Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Arnold Bounce
(Vote for Hillary, Stupid)

by Bernie Quigley, for The Free Market News Network, 7/26/06

For the second time in less than a decade, we have experienced the Arnold Bounce. It is the primal desire for a Strong Man – like Rabbi Loeb conjuring a Golem; like Superman – to come and help us out of our problems.

But Arnold Schwarzenegger is no Golem. His is the better sense in California and it has saved the state with an economy larger than France’s from falling to the economic status of a netherworld like Venezuela’s and dragging down the rest of us with it.

At the beginning of the invasion of Iraq two figures arose defining new sensibilities; Howard Dean and Arnold. Apparently the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon likewise triggered deep fears and wishes. Arnold had fallen way behind by the fickle California voters. But since Israel’s invasion of Lebanon his numbers went up 8% above his opponent, State Treasurer Phil Angelides, all but insuring victory in his upcoming election.

The poll was conducted between July 10 and 23, the same time as the invasion. Something else is at play here of course; the rational and reasoned mind of the Governor and of the 8% or more of Californians who have changed their opinions of him. It is significant that the day after President Bush proudly vetoed stem cell research in a swaggering reaffirmation of his feed-store political philosophy and theology, the Governor of California conspicuously committed extensive funds to the same research.

Not only did the Governor of California commit the West to the journey ahead in the 21st century, he did something even more important. He stepped forward, not for the first time, as the leader of a new party – a party within a party – running directly in opposition to President Bush.

This action truly marks the ascent of the West as we have seen it growing since Nixon/Kennedy. Much has been said of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy – he went to Duke Law School – and Ronald Reagan’s nod to states rights to carry the South. Mischief and propaganda. These men had no Southern instincts whatsoever and Reagan’s nod to Jefferson’s vision of federalism was absurd. Reagan was the most Hamiltonian federalist President on record.

But Reagan was quintessentially a Western man and Nixon was the essential Orange County post-war politician. Both were completely Western in outlook and orientation. Indeed, so was our most important President since Yalta in my view; the one who would establish the long-term precedent for our country and open the West to full participation in the American condition; Dwight Eisenhower. The chief poet and prophet of the Eisenhower era got it right (“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”). On Jack Kerouac’s road to liberation, the highway always headed West.

We have been seeing the growth of the West in America and of a Western Republican Party since Yalta. The Southern Strategy was a passing political expedient. What we are seeing now is a division between the folkloric Southern Republicans and the clear, rational and formidable Western Republicans. That which hatched when Eisenhower’s Texas Mennonite mother sent him forth into the world matured with Reagan and awakens with Arnold. We can begin to see the outlines of a new “party-within-a-party” now for the first time.

And none too soon.

This week in Denver, Senator Clinton unveiled her new campaign slogan: “It’s the American Dream, stupid.”

As Arnold’s New West Republicans step forward into a gulf of maybe 80% in the middle of the electorate, the Democrats take a step back.

Clinton’s slogan is, of course, a play on her husband’s campaign slogan which was so well thought of by people like those who write for Salon who do not consider themselves to be stupid. “It’s the economy, stupid,” seemed to come directly from James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun & Bill Clinton’s pit bull, sent out to TV talk shows to fight with people who talk like that.

Next to Gerry Ferraro’s, “It’s my turn,” I thought it was the worst slogan I had ever heard. It was geared to the Sixties crowd and Doonesbury readers who think everyone other than their own generation is stupid. But other issues aside, you could not quite hear that coming from Bill Clinton himself as he didn’t seem to have that core of vindictiveness within him. Hillary however, who started her career chastising people older than herself, and continuing now into her old age chastising those younger, as she did recently when she gave a college commencement address and told the young ‘uns they had no work ethic, gives it a particularly nasty twist. (After her daughter called her to complain, she apologized to the whole graduating class. Wow. Did any of you go to college in the Sixties? Work ethic? For summer reading, try some of Ann Beattie’s New Yorker short stories from the period about lounging around college dorms for 10 years or so smoking dope and listening listlessly to Cat Stephens, waiting for the war in Vietnam to end so you could finally quit graduate school.)

When Hillary says it, it makes you actually feel kind of stupid. She is an Introvert, I have been informed by a perceptive reader, and feels uncomfortable on the podium without the cocoon of her friends. It gives everything she says in public kind of a nasty cast. But a lot of people like that. I have a little shadow, one of Hillary’s bloggers – I think it is her paid blogger - who follows my words and responds whenever I rag on her. He says that’s what people like about her. (Did I already say Wow?)

Senator Clinton is said to have a 42% ceiling. That means 42% of the voting public has told pollsters that they would never vote for her under any circumstances. The only Democrat with a higher ceiling is Ted Kennedy (45%).

It would seem that in a season of Republican incompetence and mismanagement which almost appears annually now like the Fire Season in the Southwest, the Democrats would have every opportunity.

Yet at the peak of mayhem, Howard Dean’s Party has once again taken a step back. Senator Clinton takes her husband’s slogan for her own of course, to let you know that she is part of the Bill Clinton package. But it is a package that lost the House and lost the Senate and polarized this country since it hasn’t seen or felt polarization since the 1960s. And this time the Democrats have virtually mobilized their own undoing. If the Democrats lose 49 or so states in 2008 with Hillary as they did with George McGovern and again running against Reagan, it will be the end of the Democrats.

And just as we saw one party disintegrate in the 1850s at the hands of the Jacksonian Populists (which have been compared today with the Bush Republicans) we will see the Democrats fall and a new party step forward in their place. With the Arnold Bounce we are seeing it now: New West Republicans. That gap of 80% alienation from the two political parties which Alan Greenspan warned of at this retirement which could very well sponsor the awakening of a Third Party in 2008 or 2012 will be filled by a new outgrowth of the Republicans. And the binary consensus and divisions ahead will be between Old South Republicans and New West Republicans. The Democrats will be left to history with their spiritual father, the Whigs.

It is not just Hillary. The Democratic Party seems lost in its nostalgic past. Barack Obama, a new Senator for Illinois, is widely talked of as a Presidential candidate today in Democratic circles. In fact, his office says he gets over 300 calls a week for speaking engagements. What is it that compels Democrats to bring a virtually unknown Senator to want to run for President? And one at that who takes the narrow view, like Senator Clinton, of sending party money only to specialty candidates (like them)? It is this: Obama is a nice-looking and pleasant young black man with a handsome smile. Period.

In Iowa in the last few weeks, Mark Warner was asked about some controversial issue which I didn’t quite hear, listening in on C Span. But the answer was the same answer I have heard from him again and again on the campaign trail here in New Hampshire and elsewhere. And it is the right answer.

“97% of what I do on my job is management,” he said. Warner has been voted Governor of one of “the best managed states” in America. He presents himself to the Democrats as a manager. Indeed, he is a great manager. And he is not the only great manager the Democrats have. Wesley Clark is not only a great manager, but a man of wisdom, compassion and intuition. Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, is as great a manager as the Republic is ever likely to see.

How little interest the Democrats have shown in managers like these and other good and competent managers like Mike Easley, Governor of North Carolina, or good, hard-working and thorough-going politicians like Woody Anderson, running for Representative in Arkansas. They seek only celebrity at the Big Top. If they cannot awaken to the new century and continue as they have as the Left-Over-from-the-Sixties Party, this absurd Hillary campaign will be their last.

And the Arnold Bounce will reformulate the Republicans into the ascending party of the new century. Even now we can see with elections 18 months away that the important event will not be a Democratic Convention which attempts to extend Bill’s career by anointing his wife, but a Republican Convention contending between Old South Republicans and New West Republicans.

I don’t think the Israel invasion which bounced not only Arnold but the stock market will continue bouncing. I think it will go much as it has gone in Iraq.

But the moment has been instructive. Who do we call to when our deepest uncertainties are awakened? Who do we instinctively seek when fear touches to the core of our being? We have seen moments like this in the past – they are the primary crises which called forth Washington, Lincoln and Eisenhower. And when the storm is endured and equilibrium is returned to the world, they bring forth the values which define us for the next 80 to 100 years.

We call them out of chaos. This time we are calling Arnold.