In her effort to explain the rise and seeming inevitability of Hillary Clinton Camille Paglia suggested that, seeing “the increasing dysfunction of our democratic institutions” the American public is suffering from “an atavistic longing for monarchy,” or perhaps is looking for “a neo-pagan reversion to idolatry.”
Since I had already suggested that the Teflon Don was leading a revival of pagan idolatry, I found her remarks most congenial. Links here and here.
What evidence does Paglia present to make her case against Hillary? I quoted her in a prior post, but here it is again?
Hillary’s breathtaking lack of concrete achievements or even minimal initiatives over her long public career doesn’t faze her admirers a whit. They have a religious conviction of her essential goodness and blame her blank track record on diabolical sexist obstructionists. When at last week’s debate Hillary crassly blamed President Obama for the disastrous Libyan incursion that she had pushed him into, her acolytes hardly noticed. They don’t give a damn about international affairs—all that matters is transgender bathrooms and instant access to abortion.
As I mentioned, much of what Paglia says about Clinton could just as easily be said about Trump. If so, then clearly the current presidential nominating process shows that our democratic institutions are failing and that people are looking for a strong leader, one who does not play by the rules, but who gets things done. They would do better to look for a leader who can restore faith in our institutions. If they do not, it suggests that they have adjusted to the age of Obama.
Some have suggested that our institutions are failing because the Republican Congress has been unable to check the power of our imperious president. That is only true in part. The greater problem must lie in the White House. America’s political institutions depend on the virtue—to use a quaint word—of the people in charge. George Washington understood it. Alexander Hamilton understood it. Barack Obama does not. Our institutions depend on the president’s ability to place the public good ahead of his personal good and his own ideology.
Barack Obama has enacted considerable parts of his agenda, in domestic and foreign affairs, by executive fiat. He has done it by going around the will of Congress and the will of the people. You may like it or you may not like it, but now the American people have learned their lesson. The presidency is not a co-equal branch of government. The American president is an imperious ruler. Getting things done counts for more than respecting the institutions themselves.
When it looked as though Obamacare would fail in the Senate, the Democrats performed a little a sleight-of-hand and got it through. The media cheered. When Obamacare got to the Supreme Court, the liberal media persuaded John Roberts to cave on principle and to vote with the liberal justices.
Despite his calm demeanor Obama tends to evoke quasi-hysterical rationalizations for doing whatever he wants. He changed immigration law because Congress had failed to act. Nowhere in the constitution does it say that the president may do as he pleases when Congress fails to act. Thus far, Obama’s immigration policies have been rejected by courts, but, you know and I know that we are one justice away from their being accepted.
Similarly, with the Iran nuclear deal. If it had been a treaty it would have been submitted to the Senate for approval. Therefore, Obama chose not to call it a treaty. He negotiated it because he could get away with doing so and he sent the money back to Iran. Obviously, Iran reacted by spitting in his face and in the face of America. Obama was not happy. America was humiliated. Too bad. What are you going to do about it? The same applies to the recent climate change deal.
Apparently, it is possible to get around the system of checks and balances if one cares to do so. It is possible to do as one pleases and to get away with a great deal of it. Bill Clinton did. Hillary Clinton has. Now, Republican primary voters, in their frustration believe that it ought to do the same.
Clearly, the Donald has no “concrete achievements” or “minimal initiatives” in the public sphere. His acolytes and idolaters have not noticed and do not care. They believe that since he has built buildings out of concrete… that counts as concrete achievements. As for fighting the establishment, Ted Cruz has done it. Donald Trump has never done it. Therefore, his idolatrous followers believe that Trump can do it. Let's not call it rational thought.
They see Trump as a Machiavellian Prince, someone who will do what it takes to get things done. Much as Obama has. Of course, Trump lacks the knowledge or experience to get much of anything done in government, but his idolaters do not care. And while everyone thrills to the notion of electing someone who will follow the venerable principles of the Florentine diplomat, we might ask ourselves how well those principles worked for the Italian principalities and how well they have worked for Italy.
If you follow the rules laid down by Machiavelli you might end up like Italy. Surely, the American founding fathers were not inspired by him. Take that as a lesson.
Now, we have been told, by none other than Trump’s new guru, Paul Manafort, that it’s all an act. Of course, it’s nonsense, a new way to trick the gullible. Ask around in New York City, ask people who know Trump or who know of Trump, ask people who are involved in the construction business, ask them whether the bully-boy insult machine Trump is an act… and they will laugh in your face.
If anything shows the impotence and the incompetence of the Republican Party establishment it is the rise of Donald Trump. It wants anyone but Trump, but it cannot decide on a candidate. The only candidate who has a realistic chance of beating Trump is Ted Cruz. But the establishment does not like the rebellious Cruz. So, for failing to get behind Cruz, the establishment is paving the way for a Trump victory and, incidentally, its own destruction.
If Republican Party leaders cannot get over their personal pique about Ted Cruz they are going to choose as their standard-bearer someone who knows nothing about policy, nothing about governance, nothing about history and nothing about the law. And they are going to put him on a debate stage for ninety minutes, to give him plenty of time to run out of mindless talking points and show how little substance he has.
Ted Cruz does know his brief. He can handle himself in endless debate. And he does not back down from confrontation. And yet, the Republican Party does not have the brains or the courage to unite behind him. Why? Because he defied them.
The Republican Party welcomed too many vanity candidates and too many candidates in general. The Democratic Party had far fewer candidates and a much strong will to win. It showed the country that it is in control, at least of its own nominating process. The Republican Party cannot say the same.
Now we have the spectacle of John Kasich, arguably the most qualified of the candidates, but a conservative who has chosen to present himself as anything but a conservative. Kasich is the last establishment candidate. He will not amass enough state victories to be placed in nomination. And by splitting the anti-Trump vote he is helping Trump. And yet, he does not have the good sense or the intelligence to get out of the way and to pave the way for Ted Cruz. He clings to polls that make him appear to be the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton. And he is supported by many in the conservative media.
So, it looks like we are going to have two candidates who aspire to be monarchs or princes. We are going to have two candidates who have accomplished little or nothing in government but who inspire what Paglia called “atavistic longings” for monarchy. It is, as I have said and as she says, a neo-pagan revival. Whether we choose the frigid goddess or the bloviating god… we are in serious trouble.