because they somehow benefit.
I submit to you they understand the consequences. For many it is simply a practical matter of eliciting votes from a targeted constituency at taxpayer expense; we lose a little, they gain a lot, and the politician keeps his job. But for others, the goal is more malevolent - the failure is deliberate. Don't laugh. This method not only has its proponents, it has a name: the Cloward-Piven Strategy. It describes their agenda, tactics, and long-term strategy.
The Strategy was first elucidated in the May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation magazine by a pair of radical socialist Columbia University professors, Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. David Horowitz summarizes it as:
"The strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis. The "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse."
In other words, Democrats don't care if their policies destroy the economy because that serves their ultimate end of socialism. Crises are good for the left. They blame capitalism and then move us closer to socialism. You'll note that the standard line on the left is that deregulation caused the current crisis and solution is more regulation. The cause of our problems is never government and the solution is never freedom.
Is Obama in on this nefarious goal of advancing socialism through crisis? Simpson thinks so:
I ask you, is it possible ACORN would train Obama to take leadership positions within ACORN without telling him what he was training for? Is it possible ACORN would put Obama in leadership positions without clueing him into what his purpose was?? Is it possible that this most radical of organizations would put someone in charge of training its trainers, without him knowing what it was he was training them for?
As a community activist for ACORN; as a leadership trainer for ACORN; as a lead organizer for ACORN's Project Vote; as an attorney representing ACORN's successful efforts to impose Motor Voter regulations in Illinois; as ACORN's representative in lobbying for the expansion of high risk housing loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led to the current crisis; as a recipient of their assistance in his political campaigns -- both with money and campaign workers; it is doubtful that he was unaware of ACORN's true goals. It is doubtful he was unaware of the Cloward-Piven Strategy.
I'm suspicious of Simpson's explanation. If Obama believes in and fights for Cloward-Piven, then he will have a contradiction at the heart of his presidency, for presidents are admired for their accomplishments, not the crises they create by screwing up. Or does Obama plan to go past the crisis phase to the institution of socialism?
Another thing that makes me suspicious of Cloward-Piven is that, as Mises and the Austrian economists have demonstrated, government intervention creates crises regardless of the motivation of interventionists. Many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, earnestly think they are making things better when they pass laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley or the Community Reinvestment Act. (Are the well meaning ones mere useful idiots of the radicals?)
Finally, Simpson's theory reminds me of the John Birch Society's old ways of finding a communist conspiracy behind, well, everything. As Ayn Rand wrote, the Birchers don't understand the role of philosophy. Those who hold the same philosophic premises will tend to want the same political policies. Those who do not understand the role of philosophy in man's life think conspiracy theories are at work.
None of my reservations refute the idea that there are radical groups out there that want to replace capitalism with socialism. No question, these leftist radicals exist, they have infiltrated to the heart of the Democrat Party, and Obama has had connections with these groups all his life, starting with his hard-line communist father. But the goals and machinations of the radical left are not the fundamental explanation of America's stumbling from crisis to crisis toward socialism. No, at the root of the problem is the philosophy of altruism, which leads to government intervention in the economy to help the "little guy," and which -- rather conveniently for the acolytes of Cloward-Piven -- does not care if its programs make the world actually better. With altruism, intentions are always more important than results. In the end, altruists are more interested in putting chains on the rich rather than raising the standard of living of the poor. As Ayn Rand showed, their goal is to attack the good for being the good. This destructive, nihilist philosophy led to Cloward-Piven, not the other way around.