Colleges, ironically, are helping to produce very tough minded conservatives. Most of us learn by examples, and a negative example is often a very possible motivator indeed.
Colleges, ironically, are helping to produce very tough minded conservatives. Most of us learn by examples, and a negative example is often a very possible motivator indeed.
Donald Trump’s clean sweep of southeastern states has taken many pundits by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. Trump’s performance in the south among evangelical voters is actually quite in keeping with the strain of evangelical conservatism prevalent in the bible belt.
Many moons ago in a prior blogging life I wrote a multi-part series detailing the different strands of American conservatism, and reading it now I may have forecasted the rise of Trump. First, I noted a type of conservatism (cranky conservatism) that seems to typify the Trump voter.
On the other end of the spectrum, the paleo-conservatives and crankycons seem to hate everything. And yet they are most comfortable with populist schemes that betray the Framers’ original plans. Their anti-elitism runs so deep that they would bequeath to the masses enormous power. Their enemies are the ghouls in the academies with their fancy ideas. But while they would have you believe that they are the true inheritors of the conservative mantle, their philosophy is a deep betrayal of the republican tradition. Their ultimate designs are no less radical than the hated neocons they so regularly disparage.
Sounds like a typical Trump supporter to me.
As related to religion and conservatism, this is what I wrote back in 2005 (please ignore the horrible misspelling of hear as “here”):
Traditional conservatism is generally less concerned about the temporal world. This strain of conservatism dates to Augustine, who saw utopian schemes for the foolishness that they were. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the intellectual impetus behind this brand usually comes from the Roman Catholic Church, or its near neighbors in the Episcopalian version. Buckley, Kirk, Ponnuru, Reagan: all thinkers who are Catholic or whose religion was close to that of Roman Catholicism. This is no mere coincidence.
We here a lot about religion and the conservative movement, and indeed religion has played a crucial role in all conservative parties throughout the world. But what many fail to understand, principally because they fail to understand Christianity is that there are crucial differences in the religious outlook of Evangelicals and Catholics, and these differences play out in the political world. The steadfast pessimism of the Catholic faith is mirrored in the political outlook of most conservative Catholics. They see this as a fallen world. And while we should strive to make this world as good as we can, our expectations for the temporal world should not be so high. Consequently, we should not put much stock in government and its ability to change the world.
I am not as well-versed in Evangelical religion to speak authoritatively, but it seems to me that the Evangelicals are much more optimistic about reshaping this earthly realm. Their fervor for conversion seeps into their political consciousness, thus they have grander visions for reform than does the Catholic conservative.
It would be easy to simply paint as the essential demarcation in conservative thought as the interplay between Catholic and Evangelical theology. It would be easy because it is essentially correct. We share many of the same values, but at some point there is a rift in our fundamental vision of the government because there is a fundamental rift in our theological outlook. That is not to say that all Catholics are all of a particular political stripe, and all Evangelicals of another. But if one wants to understand the divergence in American conservative thought, there would be worse starting points than this examination of the difference between Catholicism and Evangelical religion.
None of the developments of the previous decade has changed my thinking on these matters. To be sure, not all Evangelicals are utopian, nor are all Catholic conservatives necessarily fierce opponents of “big government.” Indeed the lone remaining standard bearer of traditional conservatism is Ted Cruz, a fervent Evangelical himself. Yet the populist appeal of Trump in the south indicates there is something to this distinction. Meanwhile Cruz has done better in the southwest and midwest, areas of the country that have a more libertarian hue and better represent the traditional strain of conservatism.
Contrary to the narrative, this primary is far from over. Trump is likely to be the nominee, but Cruz still has a fighting chance. This is the ultimate showdown of the two types of conservatism I detailed many years ago. Regardless of who wins, I believe we’re just seeing the beginnings of a much fiercer war for the heart of conservatism.
Rich Lowry has written a brilliant article (and also evidently a book) defending Abraham Lincoln from his critics on the right. He meticulously goes through the charges that certain people on the fringe right level at Lincoln and rebuts them one by one. For example, on the charge that Lincoln was a great centralizer out to destroy the states, Lowry notes that Lincoln’s view of the nation was little different than James Madison. Madison, like Lincoln, fought against the ideas of the likes of John Calhoun, who had defended the doctrine of nullification and asserted the supremacy of the states. As for secession, Lowry makes a point that I have often made regarding the right of the confederate states to rebel:
In his anti-Lincoln tract The Real Lincoln, Thomas DiLorenzo argues that secession is as American as apple pie. “The United States were founded by secessionists,” he insists, “and began with a document, the Declaration, that justified the secession of the American states.” No. The country was founded by revolutionaries and the Declaration justified an act of revolution. No one denies the right of revolution. Madison said that revolution was an “extra & ultra constitutional right.” Even Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address, concedes the point: “If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution — certainly would, if such right were a vital one.”
The friends of secession aren’t eager to invoke the right to revolution, though. For one thing, when a revolution fails, you hang. For another, the Declaration says a revolution shouldn’t be undertaken “for light and transient causes,” but only when a people have suffered “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” What was the train in 1860 and 1861? Seven southern states left the Union before Lincoln was inaugurated. The South had dominated the federal government for decades. Abuses and usurpations? It’s more like lose an election and go home.
He also takes on the likes of Ron Paul, who has asserted that Lincoln could have used the power of the purse to free the slaves rather than fighting a bloody civil war. Lowry writes:
They come up with fanciful alternatives to military conflict. Ron Paul wonders why Lincoln didn’t forestall the war by simply buying up and freeing the slaves. With his usual sense of realism, Paul ignores the fact that Lincoln repeatedly advanced schemes for just such a compensated emancipation. Lincoln argued for these proposals as “the cheapest and most humane way to end the war.” But except in the District of Columbia, they went precisely . . . nowhere. The border states weren’t selling, let alone the South. Even little Delaware, which was selected as a test case because in 1860 it had only 587 slaveholders out of a white population of 90,500, couldn’t be persuaded to cash out of slavery. One plan proposed by Lincoln would have paid $400 or so per slave and achieved full abolition by 1893. A version of the scheme failed in the state’s legislature.
Lowry addresses Lincoln’s war measures, and notes that Lincoln simply used the legitimate powers that were prescribed in the Constitution.
When it comes to the idea that Lincoln’s administration birthed the welfare state, Lowry destroys that argument.
Yet another favorite count against Lincoln on the Right is that he was the midwife for the birth of the modern welfare state — a false claim also made by progressives bent on appropriating him for their own purposes. The war necessarily entailed the growth and centralization of the state, but this hardly makes Lincoln a forerunner to FDR or LBJ. The income tax required to fund the war, instituted in 1861 and soon made into a progressive tax with higher rates for the wealthy, was a temporary measure eliminated in 1872. Wars are expensive. In 1860, the federal budget was well under $100 million. By the end of the war, it was more than $1 billion. But the budget dropped back down to $300 million, excluding payments on the debt, within five years of the end of the war.
To see in any of this the makings of the modern welfare state requires a leap of imagination. In the midst of the war, the State Department had all of 33 employees. The famous instances of government activism not directly related to the war — the subsidies to railroads, the Homestead Act — were a far cry from the massive transfer programs instituted in the 20th century. The railroads got land and loan guarantees but were a genuinely transformational technology often, though not always, providing an economic benefit. The Homestead Act, as Lincoln historian Allen Guelzo argues, can be viewed as a gigantic privatization of public lands, which were sold off at a cut rate to people willing to improve their plots.
In the North during the war, historian Richard Franklin Bensel points out, the industrial and agricultural sectors ran free of government controls. The labor force, although tapped for manpower for the war, was relatively unmolested. The government became entangled with the financial system, but that system was also becoming more modern, sophisticated, and free of European influence. Given its vitality and wealth, the North could wage the war without subjecting itself to heavy-handed command-and-control policies. Compared with the overmatched Confederacy, it was a laissez-faire haven.
Indeed federal government spending as a percentage of GDP increased to approximately 15 percent at the height of the Civil War, but came crashing down to about a 5 percent level immediately after its conclusion, where it remained until the Wilson administration. (Correction – see comments, spending was even lower, and remained low but for WWI until the Great Depression.)
If anything Lincoln was a Hamiltonian conservative. He believed in a strong national government to be sure, but one essentially limited in scope. It’s rather fitting considering that it was Hamilton’s political enemy – Thomas Jefferson – who Lincoln held up as a hero. It is also rather ironic that often those on the right who deride Lincoln are the same who glorify Jefferson. Perhaps that is a subject also worthy of deeper study.
One of the most tiresome and repeated tricks I see in political discourse is right-leaning moderates using Edmund Burke’s name in justifying big government conservatism. The latest to use Burke’s name to justify political moderation is Peter Berkowitz in his book Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation. Here’s a blurb from the book.
The first entrenched reality is that the era of big government is here to stay. This is particularly important for libertarians to absorb. Over the last two hundred years, society and the economy in advanced industrial nations have undergone dramatic transformations. And for three-quarters of a century, the New Deal settlement has been reshaping America’s expectations about the nation-state’s reach and role. Consequently, the U.S. federal government will continue to provide a social safety net, regulate the economy, and shoulder a substantial share of responsibility for safeguarding the social and economic bases of political equality…..the attempt to dismantle or even substantially roll back the welfare and regulatory state reflects a distinctly unconservative refusal to ground political goals in political realities.”
And here’s a blurb from Harvey Mansfield.
Peter Berkowitz makes a match between Edmund Burke and the American Founders to give ‘political moderation’ a good name on our partisan battlefield. A short, effectual book with shining prose, a telling argument, and a lasting message. –Harvey C. Mansfield, Harvard University
Jeffrey Lord takes on Berkowtiz as well as Jennifer Rubin, Joe Scarborough and others who are preaching the value of
capitulation moderation. As usual, Lord does a fantastic job of eviscerating the case for moderation. First, addressing the blurb quoted above, Lord writes:
So the New Deal is now the Founding principle of America? And attempts to “dismantle or even substantially” roll back the New Deal “reflects a distinctly unconservative refusal to ground political goals in political realities”?
Even Bill Clinton waxed Reaganesque when he said in that famous 1995 State of the Union message that “the era of Big Government is over.”
Berkowitz’s thinking — which Rubin shares — is a pluperfect example of what led a couple generations of American leaders to believe the Soviet Union was here to stay. Those were the folks rolling their eyes in their supposed sophistication when President Reagan insisted the Soviets were headed to the “ash heap of history.” Only to watch astonished as the Berlin Wall came down followed shortly thereafter by the Soviet flag over the Kremlin. Precisely as Reagan predicted.
Lord further examines how this bedrock principle and the programs created by the New Deal are crashing around us. As he writes:
The fact of the matter is that the New Deal is imploding all around us. With all manner of experts repeatedly warning the U.S. is being relentlessly driven towards a financial cliff, with entitlement spending on track to eventually consume first the defense budget before polishing off the entire federal budget. The fact that Democrats are tying themselves to the equivalent of an unexploded political IED is their decision.
But what, pray tell, is moderate, Republican or conservative about accepting the idea that America is headed irrevocably to bankruptcy and chaos?
There’s much more at the link as Lord explains how the social consensus keeps moving the left. “Moderation,” therefore, will only lead to more government control and, eventually, less freedom.
Jeff Goldstein also discusses Lord’s article and has more insights as well.
Lord and Goldstein both do great jobs of explaining the problems with Berkowitz’s position, but I want to focus on the admittedly more academic point, and that’s Berkowitz’s misappropriation of Burke. Continue Reading
Their stories are as old as time but worth repeating in this present age where so many seem to think they are too smart for God, religion and all of His love and grace. I must admit that being a fan of contemporary music and literature, I threw the stories of Jack Kerouac, John Lennon and Bob Marley’s late in life embrace of faith and tradition into my book without giving it much thought. However, I am surprised to find that so many who have read or perused my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn have stated that they were not familiar with these stories and found them very revealing. Perhaps it is because our rebellious society has lionized figures who want to throw out God or just leave him as far distant as possible. Yet all three men realized that the traditional values, in which they were raised and the love of God they were once shown, was too important to forever jettison. Continue Reading
A video that reminds us that Obama is not the basic problem, although the start of the solution to the problem of a government that is bankrupting us is in his defeat. We must fundamentally rethink in this country the size, scope and power of government. It is not too late, although it is very late.
There’s an article forthcoming in the journal Economic Inquiry by Professors of Economics, Joseph Sabia and Daniel Rees, that shows parental notification or consent laws are associated with a 15 to 25 percent reduction in suicides committed by 15- through 17-year-old women. The researchers analyzed National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data collected from 1987 to 2003 and found results that are consistent with the hypothesis that laws requiring parental involvement increase the “expected cost of having unprotected sex,” and, consequently, protect the well-being of young females. (Hey, they’re economists.)
Here’s the reasoning, taken from this paper by the same authors.
So the hypothesis is: If parental involvement laws discourage minors from risky lifestyles that affect their physical health, then they would promote emotional health of teenage females as well. Analyzing suicide rates will give an indication since there have been many studies that link depression and suicide. The national suicide data was analyzed and that’s exactly what they found – a supporting correlation. Parental involvement laws correlate with fewer suicides. Further in support, there was no evidence of a similar relationship among male adolescents, and no correlation between parental involvement laws and suicide for older women because, well, neither group would be affected by those laws.
Makes sense, right? You’re probably thinking, “Did we need to pass those laws, wait and see what happened, and then count suicides?” No, we didn’t, and there’d be at least some justice if the people opposing those laws would take notice.
You’d think someone who really cares about women would be able to take an objective view of this data and consider it as an appeal to our collective conscience. You’d think someone who parrots, “Trust Women!” would be consistent enough to also trust mothers who are raising teens. When the state comes between teens and their parents, it just follows that the adolescents will not be as close to their parents as they ought to be.
This only affirms what we already know. Parents of teen girls can be trusted – should be trusted for the psychological benefit of a daughter in crisis. The abortion advocate community doesn’t seem as concerned about young women, though, as they are about politics and agendas. They instead say that people just want to make it harder for teens to have abortions, and that teens have a “fear of abuse” from unrelenting parents. Oh, and they’ll say something about how correlation doesn’t equal causation, revealing that they either are ignorant of analytical methods or, even worse, knowledgeable of them but dishonest when the results don’t fit their predetermined conclusions. Some will even say that teen women should be trusted to make their own decisions even when the decision for these desperate young women is to end their own lives. Of course, we all know why Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the parents involved. Ac$e$$ to abortion.
So I have a little hypothesis of my own. I predict (but would love to be proven wrong) that not a single abortion advocate will come forward and honestly reassess parental consent laws even though there is no body of data to support their premise. Could they admit that maybe, just maybe, the default condition is not that most parents of teens are abusive. Imagine!
If they trust women, why can’t they trust mothers and fathers? Where does this automatic distrust of parents come from anyway? Perhaps there’s a cost associated with believing that a mother has the right to kill her own child in the womb, and that cost is faith in people to love their children unconditionally at any point in life, even during difficult times.
Image: Microsoft Powerpoint
In articles, interviews and addresses, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan is defending — not without controversy — his 2013 budget proposal (see “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal”) as an application of Catholic social teaching, inspired by his Catholic faith.
In an April 10 interview with CBN News, Ryan responded:
To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities.
Those principles are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.
The U.S. Bishops Conference conveyed their thoughts on the FY2013 Budget and spending bills, which in their words “repeated and reinforced the bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circle of protection” around poor and vulnerable people and programs that meet their basic needs and protect their lives and dignity.”:
Bishops Blaire [chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development] and Pates reaffirmed the “moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in their March 6 budget letter:
1.Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
2.A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
3.Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…
Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.
In April 16 and April 17 letters to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee addressing cuts required by the budget resolution, Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”
Marc Thiessen defended the congressman from “a bishop’s unjust attack” (Washington Post, 4/23/12) along with (Fr. Robert Sirico (of the Acton Institute) — the latter, however, disagreeting with Ryan’s equasion of subsidiarity with federalism.
This past week, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan further presented his case in a column for the National Catholic Register: Applying Our Enduring Truths to Our Defining Challenge, April 25, 2012):
As a congressman and Catholic layman, I am persuaded that Catholic social truths are in accord with the “self-evident truths” our Founders bequeathed to us in the founding ideas of America: independence, limited government and the dignity and freedom of every human person. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I am tasked with applying these enduring principles to the urgent social problems of our time: an economy that is not providing enough opportunities for our citizens, a safety net that is failing our most vulnerable populations, and a crushing burden of debt that is threatening our children and grandchildren with a diminished future. … [read more]
On April 26th, Paul Ryan gave a lecture at Georgetown University, entitled “America’s Enduring Promise”, in which he once again addressed the challenge of America’s exploding federal debt, which he characterized as “the overarching threat to our society today”:
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are “living at the expense of future generations” and “living in untruth.”
We in this country still have a window of time before a debt-fueled economic crisis becomes inevitable. We can still take control before our own needy suffer the fate of Greece. How we do this is a question for prudential judgment, about which people of good will can differ.
If there was ever a time for serious but respectful discussion, among Catholics as well as those who don’t share our faith, that time is now.
Ryan’s appearance at Georgetown was prefaced by a scathing letter from some 80 members of the faculty irate over his alleged “continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” An organized protest of Ryan on the actual day of the event was distinguished by a notable lack of participation. Continue Reading
I recently completed Rick Santorum’s It Takes A Family. I quipped on Twitter that had I read this before the campaign started then Santorum would have been my top Rick pick before that other Rick entered the race (though I still maintain that Governor Perry would have been an outstanding nominee, but no need to go there). At times Santorum slips into politician speak – you know, those occasions when politicians feel compelled to tell stories of individual people in order to justify some larger agenda. And some of the book is a little plodding, especially when he gets into wonkish mode (which fortunately is not all that often). Those quibbles asides, there are large chunks of this book that could very well have been written by yours truly. That isn’t meant to be a commentary on my own genius, but rather a way of saying I agree with just about everything this man has to say.
The book title really says it all. The heart of Rick Santorum’s political philosophy is the family, meaning that to him strong families are the heart of any functioning society. The family has been undermined both by big government programs and by the culture at large. Santorum mocks the “village elders” who view more government programs as the solution to all problems. Santorum acknowledges that many of the problems we face don’t have quick and easy fixes, and often no legislative action can be taken. Santorum offers a series of small policy proposals that are aimed at giving parents and individuals in tough economic circumstances some tools to help, but he also emphasizes the doctrine of subsidiarity. Ultimately we must rely principally on local institutions, starting with the family.
Santorum understands what even some on the right fail to appreciate, and that is we can’t divorce social issues from economics. The breakdown of the family coincides directly with economic hardship. If we want a healthier economy, we need healthier families. It’s a central tenet of conservatism that is somehow ignored by large swathes of the political right.
His approach to politics can be summarized in a passage on page 341 of the hardback edition: Continue Reading
Red State’s all-out assault on Santorum comes as no surprise. This is a blog that perceives all who fail short of achieving purity as a conservative (whatever that’s supposed to mean) as heretics. So they have taken a few incidents where Santoum fell short – and in some cases, he did cast a wrong vote or endorsed the wrong candidate – and have now transformed Santorum into some kind of statist.
The shrill attacks on Red State are to be expected. What’s disappointing is seeing an otherwise insightful blogger like Ace of Spades hyperventilate ignorantly about Santorum. What set Ace off was this comment by Santorum from much earlier in the campaign:
One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea … Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay … contraception’s okay.”
It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal … but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.
Ace is displeased: Continue Reading
The 2012 presidential election cycle is truly one of the most depressing things to behold. Neither of the top two candidates in the Republican field are particularly appealing, and the incumbent President has made Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan look like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Meanwhile, for all the bluster about the Establishment choosing our candidates (a charge not wholly without merit), conservatives have done themselves no favors by engaging in ridiculous character assassinations of any candidate who is not one hundred pure and good – meaning all the candidates. Meanwhile, superficial bluster about being a conservative is taken more seriously than actual conservative governing records in big states.
To top it all off, the only conservative left in the race is barely gaining any traction, even when dismantling his opponent in exchanges such as this.
That was far from the only highlight for Santorum. While Newt and Mitt were busy tearing each other apart for every perceived slight, Rick brought some common sense into the debate.
I don’t think Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have helped themselves with their terse exchanges on illegal immigration and Fannie & Freddie.
Apparently, Rick Santorum didn’t think so either. He said there was nothing wrong with Newt using his knowledge of Congress to help advise companies and then said there was nothing wrong with Romney making money. Santorum then implored Mitt and Newt, “Leave that alone and focus on the issues,” to strong applause.
Ah, but Senator Santorum is unelectable, according to the all the wise pundits. There’s no way he could possibly be more electable than the guy who was once portrayed as the “Gingrich who stole Chrismas,” and who has a 2:1 unfavorable to favorable gap in the polls. And he’s certainly not as electable as the guy who is so darn appealing that Republicans are climbing over themselves to pick anyone else but him to be the nominee, and who has an electoral record that makes the Detroit Lions look like a juggernaut. Santorum lost his last election by 18 points, and as we all know someone that unpopular can’t ever recover. No, we need to nominate the guy who left office with a 34% favorability rating, and who didn’t lose his bid at re-election because he didn’t even bother, knowing he was going to get destroyed. Failing that, we can nominate the guy whose own caucus ran him out of Washington, DC.
But Santorum is unelectable.
We also know Santorum is also unelectable because he holds social views outside of the mainstream. For instance, Santorum has this notion that marriage is an institution for one man and one woman. This is such an insane notion that it is only shared by a majority of the American population and the current occupant of the White House. You see, the problem with Santorum is that, unlike President Obama, he really means it. As was discussed a couple of weeks ago at Creative Minority Report, Santorum is actually sincere in his beliefs. So while he might hold policy positions that are identical with the rest of the field, he is the one being mocked because, well, he actually believes what he is saying.
One of the things that occurred to me recently that only augmented my political depression is that Gingrich does hold one electoral advantage over Santorum. The fact that Gingrich is a twice-divorced man with a checkered past while Santorum is a faithfully married man and father of seven means that independents won’t fear Gingrich as much on social issues. That’s right – actually being a man of unquestioned personal morality is an electoral disadvantage, because that just makes you seem all the more scaaaaaary. Thank goodness our elections are decided by the sorts of people who think it’s just creepy that other people think that all life is precious, even lives conceived during rape.
So excuse me if I sit this dance out.
I’m going to need to recant my placement of RedState at the top of my favorite blogs list. Now that Rick Santorum has emerged as probably the leading not-Mitt candidate in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, they, along with a few other conservative websites, have gone absolutely bananas over the prospect of Santorum becoming a leading candidate. Sure, they all hate Mitt Romney, but can we truly tolerate a candidate who says extremist things like this:
This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone.
My goodness. I can just see Santorum delivering these remarks on a balcony with a hammer and sickle proudly displayed behind him. Did he also poound a shoe on the podium, because the man must surely be just shy of being an out and out Communist.
Jeff Emanuel has unearthed two more shocking quotes that reveal Santorum’s obvious Stalinist tendencies. Continue Reading
A humorous, albeit stacked, debate. The video does illuminate one facet of the American political scene. Educated conservatives tend to be more familiar with liberal arguments than educated liberals are with conservative arguments. The reason for this is quite simple. Conservatives who have been to college have exposed themselves to an institution that is overwhelmingly liberal. If they read or view the mainstream media, once again they are exposed to liberal ideas from an institution overwhelmingly liberal. Their entertainment comes to them from sources that tend to be liberal. Educated conservatives in our society can no more ignore liberal ideas and arguments than they can any other annoying and ubiquitous feature of modern life; like people having “private” conversations at the top of their lungs over cell phones, liberalism is a constant background feature.
The same is not true for educated liberals. If they choose, and a surprising number of them so choose, they can lead their lives without ever engaging with conservative ideas and arguments. The colleges they attend support their political beliefs, the mainstream media presupposes that their arguments are correct and entertainment, if it has political content, will usually flatter their predispositions. In short, liberals in our society can live their lives in an ideological bubble where conservatives need not be taken seriously.
So I guess that makes it neo-neocon.
The Washington Times reports on a poll released by Rasmussen on the relative popularity and unpopularity of various political labels.
• 38 percent of likely U.S. voters “consider it a positive” when a political candidate is described as “conservative,” 27 percent say it’s a negative.
• 37 percent say “moderate” is a positive label, 13 percent say it’s a negative.
• 32 percent say “tea party” is a positive label.
• 56 percent of Republican voters agree.
• 38 percent of voters overall say the tea party label is a negative.
• 70 percent of Democrats agree.
• 31 percent of voters overall say “progressive” is a positive label, 26 percent say its negative.
• 21 percent say “liberal” is a positive label, 38 percent say it’s a negative.
What jumped out at me is the disparity between how the term “conservative” is received versus the term “tea party.” The positive/negative spread for “conservative” is 38/27, but it’s 32/38 for “tea party.” Now, conservative/tea party fares better than progressive/liberal, and that is probably worth a discussion in and of itself.* But I want to focus on the conservative versus tea party aspect of this poll for a moment. Continue Reading
My good friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia often delivers some of the most insightful commentary on Saint Blog’s. Here is commentary that he did today fisking Mark Shea’s observations of Joe Carter’ post at First Things, where Carter took a look at Generation X conservatives, and which may be read here. This gave Mark an opportunity to voice his disdain for forms of conservatism other than the paleocon version he embraces, and to go “O Tempora, O Mores”, over the coming generation of conservatives. Jay’s commentary is priceless:
He has been one of the few voices in the conservative movement to speak out of actual conservative values and not out of the Consequentialism that dominates the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism. So I was interested in his description of “X-Cons“, the rising generation of conservatives (so-called) who have been coming of age in the past decade. I think his description is accurate, rather depressing, and a further proof that Chesterton is right when he says that each revolutionary movement is a reaction to the last revolution–and that it typically knows what is wrong but not what is right. I appreciate Carter’s clear-eyed analysis and suspect that he, like me, is not altogether thrilled that this is the desperate pass in which the Thing that Used to be Conservatism now finds itself.
Later on, Mark continues:
X-Cons know little about history and their deepest influence is disk jockeys, who “taught us X-Cons to appreciate confirmation of our political views.” The perfectly reasonable thing to ask in light of this crushing diagnosis is, “What, precisely, is being conserved by such a ‘conservatism’?” A conservatism that knows nothing of engagement with ideas outside the Talk Radio Noise Machine (including engagement with ideas from its own intellectual history) and which has learned, as it’s primary lesson, “to appreciate confirmation of our political views” is a conservatism that is intellectually barren and open to manipulation by demagogues who flatter its adherents and teach them to remain safe in the echo chamber.
Mark goes further in his assessment of “X-Cons” as the dupes of demagogues:
When Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are your intelligentsia and Buckley is a sort of a ghostly eminence gris you no longer bother listening to, one must again ask what, exactly, is being conserved by such a conservatism. Much that bills itself as anti-elitist is just a celebration of intellectual laziness and a resentment of people who have done the hard work of thought. Yes, there are pointy headed intellectuals who pride themselves on their learning. That’s not an excuse to be a wahoo who prides himself on his ignorance.
Mark concludes his analysis of Joe’s piece lamenting Joe’s acknowledgement of the fact that “X-Cons” will soon displace the generation that came before us. Joe writes:
• X-Cons will soon be replacing the Boomers as the dominant cohort within the movement. We’ll be fielding presidential candidates in 2016 and dominating elections in 2020. We are, for better and for worse, the future of the movement. And of America.
… and Mark responds:
Bleak words indeed…
First, let me note that I tried to leave my thoughts in comments on Mark’s blog, but the commenting tool Mark uses rejected the comment as too voluminous. Rather than breaking it up into several comments, I decided to blog my view on the matter here.
While I commend Joe on his piece at First Things, I call B.S. on at least parts of Mark’s analysis of Joe’s piece, and ESPECIALLY on some of the commenters who have responded favorably to Mark’s analysis by blaming the so-called “X-Cons” for the commenters’ decisions to continue to support the party of abortion-on-demand.
The “X-Cons” aren’t responsible for “the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism” (hereafter, “the Thing”) – in fact, we are increasingly skeptical of “the Thing” and especially the Republican Party claiming the mantle of “the Thing”. As evidence, I submit my own blog as well as a piece today at National Catholic Register by Pat Archbold (recently described by one of Mark’s sycophants as a “Republican shill”).
No, the folks responsible for bringing us huge deficits, Wilsonian foreign policy, and consequentialism dressed up as “the Thing” were decidedly NOT members of the “X” generation, but were baby boomers and even members of the so-called “Greatest Generation”. Given that fact, Mark’s assessment as “bleak words indeed” of Joe’s acknowledgement of the rise of the “X-Cons” to replace the previous generation seems completely without merit. Surely we can’t do any worse with respect to “the Thing” than the generations that have come before us. In short, given our increasing distrust of what “the Thing” has become and the party that champions it, it is the “X-Cons” who are the antidote to “the Thing”, not the purveyors of it.
In addition, rather than criticizing the “X-Cons” for rejecting elitism and embracing what they see as middle-class authenticism, why not ask whether the elites have actually served them well and, if the answer is “HELL NO!” (which it most assuredly is), whether there are better alternatives for leadership from among the “riff-raff” who actually share the values of the “X-Cons”? Mark asks what is it that is actually being conserved? Well, if you ask me, the traditional family values of protection of life, protection of the institution of the family, hard work, integrity, loyalty, etc., etc., are being protected far more on the front porches, parish halls, and town halls of flyover country than they are in the halls of academia and, yes, even on the pages of National Review. Maybe “X-Cons” see the people Mark derides as base and demogogic as being the actual preservers of the values we hold dear (i.e. they’re the ones doing the “conserving” these days), as opposed to the new generation of Buckleys who view us as so much white trash and instead embrace The One.
When a politician says something that’s this on the money, one wonders if there is a “but” in there to soften the message. Not with Jim DeMint:
You can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.
Naturally this bothers AllahPundit and some of the other shrieking libertarians at Hot Air, but DeMint is of course right. Continue Reading
Today is my birthday, which means that while I get cake, ice cream, and annoyance for having to study on my birthday, you get to realize that the November elections are merely a month and a week away. In the Catholic blogosphere, this means that the “republicath” & “Catholyc” labels are getting dusted off for use in the political war.
For example, MM has launched an
humorless satirical website a mini-crusade against Thomas Peters & CatholicVote. Specifically, he’s angry about the very high rating they gave to Sharron Angle, a Republican running against Harry Reid. While I disagree with some of the exaggerations (if he thinks that’s a racist ad, he doesn’t watch much TV during October), I think his question is a good one: when ought a Catholic group be offering endorsements? Continue Reading
Every four years the sporting world, especially Europe, Africa and Latin America is held in rapt attention by soccer’s World Cup. It can tell us many things about the state of the world, from politics to culture and even religion, and that’s even before we get to the sporting angle. Now for purposes of full disclosure, my favorite sports are college football and college basketball, though having a mother who grew up in Germany has helped me gain some soccer knowledge. Many a book or intellectual statesman from Henry Kissinger on down the line have mused about soccer’s effect on the world, which seems to change each and every World Cup to reflect the sign of the times.
Unlike a relativistic world where social engineering has taken hold, it appears that sports are the world’s last venue where sheer work ethic and determination hold sway. Perhaps this is why sports are so popular in the world, especially Europe’ s social democracies. One should keep in mind that as high as the Super Bowl ratings are for US television, World Cup TV ratings for nations in the championship game are even higher. Let’s look at this World Cup to see what it can tell us about the state of the world.
Some of the political developments from the last World Cup were the rise of the African nations in the soccer world, perhaps reflecting the rise of the continent itself on political and religious grounds. Keep in mind tiny Ghana won the 20 and under World Championship last year defeating Brazil, quite an accomplishment. Also of note in the last World Cup was Germany’s rising national spirit as seen in public displays of flag waving, which had been a post World War II no-no for Deutschland.
The Catholic Church is the biggest defender and promoter of the large traditional family. This endorsement of large families is something that tests the loyalties of ideologues because the Church doesn’t conform to liberal or conservative political pressures. The more-or-less typical liberal ideologue seems to take on the ideal of saving the global environment by way of discouraging the Church’s teachings on Life and Family issues. The more-or-less conservative ideologue often takes on the approach to economic theory that goes something like- “you breed em’ you feed em'”. I don’t find much support for either of these hard positions in the actual teachings and guidance given us via Christ’s Church.
Hattip to my friend Paul Zummo, the Cranky Conservative. When asked what type of conservative I am, I have usually responded “just conservative”. Like most conservatives I know, I am conservative on social issues, fiscal policies and foreign policy. When one part of conservatism is ignored in a political race, electoral disaster often looms. That is why I embrace completely what my fellow Illinoisan, Paul Mitchell said in a recent speech:
“22. Today the picture of development has many overlapping layers. The actors and the causes in both underdevelopment and development are manifold, the faults and the merits are differentiated. This fact should prompt us to liberate ourselves from ideologies, which often oversimplify reality in artificial ways, and it should lead us to examine objectively the full human dimension of the problems.” Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate Continue Reading
It has been said that all politics is local.
And so it is.
I have had some issues with whom to vote for in the upcoming Texas gubernatorial elections. Especially with the Republican primary coming up and Debra Medina gaining fast on current Governor Rick Perry.
Insurgent Republican candidate Debra Medina was a asked a question by Glenn Beck on his radio show if she would deny that there was any government role in 9/11 and she hedged.
Mr. Beck followed up with a direct question and she still hedged.
I have long been, and remain, a temperamentally conservative person. To my view, the ills created by radically overturning a social order are usually far greater than the benefits realized. And yet, there are times when justice demands change that is not gradual. One of the counter-examples I generally keep in mind to my Burkian conservative tendencies is this selection from Martin Luther King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, which a friend once emailed me during an extended discussion on conservative versus progressive mentalities:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
From “Individualism: True and False” (1946)
…[T]he state, the embodiment of deliberately organized and consciously directly power, ought to be only a small part of the much richer organism which we call “society,” and that the former ought to provide merely a framework within which free (and therefore not “consciously directed”) collaboration of men has the maximum scope.
This entails certain corollaries on which true individualism once more stands in sharp opposition to the false individualism of the rationalistic type. The first is that the deliberately organized state on the one side, and the individual on the other, far from being regarded as the only realities, while all the intermediate formations and associations are to be deliberately suppressed, as was the aim of the French Revolution, the noncompulsory conventions of social intercourse are considered as essential factors in preserving the orderly working of human society. The second is that the individual, in participating in the social processes, must be ready and willing to adjust himself to changes and to submit to conventions which are not the result of intelligent design, whose justification in the particular instance may not be recognizable, and which to him often appear unintelligible and irrational. Continue Reading
A guest post by Paul Zummo, originally posted at his blog, The Cranky Conservative.
It’s probably not a good idea generally to buy a book out of spite, but in some ways that is precisely what I did when I picked up Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue. We had had a meeting at work, and several of my co-workers were amusing themselves with some anti-Palin jibes. So at lunch time I decided to take a stroll to the local book store and pick up Palin’s book, prompting the “Oh, Sarah Palin” observation from the clerk, who must be wondering why anyone in the middle of enlightened Dupont Circle would be interested in the right-wing Neanderthal. And I have to admit that I also delayed reading the book until after I got home from Thanksgiving vacation so that I could proudly read the book on the Metro.
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,'” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,'” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
For whatever reason, adults on the internet often fall into relabelling each others politics with all the glee that second graders find in saying, “Am not!”, “Are too!”, “Am not!”
Sometimes, it gets downright silly, as in this comment:
Hah! Nobody has yet addressed my basic point – American arch-liberals, direct offsprings of the Enlightenment, are under some illusion that they are “conservative”. Couldn’t be more wrong. As for me, I’m an old-style Christian Democrat with not much time for rights-based individualism, the so-called separation of church and state, lassez-faire liberalism, or muscular nationalism. I’m a corporatist, I’m fully on baord with Bendict’s world political authority, and I’ll take Catholic social teaching over American Calvinist economics any day, thank you very much.
Who is supposed to be the conservative again?
Now, let’s think for a moment on what “conservative” means, if you’re not Humpty Dumpty. Continue Reading
It is perhaps not a bad time to devote a few thoughts to the dignity of work. Work is not always seen in a wholly positive light. Many of us don’t like going to work, and the rigors of labor are reflect in Adam’s curse, when after the fall he is told that he shall eat only by the sweat of his brow, struggling to win sustenance from an unfriendly soil.
Yet we also recognize that that is an essential dignity to labor. Through labor we meet the essential needs of life, and labor is frequently a service: Husbands and wives labor for each others’ sake, parents labor to support children, we share the fruits of our labor with our churches, with the less fortunate, with our friends and family. We rightly take great pleasure and pride in serving others this way. As a father, even the most tiresome or repetitive task can be a source of satisfaction to me when I know that by this means I am providing for the needs and pleasures of my wife and children.
People at various points in the ideological spectrum have pointed out it’s a little odd to see conservatives objecting to the idea of the government deciding what medical procedures ought not to be covered, when they’re apparently okay with insurance companies deciding what procedures ought not be covered, or with people not being able to afford procedures because they lack good insurance. However, it strikes me this difference may actually make a fair amount of sense, both for some pragmatic reasons and some emotional/ideological ones.
Gallup is out with an interesting poll here showing that self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals in all but three states, often by substantial margins. In three states, Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts, liberals and conservatives are tied. Liberals are only in a majority in the District of Columbia. The state by state results are here. As a conservative I would like to thank President Obama for his hard work in swelling the ranks of conservatives in time for next year’s elections.
It has become popular to sound the death-knell of Conservatism. I believe the evidence indicates otherwise.
At 40% self-identified conservatives are almost twice as numerous as self-identified liberals at 21%.
“Conservatism–as a philosophical, cultural, and political project–does in fact have boundaries, and those have been set by the cluster of ideas offered by such giants as Burke, Lincoln, Chesterton, Lewis, Hayek, Chambers, Friedman, Kirk, Weaver, Gilder, Buckley, and Reagan. There are, of course, disagreements among these thinkers and their followers, but there is an identifiable stream of thought. It informs our understanding of human nature, families, civil society, just government, and markets.
“What contemporary conservatism has lost–especially in its Hannitized and Coulterized manifestations of superficial ranting–is the connection to a paternity that is necessary so that its intellectual DNA may be passed on to its progeny.
Seeing a fair amount of discussion as to what “conservatism” is or is not cropping up on various threads — and not having time to write a massive treatise on the topic — I’d like to put forward a few basic thoughts on the topic and then turn it loose for conversation with our readership, which clearly has a number of opinions as to the matter.
I would argue that conservatism is, to a great extent, a relative term. Conservatives seek to preserve the ways and institutions of the past. In the ancient Greek and Roman world, there was a worldview present among conservatives that there had been, in the past, a literal golden age — in the age of the great heroes. Among modern conservatives, resistance to change is rooted more in a suspicion of programs of change based upon ideologies that seek to remake the human person or society into new forms. In this sense, conservatives do not necessarily hold that the way things have been in the past are necessarily good, but they lean towards the fear that drastic change will make things worse.
I’m a big fan of the personal finance speaker & author Dave Ramsey… when our oldest was born nearly five years ago and my wife prepared to stay home to take care of her and her siblings-to-come, I didn’t know how we were going to manage on my income alone; Ramsey’s book and radio show provided us with a straightforward, systematic approach to managing our finances, and for that, I am grateful… his is the talk radio show that I still listen to most.
But when it comes to politics, Dave is far too typical of many mainstream conservatives: he confuses principles for their application, just like Limbaugh, Hannity, et al.
It’s fashionable at the moment to write conservatism’s epitaph. Such epitaph writing is not my project here, but there is a sort of inherent tension in the recent history of conservatism which I would like to examine briefly.
For the last hundred years and more, conservatives have often found themselves arguing against those in the political and economic spheres who believe that we can achieve a great improvement in society by instituting some sort of centrally controlled state economy. Socialism, communism and fascism all attempted, in different ways, to create new and better societies through assigning people roles and resources rather than allowing their allocation to occur through a decentralized system of millions of individual decisions taking place independently every day.
Perhaps this is the great modern temptation. People looked at the incredibly intricate (sometimes seemingly orderless) organization of society resulting from custom and the summed decisions of millions of individuals and thought, “Now we have the ability to plan all this instead and do it better!” Various sorts of ideologues tried to impose various sorts of new order on society, and conservatives dragged their feet and tried to keep things as they were, allowing people to make their own decision as they saw best whenever possible.
Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.
I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:
…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.
This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,
As the election becomes more a matter of history than immediate emotion, it is a good time for sober analysis of what went on in the 2008 election. Yuval Levin has a very good analysis in Commentary Magazine of the phenomenon that was Sarah Palin’s candidacy. In framing the controversy he makes an interesting distinction:
In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.
Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance.
Addressing how Palin’s candidacy turned this cultural fact into a firestorm, he says:
Bearing has an interesting post up which I suspect reflects the political experience of many serious Catholics over the last twenty five years. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’m quoting it extensively because I think the point she’s making is interesting and widely applicable:
I entered full communion with the Catholic church at the Easter Vigil in 1993, when I was a freshman in college…. A couple of years after that, I had a second conversion in which I was forced to realize that I could not be simultaneously a believing Catholic and a supporter of legal abortion. (Why it took me so long is another story again. Hint: There were some serious problems in that particular RCIA program.)
Being a contarian sort of creature, I’ve been wanting for some time to write a post on why the progressive instinct is sometimes the right one. I’m quite certain that neither conservatism nor progressivism, properly understood, is the only possible view for the moral and reasonable citizen — and yet I find myself impeded in this by being in fact a very temperamentally conservative person.
First off, I’d like to suggest that as most precisely used “conservative” and “progressive” (I’m avoiding the term “liberal” here because it strikes me as having an even more confusing and increasingly imprecise meaning) are very relative terms. The progressive seeks to change current social structures, attitudes and political institutions in order to make them better. He seeks to progress. Conservative seeks to preserve existing structures and institutions, and when he accedes to change he urges that it be done slowly in order to avoid the disruption which rapid change often results in.
I would argue that there are some times when we should follow the progressive instinct, others when we should clearly follow the conservative one, and many in which it is a matter of debate which should be followed.
President-Elect Obama used the word audacity a lot in his rise to the presidency but how much audacity does it take to be a liberal state senator, representing a liberal district, in a liberal state? True audacity is going against the odds and against the consensus on pundits. That is exactly what Joseph Cao did in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Cao is a devout Catholic Republican Vietnamese immigrant in an overwhelmingly African American and Democrat congressional district. Although his opponent is undoubtably corrupt politician facing serious indictments, he was still not given a chance at winning. Unfortunately, voters, especially it seems African American voters, often overlook these flaws in the name of some sort of racial solidarity. Nevertheless, Cao won! Let’s pray that he can help rebuild the wonderful city of New Orleans and provide true opportunity for its amazing people. Cao, like Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin, is already getting attention from Republican leadership as the future of the party.
Although Cao probably hasn’t even had a chance to organize his staff, yesterday I heard Al Sharpton say that he would be working to “fix” this situation. Seems for Sharpton and his ilk working with a person who cares about the district and its people is trumped by partisan and racial politics.
Eric wrote what I think is a very good and heartfelt post about Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform. Because this is exactly the sort of substantive discussion that American Catholic was intended to foster, I’d like to see if I can pick up some of the themes which he brought up and explore them specifically from a small government conservative and free market angle.
To start with, I’d like to make a distinction between levels of care, though such things are always slippery because medical science advances so rapidly in our modern world. First, there is basic health care. This includes most of the healthcare which goes on most of the time in the US — unless you’re well outside the norm it’s probably all that you’ve needed within the last year.
Everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is that the GOP lacks these days. Kathleen Parker seems to think that the big problem is its lack of a columnist with the prose style, intellectual rigor and cultural sensibilities of a Maureen Dowd — and in her most recent Washington Post column she tries to fill that void. [HT: Cranky Conservative]
As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.
Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.
I’m bathing in holy water as I type.
To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.
Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.
Goodness knows, there are lots of ways that liberals and conservatives manage to annoy each other. Still, one that has struck me recently is an odd sort of bragging rights.
One of the main divisions between these groups at this point in time is over how the less vulnerable in society are best provided with care. The liberal view is generally that comprehensive government programs should be set up to assure that everyone in society has a certain basic level of food, income, medical care, housing, babysitting, rice pudding, etc. The conservative view is generally that guaranteed government handouts create dependency and hurt people in the long run, and that short term help for those in trouble is generally better provided by family, church or private charity.
The problem comes when members of these two groups get together and start arguing about how to help others.
So we lost. I don’t like it a bit, but it’s not exactly a surprise, and there it is. What is one to make of it all?
The Historic Moment
A great many people have commented on the historic nature of a black man being elected president of the United States — when in some states he would not have been served at many lunch counters fifty years ago.
I’m glad that those who are deeply inspired by that are having their moment — people should realize that skin color is not a barrier to achievement in the US and if this helps people (black, brown and white) realize that, all to the good. I must admit, as a 29-year-old who grew up in the working class suburbs of Los Angeles, I’ve figured for basically all my life that it was simply a matter of time till we had our first black president, our first hispanic president, out first female president, etc.
Whether the next four years are spend under an Obama administration or a McCain administration, one thing that may be said with certainty is that conservatives are going to have to do some serious thinking over that time in order to come up with an agenda that can bring conservatives back into political success — and bring the GOP back into something like conservatism. Either administration will be enough to make principled conservatives cringe — though I think that an Obama one would visit greater damage upon the country.
There are lots of contenders out there wanting present the new conservative policies that will bring the GOP back to relevance. Ross Douthat is very much at the forefront of that, with his Grand New Party out in bookstores.
I’m perfectly fine with that… maybe she’s not the hope for the future of populist conservatism that many believe she is or was, but I’d rather have her in the mix than not. And while she certainly bears some responsibility for some of her poor performances in interviews, an equal amount goes to the campaign for mishandling those aspects of her rollout.
(HT: Rod Dreher.)
A good part of what I was trying to say in my Socialist post the other day concerned the relationship between precision in political rhetoric and its ability to persuade; in short, I think that “toned-down” rhetoric is more likely to convince an interlocutor (let alone an observer) of at least the plausibilty of one’s position than is the “speaking truth to power” approach.
There are two poles, I think, to Christian attitudes towards the state.
At the one pole is a catacomb mentality. Here Christians think of the state as an unrelievedly secular force, and they seek to render what they must unto Caesar while keeping themselves aloof from its corrupting influence.
At the other pole is what might be termed the New Jerusalem mentality, in which the Christian sees the state as a means to achieve a more just and loving society which will reinforce virtue.