Divide et Impera

by Loren Bliss

Modern-day conservatives belong ultimately to one of two groups: "authoritarians" or "libertarians." These groups are instinctively opposed to one another – often venomously so – but they are nevertheless united under the umbrella of the Republican Party by a common belief in the role of the United States as chief facilitator of global free-enterprise.

This libertarian/authoritarian alliance is simultaneously the Republican Party’s greatest strength and its Achilles heel. The GOP’s ideological melting-pot gives it the potential of speaking to the broadest possible spectrum of the American people – everyone from small business owners to topmost executives of Fortune 500 companies, from senior-citizen retirees to rank-and-file trade unionists of the sort who voted for Ronald Reagan (and view trade unionism an expression of enlightened self-interest), from soldiers and police officers to contractors and consultants. But the alliance has never been truly comfortable, and because the core beliefs of the two conservative groups are diametrically opposed, the party is always in danger of splitting into warring camps.

Smaller in number -- older, wealthier and often more dominant in Republican organizations -- the authoritarians are difficult for me to describe objectively simply because I have first-hand experience of their vindictiveness. In truth, most authoritarians are well-intentioned people who have merely not yet recognized that liberty is essential to the expression of free will and who thus believe overmuch in rigid hierarchies, whether determined by wealth, office or some combination of both. But their ranks include a tiny but disproportionately powerful cadre of Christian fundamentalists -- would-be tyrants whose identity is proclaimed by their self-righteousness, prudery, intolerance and a frightening preference for theocracy over constitutional government. There are also – often in league with the fundamentalists – a few surviving fascists of the Nixon/Pinochet/Franco variety, supporters of oligarchy and corporate colonialism. Indeed, despite his resignation in disgrace, the late President Richard Nixon remains one of the chief authoritarian idols, and there are at least a few authoritarians who no doubt secretly still idolize the late Adolf Hitler as well. Some may belong to the infamously conspiratorial John Birch Society. Others probably have darker connections.

Meanwhile, the libertarians – who include a substantial number of former leftists driven out of the Democratic Party when it was taken over by matrifascists and other authoritarian victim-identity cultists – are Bill-of-Rights literalists, devout believers in the Jeffersonian notion that government is best when it governs least, and passionate subscribers to the concept of "live and let live." They are probably by far the larger group of today’s conservatives – younger, more secular-minded and certainly more committed to the notions embodied in the Bill of Rights. They deeply respect the Founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, and they think highly of Ayn Rand. They are the epitome of what has been described as "South Park Republicans" or "granola Republicans"– as concerned about the environment as they are hawkish on national defense -- and they are unlikely to idolize any modern politician living or dead. But their very individualism often puts them at odds with the present-day Republican hierarchy, and the resultant standoff is undoubtedly a major factor in the growing membership of the Libertarian Party

Despite the conservative community’s vast potential for schism, it is only rarely some controversy actually divides it – and thus nominally Republican voters – into mutually hostile factions. But that is precisely what occurred in Washington state during the U.S. senatorial election of 2000, with the result that Republican incumbent Slade Gorton – a genuine gentleman whose lengthy history of honorable public service had hitherto drawn support from all quarters – lost to the Democrat Maria Cantwell by only 2,229 votes.

Despite Washington’s leftist reputation – President Harry Truman’s postmaster general once referred to "the 47 states and the Soviet of Washington" – it is an instinctively conservative state: definitively conservative ballot measures (like Initiative 200, which outlawed affirmative action) typically pass by 75 percent majorities. But Washington’s conservatives are predominantly either secular or non-traditionally religions: according to census data, only 28 percent of the state’s families regularly attend traditional Christian or Jewish religious services, and the fastest growing religion in the state is Wicca, a branch of Paganism. In this context it became a significant campaign issue when Gorton refused to repudiate the viciously intolerant, harshly authoritarian Christian fundamentalists who controlled much of the state GOP apparatus.

The fundamentalists had run theocracy-advocate Ellen Craswell ("The role of a civil leader is to enable government to fulfill God’s purposes") in a losing campaign for governor in 1996 – and in 2000 the Libertarian Party was poised to take advantage of the secular and non-traditionally religious conservatives’ lingering anger. Hence Libertarian candidate Jeff Jared got 64,734 votes, most of which would normally have gone to Gorton. Cantwell, an anti-Second Amendment eco-feminist, won after an automatic recount, and control of the Senate shifted back to the Democrats – with disastrous results both for President Bush’s appointments and the new administration’s efforts to assert control over the federal bureaucracy.

Another such example of conservative disunity was evident Monday on the Internet discussion-site Lucianne.com, in an unusually long double thread – still running early Tuesday morning – of posters’ responses to disclosures of John Kerry’s hatefully treasonous remarks about U.S. soldiers and Kerry’s equally offensive rants against National Guardsmen. A particularly astute poster who goes by the screen-name NorthernDog remarked that he "had not previously connected Kerry’s trashing of the NG today with the fact that it was NG troops that fired at Kent State," adding that, "I think this is a shorthand way for (Kerry) to tell anti-war protestors of the 1970s that he is still on their side." It was a connection I had not made either – not until I read NorthernDog’s remark – but it surely seems that is part of Kerry’s underlying purpose.

However the greater objective of this especially devious and singularly nasty Democrat strategy was revealed when the contributors to the threads began to discuss Kent State and immediately divided into two increasingly hostile camps: the authoritarians, who like their idol President Nixon applauded the shootings; and the libertarians, who noted that it is an "obscene atrocity" whenever people are murdered for exercising their First Amendment rights – whether at Kent State or at Waco. The Authoritarian quoted below goes by the screen-name Laocoon10; the Libertarians are respectively Shab93 and Wolfgang von Skeptik. Their exchange is abbreviated to save space:

Authoritarian: "The National Guard at Kent State in a very real sense saved America."

Libertarian: "No Guardsmen ever stuck by a story that they fired because they felt they'd been fired upon, or were in any danger whatsoever. An (Ohio) NG officer later admitted...he tried to plant a handgun on the body of Jeffrey Miller...‘Martial law’ was not formally declared. Classes were on...one fatal victim was escorting a hearing-impaired student to class. Another (fatality) was an ROTC student... the ROTC building...was burned down two days earlier... more than an hour after protestors had been disbursed and authorities were in control...and pardon my tinfoil hat, but it was later proven that FBI agents... burned down a campus ROTC building in Alabama in 1969."

Authoritarian: "... I simply don't care about what the leftist Spanish Inquisition squeezed from the Guardsmen in the post-mortem of Kent State. Some are almost certainly forced "confessions" designed to spare the soldiers legal and financial burdens...Kent State was a lot of things, but it was not an obscene atrocity... we owe those soldiers far more than any of us know."

Libertarian: "Anyone who believes Kent State ‘was not an obscene atrocity’ must of necessity then believe the government had equal right to murder the Branch Davidians at Waco..."

Authoritarian: "...With "friends" like this so-called "conservative"assisting the jackbooted secular Democrat statists, you can see why many parts of the nation are in such deep trouble...You and I have absolutely nothing in common. Stick with your Democrat buddies...I want nothing from you or your friends."

This impassioned debate took place Monday on a website noted for its informed posters and intelligent discussion -- and most of all for being several days ahead of the curve in terms of reflecting trends within the greater conservative community. If the discussion of Vietnam-related issues could bring out that much antagonism on Lucianne, what might it do to the Republican Party in general? As a poster who goes by the name of Thomcat put it, the discussion was "what digging up a septic tank would be like." In other words, the re-opening of all those old and bitter wounds – which I believe is precisely the clandestine intent of Kerry’s ploy.

Indeed, when you look at it logically, no other conclusion is possible. The Democrats have no internal need to emphasize Kerry’s military service or that he was decorated for heroism – in fact they have constantly demonstrated that military service is repugnant to them. Nor do they have any internal need to defame the President by linking him to the atrocities the Ohio National Guard committed at Kent State: in the minds of Kerry supporters, those connections – bogus though they are – already exist. Thus, by simple process of elimination, the only purpose for Kerry’s constant harping on Vietnam is to be found outside the Democratic Party – and only in the damage the resurrection of such truculent issues could do to Republican unity.

Which brings us back to the object lesson of the 2000 senatorial election, and the likelihood Washington state has once again been used as John Ehrilchman testified in the Watergate hearings it had so often been used in the past -- as a proving ground for techniques of oppression.

It is an article of faith among most conservatives – at least among the conservatives I know personally, and among the conservatives whose posts I read daily on Lucianne – that former co-Presidents Bill and Hillary Clinton vehemently oppose Kerry’s candidacy. But the emergence of this astonishingly clever divide et impera tactic suggests the opposite conclusion. ("Divide and rule" was originally the slogan of France’s Louis XI, and not a statement by Machiavelli, to whom it is mistakenly attributed.) Indeed, Hillary played a major behind-the-scenes role in the Cantwell campaign, which won precisely by inflaming the selfsame division between libertarians and authoritarians, and it is therefore my best guess Hillary is behind the resurrection of the Vietnam and Kent State controversies too – and for precisely the same reason. America was dreadfully torn by those fevered, often frenzied disputes, and after reading the "Protesting America" threads on Lucianne throughout the day Monday, it was clear the wounds of that wretched time have never healed. And if Lucianne is what I believe it to be – a microcosm of the conservative macrocosm – then this Hillary-type divide-and-conquer operation surely promises resounding success for those who would see President Bush defeated in November.

But I do not believe that is what will happen.

Let me stress that while I have many differences with the President, I believe Bush’s defeat in November would be a tragedy of unthinkable proportions for American liberty and Western Culture in general. The Democrats have already stated they intend to treat Islam’s 1300-year war against civilization as nothing more than a crime problem – precisely the head-in-the-sand stance that invited the attacks of 9/11, precisely the stance that will allow radical Muslims to impose the unspeakable tyranny of their proposed global caliphate on the entire planet.

Moreover I am profoundly uncomfortable with President Bush’s re-election prospects. By renewing the effort to re-enact the so-called "assault weapons ban" – a truly egregious assault on the Second Amendment – Bush has betrayed his gun-culture supporters, and by proposing what amounts to a blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants, he has alienated most of his conservative base – and probably two-thirds of the electorate as well. In my part of the country, these positions have left many people who voted for Bush in 2000 saying, "I’m damn sure not gonna vote for Bush in 2004. He’s no better than the Democrats on guns and immigration, and now with the economy down the commode, a Democrat is exactly what we need. And since all these lost jobs went overseas and aren’t ever coming back, what we need is not just a Democrat, but a Democrat with a WPA-type make-work program." Hence Bush’s growing unpopularity as reflected in the polls.

Meanwhile, there’s the astoundingly venomous intolerance of the conservative authoritarians inflamed by Kerry’s resurrection of the Vietnam and Kent State issues – an intolerance the Democrats probably believe will force libertarian conservatives out of the Republican Party, probably into the Libertarian Party and perhaps even back into Democrat ranks. But in this instance I believe the Democrats have uncaged a tiger that will eventually savage its own handlers. Much as a psychologically dysfunctional family so often pulls together to turn on those who expose its scandals, so will the politically dysfunctional family of America pull together and turn on those who three decades ago spat on its soldiers and now dig up the buried corpses of Vietnam and Kent State and fling shovels of grave-dirt in the face of the entire nation. The turning-about will not happen tomorrow, and it will not happen next week. But by October it should be obvious. Indeed, I think by maliciously unearthing the issues of Vietnam and Kent State, the Democrats may very well have guaranteed the re-election of President Bush.

Loren Bliss was a journalist for 30 years – variously an editor, editorial-page columnist, public affairs writer and investigative reporter. He has covered politics, education, transportation, crime, and sociological issues. He is also a poet and has written several essays on the resurrection of the feminine aspects of the Divine and the resultant renaissance of Paganism. This is his fifth column for Civilization Calls.

posted by on February 26, 2004 05:54 PM

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