Vote for the Crook! (But Which One?)

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Here's a familiar-sounding quote about the Presidential race, which I found en route to other things:

It is the status quo that got the worst beating ... the hopeless, aimless, corrupt, mealy-mouthed and violence-ridden status quo of the consensus-centrist-pragmatist policies. People are sick of lies, evasions, uncertainty, broken promises, switching stands, inexplicable contradictions, chronic emergencies, and the inexorable reality of the fact that, under all the grandiose slogans, things are growing worse and worse. People know that the country cannot go on like this much longer. But since they do not know which direction it ought to take -- since neither the politicians nor the commentators nor the professors nor the intellectual leaders will tell them -- people have reached the only conclusion open to the helplessly frustrated: "Anything is better than this!" They have expressed it by voting almost indiscriminately against the middle -- by voting for two "extremists" who seemed to be the strongest opponents of the status quo...
Regulars here will probably guess that Ayn Rand said this. And they would be correct. In fact, she said this about the 1972 race. (To be precise, she said this in the July 3, 1972 issue of The Ayn Rand Letter.) The "extremists" in that election were Senator George McGovern and Alabama's segregationist Governor, George Wallace, and their general political philosophies and core constituencies correspond to those of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, respectively. The similarities to 1972 continue, with the third top candidate, Hillary Clinton, being this year's unpopular, corrupt counterpart to Richard Nixon. The similarities, although striking, end there, as far as the candidates are concerned. (The general problem -- a stagnant mixed economy and a dissatisfied public who are largely unaware of a viable alternative -- remains the same.)

That election ended with a stark choice, between Nixon, whom Rand stated could not be trusted to improve the situation, and McGovern, whom Rand warned could be trusted to make it worse. The resulting landslide affirmed, to Rand's relief, that the American public were not ready for mass immolation on the altar of the so-called public good: Their individualistic sense of life carried the day. (Her commentary on this election, in "A Preview" and "The American Spirit," in The Ayn Rand Letter, are very interesting reading.)

The primaries are not over, but this year's election seems likely to end up being between Trump and Clinton. Both of these can be trusted to attack individual rights. The American sense of life is not so strong as it was nearly half a century ago, nor would such a choice be as clear-cut in either appearance or outcome: Trump's success and manner very superficially appeal to elements of the American sense of life, but this man is no capitalist (not that Nixon was). And Clinton is ideologically indistinguishable from Sanders, although her knack for alienating ordinary Americans and galvanizing opposition might accidentally save the country from complete disaster.

I am tempted to take a page from Louisiana politics and say, in such an election, "Vote for the Crook: It's Important," but then, I'd have to explain which crook.

-- CAV

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