The prophet Jonah is mostly remembered for having been swallowed by a big fish. The punchline of the "Book of Jonah" carries a forgotten, deeply pertinent, message for America today: restoring our ability to tell right from left.
The Lord ordered the reluctant Jonah to order the citizens of Nineveh (in its day, the world's largest city) to repent from their wicked ways. Much to the truculent Jonah's distress, they repented and were spared. God to Jonah: "And should not I spare Nineveh, that [great city], wherein are more then sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their yamin (right hand) and their semol (left hand); and also much cattle?"
The Republican Party has reached a point where it, like Nineveh, cannot discern right from left. Or right from wrong.
It is, confusingly, nominating candidates like J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, and Blake Masters, R-Ariz., adherents to a truly great (venture) capitalist: Peter Thiel.
Thiel's pet nominees' anti-free-market stands would make Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., blush. Go figure.
Yet let us show pity on the GOP, hoping (albeit likely in vain) that before the midterms it will repent of its wickedness and avoid political annihilation.
Why the confusion? Here's the Big Reveal:
Across the previous century, America, "land of the free and the home of the brave," confronted a tyrannical world order. That was the metanarrative that defined our political world.
WWI and the fall of the empires; WWII, and our destruction of the dictatorships in the West and Japan; the Cold War, in which we confronted and defeated the Soviet Union and moved the East from totalitarianism to authoritarianism (and occasionally republicanism), a major if imperfect achievement.
We were a victim of our own success. The completeness of our victory brought us existential confusion.
Whether this was calculated or spontaneous will forever be an open question. Yet one is haunted by the observation of Georgi Arbatov "as reported by the LA Times, one of President Gorbachev's key advisors gave away the game. 'Our major secret weapon,' said Georgi Arbatov, director of the Soviet Academy of Sciences' Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies, 'is to deprive you of an enemy.'"
The neocons catastrophically failed their post-9-11 effort to conjure a "war on terror" as a successor enemy to reconstitute the narrative of America as a heroic force. The governing (bi)polar world geopolitical metanarrative collapsed.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Now, not one but two rough beasts are slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.
These beasts were recently eloquently described in Project Syndicate by (the apparently Marxist) Slavoj Žižek, in What the "Woke" Left and the Alt-Right Share:
"The "civil war" that [Jordan] Peterson sees in the developed West is thus a chimera, a conflict between two versions of the same global capitalist system: unrestrained liberal individualism versus neo-fascist conservativism, which seeks to unite capitalist dynamism with traditional values and hierarchies.
"There is a double paradox here. Western political correctness ("wokeness") has displaced class struggle, producing a liberal elite that claims to protect threatened racial and sexual minorities in order to divert attention from its members' own economic and political power. At the same time, this lie allows alt-right populists to present themselves as defenders of 'real' people against corporate and 'deep state' elites, even though they, too, occupy positions at the commanding heights of economic and political power.
"Neither side really stands up for the exploited or has any interest in working-class solidarity. The implication is not that "left" and "right" are outdated notions — as one often hears — but rather that culture wars have displaced class struggle as the engine of politics."
Donning my hat as co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman of the 188,000-follower Capitalist League, let me cheekily chide the otherwise dazzlingly perceptive Žižek.
First, he confuses mercantilism, indeed pernicious, with capitalism. Real capitalism which, when occasionally done right (as in the days of Republican supply-sider and labor leader John L. Lewis), is a force to equitably, perhaps even equally, benefit labor as capital. (We went awry when then-President Richard M. Nixon, egged on by John Connally, closed the gold window on Aug. 15, 1971.) Second, Žižek's proposal of eco-fascism as a benevolent successor to both the "woke" left and the alt-right is just another form of romantic utopianism. Dear Professor?
Remember Virgil's warning (Aeneid, 6:126): facilis descensus Averno. "Easy is the descent to hell."
Virtually all Americans have taken a solemn oath, many times, pledging allegiance to the principles of "liberty and justice for all." The Republicans pay lip service to liberty. The Democrats, to justice.
To avert America's descent to hell we citizens have a duty to passionately push the officials we elect to take seriously both the liberty and justice to which we are pledged.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $94T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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