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September 03, 2003

Why?

The short answer to the question why I am a republican is rather like the same reason I live in an upper middle-class largely white suburban neighborhood. It fits my ambition, it is racially integrative and it's where the action is. I believe that the Republican party, despite its current distance from its principles, needs the kind of reform inherent in the political orientation of people like me. I find libertarian values appealing, but I think libertarians live in a political vacuum and I find that sort of ideological purity best suited to philosophy and theology. The Republican party is where the rubber meets the road in terms of practical political power.

As things stand I am mostly drawn to the geopolitics of the neocons and people like George P Schultz. I am drawn to what I understand of FA Hayek. I cannot stand self-indulgent anti-establishment rhetoric and I hold a grudge against hippies for their influence on the popular memory of the 60s. I hold a grudge against the labor movement for its racism and I think too many Democrats are romantic fools.

That's about as concise as I can put it. I'm not really sure what it means to be 'a democrat' or 'a republican' if you are not directly part of the party aparatus or making deals as a lobbyist or organizing a think tank or PAC to influence policy. You register, you vote once a year maybe. That's not politics to me, and I don't get much of a bang out of the identity politics of 'being' a republican. That said, it is important to me that other blackfolks who are Old School as I am make our presence known by enjoining those political activities above and beyond the annual vote, and as such 'being' a black republican is significant in that it represents change and reform. The movement to integrate and reform the party is more important for a number of reasons. I don't take today's black republican talking heads very seriously - they are not moving or changing things, rather they are excoriating Negroes which means they are facing in the wrong direction. If they see the Republican Party as the promised land, they must be deluded.

In the months since I have decided to out myself as a Republican I have found a lot to like about many conservative commentators that I would not have otherwise found. The critical distance I have gained from divesting myself of age-old arguments (which sound more like platitudes than policies) has been useful. Furthermore the stomach I have grown in finding the good needles in haystacks of paleoconservative rhetoric has made me more robust and given me a good amount of perspective on what is worth commenting on in the first place.

In the end I am finding that practically speaking, almost as Chomsky predicts, Democrats and Republicans are legislatively similar. That bipartisanship is more like collusion and both sides play wedge politics with a public more vested in the 'being' part of that Democrat and Republican membership. If that makes me cynical, sobeit. I am more comfortable therefore being with the party of cynicism, not least because I get hope from things other than politics. (See 'romantic fools' above.) This is how I can sleep with such matters as the Texas redistricting issue. The Republicans are not responsible for sustaining the hope of the Mexican Americans Democrats which they are purportedly disenfranchising. Should they be? I view party politics as a creature of self-interest, who is more effective in deed is the operant question.

What Republicans have done is reduce their philosophy to a very small kernel, one which I happen to think is seriously compromised by the mendacity of its recruitment of the Christian Right which has, by and large, poisoned Republican principle. But this simplification has made that thing which is Republicanism easily digestible, as Rush Limbaugh and others in redneck radio prove daily. This is a force to be reckoned with, and the Democrats are simply incapable of doing anything similar. The Democratic agenda is a complex mix of keeping multicultural hopes alive, each to their own desires. This requires complex thinking, which would be fine if they were commensurately right. But not only are they wrong, they cannot keep their faithful consistently wrong when it comes time for elections. The Democrats are losers and as romantics attempting majoritarianism their hands are tied. In the end, they compromise to meet Republicans halfway and sellout their constituencies. This is fundamentally dishonest and I can't abide it. Gray Davis is a perfect example of one held hostage to a thousand interests. As such he is no more competent to deal with California's problems than anyone Republicans can field, yet he has to do all that and keep hope alive for an aggregated middle + left majority as well. Sisyphus had a better deal.

If Republicans were as competent as they claim, and maintained fidelity to their righteous principles, they would be of necessity a minority party again. I think the Greens combined with the Reform Party have a halfway decent chance of creating a third way. This would push the Democrats to the be the party of the working poor and rabble Left. It could be a very good labor party. That would leave Christian Right out of the picture they have distorted beyond belief. In my romantic world, the Democrats would control legislatures, the Greens/Reformer/Civil Libertarians would control courts, the Republicans/Authoritarian Libertarians would control the executive and foreign policy.

I know 'authoritarian libertarian' sounds like a conflict of terms, but I studied computer, not political science. What I mean are those libertarians who have enough sense to leave their anarchist, laisez faire, Ayn Randian sensibilities at the curb and recognize the rule of law in creating and maintaining commons and properly regulated markets.

I'll say one last thing which is actually the latest idea that I am percolating and that is this. I think that the authoritarianism of Republicanism is necessary because there are limits to individual freedom that Hayek may not have recognized. Today, I believe most in the West assume of science and technology that which was thought of natural resources in the 19th century: that there is an unlimited supply whose exploitation is the basis of the wealth of nations and the progress of humanity towards civilization. But I believe we will better come to recognize the inherent limits of seeking truth. So I assert an arbitrary limit on the ability for human societies to discover, absorb, exploit, develop economies around, truths. This may be echoing 'regimes of truth' (is that Derrida or Lacan?). At some point accumulating capital in the hands of individuals no longer serves truths. There is a limited amount of truth that actually serves mankind, but there may be an infinite amount of virtual truth. At some point systems of truth will come into conflict with systems of virtual truth. Who should win? Markets will decide arbitrarily, its all equally true to the market whether or not the regimes serve humankind. In the end there has to be something decidedly conservative that reigns in the markets ability to empower virtual truth. Not to do this presumes romantically that humans are and should be infinitely flexible - which is another way of saying that the individual can always and should always maximize personal freedom.

There are a lot of problems with this and I'll flesh it out in formally understood terms over time. My bias says that so long as some can dictate the terms under which other's liberty should be approached or defended in the unregulated marketplace of ideas there will be ugly oppression. So I am worried about the idea that maximizing 'individual freedom' over time is a contradiction because there are not infinite amounts of liberating ideas. Rather there are a few things that actually work (or can work at the same time) and infinite ways to 'empower' individuals which are counterproductive and false. This central purpose of the republic is to reign in individual power, especially in today's age where science has mutated to mad science, and technology in the hands of individuals becomes proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Everything cannot be laissez-faire.

Posted by mbowen at September 3, 2003 05:52 PM

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Comments

In my romantic world, the Democrats would control legislatures, the Greens/Reformer/Civil Libertarians would control courts, the Republicans/Authoritarian Libertarians would control the executive and foreign policy.

You're not a Republican. You're a Platonist.

Posted by: Prometheus 6 at September 3, 2003 06:26 PM

Does that mean I have to rename myself and my blog into some greek historian whose name ends in 'us'?

Posted by: Cobb at September 3, 2003 07:21 PM

Hey, what about us Left Libertarians who leave our anarchist, laisez faire, Ayn Randian sensibilities at the curb and recognize that a social safety net and limited government regulation are necesary for maintaining a healthy and viable commonwealth?

In my romantic world, the Democrats would control legislatures, the Greens/Reformer/Civil Libertarians would control courts, the Republicans/Authoritarian Libertarians would control the executive and foreign policy.

In many ways this statement fits nicely into an argumant in favor of proportional representation.

Posted by: walter at September 3, 2003 08:34 PM

The question is what would left libertarians do about the multinational conglomerates? Some not like the fact of General Electric, Boeing and Citibank etc in the Fortune 100 as these massive global corporations. No extraordinary safety net is going to be forthcoming if they find it convenient to relocate to the Netherlands or Germany. That's not my great fear, actually. I'd be a great deal more interested to see how libertarians would deal with the insurance industry. Nobody seems to be able to. I suspect the answers are within those corporate offices - that is such companies know exactly what net costs of equivalent benefits are to their employees across continents. Since they have to pay them everywhere, why not change the American insurance schemes towards a global standard?

I think there is a certain amount of safety that we shouldn't expect, and a certain amount that we should in this safety net. For example, why should I be required to have $100,000 of property & casualty insurance on my automobile and pay $200 a month in my redlined neighborhood, when I'm more likely to shot by a gangbanger than wreck my car?

I know this sounds controversial but I think that class should be taken into consideration in the insurance business. That is to say that insurance coverage of all sorts should be means tested by income. People with the most to lose should have the most to pay, and people with low incomes should not be expected to get rich quick via fraud nor subsidize the safety of the wealthy through high premiums. That means Tiny Tim cannot get a new prosthetic leg nor a liver transplant, but it does mean Bob Cratchit doesn't have $700 COBRA payments.

As a globalist I think we should be prepared to support an internal third world. In a certain sense, it's already happening. The poor are getting poorer - they are starting to resemble those in the real second and third worlds. But I see some on the left as promising what cannot be delivered and destabilizing the lower middle classes. I see some on the right saying 'let them eat freedom' and that doesn't cut it either.

The American Dream is going to have to be loosened up. We cannot continue to pull economies out of our hats. That means more Americans are going to have to live by the economic rules of the cold cruel world or else we will be forced, ultimately, to use our military in an exploitive fashion. If our politics raise expectations to the point that janitors will riot if they don't get $40,000 jobs with full benefits, then we have lost it.

So I'm all for a safety net, but I think it is inevitable that we will need to accomodate ourselves to living with a pacified underclass.

Posted by: Cobb at September 3, 2003 09:21 PM

Ok, I understand you don't like the label, but you do say you're a Republican and you also say that you don't like many of things the Republican party does and you don't like the involvement of the Christian Right with the party. That's ruling out a lot of Republicanism to be a Republican. I guess the question now is, what is this Republicanism to which you subscribe?

Posted by: ogged at September 5, 2003 11:04 AM

Does that mean I have to rename myself and my blog into some greek historian whose name ends in 'us'?

It would help. Naming yourself for a Chaos deity would be better, but neither is absolutely necessary. :-)

I need to email you, man. See, I think you see the Republican Party as a vehicle rather than something you're a member of. I remember you said I'd be welcome to post serious topics there and you have NO IDEA how moch consideration I've given that though.

I read the comment thread about Project 21 on Vision Circle and though we see eye to eye on so much, well, I feel the need to understand why you think you can accomplish what you want to as a Republican Black man.

Because I don't see that party welcoming, or even accepting the expression of, any non-neocon concepts. In fact, I see the party and its leaders and its true-believers as active enemies.

The first time you posted to P6 you said rather than saving suicide liberals it would be better to move the right closer to the center. I said you can't change people's minds when they think they're winning as they are.

i reject the idea that honor is confered upon blackfolks by membership in a conservative cabal of any sort. rather the reverse is the case in a truly representative democracy.

And I choose not to confer honor on them until they become honorable in my eyes.

Posted by: P6 at September 5, 2003 11:13 AM

I've been talking to myself in my car in answer to these questions. The most concise thing I could come up with is this: there is bipartisan legislation that benefits blacks, so there is a great deal the republicans actually do in congress that contributes to african american success. in the end it's that you can read a cereal box and tell how much niacin you are getting, not whether or not 12 republicans voted for the program or 50.

secondly, according to the christian science monitor's poll, i am geopolitically neocon, and those are pretty damned good questions for an automatic poll. i suppose i could consider myself a 'riordan republican' if that help illuminate things. he's a moderate. i've always liked teddy roosevelt.

it's not that i don't like the label just all the simple-minded implications. one of the reasons i put together my list of litmus questions is because i think that's the appropriate way to deal with issues.

i'm perfectly comfortable being a republican as a provocative thing. but i'm not invested in that so much.

i do see the republican party as a vehicle. it is a functional vehicle and the democratic party is not.

there are a couple of other arguments i would lightly raise.

a. the presumptions against being a black republican force me to think harder about my choices. that's a good thing.

b. the old school / talented tenth objective of race raising is class oriented. the republican party is better suited to the class interests of middle, upper middle class and upper class blacks. class interests should predominate over race interests.

c. a segregated republican party harbors racists. only powerful blacks can and will expunge them properly.

Posted by: Cobb at September 5, 2003 02:16 PM

Hmmm...according to that CSMonitor test, I'm a liberal and the way they present, I don't feel bad about it.

Liberals

Are wary of American arrogance and hypocrisy
Trace much of today's anti-American hatred to previous US foreign policies.
Believe political solutions are inherently superior to military solutions
Believe the US is morally bound to intervene in humanitarian crises
Oppose American imperialism
Support international law, alliances, and agreements
Encourage US participation in the UN
Believe US economic policies must help lift up the world's poor

Posted by: Jason at September 10, 2003 03:08 PM