The Voting Blues
President George W. Bush called me the Sunday night before elections, but I wasn't home. I'm surprised he was able to get past the sophisticated "zapping" mechanism I just installed that is supposed to eliminate annoying telemarketers. I later checked my caller ID, and I was surprised to see that it said not "POTUS" but "UNKNOWN CALLER." Actually, the latter is probably more accurate.
At any rate, I'm glad the president was able to leave his inspirational message.
Hello, this is President George W. Bush.
As Americans, we have a duty to participate in the political process. By voting, you can help make America stronger, safer, and better.
So this Tuesday, November 5, remember to vote. And when you do, please support John Cornyn for senate, Rick Perry for governor, and the rest of our great Republican team.
One person can make a difference. Your vote matters. Thank-you.
I've always tried to study politics carefully, but have always resisted voting — I've never been a big believer in democracy, at least not in the context in which it's usually applied.
Friends and family often seem to be mystified by my apparent cognitive dissonance. My brother comes close to understanding when, playfully trying to insult me, declares, "You're such an elitist." I always reply, "Yes, I am — and your point would be …?"
Monarchy or Democracy?
I've never met anyone who wasn't actually an elitist — the only variance is in the degree of hypocrisy. We all select mates and friends, leaders and employees, and every type of consultant and craftsman imaginable within an "elitist" framework. It doesn't mean this or that person is ontologically "better" than another, it's merely the principles of specialization at work.
It's unfortunate that within the modern culture of self-esteem the word "elitism" has become almost synonymous with the always pejorative word "snobbery." In the context of monarchical government, elitism simply reflects the hierarchy and specialization of government by heredity.
And yes, the arrangement of what feminists rightly observe as the "patriarchal" culture was indeed reflected in ancient government and family.
But this form, at least far more than its democratic counterpart, fosters a sincere familial and sacrificial obligation for the governed.
In a Firing Line interview with William F. Buckley, Eric von Kühnelt-Leddihn explained that "… the monarch, of course, has the advantage not only of heredity to a certain extent — and that is a little bit speculative — but on the other hand, he is from childhood trained for that job. He's not a haberdasher."
Buckley sarcastically responded, "Like the Duke of Windsor?" As Buckley's guests often did, K-L got the better of him:
Of course that is one of the most despicable creatures, because the man wanted to be happy, and a monarch has no right to be happy. He has to bear a cross. … As a matter of fact, Otto von Hapsburg was asked, … "Whom do you despise most as a contemporary figure?" And he said, "The Duke of Windsor that has abdicated." Rightly so. … A Christian monarch has no right to try to be happy. I mean, to marry the woman he loves — he has to marry the woman that state interest demands. See, in other words, it is not an easy proposition, but he is trained for it.
And now if you ask somebody whether a costume or a suit he would order from a miserable tailor or from a brilliant surgeon, well, the miserable tailor still produces a miserable suit, but the brilliant surgeon, nothing like a suit at all. And not being, as I just started to say, a haberdasher who sells underpants and neckties and then throws out A-bombs like confetti, you know? I know you heard me talking about after Japan has desperately tried, through the Vatican first, and then through Moscow in April '45 and in July '45 to get peace conditions and the answer was "unconditional surrender." And how many Americans died due to this idiotic formula?
Unfortunately, perhaps in part due to the obligation the monarch feels for his people, or perhaps in part due to too much exposure to modern university thought, the modern constitutional monarch often seems to be a bleeding heart liberal. Prince Charles comes to mind.
And the late King Hussein of Jordan and the beautiful Queen Noor, his American (half-Syrian), Princeton-educated wife, expressed their intentions to convert the Hashemite kingdom into a democracy. I believe the king's son has made similar suggestions. Dear king, don't do it! I'm certain the wise young king knows better — it would be an unmitigated disaster.
Could we do worse than heredity? We certainly seem to do so without much effort.
Of course all States are counterfeits of The Holy Spirit. But at least a monarchy attempts to mirror heavenly order and familial love. Conservative monarchical cultures were far more peaceful than the governments born in the twentieth century. Who has murdered more? The dissolution of four monarchies as a result of WW I sowed the seeds of future war, perhaps every major war since, and we're still fighting them (Serbia, Iraq, etc.). Surely the kings did better at preserving blood and treasure than our current presidents and mullahs.
Worshippers of democracy seem to confuse monarchy and tyranny, not that the two terms are mutually exclusive. But the balance of power was distributed across a broad network of dukes, counts, barons, princes, and kings. They were at all times subject to intrigue, and assassination was often the reward of misrule.
There is little promise of such justice in the modern democratic nation-state.
Vote them out of office? There seems to be little evidence that this produces any change. There is little difference among our "leaders," and most of our government consists of unelected bureaucrats anyway. The power that a medieval emperor wielded was nothing like the monolithic control of the modern democratic state.
The beliefs of the balance of those who claim to be on the American right run counter to every classical tradition. The great Greek philosophers eloquently noted that democracy always devolves into egalitarianism and tyranny. The few Saints who might have approved of democracy clearly did so in the context of a true social relationship, where the governed personally knows the governor.
And the generally monarchist founders of the American State were highly and openly suspicious of democracy, so in turn carefully and brilliantly designed a republic containing measures they hoped would insure against the usual pitfalls. Of course these measures were quickly removed by Lincoln and subsequent state-hungry presidents, legislators, and jurists. The Founders would recognize very little in our modern American State.
Another misconception I've noted among (especially American) modernists is that the representation presumably found in a democracy is not present in an hierarchical system. The exact opposite is true.
Just as in a business venture, there is chain-of-command communication moving in both directions. By far the most important communication is the measured and selective personal communication between each link in the hierarchy. By virtue of that communication, influence is exerted in both directions.
No one would presume to know (or at least should presume to know) the character, intellect, or ability of one who is more than two or three links away, in either direction. However, a democracy operates on the presumption that "the people" (slaves) know the character, intellect, and ability of the "the leaders" (slaveholders). The idea that one can cosmically jump twenty links in the chain of command, effect intelligent change at that level, and better yet install the proper leadership at that level is preposterous.
The end result of democracy is at best a statistical celebration of mediocrity, rule by an idiot savant with no special gifts.
Of course, the press is supposed to help with this communication — except that they rarely know "the leaders" either, and have only contempt for "the people."
Yes, it has been said that cream rises to the top, but in democracy a more fitting analogy would surely be that which is most oily wiggles its way to the top. The shysters and confidence men that reside inside the Beltway continue to sell the illusion of "the power of the people." They increase technical democracy (e.g., direct election of U.S. Senators, the primary system) while finding new ways to steal our money (e.g., central bank, income taxation, confiscatory taxation, etc.).
The Triumph of Hope over Reason
But, regardless of my feelings about democracy, at the ripe age of forty-two, I decided to cast my first vote for president. However, I was only going to do so in the context of leadership — I planned to take at least a few others with me.
So playing the role of true believer, I pushed the obvious futility to the back of my mind, and engaged.
I remember one conversation I had with a young man I had just met at my favorite haunt, Café Adobe. He was a conservative in good standing, loved and preferred Pat Buchanan, but was going to vote for George W. Bush. I was soon to discover that this was a nearly ubiquitous problem — in fact, I would say it was the problem. (Even more than all the poor fortune Buchanan had getting off the mark.) It also didn't help that others didn't have the extreme reservations that I did about having a frat rat president. "Don't waste your vote!" he yelled from across the crowded patio as he was leaving. I replied, "Don't waste yours!" It was all I could think of.
A very cantankerous and exceedingly bright and energetic eighty-something-year-old I know said, "Brian, Pat Buchanan is my soul mate, but he just doesn‘t have a prayer of winning!"
Almost every conservative I knew preferred Pat Buchanan over "the other" candidate, but the response was always the same. "I'd love to vote for Pat, but we just can't let Gore get elected!" I would ask each of them in turn, "Don't you understand that everyone says the same thing? Doesn't this beg the question? If all of y'all really want to vote for Buchanan, but won't, aren't you defeating yourselves? Isn't this why the Founders were wary of political parties? Does Bush really represent any of your beliefs — on smaller government, on immigration, on constitutional values, on non-intervention, on anything?"
But to no avail.
When shown the right way, the typical American conservative may be converted, but he still won't stop visiting the whorehouse.
All this made me long for a parliamentary system.
As it turned out, I was one of the very few that voted for Buchanan — and yes, I believe I got it out of my system.
But it started me thinking. Am I really too idealistic? I've certainly been accused of being so.
So what if I had been more pragmatic? Surely the evidence amassed over the last century clearly demonstrates neither major party, at least corporately, will lift a finger to slow the progress of the welfare-warfare state. Words mean nothing.
And if I had made the pragmatic choice, wouldn't it have been one that might, at least by the smallest increment, reduce imminent danger?
So what of the awkward alternative I might have considered, and the traditions of the state that candidate once represented?
Wasn't a twentieth century politician from that state a partner in the deliberate deception that led us into a miserable war the American people did not want, a war that brought us further down the imperial path, and the effects of which we are still suffering? But at least before he sent young men to die, he could claim to have served his government in the armed forces during earlier conquests.
As well, didn't the candidate's own father fight in WW II, while his son escaped later military action? Unfortunately, the horrors of war didn't seem to quell daddy's internationalist impulses in the dark corridors of American power, which were certainly colored by the big oil money that bankrolled his political career, and that of his son.
And aren't the son's impulses far worse than the father's?
On the other hand, at least during the 2000 Presidential debates this candidate chose two out of eight interventions he didn‘t approve of, which is twice as many as his opponent.
And I have to admit, I like the idea of having voted for a man whose state produced so many heroes of the Alamo. And, there's a lot to be said for the state's music (its capital is also one of the nation's great music capitals), not to mention the state's good Southern faith.
So after this consideration, I'm beginning to think maybe I should have chosen that awkward alternative — the one that perhaps would do slightly less harm in the world.
Yup, I should have voted for Al Gore.
November 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002 LewRockwell.com