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Battlefield 2012

The Latest Battle In A Cultural War

But as the happy feelings faded away, people began to see the grim reality: all leftist systems operate by sacrificing everything else at the altar of equality, which can only be achieved by hobbling the above-equal with regulations while simultaneously empowering the below-equal with welfare, subsidies, quotas and other “well-intentioned” social justice programs. LBJ’s “great society” ideas were re-created time and again in American and European social programs…

(Ht: Brett Stevens)

On a rare and occasional day, Brett Stevens of Amerika.org and Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider.com will agree strongly. They are polar opposites in many ways. Stevens thinks in terms of what America will be like (or whether it will even still exist) 50 years hence. Weisenthal wants to win an election in 5 months and hasn’t thought past that circled date on the calendar. Weisenthal represents the Bourgeois Bohemian of the New Left to a tee. Stevens blogs for the “Alternative Right” when he isn’t practicing his guitar licks. The amusing part comes when they both seek plausible deniability over having agreed with their polar opposite.

Stevens and Weisenthal both view Election 2012 as a major battlefield in an ongoing American cultural war. Weisenthal dutifully trots out Ezra Klein to accuse Romney of being the newest bad word- Keynesian. Here is a sample of what happens when Ezra Klein inspires you instead of making you run in the opposite direction.

Klein does a better job than we ever could explaining the technicalities of what could and will happen under various election outcome scenarios, but the gist is the same: Romney win = more likelihood of prolonged deficit spending. Obama win = potential fiscal cliffmageddon.

Of course this gives Weisenthal heartburn and great moral angst.

But the idea of a Keynesians For Romney campaign really distresses people, since it’s basically a tantamount to rewarding the GOP for being obstructionists, that won’t pass the slightest bit of stimulus if it’s proposed by a Democratic President. Actually it’s worse: As the Republicans showed last summer, the party is willing to take the nation to the brink of default.

Stevens sees Election 2012 as a fight to reestablish an American Culture that is worthy of patriotic sentiment and loyalty. Pace Stevens, We have to get rid of Mein Obama so that we can recapture a sense of American Exceptionalism and feel like a nation again.

In contrast, under an organic order the nation is composed of people with more in common than not, genetically. They share a heritage in addition to a culture and the values, customs, rituals, events and sayings that go with it. It’s not a political choice, but a way of life, and this cultural mandate does what no amount of police officers can do: it keeps people mostly in line by making them want the estimation of their neighbors.

His extolling of culture as an antidote to existential ennui is condign and necessary. We need to become a nation again if we want to have any hope of functioning like one. Barack Obama has deliberately used incidents like the Trayvon Martin shooting to make us hate one another more.

The one obstacle to adopting this program was the opposition to anything reeking of nationalism by not only our elites, but our average citizens. They had grown up on a steady diet of the Civil War, the Holocaust and the fight against vicious Klan racists in the American South. In their minds, nationalism meant racism. This was convenient because most of these people already opposed anything but a liberal system of equality, because they feared being found less-equal and being penalized.

So Election 2012 is not just a contest to be decided on terms of “It’s the economy, Stupid.” In fact, I tend to think Weisenthal deliberately seeks to reduce it to this level in hopes of making people miss the megatrends diminishing America as a decent and honorable nation. These megatrends have been expanded and cynically utilized by Barack Obama. Kudos to Mr. Stevens for calling President Obama out on it.

Yet even this doesn’t tell the story completely. It misses a 3rd dimension that must be intellectually grappled to properly prep the battlefield in any cultural war. A negative externality from our current national angst consists of a genuine lack of good faith between Americans of differing philosophical perspective. We stopped disagreeing on principal and descended into a posture of antipathy and mutual disrespect. A nation featuring antipathetic mutual distrust will go the way of Abraham Lincoln’s house divided.

I still await the candidate that can most intelligently attack the problem posited twenty-five or so years ago by Pontifex Maximus, Benedict XVI. In a nutshell, you can’t do business with others or socially cooperate when you feel the need to count your fingers every time you shake their hand. The Pope put it more reverently than I.

It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact of economic history that the development of economic systems which concentrate on the common good depends on a determinate ethical system, which in turn can be born and sustained only by strong religious convictions. Conversely, it has also become obvious that the decline of such discipline can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse. An economic policy that is ordered not only to the good of the group – indeed, not only to the common good of a determinate state – but to the common good of the family of man demands a maximum of ethical discipline and thus a maximum of religious strength.

Mr. Romney can win 40-45 states by coming up with a way to make that tall order happen. The Error of Obama could yea verily be over.

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