From Richard Spencer’s Vanguard Podcast (audio, transcript)
This is the transcript by V. S. of Richard Spencer’s Vanguard Podcast interview with Jonathan Bowden about the 2012 US Republican presidential primaries. You can listen to the podcast here.
Richard Spencer: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Vanguard and welcome back as well, Jonathan Bowden! How are you doing, Jonathan?
Jonathan Bowden: Yes, perfectly well. Nice to be back!
RS: Yes. Well, Jonathan, we’ve taken on some quite weighty philosophic topics over these past couple of months of podcasts, but today we’re going to talk politics. That is, get into the nitty gritty of what is happening in the American presidential race. So, Jonathan, let’s start out by talking about Super Tuesday, so called, which occurred yesterday before we recorded this podcast. It was a wide variety of states voted in the South and Midwest.
Probably the biggest news was that Romney won Ohio and it was an extremely close race. He won it by less than one percentage point. He also won some states that I think people expected him to win like Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, where actually Santorum and Gingrich were not even on the ballot because they failed to collect enough signatures which was rather shocking. Santorum did well in some of these more red states like Oklahoma, he won Tennessee, and Gingrich won his home state of Georgia, although Gingrich has never struck me as particularly Southern. I think he grew up on a military base in some way.
But let’s just talk about this right off the bat, Jonathan, what your thoughts are on Super Tuesday. Also, maybe going a little deeper, what are your thoughts on the Republican voter at this standpoint? It’s hard to get into anyone’s mind, but what are they thinking when they’re voting for Mitt Romney? What do you think the meaning of a Santorum vote is? Is it, in a way, a sort of culture war that we’re seeing between someone like Santorum and Romney? Is that what it is? Is it something else? So, why don’t you take on those two issues. Just your thoughts on the horse race and then also the meaning of these Republican voters.
JB: Yes, I think the Republican primaries are proving an ineluctable law of politics, basically, that people cack to the most favorable candidate who can win from their side, but often there isn’t much enthusiasm for such an establishment candidate, and this seems to be the case with Mitt Romney. He’s got the anointing of the Republican elite, but not of the conservative elite within the party and of its Right-wing. He does seem to come genuinely from the liberal wing of the party, and that may play for him in the elections if he gets through as he probably will now after Super Tuesday. But it’s clear he doesn’t energize or excite the Republican base and the grassroots support that he will need, particularly with a vice presidential nominee on his ticket later in the campaign.
I think people are voting for Santorum just because he’s the most Christian Right candidate on show. Gingrich can get some of those votes, but they seem to go to Santorum because he’s more the genuine article. He’s a Catholic, isn’t he?
RS: Yes, he is.
JB: But he’s getting all these ultra-Protestant type votes. Denominationalism among Christian activists has long ceased to be an issue for the most part, and that’s obviously playing to his advantage.
Ron Paul is the joker in the pack who doesn’t fit in with the grid that most of the other candidates are on. He doesn’t appeal to the Christian Right particularly at all; he’s weak in the South; and yet he has a strong and passionate vote as a libertarian Republican on two tickets basically, particularly the promise of young voters for him, voters under 40, and his desire to cut the deficit and the Federal Reserve on the one hand and his desire to keep America out of any looming wars, particularly one against Iran on the other. So, from a distance, across the Atlantic, he is the most ideological of the candidates.
It’s difficult for me to say what Gingrich stands for and how he differs from Santorum. I think Santorum is more a genuine candidate of the Christian Right and is less libertarian. Gingrich appears to be all things to all people on the Right flank of the Republican Party. Romney attempts to be all things to all people right across the spectrum.
RS: Yes, I think your perceptions are quite valid.
JB: As for what Republican voters want, I think the whole election is about how they will choose Romney in the end, but they don’t particularly want to and are not enthused by the choice. There’s still the chance that somebody could emerge at the convention that late in the day, but that’s very unlikely.
I think it’s now statistically impossible, according to The London Times, for Gingrich or Santorum to develop the number of delegates that are necessary to have a chance to take the nomination, but they won’t drop out. They will probably go on for months yet and will probably go right up to the convention.
Ron Paul has no chance whatsoever at the nomination. He’s got 25 delegates, so far as I understand, at the convention thus far and will go right to the end.
I was in the United States a while back, and somebody told me that they wouldn’t be at all surprised if Romney chose Rand Paul as his running mate.
RS: Yeah, this is a very interesting issue, and I wanted to talk about each of these candidates, because I think that each of them has a particular meaning within a context of contemporary America and the GOP.
But sense you brought it up, let’s just jump right into this. There’s a neo-conservative commentator named Charles Krauthammer and, unlike his fellow third and fourth generation neo-cons, he’s actually quite intelligent and although his foreign policy might strike you and me as weird and crazed he’s actually quite perceptive of a lot of domestic affairs and kind of horserace type politics. He mentioned, essentially, what Ron Paul was doing.
I think a lot of people look at Ron Paul as a real genuine person. He’s ideological maybe in a non-pejorative way of saying that, in the sense that he truly cares about the Federal Reserve system. He wants to talk about these issues that are arcane but he’s quite passionate about. I think he is genuine to a large extent. I think Krauthammer was right about this that Ron Paul, in a way, doesn’t want to win and in some ways he wants to build a movement and get his message across. He can’t come in first, but he wants to come in second.
So, if you look at the people who he’s attacked, he’s rarely attacked Romney, and Romney’s actually said some nice things about Paul, and Paul has really gone after, essentially, the silver and bronze candidates. He’s really gone after Santorum, gone after Gingrich, and been negative against them quite accurately, but I think he’s basically assumed that Romney is going to eventually get the nomination and that he can kind of come in number 2; he could speak at the convention; his delegates could be there in force holding up signs and shouting, hooting, and hollering, so on and so forth. I think that’s what he wants, and I think in many ways he wants his son, Rand Paul, to inherit a kind of libertarian wing of the conservative movement in the GOP and for him to be the leader of this movement perhaps in a way that Ron Paul never was, because Ron Paul seems to offend a lot of the conservative movement by talking about how Michelle Bachman “hates Muslims and gays,” not a way that really appeals to conservatives. Rand Paul is a lot better in that sense.
So, I think there’s this major question of if that is Ron Paul’s end game essentially to establish himself in the GOP, have his son, Rand, inherit his troops and the banner of libertarianism and so on and so forth.
From my perspective, I guess one might say, “What’s the point?” I think in some ways it diminishes a lot of that revolutionary spirit of Ron Paul in the sense of he really wants to go in and fundamentally change Washington, diminish the welfare state by 75%, end the Federal Reserve, so on and so forth. I almost get the sense now that he wants to just secure a sinecure for his son along with people who are really never going to do what he wants, that is end the Fed and reduce the empire. It’s hard to imagine Republicans ever doing anything of the kind.
So, do you agree with me here that maybe there’s almost a kind of let down aspect to the Ron Paul movement, that at the end of the day it’s about securing a spot in the Republican Party?
JB: Yes, I think that’s how things may pan out, because libertarianism has only a finite appeal in the wider electorate and in the Republican Party. I would imagine conservatism laced with Christianity has far more of a generic appeal than libertarianism. Ron Paul is an oddball in that party, but he is creating a space for outside-the-box ideas, and maybe he feels his son is better able to put them across than he can. Do you think there’s any mileage in the idea that Romney might choose Rand Paul as his running mate?
RS: Yes, as surprising as it sounds, I think it might very well happen. And again, there’s just been some kind of funny things. I watched a video last night of Mitt Romney’s victory speech, which I think was in Massachusetts where he was governor, and he won that state by 50% or something like this, and he was mentioning Ron Paul and his supporters very kindly. He gave them a lot more mention than Santorum or Gingrich.
So, I think Romney might do this in the sense that Romney wants to win, he understands that is a real force, and also Romney seems quite realistic about himself and about the race in the sense that he understands he might need those troops to really get excited about a candidate.
In a way, McCain was in a very similar situation. McCain is thought of as a liberal senator. He was pro-immigration, not good on a lot of other issues from the Christian conservative perspective, and he chose Sarah Palin and all of his former enemies went nuts over her. They fell in love with her. It really changed the whole dynamic.
So, in a way, I think Rand Paul might be an interesting choice like that and a realistic choice.
Let me ask you a little bit about Mitt Romney. You know, I had a conversation with Matt Parrott a couple of weeks ago, and we both admitted what Matt called, jokingly of course, a man crush on Mitt Romney which we both have. Obviously, I say that tongue-in-cheek. What I mean is that Romney has always struck me as a kind of politician I can’t hate, and I generally hate all the rest of them, but Romney has always struck me as the kind of person you would trust. Despite the fact that he’s a Mormon, he’s very WASPy. He clearly is a highly competent manager and professional. He kind of strikes people as your dad or the kind of person you’d want to run your corporation or the kind of boss you’d want. He’s certainly tough, but he’s not mean. He represents a kind of über-WASP American professional which is hardly ideal but, you know, it has a lot of value and it’s something that we shouldn’t sell short. So, it’s hard for me to hate Romney. He’s a good-looking man. He has a good-looking wife. He has a humongous family. They seem to all be intelligent, well put together. There’s a picture of his massive Mormon family and there must be 30 people in the photo. They’re all smiling. They’re good-looking people. It’s just hard for me to hate him and, in a way, I think Romney is one of the least sociopathic of the current political crop.
The knock on Romney, if you look at most of the mainstream media, is that he’s a plastic man, he’ll say anything, you don’t know who he is, and he’s a robot. They’ll make all these kinds of jokes. But, you know, I think it’s the opposite. I think he’s a corporate leader kind of CEO in the sense that he will listen to the constituency or customer base, he’ll change his product based on his customer base, and he’ll listen to the shareholders and the corporate board. That is, he’s willing to change and be flexible. Whether you think that he has no convictions or he’s flexible, a euphemistic way of putting it, I guess depends on your perspective.
But, you know, there were a couple of things that he said that I actually found quite striking and which led me to believe – he’s hardly ideal, he’s hardly a radical traditionalist, or a White Nationalist, he’s probably never going to do what we really want him to do – but he struck me again as non-sociopathic and that was that he was interviewed and he said, “I don’t really care about the lower class. We have a welfare state and a safety net and if there are any problems with the safety net I will fix them, but I’m not worried about them. I am worried about the middle class and whether the American Dream, the idea that you can get a good job, work your way up, have a family, wife, kids, house. I’m worried about whether that can be sustained.”
Obviously, a lot of people said, “Oh look, he’s rich. He doesn’t care about the lower class,” but I think there was a kind of implicit Whiteness to what he was saying and that he actually was caring for the historic majority, the traditional Americans, Anglo-Saxons, who are, generally speaking, productive and prosperous. There are obviously millions of Whites in the lower class, but we obviously have a large, growing lower class because of mass Third World immigration and so on.
I think Romney really does care about America’s historic majority. Again, this is hardly an endorsement or anything like that. He strikes me as the least sociopathic and maybe one of the more intelligent figures. Again, it’s hard for me to hate him.
So, anyway, I’ve gone on too long about Romney and the so-called “man crush,” but what are your perspectives on him from abroad, Jonathan? Do you see what I’m saying or do you think of him more as a kind of plastic sociopath who’s going to sell out everyone on his way to the top?
JB: No, there probably is a certain genuineness there. He appears awkward a bit from my distance, because the debates are not really televised over here except in sort of slivers. It’s difficult for me to get a handle on the candidates, particularly the least ideological of the candidates, the most mainstream of the candidates.
He strikes me as a regular person who has wandered into politics a bit, but then he must want to do it because he’s had several campaigns for this job, hasn’t he? He’s tried for the nomination before, I understand.
RS: Oh yes, his father ran for president as well and was the governor of Michigan. So, yeah, he’s definitely from a political background. But also, it’s hard to imagine Rick Santorum, who strikes me as rather dumb to be frank, succeeding in anything but politics, in the sense that he’ll kind of represent the Christian Right for people, and they’ll vote for him, but he’s basically a bit of a dunce and a weakling. I can’t imagine him really running a corporation or something.
Romney strikes me as highly competent. Anything he does, he makes it work. Again, there’s something to be said for that.
What do you think, Jonathan, about the kind of telegenics of the campaign? I think there are two things that come to mind. First off, this just unending political marathon or spectacle that Americans undergo. The campaign began at the very beginning of 2007 and in some ways it hasn’t really ended. It never ends. You have 2 years, more or less, of people running for office and a constant news coverage 24 hour news cycle and so on and so forth. This is much different than campaigns in European countries that might last a month or two, something like that. Much more subdued and certainly cost much less. It would be interesting to really look at what this whole politics cost in the country. It’s probably in the billions. Probably under a trillion, but it’s in the tens of billions, maybe even a hundred billion when you really look at the amount of coverage, the conventions, the television, the debates, so on and so forth.
What do you make of this, Jonathan? Have we entered the society of the spectacle? What do you think of all this televisual aspect and the unending aspect of American politics?
JB: Yes, I think from a European perspective it is a society of the spectacle. It’s existed long before Debord and these other Left-wing thinkers came up with that phrase. I remember seeing a photograph of a cover of Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle of people in one of those early 3D cinemas with their spectacles on. You know, the ones that perceive the three-dimensional image, and you need those spectacles on to watch a few of those debates, I think.
Basically, it’s a sort of marathon. It’s almost eugenic. They test these candidates until destruction. American politics is much more individualistic than European politics. People tend to vote for a party in European terms, and they’ll vote against other parties. They vote much less for the man, although the parties have become personified in the media much more than they ever were. It’s still largely party against party. The bulk of older voters in Europe would certainly identify much more with a party than with an individual, whereas in American politics it seems to be quite the reverse.
The parties are cavernous barns apart from certain pressure groups and local interest groups and two sects, the feminist Left in the Democratic Party and the Christian Right in the Republican Party, maybe with the libertarians off to one side, the rest of the party seems to be extraordinarily unideological in European terms, and they make their minds up primarily on individual preference. How you do this is to rubbish the individual credentials of fellow candidates. Hence must of the effort and propaganda is negation. It’s negative propaganda. They will vilify each other, essentially, with attack advertisements that cost a lot of money to produce and do have an effect in negating the charms of one candidate and, obviously, boosting the potential of another who hasn’t been so vilified, but his turn is coming pretty quick given the Punch and Judy sort of nature of that type of advertising.
So, it’s a unique sort of slug-it-out type of politics from a European perspective. It generates a lot of heat, but whether it generates very much light I am not sure. Also, the outcome seems to be prior ordained. It seemed that in the dispute about who is to get the Democratic nomination last time, it appeared that Hillary Clinton would sort of do well and land some blows, but she did come in second and it was quite obvious she was going to come in second from quite a long way out, and that’s what occurred, just as it appears in this internal debate on the Republican side that Romney will come through in the end, possibly damaged enough that he will not be able to take Obama down, but that remains to be seen. Once you get the nomination a magic halo starts, and they all sort of superficially unite behind you. But when the party unites around the premier candidate there is an end to the endless sniping for the most part, particularly if they’re clever in whom they choose for a running mate.
He may have a chance against Obama, although it doesn’t look like it at the present time, but the election is a long way off. He’s got to win this one first, but he doubtless will.
I don’t think it’s a very productive way to run American politics, because it seems to have handed over American politics to small caucuses of voters and to candidates who have limitless or almost limitless access to funds, and that in turn is something for which they can be criticized. One of the criticisms of Romney is the size of his war chest and the size of his personal fortune and his ability to outspend the other candidates, and I’m quite sure some of the votes for Santorum are populist votes, anti-system votes, votes against Romney because he’s slicker and has a bigger machine and has more money to call on. So far as I understand it, Santorum’s efforts are financed if not on a shoestring then on a very reduced budget.
RS: Yes, I think he actually has located a billionaire of some sort. I’m forgetting his name at the moment. And Newt has a billionaire even though he’s been more or less broke for months. He has a dual Israeli-American citizenship gambling billionaire. I don’t know the answer to this question. I’m even curious as to why someone like that would support Newt when clearly Israel is numero uno on his list of interests and passions. I don’t understand why he would even support Newt. It seems like all of the GOP are quite pro-Israel. Maybe in some ways he wants to just keep Newt around as the kind of right flank to keep everyone in line and make sure there’s no questioning of the relationship.
But that is quite true. What do you think about voting? This goes for the whole of the globe, really, but you see it in America in a kind of heightened form. What does it mean to have these party identifications and candidates and so forth? We’ve had some 20 Republican debates, and I’m sure there will be more. There’s probably an infinite of ink and bytes that have been spilled talking about the minutiae of these small differences between the candidates.
I sometimes go to National Review Online, which is the Right-wing conservative website, and they’ll have something called The Wonk Room, and they’ll have these people debating, again, the minutiae of policies. “This is going to work. This little triangulation is better than your little triangulation.”
My view is always that all of that stuff is nonsense. None of it actually makes sense. I think people vote on the basis of social mood and a kind of feeling in their head or maybe in their gut when they see a party or a candidate. It’s very sub-rational or pre-rational and I think if anyone actually thinks that these policies make a difference I think they’re fooling themselves, because in some ways if you have a general feeling about the way of the world… If you think the stock market is going up, you have a chance to be employed, things are looking up, you’ll vote in the incumbent and you’ll probably rationalize it later but the impetus was really a feeling in your gut when you saw something.
You can actually look at this. When the stock market is going up incumbents are re-elected. Throughout the ’80s, Reagan was re-elected and then you got a major downturn, we’re in a darker mood and they threw out George Bush and elected Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton, you had a big rising stock market and he was re-elected. Then George W. Bush got in there, they created this massive credit bubble and housing bubble. He was re-elected. I think the mood was actually quite dark in this country in 2008/2010, but I think it’s actually kind of lifting a little bit in the sense that people are getting used to the new normal of lowered expectations and I think that’s one major reason why I agree with you. I think Obama will be re-elected.
But what are some of your thoughts on what I’m saying? Is this irrational aspect of voting that it’s almost like journalists and pundits take politics a little too seriously? They think that all these little policies and slight differences actually matter when what really matters is a mood or feeling, some sub-rational oomph that someone feels when they see the name of a person or a party on the ballot. What do you think about that, Jonathan?
JB: Yes, I think in the generic sense you’re right. I think the general voters, bearing in mind there are lots of independents and those that don’t classify themselves as either Republicans or Democrats now, in elections have to be won over. I think it’s right for the generality. It may not be right for these party caucus types or a proportion of them who vote in these internal elections. They may be well aware of who they’re voting for and the fact that certain states in the South have gone for Gingrich because he seems to say what they want for them in their own language and, although he may not be a pure Southerner, he makes a Southern appeal while Santorum gets a sort of generalized Christian conservative and anti-establishment Republican vote. Romney is the establishment candidate who trades on the fact that he’s the only one who can beat Obama or at least go toe-to-toe with him in the election later this year. Ron Paul is, in a sense, appealing to a specific constituency within the Republican Party, and that’s very different from general voting.
I think in general voting, if there isn’t a war in prospect, people just vote on circumstances of economic well-being and whether a candidate is competent enough to do the job. I think competence is a factor as well. I think part of the testing to destruction is the fact that you’re electing a head of state, which in many European countries you’re not of course, because they’re split between an honorific head of state, in some countries in Scandinavia and in Britain a member of a royal family, a sort of secularized, sort of bolted-on and scaled down monarchy regardless, but one that does link to the ancestral past. All the power is in the hands of a prime ministerial figure, occasionally a chancellor, and that sort of thing, but people vote for this figure, but they’re not head of state, they’re not head of the armed forces, and they’re not the state worshipful object which the American president is.
I think part of this testing the individual to destruction almost during the primaries and during the never-ending election campaign is to find somebody who seems to be worthy to be head of state. Now, bearing in mind that some of the people who have been elected to that post, you could say that’s all a bit laughable, but I think it is one of the objects of the exercise. It’s to elect somebody who is a secular president and is a political leader and is a prime minister, in European terms, and is a chancellor of the exchequer, in British terms, and the head of the armed forces and a sort of republican monarch and head of the military-industrial complex all combined in one persona.
The fact that so much of the election seems to be about character and about whether the individual characters concerned have any is all part and parcel of that stew. So, in some ways, it’s the Olympic Games where they prove whether they’ve got the mettle to be the supreme leader, and that’s why it’s so individually focused on the candidate and the party is just an amphitheater to test the individual rigor of one candidate as against another. It’s like the parties provide a shell or a caucus around which these massive individual tests can take place.
That’s how it strikes a European whereas in European politics, for the most part (we have to include British politics in that), very small party caucuses and committees, many of them far from particularly democratic decide on who’s to stand and who’s to go forward, and the people then judge the people very much on their party banner rather than in terms of who is to be the personification of the state.
RS: Yes, I agree. In some ways, I think when we look at someone like Bill Clinton or worse George Bush or something like that I think that people might think this is hardly some great man with wonderful character but in some ways the American nation gets the president it deserves in the sense that I think that most people who did elect them did see these people as representing them and representing the best parts of their country.
Let’s talk about some bigger things. I think we’ve laid out how the system works and how democracy functions. What do you think are the prospects of a kind of breakthrough within the system? And I’m thinking of Ron Paul here in particular. I pooh-poohed him a little earlier on in this conversation by saying that I think his goal now is really to secure a sinecure for his son as the leader of the libertarians within the GOP and the conservative movement, that it’s not a “revolution,” which is a word his followers certainly bandy about all the time. But, at the same time, I think it’s wrong to completely dismiss Ron Paul. (A) He’s genuine, but (B) He really does represent a serious threat. If he were elected, whether he could get anything done in Washington that’s another question, but let’s say he could and he was elected.
He would directly challenge people now who are receiving trillions of dollars in federal funding in the sense that he would likely end the Federal Reserve. This is going up against the world banking system. It’s harder to pick a bigger enemy than that. He would end the military-industrial complex. Again, this is kind of like the banking system with guns, a massive financial industry that, quite frankly, benefits from war. He would be going up against that. He would also be going up against Israel. He clearly wants to end all foreign aid. I don’t think he’s anti-Israel or anti-Zionist, but he clearly doesn’t have any strong passions about the country, so he would be ending foreign aid to Israel, and I believe they need that foreign aid.
So, he would be going up against the big boys. I don’t think we should diminish the fact that, at least in theory, Ron Paul is a serious threat to the system.
So, what do you think, Jonathan, about that kind of radical within the system and the possibilities of a breakthrough? You know, I think a lot of people in our movement almost think the system has to collapse under its own weight before we’ll have that opportunity for a breakthrough and I have to say I’m probably one of them. I, ultimately, believe that. But what do you think about the prospect of a radical within the system? Someone who’s able to function within it, but then turns it inside out. What do you think of the prospects of that? Do you think Ron Paul is that kind of person, or do you think we might even see a more radical system candidate in the future, like an openly White Nationalist candidate or an openly Black Nationalist or Latino Nationalist candidate? What do you think about the prospects of someone turning the system inside out from within?
JB: I think Paul’s candidacy is the most interesting candidacy. It’s received little attention over on this side of the water in Europe. The British media tends to regard him as a renegade and a rogue candidate who’s not really of any importance because he comes fourth out of four semi-perpetually. Occasionally third and very, very occasionally second in these Western states where a certain rugged individualism prospers as you’ve made clear and that’s the basis for his successful sort of secondary position. But he’ll come first hardly anywhere. Maybe he’ll pick up a few states like Wyoming towards the close of the contest.
But he is a revolutionary candidate in what he espouses. If you actually believe that what people espouse is of some importance, and it’s not all snake oil salesmanship, then he is the only revolutionary candidate on offer. I would probably vote Ron Paul if I had a vote in a state race in any of these districts, and I would do so because he’s the only likely radical candidate to churn things up and because from the rest of the world’s point of view America is so plugged into foreign affairs and foreign policy and from the American domestic audience’s point of view it’s the part of the agenda that they know least about and are least interested in, but from the rest of the world’s point of view the American federation is still the preeminent power on Earth and therefore what it does is of supreme importance. If he decoupled America from Israel by intent or by design or by semi-accident, depending, it would have a knock-on effect all over the world, because it would immediately reorient the politics in the Middle East, and it would immediately reorient the politics in the world. Without American backing, Israel will be forced further into a sort of negative isolationism, or it would basically have to make peace with the Palestinians and the Arabs around it, getting the best terms, best deals that it could in the available circumstances. So, already you’d have a revolutionary outcome from such a change in course.
In the recent meetings between Obama and Netanyahu, quite crucial differences were patched up. It is noticeable to me that Obama hardened his positions during these caucuses of the pro-Israeli lobby on Capitol Hill, and Obama now appears to be saying that he is prepared to go to war against Iran if there is an attempt by the Iranians to build a nuclear weapon, but they haven’t attempted to build one yet. This may come as a hostage to fortune actually because the Iranians will keep both options open until the ultimate degree. I think the Iranians have already decided, particularly the internal hardline dispute within Iran. Witness their recent local elections between the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei rather than Ahmadinejad, the president. He’s got a year still to run, but may now be a lame duck president in comparison with the supreme leader. I think they decided to go for a bomb and to sustain the illusion as long as possible that their program is civil.
Now, if this is the case, Obama has now locked himself into the possibility of an attack and even a joint Israeli-American attack after prevaricating for a year and a half and making it decidedly unclear as to whether he was prepared to go that extra mile or not. Given the equivocation over what the Israelis were demanding, it now makes Obama look more like Clinton and more like some of the previous presidents. More like Bush, who didn’t give the Israelis what they wanted in relation to an Iranian attack. But all of them have said publicly, until Obama prevaricated, that they would be prepared to attack an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon.
That’s a very mixed message in a way, because no one will know if Iran has a nuclear weapon until they test it, and once they test it, it will obviate an attack.
But the only candidate of all of those on offer, on either side, who isn’t prepared to attack Iran even if they go for a nuclear weapon is Paul, and that is a revolutionary position and outsider’s position in Washington DC.
In relation to the Federal Reserve, he’s asking for the entire American economy, which is now based on debt, to be restructured and to be replaced with an idealized libertarian sort of capitalist economy, the like of which probably couldn’t exist in the real world now. In some ways, Paul is a fantasy candidate, but the very fact that he’s prepared to get mainstream votes for putting forward propositions which are regarded as fantastical by all of his contemporaries is in some ways worthy of respect.
What tends to happen when establishments are in trouble is that certain individuals appear who play the establishment’s game and play by the rules, but they stand outside of the acceptable views, and they sort of harness quite a lot of energy for policy positions which are regarded as “impossible.” And what they’re partly doing is they’re demarcating an alternative road that people who are establishmentarian could choose to take if things got very nasty and very iffy indeed. The politician Enoch Powell probably did that between the late 1960s and the late 1970s in Britain. He gave an alternative road on the Right of the Conservative Party and further afield if people had chosen to take it, but he offered people in that party, the Conservative and Unionist Party of his era, a chance to take it. And Paul, even though he’s not really a conservative except fiscally where he’s an extreme conservative in a way, is offering from the libertarian standpoint the Republican Party that choice.
I don’t think they’ll take it. I don’t think they want to take it, and I think his votes prove that. But the very fact that he is an alternative candidate . . . I wonder if the Democrats could sustain an alternative Left-wing candidate who reached out to the Occupy Wall Street movement, who was opposed to all wars, and was prepared to incur the wrath of the Israeli lobby for saying so.
Do you think there could be a Left-wing equivalent of Ron Paul?
RS: It’s a very good question. I would say no. Perhaps this is related to something a number of people have talked about. I know Sam Dickson, my friend, has mentioned this many times. The constituents and the party, if you look at that dynamic, with both parties the constituents are to the Right of the party leadership. Within the Republican Party you have a lot of the rank and file, the voters, they do have a more conservative worldview than the party leaders, who might even laugh at some of the hicks who vote for them behind their backs, but you have that same exact dynamic – it’s not a mirror image, it’s the identical image – in the Democratic Party.
One reason I think Obama is going to win is that you have a lot of people who generally have a conservative worldview, a completely non-radical worldview, who vote Democrat maybe because they like some aspects of the welfare state or maybe they resent Republicans because they think they represent wealth or Wall Street or something like that. Whether they’re correct or not is another question. So, in both parties the voting base is to the Right of the leadership and the leadership of the Democratic Party is to the Left.
I just put this forward. I guess it doesn’t really answer the question of whether an alternative, outside the system Democratic candidate could arise amongst the Democrats.
You know, I don’t know about this. I’m kind of thinking out loud. I don’t know, but I almost don’t see it and maybe in the sense that we live in a world in which the presumptions and the guiding ideology is Leftist and, in a way, being a real conservative or Right-winger, that is more revolutionary than being a Left-winger. I think that’s a very good question.
Maybe that’s another thing in the future, whether there will be these unintended consequences of mass immigration and the Democrats think this is always going to give them elections because the “new Americans” are going to vote instinctively for the Democrats and they’ll see the Republicans as the “White person’s party” and so on and so forth. I think that dynamic will occur for many elections down the line, but there might be a point where the Latinos want to throw off the yoke of the Clintons or maybe Jewish interests to run the party, and the Democratic Party will become something quite different indeed.
These are all interesting questions we’re speculating on. What do you think?
JB: Didn’t a radical candidate emerge a couple of election cycles ago but they couldn’t find a way through in the mainstream and had to go to third and fourth party spots that in the end led to marginalization and extremely small votes?
RS: Are you referring to Ralph Nader?
JB: Yes, Ralph Nader was a sort of radical Green perspective and Patrick Buchanan on the other side with a sort of isolationist perspective. And of course, he got the third party Perot endorsement, didn’t he, for a while?
RS: Yes. You know, it is interesting. There was a kind of radical centrist candidate, Ross Perot, who came out in the early ’90s. Again, it goes back to social mood. I think social mood in the early ’90s was more negative, more “throw the bums out.” I think they were willing to tolerate that, and that didn’t work anymore later on in that decade and into the 2000s.
The only thing I would say about Nader is that Nader certainly is to the Left of most of the Democratic leadership, but he’s not really fundamentally different than they are. He’s almost like the Democratic leadership, but more so. He thinks that their environmental program is not strong enough. Maybe he is radically different from them on foreign policy, but at least on domestic policy he’s the Democratic leadership on steroids or something like that.
What I was questioning about is whether we might see someone really, truly radically different. Someone within the Left who wants something, again, fundamentally other than the Democratic leadership and I was thinking about this in terms of a Latino leader who speaks a different language, literally and figuratively, than the Clintons and Obama. I think there’s an unintended consequence of these “new Americans” and immigrants going after the White and Jewish elite that let them in. I think it would be interesting. I guess I have a certain Schadenfreude to watch that happen.
But do you see anything like that happening in Europe where let’s say a Muslim candidate would arise within parliamentary democracy within Europe?
JB: I think the electoral base is too small to gain overwhelming victories, but such candidates can emerge, of course. A justice spokesman on the Labour side in the British Parliament is a Muslim from the north of England, but he’s part of the generic Left really and doesn’t really stand on a Muslim specificity particularly, so the party regards it as immaterial as to whether he’s a Muslim or a Jew or a post-Christian or of no faith or of whatever ethnicity.
The interesting thing would be if somebody who was totally anti-system could get anywhere in a democracy, which I think is impossible. It’s impossible to consider somebody like Farrakhan winning with the Democrats, isn’t it? It’s almost impossible to foresee that. Because he’s got too many enemies in the coalition that makes up the Democratic Party given their view of Jews and their view of gays and all the rest of it.
RS: Well, you know, my friend, Keith Preston, is a National Anarchist, and I’m sure a lot of Republican voters might consider him a “Leftist” or something like that but he’s not. There was an interesting incident, which always brings a smile to my face. It happened in Asia. I’ll have to find out where exactly this happened. It’s not just mythic. It really happened. But there was a party that said, “Vote for us to end democracy! We promise you’ll never vote again!” That always brings a smile to my face. That would be the ultimate radical within the establishment, within the system. For someone who’s not very keen on democracy, who thinks it leads to the kind of debased society we have today, again, it makes me happy to think of those solid citizens voting to end democracy.
But, anyway, maybe we’ll leave it on that note. Jonathan, thanks for being on the program once again, and I look forward to speaking with you again soon.
JB: Thanks very much! Nice to be here!