What is at Stake?
Originally published 1/22/2016. Reprinted because it seems to be more necessary now than then.
I recently almost read the entirety of a rant which I mistakenly took to be a badly translated transcription from Kim Jung-un, the spoiled child-king of North Korea.
The Insurgency Has Only Just Begun – We Absorb Vilification and Ridicule As Fuel…
It has the same flavor: black is white, up is down, right is left … you get the idea.
What interested me enough to continue reading, when I realized no hyperbolic nuclear saber-rattling was in the offing, was the phrase:
“(The Donald Trump campaign) says the Republican Party doesn’t need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. … Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don’t need them, and you’re better off without them.”
Populism has been defined as “a belief in the power of regular people, and in their right to have control over their government rather than a small group of political insiders or a wealthy elite.”(https://www.google.com/search?q=populism+definition&oq=populism&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.4688j0j8&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8)
I think that it may be more efficiently defined as an anti-status quo movement based primarily on slogans and resistant to compromise and argument. Remember that definition.
Andrew Jackson, our first populist president, allowed his adoring mob to pilfer the silverware at his inaugural dinner. He eventually used his popularity to defy a Supreme Court decision to reinstate the Cherokee Nation by telling them to get their own army to enforce their judgment, as he was not going to use “his army. to do so” Not for nothing was the Whig Party formed to combat “King Andrew.”
Teddy Roosevelt was perhaps our most successful populist. He was the child of fortune, raised to the presidency only by the assassination of McKinley, and as such, owed nothing to nobody. He worked constitutionally, eventually taking the original Rockefeller to court to bust up the trusts.
His cousin, Franklin? … not so much. Many of the emergency economic measures, such as the NRA (itself a throwback from Wilson’s price fixing prior to WWI) were declared unconstitutional.
I could go include Barack Hussein Obama in this line-up, but you would miss my point.
WHERE ARE THE TENSIONS IN THE REPUBLIC?
It is not, despite Obama’s best efforts, between one race and another.
It is not, despite “Occupy Anything’s” best efforts, between the Haves and the Want-To-Haves.
It is not between the no-nothing proletariat and the educated as Trump would have you believe.
It is certainly not between the two parties: center-right and center-left (witness Trump’s flipping, Sander’s Socialist status and mass party flipping after 2008).
The tension is, as it always has been, between RIGHTS and DEMOCRACY.
There should be a tension there.
There has always been a tension in this republic since 1791 when the Bill of Rights was approved. It is no secret that without the BoR, the constitution as written would not have been approved. The country was founded on BOTH rights and the rule of people. If mob rule wins, then no one can call what they have as their own, they are merely holding it until voted away by the mob.
Why should I work if I can vote myself free cell-phones, free food and free circuses?
Likewise, why should I work if the return on my labor is confiscated by a mob-ruled majority?
Why save, buy, spend, or work if tomorrow’s plebiscite will demand my wealth of me?
I plan to die or retire within ten years, after having one job or another since 1965, I think I have earned it. What if my fellow citizens think that my (rather more modest than I had hoped) retirement is the product of “white privilege,” “race warfare,” or “economic fascism,” and use this as an excuse to confiscate my wealth (presumably after a duly held vote: ‘Be it agreed that we take every last dime from that old white guy who lives down the block. Yea or Nay’).
At 72, or thereabouts, I would have to throw myself onto the largesse of a country that stole my wealth from me or start working again, that is, if my sins do not require that I be stood up against a wall somewhere as one of my children thinks appropriate …( and no doubt is duly voted (‘Be it agreed with steal every dime from the old white guy down the block and then execute him so that he cannot accuse us of wrongdoing’)
When slogans win, argument (the organized presentation of concepts and reason) fails.
I see the death of argument as the death knell of my rights as an American. Slogans are not a rational, be they “No taxation without representation,” “All power to the Soviets,” or “We are the 99%.”