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The Crucial Issue of This Election

Gary North
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Gary North's Reality Check (Oct. 12, 2012)

We are told that this Presidential election is the most important in 50 years. One nationally prominent Christian Right columnist has written that this is the most important Presidential election in the history of the United States.

How could anyone know if this is the most crucial election? You might think that it would be possible to assess this by looking at the #1 issue of this election, and then compare it with the #1 issue that some previous election settled. Unfortunately, this is not possible. It is not possible for two reasons. First, we do not know the future. Second, because Presidential elections are never fought over a crucial dividing issue that proves to have been divisive after the election is settled.

Here is a list of crucial issues in American political life today. Which of these is central to the campaign?

End legalized abortion
End the war in Afghanistan
End the FED
End the war on drugs
End executive orders
End the Department of Homeland Security
The unfunded liabilities of Medicare
The unfunded liabilities of Social Security
Audit the government's gold's ownership
Balance the federal budget before 2016

These are major issues. They should be publicly addressed. They are so far under the rug that the mainstream media are oblivious to them. Obama is staying silent, and the mainstream media prefer that he get away with this. Think "closing Guantanamo." Think "climate change."

This is the way that every Presidential race is always conducted. Does this seem like a preposterous statement? Probably. Is it an accurate statement? Let me state my case.

The most important Presidential election in American history was held in 1860, when the former Mary Todd's two suitors, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, lawyers for the Illinois Central Railroad, squared off for the second time, the first being the office of U.S. Senate in 1858. The outcome led to the secession of most Southern states before Lincoln was inaugurated. The death toll of the Civil War has recently been increased from an admitted 630,000 to about 700,000. It is clear that no other election ever produced anything like that.

What was the dividing judicial issue of the election of 1860? That is, what judicial issue was the crucial one that the election would surely settle, which President Buchanan's administration had not settled, over which the political battle was fought?

Answer: the one which both candidates denied was an issue. Abolition.

Either Lincoln or Douglas would win. John C. Breckenridge, Buchanan's Vice President, was also running as a third party candidate, because the South's Democrats could not stand Douglas' position on the right of voters within a proposed state to decide whether to enter as a slave state or a free state. Douglas promoted "popular sovereignty," and the geography of all the new states made it clear that there would be no new slave states. The South would be outvoted at some point, and slavery would be repealed.

You can see this on any map: what is now Edgewood, Texas, 50 miles east of Dallas. West of Edgewood, a slave owner would have had to give a slave a horse to herd cattle. The piny woods grew thin, because the soil grew thin. There would be no cotton west of Edgewood. That soil division extends north through Oklahoma and Kansas. Kansas was the wave of the future. It was a free state.

If Lincoln won, he would make sure that no slave state would enter the Union to balance a non-slave state. He had made this the keystone of his later political career.

South Carolina seceded, pulling Deep South states with it. The issue given by the seceding legislature was the defense of slavery. The North no longer would support the Fugitive Slave Act, which was part of the Missouri Compromise of 1850. So, the declaration said,

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. (

Problem: that declaration would have been just as judicially relevant in October of 1860 as it was in December, when South Carolina seceded.

The four states that presented reasons all cited slavery. ( Again, their declarations were as judicially relevant before the election as after.

Breckenridge could not win. No one expected him to win. So, the election was in fact a gigantic emotional bloodletting that provided the South with a symbol, but the substance would have been the same if Douglas had won.

The soil west of Edgewood, Texas made either secession or abolition inevitable. The election was merely a national ratification of what the leaders of the South could see was coming.

The election of 1860 was monumental -- lots and lots of monuments after 1865 -- in its importance, but the central judicial issue was not. The election was important because men seek symbols when they go to war, and Lincoln was the symbol. It had nothing to do with his party's platform, which insisted,

4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any state or territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes. (

If Douglas had been elected, it would have made no difference. He died in June of 1861. The Vice President would have been Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia. He opposed secession. But he would not have been able to change the soil west of Edgewood.

What other elections might qualify?

The election of 1896 was fought over the gold standard. William Jennings Bryan's speech on "the cross of gold" made that the central issue. There was no way that Bryan was going to get that changed in 1897. Besides, the poor schnook was persuaded by Woodrow Wilson in 1913 to push for the creation of the Federal Reserve System. On economic affairs, he was a far Left radical -- by far the most radical Left major party Presidential candidate in American history when his views are compared to voters' opinions in his own era.

The election of Bryan would have made a monumental difference. There would have been no Spanish-American War. He was a non-interventionist. He would have delayed the Progressive movement's aggressive foreign policy. That would have changed the development of the country as nothing else had since the Civil War. But foreign policy was not a major issue of the campaign in 1896. By the time of his campaigns of 1900 and 1908, the foundations of the American empire had already been laid. He could at most have retarded the development by ending the undeclared war in the Philippines, which led to the deaths of 34,000 Filipino soldiers and 200,000 civilians.

Woodrow Wilson campaigned in 1916 on this platform: "He kept us out of war." Exactly 30 days after he was inaugurated for his second term, he called for entry into war, and the Congress supported him. The central issue of the election was a smokescreen to fool the voters.

Franklin Roosevelt campaigned on this theme: Herbert Hoover was a spendthrift whose spending policies threatened to bankrupt the nation.

The most obvious effect of extravagant Government spending is its burden on farm and industrial activity, and, for that nearly every Government unit in the United States is to blame. But when we come to consider prodigality and extravagance in the Federal Government, as distinguished from State or local government, we are talking about something even more dangerous. For upon the financial stability of the United States Government depends the stability of trade and employment, and of the entire banking, savings and insurance system of the Nation. (

His assessment was correct. The trouble was, as soon as he was inaugurated, he escalated Hoover's most extravagant programs and added hundreds more.

Think of another truly crucial election: 1964. Barry Goldwater would have made a huge difference. He was an outsider who got through the Republican Establishment's vetting process. It never happened before or after. The war on poverty and the war in Vietnam would not have been fought. The Immigration Act of 1965 would not have been signed into law. There would have been no Medicare. But recall this (as I do): none of these issues was central to the campaign.

George W. Bush campaigned on foreign policy. He said we should not be involved in "nation building."

So, again, where is the evidence that the monumental issues of Presidential elections are in fact monumental issues?

What about today?

The media coverage of the first Presidential debate was over who won. How much coverage was there of the crucial issue of the debate? There was none -- no coverage and no crucial issue.

"Who is perceived as a strong leader?" is not a crucial issue. The budget deficit is not a crucial issue if neither candidate offers a detailed program to balance it. Besides, the real budget issue is the present value of the government's unfunded liabilities, which is now at $222 trillion. ( Here is an issue worth facing! No candidate is going to face it.

If this is the most important election of our era, where is the evidence? Where is the central judicial issue in which the voters have a choice, not an echo?


Part of the political game, as orchestrated by the bi-partisan Establishment of this nation is to persuade voters every four years that something huge is at stake politically. The country is divided electorally. Clinton won two terms. Bush II won two terms. This had never happened before in American history: rival parties' Presidential candidates being elected in succession. Obama may win two terms. That would clinch it: a truly divided electorate.

Yet in the shadows of this election there are fundamental issues that are being ignored. There are also gigantic quantities of money, taxed and borrowed, that are flowing into a handful of big banks (about five), and the government-rigged capital markets. There is a never-ending war in the region of the world where the war never ends, with another one looking probable. If Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British Empire, and the USSR could not hold Afghanistan, neither can anyone else. As for Persia, the Romans tried and failed.

The issues are important. The candidates are not addressing any of them.

It is not an accident that these issues are not being addressed. The Establishment has no solutions that it can persuade the voters to accept. It has always prospered in the shadows of the Punch and Judy shows that we hold every four years for entertainment's sake, and deception's sake.

The federal deficit gets larger. The unfunded liabilities get larger. The monetary base gets larger. The number of foreign military and spying bases gets larger. The Federal Register gets longer (83,000 pages in 2011).

The direction of the federal government does not change.

What is America's richest city? Washington, D.C. ( There is a reason for this.


Don't get too excited by the rhetoric between now and November 6. Just enjoy the fun.

When you hear from a candidate that his opponent is not being forthright with the voters, believe him. When you hear that this election is crucial, wait for the person who says this to tell you why.

I think it is crucial in this respect. It will elevate to the highest office in the land the sacrificial lamb which served as the scapegoat in the Mosaic law. The high priest laid the sins of the people on it, and then it was sent into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:10).

Will the wilderness be one of Romney's three mansions around the nation (, or will it be Obama's new home in Hawaii (

The wilderness ain't what it used to be.

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