Friday, February 01, 2008
McCain and the GOP
E. J. Dionne's most recent column calls the elevation of John McCain to the status of Republican front-runner both a "revolution" and a "divorce". I'm more inclined to agree with the latter of the two descriptions, although I am not completely convinced:
McCain would be the first Republican nominee since Gerald Ford in 1976 to win despite opposition from organized conservatism, and also the first whose base in Republican primaries rested on the party's center and its dwindling left. McCain is winning despite conservatives, not because of them.Regarding McCain's winning despite conservative opposition, I agree with this only on the superficial level of electioneering and vote-casting. On the deeper level of the religious right's steady erosion of the better aspects of the Republican platform (e.g., less government intrusion in the economy) and their constant attempts to bring more religion into politics, McCain is winning because of conservatives. (C. Bradley Thompson outlined this very well some time back in "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism".) The religionists are finally beginning to put off Republican voters who are not so eager to have religion rammed down their throats.
Those who built the American right, from Barry Goldwater in 1964 through the Reagan and Gingrich revolutions, are intensely aware of the dangers a McCain victory portends. Some on the right feel it would be less damaging to their cause to lose the 2008 election with the Republican-conservative alliance intact than to win with John McCain. [bold added, links removed]
But what about Dionne's claim that McCain is evidence of a "revolution"? That's balderdash. Confusion by the mere plurality of the religious right combined with a poverty of ideological alternatives is a power vacuum, not a revolution. McCain is simply what filled that vacuum.
Dionne accidentally and very indirectly points to evidence that contradicts his assertion that a revolution is afoot when he blames Rudy Giuliani's rapid evaporation on his allowing McCain to solidify his position by not running in the earlier primaries.
Although hardly the principled man whose appearance in politics really would signify the advent of a revolution, Giuliani, as a commenter at HBL put it, had positions that combined the best of what both parties have to offer, and was widely seen (correctly or not) as a standard-bearer of the better, secular elements of the conservative movement. Another commenter stated -- and I am inclined to agree -- that Giuliani lost because there is not enough support among Republicans even for someone like him. The fact that he chose to sit out the earlier primaries was, in retrospect, tantamount to admitting as much.
The silver lining is that the ascendancy of John McCain might perhaps remind many who see the Republicans as the best hope for preserving what's left of American freedom that this is simply not the case. One caveat is that those of us who are aware of the fact that Christianity and individual rights are incompatible must point that out whenever possible, even as we have to hope that some conservatives start reprising their pre-1994 roles as opponents of the left.
As a preview of the next four years, consider this video (HT: Dismuke) of conservative harridan Ann Coulter stating that she will campaign for Hillary Clinton if McCain is the Republican nominee! I have noted on many occasions my major differences with Coulter, but aside from spending an inordinate amount of time on (in?) Iraq, she nails McCain to the wall for being to the left of Hillary Clinton in many respects, even bringing up his opposition to torturing war prisoners, which I've discussed before, but had managed to forget about.
Such opposition, which I hope Republicans in Congress would display should the Democrat win the Presidency, can slow down a national lurch to the left, but it will not alone be enough to turn the tide towards greater freedom. Only fundamental cultural change can achieve that, and interjecting rational alternatives to the false left-right alternative whenever possible is part of making that happen.
So, to re-cast an old Russian proverb, "Grab the popcorn, fine; but keep making the case for reason, egoism, and capitalism."
Recently, Nick Provenzo blogged on major difficulties faced by Founders College. Reader Adrian Hester emails me to the effect that these difficulties are mounting:
Founders College has defaulted on a $3 million loan from the former owner of the Berry Hill Estate, a partnership which still goes by the name Berry Hill Hotel Associates. According to papers from Montgomery County, Md., Circuit Court, Founders owes the principal plus $5,000 in legal fees.I have to agree that "speedy failure" might not be such a bad thing here, not that I am particularly happy to see that it might be in the works.
The court filing, from this past October, shows that Tamara Fuller, Founders' chairman and CEO, personally secured the $3 million loan last April to help purchase the property as part of an owner-financing plan from Berry Hill Associates, with Ryan Hill as its managing partner. Fuller pre-paid the six months of interest at a 16 percent rate, but a default interest rate of 24 percent was to have begun accruing Nov. 1. There is no court filing from Founders, and Fuller did not answer an e-mail seeking comment. [bold added]
Ideas and Family Etiquette
Long-time Objectivists, being intellectually independent to begin with and tending to find being the only person in a room to hold or disagree with one opinion or another to be familiar territory, don't find the opinions of others psychologically threatening.
But we often do find ourselves having to navigate sometimes tricky territory when relatives who do have different opinions foist them upon us in such a way that they leave us with no alternative but to say something in disagreement and to do something to indicate that we do not appreciate such behavior.
Monica blogs about such an instance, and reminds me of a similar case of my own. I was recently asked by one relative to offer editorial suggestions for a newsletter by another relative. Aside from having to ask the one relative not to put me on the spot like she did again, I also was put into an awkward position by the second relative, who, in attempting to discuss the issue of selfishness in her letter, had not only gotten the issue almost completely wrong, but was fishing for compliments. She asked me point-blank what I thought of the content. My choices: lie, be rude by ignoring her, or risk offending her -- by giving my honest opinion.
I chose option three, of course, offering as short and tactful a criticism as I could and recommending The Virtue of Selfishness via the web site of The Ayn Rand Lexicon. If she surprises me by being receptive to Ayn Rand, then great. If she realizes she doesn't particularly want to pursue this issue further with me and that I want to be left alone in that case, fine. If she takes offense, I am ready to say, in effect, "If you don't want my opinion, then don't ask me for it."
There is a difference between proselytizing and making your personal boundaries clear. The former is rude (and a waste of time and energy anyway), and the latter is often a last resort for the very patient.
Today: Corrected typos.