President Obama, with a little perspective

Congratulations, America! It is accomplished. The One is appointed. Or anointed. Or whatever.

Basically, dear Americans, this disqualifies you from voting ever again. You’ve been pwned. You’re out. As I told the IvyGate blog:

There are—or at least, were—lots of plausible candidates for chief executive who don’t have any kind of murky ties to murderous political fanatics. I mean, duh, you know, if history teaches us any lessons, I think one of them is: “don’t elect leaders with murky ties to murderous political fanatics.”

While no one’s life is at present in danger—unless one lives in South Africa, in which case please do pack for Perth—20th-century Western social democracy cannot be considered “safe” in any sense of the word. I mean, it wasn’t anyway, but now the evidence is quite a bit more striking. And it is the task of all men and women of brains, wisdom and good will to try and figure out what the hell to do about it.

(For the paranoid, I want to reiterate that: there is absolutely no short-term danger from an Obama administration. We are not looking at President Camacho, or even President Zuma. In keeping with the general feeling of inverted reality abroad in the world today, the one thing we won’t see is “change.” Washington will spend the next four years doing almost exactly what it did for the last four. But this does not mitigate your pwnage, Americans: you did indeed vote for “change.” You won’t get it, but you probably deserve to.)

Most educated people today think of democracy as a sort of impeccable ointment against political evil. We are aware—nay continuously instructed, these days, from crib to coffin—that bad government was the leading cause of death, destruction and general misery around the globe in the last century. But now we have a new century to play with, and we have this bezoar, this philosopher’s stone, democracy.

So we don’t need to give a shit about murderers with the fist of the State behind them. With the ointment, nothing of the sort could possibly happen ever again. Rather, we can fret ourselves silly about minute changes in global temperature. Ah, democracy.

Note that (a) you have probably never seriously considered the possibility that you’re wrong, and the bezoar is actually a quack medicine; (b) you have certainly never seriously considered the possibility that the ointment is indeed the cause of the rash. Unless, of course, you read UR. We’re always here to help the literate sleep a little less well at night.

So here was my favorite Internet moment of the great election: this post by Brad DeLong. When it became generally noticed, a few days before the event, that Senator Obama has at least three very non-flimsy personal connections to pure, 200-proof, full-on Holocaust-grade political evil, Professor DeLong, former DAS at Treasury and a plausible candidate for senior office in the Obama administration—enlightened us with the following message:

Run like the wind, Mr. Skittles!

Many UR readers have had the priceless educational privilege of growing up behind the Iron Curtain. These readers will identify Professor DeLong’s tone at once: it is the tone of the Soviet humor magazine Krokodil. I will take the liberty of Anglicizing, and call it “crocodile humor.” Extremely educated readers may also be familiar with the Nazi variant, as found in Der Stürmer and the like. The material is different, of course, but the tone is unmistakable. We’ll hear a good deal more of it in the next four years.

Crocodile humor is the laughter of the powerful at the powerless. It is not intended to be funny. It is intended to intimidate. Those who laugh, as many do, are those who love to submerge themselves in a mob, feel its strength as theirs, chant and shake their spears as one. Professor DeLong and his tribe have certainly backed the strong horse in our little moment of hipparchy, and even those of us who mock the rite must respect its anointed, in the ancient way, as conquerors. A reactionary always respects strength. But the powerless, too, can laugh.

But wait—exactly how is President-elect Obama connected to evil?

Well, first, um, he’s, um, how can I put this—a communist. With a small ‘c,’ as his friend Billy Ayers so nicely puts it.

I’m not even going to start to belabor this point. Arguing that Barack Obama is not a communist is like arguing that Mitt Romney is not a Mormon. Barack Obama is a communist by birth, breeding, education, and profession. His grandparents were communists, his parents were communists, his teachers were communists, his friends are communists, his colleagues are communists, he’s a communist. Duh.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the current euphemism for “communist” is “progressive.” This is not even a new usage. My father’s parents always called themselves “progressives,” for instance. In fact they were CPUSA members. (Before Grandma fell down the stairs at Juilliard and smashed her frontal lobe, one of the last messages she imparted to me was that Frank Rich writes a really great column.) “Progressive” is also all over the place in my ’80s Soviet Life magazines. And La Wik helpfully informs us that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is (a) the largest voting bloc of Democrats in the House, and (b) the affiliation of the Speaker. And now, of course, the President. Summary: the Cold War is over. Communism won.

The small ‘c’ is well-taken, of course. Obama’s faction is the disorganized, SDS, “Maoist,” or “New Left” wing of American communism. I.e., not the organized, CPUSA, “Stalinist” or “Old Left” wing—which both my grandparents and Obama’s first mentor Frank Marshall Davis were in, whose decline I think was as much cause as effect of the Soviet collapse, and whose remnants were really more for Hillary. And certainly not the defunct Trotskyite wing, whose carcass so weirdly morphed into “neoconservatism.”

The New Left once had a catchy name. It called itself the Movement. (Not to be confused with the clique of poets that gave us Philip Larkin and Thom Gunn.) The label is out of style, but perhaps it should be revived. The election of President Obama is the ceremonial culmination of the Movement’s march to power, and it’s only slightly less surprising than the sunrise. The likes of Billy Ayers were always the elite of their generation. Even as kids, they hardly lost a battle. Now they’re in their gray-headed patriarchal prime. Why shouldn’t they run the world?

Yes, folks, it’s true: we’re all communists now. Lawd a mercy. Did I mention that in the lives of those now living, communists murdered something like 100 million people? Now why did I have to mention that? Why is it that Schindler’s List got 37 Oscars, but Katyn can’t find a distributor?

But put it aside for a minute. Maybe you get a pass on this one, dear American electorate. If everyone’s a communist, you can’t really be blamed for electing a communist, now, can you? We could argue that you shouldn’t have voted, but that’s getting really technical.

And communism has a dirty little secret, which not even the most diehard red-baiting Bircher knows: it’s as American as apple pie. Communism is not an Old World virus that spread to the New. It’s a New World virus that spread to the Old. Europe, Asia and Africa got the worst of it, but that’s how it always goes with exotic pests: no immunity, no natural enemies.

Since the 19th century if not the 18th, the Anglo-American world has been the intellectual center of the left. Marx didn’t write in the British Library for nothing. While communism is not the only American tradition (Sarah Palin counts, too), as the sole scion of the Puritan intellectual heritage, we would certainly expect it to be socially, economically, and politically dominant. Indeed it has been, since at least 1933. At least.

It’s no coincidence, for example, that the ultra-rich were overwhelmingly for Obama. As CPUSA members, my grandparents had a ticket to a social circle at least three rings higher than you’d expect for Yiddish tailors from Brooklyn. Their Party friends (all their friends, as far as I can tell, were Party friends) were film distributors, investment bankers, doctors and lawyers, etc. If you find this surprising, you have a lot to learn about communism. (But I tire of the C-word—let’s go back to calling them “progressives.”)

So let’s get slightly more specific, and look at President Obama’s personal associations. (I love this argument that the candidate’s past and present colleagues, mentors and employers are a deeply private matter, like whether the One wipes his ass with his left hand or his right, which must not contaminate our consideration of the soaring rhetorical exhalations his producers write for him.)

Thus our second connection: this little matter of Satan, so amusing to Professor DeLong. Barack Obama is an intellectual disciple of Saul Alinsky. Saul Alinsky dedicated his most famous book, Rules for Radicals, the bible for Obama’s profession of “community organizer,” to Lucifer. Lucifer and Satan are the same person. Satan is evil. At most this is four degrees of separation between Obama and evil, and I feel we could argue it down to two.

And all the connections are pretty strong—because Alinsky’s dedication is not the slightest bit whimsical. I wonder if Professor DeLong has read Rules for Radicals? I have. (I suspect that, in an imaginary America in which democracy worked, a candidate running against an Alinskyist would hand out quite a few copies of Rules.)

Rules surely belongs on any list of history’s top ten most evil books. I will spare you quotes. The basic message is: as a radical, your enemies rule the world and are completely evil. So if you want to overthrow them, you have to be prepared to be as evil as possible. Lie, cheat and steal, so long as you don’t get caught. Alinsky is a particular fan of hypocrisy and dissimulation, which he recommends as all-purpose perfumes for the aspiring “activist.”

Less than a mile from my home, in one of the most fashionable—if somewhat dilapidated—shopping districts in the world, sits an “anarchist bookstore,” Bound Together Books. Its “activism” is of precisely the same sort as Alinsky’s, and of course (the young) Obama’s. Note also that there is no racist bookstore, fascist bookstore, or even Christian bookstore across the street from it. The enemy, as befits all dark forces, is invisible.

On Bound Together’s side wall is this wonderful revolutionary mural—I apologize for the bad photo, which is theirs not mine:

When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights… We were, so we thought at the time, not so much interested in smashing pillars and pulling down temples as in designing the shape and form of our New Jerusalem. Discussion might circle for a time—sometimes it seemed to circle for long alcoholic hours—but it invariably settled on the architecture of that refulgent city.

No doubt because the actors in the drama were relatively older—lawyers and young Ph.D’s in economics rather than undergraduates—the reaction bore no resemblance to the later disorder of the sixties, when “trashing” seemed an end in itself. Though we had read some history, no one thought himself a young Robespierre. Perhaps also because the New Deal was a fresh experience for America (though not for Europe), with government for the first time giving explicit meaning to the welfare clause, we felt hope in the air. Later, in the sixties, much of the new welfare legislation served the bureaucracy more than the commonweal, but in those days of unlimited expectations our basic credo was simple: Nothing that had been done till then was good enough nor was there anything we could not do if we set our minds to it.

To be sure, I was little more than a spear-carrier with few speaking lines. Unlike many of the leading actors, I had, at that time, not even met Felix Frankfurter, let alone clerked for Holmes or Brandeis. Most of the problems with which the New Deal was grappling were for me matters of first impression; I was, by any rational standard, spectacularly ill-equipped. Although assigned to work on developing credit facilities for farmers, I had never, in spite of my Iowa background, spent a night on a working farm—but then neither had my colleagues, including, I suspect, Henry Morgenthau. That, however, did not deter us. In the atmosphere of New Deal Washington, inexperience was no impediment; one learned fast and improvised boldly. Even professionally, I could not have been more of a neophyte; I had never so much as written a contract to sell a fifty-dollar dog! Yet one of my first professional tasks was to draft and help negotiate a contract for the sale of $75 million worth of Federal Farm Board cotton. It was such a formidable document—seventy or eighty pages in length and replete with intricate internal brokerage arrangements—that, in retrospect, I am amazed that I was not terrified by the assignment. But I took it in stride, as we all did in those days. We were young and nothing was impossible.I can guarantee UR readers quite definitively that, while the Obama administration may indeed have a few positions for law-school graduates, they will not be rearranging any astronomical bodies, building any New Jerusalems, smashing any pillars, pulling down any temples, or in fact receiving any assignments that strike even the slightest bit of terror into their hearts. (Alcohol, however, remains plentiful.)

The sad fact of the matter is that in 2008, unless you either (a) get to shoot people or (b) are a GS-15 or above, there is no such thing as a fun job working for the US government. Well, okay, I suppose Treasury might be a little exciting at present, at least from the terror perspective. But even there the ratio of terror to New Jerusalem is inordinately high. No one has smashed so much as a sub-sub-pillar for the last ten years, and not even Congress can pull down a temple. (Although it can hang quite a few Christmas-tree ornaments on the temple.) As for Wordsworth, your average civil servant doesn’t know him from Woolworth. Progressivism has took its toll.

Even in the ’60s, government proper was a tomb. The growth in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was all in the external arms: the press, the universities, the foundations and NGOs. These are all part of Washington in its broad sense—they all exist to compose or influence government policy. They are all, of course, progressive organs, aside from a few Republican and libertarian think-tanks. And all of them have reached the level of maximum organizational bloat, on the outer fringes of the red-giant state that is the Beltway. They grow, still, of course, but slowly. You can be an intern if you want. You can probably get laid. You won’t be redrawing constellations.

For the red-giant state, the only possible change is the ultimate change. The supernova. The reboot. What happened to the Soviet Union. As I keep saying, there’s no change like regime change. This is, of course, the opposite of what you voted for when you elected Obama. But perhaps, dear progressives, you’ve helped bring that moment a little closer.

As for conservatives and mainstream libertarians: forget it. You’ve lost. You’re in roughly the same position as a Southern segregationist in 1968. History may or may not vindicate your cause, but it has determined your chance of victory, which is zero. If you have a life, go live it. If not, now is probably a good time to get one.

In the era of Barack Obama, Washington is one thing. It is progressive from top to bottom, east to west, and ass to elbow. Everyone with a real role in governing America, whether in the White House or the civil service, in the press or on the Hill, at Harvard or at State, in the Wilderness Society or on the Supreme Court, is a communist. I exaggerate, of course—slightly. But if you have fantasies of reforming this thing, of making it conservative or libertarian or whatever, you’re either a fool or a fraud. Now and for the foreseeable future, you are for Washington or you’re against it. And if we have Barry Obama to thank for that, God bless Barry Obama.

The entire proposition of post-1945 American democratic conservatism, including its runt cousin libertarianism, was predicated on the lingering cultural memory of a pre-New Deal America. Americans actually did vote to do away with the New Deal, once, sort of, in 1980. But somehow it didn’t quite happen. And that was a generation ago.

American voters are now very, very comfortable with communism. It may be possible to detach them. It may not. But flag-waving and glittering generalities certainly won’t do it. You’re trying to fight an entire educational system with slogans and 30-second TV spots. It’s like a salmon trying to jump Boulder Dam.

A dose of Obama may disenchant voters with Obama. It may even persuade them to elect another Republican. But he will be a communist Republican. Want a peek at the future? Google “David Cameron.” Want a peek at the rest of the future? Google “Leonid Brezhnev.”

You don’t like that plan? Okay, here’s another plan. Form militant evangelical Christian sects on college campuses. Disrupt classes, hold violent masked rallies, invade the dean’s office, crap on the desk. Maybe you can recruit a biker or prison gang or two, like the Mongols or the Aryan Brotherhood, for muscle. Make people fear you. Don’t be afraid of a punch-up or two. And make demands: a Christian studies department for every college or university, abolition of ethnic studies and affirmative action, daily prayer and hymn-singing, the sky’s the limit. Create some change. Be an activist. Read Alinsky. Kick some ass.

Because you know what, dear conservatives? This—or rather, of course, its equivalent—is exactly what your enemies, the communists, did to take over the American educational system. It was pure, naked, rampant thuggery, using as much violence as necessary and with the promise of more. If guns were needed, they used guns. If fists sufficed, they sufficed. And it worked. And as a result, 40 years and two voter generations later, everyone is as blissed out as a stoned lab rat, because America has finally elected a communist President, and we have “changed.” La educación es la revolución. You know the only problem with my Christian-biker plan, dear conservatives? It can’t possibly succeed, because your enemies aren’t as stupid as you.

So when I read pieces like this one, by the normally sensible, judicious, and militaristic Bill Whittle, I start wondering: am I too old to emigrate to Singapore? Because if the conservative sheepdog is supposed to be protecting my baby from the communist wolf, someone’s slipped him a packet of Xanax, and he’s face down in a pool of patriotic American drool. The wolf is in the house and sleeping on the kitchen table. He’s just eaten half the Thanksgiving turkey. When he wakes up, he’ll eat the other half and go to sleep again. And when he wakes up again, he’ll wonder what that screaming thing in the crib is, and if it’s any good to eat. Will the Xanax have worn off by then? Frankly, I doubt it. Thanks for nothin’, Fido.

People, Washington does not work. It never worked. We’ve just been lucky so far. (Sort of—if you don’t count the war.) But the nose is pointed at the ground, the engine is a brick, and the eject lever just came off in our hands. Luckily, we’re 35,000 feet in the air, so we have a little time to think.

We cannot rely on the profound, mystical, and deeply American wisdom of the infallible American voter. The infallible American voter just chose, as the leader of the free world, the former gofer of a murderous megalomaniac psychopath. Solely on the basis of his tawny epidermis. Fortunately, Washington is so vast and so broken, so fucked beyond all redemption, that for all its H-bombs, the gofer could indeed be a psychopath himself, and he won’t be able to hurt a fly. This is so beyond comedy that it’s gone past tragedy and back to funny again.

The only question left is: how do we land the plane? How can we rid ourselves of this ridiculous government, this political tumor from the age of powdered wigs, this city of foam colonnades and cardboard presidents, Washington, without turning North America into a smoking ruin? And what comes next?

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