As members of the House of Representatives were moving toward impeachment hearings that should make Bill Clinton—whatever the outcome—one of the most infamous politicians in American history, Republicans in both houses of Congress decided to give the President everything he was asking for—more federally funded teachers to corrupt the children and $18 billion of boodle for the IMF, justified by a blustering Dick Armey as a victory: From now on, the better-funded IMF will have to do its dirty deeds in public! The Republicans also gave presidential hit-man Richard Holbrooke a free hand both to expel the beleaguered remnant of Christians in Kosovo and to saddle the rest of the Serbs with a dictator they do not want.
Worst of all, perhaps, is the Department of Health and Human Services plan—supported, apparently, by Henry Hyde—to set up a national computerized network to track down parents who do not make court-ordered child support payments. Like so many other national-socialist schemes, the crusade against dead-beat dads is a gift of the “family values” conservatives who can justify any government outrage so long as it is “for the children.”
Republicans thought that by playing the impeachment card they would ensure the return of even more Republicans to Congress—an exercise in strategic brilliance that cost Newt Gingrich the speakership. But since the conservative freshmen are unlikely to turn out any better than the classes of 1996 and 1994, rank-and-file conservative voters cannot be blamed for sitting this one out, helping to make this the lowest turn-out in 40 years. Some conservatives here in Illinois could not even make up their minds to vote against Carol Moseley-Braun. Allegedly venal, self-evidently stupid, and blatantly leftist, the nation’s first black female senator does her best to stick by her principles and represent the leftists and minority groups who voted for her.
The same cannot be said of a single Republican who ran for a major office in this state. In the Senate race, Republican Peter Fitzgerald, who learned how to “moderate” his defense of Second Amendment rights, gained the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune. Gubernatorial candidate George Ryan, when he was not defending his record as the secretary of state whose employees sold commercial driver’s licenses to unqualified aliens, attacked his Democratic opponent for not supporting gun control. Until recently, Ryan was considered a pawn of the NRA, but whatever the issue, the motto of Illinois Republicans is “Retreat from the sound of the guns.”
Think back, my loyal conservative friends, and try to recall a conservative candidate for national office who kept his major campaign promises after the election, who did not become suddenly respectable once he saw the lay of the land. Robert Taft is not an acceptable answer: He died before there was a conservative movement. What is the point of putting Republicans in office, even self-declared conservatives, if they are going to behave like leftists? Not moderates, not liberals, but leftists. The answer given by the good men who continue to support the GOP usually rings the changes on “Politics is the art of compromise” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “We just have to get more conservatives on the Supreme Court.” To answer a cliché with a cliché: “We’re going to hell in a handbasket, and the conservatives are selling us fans. And the fans are made in China. And they don’t work.”
“But free trade, open borders, and the New International Order,” goes the reply, “are all clauses in the new conservative creed.” Pat Buchanan’s friends insist that this new conservative internationalism is, at best, the result of a misunderstanding or, at worst, the product of a conspiracy to take over the right. I am not at all sure that this is a debate worth carrying on. Who is and who is not a “conservative” is one of those conversational topics that should have been exhausted some time before 1984, and a recent article by Andrew Sullivan makes it clear that in the war of words, leftists have won the copyright to the name “conservative.”
In the course of his article, the ex-British former editor of the New Republic names two groups: establishment Republicans like Trent Lott, Kenneth Starr, and Representative Bob Inglis, and the usual second generation neoconservatives—Bill Kristol, David Frum, and Mark Helprin. Is Mr. Sullivan seriously asking us to believe that these movement leaders actually are committed to a set of identifiably conservative principles? The most important “conservatives” today are political operators who combine the probity of Warren Harding with the tactical brilliance of Harold Stassen. They can be very good at raising money and taking orders—whether from an Australian media magnate or from Asian business interests—but since nothing distinguishes their fundamental principles from those of, say, Andrew Sullivan, these representatives of the respectable right are of no earthly use except to provide an acceptable shadow’ opposition to the democratic socialists who call themselves “liberals.”
What would America be like if the editors of the Weekly Standard joined forces with the leadership of the GOP and captured the White House and both houses of Congress? There is no need to wonder, because it would be exactly like the America we are living in today. The only reason Bill Clinton can steal the conservatives’ thunder is because that thunder is played on a piccolo, and the time is what the Pied Piper of Hamelin played, a song guaranteed to attract every rat in the country: Wall Street greed tempered with a Swedish socialism, multinational imperialism abroad sugar-coated with appeals to “Peace on Earth” (for the one-world liberals) and with invocations of Teddy Roosevelt for the rubes back in Iowa.
Suppose—or rather imagine—that a coalition of right-wingers captured the Republican Party and took over the two elective branches of government. How would they deal with the business that confronted the 105th Congress in its final days? Obviously, President Buchanan would not always have an easy time of it, crafting compromises with House Speaker Ron Paul and Senate Majority Leader Bob Smith. It would have taken weeks to work out the “Ron Paul Tax Reduction Act” cutting income taxes by half, eliminating withholding, and requiring a simple, one-page tax form.
For the first time in years. Cabinet meetings are spent discussing policy instead of crafting carefully worded statements that defend the President without implicating Cabinet members as accessories. (The Clinton Cabinet was a highly exclusive group that excluded anyone smart enough to know that Bill was a chronic philanderer.)
One fine spring day in the first year of his term. President Buchanan summons his Cabinet to discuss the Kosovo question. Secretary of State Trifkovic (the job is, after all, reserved for foreigners) explains (objectively, of course) the continuing threat posed by the Albanian terrorists that Clinton had installed while the United States were still part of NATO. The new CIA director, a legendary intelligence expert known only as the Admirable H., outlines the elaborate heroin connection funding the terrorists, but the new secretary of war recommends against the use of American boys—kicking the women out of the armed forces was his first official act—in the Balkans. “All we need to do,” urges Secretary Trifkovic, “is to show a little moral support to our good friend. President Kostunica, who is a little distracted with the trial of Mr. and Mrs. Milosevic.”
The subject changes to domestic policy, and when Commerce Secretary Traficant mentions federal programs designed to build more schools and hire more teachers, HEW Secretary Howard Phillips snorts with contempt: “In four years there won’t be any federal spending on education, and I’ll be out of a job and have to run for president.”
Now that Clinton’s name has been dropped into the conversation —like a truckload of manure dumped on the White House lawn—FBI Director Kauffman presents his full report on the Clintons’ abuse of civil liberties, including the deprivation of the civil rights of several of their closest associates. (This class of crimes was not covered in the immunity granted by President Gore before his own impeachment.) President Buchanan laughs: “We’re so busy cleaning out the stables, we don’t have time to chase that horse thief.” Besides, as he points out to Kauffman, “It’ll be hard to pin anything on any private citizen, now that the FBI has shut down most of its domestic surveillance.”
Taking advantage of the break in the agenda. Secretary Phillips brings up ex-Congressman Hyde’s plan to track down dead-beat dads. Attorney General Stephen Presser takes a few moments to provide a refresher course on American federalism, explaining that the federal government has no authority to enforce child support. It is not just the fact that regulation of marriage and the family are not mentioned in the Constitution—neither are nuclear weapons or Colombian cocaine, but a good case can be made that both fall under the jurisdiction of the national government. But the essence of a truly federal system, the attorney general goes on, is respect for the boundaries that separate higher from lower authorities. In principle, each level of society, from the family up to the nation, should have the power to regulate its internal affairs. The separate states have always had different laws on marriage, divorce, and child protection because the states were always sovereign in those matters. The only inference to draw from the Hyde plan is that marriage and the family are now national institutions.
“Even the states,” adds an advisor of a somewhat sinister aspect, “are limited by nature in how far they can go in regulating marriage, procreation, and child-rearing. I know that it is fashionable these days to talk about family values, and we even used some of that language in the primaries, when we took what little wind there was out of the sails of Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes. But the fact is that ‘family values’ are simply another pretext to interfere in private life, and the end result will be to destroy, not preserve, the family.
“Many unwed mothers are living with the consequences of their own bad judgment and immoral character, but suppose the extreme case of a decent woman who is victimized by a man that no one could have dreamed would be anything but a model husband. Even in that case, a morally responsible woman would refuse to socialize her problem. This is what families exist for, after all. As Robert Frost put it, ‘Home is where when you have to go there they have to take you in.'”
By this time, some of the more hard-boiled officials are growing impatient. Interior Secretary Samuel Francis (the job has been redefined) lights a fresh Pall Mall on the stub of a dying cigarette and exchanges glances with BATF Director Pratt. Their plan to re-arm the citizenry through the “Assault Rifle Voucher Program” has restored peace in large sections of the American heartland, and—as INS Director Brimelow notes—”The Texas militias are doing a better job of policing the border than the INS ever did.” FBI Director Kauffman breaks in to point out that the termination of all welfare benefits for aliens has reversed the immigration flow from Mexico, adding that old Latino families were never a problem. “Their families have been here a lot longer than yours, Peter, and they have every right to hold onto their language and culture—so long as the rest of us are not made to pay for it.”
And so it went, a typical Cabinet meeting in the restored American republic. Previous meetings had discussed ways of restoring religious liberty and other constitutional freedoms to the states and to the people, a compromise bill on abortion that sent the issue back to the states (where it always belonged), and a conference of governors and state legislators to discuss the “Alabama Model” of community rights, giving home rule to cities and even to neighborhood groups that chose to exercise that option.
Not everyone was happy, of course, especially the so-called conservatives. Now that foreign lobbying was a treasonable offense, many conservative leaders had gone to Korea and Taiwan to work in tennis shoe factories and give lectures on the theory of democratic capitalism. Devolution also imposed a heavy burden of responsibility on an American people that had grown used to servility, and President Buchanan was sometimes tempted to impose penalties on states and cities that refused to exercise their rights —but the temptation passed as soon as he remembered he had given up the power to interfere.
Turning abortion back to the states had certain unforeseen consequences. As predicted, states like South Carolina and Utah passed very strict laws, while Massachusetts opted for a system of free abortions on demand and handed out an annual award to the doctor who had killed the most babies. Most states, however, were somewhere in the middle, outlawing all abortions that could not be justified on the grounds of incest, rape, or the mother’s health. As abortion was increasingly stigmatized even in moderate states, liberals began moving to Massachusetts, which became increasingly radical. Governor-for-Life John-John took the inevitable step of declaring the Bay State an independent country and made the appropriately symbolic gesture of naming Barney Frank as his First Lady. Connecticut and Vermont breathed a sigh of relief and voted to expel all residents born in Massachusetts except on the off-chance that they could find a hundred natives who would testify to the aliens’ good character.
Now that commercial regulation was back in the hands of states and local communities, multinational companies found it more difficult to destroy local businesses. A resurgence of mom-and-pop groceries and restaurants led to the revitalization of American cuisine. Suddenly, provincialism became all the rage, and Harvard-educated traitors to the South or the Midwest moved back home and took classes in order to recover the local accent they had worked so hard to lose. Even local television and radio stations, liberated from the shackles of national regulation and the international economy, became focal points for a cultural renaissance. Top 40 stations in Milwaukee and Austin and Toledo devoted half their time to local bands, and in Minneapolis, Albuquerque, and Tupelo, TV soap operas and comedies with local settings were the training ground for the dramatic explosion that would make the early 21st century a second Elizabethan era.
After four years of renewal under Buchanan, the forces of reaction regrouped in “The Real Conservative Party,” led by a deflated William Bennett and former Democratic leaders like Tom Daschle and David Bonior. (Dick Gephardt had read the writing on the wall and jumped on the Buchanan band-wagon in the second year of his first term.) Promising a restoration of Democratic values —quotas (now termed “equality adjustments”), welfare-dependency, and race war—they swept several urban areas of the Northeast and almost split the black vote with Buchanan. A slim majority of African-Americans, however, followed the advice of leaders like Louis Farrakhan, who pointed out that the Buchanan administration had given them home rule in their own communities, the right to rear their children the way they wanted, and the ability to use their tax money to support their own religious schools and African Cultural Centers. “If you want to go back to being slaves, move to Massachusetts.”
“Then I awoke and found the dawn was grey.”
Restoration of America is a dream, but it is not an impossible or futile dream. It will have to be based both on our own history of self-reliance and provincialism—traditions that antedate the Constitution, which strengthened and preserved them for as long as that Constitution was respected—and on the deeper instincts of our human nature that found expression, for almost 3,000 years, in the institutions of European civilization.
These institutions incorporate that moral philosophy of Christianity and Judaism which is deeply offensive to Mr. Sullivan and the future First Lady of Massachusetts. In his article, Mr. Sidlivan admonishes his neoconservative “think-alike” friends to regain their chipper optimism by taking inspiration—as “true conservatives” must—from the examples of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—as if the American obsession with commercial sports were not a symptom of our malaise. But if, he says, they persist in their moralizing follies, “then they lose sight of what makes them both conservative and quintessentially American. They lose sight of what distinguishes them from the darker history of European conservatism. . . . “
It is the mark of dishonest leftists that they can never be content with defining their own position but must define their opponents’ as well. Consider the effrontery of an Englishman telling us what it means to be American and a leftist instructing us on the principles of true conservatism. Next, he will be telling us that reverence for AIDS is the ultimate Christian principle.
By turning to “the dark side,” American conservatives might rediscover the facts of human nature and the limitations they place on our sexual and social experimentation; they would recover a sense of the history and literature of which they have been deprived in the propaganda academies that pass for schools; they would regain pride in their ancestry and faith in their God; and they would refuse to listen to the Muzak melodies warbled by the Sirens—leftists in drag who define the American right.
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