July 27, 2016
Entirely by happenstance, two days before looking up the 2016 Republican national platform I had read an essay, "The Illusion of American Omnipotence," written in 1952. The Author,  a Brit with a generally high opinion of the United States, encapsulated an attitude which doesn’t seem to have changed much. He referred to "the existence, in the American mind, of what I call the illusion of omnipotence," which leads to the belief "that the world must go the American way if the Americans want it strongly enough and give firm orders to their agents to see that it is done."
Of course, if that doesn’t happen it must be someone’s fault. This is the domestic-political form of the illusion, "that any situation which distresses or endangers the United States can only exist because some Americans have been fools of knaves," probably one’s political foes. Such a reaction is "the American equivalent of that disastrous French cry, ‘nous sommes trahis’ "[we are betrayed].
Here’s what the Republican platform has to say about that: "We believe that American exceptionalism — the notion that our ideas and principles as a nation give us a unique place of moral leadership in the world — requires the United States to retake its natural position as leader of the free world. . . . " Again, under the heading "America: The Indispensable Nation," we are told that under Republican presidents, there was a tradition of "world leadership" based on "enormous power," which "requires consultation, not permission to act." With that policy we could "lead the world into a new century of greater peace and prosperity — another American Century."
However, "[f]or the past 8 years America has been led in the wrong direction. . . . Our standing in world affairs has declined significantly — our enemies no longer fear us . . .." Why is that? "After nearly eight years of a Democratic Commander-in-Chief who has frequently placed strategic and ideological limitations and shackles on our military, our enemies have been emboldened and our national security is at great risk. . . . In all of our country’s history, there is no parallel to what President Obama and his former Secretary of State have done to weaken our nation." Trahison.
Political platforms tend to be ignored, and the current GOP version seems designed to ensure that. It covers sixty-four pages; even if we ignore the artwork and the lists of committee members, there are fifty-six pages of text, including the preamble. Only the masochistic (yes, that includes me) would read all of it. It is a combination of ideology, fantasy, evasion, misstatement and blame-shifting.
Much of its philosophy is expressed in generalities; its most consistent message is the need to weaken the oppressive federal government. Its positions include opposition to regulation of business, opposition to a national minimum wage, and reduction of the national debt (although it complains of cuts to defense spending). It opposes limits on "political speech," and advocates "free-market approaches to free speech unregulated by government," central to which is "raising or repealing contribution limits." Money, after all, is speech.
The tax code must be rewritten completely; the new code must be "pro-growth." Republicans "oppose tax policies that deliberately divide Americans or promote class warfare," i.e., we mustn’t tax the rich. "We also support making the federal tax code so simple and easy to understand that the IRS becomes obsolete and can be abolished." Hovering in the background, apparently, is a proposal to make a sales tax the prime source of revenue, for we are told this: "To guard against hypertaxation of the American people in any restructuring of the federal tax system, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax."
The platform supports "constitutional [gun-]carry statutes," and opposes "laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle;" in other words, we all should have semi-automatic (assault) weapons. It opposes federal licensing or registration.
In one departure from reining in the federal government, the platform not only "support[s] the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws," but "call[s] for a national law to protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce," thereby coining another euphemism for union-busting.
The authors wanted to advocate returning to the gold standard, but they couldn’t quite bring themselves to do so. Instead, they noted that President Reagan had created a commission to "consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency," and that the 2012 platform proposed a commission "to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar." Having crept that far, they boldly proposed a commission to explore "ways to secure the integrity of our currency." Apparently they are afraid that saying "gold standard" out loud would tip off the inattentive to the nuttiness of the proposal.There is much more, a small amount of it sensible, a few parts fairly debatable, but on the whole it illustrates why the Republican Party should not be in charge of government.
45. Denis William Brogan, later Sir Denis. The essay is in Treasury of Great Writers, p. 602.