An organization calling itself “The National Republican Trust” is clucking excitedly over the role it says it played in getting Georgia incumbent Senator Chambliss re-elected in a runoff election. It e-mailed an article written by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann suggesting that the secret to this success lay in circumventing the established GOP hierarchy and engaging in an alleged grass-roots effort. “The geniuses who run the Republican Party had it all wrong,” the article declares. “We didn’t ask anyone’s permission or coordinate with any of the powers-that-be" in doing what its members apparently did. To those familiar with the Ron Paul phenomenon, these words come across as an attempt to associate this organization’s tactics with those of the genuinely spontaneous, decentralized efforts of Paul supporters.
I can well imagine GOP forces seeking to create — from the top-down — an ersatz organization emulating Paul’s, using it as a gimmick to attract the kind of youthful energy that the GOP long ago lost. I will admit to being wrong if the hierarchy of this “Trust” — which, by virtue of its having a hierarchy, distinguishes itself from Ron Paul’s organization — can demonstrate how it had just as feverishly worked on behalf of Paul’s efforts to get opportunities to participate in state and national GOP conventions, or to be included in the televised debates.
There is no mention, however, of the one essential ingredient to the Paul phenomenon that is missing in the Trust’s memo: the commitment to consistent philosophic principles that united so many behind Ron’s campaign. The Morris/McGann missive closes with a need “for resistance to Obama’s socialist agenda over the next four years," while the Trust tells us that its efforts "can stop Obama’s plans to bring socialism to America." Where were these concerned "Trustees" when their GOP president, George W. Bush, was engaging in wars that put billions of dollars into the pockets of their corporate friends, and led this same president to state, to members of Congress, that he would declare martial law if they did not pass legislation bestowing hundreds of billions of dollars of largesse upon Wall Street banking interests? Is the GOP so hopelessly bankrupt that some of its members must resort to a distinction without meaning that condemns state socialism while ignoring its own contributions to the state-sponsored economic destruction emanating from a Republican White House? Is the "GOP" henceforth to be known as the "Grasping Omnipotent Plutocracy?"
Ron Paul’s success has been due to a growing awareness — particularly among young adults — of the fundamental distinction between the "free market" and the "business system." The current efforts of all sorts of major corporations to partake of that wholesale looting of the state treasury known as "bailouts" has even drawn the attention of some on the political left. Still, many well-educated Americans — including members of the mainstream media and academia — continue to babble the nonsense that the corporate-state machinations of the economy are representative of the "free market." It is a remarkable rarity to find any members of the business community who favor a governmentally-unrestrained marketplace. If one pays attention to the words of business leaders, the prevailing sentiment is quickly discerned in terms of "socializing the costs of doing business, while privatizing the profits."
Members of the next generation — those capable of and having an incentive to do the math — have figured out that the present system will prove a disaster for them. With a population of approximately 300,000,000, the anticipated $7,600,000,000,000 corporate bailout will, by itself, cost a family of four some $100,000. Nor does this figure account for all the other costs of government, including the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on wars, as well as all of the other projects undertaken by the state in furtherance of the interests of its corporate sponsors and the politicians who pimp on their behalf.
As the last eight years have confirmed, conservatism in general, and the Republican Party in particular, have long been morally, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt. The existence of the Soviet Union provided such people with the pseudo-philosophic appearance of being committed to individual liberty and the private ownership of property. The remnants of such vaguely embraced emotions seem to have rekindled opposition to the anticipated "socialism" of Mr. Obama and, perhaps, restored the sense of political righteous indignation that collapsed alongside the Berlin Wall.
Given its recent history — in which conservatives who spoke of the "right to life" war-whooped the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents, or who stressed the importance of marketplace principles as their president threatened congress with a military take-over unless they ratified his corporate bailout plan — there is nothing within conservatism or the Republican Party that is worthy of being revivified. In the words of Gertrude Stein, "there is no there, there." Trying to pump new life into this dead horse is a waste of intelligent energy.
I have had a few people — fearful of our collapsing into a one-party system — ask me what should be done to restore the strength and integrity of the Republican Party, so that we may have the kind of vibrant political contest necessary for a free society. My answer has been to let the GOP collapse of its own dead weight. For more years than I can recount, we have long had a one-party system in America, disguised in the form of two branches that owe their allegiances to the country’s corporate owners, and who espouse minor variations on the same establishment-serving themes. If you doubt this is so, please explain to me how a Ron Paul — or his supporters — was literally forced into the wings of public debates and conventions, or why the efforts of "third parties" to get on ballots — or be interviewed by the mainstream media — took on a Sisyphian character. At the very least, the demise of the Republican Party can strip away any further pretense that there is any genuine difference in the principles by which political systems are governed in America.
The only alternative to what our nation has become is not to be found in the entities that created and profit from the mess; but in bringing about a major paradigm shift in our thinking about more free, peaceful, and productive ways of living together in society. Such a shift will not take place in Washington, D.C., or via network television, or in so-called "think tanks." It will occur, if at all, only within your own conscious mind. Libertarian and anarchist philosophies can provide insights to facilitate this transformation but, ultimately, the change will occur only within yourself. Some of the best advice, in this regard, comes from James Wolcott, who tells us that "the lies the government and media tell are amplifications of the lies we tell ourselves. To stop being conned, stop conning yourself."
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918—1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival.