A friend once summed up his view of democracy and the limitations inherent therein with the following formulation: "The masses are asses."
While admittedly crude and by no means a wry, Menkenesque description of the folly of Boobus Americanus, my friend insisted he was merely quoting Alexander Hamilton. And in fact, he had hit upon an important truth. Though elites always and everywhere rule, in a democracy they do so by holding to the faith and aspirations of mass man. As Burton Blumert observed, "if we only unmasked the conspiracy, all our problems would be solved, but if the trouble is in all of us, then we really are in trouble."
Witness the current GOP primary. Sixty-four percent
of all Americans oppose the Iraq war and fifty-nine percent think things are going "somewhat badly" or "very badly" in bringing stability to that blood-soaked land. Still willing to flak for the prez, an astounding sixty-four percent of GOP primary voters continue to support the war. Obviously, that means the remainder must be voting for Ron Paul, right? Well, no, they are voting
for John McCain
. A bit ironic, don't you think, given that McCain is channeling George C. Scott
and will, as Pat Buchanan has observed, make Dick Cheney look like Gandhi. He has virtually promised a war with Iran and has said that the U.S. occupation of Iraq could last 100 years.
According to the Boston Globe
, "In New Hampshire, McCain overwhelmingly won the votes of the one-third of Republican-primary voters who told exit pollsters they 'strongly' or 'somewhat' oppose the war, and trailed Mitt Romney by over 20 points among those who strongly support it. In Michigan, where McCain lost to Romney, the Arizona senator also carried antiwar voters while losing among those backing the conflict." In essence, the uberhawk McCain won the primaries on the backs of anti-war Republicans. To quote Mencken, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."
How about trade? By a nearly 2-1 margin
Republican voters say that free trade is bad for the U.S. economy. So did they line up behind Duncan Hunter? No, they voted for John McCain, who calls himself a "student of history" (right at the bottom of his class at Annapolis) and then says
this: "Every time the United States has become protectionist and listened to the siren song that you're hearing partially on this stage tonight, we've paid a very heavy price. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Acts in the 1930s were direct contributors to World War II. It sounds like a lot of fun to bash China and others, but free trade has been the engine of our economy. Free trade should be the continuing principle that guides this nation's economy." Smoot-Hawley caused WWII? It was also responsible for polio, or so I've heard.
for NAFTA, and its expansion to other nations in the Western hemisphere, supported the implementation of CAFTA, backed the creation of the WTO, voted against sanctions designed to open the Japanese market, and has consistently voted to affirm China's most favored nation trading status.
The immigration issue, too, should have been a hot potato for McCain. The public, particularly Republicans, was outraged
at McCain and those pushing "comprehensiveimmigrationreform". Obviously Tom Tancredo picked up a lot of support for his sterling leadership on the issue. Oh wait, he dropped out prior to Iowa.
During the Bush interregnum, conservatives have become despondent as the size and scope of government has exploded. Meanwhile, the zeal for democracy promotion and globalism has fractured the party. What remains of the conservative movement has run aground in Mosul and the Bush/McCain axis of evil continues to bray about the alleged xenophobia, nativism, and isolationism of Americans who fear that there nation is being deindusrtialized and turned into the polyglot boardinghouse
So the base of the GOP is opposed to mass immigration and free trade and at least divided over the Iraq war. Yet they nominate a free-trade, open-borders globalist who is preparing for a hundred year war in Iraq and warns ominously "there’s going to be other wars." John Stuart Mill was right when he referred to conservatives as The Stupid Party.
Ultimately it is the care and character of a people that determine what kind of country it will be. "Believe me," wrote Edmund Burke, "it is a great truth, that there never was, for any long time...a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any kind." Indeed, we get the government we deserve.