December 13, 2000


Whatever the Supreme Court's decision and the endgame of our unnaturally extended presidential election, the real results are this: Al Gore and the Democrats have won. For the first time in American history, a presidential candidate will have succeeded in throwing a pall of suspicion not only on the outcome but on the whole system – the courts, the Constitution, and the comity that once subsumed partisan differences beneath an all-embracing old-fashioned patriotism. The Vice President's overweening ambition has obliterated the universal conviction that, no matter what our differences, the system would still keep running, its motor – the sensed of shared republican (small-'r') values – humming right along. Gore's kamikaze attack on the integrity of our elections has been all too effective, even if he manages to bail out at the last minute. The Democratic nominee and his minions, in showing how easy it is to jam the machinery of American government, have demystified the American polity – and things will never be the same again. The age of innocence is over: make way for the age of the lawyers.


This was written before the seven members of the Supreme Court handed down their much-anticipated opinion, but it was the waiting – the tense, seemingly endless hours filled with the babbling of pundits and the perorations of politicians – that the horrible truth of the matter came out. For this is what our republican form of government has been reduced to: the nation waiting, breathless, for the votes of nine black-robed judges. For this, our forefathers fought a revolution; for this, the blood of patriots has been spilled – so that we could all be held, spellbound, as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wondered during the oral arguments: "Isn't there a red big red flag up there – 'Watch out'?"


Ah yes, Sandra Day, you saw that too – there it is, plain as day, a warning sign of danger up ahead. But it's too late to turn back now: the thin fabric of our Republic, already dangerously threadbare, is frayed almost beyond repair. As Jesse Jackson and his amen corner among "progressive" Democrats play the race card, and the would-be usurpers claim that their failure to steal an election mars its "legitimacy," the stage is set for the final act, the denouement in the experimental theater piece called "American democracy."


The 8-year interregnum of Clintonian rule, which we thought was going to come to an abrupt and inglorious end, is indefinitely extended – and that, no matter what happens now, is the substance of Al Gore's victory. Dubya may win the White House, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory: in plain English, one not worth having. Already the cry has gone up, from Democrats and Republicans alike, that the incoming administration must be truly "bipartisan," a kind of coalition government such as they have under a parliamentary system. Daniel Moynihan, Tom Kerry, Sam Nunn – these are just a few of the better-known names being bruited about as potential members of a bipartisan cabinet. By going on the offensive and almost succeeding, the Democrats have moved the terms of the debate – and the momentum of the struggle – more than a few miles in their direction. Emboldened by 8 years of virtually unchallenged power, and the apparent weakness of the Republicans, the Left has gone on a hyper-accelerated offensive: What we are witnessing is the beginning of a permanent campaign by the Left to overthrow the remnants of our old republic, abolish constitutionally limited government in America, and establish a European-style social democracy in the US – socialism, that is, albeit with American characteristics.


The acrimony of "partisan" rancor is universally descried, but the irony is that the ideological differences between the parties have never been more negligible. "Compassionate conservatism" and hard-assed Third Way liberalism meet and merge in a gray morass of murky touchy-feely rhetoric, and yet the struggle for power is fast escalating into a fight to the death. In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned against the emergence of contentious "factions" that would divide the young nation and lead, eventually, to its dissolution. But at least those ancient factions had some real ideological coloration – the Jeffersonian partisans of republican France versus the neo-Tory federalists. Ideals were at stake: thesis and anti-thesis posed in stark juxtaposition. Today, what remains of that partisan battle is only the struggle for power. While the methods and motives of one party may be deliberately shaped so as to do the most damage to our institutions, to take sides in such a war is only to oppose a greater evil. After "winning" such a battle, one is exhausted, but not exhilarated – especially in view of the certainty that this is only the first skirmish of what promises to be a protracted conflict.


It is a conflict is which the bad guys – you know who you are – are not only well-funded and well-organized, but are quite well aware of what it is they are fighting for – and how to get it. Big business interests in collusion with Big Labor and the Big Media have launched a final offensive aimed at our republican form of government, and they will push, push, and push until they win – in the voting booth, in the courts, in the streets, or wherever. They won't take no for an answer – and, what's more, they're up against a party that doesn't even know what the question is!


The bad guys are contemptible, but at least they are clear about who and what they are. The good guys – in this case, the Republicans – are in their own way far worse. At any rate, it is far more painful to watch them in action – or, rather, inaction. They didn't even know what hit them until it was far too late, and, even then, for all their outrage at Gore's legal and political assault on the electoral process, GOP leaders never dared to spell it out in the form of a simple four-letter word: C-O-U-P. If, instead of treating the Democratic strategy of counting chads and pregnant dimples as a serious proposal, James Baker had dropped the pretenses and bluntly declared that he would be damned to perdition before he let Al Gore steal this election, that might have been the end of it then and there. As any street-corner ruffian can tell you, sheer bluster is half the battle. The Democrats are always hopped up to a white heat of intensity, because their power depends on control of government perks and privileges: for them, an election is always a battle for their very survival. Yet the disinterested and even haughty GOP leadership – less the ward-heeler and more the country squire type – is slow to act, and even then uncertain of just how to fight. Those Democrats who have even heard of the Marquess of Queensbury aren't playing by the rules. That, after all, is what a coup d'etat is all about: all rules, and all bets, are off.


Conservative activists had a good laugh when the liberal media jumped on the pro-Bush demonstrations in Miami-Dade and throughout the nation as a plot by "Republican operatives" to win the battle in the streets. If only it were so! The reality is that these guys couldn't organize a street protest to save their lives: on the other hand, the union goons sent to flesh out the ranks of the Gore supporters in Florida and Washington D.C. know all about picket lines and how to organize a "spontaneous" demonstration. As I pointed out in a previous column, these anti-Gore protests, which mobilized thousands from coast to coast, were the work of an informal network of grassroots conservative and libertarian activists mostly centered around the FreeRepublic website. In these dark days, this upsurge of radical right-wing populism is the one ray of sunshine slanting through stormclouds, but even this silver lining has its dark side.


In the end, the crisis of the country boils down to a crisis of leadership. The objective conditions for the development of a real opposition to the would-be usurpers have never been better; unfortunately, the subjective conditions – the condition of the opposition movement itself – have never been worse. The party of the usurpers is clear about its goals, and even clearer about its methods: total dedication in the pursuit of total power. On the other hand, the party of liberty is divided and leaderless, without a strategy and with no coherent ideology. Conservatives and libertarians in the GOP are practically invisible, and are called on only when the leadership needs ground troops. Otherwise, they are ignored, and even attacked by their own leaders, who never miss a chance to tout their own "moderation." The crazy aunt or uncle that they keep in the cellar and only let out on special occasions: that is what it means these days to be a conservative Republican.


The many good activists in the third party movements – the Libertarians, as well as the Buchanan Brigades who entered the Reform Party – seem to have reached a dead end, or at least a so-far-insuperable roadblock, defeated in large part by ballot access laws and other factors outside their control. Ideologically, the right-wing populist revival, which first came to the fore in the early 1990s, and is now bubbling up to the surface with renewed vigor, is inchoate and confused: instinctively radical, combatively antigovernment, but easily diverted by misleaders and completely lacking any strategic vision. The situation cries out for the organized intervention of a self-conscious leadership – a vanguard, to use the old Leninist terminology, that can act as the tribune of the people, the instrument for the restoration of our old Republic.


No such organization is to be found, not anywhere, nor even a reasonable facsimile. The Republican party is in the hands of a leadership that, uniquely, sold out before the election, openly repudiating its conservative platform and electoral base, and loudly advertising its willingness to "reach out" to the other party: a stance that, in retrospect, seems like a death-wish, akin to "reaching out" to Jack the Ripper. As for the third parties on the right, first off we need to note that there are no less than three of them. The largest, the Buchanan-Reform organization, is in disarray, or, at least, undergoing some kind of radical transition. The invasion of the lawyers into the American electoral process really began much earlier this year, when Perot's lawyers drained the Buchanan campaign of precious time, energy, and money. This was the major obstacle to the success of the campaign: it allowed the media to portray the intramural Reform battle in the worst possible light, and was the major factor that led to Buchanan's poor showing at the polls. The election results demoralized many of his followers, and whether the Reform party remains viable as a national organization is open to question.


The Libertarian Party, the oldest of the major third parties, is another story altogether: I was originally planning on doing an entire column, an "Open Letter to Libertarians," on this subject, detailing the crisis of the LP. But after extensive research – reading all the excuses, mea culpas, and tortured "spin" put out by the current LP leadership in the wake of their disastrous presidential vote totals – I found the prospect of writing an entire column about it so depressing that I decided against it. I was, after all, a Libertarian Party activist for close to a decade, and – in spite of what some might think – even I flinch from dissecting the cadaver of an ex-lover. Suffice to say that the LP is so mired in sectarianism that it is unable to even grasp the enormity of its own failure or the lessons of its own history. Caught in the grip of leaders who substitute a vulgar hucksterism and cheap sloganeering for a serious political stance, the LP still commands the loyalties of a good many well-meaning and valuable activists who can see no alternative to their present course.

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“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.


Past Columns

The Case for Pessimism

The Gore Coup: No Justice, No Peace – No Exit

Bush or Gore: Pick Your War

Gore, Bush, and the Imperial Style

Neo-Nazis and Neocons: An Unholy Alliance

Al Gore – The O.J. Simpson of American Politics

Coup d'Etat 2000 and the Madness of Al Gore

Slobo and Gore: Peas in a Pod

Gore Coup Radicalizes Republicans

The Dimple That Shook the World

Listen Soldier, You Can Stop the Gore Coup

Two Ways to Steal an Election

In Occupied America: Rage Against "The Regime"

Al Gore's Beer Hall Putsch

A Message to My Readers

The Real Victors: Nader & Buchanan

Buchanan's "Hail Mary" Pass May Work

Doubletalkin' Dubya: Bush Backtracks on Kosovo

The Nader Moment

The Smearing of Ralph Nader

Nader Sells Out

America's Fifth Column

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisited

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cartagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).



Last, and – in terms of numbers – certainly least – we have the Constitution Party (formerly known as the Taxpayers Party), led by longtime conservative leader Howard Phillips, who ran (for the second time) as the party's presidential candidate. What can one say about such an organization, except to ask: why does it exist, except to support the pretensions (and financial needs) of its leaders? If someone can point to a meaningful political difference between, say, Buchanan and Phillips, or even Harry Browne, the LP candidate, and Buchanan, I would love to hear about it. Without a microscope, the only detectable difference between Buchanan and Phillips was the latter's opposition to taking federal matching funds – hardly a matter worth splitting into separate parties over. Both Buchanan and Browne were quick to reassure skeptics that their radically scaled-down versions of the federal government could be funded almost entirely by tariffs – the only difference, invisible to the average voter, was that the former advocated tariffs as a matter of principle, whereas the latter did so as a matter of convenience. In short, the reasons for disunity on the right – touted by the various sectarians as "a matter of principle" – are in reality nothing of the kind, but only excuses for maintaining the same sectarian routine year after year.


The problem is that events have overtaken the sectarians: a routine placid existence is no longer possible. The last vestiges of our old Republic are under assault, a socialist coup d'etat is in progress, and what does the LP have to say about it? Nothing! Their monthly LP News, for the month of December, features an extended apologia from the Browne campaign and a front page screed bemoaning the fact that the "Drug war cost Al Gore 15,914 votes in Florida, and perhaps the presidency! Oh gee whillikers, if only Gore had listened to them, and all those felons could vote – assuming that drug law violations were not the least of their felonies – Tipper would be picking out curtains for the White House. What a disappointment! Are these people for real? Aside from the fact that plenty of felons did vote in Florida's election, is this the line to take at the climactic moment of a left-wing coup? But aside from the virtues of drug legalization – which seems to be their signature issue – the LP has nothing to say one way or the other about the matter. This is intellectual and political bankruptcy – a condition that pretty much reflects the general condition of the Right in America.


This, offered for your consideration, is the case for pessimism; or, more accurately, the case for realism. But is there no hope, then? In the short-term, the battle for liberty is not going at all well, as anyone who glances at the headlines can see. The bipartisan support for our policy of perpetual intervention overseas virtually ensures the exponential growth of State power at home, and – in the age of "globalization" – its extension on a world scale. In the long run, however, there is the hope that liberty will win simply because evil cannot go unchallenged and unconquered forever. In the end, one hopes, the good guys will win because they are right – because human civilization is not separable from liberty, at least not for very long. What the crisis requires is the right leadership, and a movement that acts as the self-conscious agent of the producing classes: yet such cannot be created out of thin air, or by fiat, but by political and ideological entrepreneurs who, acting in the right circumstances, can translate abstract principles into correct action at just the right moment. The Supreme Court may have saved our Republic, this time around, from the machinations of the lawyers and the party bosses: but what is certain is that, in the long run, only the true heirs of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams can save it, if indeed it can be salvaged at all.


At the end of his 1952 classic jeremiad, Rise of Empire, the Old Right author and editor Garet Garrett saw it all coming:

"What you have to face is that the cost of saving the Republic may be extremely high. It cold be relatively as high as the cost of setting it up in the first place, one-hundred and seventy-five years ago, when love of political liberty was a mighty passion, and people were willing to die for it."

Garrett, too, saw that, for the forces of liberty, the question of whether they could save the old Republic and restore constitutional, strictly limited government would boil down to a question of leadership:

"No doubt the people know they can have their Republic back if they want it enough to fight for it and to pay the price. The only point is that no leader has yet appeared with the courage to make them choose."

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