Random Reflections on the Current Scene
Covid-19, as a health crisis: At most, a moderately severe global pandemic, which barely even qualifies as moderate when compared with the 1918 flu outbreak (which the world withstood and transcended quite well, in the end).
Covid-19, as a political crisis: At least, the most severe case of globally coordinated authoritarian government expansion and Orwellian speech-crushing propaganda in our lifetime (from which the world shows no signs of recovering in the foreseeable future).
Elon Musk, contrary to his moment of populist stardom on “the right,” strikes me as being very far from a free speech advocate or brave defender of the principles of the United States’ founding. He is, I suggest, a businessman looking for angles and advantages, and always ready, in the name of “smart business,” to bend free speech and individual liberty to the breaking point and beyond in the name of maintaining the largest possible customer base. In short, whenever “what’s good for liberty” and “what’s good for Tesla’s profits” are at odds, which side Musk will come down on is as predictable as can be. And — note to the populists of “the right” — this, rather than any long-range thinking or humanitarian concern, is the entire reason for the compromised positions he takes on the war in Ukraine, along with the pro-communist apologetics he enters into for China. It’s all about his money, his brand, and his market share. This is what the populists of “the right” will never understand, since, in their hopeless despondency regarding modern politics, they have come to live their lives in an unceasing search for rich and powerful businessmen to represent their interests in the public sphere — as if a rich and powerful businessman would ever do such a thing. But if it’s the pretense of representing your interests that you are looking for, of course, then the billionaires are all in; that, after all, is what they do for a living. Effective advertising is the essence of good business in the modern world, and we all know (don’t we?) that “advertising” is the free market’s pretty name for lies.
Mitt Romney, U.S. senator from Utah and former Republican presidential candidate, has decided not to seek re-election, ending a very long but largely underwhelming political career. I have never been impressed with Romney’s brand of moderately conservative establishmentarianism, his milquetoast approach to resisting radical leftism, or his willingness to accept many progressive premises, though preferring “free market solutions” to the problems or ersatz problems he allows to be defined and framed by socialists.
Let it be said, however — indeed, it must be said, and will likely be his ultimate political legacy, if the gods take a favorable view of him — that when the greatest test of character came at last, on February 5th, 2020, Mitt Romney stood up when the rest of his tribe, every last one of them, stood down. (Read my commentary on his vote to impeach President Trump, and its aftermath, here, here, here, here, and here.) Contrary to all the stupid accusations hurled by the angry mob at every Republican, elected or otherwise, who has ever dared to defy the Trump cult and its god, Romney was manifestly not looking for a CNN commentator gig; he was not looking for a chance to sidle up to the Democrats; he was not looking for money from the establishment lobbyists. He was looking for his soul, a search few elected politicians in our age need ever engage in, for obvious reasons. And lo and behold, he found it. He knew what preserving that soul in that context would cost him. He also knew what selling his soul would cost him, since he was surrounded by fellow Republicans who had made that deal, many times over, during the Trump years.
Mitt Romney chose what a man would choose, while all around him — not only the establishmentarian mainstays but also the once-seemingly-principled “constitutionalists” of his party, right down to his senate “senior” from Utah, Mike Lee — chose, that important day as on so many others, to self-identify as bootlickers, cowards, flatterers, and conscienceless self-preservationists.