It is a commonplace that the major difference between Communism (Utopian/International Socialism) and Nazism (National Socialism) is that the former favor radical change to give power to new elites while the later favor radical change to “restore” power to old elites. The former favor the rhetoric of a mythic future while the later favor the rhetoric of a mythic past. Richard Wagner, the composer, spent his youth as a utopian socialist, but became disillusioned with it after the failure of the socialism revolutions of 1848, and shifted his art to the creation of a German mythic past that would form the foundation for Hitler’s National Socialism 75 years later.
The rhetoric of isolationists like Pat Buchanan has a similar quality of hearkening back to a prior more rural era before Americans were contaminated by international trade, culture, and power. In his nomination speech Kerry chose to take the Democratic Party in the same direction: “As president,” Kerry declared, “I will bring back this nation’s time-honored tradition: The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to. That is the standard of our nation.”
Time-honored tradition!? Can anyone identify a time America honored anything like that tradition? As Donald Kagan notes:
The United States has sent forces into combat dozens of times over the past century and a half, and only twice, in World War II and in Afghanistan, has it arguably done so because it “had to.” It certainly did not “have to” go to war against Spain in 1898 (or Mexico in 1846.) It did not “have to” send the Marines to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua in the first three decades of the 20th century, nor fight a lengthy war against insurgents in the Philippines. The necessity of Woodrow Wilson’s intervention in World War I remains a hot topic for debate among historians.
The invention of a mythic past makes me nervous. Kerry’s rhetoric sounds most like the anti-semitic isolationists of the 1930s and the Buchananites today. Combined that with all the anti-outsourcing (anti-foreigner) and anti-Iraqi (no firehouses) rhetoric, the grandstanding about soldiering in Vietnam (while holding silent on the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan), and the appeals to a very hollow flag-waving patriotism and I am more nervous. Combined with the fact that Kerry is running on a plan to increase government intervention in the economy and radically strengthen “homeland security” and we are all on a very slippery slope.
Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, and John Kerry are much closer together on the issues of the day than any of them is to George Bush. I fear how these people will react to the next major terrorist attack, especially because as isolationsists, the only outlet for them to respond is to increase “homeland security.” All I can think of is the Committee of Public Safety and the Jacobins whose rhetoric also matches that of Kerry.
Note: This post is just rumination. I am not claiming that a vote for Kerry is a vote for fascism. Just exploring intellectual linkages.