Vale Res Publica

John Taylor

Once again, it is politicking time in the good ol’ US of A.  The Democrats, the party of youth, vision, and vigor, present to the country a senile old socialist who doesn’t believe that poor white people exist, and a former first lady rejected by Netflix central casting for a role in  House of Cards (It was the looks, not the lack of corruption.).  Meanwhile, the Grand Old Party has in its stable of contenders a no-name from Ohio, a Cuban-Canadian-American with connections to something called Dominion theology, which seems to involve an end times wealth transfer.  This may be a wonderful opportunity for a budding entrepreneur to start the “End Times Wealth Transfer Family of Mutual Funds.”  Then there is Donald Trump, of which  more will be said.

My purpose is not to over analyze any of these candidates—the poking of gentle fun will more than do.  I am more interested in what this election says about the state of the American republic.  Let us take the frontrunners.  On the one hand we have Mrs. Clinton who may well be on the edge of an indictment for being less than careful with state secrets.  Immunity has been granted to the person who installed her private server, which means that he shall not take the fall, and reportedly the FBI is holding some very good cards. It may all be a matter of when, not if.  Being a bit on the jaded side, I do expect all of this to blow over for Mrs. Clinton.  Unfortunately, this will only confirm a terrible fact, that America much like China has become a country where the rule by law prevails, and not the rule of law as one would expect in a republic.  Mr. Trump’s candidacy is the far more fascinating of the two.  From what I can tell, most of the angst generated by Mr. Trump centers on his lack of political correctness and a kind of social oafishness he exhibits in public. Yet of all the candidates he is the most likely to be pragmatic, flexible, and willing to cut deals as the president.  Of course this means that peace may break out in the Middle East, and horrors we can’t have that!  He also has a strong appeal to old Reagan Democrats and old Southern Democrats Lately Turned Republican.  Establishment Republicans are terrified at the thought that these two groups may, against the establishment’s wishes, put the man into the White House.  The old boys club in the Republican party is still resentful that these folks did not turn out in 2012 to vote for Romney—even though Romney bore an eerie resemblance to the “man” who laid them off in 2008 and got a bonus for it.

Mind now, I do not wish to carry water for Mr. Trump, nor do I plan to vote for him. I do believe however, that he is no more or less fascist than W., Obama, Mrs. Clinton, or any other politician currently practicing their craft in this country.  The only difference is he uses his own money which is somewhat refreshing. Still, here we are and what does it all mean?

Well dear reader to misquote Lenin, America is in the final stages of democratization.  The well-known animus that all of the framers had toward democracy had a little to do with snobbishness and a lot to do with the fear of demagoguery.  There is not one single candidate in this race who has not stooped to demagoguery to whip up their respective mobs.  Moreover, the framers knew that the problem with democracy came down to the votes—if you get the plurality you are legit.  This is a point Mr. Trump’s critics seem keen on ignoring.

Of course this voting thing is fraught with its own perils.  The Public Choice school has some excellent studies on the severe limitations (I am being kind and understating the case.) on voting as a means to reach a social consensus.  On the Tammany Hall level, secret ballot systems like those used here in the United States are open invitations to fraud.  Indeed, if such systems are electronic and there is no paper trail, then it is game on.  Don’t believe me? Click here. All of this is kept rather hush, hush because if there are some real problems with voting and the counting of votes, well it has the unfortunate effect of casting doubt upon the legitimacy of the political system.

So then where to?  Hilaire Belloc, that grand old man of letters, once wrote that Europe was the Church and the Church is Europe.  If the Church is sick, then Europe will be as well.  Crucial to Europe’s well-being was France, who as the eldest daughter of the Church better have her act together otherwise the descent begins.  Well, France hasn’t had her act together since before 1789, and we have all seen how things have turned out for Europe since.  To borrow a thought from Clyde Wilson, as France is to Europe, so Virginia is to the United States.

It is too easy to forget that Virginia gave to the Union four of its first five presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.  Towering statesmen and jurists also adorn her roll of honor.  Aside from the presidents mentioned above there are Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, Edmund Randolph, George Mason, John Randolph, and John Taylor of Caroline; the jurists include John Marshall, Henry St. George Tucker, and Spencer Roane.  I am committing sins of omission from the list which I am sure will be corrected.  Not that these men always agreed with each other, or that I agree with them all (Full disclosure: I lean toward being an unreconstructed Antifederalist.). Yet which other state can boast this constellation?  If some Virginians were too desirous of extending the federal government’s power, others rose swift to rebuke the heresy.  What can be said of all is that they were republicans, and thus knew that property and power could not be separated, only transferred.  Landed property with power would tend to check or at least slow the expansion of government; property in capital loves a large active government working in its interests.  And capital can always purchase a mob.

So we wait for Virginian; until then, vale res publica.

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