WASHINGTON, January 28, 2014 – The increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton will run for the presidency in 2016 is provoking outrage on the right. The right is over-reacting.
Clinton is unlikely to be any worse than the fellow who’s now in the White House. Nor would she likely surpass in silliness President Obama’s bumbling Republican predecessor, who unleashed a war of choice in Iraq with the hope of bringing “democratic values” to Middle Easterners.
Looking back at American presidents since the middle of the last century, the best of the lot was probably President Dwight Eisenhower. A leader with modest expectations, Ike did little to expand the federal government, and under him America stayed out of foreign entanglements from a position of strength. Eisenhower supported desegregation generally, and he ordered the National Guard to schools in Little Rock that were undergoing desegregation when the process turned nasty.
Even so, Eisenhower never believed that government should be mixing ethnic groups and genders in a way that would be acceptable to journalists and social scientists. Unlike politicians in both parties today, he just didn’t think social engineering was integral to a constitutional republic.
The American way of life was about the right to be left alone, not about having public administration socialize us.
The retort to this call for limited government is predictable: There are people out there who are truly “prejudiced,” who won’t give everyone a chance, and who say things that may hurt someone’s feelings. The response to that is that having to put up with those we don’t like is the price we pay for living in a non-totalitarian society.
Those conservatives who, like this author, have spent decades of discomfort in the sensitized cocoon of the American academy will find it difficult to endorse the attempt to turn citizens into PC automatons. Former residents of the propaganda mill will scorn any attempt to sensitize their social behavior, especially if it comes with the threat of government force.
If a “harasser” commits acts of violence, we have adequate laws against felonious assault. But that’s not the same as being prosecuted for expressing politically incorrect sentiments or looking at a designated minority the wrong way. If a woman or minority feels offended by someone’s speech, that does not justify government meddling. It is no business of the state to regulate who can say what to whom. It is even more outrageous that journalists, judges and other government officials apply double standards to acts of rudeness.
We are made to think that it is less reprehensible if blacks insult whites, women insult men, or Jews insult Christians than vice versa. Victims and a victimizing hierarchy are inherent in every attempt to impose political correctness. Government is the prime vehicle for imposing these hierarchical relations on the rest of society.
Rand Paul expressed the view during his run for the Senate that any federal or state law that pushes us into hiring someone because of race, gender or sexual orientation should be opposed. This is coercion masquerading as anti-discrimination laws, but the effect is to extend the power of government to run our lives. Affirmative action programs are the logical extensions of efforts coordinated by the government to impose quotas for different minorities on employers and college admission offices.
This coercion will not go away, even if some GOP imitation of Hillary becomes our next president. The Republicans are no more likely than Mrs. Clinton to resist an expanding crusade against government-banned forms of discrimination. This doesn’t mean that Republican strategists won’t bring up certain social issues when expedient, e.g., Obama’s attempt to force the Catholic Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Republican leaders make noise about such bullying tactics when they’re courting potential customers.
But when it comes to going for the White House, the GOP becomes less adventurous. It offers such meager pickings as Robert Dole or Mitt Romney to fight for our freedom. The advice that Republican pundit Charles Krauthammer gave on FOX-news, that GOP candidates should “avoid moving to the right,” was admirably honest. Krauthammer explained that “opposing late-term abortion and coming out for the Little Sisters” are convenient positions for Republicans to take in order to win popular approval. But the GOP shouldn’t look “rightwing” in the general election: otherwise the populace might choose the other party to run the executive.
This is not the same as saying there won’t be any difference if the GOP gains the presidency. Different people would be receiving federal patronage, and at least some federal judges would look less like leftist ideologues than those who owe their tenure to the Democrats. Naturally Obamacare would be modified to please Republican constituents.
“Modified” is the operative word, since this health plan will not be entirely repealed. It serves as an electoral talking point, not a genuine object of revulsion. Neither the size nor nature of government would change significantly as a result of the presidential election.
Republican senators and representatives who have opposed Obama from the right will become less important once a Republican administration takes power. The likely GOP president will be someone more like Christie than Ted Cruz, and the victorious party will try to “rule from the center.” It’s from the center that FOX-news talking heads think the president should be leading.
If Hillary is defeated, a major consequence will be an administration more inclined to embark on foreign wars. A sacred principle that the GOP is not about to abandon is a neoconservative foreign policy, which seems to be a lodestar for the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the Murdoch press. If McCain or Romney had made it to the top, we’d probably have stormier relations with the rest of the world, and an explosive foreign policy predicated on spreading “our values.”
This is not an endorsement of Obama’s flailing around in Syria and Iran. It is recognition that things would be more disruptive if the other party were running the state department. If John Bolton or the perpetually eager interventionist Lindsay Graham were to become secretary of state, we might learn to regret Hillary’s failed presidential bid.
Mrs. Clinton is lackluster and devious, and her election would be disagreeable for all the reasons GOP radio celebrities give. But the current GOP is ravenous for power, and its likely presidential alternatives are likely to be equally disagreeable. Indeed, conservatives may have a difficult time voting for either national party in the next presidential race.