follow up fourth republic & conservatism

I wanted to add a word onto last night’s post re: conservatism ‘cuz I don’t think I fleshed what I was trying to say.

Lind’s analysis is helpful I think insofar as it is describing periods when conservatism has become a ruling platform/party. I think it’s accurate in that regard. The struggle of the right from Reagan (at least) on has been how to be actually implement the idea of limited government while running the big government. Nixon and Bush II at least understood that this strategy long-term wasn’t workable and tried to create a third conservative way if you will. Their attempts and failures are covered cogently in Douthat and Salam’s Grand New Party.

The questions on the right are now of a more first principles order, since the Stock Market Crash and Global Recession has scrambled all else. Lind’s analysis again correctly notes that in terms of governing ideology the history tends to work by the federal-increase side pushing and driving the initial formation and the right (qua governing ideology) tends to then reassess in that new republic (paradigm) and eventually find a way to power and a way to halt (but not stop) the momentum.

Where Lind’s analysis is not helpful is in discussing conservatism as a personal political philosophy. That is why I like Poulos’ attack on conservatism as an ideology–i.e. the kind of conservatism that came to buttress the second half of the third republic and is now obsolete (think the descent into mania on the e-pages of The Corner recently).

Conservative philosophy is in my mind a kind of un-philosophy. It is the rejection in some ways of what passes for politics. The untying of the knot that is contracted in the heart of the body politic. That is why I find myself spending most of my time studying conservative thinkers, reading heterodox conservative bloggers, and the like. And yet not really ever being a big fan of conservative governing philosophy and more specifically the GOP.

That’s why I tend towards a reform or moderate conservatism as a governing platform but read the others and am more attuned generally to what they describe–until the moment some go off that knife’s edge and politicize it. Or rather ideologize it. Particularly in its current incarnation, like Schwenkler, it was the Iraq War that turned me off to Bush more than anything. It was the politicizing of the War on Terror that I found so disgusting.

In sum, I’m all mixed up. My general tendency is to enter a kind of loyal opposition and align myself more with the party out of power (since I distrust power and political vision generally in whatever direction it comes from). During the recent Bush run, I was seen to be more left, but now that Obama and crew are about to take power, I’m shifting back right. Which is natural for me. It will give me freedom to critique Obama where necessary (and yes I voted for him and yes I think my criticisms aside he will be far better than McCain would have been, particularly on the economy).

It will shift me back to my natural position as a socially liberal/moderate conservative on domestic policy. And in terms of personal philosophy and practice, liberal in relationships and more conservative in my own personal life (I’m pretty boring actually come to think of it). Now that that variant of conservative ideology has been de-fanged and The Corner has been reduced to conspiracy theory mongering about Obama’s birth certificate, I can in my own identity play more with the conservative label. It has a nice kind feel to it without all that baggage.

In the short-medium term, it doesn’t really matter because with the economic downturn, Keynesian econ. appears ready for a revival (stimulus spending, green infrastructure, etc.).

Moreover I’m never altogether comfortable in these discussions because my real focus politically is on foreign policy and there the discussions are between realists, liberal internationalists, neocons, who can cross what are typically considered left and right political parties (humanitarian hawks from the left, realists on the right). The left/right discussions on the level of philosophy generally have much more to do with domestic policy and governance. On the FP front, I’m basically a republican security thinker.

And I won’t even go into how I work out the politics-religion thing in my head. I’m confused enough, I don’t think I could ever communicate it clearly to all of you.

Update I:  I should have said Andy McCarthy and Stanley Kurtz (K-Lo too?) and not the whole of The Corner.  Geraghty at The Campaign Spot months earlier didn’t buy the conspiracy.

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 11:24 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Obama and The Fourth American Republic

Michael Lind comes out and says what I hypothesized back in April–namely that Obama might be a harbinger of the fourth republic in America.


As I see it, to date there have been three American republics, each lasting 72 years (give or take a few years). The First Republic of the United States, assembled following the American Revolution, lasted from 1788 to 1860. The Second Republic, assembled following the Civil War and Reconstruction (that is, the Second American Revolution) lasted from 1860 to 1932. And the Third American Republic, assembled during the New Deal and the civil rights eras (the Third American Revolution), lasted from 1932 until 2004.

In Philip Bobbitt’s terminology, the shift from Republic I to Republic II was the shift from state-nation status to nation-state status.  The shift from Republic II to Republic III was the shift from the early nation-state to the full flowering of the nation-state.  Republic III to Republic IV is the move from the nation-state to the market state.

Lind again:

The first three American republics display a remarkably similar pattern. Their 72-year life span is divided into two 36-year periods (again, give or take a year — this is not astrology). During the first 36-year period of a republic, ambitious nation-builders in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton strengthen the powers of the federal government and promote economic modernization. During the second 36-year phase of a republic, there is a Jeffersonian backlash, in favor of small government, small business and an older way of life. During the backlash era, Jeffersonians manage to modify, but never undo, the structure created by the Hamiltonians in the previous era.

And on Bush a point I’ve made repeatedly, calling Bush the Right’s Carter (or perhaps LBJ, the president who presided over the end of the first half of the 3rd Republic):

The final president of a republic tends to be a failed, despised figure.

Buchanan, Hoover, Bush.  Ouch.

Lind also points out that each period is framed by the techno-economic base of the society but the actual contours and ideology of the period can not be determined in advance (in integral terms the LR sets the condition limits for the LL but does not determine its outcome).

So the precise outline of how this is going to go is up in the air, but it seems likely that we are headed for a (in Lind’s terms) Hamiltonian expansion of federal power.

Lind’s thesis (which he doesn’t mention in this article) also talks about the power racial relations during each period with each republic (in his mind) having a deal that sells out blacks.  During the first slavery.  During the second segregation/Jim Crow South.  During the third, multiculturalism with elite black pols mostly in urban areas (so-called “race hustlers” in right-wing terminology) with out-sized power and influence in these communities but basically in a devil’s bargain for the scraps from the white man’s table.

The Fourth Republic hopefully opens up a new potential and the end of the multiculturalist era.  You have many races/cultures in the 4th Republic interested in a common goal (a theme of Obama’s campaign).

I should add for those interested in the discussion around what the next conservatism will be, should look to its place in response to the coming growth of centralization and find a new way to operate (Poulos’ evolving critique of unified religio-politico-cultural ideology is central here) within this new environ.

I don’t like the term backlash as it makes conservatism sound only reactive.  I think a better way to describe it is as seeking to conserve the gains, conserve and honor the space that is created and comes to be.  (In Integral language, translation with progressivism/liberalism always seeking transformation).

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 10:56 pm  Comments (10)  
Tags: ,

TPMCafe Book Club Fareed Zakaria

There is a really interesting discussion for foreign policy big-strategy nerds (like myself) going on at TPMCafe on Fareed Zakaria’s new book: PostAmerican World.

I just want to highlight a very interesting argument made by (the always interesting) Michael Lind. Link here (read the whole thing). He argues contra the Concert of Democracies crew (McCain and Krauthammer from the right, Anne Marie Slaughter/John Ikenberry and the Princeton Project from the left) that the liberal international order after WWII consisted of two moments:

I stand by my observation that what Anne-Marie and John Ikenberry call the postwar liberal international order was in fact two distinct orders. Plan A–the UN, Bretton Woods, the Four (or Five) Policemen–was reluctantly set aside in favor of a hastily improvised but ultimately successful Plan B–NATO, the Marshall Plan, what became the EU–when the Soviet Union chose to act as a revisionist power instead of a status quo power after 1945.

The upshot of which is that by the standards of Plan A, Russia and China today would qualify as upholding the terms of the non-aggressive powers standard. Whereas since Kosovo and now Iraq, many in the US, some in Europe (e.g. Tony Blair) have moved to want to force the world into Plan B. By that standard Russia and China (and other powers presumably) fail, and therefore a Concert of Democracies are created to push towards this reality and/or circumvent the UN (Plan A writ large) when it fails to uphold the standards of Plan B.

Very interesting argument. What is needed then I would say is something that splits the difference–I’ve never bought into this Concert of Democracies stuff. I would rather expand the G8 and use that as the primary multi-lateral institution (betraying my Plan A preferences/roots). Thomas Barnett is writing the Third Volume of his books. That post details how he thinks his book might fill that slot: namely on the one hand agreeing basically with Zakaria and Lind about the international order (contra neoconservatives) and yet finds a role for the US practically to influence and operate within that order.

I do however stand on record to being more open to The League of Democracies if they create a Hall of Justice.

France is Aquaman?

Liberal Nationalism, Next American Nation, and Obama

I mentioned in the previous post on Obama & flag that–and I haven’t seen anyone make this argument before but that doesn’t mean I am the first only I’m unaware of anyone who has–Obama could be the first politician in the mold of what Michael Lind dubbed as “liberal nationalism”. His book on the subject is The Next American Nation. Lind is now at the New America Foundation.

But I didn’t flesh that out, so I thought I would.

Lind’s book begins with a historical overview that categorizes American history into three periods, each of which is based on a compromise.

The three periods he labels Anglo-American (1789-1861); Euro-American (1875-1957); and Multicultural America (1972-present). Lind’s book outlines a view for a Fourth phase “The Next American Nation.”

Anglo-American emphasized Protestant Anglo-Saxonism. Euro-American begins to include all Europeans (eventually Catholics as well as Protestants, Southern as well as Northern Europeans). Multiculturalism exists as a result of immigration policies post WWII and the decolonized world.

For Lind each of the three all survived on a compromise between the upper classes (aristocracy) and lower.

From NyTimes Review of the book:

In the first American Republic, the “Anglo-American nation,” the compromise was between North and South to keep blacks in bondage. The Second American Republic, what Mr. Lind calls “Euro-America,” saw the bargain struck between the oligarcy and the white working class to keep blacks out…Mr. Lind avers, by contrast, that multiculturalism has become the basis for a new grand and highly conservative compromise. The white overclass has used racial labeling to buy supremacy by co-opting token numbers of blacks and other minority group members and giving them overclass status, leaving the vast majority untouched and unhelped.

The difficulty you can see is that all three orders are based on the exclusion of minorities, particularly blacks. [Not to mention Native Americans but that’s a whole other story].

So on the one hand for Lind multiculturalism is to be attacked because it leads to Brazilianization: “a high-tech feudal anarchy, featuring an archipelago of privileged whites in an ocean of white, black and brown poverty.”

The other danger being plutocracy (think Newt Gingrich, George W Bush Republicanism).

This latter point is crucial and one I want to emphasize. The reason libertarianism has serious difficulties (particularly when merged with conservatism) is that it absents itself from the structural issue of exclusion. I raise this now because I know the “Liberal Fascist” term will be lobbed here as a criticism. It doesn’t touch the plutocratic elements in other words. Not that the criticism doesn’t have some validity of possible shadow sides (any nationalism is suspect and dangerous–I would prefer that Lind had not used the word nationalist but I don’t know what an alternative is exactly.

Liberal nationalism is distinguished for Lind from various left-wing movements in so far as it emphasizes core common values/beliefs (as opposed to multiculturalism) as well as criticizing trans-national culture and ethos in law, economics, and globalism (right or left wing–that’s the nationalist part) and internationalist labor movements (i.e. marxism/communism/socialism).

It is distinguished from right wing nationalism because of its support for labor, environment, and “The American Way of Strategy” Foreign Policy (i.e. civil liberties, broad middle class wealth, social mobility and cohesion, concert of powers abroad, and de-centralization of power domestically–all of which have been savaged by the neoconservatism of Bush).

In terms of domestic policy, (Link here, pdf at bottom of page) an article by Lind of the principles of citizen-based social contract for the 21st century (A New New Deal for the network, post-industrial, informational economic age).

Now not all of Lind’s views are ones that I share nor that line up with Obama 100%, but there is a very strong amount of overlap seems to me.

The clearest evidence is Lind’s call for an increased post-multicultural mixing of the races connected to a new patriotism/theme of unity (see my earlier post). Now Obama comes more from within the multicultural (Trinity United, south side Chicago) and out of it then say Lind, but his multi-racialism, experience abroad, and yet strong vision for the American future–even some of (which I’m not a huge fan of) Obama’s populist quasi-economic nationalist talk would link with Lind.

Obama’s plan for health care, environment, and labor and his very sharp understanding of the difference between the middle class and the poor in America and what is needed for each aligns I think. His online fundraising efforts have in a sense dealt with an issue Lind raises in the book though in a completely different avenue (Lind wants a move towards public financing which Obama has been a strong supporter though know he is arguing that his money raising and movement has become the new public financing).

In terms of foreign policy, Obama’s (so-named by Spencer Ackerman) Dignity Promotion Doctrine does not align very well with Lind’s republicanism “make the world safe for democracy” strategy, though again points of contact. As compared to McCain’s League of Democracies and Clinton’s recent call for extending the nuclear deterrence of the US to Israel and the Sunni autocracies of the Middle East against Iran however, Obama looks far wiser. McCain’s League is the continuation and acceleration of what Lind sees as the primary fault of US post-Cold War foreign policy: an attempt to remake the world in America’s image and seek hyperpower status.

He needs to link Dignity Promotion more and more to defeat of terrorism (which Obama has done brilliantly) but also (where I think he could use a little more emphasis) to secure American strength of our republican order.

One area where Obama has given hints at times of pivoting to the right/center that I think he could pull off (and that would again support Lind’s multicultural critique) is moving from a race-based to a class-based affirmative action system.

Obama could also pivot on immigration calling for a massive increase in the acceptance of US citizens–again a “trans-America” in Lind’s term liberal and national–while calling for an end to temporary worker permits, thereby supporting US labor and on account of the degradation of the population and the creation of a very un-American tiered-social and workforce. He could make the pitch to the left on humanitarian grounds.

But on those he has hints but nothing more of such pivots.

Update I:  It occurs to me that Hillary is the perfect embodiment of the white upper class in the multicultural era including her black supporters from that world.  Liberal patrician.

Published in: on April 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,