And Picking Up Speed

My favorite piece of political writing is a poem by Kipling, "The Gods of the Copybook Headings".  I do not know his motivation for writing it, but I can hardly imagine it was not intended as political, or at least societal, commentary.  I normally post the entire thing before elections, though I did not this year.  You can go read the whole thing, but I will excerpt the ending stanzas:
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
 As President Obama has won re-election - I do not know if votes have been fully counted, but Governor Romney has conceded the election, and I assume he knows the writing on the wall better than I do - the immediate question is, "So what now?"

I had thought Romney would likely win the presidential race; I under-estimated - this is based on exit polling - how determinedly liberal the majority of young voters appear to be.  Some of this is probably the climate I mostly live in: the majority of my friends are conservative; the majority of my co-workers are not, but that is a much smaller group; DC is of course staunchly political and, believing in government, tends very liberal, but that makes predicting overall trends difficult.  All of this is without taking into account the habits of those who vote by party, with no regard to issues - a trend which historically seems to have favored the Democrats, for reasons beyond my knowledge.

Still, there were some indications that this would happen, even in my experience.  A sampling: several liberal friends thought - or just assumed - that the Democratic candidates won all the debates, even while most news sources thought they favored Republicans.  Political bases like to have their ears tickled, and the President's party apparently succeeded.  A casual acquaintance argued, with a straight face, that because a "great president" like FDR could not resolve a depression quickly, we should not expect President Obama to have done much either.  This is what bad history gets you.  (Is there a good biography of Calvin Coolidge?  It should be required reading for all high school students.)  And finally, the most emotional issue - that of sex and avoiding its real results - obviously was much more motivating to the liberal side.

It is this last that concerns me most.  By any reasonable standard, we are a libertine society and becoming more so; and the President's policies encourage this beyond reason.  Not only do the shapers of thought think we are supposed to accept abortion, and embrace the "diversity" of immoral lifestyles - notably homosexual and so-called "transgender", but the people in those categories are a tiny minority compared to those doing what used to be called "living in sin" - but now we are supposed to pay for the contraception and abortion which these people use to avoid the responsibilities their lifestyle ought to bring them.  And religious groups which object - remembering that this country was founded in a series of attempts to preserve religious liberty makes this more of a travesty - get the tiniest of protections from such governmentally-imposed thuggery, and private believers get none at all.  This has been said repeatedly and loudly, and the majority of the media - who ought to be hounding such abuse - have ignored it.

That is the most disturbing long-term trend.  But as a moral issue, some will argue it should be kept out of politics.  I defy anyone to manage to run a government with no moral ramifications, but for the sake of argument I will move on to the next biggest problem, the one that originally motivated my interest in politics: our national finances.  They are a mess.  We spend more than we have, borrow more than we can afford, and when it is suggested that we maybe stop with the money-wasting, we just re-elected a president whose party thinks the bright idea is to "tax the rich" more.  Never mind that "the rich" already pay most of the taxes, and by percentages more than their share; never mind that taking the money from the haves will only result in a society where - as the USSR found - there "are no rich no more" (except the political elite managing the extortions).  We like austerity and responsibility no more than the European states that are already foundering having followed the same path we pursue.  And for the future?  The government's bailout/buyout of GM has produced a stagnant (at best) company.  The investment in "clean energy" that the President's party pursued has resulted in a series of failed companies, while proved methods of energy production - and the prosperity they might bring - are rejected: and all this in a recession, where the short-term problems are the most pressing.

All this demonstrates is that we have rejected responsibility and freedom.  The trade-off, apparently, is supposed to be security.  A "security blanket" for the less fortunate.  The powers that be sell us on domestic libertinism by assuring us that at least our defense spending will be fine.  We have mostly forgotten what the wise men of old said - which one exactly said it first is not clear - that the nation which trades liberty for security will have neither.  What the conservatives have been shouting - not nearly loudly enough, apparently, nor from high enough rooftops - is that the whimsically-justified government may start by "helping" the unfortunate and sponsoring "noble" causes, but it depends on the views of the elite - and if those change, well, all the infrastructure is in place to produce fascism and tyranny.  A government equipped to play bodyguard is equally well equipped to play prison guard - let's call it house arrest

This is why, among other things, I - despite being conservative - was not particularly bothered by that stupid HHS pamphlet advertising right-wing groups as security threats.  They are "security threats" to a modern nanny-state.  They are armed - as allowed for in our very Constitution, among other reasons, to be a threat to would-be tin gods - and it is anybody's guess how long it will be until continued usurpations by the Federal government drive them to action.  I put it at 30 years, give or take.  The question is, though, are they truly threats, or patriots?  It will be impossible to tell until it happens, and maybe after.  Our Civil War, the one we already had, was a mess of arguments; I tend to think the Union was less wrong, but I am not comfortable in passing judgment categorically.  King George's government no doubt warned him - or the relevant ministers - that the hotheads in Massachusetts and Virginia were a threat to the peace of his dominion.  History by now has largely agreed that it is those hotheads who were - with qualifications - in the right.  But of course, it is easier to accept that a successful rebellion long since over was justified than it is to look forward to a (probably badly provoked) revolt and find the situation appealing.

That is a long-term prediction: that we are bound for another civil war, this one provoked by the impossibility of surviving in the real world as a "liberated" society, and the resentment that that will generate.  (And to be honest, my evaluation would be the same - though this piece might not have been provoked exactly - should Romney have won: he seems to me a manager, not a reformer.  I might up my projection to 40 years - or he might have been better than I imagine.)  In the short-term, the question is what to do about the next election.  After 2008, I was of the opinion that the Republican party is doomed.  They had reduced themselves to a series of candidates parroting Democratic and liberal lines, with just enough defense, America, and God panacea thrown in to placate the base.  After the last two elections, I am not so sure.  The Republican's energized base has become (or returned to) those holding right-wing, small-government, social conservative views - the (oddly villified) Tea Party.  On the other hand, the political future may well belong to the libertarian conservatives; in which case, the Republican party will continue to lose votes in upcoming years, until a shift takes place - suddenly.

I do not know if the two-party system can be truly broken.  It has been a feature of American politics since the beginning of the country.  I am not even sure it is a bad thing - like democracy, it might be one of those things that is worse than any system except all the others.  What I would like to see, though - two parties or twenty - would be a de-emphasis on party.  The most likely way to break the two-party stranglehold?  Take party names off ballots.  Get the state governments out of party politics.  If you want primary electiona, take all the candidates, put them on a ballot, and take the top five as the candidates for the general election.  (This is an off-the-cuff suggestion.)  As it is, the two major parties are invested and intertwined in the system in a way that prevents significant change, or at least makes it more difficult.

Regardless of the system, important things can be done, whether you agree with my evaluation or dislike it.  Pay attention to local politics.  Go to school board and city hall meetings.  I admit, to my embarrassment, that I did not do significant research on the city elections for Alexandria - something I can change and improve next time.  Run for office.  Ask candidates questions.  And, yes, pray.  Truth be told, the re-election of President Obama does not really worry me - I worry not that much anyway, but by faith I know God reigns, and if the Apostle Paul could tell his congregations to pray for the Emperor Nero, and Christ could tell his disciples to pay their Roman occupiers' taxes, I can survive and even rejoice under a less-than-ideal government.


  1. I really enjoyed your article! (It was difficult to read, though, with the white text on the blue background. The red links were almost impossible.)

  2. Jon, do you live in Alexandria? We do, too! This is a thoughtful piece you wrote and I would love for you to come over and discuss it with us. I will put on the tea! Blessings, Cheryl Dean