Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hillary and the Elite Consensus

Ross Douthat:
The dangers of a Hillary Clinton presidency are more familiar than Trump’s authoritarian unknowns, because we live with them in our politics already. They’re the dangers of elite groupthink, of Beltway power worship, of a cult of presidential action in the service of dubious ideals. They’re the dangers of a recklessness and radicalism that doesn’t recognize itself as either, because it’s convinced that if an idea is mainstream and commonplace among the great and good then it cannot possibly be folly.

Almost every crisis that has come upon the West in the last 15 years has its roots in this establishmentarian type of folly. The Iraq War, which liberals prefer to remember as a conflict conjured by a neoconservative cabal, was actually the work of a bipartisan interventionist consensus, pushed hard by George W. Bush but embraced as well by a large slice of center-left opinion that included Tony Blair and more than half of Senate Democrats.

Likewise the financial crisis: Whether you blame financial-services deregulation or happy-go-lucky housing policy (or both), the policies that helped inflate and pop the bubble were embraced by both wings of the political establishment. Likewise with the euro, the European common currency, a terrible idea that only cranks and Little Englanders dared oppose until the Great Recession exposed it as a potentially economy-sinking folly.
All too true. As I often complain, in American politics there seem to be only two kinds of candidates, the boring establishmentarians and the lunatics. Of the boring establishment it can at least be said that they know how to keep the country running; they may have created the great crash of 2008, but they also staunched the wound and kept the world from sliding into another Depression. The ongoing collapse of Venezuela is a useful teaching example in this regard. Whenever you are tempted to disregard the corrupt and boring old guard in favor of some radical experiment, Venezuela should remind you not to assume that any government can keep the nation functioning on a basic level.

Looking around America, I get the impression that a lot is going wrong, and I sometimes long for a radical change in our whole approach to life and work. But what would the radical change be? Socialism has been tried and found wanting, from China to Sweden. I think the return to a nationalist manufacturing state pushed by Trump and Sanders is plain denial of reality; you may not like Davos globalism, but at least they have a worldview rational enough for us to debate its pros and cons. I can imagine lots of little fixes to our system but I can't even conceive of a radically different way to live.

So the boring establishment it is, even though I am fully aware of its failures.


pithom said...

Why are so many people pretending Trump would be a bigger change to the American way of life than Sanders? Trump is a moderate conservative -not even a reactionary like Cruz.

G. Verloren said...

I dunno - maybe people think Trump would change America because he's made dozens of campaign promises to do exactly that?

Maybe walling off the southern border and utterly destroying diplomatic ties with one of our two neighbors (who is also an ally and a major trade partner) would be a big change?

Maybe employing nuclear weapons in warfare in the Middle East would be a big change?

Maybe senselessly deporting millions of completely legal American citizens would be a big change?

Maybe trying vainly to revive the American manufacturing sector and make it even remotely competitive with places like China would be a big change?

Maybe breaking up the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement would be a big change?

Maybe axing our healthcare system would be a big change?

Maybe canceling the Iran Nuclear deal would be a big change?

Maybe eliminating the Department of Education would be a big change?

Maybe destroying Planned Parenthood would be a big change?

Maybe mothballing NASA and the space program would be a big change?

Maybe bringing back waterboarding and adopting new, even worse torture techniques would be a big change?

Maybe ordering the cruel and unusual execution of a US army service member and whistleblower (Bowe Bergdahl) whom the Army itself has cleared of misconduct would be a big change?

Maybe trying to force international corporations to produce their products domestically would be a big change?

Maybe countermanding the Fourteenth Amendment and eliminating birthright citizenship would be a big change?

Maybe having the President of the United States of America be a political puppet beholden to Putin would a big change?

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...