By David Beilstein
I HAVE spent a fare amount of time trying to write about the proper parameters of government from a classical liberal perspective. Likewise, I have tried to clarify how what calls itself conservatism in America today, rejects unwittingly, the confines of government action because of legitimate fear of cultural impoverishment and its inherent consequences on the populous at large.
In outlining some of my concerns, I have pushed for what calls itself ‘social conservatism’ to be pushed to the state level; where individual states have the jurisdiction to elaborate on policy issues, which the U.S. Constitution is indifferent to Federal statues. Such action then, is a more consistent application of classical liberalism, where federal power is broken up, decided upon by states within the laboratories of democracy they were intended to be. There is, also, an important political, and thus, communicative message for this position as well.
In our modern times, when political candidates run for office, the public conception of any candidacy becomes: “What’re you going to do?” Hence, the statements candidates make are translated to the American voters mind as things the candidate will do.
Thus, when Rick Santorum, labeled as a conservative by the media, goes on a warpath against contraceptives (completely legal, and outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution) or homosexuality being a sin, the public cannot help but identify such positions as potential policy positions. No wonder Santorum scares people – he scares me and I agree, privately, with many of his religious convictions. No matter. Consider also, such Santorum-esque candidates have littered the GOP for decades, birthed by the religious right. One can begin to see why more and more swaths of American voters see the GOP as a badly managed theocratic party; a wasp’s nest of fundamentalism.
Political fundamentalism is not classically liberal and it’s not pretty: see William Jennings Bryan.
It is best to get to the point. The U.S. Constitution does not have anything to say about contraceptives or homosexuality; it says little about all manner of things immoral or unwise – about consensual human behaviour in general. But when such topics become the hallmark of “conservative” campaign stump speeches, the idea such “conservatism” is about limited government and individual autonomy becomes laughable to the public at large. While Mitt Romney did a good job avoiding this cliff, his party has not for decades, and Nov. 6 was the result of a bad joke gone horribly wrong for Republicans. A failed and political vulnerable president was reelected because the GOP guaranteed such turn of events decades ago.
Far as I can tell, historically, government has never turned around an immoral culture – especially in a free society. It has (and does) assist in that culture, i.e., society, becoming more immoral. In terms of national politics then, the kind of social conservatism that is relevant and faithful to the constitutional law of our republic, is, one that seeks to eliminate intrusive government that is causation to moral illness.
Most of laws fertilising an increasing immorality in our civitas are state sanctioned, thus, they must be fought at the state level. Other ones, like the Federal government forcing banks to make loans to folks who could not afford them were never even talked about until after the financial crisis of 2008. Republicans and conservatives, minus a small pack of fiscal conservatives and libertarians, were too busy about all manner of private bedroom issues instead of fixing the law their duties entailed. Getting rid of a law that impoverished millions, which is a social issue, would have been intimately more valuable than Rick Santorum’s bur in the saddle about contraceptives, homosexuality, and thus Santorum’s political conservative apostasy of needing the government in the bedroom.
If the mortgage crisis had not surfaced, Barack Obama would probably not have become president; if not president; Obama would not have been reelected this past November.
Since politics is really about What’re you going to do, Jack? – conservatives have a clear mandate – an attractive one, too. When it comes to national politics, if it isn’t in the U.S. Constitution, it isn’t the business of candidates calling themselves conservative, and running for high office. It’s that simple. The logic of this is self-explanatory. But because the GOP cannot seem to produce candidates who run on the business of the U.S. Constitution, it occurs readily in the mind something is amiss.
Yes, because too many conservatives, are not conservative. We keep coming back to this, but it’s true. And the more the media calls big government, fundamentalist panegyrics, “conservative” politics and governing solutions, the worse it’s going to get for America. Too many conservatives, in and around the GOP, are not interested in the enumerated jurisdictions of the constitution; for they too, like statist Democrats, see politics as the end all and be all of human experience and purpose. Such sentimentality is not conservative. Statist government has been politically effective for the Democratic Party of late because the DNC isn’t lost in the past like too many voters perceive the GOP as being stuck. Also, the DNC has in some ways more faithfully preserved islands of separation, unafraid of everybody in America being “this” or “that” and concentrating instead on middle-class economic issues. Of course, progressive policies have etiolated the fortunes of the middle class and the working poor – but in politics you get a lot of points for talking about it. Such realities lie at the heart of race issues as well. The DNC recognises black people have unique views and experiences; challenges also. The GOP constantly talks about a colour-blind society. Again, the DNC recognises diversity, the GOP sounds out of air and out of time on race. They throw a gaggle of minority candidates upon the GOP convention stage.
Certainly, I believe progressivism has been a great and mighty hindrance to Negro American improvement – but like before, Gentlemens! you get points for talking about it.
Imagine for a second, one candidate, a Democrat, talking about rising college tuition, stagnant middle class income, healthcare expenses, etc. – with plans to address those issues? Then take a gander over at someone like Rick Santorum or other flat earth Republicans pounding lectern and spitting saliva about contraceptives, the Devil, and homosexuality, etc. Add to this, the Republican is also probably going to say “no” to all the Democratic candidates policy proposals. The progressive, collectivist policies are no doubt foolish – but “no” is not an alternative, nor a fixing of the problem. For the Democrat candidate is right in one sense: there are problems effecting millions!
So “no” doesn’t cut it. And even if homosexuality is viewed by a majority of Americans as “unnatural”; there is a liberalism in Americans, of the classical bent, which does not want those feelings politicised.
There is much work to be done. A slew of nasty, flat earth Republican office holders and candidates remain. They should be driven from the party with vigorousness – out on rail and lit on proverbial fire. It will not happen soon, but the process should begin. And politics does have a particular meaning and context; it is a limited one. The GOP must respect that; there is a limit to what government can do in this penultimate age. Its limitation is a virtue for everyone – but where it’s duties reside, competence is pulchritude. The GOP must release its social conservative tentacles to mediating organisations locally (Wendell Berry’s books and essays come to mind) getting back to the business of government laid out beautifully in the U.S. Constitution.