We are now entering the last week of one of the most colossally boring elections since '22, when the Hon. William G. McAdoo butted his soft oratory against Normalcy.
For weeks the Democrats, who have practically bankrupted the country, have been pointing to the Republicans and claiming that the Republicans have bankrupted the country. I, somewhat naively, have been waiting for the Republicans to fire back, pointing out that the Democrats spend more and more through irresponsibly written laws that appropriate more and more whether funds are in the Treasury or not. (When Jimmy Carter arrived in Washington the budget was $356 billion; four years later he was calling for $739 billion!) Yet the Republicans have merely given us cow eyes and soothing music.
The Democrats would have us believe that there is some mysterious agent that makes our exuberant public expenditures inevitable and unthwartable. They plead that they are helpless to prevent the growing tax burden, but by all that is holy they promise to succor us with more checks from Washington.
The poor, the young, the handicapped, the woebegone, and the not- quite woebegone have all been added to the Democrats' lengthening list of federal grantees. Now the neo-liberals among the Democrats promise to appropriate funds for the "infrastructure" -- our highways, bridges, public structures, and all the voters who will benefit therefrom. The Republicans are too timid to ask who will foot the bill.
Only in New York's gubernatorial campaign has a Republican appeared who is willing to cut the comedy and to present the electorate with the stark alternatives it faces, to wit: increased government spending, taxes, and inflation from the Democrats as against economies in government and tax cuts for all from the Republicans.
The Republican who utters these audacious thoughts, insisting that only tax cuts will give us real economic growth and jobs, is Lew Lehrman. Whether he wins or loses, he deserves the admiration of all who believe in the value of democratic process. Lehrman respects the voters enough to tell them the truth and to present the issues as they are. There are Republicans who consider this stupid politics.
Fortunately, the last week of these tedious democratic grotesqueries can be observed in dignity. On Friday night before the election, friends of democracy are gathering in New York City to observe the 80th birthday of one of the great American minds of this century, Prof. Sidney Hook. This old lion has marshaled doughty forces to fight many of the worthwhile intellectual and political battles of the past five or so decades.
Even at 80, he still fights for humane values and intelligence in politics. During a season when so many do so much to becloud the political issues, it is especially fitting that some of us pay our respects to a robust philosopher who has fought to illuminate the issues.
Of course, to celebrate the birthday of a philosopher during an election seems highly irrelevant to many of the pols now bellowing and crossing their hearts before an astonished electorate. In the view of these pols, the reason James Madison and Thomas Jefferson went political was to have new roads built down by the plantation. Yet ideas lurk behind politics, some good, some bad. Sidney Hook has been for an astonishingly large number of the good ideas.
To begin with, he has been for a free society that would also aid the genuinely poor. He has been for rigorous education for all, and for arranging our institutions so that opportunity for personal development could extend to all. In an age full of greasepaint moralizing about liberation and self-fulfillment, Hook has remained a brilliant battler for the real as against the illusory.
Recently in a published interview, he excoriated the "blatant hypocrisy of the double standard that pervades political and intellectual life," as he cited a Nobel laureate (Hook did not give his name) condemning Israel on the grounds of "justice, decency, and compassion."
"This from a man," observes Hook, "who refused to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the suppression of Poland, the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Hungary and the terroristic practices of the Hanoi and Cambodian regimes, whose innocent victims number in the millions."
Hook has fought the political and social mythologies of our century. Today he battles to keep quackery out of our schools. He fights affirmative action, the politicization of those realms where politics is arsenious, the usurpations of our "imperial judiciary." In sum, he fights to keep our democratic process in running order.
Gladly, I shall join this week with his friends--conservatives, liberals and social democrats -- to celebrate Sidney Hook's eight decades. Then I shall vote for liberty and economy.