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The Big Yellow Book

Seeing the World from Both Oculars-- a Bananaslug's Journal

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Some Bananaslug Thoughts on Politics and American Life
I've been carefully watching the political situation in the United States. There are several reasons for this. The first is that I live here, and am a citizen, so it is incumbent on me to know what the hell is going on. The second is that I travel internationally some, and when I am out of the country, I am often asked to explain the politics of the United States.

One question I got from a colleague in England recently was, "Are the Republicans as crazy as they seem to be in your news media?"

The answer I gave him was, "Yes, they are."

Now this is hard for me. I have been a registered Republican since the 1970s, and I requested a Republican ballot in the Illinois Primary Election this month. I will talk about the latter a bit further on here.

In the words (ironically enough) of Ronald Reagan, "I didn't leave the party, the party left me." He was talking about how he had become a Republican because the Democratic party had moved too far to the left for him. In reverse, the Republican party has become too reactionary and too corrupt for me to stomach any longer.

So I am a man without a party. I stand in the long line of people the Republicans don't want to acknowledge as having been Republicans, like Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller, and many more. The Republican party I joined was fiscally conservative, but socially centrist or a little left of center. Even Ronald Reagan was socially centrist enough that he could not win a Republican primary today.

Why did I vote in the Republican Primary? I voted for Ron Paul because he could not win, and because he had robocalled me the least number of times. I'd like to robocall both Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney's private telephone numbers at least as many times as they called me. And what I would call them wouldn't be pretty.

So, if I am not a Republican (they won't have me) why don't I just go join the Democratic party?
Because I am not a Democrat, either. There are planks in the Democratic platforms over the years that either annoy me or make me queasy. There are enough crazies in the Democratic party to somewhat balance the right wing lunatic fringe that has taken over my Republican party.

So here I stand.

I am a fiscal conservative. I don't think money grows on trees, and I don't think that the Federal Government, or the State Governments, should continue to spend in the hope that somehow we can spend our way out of the economic mess we're in.

I am a devotee of justice. I am violently against protectionism and corporate welfare. I don't see why it would be wrong to eliminate the almost free ride that the oil companies have gotten, and why it would be so terrible to punish the investment bankers and the large financial giants for creating the mess we're in, and which caused the value of my house to nose-dive because of their phony mortgage scams to the point where I can't sell it and I won't walk away because I am too honest. And I believe in social justice...not just justice for those who can afford to pay for it, but real justice for everybody.

I believe in freedom. That means freedom for everybody. It means that we should extend the hand of freedom to everyone who wants to come here and let them in. Dick Morley, the inventor of the floppy disk, the PLC, building automation, the people mover and anti-lock braking, once said to me that we should situate a desk at each border crossing and put somebody there to ask the following questions: Do you speak at least basic English? Do you have a sponsor or enough money to keep you alive until you find work? Are you willing to work? Are you healthy? If the answers to all of those questions is "yes" you let them in, and point them in the direction of the hiring desks that companies can set up behind the gate.

I believe in defense, and I don't believe that we are, or should be, the policeman of the world. This is not a Pax Americana, or if it is, we are going about it horribly wrong and not only wrong but stupidly. The Romans and the British, both of whom had effective world domination in their eras, did so by brutally suppressing dissent and revolt. We aren't willing to do that, so we spend lives to no real purpose and spend money that could better be spent at home, or better yet, not spent at all. Spend less on military, and spend more on educating the children of our nation. Let's make sure we all have enough to eat, shall we?

I believe in the right of self-defense, and I believe that the Founders intended that the Second Amendment to the Constitution would preserve the right to defend ourselves against tyrannical and reactionary governments. They had a lot of history with those governments, as EVERY government in Europe was one. So I own guns (shooting is a fun sport) and I support the right of the individual to own as many guns as they want to-- even Mad Mike Williamson, who is proud of the arms race he is conducting with the nation of Barbados. Right now, I think, Barbados is winning, but that could easily change. I also support REASONABLE licensing and training for gun owners. Yes, we all have the right to keep and bear arms, but I want my fellow gun owners trained how to use them properly, and I would like to see them kept out of the hands of felons.

I believe in support of quality education and quality public support for the arts. The National Endowment for the Arts is not a demonic intervention. Without quality education we will not have the workers we need to revitalize American manufacturing, and without the arts we will not have a sophisticated community (not literati, not the chattering classes) of people who can exercise their franchise soberly and with great thought and deliberation. Arts give people new ways of looking at the world. We need those new ways.

I believe in the right of privacy. I don't care what you do in the privacy of your own home, whether you are celibate, gay, bisexual, have a line marriage, clan marriage, polygamy, polyandry, whatever. I don't care as long as you don't do it in public. Well, if you must do it in public, at least be entertaining and don't frighten the children.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I don't expect anyone to tell me that by doing or not doing something I will go to whatever nasty afterworld they want me to. My personal beliefs are private. Robert Heinlein said it best, so I am probably best considered a member of the Church of Heinlein: "I don't know who is cranking. I am pleased he, she, it or they don't stop, and I tell them so at any opportunity. For all I know, Mumbo Jumbo the God of the Congo Boomalay, boomalay, boomalay boom! is the big boss after all." Apologies to Heinlein and Vachel Lindsay if I misquoted slightly, but the idea is there. I don't propose to tell anybody else how to live their lives, and I don't want anybody else to tell me how either.

I believe in politeness. One of the things I hate the most about American politics is the demonization of the opponent and all of the opponent's policies. I don't mean we should have a single party. My late friend Derek Benner put that idea well: "In America we only have one political party," he said,"and it is the Boot on Your Neck Party. It has a Left Boot and it has a Right Boot." If we don't want this, then men and women of reasonableness need to step up and take charge and kick the crazies out. Gresham's Law appears to work in politics as well as economics.

I believe in as much local control of government functions as can reasonably be achieved because local people understand local issues. But I also realize that one of the drivers to move from the Articles of Confederation to the current Constitution was to set up a control and referee. We have seen this Federal intervention needed several times, including in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and why we still need those oversight powers.

I believe in equality of rights and opportunity. We have so few brains that are regularly used to think with that it really doesn't matter what color or gender the case they come in has. As the old American Negro College Fund tagline went,"A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

There are other things I believe, but I think you get the point.

Show me a political party that agrees with even many of those things, and I will join it.

Until then, I am a man without a party.

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A very reasonable set of principles, sir.

I had a similar epiphany; I used to call myself a "right-angle conservative" because most of my political views were at right angles to the usual Left-Right spectrum, but where my views intersected the left-right they were conservative.

But "conservative" has shifted so far to the right, AND DRAGGED MOST OF THE LIBERALS ALONG WITH IT, that I'm in the liberal camp now.

Yes, some of my views HAVE changed over the years, but not THAT much.

John Lambshead (Baen author and scientist) told me that we Americans have moved so far to the right that we no longer have any mainstream leftist parties. The Republicans, he said, map to Britain's Tories (and perhaps further right) and the Democrats map to the LibDems. So all you have, he said, are center right and right.

I am afraid he is correct. The people who call themselves progressives now, are what mainstream Democrats and some Republicans were 20 years ago.

So how do we fix this? Or should we all move to Canada, where political discourse is still polite (more or less) and democracy appears to still work?

Re: What's a liberal?

Moving to Canada won't work. The US is still the dominant cultural power in the world, and I can see how American political thoughts, memes, and trends gets imported here on a steady basis. I imagine the situation in Canada is similar, only to a far greater degree. (The comments from my Canadian friends on their politics are paint a pretty bleak picture, too.)

So sane people leaving the US won't work. The insanity of your current political system will follow.

Anyway, from my admittedly outside viewpoint, the established political system in the US is immensely strong but also very fragile. Strong as in they hold very large resources and can quash almost any political group in the electorate; fragile in that they aren't political parties at all as Europeans understand the term, they're a collection of disparate groups and interests all revolving around individuals, not ideas.

Ie, the parties themselves has very little way themselves to shape the national agenda. (See the civil rights movement - most of their leaders acted outside of the established political parties.) This means that a party with a strong actual political program could very well have a field day if it found the right issues (like the original Republican party did). It will have to be a genuine grass-roots and populist (in the original sense of the term) movement, to make an end-run around a established political discourse dominated by big money.

But don't ask me which issue can give that opening, because I have no idea.

Re: What's a liberal?

From what I've seen on James Nicoll's blog, the Canadians have been infected with our current Republican virus.

I was thinking of New Zealand, if I were to leave.

As to fixing it? Select someone who is not in ANY party. Get everyone to vote for him. Do the same for all senators and representatives. Preferably select someone who doesn't WANT to be in the office, because those who want to probably shouldn't be there.

I think I would be very comfortable with the Bananaslug Party.

If you find that party, I'll gladly sign on. I'm quite uncomfortable with many things about the Democrats, but the Republicans seem to be actively working to keep me from being willing to sign on with them. I know that here in California "decline to state" is the fastest growing political affiliation. I just wonder what it'll take to get a party organized for those of us who can't stomach the current ones.

Man without a party.

John Scalzi has a shorter version of that Walt, he says: "I believe in the right of same sex married couples to keep and bear arms."

I understand Lambshead's position (Right and center-right) but he has missed it too. The problem is that the right-left sequence that they have in England no longer maps well to the issues of the right-left sequence in the U.S.

In the US both parties are sucking at the teat of big faceless organizations. Both parties take positions and pass laws which serve to trap power in the hands of bureaucrats or corporate weenies. Either way, individual responsibility and individual freedom suffers.

Eric Flint has frequently said that there is no leftist position in US politics, and no doubt he's correct, but it doesn't express my frustration.

But I'm not going to do a complex 3d axis analysis of my political desires in a blog comment. For another day I guess.

Je suis Marxiste tendence a Groucho

Me too, @JJBrannon. As I told @EricFlint once, the problem with supporting a socialist revolution is that he and I would be among the first sent to the lampposts or the gulag.

You're far from the only sane one who's left the Republican Party in the last dozen or so years. At least you're leaving by your decision, and under your own power. (When I let myself dwell on it, I envy the civil rights I no longer possess, but my brother the convicted felon has.)

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