Politically Speaking — November 22, 2022
There were a number of things that happened in the 2022 midterm elections that threw me for a curve. The first was no red wave, which Ludwig explains perfectly below. The second was John Fetterman winning 51.1% of the vote over Dr. Mehmet Oz for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. A third was Pennsylvania State Representative Anthony DeLuca (D) winning by a landslide in a re-election bid on Nov. 8. There is only one problem. DeLuca died on October. 9. So I guess Pennsylvania has a new twist. Not only does the state, like others, have those that are dead vote, but the dead also win elections! Which suggests a shady election (cheating). DeLuca not only won; he did so by capturing 86% of the vote. Welcome to the new world.
On to my dear friend Ludwig.
Someone recently joked that, on election day, the American voters are taking an intelligence test. I see it more as a test of conscience. The two major political parties are both populated by intelligent people, but they have different views of what is true and what is fair. Are voters encouraged to vote their ‘consciences’? What is that conscience that guides us? Some say it is the sum of our parents’ scolding during our formative years. It informs us of the nature of right and wrong. It is embodied in the Rotary 4-step ethic test: “Is it true? Is it fair to all? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it benefit all concerned?” For most of us, the conscience is associated with some sense of duty, and for many, it is the small quiet voice that we ignore when we impulsively indulge.
The prediction of a Red Wave did not happen for this election, although the Republican Party won the popular vote, and I perceive that the voters are becoming more conservative. I offer a little historical perspective regarding the conservative movement that emerged after World War II. The Progressives thrived in the 20th Century, under Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman. They were the party of big cities, unions, and big government. They dominated Congress for decades. The Republican party not only included traditional conservatives and libertarians, mostly united by a belief in decentralized government and low taxes, but there was a more liberal, big government section in that tent, that was dominated by New England and New York business interests with ties to the military industrial complex, led by Nelson Rockefeller. The 1950s were dominated by the calm stewardship of Eisenhower, the Red Scare of McCarthy, and the bipolar global tension of US efforts to contain the Communists.
In 1960, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater authored “The Conscience of a Conservative.” The small book formed the basis for his political philosophy, and it led to his nomination in 1964, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which shocked the nation. Barry Goldwater won the nomination with the support of the conservative wing. Lyndon Johnson was nominated in 1964 as the Democrats were trying to socialize medicine for the poor (Medicaid) and the elderly (Medicare). In 1964 a local paper posted a political cartoon that portrayed Goldwater as a Dr. Strangelove caricature seated in a wheelchair, struggling to repress a Nazi salute, threatening to launch World War III. Next to him, LBJ was portrayed as Santa Claus with a big bag of goodies on his lap, labeled ‘The Great Society.’ This was the media image of the 1964 election, encapsulated in the famous “daisy countdown” political TV ad that implies a vote for Goldwater would be a vote for nuclear war. Johnson won in a landslide. Goldwater didn’t become a President, and conservative policies were subdued. The major media networks were already prone to support the progressive extensions of the New Deal into the Great Society.
In 1965, LBJ escalated the Vietnam war, and government became huge. Between the Vietnam War and tensions over civil rights, LBJ became a one-term President and the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was a turning point in the politics of the USA. Richard Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey with a promise to solve the Vietnam problem. Then Nixon took over and abandoned conservative principles. He expanded federal agencies. He enabled HMOs, and the EPA among other agencies. In 1971, he took us off the gold standard. When OPEC instituted an oil embargo, inflation began that could not be controlled. Wage and price controls resulted in more disaster. Then there was Watergate, and Nixon resigned in disgrace, and Gerald Ford would lose the Presidency to Jimmy Carter. The decade of the seventies reminds me of today.
This election day, I wonder about the conscience of each voter as they stepped into the ballot booth. Amid the hyperbole and hysteria of the political propaganda coming from the media that supports the progressives, the voters were told that “democracy itself” was on the ballot. In the last weeks, the message was that the Republicans wanted to take away Social Security and Medicare. Fear does work. No red wave. The Republican Party remains fractured this year, with the leftover MAGA faction, and the big-government establishment faction that has been entrenched in Washington for decades. Where is the moderation and who are the radicals today? Recall how Goldwater responded, when accused of extremism: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
We need to study the past in order to understand what is useful and reasonable, and how governments become corrupt. There is a reason to lock our doors and hide our valuables. Human nature is a mix of good and evil. We need to see why the Soviet Union collapsed. We need to learn how Venezuela rapidly went from a rich, productive society to an impoverished failed socialist/communist experiment. Perhaps the Democratic Party will look under the tent and realize that the radical progressives are not providing us with sustainable policies. Perhaps the Republican party will look at the abortion issue and realize that there is a question of balance between the mother and child that needs to be resolved with a minimum of government interference.
When the temperature of the debate cools, maybe we can arrive at some reasonable ethical positions.
We can do better. We can listen to that small voice. It will be a while before we get to vote again, but for now, we have a lot to learn about the truth, and what is fair. One of my progressive Democrat friends told me that he voted for the liberty of women to terminate their pregnancy at the last moment before parturition, and he also voted for “democracy,” which seems to be the code word for large, powerful, expensive government. Good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes.
We have a lame duck Congress for about eight dangerous weeks, plenty of time for mischief and maneuvering. The Establishment Republicans are in an uncomfortable place at the moment, as they try to figure out how to handle the “Trump problem.” Before we vote in 2024, I hope we can inform the judgment of the voters, not with emotional hysteria, but with a sober appreciation of human nature that focuses on policies that are true, beneficial and fair, and satisfy that little voice we call our conscience.
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