Guest post by Andrew Murphy
For many years I identified with the Republican Party here in the US. I joined the Young Republicans in college, volunteered in several GOP congressional and senate races (including Fred Thompson’s) in my home state of Tennessee and went to New Hampshire in 1992 to work for Pat Buchanan in the GOP presidential primary against that “traitor” to conservative principles, George HW Bush. I was active in the Dole/Kemp campaign of 1996. Until 2008, I considered myself a conservative/libertarian Republican, and wrote for a Libertarian Republican Blog in my spare time as a creative outlet.
However the bursting of housing market bubble of last year made me realize that while the free market is essential, it does need regulation. It’s fairly obvious that the root cause of the housing bubble in the US was the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act which deregulated the banking, investment and securities companies.
From 1933 to 1999, thanks to the New Deal legislation of the Glass-Steagall Act, banks were regulated and separated investment and commercial banks. Journalist Robert Kuttner explained why Glass-Steagall became law.
The Glass-Steagall wall was devised to prevent a repeat of the 1920s’ scams, in which banks made speculative investments, turned the debts into securities, and sold them off to unsuspecting investors with the blessing of the bank. With Glass-Steagall, commercial banks were tightly supervised and given access to federal deposit insurance, to keep savings secure and prevent runs on banks. Investment banks, meanwhile, were not government-guaranteed and were free to do more speculative transactions for consenting adult customers.
Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s exactly what happened in the 2000s with the subprime mortgages and credit default swaps. As the saying goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
Additionally I become alarmed with the blog I was writing for when they started denouncing Obama as a National Socialist and began peddling the birther mythology that Obama was actually not a US citizen. (At first I was intrigued by the birther idea until I investigated it and found it hopelessly silly, in an Oliver Stone film sort of way). The comparisons of Obama to Hitler did not start with the health care debate. I saw it peddled even before Obama won the Democratic nomination. And shamefully, while I privately protested to the editorial staff of the blog, I did not resign nor was I allowed by the editor-in-chief to write an alternative editorial disputing the birther claims. That was the editorial line, love it or leave it.
Likewise, I saw the once-proud Republican party drop off into moonbattery. The GOP now has become the party of the angry white man. It has become the minority party for women. It once was a very pro-Hispanic party until it allowed the nativists to control their immigration agenda. Pat Buchanan is getting the last laugh. Even though he ran for President twice as a GOP candidate and lost big both times, the GOP has bought into his paleoconservative immigration agenda. The party has hardly any representation in the New England states (which used to be a bastion of the GOP), the West Coast is written off and all that is left is the American South and the Western states. It runs candidates who deny evolution and pander to a fundamentalist Christian social outlook which can’t even control vices in its own backyard (read James Wolcott’s essay in Vanity Fair which argues that states with the most socially conservative outlook also have the highest levels of drug use, violent crime, divorce and out-of-wedlock births). The Republicans continue to be wed to a “supply-side” economic policy which nearly every sound economist on the Right, from Milton Friedman to Sir Alan Walters, has found fuzzy or cranky. If you want to see the greatest demolition of supply-side economics, read Walters’s co-authored essay, “Mythology of Tax Cuts” from 1981.
I still hold great respect for Milton Friedman. Contrary to what many believe especially on the Left, Friedman had many progressive ideas: a negative income tax, high-deductible government health insurance for all and school vouchers for low-income families. This, among other reasons, is why libertarians (pdf) criticize Friedman.
And with the Republican party, American conservatism has all but died out too, as Sam Tanenhaus writes at The New Republic.
One of the great bibles of the American conservative movement for decades was Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. Kirk’s book is an elaboration of the conservative principles from both the American and British past. Just take a cursory flip through Kirk’s book and you can get an idea of how current American conservatism has much more in common with the rightwing French populist leader Pierre Poujade than the conservatives in Kirk’s book.
Can you imagine Alexander Hamilton barking like a seal at a Sarah Palin rally as she explains that the only real Americans are rural and small-town Americans? The same Hamilton who was for an urban, manufacturing America?
Or John Adams, one of the champions of the American Philosophical Society, egging on the conservative movement’s war on science and its hostility toward the educated “elites”?
It is hard to imagine that Benjamin Disraeli, the author of Sybil, would be indifferent to the millions of Americans without health insurance.
As conservatives and Republicans argue over whether or not Obama is a Marxist for wanting to reform the American health care system (does that mean Margret Thatcher is a modern day Rosa Luxemburg for supporting the British NHS?), denounce evolution, or suggest America can solve its financial problems by just cutting spending (an argument Bruce Bartlett in Forbes exposes as political utopianism), they are missing out on the larger political paradigm of the 21st century.
The idea that socialism is on the rebound is pure fantasy– as is repealing the modern welfare state. Marko Attila Hoare calls this flat-earth politics:
The issues that traditionally divided the Left from the Right-– redistribution of wealth, public vs private ownership, a planned economy vs the free market-– have not ceased to be relevant, but they are not those that define the battle lines in global politics today. In domestic politics, the extent to which they continue to dominate political discourse varies between countries, but the trend is increasingly toward the middle ground, as represented by Western Europe: both capitalism and the welfare state are here to stay. We may disagree over just how much to tax the rich or whether certain utilities should be publicly or privately owned, but nobody is going to go to war over these issues. Nor are our divisions over them projected outwards onto the world stage…
This, then, is the principal ideological division in global politics today: pro-Western vs anti-Western; globalist vs anti-globalist; the democratic centre vs the Red-Brown coalition.
And in this fight, the American Right is missing in action.
I will endeavor to elaborate on Marko’s paradigm in a future article but those who read Harry’s Place know precisely what Marko is writing about. The values of the Enlightenment, internationalism and helping to foster human rights and democracy throughout the world are the dividing lines today, despite what the Poujadist Republicans may think.