Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not much between the ears

by Ross Nelson

Well, nobody can say that we didn’t have a good choice of candidates for president this time around. Starting with the primaries and caucuses, there was someone for nearly everyone. The GOP and the Democrats had Ron Paul and Mike Gravel to discomfit the mainstream hacks and warmongers. The presidential election itself included third-party candidates Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr and Ralph Nader of the Constitution, Libertarian and Independent parties, respectively. Yet America settled on a race between John McCain, a moderately liberal hack and now nearly universally disclaimed by Republicans as “not really our man,” and Barack Obama, a hard-left unknown.

We shouldn’t be too surprised that an electorate that insisted on re-electing Bill Clinton, already famed for being a dishonest creep with confidential FBI files floating around his living room, and George W. Bush, notorious for killing thousands of Iraqi citizens while strutting about and using English like a third language, would narrow the presidential choices to an all-out warmonger and a Chicago machine pol.

But what was going on between conservatives’ ears? Apparently not enough to figure anything out. It was to laugh to read a letter to The Forum describing John McCain as conservative. Even the purported conservative talking heads ran him down and still are. Only when Obama shaped up as his opponent did they finally close ranks.

Compare McCain to Obama. Both favor a tax cut of some kind. Both want to expand the military, confront Iran and meddle in Russia’s backyard. The two differ on the Iraq war, with McCain in true form bellowing for it. Obama says he doesn’t dislike wars, only dumb ones, and to his credit the Iraq war qualifies. But wars and interventions that are “humanitarian” and for spreading democracy appear to be fine with him. We will see.

Both candidates truckled to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, pledging allegiance to a country whose interests are not always synonymous with ours. Of course, no Republican or Democrat nominee for president would vote against the taxpayer bailout of millionaires and their billionaire companies. McCain favors open borders and is one with Obama on the Patriot Act, FISA revisions, the so-called Protect America Act, and in general liberty-smashing executive acts everywhere. Granted, McCain differs with Obama on several important social issues. But even on the big one, abortion, McCain has been wishy-washy.

Ignorance is a big problem with modern conservatives. Not having the barest idea of what conservatism is about or its history, they are easily manipulated to support whatever Republican runs against the Democrat. Dangle a Democrat in front of them, and they’ll witlessly support any Republican policy, no matter how liberal it may be.

One radio talk show caller recently expressed his impatience with talk about George Bush. How quintessentially American, no matter what the political persuasion. Even though Bush still had two and a half months left in his presidency, he’s history. Move along, folks, nothing to learn here, keep moving. No wonder we persist in the same errors – with our

10-minute memories and “aggressive ignorance” (Bill Kauffman’s utterly appropriate phrase) we refuse to learn anything from what has gone before us.

It is here that conservatives have failed themselves and their country. They should have been the repository of experience and good sense, the people least swayed by the passions and passing arguments of the moment. Instead, they gave their devotion to the false gods of talk radio and were led to abase themselves before Republicans. The old demons of deficit spending, false war, military boot-licking, and president-worship have become conservatism’s new icons. As they sowed, so did they reap.

Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary pages. He can be reached at

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