We'll conclude this election season with some hard-hitting facts and a bit of entertaining polemic... followed by an appeal for us all return to the sci fi mentality of optimism and rising above petty squabbles. Because we all should - along with our civilization - go "back to the future."
Me? I'm going to surprise you all by saying that I have not completely made up my mind for whom my presidential vote will be cast!
As a registered republican who admired Goldwater and Buckley and who pushes the writings of Adam Smith, I am deeply saddened to see the Republican Party fallen into its sorry state, unable to point to a single unalloyedly positive accomplishment in the last 25 years or to a "record" as their basis for demanding votes. Their campaign amounts to: "Please don't ever ask us about our extensive record of governance over the United States, nor ask about our former president, the bills we passed or their outcomes! Instead, look here at these assertions, distractions and promises!"
Given their war on science, their incompetent and horrifically costly fumblings at war, their economic voodoo, and their glaring propensity for cheating, I have to conclude that Pax Americana hasn't faced a recent danger worse than these fools who most rabidly wave its flag.
In fact, the fate of our very species may depend on good, smart conservatives rising up and taking back their movement from the loonies who have hijacked it. From the shills of Rupert Murdoch and his petro-prince co-owners of Fox, whose transformation of conservatism has Barry Goldwater supplying half the power in Arizona -- from the spinning in his grave.
== What is a smart-decent, science friendly conservative to do? ==
I know many such good, smart, pro-science conservatives... men and women who believe in facts and professionalism and who want small government without needing to reflexively hate all government. (Have you ever actually read Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? Go and re-read the last few lines right now!) Some of these good folks know that the GOP will only reform itself after a good trouncing! So they are holding their noses and voting Democratic down the line.
Others, knowing that tax rates are at their lowest in 70 years, that the federal share of the economy at its lowest in 50 years, and with discretionary spending the smallest contributor to the deficit, aren't even holding their noses. They are the adaptable ones who know that threats to freedom can come from any direction. They know that our biggest danger right now is not from pathetic, declining labor unions, but from an oligarchic clade that wants to buy our democracy and bring us to disparities as bad as France in 1789.
More on that, in a minute.
== The Gary Johnson Option! ==
Other decent, smart conservatives - like author scientist Gregory Benford - have done something eminently fine this year, throwing their support behind Gary Johnson, by far the best candidate ever fielded by the Libertarian Party in 48 states. A moderate and not a dogmatist, whose small-government notions and fiscal restraint come unencumbered by the crazy stuff that is too often accompanies those things, crammed at us by the culture war inciters on Fox. If Johnson does well, this time, if his version of the movement jumps ahead to just the 5% threshold, he'll be in the debates next time, and everything will change. Smart, reasonable, science-friendly small-government types will find they have a home, for the first time in 20+ years.
I sent Johnson some money. And I try to vote for at least one libertarian every year. Indeed, because I can vote in California after 5pm, when projections are coming in from the east - I might even vote for Johnson for president! If I know by then that the country is safe from Bush III. You other westerners, consider it!
But if you are in a swing state... or on the east coast... or if the popular vote looks tight... it is the wrong thing to do. We are in a fight for civilization, so prioritize. You pot-heads in Colorado, you know I'm talking to you! Go ahead and vote for the legalization initiative and try to talk your Oregon pals into voting Johnson for you. But don't let Romney get your state's electoral votes and thereby turn yourself into one of those folks who curse themselves forever, for voting Nader in Florida in 2000.
As for you surfers in Hawaii? Vote libertarian without a moment's hesitation! Boost Johnson's numbers. Do it for the rest of us!
(* Alert! Monday evening at 9pm Eastern the Small Party Candidates will hold their own pre-election debate.)
== The core question ==
Again... the challenge that has gone unanswered for six years! Name for me one unambiguous statistical metric of US national health that clearly improved across the span of and because of Republican Rule. One. Just one! Democrats can for their own (shorter) spans in power! Bill Clinton filled his convention speech with dozens of clear metrics that you can check, including vastly more jobs created and rising health of the middle class. And yes, more startups and entrepreneurship, by far.
Not one of the erudite and knowledgeable conservatives I've challenged has met this dare or come up with such a counter-example to the stark and utter uniformity of bad outcomes from GOP rule. Bill O'Reilly offers the lame excuse "Bush is gone!" (What a terrific campaign slogan!) But look who surrounds Romney. The entire Cheney team... and you'd hire them back?
== The deeper matter at stake ==
Here's the deal. Americans are raised under memes of Suspicion of Authority (SOA). Each of us thinks he or she invented it and that the potential Big Brothers we hate are the only possible threats to freedom. It is rare to be agile enough to turn your head and look at threats that might arise from your own, favorite side. Indeed, your favored boogey men may not be this decade's main danger.
I am not a "liberal" in any pure sense and have given speeches to libertarian gatherings, spending long sessions with pals in that uniquely American movement. I despise true leftists. I lived in Europe and saw the dogmatic left's foolishness. I fought the USSR and know dire threats can come from that direction.
But the soviets are gone and we've proved smarter than the Europeans in some (not all) ways. Our banks are healthy now while theirs are wrecks. And US manufacturing hasn't been this healthy in 20 years.
It is simply monomaniacal, at a time when we're facing a frontal onslaught from the Olde Enemy of freedom... the one that crushed it in 99% of human societies... the foe whom Adam Smith denounced and our Founders rebelled against... it is simply narrowminded and foolish for smart people to declare obstinately that freedom and markets can only be threatened by pathetic declining labor unions and demoralized bureaucrats and taxation (when we currently have the lowest tax rates in 70 years.) And to wave away any reminder about Adam Smith's warnings. About the Olde Foe of freedom.
That is just as stupid as the American socialists of 1945 who refused to admit that Uncle Joe Stalin could possibly be a bad dude.
To ignore the oligarchs' skyrocketing accumulations of wealth and conniving monopolistic power and ability to manipulate and crush competition, with disparities now approaching the same levels as 1789 France... you can talk yourself into ignoring that?
== All good things can go toxic...
... when they get too concentrated in one place. Water, food, oxygen -- and yes, even the wealth that propels market enterprise and capitalism. Yay wealth! Yay entrepreneurial enterprise! But dense concentrations of wealth can be toxic too. As Andrew Carnegie proclaimed! As Henry Ford said! As Warren Buffett and Bill Gates tell us! As almost every decade of almost every society in human history shows.
If you deny this... jeez... please finally actually read Adam Smith. Or else admit that you are a Tory. Hang a picture of King George. And get ready for the revolution, because Blue America will reach a point (as in 1861) when we've had enough.
== And now... onward...
I am guardedly optimistic. Whoever wins the White House will inherit an economy clearly on the mend, in less time than the historical average for deep recessions. The wave of new sustainable technologies are paying off big time, with car mileage rates climbing and new kinds of energy booming and we'll all benefit from the new US energy independence. The fundamentals are good and the next president will get credit.
But it actually belongs to us. And if we can rediscover the normal gifts of peacetime -- especially our treasured national talent for calm argument, negotiation, compromise, mixed solutions, scientific curiosity, willingness to recite "I might be wrong about that"... and to accept the contingent hopefulness of a gaze that looks ever FORWARD and not into a nostalgic pretend-past...
...then yes, I think the prospects are good. Not just for America, or Pax Americana, or the Periclean Enlightenment that spans most continents, or civilization as a whole, or humanity or Planet Earth. As I discuss in both EARTH and EXISTENCE, so much more may be at stake. We are the chance, the possibility.