By DAVID BEILSTEIN
In the June 17 issue of National Review, Jonah Goldberg reviewed Kevin D Williamson’s new book, The End is Near and it’s Going To Awesome.
In a punctiliously written review, Goldberg sets forth a splendid amount of ideological interplay between Deweyism and Nokienism—the difference between the State and the Founder’s conception of government.
Goldberg’s stellar review helps define the ills, which upon inspection, reign throughout our republic’s contemporary political landscape. But what interests this author more, perhaps, is the absence of such insights within Republican/conservative campaigns for national elected office.
On this blog, I have myself often put forth the idea Republicans and the mainstream conservative movement skirts challenging the premise of the State, held by the Democratic left.
In a word, Republicans (especially presidential candidates) have simply argued over the acreage belonging to the State—who welds its power—rather than using rhetorical flourish and polemical muscle to put forth an alternative view of the machinery of civil authority.
Such an explanation of civil machinery need reject the idea of the State in favor of the founder’s conception of constitutional government. The gold—as it were—in Goldberg’s review, is the explication of what government is in comparison to the conception of the State.
The State, understood correctly, means telling people what to do and what can be done. Government, on the other hand, protects borders and shores, and helps animate and secure individual rights.
A chasm exists between these two rival conceptions of civil authority.
Statism is inevitably coercive. Government hemmed in by constitutionally enumerated powers seek to limit coercion by limiting governmental authority to external, penultimate concerns, and by breaking up power through co-equal, but limited, branches of government.
Such an understanding of government verses the idea of the state has an immense effect upon the policies and political action individuals take. For instance, I have become convinced for quite some time the idea of the culture war—and those conservatives who fight it—submits to the conception of the State, rather than the Founder’s idea of constitutional government. The reason is, the culture war is based upon social engineering premises—and further, it allows social issues having nothing to do with borders, security, or individual rights, to be the acreage of the State, something the state must direct and govern. This necessarily submits to the idea of social engineering from the top—and more easily turns to tyranny.
What we have (it seems) is a battle between what direction the State will rule over people’s lives—ever increasing—in our politics, and not an argument articulating the limitation of government borders, preventing the rise of the State.
The conception of the State also assumes social planners, detached from individual life, can plan other people’s lives regardless of life’s teeming complexity, better than individuals can.
Few Americans, regardless of Barack Obama’s reelection, believe this. But so-called conservatives, minus the early years of Reagan’s leadership, have never ran a campaign strictly upon such sage polemical discourse.
Presidential contender Romney never put forth that argument. When Goldberg wrote about Romney’s campaign lacking big ideas (and presidential elections should be about big ideas, big ideological ideas!) this is the kind of baseball—as it were—the good Jewish conservative was talking about.
Such ideological wrestling is prescient in our time. The morass of scandals enjoined hip to joint to the Obama administration, to put it bluntly, stem from the State, not constitutional government. Many now see. And many now ask of the I.RS. scandal, the NSA debacle; the wiretapping scandal—a titanic infringement upon first amendment civil rights—is this America?
Yes, it is America. The US of A with a State, not a constitutional government. This is what that looks like, ladies and gentlemen. But Republicans and pop conservatives alike, have done little to articulate that difference. For the past twenty-five years, mainstream conservatives have not dismantled nor argued against the premise of the State, and what it portends.
Conservative literature has. Libertarian, too. Candidates, not so much. Not lately.
The current scandals may expose Pres. Barack Obama and his administration. But they expose, far more it seems, what normal people do with a big, bloated government with too much power. Politically then, Republicans must run against the idea of the State(ism)—in favor of government properly comprehended—rather than populist harangues against rubes like Barry Obama who come and go with the winds of time.
We have Statist Republicans too. Too many to be exact. Many of them call themselves conservative, and yet have been instrumental in the expansion of the state and denudation of constitutional government. Such so-called conservatives, often moralistic pretenders, have greedily warred to be in control of the State, not rebels pining for reform and dismantlement of the statist edifice.
As stated many times before, the consequences have been ruinous to the country and have banished Republicans and many conservatives to Never, Never Land, electorally. Be it said. What has called itself conservative has been a witch’s brew of identity politics, bible thumping panegyrics, and prayer in school hysteria. The pervasive idea of the social gospel by social conservatives—which has nothing to do with the sacred gospel of Holy Writ—is inimical to the founder’s conception of secular (non-ecclesiastical) civil governance. When it does, (see Exhibit A, Pres. Woodrow Wilson) tyranny reigns.
Evangelical’s have two immense errors clouding their judgment. One political, another theological. Both give rise to large errors when it comes to political discourse as well as the approprieate function of religion in a secular republic. (Evangelicals after all, make up a majority of what is considered the religious right). Thus, practically, a lack of distinction between the sacred and the secular, and further, the removal of the Messianic and ecclesiastical context of Sacred Scripture enraptures socially conservative politics. In such a schema, evangelicals assume tyranny cannot come from Christianity. From here, it seems, any Christianity becomes good in the eyes of many socially conservative evangelicals.
Such a dynamic misapplies the law-gospel hermeneutic of Holy Writ, but also trivialises historical fact. The religious wars of the middle ages, which drove the pilgrims to new shores in North America, prove tyranny can abound—does indeed abound—in “good” belief systems.
I myself am convinced of thus: Pres. Woodrow Wilson was not a conservative, but our nation’s first fascist President; and Heavens, the man bible thumped better than Jerry Falwell and a cadre of religious right-ers on horseback with pitchforks. Most social conservatives today, sadly, could echo much of Pres. Wilson’s ideas about the state and about religion—which is not conservatism, and more importantly to the Christian saint, not biblical Christianity.
Until Republicans and conservatives collectively challenge the anti-constitutionality of the State, they will continue to be a party adrift in irrelevance. In essence, Republicans and mainstream conservatives a like, will continue to be a pastiche of irritating banality, rather than a classical liberal ideological movement with teeth—and thus, electoral success.