Feb 12, 2012
by Leon Weinstein, reprinted from a January 21, 2012 capitalism101.net article
Like many others who are concerned about this country’s movement toward wealth re-distribution and mediocrity, I am watching the GOP race with a combination of awe, fascination, hope and disgust. I loved Michele Bachmann for her role in the Tea Party movement. I admired Rick Perry’s record as the Texas governor. I praised Rick Santorum for his moral stand. I agreed with 96% of Ron Paul’s domestic agenda – I took an on-line test and was given this score. I liked Governor Johnson (remember him?) and many of his views. I have deep respect for Governor Romney’s Olympic Games achievement and for Newt Gingrich’s budget balancing act with Clinton. I am sure there are many other virtues we can admire or may not like in every candidate. Since we are trying to judge who will be better president based on those virtues, choosing one of them is a bit (or a lot) difficult task. Obviously we need to find a way, a system, a method of selecting the right candidate. Let’s try to do it by using our brains. I hope you know that choosing President based solely on feelings that are also important, can be misleading.
I recently published two books about the uniqueness and the secrets behind an astonishing success of the United States of America. I wrote those books from the point of view of a person who came from outside (actually from the Soviet Union) and saw this country, its political and social structure with fresh and bewildered eyes. I never thought that the level of freedom and the promise of opportunity could be so great in any place of the world. One book that I published two years ago is called “Looking for Hugh: The Capitalist Guidebook”, another published recently and is called “Capitalism 101.”
I saw not only positive, but also some negative aspects of life here, but in general everything was so great, so peaceful and my family and I felt so protected, that we closed our eyes on the problems, thinking that they are outweighed by the goodness of this country. Russians in such situations say that even the Sun has some spots on it and choose not to pay any attention to those “spots.”
Of course we were wondering about illegal immigration, congress voting to themselves special rights and privileges, terrible public schools, absence of education of what is great and unique in America.
We met many immigrants who like us came from socialistic countries and they all felt in love with America and on every occasion, when we are gathering to celebrate birthdays or holidays, one of the toasts always is “For this great country of ours!”
Believe me; we are really proud to say “ours.”
When the Soviet Union began to collapse, I went back to St Petersburg, Russia to spread the word about this great thing called capitalism. I met with Vladimir Putin on several occasions, befriended Mayor of St Petersburg and helped to facilitate a sister-city agreement between the place of my birth (St Petersburg, at that time still called Leningrad, Russia) and my current bellowed residence (Los Angeles, USA). It was in my living room that the decision of changing the name of the city from Leningrad to St Petersburg was made. To tell you the truth I voted for another name, but lost and now glad that I lost.
I am a theater director by trade and worked in Russia, Israel and in the US. I wrote and directed theater shows and was at a certain point an artistic director of the Educational Theater for Youth in Tel Aviv, Israel. I staged my plays in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and in the Los Angeles Theater center. All my professional life I am working on finding ways to present difficult concepts in a simple to understand way. This is what you do if you are an artistic director of an Educational Theater and I think I was good at it.
This experience as well as the abilities that I developed during my tenure in the educational theater came handy when three years ago I suddenly realized that this country is moving in a wrong direction. Very possible this direction looks good and right for some, but for me who doesn’t want to experience the wonders of social justice one more time, it is an opposite direction to where I would ever want to go.
At that point I decided to take a look and try to understand of what went wrong with this country and why. I love American constitution and Declaration of Independence. However if the elected government of this country takes anything it wants from Peter and gives to Paul, then as we all understand Paul will vote for this government again and again. This is something that contradicts the founding ideas and the essence of this country. The theft (taking someone property without explicit permission of the owner) is not supposed to be legal. When it is done without breaking any laws, then the laws are not so good. The laws in the US apparently have flaws.
This is what I found: In America (God Bless this country) everyone can vote. Actually almost everyone. My thirteen years old grandson can’t and he already told me that he is planning to sue the US government for infringing of his rights. I am sure he will find a couple of sensitive attorneys to take his case all the way up to the Supreme Court.
A person who never earned a single dollar, never paid taxes, never served in the army, never contributed to the society in any shape or form, and all his life was receiving assistance from the state (being healthy and in sound mind), all such people can take part in decisions about what to do with the money that others contributed.
Another strange law that I found is called the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and it allows the US government to take from us, the working people, any amount of money they would desire at any given moment. I was told they selected a group they call “rich” and at certain point took up to ninety per cent of their earnings from them.
Representatives of the two major parties would gather around a table, drink sparkling water, smoke (or not) a couple of cigars or without inhaling will pass a pipe with pot around, and vote to get another trillion from you and I. At the same time they would offer to each other to sell their votes for a part of the money they would take from us. Isn’t it fascinating?
Yet another strange thing was an absence of regulations, which would stop the government from spending whatever amount of money they wished, without any consideration of how much we allowed them to spend. That is usually done either by printing new money and reducing value of our savings or by borrowing money that our children would have to pay in the future with substantial interest.
There are several other equally strange things that I wasn’t able to understand such as purchasing oil in the countries that hate us instead of drilling and refining our own, over-regulating every step of our lives and passing anti-business laws.
After I came to these realizations, I suddenly began to have chills. It all resembled to me the well-known country that I was lucky to escape from.
Now let’s come back to the task at hand. How to save us from socialism?
If our biggest task as a society would be an upcoming war, then we would most probably need to choose a proven military leader. If we feel that our next biggest task is to prevent an international crisis, better not to choose a military commander but find a negotiator and a diplomat. In order to choose the best man for the job we need to know what the job is. Sounds simple, right?
However, we usually choose our elected officials exactly like my youngest daughter have chosen her fist car. For two months we were talking about engines, maneuverability, breaks and other safety features. We went to a number of dealerships and she took for a drive at least three dozen different cars. Then she said that she is ready with her decision.
“What it is?” – I asked.
“I want a bright red car” – she said cheerfully.
We bought her a bright red car. Used of course.
It’s quite OK with your first car, especially used, but not so much OK when we are choosing our next leader, commander-in-chief and the savior. We have already chosen one based on emotions. He proposed to unite us and while doing that to fundamentally change everything we love about our country. It is NOT OK to choose a leader without thinking about the problem(s) he is supposed to tackle and the outcome he might bring with his bold fresh ideas.
I am guessing that you are now thinking that you know exactly what the tasks ahead of the next president are, and probably even formed in your mind the words “economy” and “jobs.” Of course you are right. However there is something that is needed to be done before our new president would approach those problems.
Every candidate on the Republican field will lower taxes, will push for energy independence, will offer stability to American businesses and assurances to foreign investors, and will try to repeal or at least to reduce an impact of Obamacare. Some have plans to introduce flat taxes, some want even deeper tax reductions for manufacturers or offer tax holiday for the money made abroad. All of the above will help to stabilize the economy, bring back some of the lost jobs and most probably will move us toward the end of the recession. However, those ideas will encounter tremendous pressure from unemployed and underemployed who are now in a pretty bad condition and are ready to settle for a small unemployment check instead of waiting for a bright but uncertain future.
The very first task of the GOP Presidential contender will be to beat Obama in the war for the hearts and souls of Americans. And this is his first and foremost important initial task.
There are two types of politicians. One is attempting to modify his views so they will reflect views and feelings of as many voters as possible. Another is attempting to form views of the voters, in order to lead them to the future he envisioned for the country.
If we want to beat Obama, we need first to decide which way we want to go, and who among the candidates can perform better than others the task that we will chose.
To build a coalition with independent voters means to move to the center. Since we (social conservatives, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives) are on the right, the candidate that will be building this coalition will have to move to the left. This will mean softening of our stance on many issues including illegal immigration, health care, length of unemployment among others. The coalition building candidate then would be perceived as a “compassionate conservative.”
We attempted this already with Bush the Second and grew our government and the country’s debt by billions. The free markets and altruism do not work well together. The free market society can’t support an altruistic state. American greatness is built on responsibility each individual takes upon himself and his family. We care for others, but we do not want the government to tell us “how much” to care.
Free market defenders can’t pretend that they are more progressive then progressives. It is their left wing game and they will always promise more than the conservatives can even dream of. If we play this game by their rules, they will win. In their secret books they learn that when they can’t deliver what they promised, they can always blame it on capitalism and start crying that this terrible “market” never actually worked and never will. What a bunch of baloney!
In order to go another way, to create a vision and bring independents and some reasonable democrats under the banners, one needs to have a vision. Then this visionary is supposed to be a leader who can articulate this vision so powerfully that people of all walks of life and all life experiences would jump on their feet and cheer. He has to know how to sell his ideas to Americans. Yes, to sell. I used this word on purpose. If you do not know how to sell your ideas, if you do not have this ability to make people want what you offer, if you are not an animated and interesting storyteller, if you do not know how to fence with your opponents and in sharp and short sentences bring the essence of your vision, no one will go to the land you are promising.
Obama can be pushed out of the White House building a tent in the center and convincing independents that new administration will do a better job than the current one without changing much in the social safety net. Or White House can be won by building a tent on the right side and bringing all reasonable still able to think Americans under it. Which task is more doable? I have no idea.
Now let’s examine which candidates are good for either of those tasks.
Mitt Romney looks like a good coalition builder. He knows big business, was a governor of a liberal state, and worked with many nations on preparation of Olympic Games. He was successful in practically everything he did except his 2008 bid for the Presidency. His reputation as an able administrator is confirmed by his vast and mobile fifty-state election campaign. He is loved by the current establishment of the Republican Party and most probably has lots of friends among democrats. He polls well against Obama and most of his strength comes from his likability among independent voters. He modified his positions on many issues and he will move left or right without much effort. This is his strength and weakness at the same time.
Newt Gingrich looks like the only visionary in the group. Actually Ron Paul also offers his vision but he put himself in an opposition to the country’s majority view on international politics and compromised himself in the eyes of Republicans with his stance on legalization of drugs. He is too far from the mainstream to bring majority under his tent, or he wasn’t unable to articulate his position which also disqualifies him as a unifier. He influenced the debates tremendously, brought new energized people to the process and this is his huge contribution to the race.
Gingrich is the champion of the vision. Can he convince people in something he believes in? Yes, and we saw it during practically every debate he participated in. Can he bring people together and lead them? He proved it several times in his career. Does he have workable ideas? Looks like he does. He balanced the country’s budget four times forcing a Democratic President to accept it.
Santorum is a formidable person with admirable personal convictions. Is he a national coalition builder? I doubt it. Is he a visionary with an ability to lead masses? Sorry, not him. For good or bad but we are stuck with Mitt and Newt.
This is it. The choice is ours. If we chose building a coalition in the political center a bit to the right of the center then Mitt is our man. If we want to bring others like Reagan did under his banners and implement conservative reforms to the fullest possible extend, then Newt is the obvious choice.
But maybe we think that convincing the country that our vision is better is too risky? Or we think that merely moving a bit to the right is not enough to take us out of the slam we are in now? However, I brought you to the point where we have only one question and this shall make our life easier. Or more difficult.
P.S. If any right-of-the center candidate needs an émigré by his side who can articulate in simple terms and with a conviction of an eye witness, why we need to get rid of Obama occupiers and move away from their Marxists ideas that never worked and never will, you found one. Just whistle.