Presidency, noun: The greased pig in the field game of America’s politics.~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
I generally avoid discussing national politics. I always have. That’s because I don’t think democratic involvement makes much difference except at the local level. The size of the permanent national bureaucracy is so enormous, in every large nation, that political activities are capable of changing very little. Except in times of enormous crisis — mainly national wars — political change is marginal. War centralizes everything. This is why national politicians lie their countries into wars. This is a bi-partisan practice. It rarely fails. If you doubt me, click here.
What can national politics accomplish? The American government’s bureaucracy is protected by Civil Service legislation which goes back to the 1880’s. The system’s archetype institution is the United States Postal Service, which recently raised the price of postage. It does that frequently, as you know. We grimace and bear it. If it were not for e-mail, Federal Express, and UPS, we would suffer a lot more.
My professor, Robert Nisbet, once commented that in the year of his birth, 1913, the only contact that most Americans had with the Federal government was the U.S. Post Office.
My father-in-law, R. J. Rushdoony, born three years later, once commented that 1913 was the last year of the golden age of America: after indoor plumbing but before the income tax. That was a long time ago.
Leonard E. Read, the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education in 1946, used to say that Americans live in a country in which various levels of government extract over 40% of their productivity, yet they call this system freedom. “They don’t know the difference between freedom and coercion.”
So, I do not pay much attention to national politics. Politics always reflects the understanding of the voters, and the voters cannot tell the difference between freedom and coercion. Worse: they are unwilling to surrender coercion for freedom.
It is not just America. Citizens all over the world are persuaded of the grand illusion of the 20th century, namely, that government coercion provides personal security: a safety net against hard times. They look at the government’s net and think “safety.” I look at the net and think “entrapment.” Voters say, “Don’t take away the net. We paid for it. We deserve it.” They do, indeed.
A fish caught in a net may get away if it is at the outer edge of the mass of fish caught in the net. It may wiggle through a gap. There are more gaps than rope. But inside that mass of fish, there is no way to escape. Professional fishermen know this. They do not worry about the one that got away.
THEN THERE IS THE CFR
The Council on Foreign Relations was established in 1921. It was a deliberate imitation of the old Round Table group of Great Britain. The Round Table was made up of academics, politicians, and bureaucrats who ran the British empire abroad and hoped to run the domestic political order in the same way. These were the best and the brightest men in Great Britain. They led the country into two world wars, thereby bankrupting the British empire by 1945. They were too clever by half.
Members of the Council on Foreign Relations are just as clever.
In 1935, the Round Table ran the British Empire. The Great Depression had enabled them to gain dominance in the domestic political order. It looked as though they were invincible. In a sense, they were. Tony Blair was only the latest representative of that highly educated hierarchical order. They still preside over the domestic political scene. But voters, year by year, are becoming Muslim. Birth rates determine this.
If this continues, the heirs of the Round Table will be replaced. There is no sign that this will not continue. Demography is destiny unless the national confession changes. Britain’s national confession is, “I’m all right, Jack.” They aren’t.
The CFR has maintained similar control. Within three years of the CFR’s founding, one of the founders, a New York corporate lawyer named John W. Davis, got the Democrats’ nomination for President. Today, no one gains the nomination who is not a CFR member.
The Presidential election is therefore a contest between CFR Team A and CFR Team B.
In 2004, the race narrowed down not just to members of the CFR. It narrowed down to a pair of Skull & Bones members. Bones lets 15 people a year into its ranks. What are the odds against two members gaining the joint nomination of the highest office in the land? Did the media dwell on this? Of course not. The public would not have known of the existence of The Order, had not George H. W. Bush been a member. So, to turn it into a peripheral matter in 1980, (rival) Scroll & Key member Gary Trudeau make light of it — featherweight light (his image of Bush, Sr.) — in a series of “Doonesbury” cartoons.
How did Bush get the nomination for Vice President in 1980? Reagan had beaten him, and Reagan said he would not put him on the ticket. Then he reversed himself.
The following story I believe is true. It was told to me by W. Cleon Skousen (The Naked Communist, The Naked Capitalist). Immediately prior to Reagan’s smiling announcement of Bush as his VP running mate, Reagan had spent the weekend at a large estate in Leesburg, Virginia. At that meeting was one of Skousen’s relatives (not Mark or Joel). He witnessed two CFR members, very prominent, who cornered Reagan for the weekend. According to this third-hand, unverifiable testimony — which Skousen relayed to me a few years later — they presented Reagan with a choice: Bush as VP with media neutrality or someone else with media skewering. One of these figures was a talking head with enormous influence. The other was a Rockefeller hireling with enormous influence. They are still alive. One of them still has influence.
Did this event take place? I think it did. But even if it didn’t, the implied threat was always there. The media had wiped out Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. It can do this at any time, just as it can raise concern about any of two dozen wars that are going on at any time, merely by focusing on one of them. What is the difference between Darfur and Rwanda? Media attention.
If you look at Reagan’s cabinet, the difference between it and Carter’s in terms of CFR membership was minimal. James Baker ran Reagan’s White House whenever Reagan wasn’t personally committed to a non-CFR project. Baker was then and remains closely associated with George H. W. Bush. He actually had far more influence over Reagan’s White House than he has over George W. Bush’s, where Cheney seems dominant.
The overall direction of politics remains the same: toward centralization.
The CFR is in a position to deny both funding and media semi-neutrality to any candidate who does not toe the bipartisan Party Line on taxes (no major changes), on regulation of the economy (more), on foreign policy (Superpower intervention in 100+ countries at 700+ bases), on the United Nations, and on the military-industrial-oil-banking complex. The only political question is which special interest gets its hands on a larger share of the loot.
Only one candidate breaks ranks on all of these issues: Ron Paul.
1976 VS. 2007
When I joined his Congressional staff in June, 1976, he was the most junior Congressman, having been sworn in only two months earlier. The Democrat incumbent had been given a position in the Federal bureaucracy, and he had resigned his office. Paul won the special election.
I wrote his newsletters. I also did research on issues coming before Congress. In my three-person tiny office was Dr. John W. Robbins, a former student of Hans Sennholz in economics and of Gottfried Dietze in political science. In the main office was Bruce Bartlett, who later became one of the leading defenders in Washington of supply-side economics. This was a high-powered staff for a Congressman with two months’ seniority.
Unlike every other Congressman, he had no administrative assistant. That meant he ran a decentralized office. Staffers reported to him, not to some professional screener.
When I joined the staff, little did I suspect that three decades later, he would be a candidate for President, with a campaign bank account with a couple of million (depreciated) dollars in it. There was no Web in 1976. There were no desktop computers other than the Altair, a brand-new gadget for techies.
There was no Alexa Web traffic ranking. To use Alexa, I used Google to search for these names: Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani. I then selected the top Google link for each name. One by one, I entered these on www.Alexa.com. Oddly enough, I had selected the names in order of their Alexa rankings.
Barack Obama’s site ranks 21,000. Hillary Clinton’s is 22,000. John Edwards’s is 59,000.
Ron Paul is #3 in the digital race. Everyone else is an also-ran.
Political pundits are employed by two relentlessly shrinking sectors of the economy, network TV and paper-based newspapers. They seem unaware of all this. Anyway, they remain silent.
Ron Paul has come out of cyberspace, which is where the future is, according to everyone except the political pundits. How was this possible? What does this mean? The pundits’ response: “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”
THE SCREENERS WILL SCREEN
The American political party system has had only three successful outsiders in American history: James Polk in 1844 (won), William Jennings Bryan in 1896 (lost three times), and Barry Goldwater in 1964 (lost overwhelmingly).
Reagan was twice elected as a governor. He had been an almost-ran in 1976. He was a semi-outsider with an insider as his VP.
Reagan got his shot because of new technology: his famous TV speech, late in the Goldwater campaign, which was paid for by the Goldwater campaign. It has been known ever since as “The Speech.” It is a good speech on paper. On radio, it was powerful. I have not been able to locate a full version of the TV version, but it was riveting. The audio version is here.
The Republican Party in 1964 paid to have a version of that speech shown locally with paid-for TV time. I recall no other speech ever used this way. The Republican Party’s professionals fought this decision, but Goldwater insisted.
[Note: The speech did not stick with Hillary Clinton, a “Goldwater girl” in 1964. Her parents sent her to Wellesley. Too bad.]
Reagan won in 1980 because of Richard Viguerie’s direct-mail techniques, 1965—80, based on 12,000 names and addresses of Goldwater campaign donors.
Bryan won the nomination because of a speech, arguably the most important political speech in American history. Reading it today, we wonder why, apart from the famous “cross of gold” line. That speech lost the Democratic Party for the gold standard, low-tax wing that had dominated ever since Andrew Jackson’s era. It turned the party into the high-tax, interventionist party it has been ever since Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913. Bryan’s brother Charles mastered the technology of direct mail. He later was Davis’s running mate as VP.
I am not persuaded that technology can overcome the screeners’ ability to raise funds in 2008. The major political parties since at least 1912 have been controlled by the banking interests and their allies. There is no candidate in American history more hostile to the existing anti-gold banking system than Ron Paul. He also opposes all tax-funded foreign aid, which includes foreign aid to the State of Israel.
The screeners will screen.
But Paul, at age 71, represents a fundamental break with the existing system. By surfacing on the Web, he has identified himself as a representative of people who do not trust the Federal government. There are a lot of them.
For over 40 years, I have heard conservatives talk about how important grass-roots politics is. This is rather like listening to guys at the corner bar talk about the how much they respect the work of Alcoholics Anonymous. Then it’s “Bartender, hit me again.”
Grass-roots politics is what is needed. But its focus must be on local politics.
There are 3,000 counties in the United States. They possess the property tax, which was the broadest-based tax prior to 1914.
Most counties are dominated by a single political party. So, only masochists or visionaries get involved with the minority party.
What if someone with a huge mailing list, or a series of mailing lists, were to create a below-the-radar movement for training citizens in the techniques of high-tech, low-cost political mobilization techniques? The target? Precincts.
You say, “That’s boring. Nobody cares about the local precinct.”
In most careers, you start at the bottom. But because money talks, and media talk, only those with connections and money get access to the voters. They do not start at the bottom. They want to start as a state representative or even higher.
They do not want to pay their dues.
So, the American political system is geared to state and national politics. Yet technology is moving toward decentralized communications: cheaper, faster, easy to master by non-techies.
Technology today is doing what the free market began doing in 1780: broadening the market through price competition.
This is the #3 threat to the screeners: low-cost, powerful computer and Web technologies. The #2 threat is the power of ideas. These ideas now can get out to the public without printing presses or ten-storey transmission towers. The screening gatekeepers stand guard at the gates, but the walls are crumbling from the acids of digital technology. The #1 threat is the nature of society. The French conservative Lamennais described it in the 1820’s:
Centralization produces apoplexy at the center and anemia at the extremities.
On all fronts except higher education, the screeners in America are in retreat.
What the silent digital minority needs in order to become a screaming electoral majority are the following:
A decades-long vision of victoryPrograms of privately funded welfareA readiness to de-fund the stateTechnologies of communicationTechnologies of local mobilizationPatienceA willingness to labor under the radarA leader who believes in grass-roots politics
If you want a slogan, try this: “Replacement, not capture.”
Conservative politics made a series of mistakes, beginning no later than 1948.
A defensive vision of stalemateNo programs for private welfareA goal of capturing the state EducationWelfareBureaucraciesNo local political mobilizationReplacing Communism’s empire with America’s
It had an operational slogan: “Capture, not replacement.” It got co-opted every time. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn lured them all in with his slogan: “To get along, you’ve got to go along.” They went along.
The Federal government got larger.
Ron Paul’s campaign offers a unique opportunity, just not to win the Presidency. It will be interesting to see what his campaign organization does with all those email addresses after mid-2008.
I know what Richard Viguerie did with 12,000 names and addresses of Goldwater campaign donors. Nobody else wanted those names. Anyone could have walked onto Capitol Hill and written them down. Only Viguerie saw the opportunity.
For me, this is mostly hypothetical. I watch from a distance as an interested observer. I enjoy stories of entrepreneurship.
I also recall the words of George Washington Plunkett of Tammany Hall a century ago: “I seen my opportunities, and I took ’em.”
That’s what opportunities are for.
Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com