Quick Roundup 297

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.

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]
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.

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."

Foundering College

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.

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]
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.

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.

-- CAV


: Corrected typos.


Gideon said...

(C.) Brad(ley) Thompson, not Thomson.

Gus Van Horn said...

Caught it already, but thanks.

Anonymous said...

There are actually three nice articles about Founders College.




Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks, Anon.

The first of those is the one Nick Provenzo discussed. The second is the one Adrian Hester emailed me about and the third, I see, has further developments.

Jim May said...

The interesting thing about McCain is how he is revealing the conservatives for the cradlemates of the Left that they are.

Head over here to see this proven in action. The ones arguing in favor of McCain -- including Bill Whittle, who's a pretty sharp guy, usually -- are making their case by arguing that while McCain is pretty substandard, he's still far better than Obama/Clinton because he's a Republican.

The irony is that in doing so, they undercut and disprove the attempts by the more principled sort who identify themselves as conservative, to claim Enlightenment liberal values such as freedom of speech, as "core" or "fundamental" conservative values. What the pragmatic McCain supporters are doing is acting on the true conservative fundamental, one that they happen to share with the Left: it all comes down to power.

Having "our guy" in the White House is more important than what he may do in it; having control of the executive branch outweighs the potential consequences for America and freedom.

Their counterargument to that would be that the worst Republican would do less damage than either of Obama/Clinton, but that flows from their incorrect assumption that there exist important differences between conservatism and the Left. We are in trouble either way -- the global warming hype and socialized medicine are the likeliest threats -- so we should ensure that it is the Left who can brag about those "achievements".

Thinking longer range, we are likely entering a period of inflation and stagnation similar to the 1970's, thanks to similar causes -- large increases in government spending. That might do for Clinton/Obama what it did for Jimmy Carter ;P

Regarding Obama, here's a question that occurred to me earlier today: what do you suppose is the potential for the race card becoming his Teflon coating once he's in office? Criticize him for the socialist things he does, get tagged as "racist"? That could be incredibly divisive. An argument for Clinton right there, perhaps...

Gus Van Horn said...

Very perceptive comments regarding McCain and his power-hungry Republican supporters -- and I had read and thought of the Rachel Lucas post before finally clicking on your link!

Your comment on Obama underscores what is perhaps the greatest threat from his being in office, although the fact that he is a serious candidate at all might indicate that our political discourse has moved beyond that point. Might.

Jim May said...

I'm hoping that Obama himself doesn't hide behind the race card. So far he doesn't seem to have that in him -- though it sure does seem to be hotly percolating under the Democratic party's lid despite their frantic efforts to keep it down. The debate here in Hollywood pretty much proved to me that Clinton and Obama's support team have resolved to keep a lid on the Leftist form of racism that pervades their ideology.

It won't stop them from letting loose with the "racist" tag *afterwards*, if he beats McCain in the general election. That could do the worst damage to the political climate in this country since Al Gore's sore loser act in 2000 fomented widespread distrust of the election process.

Gus Van Horn said...

That would be especially ironic, given that some have attempted to use it against him -- by saying that he isn't "black enough".

But irony is usually lost on such souls.