Principalities & Powersrnby Samuel FrancisrnBehind Democracy’s CurtainrnOne of the more exciting prospects forrnthe Dole-Chnton presidential contestrnshould have been the “presidential debate,”rnwhich, ever since the Kennedy-rnNixon slugfest of 1960, has titillated thernmass electorate with the delusion thatrnthe voters actually have a real choice betweenrntwo different viewpoints. The onlyrnreason a Dole-Clinton debate ought tornhave been exciting, however, is that itrnshould have been interesting to see whatrnthe two participants could possibly disagreernabout. What exactly were theyrnsupposed to debate? NAFTA and thernWorld Trade Organization? Mr. Dolernsupported Mr. Clinton on those matters.rnThe deployment of American troops tornBosnia? Mr. Dole was on board with thatrnone too. The appointment of judges,rnthen, which Mr. Dole has mentioned asrnone of his major differences with hisrnDemocratic rival? But as a Republicanrnsenator Mr. Dole personally voted for almostrne’ery one of the federal judges Mr.rnClinton has appointed in the last fourrnyears and expressed immediate supportrnfor both of the two Supreme Court nomineesrnwhom the President has named.rnAffirmative action? No, Mr. Dole hasrnabandoned his earlier pledges to abolishrnit. Immigration reform? No again, sincernMr. Dole has barely mentioned the issuernand has done nothing to question thernadministration’s position. Ah, well then,rngun control, surely? But Mr. Dole supportedrnthe Brady Law when it came beforernthe Senate and in 1994 announcedrnthat Mr. Clinton’s support for the banrnon the sale of semiautomatic “assaultrnweapons” was “not an issue.” More recently,rnhe has announced that the repealrnof the ban, already passed by the RepublicanrnHouse, is no longer an issue. SincernMr. Dole didn’t think it was an issuernwhen it was passed and doesn’t think itsrnrepeal is an issue now, it would be fascinatingrnto find out exactly when he didrnthink it was an issue. Indeed, it would bernfascinating to learn whether Mr. Dolernconsiders any issue at all to be an issue.rnIn short, there is virtually no singlernmajor matter of national politics in thernlast four years on which the two candidatesrnare in conflict. Despite being reducedrnto attacking Mr. Clinton on thernrelatively minor issue of tobacco regulation,rnMr. Dole by the time of the electionrnmight reasonably be expected simplyrnto pack it in and endorse his rival’srnreelection.rnThe classic formulation of the view ofrnAmerican politics as a largely meaninglessrncontest between two largely indistinguishablerncontestants was the remark ofrnGeorge Wallace in 1968 that there wasrn”not a dime’s worth of difference” betweenrnthe Republicans and the Democrats,rnand that insight, if true of RichardrnNixon and Hubert Humphrey, is evenrnmore true today. It also is a truth thatrnmore and more voters are beginning torndiscover for themselves, despite all thernefforts of both parties and the establishmentrnmedia to invent false conflicts andrndifferentiations as decorative and distractivernrationales for holding elections at all.rnBut there are deep-seated historicalrnreasons for the convergence of the twornmajor parties and for the ever-quickeningrndisappearance of any serious dissentrnfrom national politics and the nationalrnculture. The main reason has to do withrnthe consolidation of power within bothrnpolitical parties and the national mediarnby what can now be characterized as thernAmerican Ruling Class—not just a seriesrnof separate but cooperating elites, but anrnincreasingly monolithic social and politicalrnforce that shares a common worldviewrnand a common set of interests. Forrnan introduction to the specific compositionrnof this ruling class, how it managedrnto acquire control of the two major parties,rnand how it has shaped some of thernmajor political decisions of the federalrngovernment for the last century, onerncannot do better than peruse a new butrnposthumous monograph by MurrayrnRothbard, Wall Street, Banks, and AmericanrnForeign Policy.rnWritten in 1984, the Rothbard monographrn(which includes an afterword byrnJustin Raimondo of the Center for LibertarianrnStudies and a reprint of a 1978 articlernby Rothbard about banking interestsrnand the Panama Canal Treaty)rndetails the emergence of banking andrnother corporate interests, their infiltrationrnof the two parties and the governmentrnsince Grover Cleveland’s time, andrntheir role in directing national policyrntoward what is today politely described asrn”internationalism” but which Rothbardrnmore bluntly and accurately calls “imperialism.”rn”The great turning point ofrnAmerican foreign policy,” writes Rothbard,rn”came in the eariy 1890’s, duringrnthe second Cleveland administration. Itrnwas then that the U.S. turned sharplyrnand permanently away from a foreignrnpolicy of peace and nonintervention tornan aggressive program of economic andrnpolitical expansion abroad. At the heartrnof the new policy were America’s leadingrnbankers, eager to use the country’s growingrneconomic strength to subsidize andrnforce-feed export markets and investmentrnoutlets that they would finance, asrnwell as to guarantee Third World governmentrnbonds.”rnRothbard’s monograph is a virtualrnWho’s Who of the American power eliternin the late 19th and early 20th century,rnand he shows again and again how thernsame names representing the samernbanking houses and families (and laterrnthe same corporate and institutional establishmentsrncontrolled by those interests)rndominated the foreign policy of thernUnited States, regardless of which partyrnwas in power or which mediocrity carriedrnits banners in the White House.rnThe major actor in the early part ofrnthis tale was the House of Morgan, whichrnmanaged to slip Theodore Roosevelt,rnclosely linked to Morgan interests, intornthe vice-presidential slot under McKinley,rnwho was soon laid low by a “lonenut”rnassassin. Both of TR’s secretaries ofrnstate, John Hay and Elihu Root, also hadrnstrong connections to the Morgan interests,rnas did several other Roosevelt Cabinetrnmembers, and it was J.P. Morgan’srnpartner, George W. Perkins, who inducedrnTeddy to read Herbert Croly’s ThernPromise of American Life in preparationrnfor the Progressive Party campaign ofrn1912. Croly’s book became the bible ofrnthe Progressive movement, and it wasrnMorgan men and money as well that inrn1914 founded the major outlet for thernexpression of Progressive opinion, thernNew Republic, with Croly as its firstrneditor (and Morgan partner WillardrnStraight as coeditor).rnRothbard’s monograph is no conspiracyrntract muttering about “insiders” andrnother unnamed illuminati, but a carefulrnOCTOBER 1996/31rnrnrn