Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Bright Side

Barack Obama had to lie in order to win the presidency.

Obama had to lie that he would cut taxes. He had to act tough toward our enemies. He had to turn his back on radical anti-Americans he has allied with over the last 20 years.

Despite the urging of the netroots, Democrats still cannot campaign proudly and honestly as who they are. They cannot say, "I am a liberal. I want to expand government control over your lives. I want to raise your taxes and deny you the right to bear arms. And I intend to appease our enemies abroad."

So maybe America has not moved to the left. Maybe Obama won for superficial reasons in a country full of voters who don't give politics much deep thought. Given a choice of statists, they went with the charismatic young one.

The Republicans have a great thing thing going for them for the next two years: the Democrats control the Presidency, Senate and House.

Remember, the Jimmy Carter presidency led to the second best president of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan.


Dismuke said...

Who was the first best president of the 20th century? Cooledge, perhaps? McKinley? Looking back, most were pretty horrible one way or another and some such as FDR and LBJ and both of the Bushes were disasterous.

Myrhaf said...


I just heard on the radio a liberal celebrating Obama's victory. He said, "After having two elections essentially stolen from us, this is the country I want to raise my children in." It is remarkable that the left manages to be less gracious in victory than the right is in defeat.

Bill Brown said...

I would have said Coolidge as well.

I think the left is being gracious. In true liberal fashion, it's all relative. They're being classier than they would have been had they lost.

IchorFigure said...

Like you said, I do not think that America has made a broad and significant move to the left. In my humble opinion it is a rejection of the blithering idiocy of the last 8 years of Bush.

Bush is a smirking twit with a constant expression on his face like he is privy to some grand knowledge that peons in the public just can't grasp.

Obama is, superficially, the antithesis of Bush. He's well spoken, charismatic, and well educated. Nevermind that all his policies and character are garbage, especially seeing as how McCain's policies might as well be a half-assed version of Obamas.

That's really it. Americans want someone who isn't a bigoted idiot that can barely pronounce words longer than four syllables. The rest is default ignorance, or the whole first minority president thing. Ignorance, for example, thinking Democrats would be better during an economic crisis.

Bill Brown said...

Here's more support and perspective.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

"...the Jimmy Carter presidency led to the second best president of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan."

That's exactly what I hope.

But who was better than Reagan?

Maybe we haven't "moved to the left" but I think ordinary Americans are sick of religious hypocrites aka many in the GOP.

Myrhaf said...

I rank Coolidge ahead of Reagan. And yes, many Americans are sick of religious hypocrites, me included.

I also rank Grover Cleveland as the greatest Democrat, unless you count Thomas Jefferson as a Democrat.

madmax said...

"I also rank Grover Cleveland as the greatest Democrat, unless you count Thomas Jefferson as a Democrat."

I just read the Wiki entry on Cleveland and he was impressive. Hell, he might have been the best President after Lincoln in American history. Its inconceivable to imagine that he was a Democrat. He was a true Classical Liberal before the socialists and Marxists usurped that movement. Can you imagine a President being an advocate of a gold standard?

In fact the Republicans of his day were much like they are today: big government interventionists. I think it might be fair to say that the Republicans have stayed consistent but that the Democrats have deteriorated. But I wonder, why were the Democrats more vulnerable to the Marxists than the Republicans? I know that conservatives would say Christianity, but that seems too simplistic.

madmax said...

I should clarify, Cleveland might well be the best American President after the era of Lincoln. America's best Presidents were those of the Founding Generation. Lincoln, though flawed, saved the Union despite what the Neo-Confederate (and pacifist) libertarians say. After that Its tough to think of truly great men who occupied the office. Also, Cleveland was a 19th century guy. The 20th century was a cesspool. Coolidge and Reagan are the only two I can think of who can be thought of as pro-liberty in any sense and both of them were flawed.

Jeff Tyrrill said...

"Remember, the Jimmy Carter presidency led to the second best president of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan."

Was this a causal link? Did Carter's presidency actually lead to Reagan's, or did Reagan win (or become the Republican nominee) based on changes in the culture that were happening anyway?

I don't really know but I would tend to say the latter. If this is true, then the "Democrats control[ling] the Presidency, Senate, and House" is not a "great thing" for them at all.

Bill Brown said...

The Democrats pretty much went whole hog for Marx when the Progressives got hold of them and took over. Grover Cleveland was truly an excellent president and I consider him my favorite of them all—maybe even the best ever.

In assessing the 20th century's presidents, don't give short shrift to Warren Harding. He's consistently derided by historians but he downsized the government after Wilson's dreadful expansion during WWI. He's lambasted for "doing nothing" but his "return to normalcy" is exactly what the country needed at the time. The scandals that beset his administration were not his doing, not his fault, and not to his benefit. He just picked some self-serving people.

He died after two years in office and his vice president, Calvin Coolidge, took over his understated presidential demeanor.

Jay P said...

I think America has moved to the left, though I agree there were other factors in this election.

This change is apparent to me if I look at how electoral politics has progressed over time.

In 1972, America proudly handed McGovern - a terrible leftist who openly advocated wealth redistribution - a crushing defeat. The man couldn't even win his home state.

By contrast, 36 years later, America has just elected the most vile leftist president in our history - and I think Obama is to the left of McGovern. He will do serious damage if he ends up implementing very much of what he says he wants to do.

Going back even further, one can see an even bigger leftward drift. Consider that in 1945, Truman - who was a liberal Democrat of that day - un-appologetically used nuclear weapons to defeat our enemy and save the lives of our servicemen. There was no question back then that fighting a war to complete victory was the right course of action.

There are undoubtedly many voters who voted for Obama because of his race or because they think he's "cool", but a man as far left as he is could never have been elected in the 1970's and before.


Coolidge - yes, I agree - he's the best president of the 20th century!

Grover Cleveland too is one of my favorites. He was a man who understood that government had a very limited role to play, no matter what people's "needs" supposedly were. For his defense of the gold standard alone, he deserves an honored place in history.

madmax said...

"Going back even further, one can see an even bigger leftward drift. Consider that in 1945, Truman - who was a liberal Democrat of that day - un-appologetically used nuclear weapons to defeat our enemy and save the lives of our servicemen. There was no question back then that fighting a war to complete victory was the right course of action."

This is something I have noticed too. Professional atheist and Leftist Richard Dawkins has said that if Donald Rumsfeld were alive in the 40's, he would have been considered a bleeding heart liberal. Dawkins is right but being a leftist he thinks the modern pacifist mindset is a good thing. But his point does illustrate that by today's standards FDR, Truman and essentially every Democrat of the 40s would be considered a warmongering, genocidal extremist. Just read some of FDR's war speeches. If Bush (or Obama) were to give those same speeches today, they would be condemned. Altruism in the form of pacifism has so penetrated our culture that no true self defense is possible. Has a culture ever willing accepted suicide as a moral ideal? I ask because it looks like we have.

Jim May said...

Has a culture ever willing accepted suicide as a moral ideal?

Hard to say, because I would expect that such cultures wouldn't have left much of a footprint.

Kevin said...

I would have to say a big part of an Obama victory is not necessarily America but the Republican party moving to the left.

How do you crush the leftists? Certainly not with a party that championed and instituted a ridiculously huge increase in state power spending and entitlement over the past 8 years.

And certainly not with a campaign by a proven enemy of free speech who signs on the most religious person he can find as VP, promises service, all the same entitlement programs as his opponent, and stamps his candidacy with the fascist slogan "country first."

As far as bright sides, at least now we should be able to argue in principles against the implicitly accepted altruism and statism. And we won't have to fight the "party unity above all" folks arguing that the pragmatic measures of spreading the wealth around by Republicans is not socialism but practical and necessary governance.

Paul Hsieh said...

Some Objectivists (myself included) have a less-positive view of Reagan. It is true that he implemented some mild improvements in American economic freedom.

But he also was instrumental in bringing the Religious Right into the Republican Party, thus setting the stage for its transformation away from the party of Goldwater and into the party of folks like Huckabee.

Plus Reagan based his defense of capitalism on unsustainable grounds such as tradition, and religion.

Dr. Leonard Peikoff's 1986 Ford Hall Forum address was sharply critical of Reagan:

[begin Peikoff quote]

"Religious America is awakening, perhaps just in time for our country's sake," said Mr. Reagan in 1980. "In a struggle against totalitarian tyranny, traditional values based on religious morality are among our greatest strengths."

...Whatever else you say about him, Mr. Reagan has delivered handsomely one of his campaign promises: he has given the adherents of religion a prominence in setting the national agenda that they have not had in this country for generations.

...Are Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, as their admirers declare, leading us to a new era of freedom and capitalism--or to something else?

[end Peikoff quote]

And Ayn Rand was also very sharply critical of Reagan, as her remarks in the "Ayn Rand Answers" book documents.

We now see in 2008 what effect Reagan has had on the Republican Party -- the effect that Dr. Peikoff predicted.

The leading 2008 contenders (Huckabee, Romney, and eventual nominee McCain) would hardly be recognizable as free market advocates to the better Republicans of the Goldwater era.

As Yaron Brook noted in his OCON 2008 lectures on cultural change, leaders like Reagan and Thatcher did buy us a little time through their philosophically flawed advocacy of capitalism. But since they failed to base it on proper philosophic grounds (egoism/reason/rights), their influence was doomed to fade.

And now even the "party of Reagan" advocates the "resugence of big government" that Yaron Brook writes about in his most recent Objective Standard article:

I regard Reagan's legacy is quite mixed, therefore. It may be the case that he was better than most of the other 20th century presidents. But if that's the case, it simply shows how bad all those other Presidents have been...

Myrhaf said...

I've criticized Reagan greatly on this blog. He was a pragmatist and he made the religious right a force in the Republican Party. For all of that, he was still the second best president of the 20th century. His supply side economics began a quarter century of prosperity.

I read somewhere recently that the Russians followed the air traffic controllers crisis closely to see what stuff Reagan was made of. When he fired the controllers, they knew they were up against a tougher president than they had previously seen.

Paul Hsieh said...

Myrhaf: Thanks for clarifying your thoughts on Reagan.

I do agree with your primary point that a failed Obama presidency could lead the American people to search for a viable alternative.

The million dollar question will be whether American will believe that the only alternative to Obama-style leftism is statist conservatism, or whether they'll recognize that there is another choice -- namely a political philosophy based on individual rights.

Our job during the next four years will be to help America realize that this option exists, and that they aren't stuck with the current false dichotomy.

I hope we're up for the task!...

Andrew said...

Lincoln did save the union. But he changed its philosophical roots. You might say that the Gettysburg address was the founding document of the American Counter Revolution. Lincoln opens with an abbreviated description of the founding principles of America.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

He then generalizes the crisis facing the nation at that point.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

Fair enough. The contradictions in the Constitution had brought the nation to this pass. And there was some question as to whether the nation would survive the war or that the constitution would survive the Lincoln presidency.

And then Lincoln answers this question in the negative.

"—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It's beautiful rhetoric. Very stirring. But new birth indicates a change from the old. And this new birth was a sea-change in the American system. No longer was majority rule a tool used in conjunction with other government limitations such as separation of powers and federalism as the means to protect individual rights. The poetic equivocation "conceived in Liberty,"(the original birth) which any student of the founding would understand to mean "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," allows a new context. A new context where "all men are created equal" leads to Liberty as Democracy rather than Liberty as Individual Rights.

Thus, majority rule supplants individual rights as the raison d'etre of government.

The progressives made good use of this terminological change. And where the term "government of the people..." is invoked, you will rarely find that a defense of individual rights will follow. (No, really. Go to wikipedia, type in the words and evaluate the original documents that show up. William Jennings Bryan's 1894 Memorial Day speech is a real gem.)

But I agree with you about Grover Cleveland. The last Great Democrat.

Jim May said...

Andrew: I don't see how Lincoln substituted majority rule for individual rights. In the context of the times, the "rebirth" sounds more like a reference to the inclusion of blacks in freedom.

The substitution of democracy for freedom happened with the Progressives two decades later.

Rather, what Lincoln did was move America towards the view of itself as a single nation with certain subdivisions called "states" (more like the Canadian model), rather than as a federation of sovereign states, as originally conceived.

Such a development makes sense to me as a reaction against the earlier view, which served to preserve slavery well past it's expiry date (07/04/1776).

As individual rights is my touchstone, I have no opinion on whether a centralized government constrained thereby is better or worse than a federation of sovereign states constrained thereby. So long as that constraint is active, I don't really care about federalism vs. centralized government; states' rights is a non-issue.

RyanTheEgoist said...

Just a question Myrhaf: Who is better than Reagan in the 20th century?

Myrhaf said...

Ryan, the answer is Coolidge.

I should have put the answer in the post instead of in the comments, as I have answered the question three times now. Apparently, people don't read the comments. But that's okay, I'm not blaming anyone -- just making a note to myself for the future.