Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Growing Majority

There's talk at National Review Online's Kerry Spot that the Republicans may soon increase their majority in the Senate to 56/44. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, is rumored to be contemplating either a defection or taking a position in Bush's cabinet. If he does the latter, Nebraska's Republican governor will doubtless appoint a Republican to replace him.

Demagogues and Democracy

Bill passes along a link to an article by Hans-Herman Hoppe the author of Democracy: The God That Failed. Hoppe makes the oft-noted point that in a democracy people soon learn that they can, through judicious use of their ballot, seize wealth which belongs to others and distribute it among themselves. He also writes that:

"...the selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it nearly impossible that a good or harmless person could ever rise to the top. Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues. Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government. Indeed, as a result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals...."

Viewpoint shares the concern that demagogues find much fertile soil to till among the lower classes in democracies, but even so, Hoppe's statement here seems a bit hyperbolic. Contrary to what he avers, representative democracy in a structural context of checks and balances is the best system of those devised by man for avoiding the ascension of ruthless tyrants to positions of power. At least a search of the historical record doesn't offer much evidence that there's a better way.

Rather than quibble with Hoppe's claim, however, we wish to call our readers' attention to a great passage he quotes from H.L. Mencken. It's worth reproducing in full here:

"Politicians seldom, if ever, get [into public office] by merit alone, at least in democratic states. Sometimes, to be sure, it happens, but only by a kind of miracle. They are chosen normally for quite different reasons, the chief of which is simply their power to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged....Will any of them venture to tell the plain truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the situation of the country, foreign or domestic? Will any of them refrain from promises that he knows he can't fulfill - that no human being could fulfill? Will any of them utter a word, however obvious, that will alarm or alienate any of the huge pack of morons who cluster at the public trough, wallowing in the pap that grows thinner and thinner, hoping against hope? Answer: maybe for a few weeks at the start.... But not after the issue is fairly joined, and the struggle is on in earnest.... They will all promise every man, woman and child in the country whatever he, she or it wants. They'll all be roving the land looking for chances to make the rich poor, to remedy the irremediable, to succor the unsuccorable, to unscramble the unscrambleable, to dephlogisticate the undephlogisticable. They will all be curing warts by saying words over them, and paying off the national debt with money no one will have to earn. When one of them demonstrates that twice two is five, another will prove that it is six, six and a half, ten, twenty, n. In brief, they will divest themselves from their character as sensible, candid and truthful men, and simply become candidates for office, bent only on collaring votes. They will all know by then, even supposing that some of them don't know it now, that votes are collared under democracy, not by talking sense but by talking nonsense, and they will apply themselves to the job with a hearty yo-heave-ho. Most of them, before the uproar is over, will actually convince themselves. The winner will be whoever promises the most with the least probability of delivering anything."

We wish we would have come across this gem during the recent political campaign. It's a remarkably vivid description of one of the candidates in particular.

Fooling Some of the People

Hugh Hewitt points us to an article in The New York Times wherein the paper of record discusses the Democrats' religion problem. Unfortunately, it seems as if most of the people the Times interviews for the piece believe that the only changes the party needs to make are purely cosmetic. A number of the commentators seem to think that it's the Democrats' image that is the problem. They have to start speaking the language of middle America on matters of religion and clothe their positions on abortion and gay marriage in religious garb, the thinking goes, and the voters will then warm to them.

Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of Naral Pro-Choice America, is an example. She's quoted as saying that, "The party needs more religious language, but not new positions." Go ahead and dazzle the simpleminded with a few "amens" and "hallelujahs", Ms Cavendish seems to be saying, but there's no need to question any of our convictions.

Many Democrats and liberal Christians, the Times informs us, say privately that they may need to distance themselves more forcefully from the idea of same-sex marriage, standing instead near Mr. Bush in support of civil unions. This, however, sounds more like a tactic than a recognition that one holds a position that needs to be abandoned. It sounds as if the advice being dispensed here is do whatever it takes to get elected and then you can implement your real agenda. Here's how Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine puts it:

"Let's not call it marriage," said Wallis, who addressed a religious outreach lunch at the Democratic convention this year. "The culture is not ready for that. The principle is legal protection for same-sex couples. It would take the issue away and that issue wouldn't win or lose elections anymore."

In other words, if they camouflage what they believe, call it by a different name, they can hoodwink the voters into a false sense of security until they manage to turn a red state blue. Then they can go ahead and push for the very thing that so many of the gullible resent. Wallis isn't recommending genuine change, he's recommending subterfuge.

Many religious leaders, the Times continues, are also pushing the Democrats to be more assertive in fighting poverty and promoting "social justice" but also to soften their stance on abortion. "There is an interest in finding a middle way," he said. "It predates the election year, but there is a little more willingness to listen to it now."

Evidently, Democrats see the need to adopt a more religious facade only because they can't win elections just by being themselves.

Here's a quaint idea: Let's have politicians and parties simply tell us what they believe and what they will try to do if elected, and let the voters decide whether that's what they want to vote for. Let's have no more attempts to fool and deceive the electorate through political posturing and phony image projecting. It's ludicrous, for example, that liberals refuse to identify themselves as such. If they're ashamed of the liberal label then don't be one, and if they're not ashamed of it then don't hide it or run from it.

Many voters may indeed be duped by clever make-overs into thinking that the Democrats share their values on particular issues, but nowhere does the Times article suggest that Democrats should actually be sincere in their expressions of faith, and nowhere does the article suggest that Democrats need to actually do or change much of any consequence, except perhaps around the margins, to persuade religious unsophisticates to vote for them. Evidently, a lot of Democrats still think politics is all a matter of packaging, advertising, and spin. Show the rubes what they want to see and tell them what they want to hear and you'll win their vote. It's as cynical as it is dishonest.


Apparently those who voiced concerns about the harmful effects of RU-486 before it was approved for use in the U.S. are being tragically vindicated. This report from Fox News is very disturbing. It begins with an anguished father wondering why the drug that killed his daughter is still on the market:

"How many more deaths is it going to take before the FDA takes action to remove this drug from the market?" said Monty Patterson, 51, of Livermore, Calif. His 18-year-old daughter, Holly, died on Sept. 17, 2003, of septic shock caused by inflammation of the uterus. The teen took RU-486 on Sept. 10 to terminate an unplanned pregnancy, Patterson said.

At least two other American women who took the pill in the United States died, although the FDA says it is unclear if their deaths were directly related to the pill's use.

Those three deaths were among 676 adverse events reported through Nov. 5 by women who used the abortion pill. The reports include women who felt sick and dizzy to more serious illnesses that required hospitalization, according to the FDA.

Viewpoint wonders how many people suffered serious life-threatening effects like these from Vioxx? It is unlikely that RU-486 will go the way of Vioxx, however, because the abortion pill has a certain politically correct pedigree that will insulate it from blame. At least for a while.