Thursday, June 26, 2003

Leftist for Bush? Don’t make me laugh.

Turkeys for Christmas, Lemmings for cliffs, and now leftists for Bush. Who woulda thought it?

Christopher Hitchens and Oliver Kamm form themselves into the smallest political group since African-Americans for Wallace folded. Still, they’re both smart chaps, so we should pay due attention to them.

To start out with, let us accept the debate on its own terms. To even take part in this debate you have to accept that the war on Islamo-Fascism is so important that support for it trumps everything else- such as taxes, jobs, the environment, the economy, nothing else matters. If they, did, no self respecting leftist could even think about doing supporting Bush. As President Clinton said to the Labour party,

“I think this whole Iraq issue is made more difficult for some of you because of the differences you have with the Conservatives in America over other matters, over the criminal court and the Kyoto treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty.

“I don't agree with that either, plus I disagree with them on nearly everything, on budget policy, tax policy, on education policy. On education policy, on environmental policy, on health care policy. I have a world of disagreements with them. But, we cannot lose sight of the bigger issue. To build the world we want America will have to be involved and the best likelihood comes when America and Britain, when America and Europe are working together.

“We cannot believe that we cannot reach across party and philosophical lines to find common ground on issues fundamental to our security and the way we organise ourselves as free people”

Oliver takes the opposite position to this. No Democrat takes these issues seriously, so they are automatically disqualified from consideration as potential Presidents.

“The single most pressing question for those who believe in democratic politics is the threat to liberal values - indeed to the lives of our own citizens and the very survival of western civilisation - from Islamofascist totalitarianism. President Bush, who campaigned in 2000 with an ominous aversion to what he called 'nation-building' amid hints that he would reduce US overseas commitments, has shown that he is squarely in the tradition of liberal internationalism exemplified by Harry Truman. Rather than treat terrorist attacks on American soil as an isolated criminal act, he has rightly regarded them instead as an act of war.”

So, on that basis, Bush should never have been allowed to become President, given his base-stroking isolationist campaign rhetoric- Yet now he must be supported against all comers as the last best hope of the free world. If any Democratic presidential candidate who dare breathe a word of critcism of a sitting President he is “abandoning bipartisanship” (Which the Republicans never did in the 2002 elections- oh no)

Nevertheless, Oliver and I agree that Islamofascism is a serious threat, expressed through the frightening capability of radical fundamentalists to attack western cities . Oliver feels this is so important he goes on to criticises Al Gore in stern terms for criticising Bush's desire to atack Iraq:

“Last September he indelibly disgraced and permanently diminished himself by abandoning bipartisanship on national security and claiming that the administration's focus on Iraq was politically motivated”

If Oliver means the September 2003 Foreign Policy address by Al Gore (You have to assume so, because Oliver doesn't deign to quote Gore's pathetic speech, what Gore said was:

“Nevertheless, President Bush is telling us that America's most urgent requirement of the moment right now is not to redouble our efforts against Al Qaida, not to stabilize the nation of Afghanistan after driving his host government from power, even as Al Qaida members slip back across the border to set up in Afghanistan again.

Rather, he is telling us that our most urgent task right now is to shift our focus and concentrate on immediately launching a new war against Saddam Hussein”

So, Oliver maintains that the war against Islamofascism is the most important thing it the world yet criticises Gore for saying that the war against Islamofascism is more important than invading Iraq. I have to admit, I’m left scratching my head on that one.

Perhaps Oliver believes that Saddam Hussein was/is an Islamofascist too. Well, certainly the fascist bit fits, but there are some key elements missing. As far as I know, the war against Iraq wasn’t about women’s rights and theocracy. If Hussein was an Islamofascist, he was certainly no more of a one in ideological terms than, say, the Saudi Arabian government. Which is why Democrat Bob Graham criticises Bush- because attacking Iraq when he did left so much undone in the war against Islamic terror.

Please understand- this isn’t to say Iraq wasn’t a threat that needed to be dealt with- it just wasn’t an Islamofascist one and it didn't need to be delt with then.

So, If you think Islamofascism is the most important threat to the world that exists right now, you can’t criticise Democrats like Gore, Clinton, Graham and Dean who have all said the war against terrorism should come first.

There are legitimate reasons for attacking Iraq, but this dishonest elision between Islamofascism and Iraq sure isn’t one of them. Bush’s penchant for doing so, and his apologists complicity in the lie, is one of the most distressing factors in Bush’s habitual difficulty with the difference between rhetoric and reality.

So in order to be a leftist for Bush, you have to say-
What you say in a campaign is irrelevant to your presidency (unless you’re a democrat),
The war against terrorism is the most important issue we face in the world (but for a democrat to say it is more important than invading Iraq is disgraceful)
No issue matters more than the war on terrorism, (which is why I must support a president who is passing massive Tax cuts for the wealthy at a time when there are huge gaps in US homeland security).”

Even aside from this, How can anyone seriously suggest that the Democrats do not have candidates who fully buy into the “war against Islamofascism". Lieberman, Kerry and Edwards all voted for the invasion of Iraq. Graham voted against it, but from the classic Scoop Jackson position that it didn’t confront the real threats to the US, And remember Oliver, if you want to support a Democrat in the model of your hero, Lieberman explicitly identifies with Scoop Jackson as his role model.

Bush has managed to take an America that had the sympathy of virtually every nation in the world and made it mistrusted, loathed and hated.

Bush has taken an Budget surplus of in the Billions and converted it into a deficit in the billions. A bill that every American will pay for the rest of their life.

Bush has presided over the loss of 2 million jobs in the US economy and done almost nothing to lift the glob out of a long slow global recession.

Bush has launched two military campaigns and declared victory twice, without capturing, killing or destroying the leadership of the enemy.

Bush has cut taxes for the wealthy while cutting benefits for veterans and stripping social programmes of funding.

If you think this is a record of achievement that’s worthy of support. You can still call yourself on the left, but only if you’re thinking about ropes and hanging men.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The future of politics.. Insurgency and the Internet.

When I was younger, the greatest job in the world seemed to be futurologist. You got to say things like “In thirty years time, no-one will work more than ten hours a day and we’ll all have three partners”, justify it with a load of selective evidence and write it up into a seven hundred page book. Best of all, when the future failed to turn up as predicted, no-one seemed to mind, and you simply moved on to your next prediction.

I suppose that’s why I like to make predictions about politics, but as usual I made a silly mistake and actually tried to predict short term, verifiable events.

That’s quite hard as people are liable to turn round to you and say things like “So Margaret Hodge is going to get the sack, eh? You are clearly a moron of the first order and should stand in a corner with a conical hat which will mark you out to all and sundry as a dunce”

So let me return to my youthful ambition by offering a long-term prediction. There will be an major insurgent political movement in the UK within the next 10 years, and that it will organise, fundraise, evangelise and motivate through the internet.

Why do I predict this?

First, the declining participation rates in politics is creating a political space for insurgency. Party membership (in toto) is declining (Tory gains not making up for Labour losses). Voting rates are still down. This represents a significant opportunity for someone who is able to appeal to this new generation of non-voters and supporters.

Second, we have seen a wave of successful insurgency campaigns over the last two years at local level. From Wyre Forest, to Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Stoke, Mansfield and Scotland, previously unknown political candidates and organisations have come from almost no-where to win seats and mayoralties. This has generally been treated with some humour by the national media, but these have been the closest equivalents we’ve had to by-elections in the last few years, and the independents have swept them. this has happened internationally too, with Pim Foruyn the most famous example, but several other populist campaigns suddenly catching fire in places as diverse as Scandanavia and Australia.

Third, The Internet creates a major new campaign structure for a charismatic outsider. One of the reasons why a British political insurgency campaign has never really taken off is the enormous cost of entry into politics here.

Our political structure, with 650 seats, First past the post and two parties representing the two main fund-raising blocks in British politics means that you needs a significant on the ground organisation, large budgets and significant organisational skills to mount a serious national campaign. The barriers to building all three have been prohibitive (especially since you can’t actually buy an organisation or TV ads because of expenditure limits). You can either mount a high-expense campaign (a la Referendum Party) or you can try and build a base in certain core areas (a la Scottish Socialists or the BNP), but either way, you can’t build a significant national campaign easily.

The internet will change this.

First, It could provide a grass-roots organisation across the country for an insurgency candidate. To get a core of 10 campaigners in each constituency, you would need an activist army of around 10,000. Sites like meet-up are already generating numbers in excess of 40,000 for a single Democratic presidential candidate.

Second, it could provide a huge fundraising boost for an insurgent campaign. US political websites are beginning to use fundraising as a way of exerting influence. is apparent targeting a figure in the millions of dollars, A small, independent site likeDaily Kos can raise 50k for the DNC in a matter of a fortnight. Howard Dean has raised over a million dollars online.

This could mean that an insurgent campaign in the UK would not need a bankroller who would be claimed to “own the party” in the same way as Jimmy Goldsmith owned the Referendum party. It also means that the a campaign could surge in funding exponentially- success could breed success as more funding, more activism becaomes possible.

Finally, the internet significantly speeds up political involvement. As soon as someone signs onto your site, they can be bombarded with messages, spread the word quicker, get excited quicker. Imagine a convert to an putatitve campaign (he may have heard about it on a blog..), who then circulates the campaign video on email to friends, forwards e-mail addresses, watches speeches on the computer, gets talking points for use in the pub sent to him.

Suddenly someone who is excited about your campaign becomes a hugely important figure, especially in a world where shifting political allegiances mean tribalism is at an all time low so the chances they will create converts is higher. John McCain gained 40,000 new activists in the days after winning the New Hampshire Primary, but couldn’t use them. Now the organisation of the internet means they can be educated and put to work faster than ever before. The angle of the mountain just got bigger, so snowballs are going to roll faster. A campaign could be built, launched and succesful in less than six months.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Insurgent campaigns tend to need a charismatic leader (Pim Fortuyn, Ross Perot (!), Ray Mallon) and there doesn’t seem to be one on the horizon just yet. In addition, our internet development lags behind the US and the far east, so it will be a few years before access is high enough to make it work.

It will happen though.

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Clare Short and Samizdata.. a marriage made in heaven!

Samizdata has started a new Weblog called white rose. Now, as i did, I hope you assumed that this was a tribute blog to the fine county of Yorkshire, but instread it is a "protest blog" which "was set up to point a finger at the erosion of personal freedom in the UK. Government's active measures introduce new means of control such as identity cards and surveillance cameras.."

All this is pretty much what the campaigning organisation Liberty campaigns on. Here's their page on Surveillance, for example

and who is rumoured to be the new director of Liberty? Why, Clare Short.

Now, there's a meeting I'd like to be in. Perry and Clare. The Libertarian and the politician who wanted to ban page three.

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