2024 Election, Politics

Confronting a False Choice

Neither the Republican or Democratic platforms contain the slightest promise of approaching the great problems of today either with understanding or good faith; and yet never was their a greater need in this nation than now of understanding and of action taken in good faith, on the part of the men and the organizations shaping our governmental policy.

Theodore Roosevelt accepting the presidential nomination of the Progressive Party, August 6, 1912

As we approach the 2024 election, the US is in the midst of funding two major wars and trying to effectively deter a third. Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion has faltered due a reconstituted and more deadly Russian military as well as the delay in aid. Israel’s war against Hamas is taking a toll on both Palestine’s and Israel’s future.  Meanwhile, China expands its threats in the Western Pacific towards not only Taiwan, but also the Philippines. Here at home, the federal government’s apparent impotence in the face of economic inequality and an influx of 7 million illegal immigrants feeds a disillusion with our constitutional democracy that divides the nation.   

At this perilous time in our history, we enter a presidential election where polls show a majority of voters worry about President Biden’s obvious physical and mental frailties. The only current alternative, Donald Trump, is equally elderly, increasingly mentally unhinged and facing criminal trials in four jurisdictions. If your close your eyes and just listen to the two of them, their campaign messages are identical – the “other guy” is mentally incompetent and an existential threat to democracy. I am no conspiracy theorist (see this), but Biden and Trump increasingly look like mere figureheads for other agendas having little relationship to the real issues facing the nation. The legitimacy of our democracy depends on flushing out those issues, as difficult as they may be, into the open so the American people can decide, not just isolated elites.

Part of Trump’s agenda in this election is obvious.  He is running for his life from the very real possibility of becoming a convicted felon and thus losing not only money, but also his freedom in prison. His first act as President would be to order the dismissal of the federal charges against him.  After this, his motives become murkier.  It may simply be the further enrichment of himself and his family while catering to his supporter’s lowest impulses. Trump has once again taken hard lines against immigration and the border invasion that cannot be achieved without congressional approval. His failure to achieve meaningful long-term reform during his previous stint in office belies the likelihood of any substantive change.  Instead, he talks of being a “dictator for a day”, a goal which shows his utter disregard for the democracy he claims to be defending and inability to unite the nation behind any goal see this.

Meanwhile, Biden appears primarily engaged in trying to hold a fractious Democratic Party together to “save democracy” from a Trump victory at any price. This means that he has to unite moderate and traditionally liberal Democrats with the increasingly powerful democratic socialist or “progressive” base of the party. He tries to paper over the differences by buying their support with billions of federal dollars in flagrant disregard of the effect on America’s long term financial stability.  His foreign policy uses the same strategy, where billions to Ukraine, Israel and climate change projects vainly try to preserve American unipolar hegemony. Meanwhile, he further divides the nation by offering tacit and occasionally vocal support for identity-group grievances against everyone else. But are these the ends or simply a means to insulate an isolated international elite from the consequences of their greed?

This website began as a call to national unity in the face of the rise of nationalism elsewhere in the world and the challenges it creates here at home. James Strock, a member of the Board of Advisors of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, recently pointed out that half of the world will be voting in elections this year and, whether it is the US, Russia, or India, it is really nationalism, not democracy, that is on the ballot. He correctly argues that only a genuine American nationalism that addresses our own divisions while respecting the differences of other nations can renew our democracy and enable us to succeed in an increasingly multipolar world (See this post on his “ The Next Nationalism” Substack). Building such a modern American nationalism will require a clear understanding of the choices we must make as a people in the reality of the current world. As we approach the upcoming elections. I will be highlighting the choices we Americans must face. 

Foreign Policy

Slouching Towards War

Leeds, England – April 20 2018: – An old blue French postage stamp of World War One soldiers in trenches in the Battle of Verdun
Source: Adobe Stock

The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.

Theodore Roosevelt

In her classic history of the causes of World War I “The Guns of August”, the great historian Barbara Tuchman chronicled how rigid alliances and overweening national pride sparked one of the deadliest European wars.  The Biden Administration’s approach to the Ukraine crisis risks making the same mistakes. If a Russian invasion occurs, it will happen partially because of Biden’s confusing rhetoric which fails to heed the lessons of history. 

The similarities to the drivers of World War I are eerie.  Like today, that conflict began in an Eastern European state that was not formally aligned with any of the major European powers. In the case of World War I, the conflict was sparked by the assassination of a prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire by a Serbian nationalist in Serbia.  Austria-Hungary openly talked about annexing Serbia into its empire. When Austria mobilized to invade Serbia in retaliation, Russia backed the Serbs out of pan-Slavic loyalty. This drew Austria’s ally Germany into the conflict and Russia’s ally France in response.  Britain tried to distance itself, but joined the war when Germany invaded Belgium, also a nonaligned nation. In the end, two great European alliances sleepwalked into a bloody conflict not because of any direct threat to their national security, but due to ethnic and national pride and outdated alliances.

Today, the Biden Administration is hyping a threat to a country unaligned with us and thus risking a wider conflict. Their stated reasons appeal to the worst instincts of unipolar liberal hegemonism.  Indeed, by constantly talking about the imminence of an invasion, we are goading the Russians to do it by poking at the inferiority complex they have had for centuries.

A foreign policy realist would see Ukraine as an opportunity, not a crisis. We start with the basic premise that we make our foreign policy, not Putin or any other nation. Our short-term goal should be to declare that while the US supports Ukrainian sovereignty, it is not in our national interest to defend it and so Ukraine is not a candidate for NATO membership.  The President’s disclaimer of intent to station missiles in Ukraine was helpful, but then contradicted by rhetoric threatening to impose “long-term consequences that will undermine Russia’s ability to compete economically and strategically”. See the President’s statement of February 15, 2022 here. Instead, any talk of economic and other sanctions should be measured and leave room for tougher action in future conflicts. Otherwise, we risk the mistake of driving Russia to consider a wider conflict against the Baltic states and other NATO members.

Moreover, we should not be dictating Ukraine’s foreign policy any more than Russia should. This means we should not be negotiating with Russia about Ukraine’s future if simply because it implies acceptance of a permanent Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe   In a G0 world of increasing equality of power, it should be our long-term policy to oppose this kind of domination. Biden betrays his stated commitment to “the right of countless countries to choose their own destiny, and the right of people to determine their own futures”, when he negotiates with Russia about Ukraine’s future and threatens Germany with a promise to stop the Nord Stream pipeline. A better response would be to use this opportunity to discuss a restructuring of NATO to tailor it to current and future European geopolitical realities; in particular, Europe’s economic strength and thus capability to defend itself from Russian aggression.

Theodore Roosevelt was not afraid of war, but also was an avid historian. He was also proud that no American soldier had bee killed during his time in office. He would have appreciated the lessons of the guns of August and the importance of tailoring our foreign policy to the particularities of the times (see this previous post).  The United States needs to cool the rhetoric about Ukraine and save our economic and military gunpowder for more serious threats to our national security in our own hemisphere and elsewhere.

China, Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy, General, Immigration, Politics

Obama Redux

On its face, this quotation from Theodore Roosevelt would seem rather obvious. Indeed, the legitimacy of American democracy rests on the theory that our elected leaders will pursue policies roughly matching their political rhetoric. This honesty requires not just avoiding outright lies, but also hypocrisy, i.e., saying one thing and doing the opposite.

In fact, our recent experience in America shows TR’s principle to be regrettably revolutionary in practice.  Donald Trump’s crude and divisive lies plumbed new depths of political dishonesty. However, the glib hypocrisy of the Obama Administration was the catalyst for the Trump revolution of 2016.   Obama was a master of the art of eloquently claiming one goal while pursuing manifestly contradictory and damaging policies at the same time.  The American people might not always have been able to put their finger on the lie itself but could see how the rhetoric clashed with the policy realities in their daily lives. It is why, contrary to media claims, Obama had the lowest average approval rating of any post- Cold War President prior to Trump.

Sadly, the Biden Administration is adopting the same strategy of dissemblance and hypocrisy. Like Obama in the middle of the 2008 Great Recession, Biden seeks to restructure the American economic system in a way that imposes sacrifices on average Americans but enables the globalist elite to escape similar sacrifices.  Its climate change policies would have the effect of not only eliminating thousands of jobs, but, as this article suggests, appeasing China. It makes the disturbing claim that Biden’s climate change ambassador Kerry is willing to compromise on American security and economic interests in exchange for unlikely and unenforceable carbon emission reductions by the Chinese.  When confronted with the effects of such policies on American workers, he showed his elitist callousness by claiming that oil & gas workers can simply build solar panels. He conveniently ignored the fact that solar industry jobs pay about 20% less than equivalent petroleum industry jobs.

Meanwhile, Biden’s immigration proposal would legalize our de facto policy of unrestricted immigration at the expense of low-income and technical workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities. Many of those are the same heroes and heroines who kept our nation going during the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, the Administration is pursuing a policy that would continue the kind of wage slavery and economic inequality Biden campaigned against (see this previous article). His only response is to invoke the divisive rhetoric of woke politics and income redistribution.  Even longtime liberals are questioning the honesty of these policies in light of the inequality crisis in California.

Loyal readers of this blog will quickly recall my vote for Biden expressed last year and ask if it was worth it. I still believe he was the best of a painful choice, which was confirmed by the Capitol riot and Trump’s petty sabotage of the Republican campaign in the Georgia runoff elections. The Democrats’ narrow control of Congress still gives nationalists a realistic chance to highlight Biden Administration hypocrisies so the American people can weigh in and decide if this is really what they voted for.  This site will try to help by analyzing and publicizing the contradictions and hypocrisies, concentrating on three areas – infrastructure, especially related to climate adaptation, immigration and political reform.  Please let me know of any other issues you would like to see covered as well.