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Tags: strongmen

Strongmen Now Abound Around the World

a person standing on a cliff of an american flag
(Jozef Micic/Dreamstime)

Ralph Benko By Monday, 16 November 2020 11:35 AM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold….

So proclaimed Yeats 100 years ago this month.

Classical liberal republicanism indeed may be falling. I'm a hardened classical liberal (meaning, conservative) republican (small r). Liberal as in committed to liberty, God-given and so fundamental that the government cannot legitimately infringe it. Republican? Citizens electing representatives to conduct the affairs of state so we can spend our time on more important things: family, work, and binge-watching streaming videos.

I've been decrying the death spiral of the republic, declaiming on Independence Day 2016 at Forbes.com, drawing, in part, on my old friend Jon Rauch's cover story in The Atlantic, How American Politics Went Insane. More recently, at Newsmax, I envisioned The End of Republican America, Dawn of a Trump Imperial Dynasty.

Donald Trump owns (we who speak leet: pwns) 73-plus million voters. His stubborn unwillingness to concede his election loss endears him further to his teeming millions.

Rauch, in his column, archly observed "Donald Trump, [Jeb Bush] said, is 'a chaos candidate, and he'd be a chaos president.' Unfortunately for Bush, Trump's supporters didn't mind. They liked that about him."

I myself am not enamored of chaos. That said, I did not vote for Biden. Nor, for that matter, for Trump, instead writing in the most qualified person I know. (America deserves the best. She lost, 150 million-to-one.)

Yet I consider the election outcome great. Notwithstanding Yeats' The Second Coming, the center can and did hold. Mere anarchy is not (quite) loosed upon the world. The center held from the state legislatures to the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate to, notwithstanding mass hysteria, the presidency.

Yet Trump drew 73-plus million votes. A dire assessment of that phenomenon appeared in the canonical New York Review of Books, written by Fintan O'Toole, Democracy's Afterlife: Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics: "Trumpism now is the GOP's death warmed over. … But the Trump presidency has been no nightmare. It has been daylight delinquency, its transgressions of democratic values on lurid display in all their corruption and cruelty and deadly incompetence. … The faithful … embraced that authoritarianism with renewed enthusiasm. The assault on democracy now has a genuine, highly engaged, democratic movement behind it."

A democratic anti-democracy movement? We encounter a paradox! As Niels Bohr observed, "Now we have some hope of making progress."

As the wonderfully unsentimental Dima Vorobiev, an unabashed former Soviet propaganda executive observed:

"Democracy is like beauty. It's in the eye of the beholder. … You may say that people in different cultures have different concepts of democracy. So true. We in Russia have a very different idea of freedom compared to the West. In Russia, democracy means a ruler keeping an ear to the ground to stay in tune with the popular mood. We don't need Western-style accountability for our rulers and rotation of power. For us, it's just as well — and maybe even better — if they simply don't inconvenience us too much, but rather intuit our collective will and translate it into forceful action."

My own obsession with classical liberal republicanism is old school, even revanchist. Representative democracy? The Bill of Rights? Quaint.

And an increasingly lonely stand.

The conservative and GOP establishments have joined "the Trump Can Do No Wrong" school. Unsettling. Yet if, per Thomas Picketty, democracy (which the Founding Fathers detested, as do I) does not deliver equitable results, maybe it is time to try something new.

Or return to something whose twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle?

Liberal republicanism served America, and the world, beautifully for a quarter millennium. I'm still enamored of my boyhood political heroes: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR and JFK. All liberal republicans, even the Democrats.

Maybe that's over. Then again, as Ethel Lina White once wrote, "Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for." Do President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. and his second-in-command, Kamala Harris, have the mojo to sustain the American "Empire of Liberty"?

Strong men now abound around the world. One recalls when my people, the people of Israel demanded a king. Samuel warned that a king would "take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots. … He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers.

"But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, 'No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations.'"

Turning and turning in a widening gyre …

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 $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as co-founder of and senior counselor to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.

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Classical liberal republicanism indeed may be falling.
Monday, 16 November 2020 11:35 AM
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