Grasping the Essence of the Republican Victory: A Philosopher Analyzes the 2002 Elections

by | Nov 8, 2002

The election results were good. The outcome was, in all modesty, what I had expected for a year: Republican control of the Congress. I expected this because of 9/11, and that is in fact the explanation of the outcome. I agree with those commentators who say that the country was rallying around the president in […]

The election results were good. The outcome was, in all modesty, what I had expected for a year: Republican control of the Congress. I expected this because of 9/11, and that is in fact the explanation of the outcome. I agree with those commentators who say that the country was rallying around the president in wartime. I would add, however, that this meant a Republican victory because too many people understand–or at least sense–that whatever an individual Democrat may say, the Democratic Party is riddled with appeasers and pacifists.

Because we Objectivists see the “ought to be” so clearly, there’s a temptation to judge these results harshly, and to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It is a good result, but a much better one could have been attained, even within the limitations of today’s pragmatism.

Bush is being praised as a great campaigner, largely responsible for the success. And in a sense, he is. But would it not have been possible for him to have done much better–getting not just a one-vote Senate majority, but the 60 seats needed to really control the Senate? All he would have had to do is tie the Democrats to appeasement–to, in effect, Barbara Streisand.

The public supports striking Iraq much more strongly than 51-49. For that matter, the public supports Republican economic ideas much more strongly than 51-49. Bush should have named what was implicitly behind the last several Republican victories–pro-self-defense and pro-economic-freedom. I’m not talking about him saying or doing anything radical, since that would not be philosophically possible today.

But he could have talked tough, quoted outrageous statements by Democratic appeasers, by Streisand-type celebrity-liberals, and by Chomsky-type anti-American intellectuals. He could have stressed facts about what we face. For example, just a couple of days ago it was discovered that Saddam’s troops have been inoculated against smallpox and anthrax! Why didn’t he trumpet the meaning of this? I guess confrontation, politically, is just not his style. And, consequently, we have to make do with a bare majority in Congress.

There was one telling touch in the aftermath of the Republican victory that reveals the philosophical causation underlying why the victory wasn’t bigger: Bush (or someone high up) sent out the orders: “No gloating” and Bush refused to make any public appearance on the victory, preferring to be “gracious” about it (that was his press secretary’s term for it).

Can you imagine a Democratic victor behaving that way? Why not? What’s the difference? The difference is two things: 1. that the intellectual Establishment and most of the media are Democratic, and 2. that Republicans always have to carry the burden of their secret guilt: the altruist morality.

Both parties accept the altruist morality, of course, but the Democrats whine loudly about the needs of the poor and the greed of the rich ; they try to enact altruism. So the Democrats don’t feel the guilt that the Republicans do, since the Republicans preach altruism but try to allow for self-defense and profit.

Or put it this way: both Democrats and Republicans feel altruist guilt, for the sin of being alive, and both displace that guilt: Democrats displace it by calling for more statist measures, the Republicans displace it by not gloating, being “gracious,” and calling for “faith-based initiatives.”

We are saved from the full death-grip of altruism only by people’s willingness to cheat on it, including Republicans’ attempt to have a strong, free America while promoting humility, sacrifice, and faith. This contradiction can’t last forever.

— The above was an email from Harry Binswanger’s List, and is reprinted here by permission. The Harry Binswanger List (HBL) is an email list for Objectivists, moderated by Dr. Binswanger, for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. The HBL is $10 per month or $100 per year; a free one-month trial is available at: http://www.hblist.com/

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is an professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation and is the creator of The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Dr. Binswanger blogs at HBLetter.com (HBL)--an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. A free trial is available at: HBLetter.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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