Friday, August 31, 2012

Obama, Gary Johnson and the "cool" vote

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on August 31, 2012

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore reports that Gary Johnson hopes he can steal the "cool" vote from President Obama. I met former New Mexico Governor Johnson up here briefly when he signed the book to enter the New Hampshire primary. My conversation with him was mostly about Tuckerman's Ridge which he hoped to master again on his brief visit. He brought to mind friends middle aged and late up here in the New Hampshire mountains who the Yankees consider to be kind of local mountain kami – indigenous mountain spirits - attractive, intelligent and disciplined itinerants who live on the highest peaks and work as master carpenters and stone masons in the warm seasons. But the work stops when the snow arrives and real life begins again. We were mostly alone in conversation as the crowd had gathered to greet Texas Governor Rick Perry about 20 feet away when someone noticed that Johnson was here too, over there with one friend in the corner. Who, someone asked? And it took some explanation. He is definitely “cool.” Even as cool as Barack Obama.

Since the Fifties when Norman Mailer shared cocktails with Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz and the latter left New York to design their own political aesthetic in Washington, Republicans have conjured a distinctly anti-cool ethic. Cool is said to have originated in 1957 when Miles Davis released an album titled “Birth of the Cool” – like John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” in the same year - classics today. But when these conservatives shifted south, anything which suggested cool was bad. The conservatives’ anti-cool ethic today is fully embodied by the current Republican ticket which not surprising suggests two Mormons in black suit on a church mission. Counter-cool has found its avatar in Paul Ryan who proudly seems to have read one book, Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” Brings to mind the Reagan quip: Someone bought a Christmas present for Ronald Reagan. What did they get him, it goes? A book. But he already has a book!

To be fair, in the heyday, the best of the cool people like AndrĂ© Breton, Jack Reed, Arthur Koestler, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were probably communists or Trotskyites. It is a delight that Gary Johnson is not. But he is, as Moore says, “one politician at the Republican convention this week whom the party leaders undoubtedly wish would stay away.” Johnson guesses that he is pulling 5% of the vote.

With Ron Paul in the wings, it might be fair to say that Johnson today matures the libertarian position which is succinctly explained by Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center, whose conferences Johnson has participated in: “I don’t particularly want to be part of a movement to expand conservatism, just as much as I don’t want to be a part of a movement to expand progressivism. I just want liberty.”

But will he hurt Romney?

“Mr. Johnson is also sensitive to the obvious question of whether his candidacy is going to hand this election to Mr. Obama,” writes Moore. He says he takes more votes from Obama. “Perhaps younger social liberals who see Mr. Obama as an economic bust but are uncomfortable with cultural conservatives are attracted to Mr. Johnson's views on gay issues and legalizing marijuana.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three scenarios: Obama wins, Palin rises, the Romney Century awakens

Three scenarios arise in November. One, and likely, Obama wins. 67 percent of the people like him. Why would you vote for someone you don't like? Two: Obama wins, the eastern conservatives crash and burn and the westerners, led by Sarah Palin (with Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Ted “Cat Scratch Fever” Nugent) obliterate them in 2016 and a new Jacksonian, libertarian era opens. Three: Romney wins. As scenario one asks, why would you vote for someone you don't really like? Because he has the work ethic the rest of us have lost and we seek to gain it again to save ourselves from the "fiscal cliff." A Romney era could then awaken. And if he does save us we will look to him as we have since 1913 and the  passing of the 17th amendment  to family governance; Kennedy family, Bush family, Clinton family, Romney family. It may be as said, a degeneration into monarchy, but it is a fact. Romney has five tall sons, like the founding family of India. Enter a Romney Dynasty, a Romney Century.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Will the Tampa convention bring political evolution, rebellion or the same old thing?

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 8/27/12

Two American moments cast the fate of politics here since post-war; the Chicago Democratic convention marked by riots and massive demonstrations at the height of the Sixties, and the second term election of Ronald Reagan in 1984. These two events, one of rage, one of consensus, would claim us until today. But today we enter a turnstile and something else awakens. Maybe something just ahead in Tampa. Maybe in 2016.

Quite by accident I happened to be at the 1968 convention in Chicago. My plane home from Saigon had just arrived in San Francisco and I had just enough money to get to Chicago by train. It was largely an anarchist disgrace with hippies bearing signs "Chicks up front" so bloodied college girls would feed the evening newsreels, but it did identify once and for all for the next 45 years the character of  liberalism in America. Overnight, the party of modest traditionalists like Senator Hubert Humphrey, the “happy warrior,” would become the party of Ted Kennedy and George McGovern. And had there been then no Jerry Rubin calling on hordes to go home and kill their parents, there would in the interim have been no Bill Clinton and here at the denouement, no President Barack Obama. This is the rude anthropology of how events are forged in time to make history.

The other political day I remember well was March 30, 1981, 69 days into the new Ronald Reagan presidency when the president was shot. New York then was an ugly place. John Lennon had just been gunned down in front of his apartment at the Dakotas. Drugs had come to identify social class; on my way to work at 31st and Madison I’d pass construction workers openly smoking refer, while bicycle messengers were shooting heroin in the stairwells of skyscrapers and bankers were snorting cocaine. Like today, maybe. The nihilism which speakers like Jean Genet had brought to Chicago in the Chicago event had come to pervade the liberal culture. Violence, as the prosaic black power speaker H. Rap Brown had claimed, had become as American as apple pie. But something happened after the assassination attempt on Reagan: Americans had become embarrassed – ashamed really – of what we had become and said ENOUGH. The culture suddenly flipped and in 1984 Reagan won every state except Minnesota, home of his competitor, Walter Mondale. Reagan would mark the times. Things calmed down and prosperity returned to America.

After the attempt on Reagan’s life America returned to its senses. But ugly as it may seem, the '68 riots in Chicago were probably the more characteristic historic path for actual political advancement.  Things had pent up, exacerbated especially by the unpopular war in Vietnam. Change needs a catalyst and the ’68 convention provided one.
Conservatism may be facing such a change today. Ron Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and others including libertarians bring to conservatism today a primary shift. It resembles in my opinion most closely the change Andrew Jackson brought to Washington of headstrong country people in direct opposition to the Washington elites. It too will have a breakout moment ahead because that is the way the world works.

I’m not talking Sons of Anarchy, but maybe something to responsibly rise from this, Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient speech at the 1956 Republican Convention in San Francisco:

"Geographical balance of power is essential to our form of free society. If you take the centralization shortcut every time something is to be done, you will perhaps sometimes get quick action. But there is no perhaps about the price you will pay for your impatience: the growth of a swollen, bureaucratic, monster government in Washington, in whose shadow our state and local governments will ultimately wither and die."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sarah Palin takes the initiative

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/22/12

It was an error for the Republicans to bring in NJ Governor Chris Christie as key speaker at their convention. While all of the excitement and adventure in politics in the last three years has been among conservatives, Christie is the great, faithless bet against conservatives’ future and a futile attempt to institutionalize the past. At CPAC events these last three years, up to 40 percent of young conservatives yearned for Ron Paul and Judge Andrew Napolitano; STATES RIGHTS, SOUND MONEY AND CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT. The other 60 percent - the National Review crowd, the neocons, the Bush apparatus, the entire Eastern Conservative Establishment - could thing only of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  Christie is their front man, as animated and clownish as a carny barker at the Dixie Classic. Going into the future, conservatives hold all the cards. But they chose the past. Obviously, they should have chosen former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as their lead speaker.

Sarah Palin told Greta VanSusteren on Fox last night that she would support a 3rd-party run in Missouri. Not by accident this announcement comes as the Republican Convention opens in Tampa. Like Romney, she misses nothing. Since Palin - and she was the first – came to the support Doug Hoffman at NY 23 in 2009 there has been a positive division in conservatism which will grow and mature in our century. She is the natural leader of this new direction. In time we will see current economic liberalism disappear entirely. It lost its essential economic purpose when large scale manufacturing left America and America became a place of smaller businesses. It left Democrats with only the most ephemeral  lifestyle and cultural issues.

This shift in economy brings a maturity of economic purposes and it is a historic shift. If the last century and a half was represented as a proxy fight between Marx and Keynes, the next in America will be between Keynes v. Hayek. Two or three years ago at the CPAC events the Hayek direction - Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Sarah Palin - took the initiative. Chris Christie’s trickster dance in Tampa will not send it away. If Obama wins this year, Palin will lead (against Christie/Bush) in the Republican primary in 2016. If Romney wins and yields to the tradition (which he will because his life is stuck in 1972) Palin will bring a challenge.

Key here is we are at a generational shift as large and vital as that of the Sixties but it is a conservative shift. They just didn’t get the memo yet in Tampa.