Congratulations, America! It is accomplished. The One is appointed. Or anointed. Or whatever.
Basically, dear Americans, this disqualifies you from voting ever again. You’ve been pwned. You’re out. As I told the IvyGate blog:
There are – or at least, were – lots of plausible candidates for chief executive who don’t have any kind of murky ties to murderous political fanatics. I mean, duh, you know, if history teaches us any lessons, I think one of them is: “don’t elect leaders with murky ties to murderous political fanatics.”
While no one’s life is at present in danger – unless one lives in South Africa, in which case please do pack for Perth – 20th-century Western social democracy cannot be considered “safe” in any sense of the word. I mean, it wasn’t anyway, but now the evidence is quite a bit more striking. And it is the task of all men and women of brains, wisdom and good will to try and figure out what the hell to do about it.
(For the paranoid, I want to reiterate that: there is absolutely no short-term danger from an Obama administration. We are not looking at President Camacho, or even President Zuma. In keeping with the general feeling of inverted reality abroad in the world today, the one thing we won’t see is “change.” Washington will spend the next four years doing almost exactly what it did for the last four. But this does not mitigate your pwnage, Americans: you did indeed vote for “change.” You won’t get it, but you probably deserve to.)
Most educated people today think of democracy as a sort of impeccable ointment against political evil. We are aware – nay continuously instructed, these days, from crib to coffin – that bad government was the leading cause of death, destruction and general misery around the globe in the last century. But now we have a new century to play with, and we have this bezoar, this philosopher’s stone, democracy.
So we don’t need to give a shit about murderers with the fist of the State behind them. With the ointment, nothing of the sort could possibly happen ever again. Rather, we can fret ourselves silly about minute changes in global temperature. Ah, democracy.
Note that (a) you have probably never seriously considered the possibility that you’re wrong, and the bezoar is actually a quack medicine; (b) you have certainly never seriously considered the possibility that the ointment is indeed the cause of the rash. Unless, of course, you read UR. We’re always here to help the literate sleep a little less well at night.
So here was my favorite Internet moment of the great election: this post by Brad DeLong. When it became generally noticed, a few days before the event, that Senator Obama has at least three very non-flimsy personal connections to pure, 200-proof, full-on Holocaust-grade political evil, Professor DeLong, former DAS at Treasury and a plausible candidate for senior office in the Obama administration – enlightened us with the following message:
Run like the wind, Mr. Skittles!
Many UR readers have had the priceless educational privilege of growing up behind the Iron Curtain. These readers will identify Professor DeLong’s tone at once: it is the tone of the Soviet humor magazine Krokodil. I will take the liberty of Anglicizing, and call it “crocodile humor.” Extremely educated readers may also be familiar with the Nazi variant, as found in Der Stürmer and the like. The material is different, of course, but the tone is unmistakable. We’ll hear a good deal more of it in the next four years.
Crocodile humor is the laughter of the powerful at the powerless. It is not intended to be funny. It is intended to intimidate. Those who laugh, as many do, are those who love to submerge themselves in a mob, feel its strength as theirs, chant and shake their spears as one. Professor DeLong and his tribe have certainly backed the strong horse in our little moment of hipparchy, and even those of us who mock the rite must respect its anointed, in the ancient way, as conquerors. A reactionary always respects strength. But the powerless, too, can laugh.
But wait – exactly how is President-elect Obama connected to evil?
Well, first, um, he’s, um, how can I put this – a communist. With a small ‘c,’ as his friend Billy Ayers so nicely puts it.
I’m not even going to start to belabor this point. Arguing that Barack Obama is not a communist is like arguing that Mitt Romney is not a Mormon. Barack Obama is a communist by birth, breeding, education, and profession. His grandparents were communists, his parents were communists, his teachers were communists, his friends are communists, his colleagues are communists, he’s a communist. Duh.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the current euphemism for “communist” is “progressive.” This is not even a new usage. My father’s parents always called themselves “progressives,” for instance. In fact they were CPUSA members. (Before Grandma fell down the stairs at Juilliard and smashed her frontal lobe, one of the last messages she imparted to me was that Frank Rich writes a really great column.) “Progressive” is also all over the place in my ’80s Soviet Life magazines. And La Wik helpfully informs us that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is (a) the largest voting bloc of Democrats in the House, and (b) the affiliation of the Speaker. And now, of course, the President. Summary: the Cold War is over. Communism won.
The small ‘c’ is well-taken, of course. Obama’s faction is the disorganized, SDS, “Maoist,” or “New Left” wing of American communism. Ie, not the organized, CPUSA, “Stalinist” or “Old Left” wing – which both my grandparents and Obama’s first mentor Frank Marshall Davis were in, whose decline I think was as much cause as effect of the Soviet collapse, and whose remnants were really more for Hillary. And certainly not the defunct Trotskyite wing, whose carcass so weirdly morphed into “neoconservatism.”
The New Left once had a catchy name. It called itself the Movement. (Not to be confused with the clique of poets that gave us Philip Larkin and Thom Gunn.) The label is out of style, but perhaps it should be revived. The election of President Obama is the ceremonial culmination of the Movement’s march to power, and it’s only slightly less surprising than the sunrise. The likes of Billy Ayers were always the elite of their generation. Even as kids, they hardly lost a battle. Now they’re in their gray-headed patriarchal prime. Why shouldn’t they run the world?
Yes, folks, it’s true: we’re all communists now. Lawd a mercy. Did I mention that in the lives of those now living, communists murdered something like 100 million people? Now why did I have to mention that? Why is it that Schindler’s List got 37 Oscars, but Katyn can’t find a distributor?
But put it aside for a minute. Maybe you get a pass on this one, dear American electorate. If everyone’s a communist, you can’t really be blamed for electing a communist, now, can you? We could argue that you shouldn’t have voted, but that’s getting really technical.
And communism has a dirty little secret, which not even the most diehard red-baiting Bircher knows: it’s as American as apple pie. Communism is not an Old World virus that spread to the New. It’s a New World virus that spread to the Old. Europe, Asia and Africa got the worst of it, but that’s how it always goes with exotic pests: no immunity, no natural enemies.
Since the 19th century if not the 18th, the Anglo-American world has been the intellectual center of the left. Marx didn’t write in the British Library for nothing. While communism is not the only American tradition (Sarah Palin counts, too), as the sole scion of the Puritan intellectual heritage, we would certainly expect it to be socially, economically, and politically dominant. Indeed it has been, since at least 1933. At least.
It’s no coincidence, for example, that the ultra-rich were overwhelmingly for Obama. As CPUSA members, my grandparents had a ticket to a social circle at least three rings higher than you’d expect for Yiddish tailors from Brooklyn. Their Party friends (all their friends, as far as I can tell, were Party friends) were film distributors, investment bankers, doctors and lawyers, etc. If you find this surprising, you have a lot to learn about communism. (But I tire of the C-word – let’s go back to calling them “progressives.”)
So let’s get slightly more specific, and look at President Obama’s personal associations. (I love this argument that the candidate’s past and present colleagues, mentors and employers are a deeply private matter, like whether the One wipes his ass with his left hand or his right, which must not contaminate our consideration of the soaring rhetorical exhalations his producers write for him.)
Thus our second connection: this little matter of Satan, so amusing to Professor DeLong. Barack Obama is an intellectual disciple of Saul Alinsky. Saul Alinsky dedicated his most famous book, Rules for Radicals, the bible for Obama’s profession of “community organizer,” to Lucifer. Lucifer and Satan are the same person. Satan is evil. At most this is four degrees of separation between Obama and evil, and I feel we could argue it down to two.
And all the connections are pretty strong – because Alinsky’s dedication is not the slightest bit whimsical. I wonder if Professor DeLong has read Rules for Radicals? I have. (I suspect that, in an imaginary America in which democracy worked, a candidate running against an Alinskyist would hand out quite a few copies of Rules.)
Rules surely belongs on any list of history’s top ten most evil books. I will spare you quotes. The basic message is: as a radical, your enemies rule the world and are completely evil. So if you want to overthrow them, you have to be prepared to be as evil as possible. Lie, cheat and steal, so long as you don’t get caught. Alinsky is a particular fan of hypocrisy and dissimulation, which he recommends as all-purpose perfumes for the aspiring “activist.”
Less than a mile from my home, in one of the most fashionable – if somewhat dilapidated – shopping districts in the world, sits an “anarchist bookstore,” Bound Together Books. Its “activism” is of precisely the same sort as Alinsky’s, and of course (the young) Obama’s. Note also that there is no racist bookstore, fascist bookstore, or even Christian bookstore across the street from it. The enemy, as befits all dark forces, is invisible.
On Bound Together’s side wall is this wonderful revolutionary mural – I apologize for the bad photo, which is theirs not mine:
History remembers 2 kinds of people: those who murder and those who fight back.
Anarchism strives toward a social organization which will establish well-being for all.
History remembers a number of things. One of them is that, over the last four centuries at least, the left tends to win and the right tends to lose. If you’re a young, ambitious man or woman, power is what you crave, and scruples are not your thing, history tells you: go as left as possible. Join the SDS, not the JBS. March with Martin Luther King, not Louise Day Hicks. Be a Patriot, not a Loyalist. And so on. Exceptions exist – but they are exceptions.
The essential illusion of the progressive is that he is a rebel. He is “fighting back,” at great odds against overwhelming forces which are almost certain to prevail. The revolution is always the underdog. What a surprise, then, to read a little bit of history and find that the revolution tends to win. This, indeed, is “progress” – which is, as we know, inevitable. How curious!
Because if “those who murder and those who fight back” is indeed the creed of the overdog, it conveys a message ever congenial to the ambitious and the powerful: be evil. The corporate Christian racist fascists murder. So you can murder, too, and indeed you must. Otherwise, the Enemy will rule for ever. Germany is once again forced to defend itself from Polish aggression.
And as for the “social organization which strives for the well-being of all,” it is recognizable at once as our old friend – Washington. As often as I can stand it, I steel my stomach and do a little browsing at Bound Together. The general gist is either (a) kill the pigs, or (b) something should be done. Anyone may kill, but no points for guessing whom the doer tends to be.
Here at UR we know the Bound Together shopper as a “pro-government activist.” A fine foreign analogy is Nashi. (Although, being fascist rather than progressive, Nashi is coordinated rather than spontaneous). And what more perfect name than “anarchism” for pro-government activism? Orwell is alive and well and living on Haight Street.
In the crudest, most Machiavellian terms, “grassroots activism” is easy to explain. When examined, the grass always turns out to be Astroturf. The alliance of underprivileged and ultraprivileged is always initiated by the latter. The organizer brings youth, privilege, often a trust fund, talent, energy and ambition. The organized bring mass, muscle, power. Julius Caesar would recognize the arrangement at once. No points for guessing who tends to profit most from the alliance. And indeed David Axelrod, Obama’s producer, is in his spare time a master of Astroturf. Ah, democracy. Ah, “public opinion.”
If there’s one thing to remember about Alinskyism, or indeed progressivism as a whole, it’s that it is the perfect mental framework by which the lordly can do evil, while convincing themselves and/or others that they are small voices sticking up for good. Is it possible for activists to actually do good? It is certainly possible. There is nothing wrong with removing asbestos from public housing. But the temptations by which evil becomes an end in itself are ever-present, and the unscrupulous will always outcompete the pure at heart. And we certainly know a little bit about Barack Obama’s scruples.
It is possible for a mound of garbage to be free from rats. Theoretically, one can even contemplate a sterile mound of garbage. But in practice, if you don’t want rats, bugs and bacteria in your kitchen, don’t leave a mound of garbage in the middle of the floor. Likewise, if you don’t want your government to be evil, don’t elect anarchists to run it. Again, this just shouldn’t be that hard.
While we’re on the subject of Satan, I feel a little Carlyle coming on. Is there a more apropos moment in history, dear readers, for us to sample Shooting Niagara? I warn you, friends – the Niagara is dark. Very dark. Don’t click that link unless you’re spiritually prepared. But perhaps, since it’s out of copyright, we can paste an excerpt:
In our own country, too, Swarmery has played a great part for many years past; and especially is now playing, in these very days and months. Our accepted axioms about “Liberty,” Constitutional Government,” “Reform,” and the like objects, are of truly wonderful texture: venerable by antiquity, many of them, and written in all manner of Canonical Books; or else, the newer part of them, celestially clear as perfect unanimity of all tongues, and Vox populi vox Dei, can make them: axioms confessed, or even inspirations and gospel verities, to the general mind of man. To the mind of here and there a man, it begins to be suspected that perhaps they are only conditionally true; that taken unconditionally, or under changed conditions, they are not true, but false and even disastrously and fatally so. Ask yourself about “Liberty,” for example; what you do really mean by it, what in any just and rational soul is that Divine quality of liberty? That a good man be “free,” as we call it, be permitted to unfold himself in works of goodness and nobleness, is surely a blessing to him, immense and indispensable; — to him and to those about him. But that a bad man be “free,” — permitted to unfold himself in his particular way, is contrariwise, the fatallest curse you could inflict on him; curse and nothing else, to him and all his neighbours. Him the very Heavens call upon you to persuade, to urge, induce, compel, into something of well-doing; if you absolutely cannot, if he will continue in ill-doing, — then for him (I can assure you, though you will be shocked to hear it), the one “blessing” left is the speediest gallows you can lead him to. Speediest, that at least his ill-doing may cease quàm primùm. Oh, my friends, whither are you buzzing and swarming, in this extremely absurd manner? Expecting a Millennium from “extension of the suffrage,” laterally, vertically, or in whatever way?
All the Millenniums I ever heard of heretofore were to be preceded by a “chaining of the Devil for a thousand years,” — laying him up, tied neck and heels, and put beyond stirring, as the preliminary. You too have been taking preliminary steps, with more and more ardour, for a thirty years back; but they seem to be all in the opposite direction: a cutting asunder of straps and ties, wherever you might find them; pretty indiscriminate of choice in the matter: a general repeal of old regulations, fetters, and restrictions (restrictions on the Devil originally, I believe, for most part, but now fallen slack and ineffectual), which had become unpleasant to many of you, — with loud shouting from the multitude, as strap after strap was cut, “Glory, glory, another strap is gone!”— this, I think, has mainly been the sublime legislative industry of Parliament since it became “Reform Parliament;” victoriously successful, and thought sublime and beneficent by some. So that now hardly any limb of the Devil has a thrum, or tatter of rope or leather left upon it: — there needs almost superhuman heroism in you to “whip” a Garotter; no Fenian taken with the reddest hand is to be meddled with, under penalties; hardly a murderer, never so detestable and hideous, but you find him “insane,” and board him at the public expense, a very peculiar British Prytaneum of these days! And in fact, THE DEVIL (he, verily, if you will consider the sense of words) is likewise become an Emancipated Gentleman; lithe of limb as in Adam and Eve’s time, and scarcely a toe or finger of him tied any more. And you, my astonishing friends, you are certainly getting into a millennium, such as never was before, — hardly even in the dreams of Bedlam.
Make of that what you will. It is clear as glass to me, and as close a prophecy as ever was. But perhaps I have been reading too much Carlyle. (I really thought he could get through a life of Frederick the Great, even an 8-volume life of Frederick the Great, without deploying the N-word. But I reckoned not with the “sage of Ecclefechan.” No wonder Hitler was such a fan.)
And so we come to our third connection: Billy Ayers. (Can I call him Billy? That’s the name he used in his golden years, and I don’t think he gets to just change it like that. Imagine if Hermann Goering had gotten off on a technicality, started calling himself “Manny,” and run for mayor of Stuttgart sometime in the late ’50s. Support Manny Goering! He’ll bring change!)
In case you doubt that Billy Ayers is evil, I humbly submit this little reminiscence, which is almost brutally symbolic. Is America the trembling coed to be deflowered, under pain of racism, by Billy’s black roommate? Or is that a little heavy? It might be a little heavy, but there is also this story. If mass murder isn’t evil, I don’t know what is. Watch the video – it’s very convincing. And finally, you can read Billy’s little manifesto, Prairie Fire, which he and his friends so thoughtfully dedicated to Sirhan Sirhan. Prairie Fire practically oozes political murder. Nor, of course, did the man fail to practice what he preached.
And in case you doubt that Barack Obama, Ayers’ “neighbor” whose “kids went to the same school” (twenty years apart), is closely connected with Ayers, allow me to point out two things. One is this well-argued case, by a labor lawyer of all people, that Ayers and Obama probably had a mentor-protege relationship.
The other is the indisputable fact, which somehow managed to escape the notice of even Fox News, that Obama worked out of Ayers’ office. (To anyone who knows anything about the nonprofit world, the relationship between Obama’s Annenberg Challenge and Ayers’ Small Schools Workshop is obvious – the AC was a creature of the SSW, which was surely willing to spawn a shell organization for any big grant it reeled in. And for any Obamabots who may still be reading, yes, it was also able to find a token “Republican” or two to decorate the board.)
So: generally, our new president is a lifelong member of the most murderous political religion of the 20th century. Intellectually, he is or has been a student of a thinker whose creed reduces to devious, calculated criminality in the name of the higher good. And professionally, he is or has been a colleague and probable protege of a would-be revolutionary dictator, manipulative rapist, and general genocidal psychopath.
So is it really the case that, as John McCain put it, America has nothing to fear from Barack Obama? “Run like the wind, Mr. Skittles!”
Well, I endorsed Barack Obama. I stand by that endorsement. I wouldn’t quite say we have nothing to fear from an Obama administration, but Washington is pretty scary in general. I saw just as many dangers, if not more, in four more years of a Republican White House. And I feel the election of President Obama will provide an exceptional opportunity to create genuine change, which would certainly not be the case if McCain had won.
So why do we have nothing to fear from Barack Obama? We have nothing to fear because progressives are the government. There is no Enemy. There is just the pathetic shell of a sham opposition party, a few thousand lame hacks fleeing the White House in disarray.
If Washington had actually been in the hands of sinister, drawling Texan white supremacists, we could have a revolution. Since it wasn’t, we can’t. Isn’t that nice? I’m sorry if that’s the most comforting thought that I can produce at the moment, but I feel it’s actually rather important.
Running a close second to Professor DeLong’s Krokodil moment as my favorite note of the election was the Obama team’s defense on the Ayers matter, which – in the best spirit of the public defender who points out that his client wasn’t there, if he was he didn’t shoot the victim, and if he did it was in self-defense – told us that Ayers “is now mainstream – an educator with distinguished professor status.”
A status he does not share with Eric Rudolph, David Duke, or Buford Furrow. And we can only be thankful for these small mercies. What would it be like to live in a country which treated Billy Ayers and Eric Rudolph the same way? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out. Come back, Mitchell Palmer, all is forgiven.
The fact that Billy Ayers has indeed become one of the most successful educators in the United States, without so much as apologizing for his crimes, tells us quite a bit about the terminal malignancy of the American polity. It also tells us quite a bit about how a Barack Obama could be elected: unless he or she grows up in some kind of cloistered uber-Christian cult, it is simply impossible in the present day for an American child to reach voting age without being indoctrinated in Ayers-style, “small c” communism.
The normal American voter, today, is a communist. She is not a revolutionary communist. She is a status-quo communist. She thinks of America as a commune: a big Brook Farm, with Washington as mother and/or father, caring, sharing, providing, educating, punishing and guiding. She has stretched the mental modules which in a traditional human society would apply to her extended family, to cover the entire continent and probably the planet as well. Maybe she wants gays to be able to marry and maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she thinks taxes are too low, or too high. But that’s about the limit of her political imagination.
There is nothing surprising in this. Always and everywhere, communism is the last stage of democracy. What’s surprising is that it took 144 years for the New Deal to happen. This can be attributed to good fortune and bad organization. But happen it did, and it won’t un-happen.
Perhaps this is a tragedy. But it has its upside, which is that the US has somehow managed to pass from classical liberalism to sclerotic state socialism without stopping at Stalin. Or at Billy Ayers. The Lord looks after fools, drunkards, and the United States.
And the omission is irreversible. There was no way that Brezhnev, Khrushchev or Gorbachev could have reopened the Gulag, restarted the Revolution, or created a new leather-jacketed Cheka to shoot people at random in the woods. Whether or not its rulers were nice people, even whether or not they (like Khrushchev) were deeply implicated in Stalin’s crimes, the late Soviet state did not have the oxygen to return to full-out revolutionary mode, and nor does ours. Emphysema doesn’t cure itself.
Don’t get me wrong. For me, President Obama’s criminal connections render him and the regime he fronts completely unworthy of either trust or respect. The fact that Brezhnev was the successor of Stalin rendered his regime similarly devoid of moral legitimacy. Billy Ayers never had the opportunity to commit Stalin’s crimes, but if he had it he would have taken it, and the overseas offences of American progressive foreign policy (bringing both Mao and Ho to power, for example) are surely in the same league. All these people should be at the very least out of a job, and they should probably pay a fine and have to pick up trash on the freeway. I would settle for the former, however.
But Brezhnev’s Russia, despite its economic stagnation, was a normal country. You could get in trouble if you said the wrong thing, but you had to try. The same is true here. There is no comparison between the Stalinist and post-Stalinist environments, there was no way for post-Stalinist Russia to become Stalinist again, and there is also no way for American communism to develop into its full-blown, malignant, concentration-camp form. If the SDS ever had a chance, they blew it. And if we have Dick Nixon to thank for that, God bless Dick Nixon.
Talking to friends who work as staffers on the Hill, they say there are two basic elements to Obama: (1) he is “really, really liberal,” and (2) “he is incredibly indecisive.”
Color me extremely unsurprised. Barack Obama, as Steve Sailer first observed, is a Gatsby. He’s a fine actor – he plays the chief executive extremely well. I’d cast him as a king in any of the Shakespeare plays. I can see him as Henry V, I can see him as Richard III, I can certainly see him as Hamlet although I suppose he’s a little old. But so was Mel Gibson.
It’s fortunate, however, that the Presidency is not in any way, shape, or form an executive or managerial position, because obviously President Obama has neither the experience nor the aptitude to manage a large organization. He can at least look and sound good while reading his lines, which puts him well up on the previous occupant. He seems to be very bad at improv, however, which is a real liability. Perhaps he could take some classes.
(As everyone should know but I suspect very few do, the so-called “executive branch,” ie the US Government, reports to Congress, not to the “chief executive.” I exclude military matters. I’m assuming an Obama administration will bring a fast and inglorious end to America’s current sandy adventures. With surrender feelers already appearing in the press, I expect Mullah Omar in Kabul within the year. Iraq will implode or not, depending on the Iraqis. This leaves the Pentagon to do what it did in the Clinton administration, ie, vegetate and burn dollars.)
The White House proper does have a manager. That man is the chief of staff, for which position the name of Rahm Emanuel has already been floated. Emanuel is unlikely to be described as “incredibly indecisive.” This dynamic individual has already published The Plan, his plan to make America America again, used copies of which can be obtained for a mere cent. Your penny buys you quite a few wonderfully Bolshevik-sounding ideas framed in wooden ninth-grade prose, such as “universal national service”:
Each citizen needs to understand and accept the essence of the American bargain: Each of us has to do his or her part. While the rights of citizenship are explicit in our Constitution, the implicit responsibilities are every bit as crucial.
Lenin at the Finland Station, Rep. Emanuel ain’t. Here is his earth-shattering proposal:
It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, all Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation, and community service.
Just the thing to energize the youth vote! That’ll bring Obama Girl back in 2012, I’m confident. I’m sure UR’s Eastern European readers have fun memories of field-stripping Kalashnikovs and helping out with the potato harvest.
Dear reader, if anything like “universal civilian service” happens, I promise to print out the above paragraph and eat it. Frankly, the spectacle would be so hilarious and edifying that I’d be positively tickled to perform the sacrifice. But I don’t expect to. Washington is no young town.
This is the great thing about President Obama’s “change.” What he means by “change” is, of course, “power” – as in the phrase, “change the world.” Everyone wants to change the world. That is, they want to exert personal influence on the world. That is, they want power. This will get them laid, or so they think. It’s really not all that complicated.
The problem is: Washington is fresh out of power. It already controls everything it can possibly control. It just nationalized the financial system, and no one noticed. Why? Because a US bank in November 2008 has to comply with exactly the same ten-foot-tall stack of regulations that it had to comply with in September 2008. What difference can another love note or two from Barney Frank make?
To illustrate, I give you George Ball. You’ve almost certainly never heard of George Ball, but in his heyday he had more power than anyone in the US has today. I’m dead serious. For example, if Ball’s autobiography is to be believed (and I believe it), in collaboration with Jean Monnet he was largely responsible for the birth of the monster we know and love as the European Union.
Everyone involved with the Obama campaign, the Democratic Party, etc, would like the Obama transition to be as much as possible like the New Deal. We are still in the New Deal, of course, but in 1933 we weren’t. So it was possible to create “change.” Lots of “change.” Here is how Ball describes the vibe of ’33, when the Cathedral first stormed and sacked the city on the river. At the time, he has just graduated from law school:
Washington was swarming with young lawyers, economists, bankers, and professors-in-exile, all bent on reorganizing the cosmos, rearranging the stars and planets. Programmed like a computer with bits and tags of literature, I mouthed Wordsworth’s famous apostrophe to the early weeks of the French Revolution: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,/ But to be young was very heaven!”
The times were ebullient, and yeast was in the air. Each morning we awoke to read with excitement of Roosevelt’s latest outrageous move. It was épater les bourgeois in political and economic terms or – more precisely for us – it was épater les vieillards, a form of exercise that inevitably lifts the hearts of anyone under thirty. The old order had discredited itself; we would conjure up a new and better one in its place. Certain lines from Wordsworth’s Prelude expressed what we thought we were up to, for it did indeed seem to us a time:
In which the meager, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights…
We were, so we thought at the time, not so much interested in smashing pillars and pulling down temples as in designing the shape and form of our New Jerusalem. Discussion might circle for a time – sometimes it seemed to circle for long alcoholic hours – but it invariably settled on the architecture of that refulgent city.
No doubt because the actors in the drama were relatively older – lawyers and young Ph.D’s in economics rather than undergraduates – the reaction bore no resemblance to the later disorder of the sixties, when “trashing” seemed an end in itself. Though we had read some history, no one thought himself a young Robespierre. Perhaps also because the New Deal was a fresh experience for America (though not for Europe), with government for the first time giving explicit meaning to the welfare clause, we felt hope in the air. Later, in the sixties, much of the new welfare legislation served the bureaucracy more than the commonweal, but in those days of unlimited expectations our basic credo was simple: Nothing that had been done till then was good enough nor was there anything we could not do if we set our minds to it.
To be sure, I was little more than a spear-carrier with few speaking lines. Unlike many of the leading actors, I had, at that time, not even met Felix Frankfurter, let alone clerked for Holmes or Brandeis. Most of the problems with which the New Deal was grappling were for me matters of first impression; I was, by any rational standard, spectacularly ill-equipped. Although assigned to work on developing credit facilities for farmers, I had never, in spite of my Iowa background, spent a night on a working farm – but then neither had my colleagues, including, I suspect, Henry Morgenthau. That, however, did not deter us. In the atmosphere of New Deal Washington, inexperience was no impediment; one learned fast and improvised boldly. Even professionally, I could not have been more of a neophyte; I had never so much as written a contract to sell a fifty-dollar dog! Yet one of my first professional tasks was to draft and help negotiate a contract for the sale of $75 million worth of Federal Farm Board cotton. It was such a formidable document – seventy or eighty pages in length and replete with intricate internal brokerage arrangements – that, in retrospect, I am amazed that I was not terrified by the assignment. But I took it in stride, as we all did in those days. We were young and nothing was impossible.
I can guarantee UR readers quite definitively that, while the Obama administration may indeed have a few positions for law-school graduates, they will not be rearranging any astronomical bodies, building any New Jerusalems, smashing any pillars, pulling down any temples, or in fact receiving any assignments that strike even the slightest bit of terror into their hearts. (Alcohol, however, remains plentiful.)
The sad fact of the matter is that in 2008, unless you either (a) get to shoot people or (b) are a GS-15 or above, there is no such thing as a fun job working for the US government. Well, okay, I suppose Treasury might be a little exciting at present, at least from the terror perspective. But even there the ratio of terror to New Jerusalem is inordinately high. No one has smashed so much as a sub-sub-pillar for the last ten years, and not even Congress can pull down a temple. (Although it can hang quite a few Christmas-tree ornaments on the temple.) As for Wordsworth, your average civil servant doesn’t know him from Woolworth. Progressivism has took its toll.
Even in the ’60s, government proper was a tomb. The growth in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was all in the external arms: the press, the universities, the foundations and NGOs. These are all part of Washington in its broad sense – they all exist to compose or influence government policy. They are all, of course, progressive organs, aside from a few Republican and libertarian think-tanks. And all of them have reached the level of maximum organizational bloat, on the outer fringes of the red-giant state that is the Beltway. They grow, still, of course, but slowly. You can be an intern if you want. You can probably get laid. You won’t be redrawing constellations.
For the red-giant state, the only possible change is the ultimate change. The supernova. The reboot. What happened to the Soviet Union. As I keep saying, there’s no change like regime change. This is, of course, the opposite of what you voted for when you elected Obama. But perhaps, dear progressives, you’ve helped bring that moment a little closer.
As for conservatives and mainstream libertarians: forget it. You’ve lost. You’re in roughly the same position as a Southern segregationist in 1968. History may or may not vindicate your cause, but it has determined your chance of victory, which is zero. If you have a life, go live it. If not, now is probably a good time to get one.
In the era of Barack Obama, Washington is one thing. It is progressive from top to bottom, east to west, and ass to elbow. Everyone with a real role in governing America, whether in the White House or the civil service, in the press or on the Hill, at Harvard or at State, in the Wilderness Society or on the Supreme Court, is a communist. I exaggerate, of course – slightly. But if you have fantasies of reforming this thing, of making it conservative or libertarian or whatever, you’re either a fool or a fraud. Now and for the foreseeable future, you are for Washington or you’re against it. And if we have Barry Obama to thank for that, God bless Barry Obama.
The entire proposition of post-1945 American democratic conservatism, including its runt cousin libertarianism, was predicated on the lingering cultural memory of a pre-New Deal America. Americans actually did vote to do away with the New Deal, once, sort of, in 1980. But somehow it didn’t quite happen. And that was a generation ago.
American voters are now very, very comfortable with communism. It may be possible to detach them. It may not. But flag-waving and glittering generalities certainly won’t do it. You’re trying to fight an entire educational system with slogans and 30-second TV spots. It’s like a salmon trying to jump Boulder Dam.
A dose of Obama may disenchant voters with Obama. It may even persuade them to elect another Republican. But he will be a communist Republican. Want a peek at the future? Google “David Cameron.” Want a peek at the rest of the future? Google “Leonid Brezhnev.”
You don’t like that plan? Okay, here’s another plan. Form militant evangelical Christian sects on college campuses. Disrupt classes, hold violent masked rallies, invade the dean’s office, crap on the desk. Maybe you can recruit a biker or prison gang or two, like the Mongols or the Aryan Brotherhood, for muscle. Make people fear you. Don’t be afraid of a punch-up or two. And make demands: a Christian studies department for every college or university, abolition of ethnic studies and affirmative action, daily prayer and hymn-singing, the sky’s the limit. Create some change. Be an activist. Read Alinsky. Kick some ass.
Because you know what, dear conservatives? This – or rather, of course, its equivalent – is exactly what your enemies, the communists, did to take over the American educational system. It was pure, naked, rampant thuggery, using as much violence as necessary and with the promise of more. If guns were needed, they used guns. If fists sufficed, they sufficed. And it worked. And as a result, 40 years and two voter generations later, everyone is as blissed out as a stoned lab rat, because America has finally elected a communist President, and we have “changed.” La educación es la revolución. You know the only problem with my Christian-biker plan, dear conservatives? It can’t possibly succeed, because your enemies aren’t as stupid as you.
So when I read pieces like this one, by the normally sensible, judicious, and militaristic Bill Whittle, I start wondering: am I too old to emigrate to Singapore? Because if the conservative sheepdog is supposed to be protecting my baby from the communist wolf, someone’s slipped him a packet of Xanax, and he’s face down in a pool of patriotic American drool. The wolf is in the house and sleeping on the kitchen table. He’s just eaten half the Thanksgiving turkey. When he wakes up, he’ll eat the other half and go to sleep again. And when he wakes up again, he’ll wonder what that screaming thing in the crib is, and if it’s any good to eat. Will the Xanax have worn off by then? Frankly, I doubt it. Thanks for nothin’, Fido.
People, Washington does not work. It never worked. We’ve just been lucky so far. (Sort of – if you don’t count the war.) But the nose is pointed at the ground, the engine is a brick, and the eject lever just came off in our hands. Luckily, we’re 35,000 feet in the air, so we have a little time to think.
We cannot rely on the profound, mystical, and deeply American wisdom of the infallible American voter. The infallible American voter just chose, as the leader of the free world, the former gofer of a murderous megalomaniac psychopath. Solely on the basis of his tawny epidermis. Fortunately, Washington is so vast and so broken, so fucked beyond all redemption, that for all its H-bombs, the gofer could indeed be a psychopath himself, and he won’t be able to hurt a fly. This is so beyond comedy that it’s gone past tragedy and back to funny again.
The only question left is: how do we land the plane? How can we rid ourselves of this ridiculous government, this political tumor from the age of powdered wigs, this city of foam colonnades and cardboard presidents, Washington, without turning North America into a smoking ruin? And what comes next?