Arthur

The ever-irritating Izabella Kaminska reminds us of the famous passage from the Book of Python:

King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well, I didn’t vote for you.
King Arthur: You don’t vote for kings.
Woman: Well how’d you become king then? [Angelic music plays… ]
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Dennis: Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you.
Dennis: Oh but if I went ’round sayin’ I was Emperor, just because some moistened bint lobbed a scimitar at me, they’d put me aw

I can’t decide if this is an under-appreciated defense of Democracy or the best argument ever for neoreaction.

2028 Presidential candidates

As we approach the general election and the Rubio Administration prepares to leave office, it’s time for the editorial staff at Foreign Affairs to take stock of the domestic political situation.  The Iran War ended embarrassingly for Marco, since as part of the peace settlement imposed by Russia and China, he was forced to sign the Beijing Accords, permanently withdrawing all American UAVs from Pakistan,  Afghanistan, and Iraqi Kurdistan. To be sure, Rubio read the writing on the wall (or perhaps just read our own magazine’s editorial page) about the impending Sino-Russian intervention a year after taking office, and disavowed the conflict. He strove thereafter — honestly, but ultimately unsuccessfully — to brand it as “Hillary’s War”. But with the American military Leviathan reduced to a shadow of its former self, the bellicose American people were inclined to blame the incumbent; like the Democrats four years prior, the Grand Old Party splintered apart well before the first primary votes were cast. With so many new political parties competing to succeed the Republicans, and the political left still working through its own divisions, we have the sense that few of our readers are prepared to cast their votes this Fall. Thus we felt obligated to prepare the following voxsplainer on the 2028 Presidential candidates.

The Radical Left

Alicia Garza (Social Justice Party) — With her running mate Patrisse Cullors, Garza co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement in the 2010s. As a BLM successor party, the SJP has evolved into a loose coalition of social justice warriors and socialists. We look forward to watching the sparks fly in the upcoming Vice Presidential Debate between Cullors and the GAP’s Yarvin. Unfortunately for SJWs, most electoral models suggest Garza’s vote ceiling is around 10%, although anything can happen in such a crowded field.

The Center Left

Matthew Yglesias (Liberal Democratic Party) — Yglesias describes himself as a a “technocratic neoliberal”. He was a harsh critic of Hillary Clinton in the runup to the Iran War, causing a rift with elements of the former Democratic Party that has never really healed. Particularly painful for his candidacy was the endorsement of Garza by the New York Times editorial board (led by none other than Yglesias’s former friend and boss, Ezra Klein), which called out the Lib Dems as a “party for kulaks”. Both the LDP and the SJP are calling for a wealth tax, but they disagree about how the revenue should be used. Yglesias has been a vocal advocate for a national high-speed rail network (we wonder if he was abused by an Amtrak conductor as a child) and a “smart grid” to combat the epidemic of brown-outs that many blame on Clinton’s buildout of renewable energy sources. He has been harshly critical of Garza’s plan to finance emigration of “climate refugees” from Bangladesh, pointing out that most Bengalis are migrating to China’s Guangzhou province, where the manufacturing sector is booming.

The Hard to Categorize

Zoltan Istvan (Transhumanist Party) — Istvan has been running for president professionally for almost two decades. While he has little mainstream media support, his candidacy seems to be gaining traction among young Generation Z voters who have historically remained aloof from politics. Zoltan is said to be a tireless campaigner, spending countless hours holding Minecraft rallies. The Transhumanist support base is notoriously difficult to poll, many of them preferring to communicate in emoji. We believe more traditional parties may be surprised by their turnout this November. Istvan’s policy views, however, remain mysterious to most political observers; he often appeals to the preferences of his “non-voting constituents” and sometimes has Amazon Echo-linked industrial robots stump for him on the campaign trail. This unorthodox approach has gained some traction in the Farm Belt;  over the past decade smart tractors have been quietly building momentum for the Machine Suffrage movement, leveraging the resentment of small family farmers towards the large agro-business collectives who operate most smart tractors.

Scott Adams (Rationalist Party) — Cartoonist and self-proclaimed “philosopher king” Scott Adams, 70, is old and has never run for office before, but the same could be said for most of the graying, politically alienated American electorate. He has proved himself a master persuader and is now polling at 15% nationally, the clear front-runner. Some attribute the appeal of his “common sense” policies to his advisory team: running mate Dr. Scott Alexander,  economic advisor Prof. Scott Sumner, and science advisor Prof. Scot Aaronson. Others believe Scott Adams died in the Persian Pseudo-flu bioattacks of 2023, and the RP candidate is actually an artificial intelligence developed by the mysterious domestic terrorist group known as MIRI. Regardless of the truth of the matter, we at Foreign Affairs are sympathetic to Adams’s no-nonsense approach to entitlement reform.

The Slow to Learn

Tim Pawlenty (Neoconservative Party) — Although he has received endorsements from dozens of military and diplomatic experts, and scores of Washington, D.C., think-tank employees, Pawlenty has performed mysteriously poorly in polls so far.  In interviews, his opponents have suggested Pawlenty’s unflagging support for the Iran War is “unreasonable”, a position we at Foreign Affairs have reluctantly come to endorse in the last 18 months. Regardless of the reason, outside of the Virginia-D.C.-Maryland region and his home state of Minnesota, Pawlenty’s platform of military budget increases  is unlikely receive much support in the Electoral College.

The New Right

Senator Duncan Hunter (Great America Party) — Hunter made waves this year when he announced that the Make America Great Again Party was changing its name, renouncing the 2016 campaign slogan of founder Donald Trump (1946-2023) in favor of a “slight brand adjustment” that offered a financially attractive  cross-marketing deal with clothing manufacter Gap, Inc. His running mate, Curtis Yarvin pronounced the move brilliant. “I’m actually kind of shocked I didn’t think of it myself, but Senator Hunter has a good head on his shoulders,” said Yarvin, in a televised press conference widely viewed as an attempt to rebut the media narrative that he is the Machiavellian Dick Cheney to Hunter’s George W. Bush. The GAP primarily advocates a strong executive branch and removing the power of the purse from those Yarvin refers to as the “blathering idiots in Congress”.

Senator Rand Paul (Libertarian Party) —  After his narrow defeat in 2024, Senator Paul is back for what he says (laughably) is his last run at the Presidency, this time with running mate Congressman Thomas Massie, from Paul’s own home state of Kentucky. The Libertarian Lion of the Senate is no stranger to Americans, so we feel no need to rehash positions here; suffice it to say that after the embarrassment of the Beijing Accords, the electorate has never been more sympathetic to Paul’s non-interventionist  foreign policy approach. But some critics — including candidates Adams and Yglesias — have painted Paul as a flip-flopper, pointing to his past attempts at “softening” his views to appeal to entitlement-hungry voters.

 

Civil war

Tonight I saw the latest Marvel flick. Reflecting upon its inanity, I got into a discussion about the extent to which Captain America is portrayed as sympathetic. I’m pretty anti-Statist, so I tended to sympathize with Cap, who was less than eager to submit to the will of the New World Order (represented by the United Nations — of all institutions! — in this film).

Someone challenged me: do I also question the legitimacy of the Union’s decision to crush the Confederate rebellion in the American Civil War?

Well, maybe. I think the Confederacy was pretty abhorrent insofar as its avowed purpose was to perpetuate slavery. But I also think states have both the right and the obligation to resist the imposition of federal power, and the legal / ethical question of whether the CSA should have been allowed to secede peacefully seems pretty subtle.

Lincoln probably was overreaching when he chose to suppress the rebels by force. It might well have been possible to reach a political compromise that would have abolished slavery without killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. I can easily believe both of these propositions at the same time: slavery was bad, and the North might not have taken the best approach to advancing abolitionist goals. I can’t say for sure that a more accommodating approach to the issue would have succeeded. But it’s very hard to endorse, in retrospect, a policy that led to hundreds of thousands of American deaths, plus a Reconstruction legacy of toxic race relations. Maybe the Party of Lincoln was on the Right Side of History, but that doesn’t mean their tactics were effective or wise.

Likewise, Tony Stark’s guilt about innocent deaths caused by superhumans may have been genuine, but Cap’s concerns about the U.N. issuing unethical orders to a legally-restrained team of Avengers seem totally legitimate to me.