Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What to do in the US?

My previous post was a teaser, but I have thought - more than I should - about the US mid term election, mainly because sadly I am an election junkie.
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Objectivists have been debating this extensively, and PC has summarised the two main views .
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Having bemoaned recently about how the Conservative Party in the UK now looks increasingly like it is closer to Tony Blair’s view than half of the Labour Party, it is nothing like the ideological battle lines of the USA. There is not a great deal to celebrate there. I have long tended to support the Republicans on a two-party basis, while tending to support the Libertarian Party in terms of influence on issues (although it is beset with many of its own problems which I wont go into here). The Republicans were, during the Reagan administration, the party of lower taxes, the party that most clearly took on the might of the morally and economically bankrupt USSR and the party that started to roll back the ever creeping New Deal socialism that had increasingly stifled the USA over the decades. The downside was that it also carried with it a branch of fundamentalist religious evil that I always thought was at best containable, at worst a cancerous influence on US politics. The flipside was that the Democrats were and are everything else that is wrong about US politics – they are more thoroughly the party of pork (but not by much), the party of big government solutions, of political correctness and subjectivist moral relativism. The Democrats are the party of anti-capitalists – endlessly meddling. The Republicans were the only ones willing to back off, on balance – and a slender balance it was.
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After Reagan, the 1994 Contract with America was an attempt to make a difference with a mix of governmental transparency, fiscal responsibility and social conservatism. It was, in many ways, a step forward but became unstuck as the smell of pork became too appealing for too many Republicans, and a Democratic President also got in the way.
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I celebrated Bush’s election in 2000 and re-election in 2004 partly because I was pleased to avoid the socialist minded, subjectivist (and mind numbingly boring) Al Gore, and the contemptuously lying John Kerry. Bush jr. might be a bumbler, and thanks to an almost entirely hostile media, is seen as non-intellectual, but he did understand two points. The first being that government wasn’t always the answer and secondly that terrorism, and Islamofascism in particular, are a threat to western civilisation.
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The Bush administration has been a disappointment in domestic and foreign policy. On domestic policy it pushes a conservative religious agenda, although not one that fundamentally challenges the constitutional separation of church and state. Some in the Republicans would like to, but it simply wont happen. For example, Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage has failed – but he does not oppose allowing gay civil unions – hardly the policy of a Pat Robertson type political evangelist. Bush rallied the Christian conservative masses to vote for him in 2004, but has hardly delivered for them at all. The real domestic policy disaster has been the inability to contain spending and pork. There have been some signs in the area I am familiar in (transport) that the Bush administration is more innovative than past administrations (in transport it has actively supported private investment in highways, opposed raising taxes on vehicles and fuel in favour of tolls on new highways and new lanes), but otherwise there is little to cheer about besides tax cuts. However, this was the administration that on the one hand instituted a tariff on steel imports (since removed), but also promised major cuts in agricultural subsidies if the EU agreed the same to progress a WTO trade agreement. Having said that, there is not the slightest evidence that the Democrats would do any better.
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On foreign policy the Bush administration has put US national security first, followed by a rigorous pursuit of “democracy spreading”. This is on the basis that democracies are less likely to wage war than dictatorships. The key planks of this approach have been to overthrow the Taliban, a wholly justifiable act without doubt, although executed poorly – as Afghanistan now simply has a more moderate Islamist government. It is akin to replacing a North Korean communist regime with a Vietnamese one – far less oppressive, but hardly freedom. Bush’s unwillingness to support separation of religion and state in Afghanistan and Iraq has been a major blunder – and one he could hardly support, as he himself promotes a quasi-religious agenda in the US. Nevertheless, the action in Afghanistan is wholly justifiable in itself.
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The war in Iraq is more controversial. The US was fully justified in attacking Iraq and overthrowing the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein given that regime’s past actions. A positive spinoff of that has been Libya’s surrender of its WMD programme, but the execution of Iraq has been a disaster. As with Afghanistan, the US wanted to transplant democracy – not liberal democracy that would protect the rights of Iraqi citizens. Given that Iraq under Saddam was a secular not an Islamist state, there was a chance to do this – but again, the Bush administration was not up to it. Iraq is now doomed to continue under civil war as Islamists attempt to kill off a secular Iraqi government, literally. There is little doubt that Iraqis do not fear safer today than they did under Saddam.
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The promotion of democracy has also seen the Palestinian Authority become led by Hamas, although the Bush Administration has fortunately refused to support this until Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist. Beyond this, the correct declaration of Iran and North Korea as being part of an “axis of evil” has incentivised both to accelerate their nuclear weapons’ programmes. Programmes that were well under development before Bush.
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The dark side of the war on terror has been the willingness of the Bush administration to use torture, to detain without charge, to intercept public communications without warrant and to take a less than sympathetic view of the personal freedom it is meant to be defending.
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So my strategy is as follows:
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1. Assess the Democrat and Republican candidates for the ward/state you are in and choose positively the one (if any) that supports less government. You might find one that does not believe in theocracy and does believe in less government, good luck.
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2. If neither are good, then ask if either are particularly evil. Is one an ardent advocate of theocracy, is another an opponent of the WTO, worshipper of environmentalism, appeaser of Islamists, proponent of higher taxes, proponent of censorship? If one stands out on any of these fronts, then vote for the other. Yes, I know, they both are aren’t they?
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3. So now it is hard. What are the odds of the incumbent being rolled? Is there a huge majority or is it paper thin? If it is a huge majority for EITHER side, then vote Libertarian Party, if the candidate isn't a lunatic isolationist or moral relativisit. Why? It is not because it will do anything for the LP in particular, but it will not further endorse the two status quo parties. If the LP comes a respectable 3rd in a Democrat seat, then the Republicans there may think twice about theocratic policies. If it comes a good 3rd in a Republican seat, then the Democrats may think twice about socialist policies. Yes I know this is all highly unlikely.
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4. If it is a paper thin majority, between two reasonably equally evil or reasonably equally bland candidates then choose the Republican. Why?
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There is no short to medium term threat of a US theocracy. There would be civil war before this happened. It would animate far more Americans than currently are animated in the political scene. A strongly religious Republican campaign would lose an election, and they know it.
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The war on terror is important and most important is a philosophical understanding of what that war means. The Democrats don’t have it, the Republicans have some of it. The supporters of the Democrats think the answer is to understand Islamists and to withdraw from the world and accept what is “wrong with capitalism”. No succour should be given to them for this.
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The Democrats are absolutely irredeemable. The Democrats are, more now than at any time in recent history, a left wing party. The Democratic Party has swung that way in response to Bush and it is now a coalition of left wing, anti-globalisation, environmentalist, moral relativists who promote big government solutions. There is no future whatsoever in saving the USA through the Democratic Party, and at this time, while it is at its most leftwing the only candidates that deserve endorsement are those who are on the laissez-faire liberal side of the party (go find them please!).
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So there you have it – it isn’t a ringing endorsement, but it is a grudging endorsement. The USA is not becoming a theocracy, as immoral and wrong as the Bush administration is for leaning down that path. The Democrats need to be demoralised to get out of their radical leftwing period and be brought closer to the centre, and then - and only then, can the Republicans be punished - when it is clear the Democrats can CONTINUE the war on terror on more secular centrist grounds. The time to divide and defeat the Republicans will come, when the Democrats are competent enough to not risk US national security, and not risk some loony leftwing experiment. Nevertheless, I wont be celebrating either way - both parties are, by and large morally and philosophically bankrupt.

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