Norman Podhoretz has a piece in the WSJ that reiterates all of the typical cliches which the Conservatives always deploy against President Obama: Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and so on and so forth. He then gives the following history of the “New Left”, which I point out because it is pretty well in agreement with what I would predict he would say. For instance:

“Despite Mr. McGovern’s defeat by Richard Nixon in a landslide, the leftists remained a powerful force within the Democratic Party, but for the next three decades the electoral exigencies within which they had chosen to operate prevented them from getting their own man nominated. Thus, not one of the six Democratic presidential candidates who followed Mr. McGovern came out of the party’s left wing, and… their policies were rejected by the American immune system. It was only with the advent of Barack Obama that the leftists at long last succeeded in nominating one of their own.”

I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but this kind of article inadvertently tells us quite a bit about the Conservatives. They always run, as Matt Taibbi once beautifully put it, “against the Sixties.”  It is the social, not economic, revolution of the 1960s that they oppose.The people Podhoretz describes here as “anti-Americans” are what we know as feminists, humanists and other varieties of social liberals.

That phrase “American immune system” is a bit weird; as it is a sufficiently vague claim that it papers over the fact that  none of the those Democrats have done anything so radical to the government as what FDR did in the 1930s.

(Also note that Podhoretz doesn’t really even try to explain why, if Obama is such a radical leftist, other leftists are so mad at him.)

In short, what we see here is the Nationalists demonstrating their hatred for such cosmopolitan ideologies as arose in the ’60s.

A new Gallup poll puts Ronald Reagan as the nation’s greatest President. Then it’s Lincoln, Clinton, Kennedy, Washington and FDR.

Yes, in that order.

My opinion: Lincoln, Washington and FDR are the only ones out of that crowd who could conceivably have any claim to the title of “greatest President”. And where is Eisenhower? I mean, maybe he wasn’t the greatest President ever, but he ought to have been in the running.

Also, George H. W. Bush should have gotten more votes than George W. Bush, in my opinion. Finally, I think President Obama shouldn’t even be eligible for this poll yet, since he’s currently President and we have yet to see what he’ll do the rest of his term and if he’ll win re-election.

I’ve had a lot of reservations about posting this for a long time now; but I’ve decided to put it out and see what happens. It’s possible it could offend people, but understand that it is not my intention to do so.

I talk about Republicans and Tea Partiers being nationalists a lot on this blog. But nationalism is an old instinct, and clearly has been around for a while in politics. What follows is my understanding of how it fits into the history of the United States. So, this is not meant to be some sort of definitive explanation; really, it’s more just me trying to articulate my basic assumptions about how politics work.

Understand that when I say Nationalism, I do not mean racism. People sometimes use “Nationalism” in the sense of “ethno-nationalism”, an inherently racist idea. That is not how I mean it. I mean an aggressive–imperialistic, if you will–attitude about the nation and its culture.

I feel like I barely need to say that obviously this worldview of mine has been shaped by many people I have read over the years, but the two figures who have probably most influenced the view I’m about to set down are Jonah Goldberg and  Paul Krugman. This probably seems odd, since they’re on opposite political sides. However, without realizing it, Goldberg made several very interesting points in his book; points which are not at all flattering to his cause.

Feel free to make any objections you wish; I’m mostly putting this out for my own education:

Once upon a time, it was the Democrats who were the Nationalists. In the 1930s, it was Franklin Roosevelt who led the way with his nationalistic programs, which only intensified in World War II. The Democrats then were a party of both Nationalists and Cosmopolitan intellectuals, because both groups were interested in ideas of shared sacrifice and wealth redistribution. This party was virtually unstoppable from the ’30s to the ’50s.

The Republicans, from the ’30s through the ’50s, were nothing but a party of extremely wealthy people who wished to keep as much money as possible. The Republican philosophy of that era was encapsulated almost perfectly by Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism“. However, the Republican’s views were surprisingly of little consequence, except when it came to fighting communists. (Which was fine by the nationalistic majority of Democrats.) 

It was not until President Johnson that the Nationalist (and, it must be admitted, racist) sections of the Democratic party broke away. The reasons for this are many, but the important thing is the consequence: Richard M. Nixon, while himself no Nationalist, could exploit it to win the election. And the Republican party has ever since been the seemingly-contradictory combination of Nationalism and Libertarianism that it is today.

As I said, this idea may offend people. In which case, I’m sorry. Or it may seem blatantly obvious, in which case I’ll sound like an idiot. Either way, I thought I should at least explain what assumptions I’m operating under when I analyze politics and see what you all make of it.

Writes Andrew C. McCarthy:

“The energy and the logic on the right wants Big Government dismantled. Very simply, it has been tried for almost 80 years, it does not work, it cannot work — not if you accept that there is a human nature and that it will always assert itself.”

Really, it just “does not work”? Like, at all? So, everything has just been rotten for us since 1933?

Economically speaking, from about 1953 to 1968 was about as good as it got for the USA, or really anywhere in the world. And, of course, “Big Government” did win us a little thing called World War II.

I’m not a big fan of “Big Government”. I think FDR was and is rather overrated as a President. But you can’t just ignore history.

Writes Mark Steyn:

“As I write, I have my papers on me — and not just because I’m in Arizona. I’m an immigrant, and it is a condition of my admission to this great land that I carry documentary proof of my residency status with me at all times and be prepared to produce it to law-enforcement officials…

Who would impose such an outrageous Nazi fascist discriminatory law?

Er, well, that would be Franklin Roosevelt.”

I know Steyn has his tongue in his cheek, but then again

Ron Paul: Barack Obama is Not a Socialist.

He says: “In the technical sense, in the economic definition, he is not a socialist,”

I’m not sure what definition Paul is using here; but I think Socialism is so broad it’s hard to say for sure that Obama isn’t one. Obama may secretly wish to have the State take ownership of all the factors of production but he hasn’t done it yet, though, so we can’t call him a Socialist on that basis. That said, I’m pretty sure Obama does believe that the income which accrues to private firms and individuals must sometimes be redistributed in the interest of the “greater good” or, more technically, to “maximize social welfare.”

Obama is probably a market socialist of some sort. This is not a terribly unusual position for a U.S. politician; in fact, Paul is probably one of the few politicians who doesn’t fall into this category. Of course, none of them would ever dare describe themselves as such–generally, when they’re advancing Socialist/redistributionist ideas, politicians tend to use the language of the Bible. (Hence Obama’s frequent use of the phrase: “I am my brother’s keeper.”)

One huge mistake people make is to act like Obama is the first guy in U.S. history to ever advocate redistributing wealth for what he thinks is “the greater good”. He’s not close to it. Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive corporate regulator type. FDR implemented Social Security. Lyndon Johnson had his Socialist “Great Society”, a term which ought to give any individualist a fright.

 Republicans cheerfully point this stuff out to show how the Democratic Party is all secretly a bunch of Socialists. But here’s a little something they might want to think on: What’s more radical than market Socialism? Non-market Socialism! That’s where the market isn’t even involved in determining prices. Who imposed price
controls in the United States? Republican President Richard M. Nixon.

Back to Ron Paul for a minute: He says: “[Obama’s] a corporatist,”  and “[He takes] care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country.”

That sounds like something Michael Moore would say. And it’s incorrect. I think he must be thinking of George W. Bush. But it leads nicely into my point about how Republican economic Socialism works.

When Republicans redistribute the wealth for the “Greater Good”, it generally involves giving it to either corporations or particular kinds of Churches, rather than other entities–individuals, non-profits, etc. They are particularly fond of paying money to corporations that make weapons, or, in one infamous instance, secret mercenary corporations.

Some may debate whether this practice is technically Socialism or technically Fascism. In my view, Fascism is nothing more than a particularly militaristic brand of Socialism, so it makes little difference. The point is that both sides are redistributing wealth in order to serve society as a whole.

I’ve quoted him before, and I’ll quote him here:

“If we allow that Socialism (in the ethical, not the economic, sense) is that world-feeling which seeks to carry out its own views on behalf of all, then we are all without exception, willingly or no, wittingly or no, Socialists…. All world-improvers are Socialists.”–Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West.

To which I would add only that if you already have a Socialist “ethic”, and you become a powerful politician who can influence aspects of the economy, it is virtually impossible not to become an “economic” Socialist as well.

What bothers me about the quote from Paul is that he’s poking around the edges of a very deep insight into the truth of how the American political parties really act, whatever they may claim they believe. But he has somehow gotten things completely backwards.

See here for the original post on this subject.

It’s difficult, of course, to define “radical” exactly. Are we talking about someone who is radical in his religious beliefs, his personal conduct, or merely his governing philosophy? Can a President be “radical” if he embraces a fringe view of economic policy, even if he is more or less “mainstream” on foreign policy?

Furthermore, a President’s own ideas are not always implemented; a radical man may implement mainstream policies because it is all he can get. Politics is the art of compromise, and so it is difficult to say with assurance which Presidents believed what radical ideas in their heart while never implementing them, and which Presidents were mainstream men, forced by circumstance to take radical action.

In assessing this, therefore, I based it off of Gingrich’s implicit assumption that “Socialism” is radical, and that the most Socialist President was the most radical. Furthermore, I assessed it based purely on the basis of the  policies implemented or attempted by Presidents, not anything they said or wrote about their policies.

With all this in mind, I conclude that the most radical President ever is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The policies he implemented were at first Socialistic (The New Deal) and, by World War II, had about them hints of Fascism. The expansion of government under Roosevelt was unprecedented, and his proposed “Second Bill of Rights” implied that government was obligated to provide things such as jobs, health care etc. for the people. Meanwhile, Social Security and the general expansion of the Welfare State, were ideas that owed much to Otto von Bismarck. (It was these policies of Bismarck’s that helped make “European Socialism” a commonplace phrase.)

As for his Fascist tendencies, FDR implemented the internment of German, Italian and Japanese Americans, an idea we commonly would associate with Fascism. In addition, when World War II broke out, almost all healthy young men were drafted to serve in the military. The draft is an idea wholly alien to the free-market approach to economics, and it is, at its core, a request to sacrifice the individual for the sake of the “greater good”. Socialism, in a word.

A President whose policies were a mixture of Socialistic class-warfare and Fascistic actual warfare; is that radical enough for you?