That most pugnacious of liberals, Ed Koch, has endorsed Bush for re-election. His reason is exactly the same as my own, which spells doom, I think, for Dean. When a New York Democrat and a Georgia Democrat are thinking exactly the same thing, you can be sure there's an unusual alignment of the planets:
Nevertheless, I intend to vote in 2004 to reelect President Bush. I will do so despite the fact that I do not agree with him on any major domestic issue, from tax policy to the recently enacted prescription drug law. These issues, however, pale in importance beside the menace of international terrorism, which threatens our very survival as a nation. President Bush has earned my vote because he has shown the resolve and courage necessary to wage the war against terrorism.Meanwhile, The New Republic has endorsed Joe Lieberman. I myself--and, it sounds like, Koch--would be glad to rethink my endorsement of Bush if and only if Lieberman won the nomination. It's impossible, as Koch points out, but TNR is making a most honorable case:
The Democratic presidential contenders, unfortunately, inspire no such confidence. With the exception of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who has no chance of winning, the Democrats have decided that in order to get their party's nomination, they must pander to its radical left wing. As a result, the Democratic candidates, even those who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, have attacked the Bush administration for its successful effort to remove a regime that was a sponsor of terrorism and a threat to world peace.
The Democrat now leading in the race, former governor Howard Dean, is a disgrace. His willingness to publicly entertain the slander that President Bush had advance warning of the September 11 attacks and his statement that America is no safer as a result of the capture of Saddam Hussein should have been sufficient to end his candidacy. But the radicals who dominate the primaries love the red meat that is thrown to them, even when it comes from a mad cow.
Fundamentally, the Dean campaign equates Democratic support for the Iraq war with appeasement of President Bush. But the fight against Saddam Hussein falls within a hawkish liberal tradition that stretches through the Balkan wars, the Gulf war, and, indeed, the cold war itself. Lieberman is not the only candidate who stands in that tradition--Wesley Clark promoted it courageously in Kosovo, as did Richard Gephardt when he defied the polls to vote for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq. But Lieberman is its most steadfast advocate, not only in the current field but in the entire Democratic Party. In 1991, he broke with every other Northern Democrat in the Senate to support the Gulf war, then broke with George H.W. Bush when the former president allowed Saddam to slaughter tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia in the war's aftermath. In 1998, Lieberman joined with McCain to co-sponsor the Iraq Liberation Act, which committed the United States to regime change in Baghdad. And, in the 2000 campaign, when the younger Bush was still peddling neo-isolationism, it was Gore and Lieberman who insisted that the United States be prepared to use force to stop genocide and promote democracy.Reaction to TNR's endorsement from Dean supporters has been to cast TNR out of the left. This is somewhat like the passenger in a motorcycle car casting himself off from the motorcycle: he's freed himself, yes, but what he has freed himself from is the real engine of progress, and a wreck is certain. The Armed Liberal engaged this debate over who is "really" able to speak for the traditions of the Left, and is reminded of Communists who conducted purges of the impure: "We've been here before, of course. Remember POUM? And go read Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' to get a sense of what I'm talking about." One of his commenters makes a point on the topic:
The Democratic center has collapsed. Centerist Democrats have no candidates and they are repulsed by their choices in the General Election. This is a perscription [sic] for a large number of voters to check out of politics completely for several election cycles.If it comes to that, I will start a new party myself--I think we will call ourselves the Jacksonian Party. I mean, of course, James Jackson, and therefore a Jeffersonian party; but people who like Andrew Jackson will be welcome too. It's a big tent for American Classical Liberals, and ought to be able to pull from Republicans as well as Democrats. It will be founded on the real, and honorable, left of American culture: Jefferson's vision, which James Jackson shared, and for which he fought so valiantly.
We also have with Dean a recognition that the organizational barrier to entry for creating a national party organization has falled [sic] radically.
This is the historical perscription [sic] for collapse of the Democrats and the creation of a new major American political party.
It is that left which does not merely idolize the poor, but upholds them and finds ways to make them powerful. The support of unions is one way. Another is by supporting their right to bear arms, so that they do not rely upon a distant and disinterested state for their personal security or that of their families. Even in the city, the state is distant when the bandit is already in your home. Furthermore, and more importantly, an armed citizen is not merely more independent of the state. He is personally capable of defending the state, the lawful order, and the common peace, wherever he goes. Whether it is felons or terrorists who threaten that order and that peace, he is ready. The disarmed citizen is a ward of the state. The Armed citizen is its guardian. The state is his to uphold.
Another matter: we need a renewed focus on the rights and duties of the citizen, so that the poor will understand the power they already have by statute, but have forgotten how to wield. Consider jury nullification. Special interests may write the laws, but we have every right to make exceptions. The powerful and the rich do not sit in judgement over us: we judge ourselves.
Another matter: the defense and support of small businesses, who are the "Yeoman Farmers" of the city. No man is freer than he who employs himself, whether it is the owner of his own land, or the owner of his own shop. If we are going to fiddle with tax policy, let's fiddle with it in a way that encourages and supports small businesses and farmers.
Another matter: education culture. Private-sector unions are a defense for the poor, but public-sector unions are the enemy of everyone outside themselves. Private-sector unions encourage profit sharing, but there is no profit in the public sector--there is only tax money, which must be drawn from the poor as from the rich, and which is drawn at the point of a gun. Restraining public spending is a civil rights issue. The less money you must send to the government, the more you can use to build your own personal capital, and pull yourself up from poverty.
On the same topic, educators should themselves be educated. This should be a real education on the topic they intend to teach, not an education in "educational theory." No one needs that. By the time they are prepared to teach, they have had the most practical education in educating--they have attended twelve years of public school, four years of college, and have at some point had the practical apprenticeship of being an teacher's aide and a student teacher. They have seen education done for more than a decade, have a number of working models in mind, and have practiced the art themselves. What they need is to know their subject matter. We need historians teaching History, and mathematicians teaching math. A large majority of the public is being educated by people whose knowledge of a given subject is no greater than the textbooks they have been assigned. They can't enlarge upon the text, and they can't tell the students when the text goes wrong.
In foreign policy: we should recognize that international terrorist organizations actually are subject to an existing international law: the law of the sea. Precisely like the roving bands of brigands and pirates of the 1600s and 1700s, they are organized against civilization, travel through multiple jurisdictions and through lawless areas alike. They are not combatants of any state, and are protected therefore by neither the Geneva Conventions nor the rules of war. Like pirates, they are subject to summary execution by the officers of any nation that comes into control of them; or by interrogation and some more merciful response, if we prefer and at our discretion. This brutality on the part of civilized men is justified for the exact reason it was justified of old: the threat these bands pose to the transportation infrastructure is a dagger at the heart of civilization. We cannot maintain our cities, our populations, our ability to combat disease or famine, or our relative freedom from total war over resources, without the massive but fragile transportation capacity we have developed.
This is not idle or of small importance. A small increase in transport costs kills at the margins--for example, aid to Africa is reduced as it is more expensive to transport, but resources are fixed. A large increase threatens civilization itself. Our cities do not contain enough food to feed the populace for more than about three days. That is no problem; more food is coming. But if the ability to transport that food is severely harmed--starvation, and in many regions of the world, disease. A serious disruption could unleash a resource war by nations that see mass starvation if they don't capture food, oil, and other needful things. Such a disruption is possible if these terror groups continue their infiltration of the West, and come into possession of WMD.
For that reason, the reform of terror-sponsor states is paramount. So is the reform of failed states that are not necessarily terror-sponsors, but where terrorists are able to travel freely due to bribes of local officials or through outright lawlessness. So long as we can do so while maintaining an all-volunteer force, the United States ought to feel free to act on these places one by one. This has the practical matter, for a Jacksonian party, of bringing liberty and strength to the poor and unfree abroad exactly as we wish to do at home.
There are other matters, but this is enough for now.