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The Relative Rightness of the Right

All our liberal friends are lately fretting about the Republican Party’s frightening extremism, and they’ve all seemed to settle on the same popular press aphorism that even such a crazy right wing cowboy as Ronald Reagan couldn’t win the party’s nomination these days. We always note that since the good old days of Reagan the Republicans have nominated George H.W. Bush twice, then Bob Dole, then George W. Bush twice, followed by John McCain and Mitt Romney, and that the current front-runner has expressed approval of protectionist tariffs and a Canadian-style health care system and the Kelo decision and thinks his partial-birth-abortion-loving sister would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice and not so long ago was praising President Barack Obama and saying that he agreed with the Democrats on most issues, which hardly seems an extreme enough progression to the right to suit to our tastes, but our friends remain unconvinced.
From their Democratic position, which has veered so far to the left during our lifetime that a self-proclaimed socialist such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders now seems poised to win the party’s nomination, even yet another Bush would seem distantly far to the right. We try to imagine a youthful and handsome and famously rich and notoriously philandering John F. Kennedy running for the Democratic nomination on an economic platform of tax cuts for the rich and a foreign policy that would pay any price and bear any burden to spread democracy, and our imagination fails us. Lyndon Johnson would fare well these days proposing another round of all the Great Society spending that proved so disastrous, but between his foreign policy and his Texas accent he’d likely be booed off a Democratic debate stage, and Hubert Humphrey was far too happy a warrior for the party’s current mood. George McGovern might still be a plausible candidate, if he didn’t mention all the bombs he dropped during World War II, and Jimmy Carter might stand a chance, if he were shrewd enough to eschew the Baptist Sunday school teacher shtick, but ever since the time when those long-ago but well-remembered Reagan landslides dragged the Democratic party reluctantly back to the center it’s been steadily lurching leftward.
The Democrats finally ended the hated the twelve-year Reagan-Bush era with Bill Clinton, who won with the lucky combination of a disingenuously centrist campaign, a relatively mild and brief but well-timed recession, and an independent run by a billionaire populist, and despite all the sex scandals he remains beloved within the party to this day. He’s even more widely considered a success, despite all the sex scandals,  but mostly because of the welfare reform and balanced budgets and law-and-order initiatives and financial de-regulations and free trade treaties and anti-gay marriage acts he was forced to sign off on by the Republican Congress that his first two years of crazy leftism brought into being, none of which will get you the Democratic nomination these days. He was followed as his party’s nominee by his vice president, Al Gore, now best known as the guy who frantically predicted our Earth would be scorched by now from global warming, then John Kerry, the war hero and hippy dippy peacenik who will forever live in history as the man who delivered $150 billion and a nuclear bomb to the mad mullahs of Iran, and then Obama, whose disingenuously centrist campaign for the “fundamental transformation of America” didn’t mind if the in-the-know Democrats knew that he was about as far-left a candidate they could ever hope to elect.
Until this year, when a self-described socialist such as Sanders seems poised to the win the Democratic nomination. Even Obama has indignantly resisted the “socialist” label, which up until now has been a damning disqualification even in Democratic politics, but after seven years of his whatchamacallit policies a large and potentially decisive number of Democrats have apparently decided they might well as go ahead and call it socialism and go full-hog with it. We appreciate the frankness of it, and can easily understand why all of our liberal friends prefer Sanders’ authentic socialistic kookiness to his opponent’s disingenuously centrist cynicism, but we can’t help worrying that some sort of rhetorical Rubicon has been crossed in the history of our perilous Republic.
We don’t doubt that Sanders’ rise is largely attributable to the fact that his opponent is Hillary Clinton, who is currently being investigated by the feds for her fishy and national security-endangering e-mail practices and was  Secretary of State during the disaster that provides the plot of the latest hit action-adventure movie and has 25 year’s worth of scandals on her resume, and whose once-beloved president of a husband is no longer so well remembered by Democrats for those balanced budgets and welfare reforms that Obama unilaterally revoked and all those black-life-saving law-and-order initiatives that the “Black Lives Matter” movement are protesting, and whose sex scandals are no longer easily overlooked by a feminist movement concerned with a “culture of rape” on American campuses if not dar-al Islam, as well as the increasingly apparent fact she’s thoroughly corrupt and and dishonest and just an awful candidate for any time or either party. Still, we fondly recall a not-so-long-ago time when flinging the “socialist” label against Sanders would have saved her worthless skin.
Of course, Clinton struggles to explain why a plain old Democrat such as herself isn’t a socialist, and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has trouble with the same question about her party at large, and by now our liberal friends are no longer denying there is any difference. If Clinton somehow avoids indictment survives Iowa and New Hampshire and gets to the supposedly friendlier where the minority voters who preferred Obama in ’08 but are now said to prefer in ’16 and she somehow winds up with the nomination, we expect she’ll be quite comfortable with the socialist label by then. Her party clearly has no discomfort with it, and after the past seven years of an elected and re-elected Obama it’s no longer far-fetched to think the country at large doesn’t.
Our conservative friends are relishing the Democratic race with undisguised schadenfreude, just are liberal friends are gleefully watching Donald Trump’s rise in the Republican contest, but we urge both to careful about what they wish for. Conservatives are angry that the Republican party they’ve empowered with Congressional majorities haven’t thwarted Obama’s left-wing agenda enough, liberals are disappointed that even seven years of Obama haven’t prevented those hateful right-wingers from thwarting their socialist utopia, and that uninformed mass in the middle is merely dissatisfied that nothing seems to have worked out and are susceptible to either side’s arguments. That uniformed mass in the middle was educated in public schools where socialism hasn’t been a disqualifying slur for the past many decades, and they don’t know from capitalism or socialism or communism or mercantilism, and if it comes down to who is angrier and more authentically anti-establishment it would be a neck-to-neck race between Sanders and Trump. The next Republican nominee will have to be able to patiently and persuasively explain to an idiocratic public why the economic system that has brought American from backwater colonial status to being the world’s foremost superpower is superior to the system that has reduced Europe to its current groped state and brought utter ruin to most of Asia and Africa and South America, and right now the Republican’s front-runner is planning to explain it by bragging how he got really, really rich by buying off the politicians who’ve been running the all-but-in-name socialist system for the past few decades.
From our perspective, here in the heart of America and still pretty much where we were back in the good old Reagan days, all those recent earthquakes seem to have shifted the political landscape to the left.

— Bud Norman

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Immigration, Extremism, and Existentialism

Life in the tiny town of Sumte, Germany, is about to become very different. The 105 residents of the remote and little-noticed Lower Saxony village will soon be joined by 500 of the millions of migrants who are heading to Europe from the Middle East, with another 250 scheduled to arrive soon after, so it is reasonable to expect that some significant changes are inevitable. The rest of the western world won’t be out-numbered seven-to-one within its own borders quite as soon, but it would still do well to consider the fate of Sumte.
It’s tough enough for a town of 105 people to suddenly accommodate another 750 or so in the best of circumstances, especially when it has no shops or schools or police stations and a limited amount of sewers and roads and other infrastructure, and such an influx of newcomers who do not speak German and practice a consequentially different religion and derive from countries with a culturally enforced hostility toward western values is by no means the best of circumstances. The German government, which one might well have thought had been created to protect the German way of life for its citizens, has reportedly told the people of Sumte that the only responses to the resettlement plans are “yes and yes,” and the rest of the western world suddenly seems faced with the same grim options. The people don’t much like it, in Sumte or pretty much anywhere else in the western world, but their supposedly democratic governments don’t seem to care. Throughout most of Europe’s officialdom, and among at least half of America’s political parties, and even among the American press that brought us the sad story of Sumte, the bigger worry seems to be that extremist nationalist parties might benefit from the inevitable discontent.
We’re at least somewhat sympathetic to the concern regarding Germany, where extremist nationalist parties have proved so very bellicose over the past century, although even there we’re inclined to feel sorry for the Sumteans, but we wonder why Sweden and Great Britain and Denmark and other countries that have less troublesome histories should be similarly guilt-ridden. The sudden surge of migrants asking for the generous welfare benefits of Scandinavia, long the envy of America’s liberals and the role model for the surging insurgent Democratic presidential campaign of self-described and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, suddenly has those far-right crazies popping up even there. Even in the United States those Republicans have gone so extremist as to oppose mass immigration, with the same appalled reaction from the respectable press and the more respectable members of both major parties, and there is the same glaring gap between the opinion of the populace and that of its elected officials. Almost nowhere in the western world are the governments acting to defend the western civilization that its people have grown accustomed to, whether the populace prefers it because of racism and xenophobia and chauvinism or the same objectively valid reasons that have caused millions of people from the Middle East to migrate to the west, which also seems worrisome.
If the respectable press and the respectable parties are able to declare that any opposition to a preemptive surrender to a Third World invasion is outside the realm of respectability, we expect that the disreputable parties will indeed benefit. The New York Times’ account of Sumte’s travails includes some clearly reviled quotes from one neo-Nazi town councilman, as well as some regretful comments by an unreformed East German communist town councilman that are quoted with great respect, and although we’d like to think that at least a few of the other 103 people in town are somewhere in the more sensible middle we expect they’ll be tarred as right-wing extremists if they’d prefer to not be suddenly outnumbered more than seven-to-one by people who don’t speak German and practice a consequentially different religion and derive from countries with a culturally enforced hostility toward western values. Here in America we can still hope the Republicans will  insist on immigration policies that perpetuate the existing culture, and will retain whatever respectability comes with its status as one of the two major parties, but in much of it Europe we can see how only the worst sorts of elements will address the concerns of otherwise respectable people.
For the moment America’s immigration problems are less threatening, as most of the country’s unprecedented number of new arrivals don’t speak English but at least practice a religion that is less consequentially different than the American norm, or they don’t practice any religion at all, which is becoming the American norm, and they’re not so hostile to most western values, even if they derive from countries with a culturally enforced hostility to capitalism, but the issue is still thorny even here, and the Middle Eastern influx is becoming even thornier. Already the issue has provided a platform for the likes of Donald Trump, and anyone hoping to shame him out of the race should hope that a more respectable candidate will emerge to represent the overwhelming public opinion in favor of retaining something more or less like the cultural status quo.
The same respectable secular opinion that believes the culture of any cannibalistic Amazonian jungle tribe with bones in noses must be preserved in amber seem to also think that Sumte, Germany, or the entire country of Sweden or all of western civilization should be sacrificed on an altar of multi-culturalism to the most supremacist strain of Islam.  They’re worried that extremist parties might benefit from the extremism of the small town yokels in Sumte, Germany, and Wichita, Kansas, and we share their concern, but we’d also prefer to not only avoid the Nazis or the admittedly less dangerous charms of Donald Trump but also leave Sumte and the rest of western civilization intact.

— Bud Norman

Bartender Blues

The big headline on the Drudge Report was “Plot to Poison Boehner,” and we couldn’t wait to find out whodunnit. Speaker of the House John Boehner is loathed by the lunatic left for his partisan obstruction of President Barack Obama’s agenda, and reviled by the radical right for his capitulations to that very same agenda, so suspects abound. It turned out to be the apolitical sort of of nutcase that is usually involved in these sorts of the stories, but it still makes for an interesting tale.
The alleged would-be assassin was the bartender at Boehner’s country club, and given that Boehner is desired by both the right and the left as a “Country Club Republican” even the most imaginative mystery writer would be hard-pressed to top that stereotypical detail. He was reportedly known to his customers as “Bartender Mike,” nomenclature usually found only in the most old-fashioned hard-boiled dime novels, and he reportedly told the arresting officers that he was Jesus Christ and blamed Boehner for being rude and causing the Ebola virus endemic, which adds a rather modern twist. The suspect also claims that the devil’s voice came over the radio to warn of Boehner’s evil, and the evidence reportedly includes a lengthy e-mail sent by the suspect to his father, a neighbor, and ex-girlfriend. There’s a history of mental illness, unsurprisingly, and thus far nothing to tie him to any political movement.
The lack of a political motivation will disappoint the more liberal portions of the press, which have been itching for some “tea party” type to try something newsworthy. There was a large batch of weaponry and ammunition found at the suspect’s home, which is something the press can go on, but then again the New Black Panther Party and Obama’s pal Bill Ayers and his Weather Underground had that stuff as well. Some will no doubt suspect that the satanic voice the suspect heard on the radio was Rush Limbaugh or some other right-wing talk radio host, and one might conclude from their broadcasts that Boehner is evil, but even his most vociferous broadcast critics never claim Boehner was responsible for the Ebola virus. Neither is there any reason to suspect a left-wing sort of extremism, and that part about claiming to be Jesus Christ pretty much rules out the possibility, so at least the press won’t have to deal with that. There is apparently no need to concoct any creative reasons that it has nothing to do Islam, too, so the press can be doubly thankful and let the story drop.
Some attention should be paid, though, because for all its bizarre details the story is a reminder that public officials of every political persuasion assume risks to the personal safety. America’s history is rife with assassinations and assassination attempts, and in most cases they have had little to do with politics and more to do with mental illness. It worth noting that most on the right and left will pursue their causes with resort to violence, a commendable state of affairs, but one should also keep in mind that there are a lot of crazy people out there. At the very least, we expect that John Boehner’s country club will begin more thorough checks on its bartenders.

— Bud Norman