»  Taki's Magazine

April 28th, 2011

  2012 Election Preview


The politicians are beginning to shuffle into place for next year's presidential contest. (Or out of place: Haley Barbour announced this week that he won't, after all, try for the Republican nomination.) So who have we got?

We have of course got Barack Obama. At this point I see no sign that anyone in his own party will challenge him. This might of course change. This time next year, with unemployment at fifty percent, the dollar trading at par with the Laotian kip, and Chinese landing-craft coming ashore on Guam, things might be different, but let's go with what we currently have.

The field to ponder is therefore the GOP presidential field. Herewith some random notes.

The National Question.  I really don't want to end up having to vote for a candidate who is squishy on the National Question: matters of immigration, citizenship, and border control primarily, but also issues relating to national cohesion — race preferences, multiculturalism, and the maintenance of English as our single national language.

Taking immigration policy as the main index here, it looks like I'm out of luck right away. None of the 2012 hopefuls rated by NumbersUSA gets better than a B-minus on immigration, and the median there is a D.

[Note added later :  As written. The ratings have changed considerably since then, notably with the appearance of Ron Paul's campaign book, where he takes a newer, much squishier line on the National Question. Never trust a damn libertarian.]

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson hasn't made it to the NumbersUSA list yet (he only declared last week), but to judge by his National Review interview he's an immigration dim bulb who thinks the main problem is that it's too hard for foreigners to get work visas, and that "it's not a matter of welfare." (Oh, no?)

Johnson's published policy statements are even worse than that, calling for example for "a temporary guest worker program that makes sense." Hoo-kay, Governor: here are our 13 current guest-worker programs, by visa category:

F-1: Student temporarily employed
H-1B: Occupations with specialized knowledge
H-2A: Seasonal, agricultural
H-2B: Seasonal, non-agricultural
H-3: Trainees (other than medical or academic)
J: Interns, au pairs, etc.
L: Intracompany transfers
O-1: Persons of extraordinary achievements
O-2: Persons assisting an O-1
P-1: Athletes & entertainers
P-2: Artists on reciprocal exchange programs
P-3: Artists performing culturally unique programs
Q-1: Cultural exchange training

If you throw in borderline categories like crew members in transit (D visa), religious workers (R), domestic staff of foreign nationals (B-1), media & journalist folk (I), and some others, the count goes over twenty … but let's settle on the basic thirteen existing guest-worker visas. Just what about this list does not make sense?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who hasn't declared but might yet run, is just as clueless. We need "a path to citizenship," he says. Yo, Governor: we already have one. I trod it.

Trump throws his hair in the ring.  Donald Trump's come in for a lot of mockery since he announced his run. I just saw Charles Krauthammer sneering at him on the O'Reilly show. "Not a serious candidate …"

When you look at how we've been served by people who Krauthammer presumably does consider to have been serious candidates, this doesn't seem like much of an argument.

There was, for example, the guy who got us into two pointless, endless wars, vastly expanded Medicare when it was already clear entitlements were going to bankrupt us, threw the nation's borders wide open, and passed the silliest, worst-founded piece of social legislation in the history of the Republic. Was he a serious candidate? I don't recall Krauthammer saying otherwise.

Was Barack Obama a serious candidate in '08, with his lengthy and challenging experience of [sound of crickets chirping] and his striking achievements in the field of [more crickets]?

Coping with catastrophe.  Given that the U.S.A. will almost certainly face a humongous economic catastrophe in the next five years, who would best be able to cope with it?

I'm not sure this is an answerable question. Told in 1928 that there was a great depression on the horizon, and then asked which public figure would best be able to cope with it, some very high proportion of Americans would have pointed to the brilliant, industrious, experienced, omni-capable, and definitely very serious Herbert Hoover, the most respected man in the public life of his time. (One of the few dissenters being the unfoxable Calvin Coolidge, who called Hoover "Wonder Boy.")

But if Hoover was overwhelmed by the Great Depression, so was FDR, whose policies did very little to ameliorate it. Perhaps when disasters of this magnitude strike, there is nothing much anyone can do but flail about ineffectually. Not all events can be controlled.

Mitt Romney.  Dear old Mitt. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Tim Pawlenty.  The ex-Governor of Minnesota is an honest working-class lad who ran a good tight ship, but who is off-putting in a number of ways.

There's that "Tim" for starters. George Orwell, née Eric Blair, once said it took him thirty years to get over being named "Eric." I think it might take me at least as long as that to get used to "President Tim."

There's that Midwestern niceness, too. Midwesterners are so damn nice, it's impossible to dislike them. Personally I like them immensely — real Americans, the salt of the earth. Do I want my nation's affairs in the hands of someone that nice, though? I'm not sure I do.

Then there's the evangelical thing. Certainly a man's entitled to his religion, and on social and fiscal matters the evangelical heart is in the right place. You can make a case, though, that the evangelical temperament is inimical to a sensible foreign policy. Michael Brendan Dougherty makes some of that case in the current (June 2011) issue of The American Conservative:

Asked about the multiplication of American obligations around the world, [Dr Richard] Land [of the Southern Baptist Convention] quotes the Gospel coolly: "To whom much has been given, much shall be required." America is a blessed nation and must be a blessing to others.

Uh-oh. Similarly of course for Huckabee, Palin, and Bachmann.

Pawlenty and Bachmann, however, are up at the top end of the NumbersUSA rankings on immigration policy, so perhaps they recognize some limits to the sacrifices Americans should be called on to make by way of ministering to the Heathen.

Newt Gingrich.  I find it really, really hard to imagine myself pulling the lever for Barack Obama, but … not utterly impossible.

Ron Paul's in.  Well, at least to the extent of having formed an "exploratory committee" this Tuesday.

This is great news — a candidate worth voting for. Paul would actually eliminate some of the myriad federal agencies, perhaps even entire departments. He is the only candidate who has ever wondered why we keep 52,000 troops in Germany and 36,000 in Japan, or why our government has one agency (the Federal Reserve) empowered to buy bonds issued by another (the U.S. Treasury), or why my income is any of the government's business.

Paul is a libertarian, and therefore suspect on the National Question. He seems more sensible than most of that ilk, though, at least to judge by the interview he gave to VDARE in the 2008 election. Sure, he's old, but not as old as Konrad Adenauer.

This is my guy, though I guess I should brace myself for the flood of angry stories about how his dentist's cousin's babysitter once sat on a park bench next to a member of the John Birch society.