October 4, 2009
- Conservatism: Know your frequency
Sam Tanenhaus has written a newly published book, The Death of Conservatism about the perceived demise of up-to-date traditional conservative thought and its preemption by movement conservativism. Tanenhaus is the editor of the New York Times Book Review and argues that the conservative movement collapsed under the presidency of Dubya, and that Obama’s victory in 2008 marked the beginning of a new liberal era in American politics.
Much of this farm has been plowed by others. Of course, every so often some pundit declares a movement, a fad, or even God to be dead. Within the timeframe from initial analysis by the pundit to publication of some article, book or other, the declaration almost always proves flawed. Every time party X wins the elections, party Y is declared “dead” by some pundit.
We have also heard from David Frum, and other talking heads lately that the passionate Republicanism of Glenn Beck, and Mark Levin, and the supposed Republican Party shift towards “pure Conservatism” is going to ensure that the Democrats have a complete win in 2010 and beyond. They would suggest that the Republican party take a more liberal, and “centrist” stance to find common ground with the hyper-liberals now in power.
The only problem is that this way of thinking disregards what the party stands for. And, as we have witnessed with the Tea Party movement, there is an unintended groundswell of impassioned conservatism that seems to be naturally unfolding and spreading among rank and file Americans. Whether Democrat, Independent or Republican, don’t confuse party affiliation with a governing philosophy.
Conservatism will always exist in America…if for no other reason than to counter-balance the excesses of the radical Left. Individual rights; limited Government; rule of law. The death of conservatism is a touching illusion of the left. Today though, it seems true conservatism mostly survives within the hearts and minds of everyday Americans, and only within a handful of our elected officials. As long as the people aspire to live free – conservatism will always have a home.
Yet, most people are not one hundred percent one thing. The truth is most people are mixtures of certain philosophies or viewpoints depending on the subject. But they still have a core belief system or unbending principles. The party can take solace knowing that over three-quarters of voters place themselves on the center-right of our political spectrum. Yet, just as good people are leading lives unconnected with their core values, too many conservatives are leading lives unconnected with their core principles. They have abandoned their ‘frequency.’
Party Affiliation versus Philosophy
Conservatism, of course, is a governing philosophy, not a political party. Many have come to a point in their life where party identification has become far less important to them than Founding Principles. Many have taken to simply calling themselves an American, an independent or a conservative, instead of a Republican. Regardless, a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is occurring right now. And, some independent voters, critical to any revival of GOP fortunes, by definition, are not motivated by ideology or overall brand but rather the candidate and issues. Independents or unaffiliated voters, who fled Bush’s 2nd term are now fleeing Obama’s big spending, debt-ridden, government expansion ways.
A true independent can be defined as someone who votes for the person they think is best for the job, be it Democrat, Republican, or another party’s candidate. While few Americans lack a party preference, independent-minded or unaffiliated voters are more inclined to judge candidates on their individual merit than party loyalty or identification. I remain dedicated to building up the Republican Party which is the only national institution equipped to fight and oppose the Barry socialistic agenda of the Democratic Party.
In contrast to RINO’s (Republican In Name Only), who have no registry party, Libertarians have the Libertarian Party. Yet, most voters who hold libertarian views don’t vote for the Libertarian Party. They are broadly defined as people who favor less government in both economic and personal issues and might be summed up as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” voters. Libertarians, who are 15 percent of actual voters, have often given 70 percent or more of their votes to Republican candidates, including George W. Bush in 2000. To put this in perspective, the libertarian vote is about the same size as the religious right vote measured in exit polls, and it is subject to swings more than three times as large.
Third parties will not and do not work. They are, by definition foolishness. While everyone should exercise their right to vote, the problem for third parties goes beyond the electoral college. The system does not encourage multi-party development, because it doesn’t have proportional representation and doesn’t have instant-runoff voting. And, their issues can too easily get absorbed by one of the two major parties, marginalizing third parties staying power. The end result is often becoming so-called spoilers or a wasted vote. For many, a wasted vote is a vote for the status quo and that can be represented by either of the major candidates or parties.
Know Your Frequency
Core conservative values are found in the fundamental tenets of Judeo-Christian tradition and thought: that all individual rights are “natural rights”, in other words, we are born with them. These natural rights are bestowed upon us by God, NOT by government. If our rights were given to us by the government, then the government could alter them on a whim. Our God-given, natural rights include the right to life, liberty and freedom, and the right to defend ourselves, our homes, and our property.
Core conservative values include limited government interference in our family lives and businesses: low taxes, strong defense of our borders and national sovereignty, tough penalties for criminal acts, defense of traditional marriage and family as the bedrock of society, parents’ right to raise and educate their children as they deem fit, and strong protection of all our individual and states’ rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights and all of our Constitution.
As Rush Limbaugh told the CPAC crowd:
‘We need no new policy ideas. Conservatism cannot be reshaped or reformed, and those who suggest otherwise must be “stamped out.”’
In other words, true conservatism has unbending principles. Conservatism, when expressed clearly and without apology, is the only ideological choice that recognizes and promotes freedom and liberty for all citizens, not just selected groups. No left turns, there is only one direction. Knowing your ‘frequency’ requires you to know what you stand for; your unbending principles; and your core values. If you don’t own your own mind, who does? A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.
Applying basic principles of critical thinking allows one to evaluate whether one is the real owner of their mind or are in fact letting others tell us what to think through party identification. Two relevant principles here are “analyze your own assumptions and biases,” and then “examine the evidence and consider alternatives.” For sake of discussion, and putting whatever semantics you may have aside, lets say that ‘conservatism’ consist of five basic tenets:
1) a belief in traditional moral values, and a fierce opposition to any form of moral relativism;
2) a belief in individual liberty and freedom, balanced by duty to others and personal responsibility for one’s own actions;
3) a belief in a strong national and individual defense as a bulwark against tyranny from within and totalitarianism from without.
4) a belief in limiting the size and scope of government and low taxes.
5) a belief in economic freedom and the free-flow of markets and trade
Reagan himself stated that conservatism is a ‘three-legged stool’ comprised of a strong defense, a strong economy and strong social values. Anything short of that and the GOP marginalizes its coalition as it collapses when any of the legs are missing. Case in point: the top three GOP contestants in the 2008 election were each emblematic of one of the legs of the stool, and each attempted to shore up their standing with the other two “legs”:
… Mike Huckabee: Social leg
... John McCain: Defense leg
… Mitt Romney: Economic leg
Of course, any comparison to the above mentioned being a Reagan conservative would be offensive. Party leaders who spend a lifetime advocating conservative principles only to throw them away to embrace a particular said candidate marginalizes and fractures its base. The Republican Party of the last decade has been fully complicit in the watering down of its conservative principles by moving the party more and more to the left, abandoning its platform and rewarding loyalty to the next in line. Conservatism is a set of principles and ideals that are true and timeless in both campaigning and governing. And, as Limbaugh says: “They don’t float, they don’t bend, they don’t shape.”
Conservatism cannot be redefined to fit the mold of whoever the candidate is. If you review a politicians past history honestly, it is easy to start weeding out certain candidates based on his or her past record and deeds. Conversely, it’s also easy to identify a candidate who shares your core beliefs and has the vision that you expect to lead the party – or have cast your vote. Do you have unbending principles? If you don’t, then don’t expect the candidate you voted for to.
Republic versus Democracy
As Lord Acton said, historical thought is far more important than historical knowledge. Historical thought is using the lessons of history to understand the present and to make decisions for the future. In other words, it was by using history as an analytical tool and making use of the lessons of history that our founders brought our Constitution into being.
All liberals and some conservatives would do well to study the classics. Compare the Greek’s failed Democracy to the Roman’s failed Republic. They both end in tragedy as unfettered Democracy leads to ‘mob’ rule, which then leads to an Oligarchy (Oppression). The clear distinction between the Greek and the Roman governments is that the Roman Republic lasted longer and was the envy of the world. It wasn’t until the Roman Republic allowed LIBERALS to kill the Republic by becoming a pure Democracy (mob rule). This then led to an Oligarchy (the reign of the Caesars), and eventually the Roman Empire collapsed under its own bureaucratic, liberal weight. Quite simply, the Roman government tried to give the people too many entitlements and then had to oppress the people just to maintain them.
This is the reality that our Founding Fathers were great students of. They understood that a Democracy would ultimately crumble under its own weight. This is why you will not find the words ‘Democracy’ anywhere in the Constitution. But you will find the word ‘Republic’. You can also read the Federalist Papers, where you will also find the Founders clearly warning against pure Democracy. And in the end, this is why we have the 10th Amendment.
So, conservatism is not dead. What is dead is the misguided straying away from and attempts to redefine conservatism. True Conservatism seeks limited government, individual liberty, and the preservation of the Republic (from the Latin translation Rule of Laws). Democracy (from the Latin translation Rule of the People) seeks to destroy the Republic, destroy individual liberty, and ultimately establish an Oligarchy… or oppression.
To date, a representative Republic is THE most successful and humane form of government the world has every known. There is not ‘one’ successful Democracy (in its pure form) that hasn’t been consigned to the ash-heap of history (name one if you can). Therefore, our Founding Fathers gave us the gift of a Republic, not a Democracy. It is true conservatism that seeks to maintain our Republic. Liberalism and liberal paternalism is Tyranny, and our Founders astutely new that. It is too bad that we don’t teach the classics to our children.
Agree with me in spirit here; if you’re going to lose an election at the national level, if you’re going to lose at the local level, if you are going to lose on a vote cast in Congress, its better to go down articulating a clear philosophy and core principle. If you don’t see a demarcation point in the philosophy and voting between the parties then one of the two has lost its party identification. Appeasement doesn’t work. Such is the case with the Republicans and the GOP hierarchy, who over time, have moved to the left and lost their way.
The political landscape is littered with false choices. And, the world seems to be full of liberals who helpfully want to redefine conservatism. Well, thanks, but no thanks. The canyon between conservatism and Progressivism is vast and having any rational discussion of the merits of big government with one who is blinded with Statist ideology is nonsensical. All the Republicans need is a candidate who resonates with conservative and independent voters. At this point, I don’t think it will come from the people who are essentially arguing for a return to Rockefeller Republicanism.
When it comes to the government, there is nothing more compassionate than pure conservatism itself as it allows one to control their lives without interference. It’s about free markets, limited government, individual liberty, rule of law and traditional Judeo-Christian values that win votes and elections for the GOP. When Republicans become Progressive light, they go nowhere and our Republic suffers. The basic betrayal of conservative principles by conservatives themselves, the GOP hierarchy and the Beltway ‘elite’ illustrates how party lines have become more important – than what the party stands for.
Conservatism did not lose the last election in 2008, conservatives did. As witnessed in 2010 mid-term elections, conservatism wins. Conservative principles are timeless, and will outlast any politician. The timeless principles of conservatism are right and remain right regardless of what the New York Times Tanenhaus and the mainstream media, Frum, Brooks, Parker, Noonan, and even RINO’s McCain, Graham and Powell might tell you. Conservatism is way of thinking that precedes the Republican Party. Values are held accordingly. The rapid fall in Obama’s popularity makes evident that the powerfully conservative convictions of the American rank and file are alive and well.
Consider this: Jefferson was a Democratic Republican. Adams was a Federalist. Lincoln was a Whig turned Republican. Teddy Roosevelt was Republican turned progressive. Goldwater was a reactionary turned libertarian. Von Mises called himself a liberal. Label-thinking displaces critical thinking.
Know your frequency.