By Robert L. Capehert
Talk about depressing.
Recently, over at Reason.com, our fellow libertarians (whom often get a thing right now and again) posted a column originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch out of the commonwealth of Virginia, written by A. Barton Hinkle — a dependable, erudite, classical liberal himself.
Mr Hinkle’s article entitled, “Virginia Election Offers A Real-World Test Of Conservative theory,” describes three would-be Virginia “conservatives,” whom Mr Hinkle refers as adamantine when it comes to conservative principals, and lack, to conservative entheos, the RINO characteristics which have plagued moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney and before him, Sen. John McCain.
Hinkle starts simply enough, laying out a thesis I myself believe to be true — all things being equal. Perhaps it would be good to keep in mind, however, that life is hardly equal.
Nevertheless, Hinkle observes,
You heard this again and again after Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama. “When conservative principles are the focal point of the election, they win,” wrote Michael Walsh in National Review. “When ‘electability’ and ‘reaching across the aisle’ are personified in a middling candidate at the presidential level, they lose.” The trouble with Romney, Walsh continued, was that he “spectacularly refused to engage the Democrats on an ideological level.”
Red State’s Erick Erickson seconded that motion: “Romney barely took on Barack Obama,” he wrote as the electoral dust settled. “He drew few lines in the sand, made those fungible, and did not stand on many principles.” A few days later, he repeated the message: “Mitt Romney tried to blur lines with Barack Obama. He did not defend social conservatism…”
Chris Chocola, president of the Club For Growth, concurred: “The (Republican) party is rarely in a position to determine the best candidate. When you have someone who can articulate a clear, convincing, conservative message,” he wrote, “they win.”
Conservatism often attains victory when communicated effectively. Therefore, I can agree with many of the personalities Mr Hinkle quotes in support of his theory.
Still, conservatism is often miscommunicated. Especially recently!
The importance of effective communication in conservative politics is essential to its comprehension by voters. In recent times, for example, cultural identity politics which often incorporate fundamentalist vagaries of one form or another on the American “right” replaces a vigorous debate about the role of government in American life.
The consequences of such befuddlement are severe. And they are a result of allowing cultural agendas rather than the U.S. Constitution nationally, and state constitutions locally, norm political expression and policy on the so-called American right.
Such cultural agendas become too easy for leftist statist candidates to straw-man fundamentalist-type conservative candidates on a host of social/cultural issues, illustrating for voters an ideology, a party, which is out of touch, and simply a collection of resentful barnyard petards whom desire to impose big government and it’s values on the private lives of American citizens. And now we come to Mr Hinkle’s description of whom these so-called “adamantine” conservatives are:
[Ken] Cuccinelli’s conservatism is unadulterated: He fought the EPA over climate change and filed the first state suit against Obamacare. He opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest; considers homosexuality “intrinsically wrong”; supports school choice, gun rights, and tax cuts; and takes a hard-line stance on illegal immigration. Three years ago, he even handed out lapel pins to his staff bearing a more demure version of the state seal — one that covered up the otherwise exposed breast of the Roman goddess Virtus. (Racy stuff, if you squint really hard.)
State Sen. Mark Obenshain, running for Attorney General, is less pugnacious but no less conservative than Cuccinelli. He has supported both fetal “personhood” legislation and requiring an ultrasound as a precondition of abortion; favors requiring a photo ID to vote; wants to drug-test welfare recipients; has a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union; and once introduced legislation permitting state regulators to yank the license of any business employing an illegal alien.
And then there is E.W. Jackson, the nominee for lieutenant governor, whose pronouncements on social issues go too far even for his running mates. An August Times-Dispatch profile summarized some of them, noting that Jackson has “linked homosexuality to pedophilia, called gays and lesbians ‘sick’ and ‘perverted,’ ridiculed President Barack Obama’s Christian faith and accused the Democratic Party of being ‘anti-God’. … Jackson (also has) said … ‘the Democrat Party and Planned Parenthood are partners in this genocide’” — i.e., the aborting of black children. Sunday before last, he suggested people of non-Christian faiths practice a “false religion.”
Much of this is troubling. There is so much one would never confuse with “protecting” a free society (conserving the freedom of free minds) wafting out of the populous bromides of these “conservatives” it is difficult to know where to begin. But, I will start with the good. The policies which government should be about, or should not in the case of the EPA, are solidly limited government positions.
It is the social fundamentalism, on a political ticket that is the troubling news here. In a nation that upholds freedom of religion, which is enshrined in our rule of law — the U.S. Constitution — (in the first Amendment!) what is the basis for describing other religions as false? What is the basis (besides protecting the free expression of religion) of putting Pres. Barack Obama and Christianity in the same sentence in a positive way, or negatively?
The other problem is theological and stems from a Christian faith unmoored from any discernible basis in biblical theological differences between the Sacred and the secular; the Holy and the profane.
Isn’t Christianity otherworldly, as Christ speaks in Sacred Scripture in St John’s Gospel? His kingdom is not of this world? The Son of God rules His Church by powers outside all human control or means; a constitution not of the secular, but of the Sacred. Is not Christianity to be understood not by political party, but of the Word of God, the Church — and the bread and wine of our Lord, for those whom believe — a foretaste of the powers of the Age to Come (Hebrews), which are most assuredly, not of this world?
When we comes to the hyperbole about homosexuality on the so-called American right we come to worse problems. If one is a minister of God in Christ’s Church, or called to evangelism, what Christianity teaches about homosexuality irregardless of cultural attitude is essential to the CHurch’s witness. But at the social level what is a politician doing standing on such a platform as homosexuality is intrinsically evil?
The role of mediating associations, or our social life, is to teach the building blocks of virtue and character, etc. But in order to protect against tyranny, we have decided as a people to decouple value judgments and ultimate authorities from the role of civil authority.
When one runs for governor or any state office, one is seeking to represent all people in a given electoral district and defend and protect individual’s constitutional rights, whether they be mistaken or not. Since we as a nation have agreed not to arrest people of homosexual persuasion, allowing them equal rights under the law. Therefore, it strikes one as pointless to have such a political position. If it’s not part of the duty of the civil magistrate to determine whether homosexuality is right or wrong — why do dopey conservative candidates insist on bombing campaigns with such brainless bromides?
In a word: Why divide people along issues outside state constitutions, or the U.S. Constitution in general? Those “issues” of conscious should be outside of government purview to begin with. One cannot consistently hold to limited government when one’s ideology is firmly based upon pontificating various detailed positions on things outside of Constitutional parameters!
If the reason is religious, then why not say not keeping the Sabbath is “evil.” Or not tithing 10 percent of one’s income? Or not bowing in faith and repentance to the Son of God, Christ the Lord, which Christianity demands?
Or fornication? Or selfishness? Or greed?
And what exactly does the Constitution say about these issues?
Still, many American conservatives pride themselves on being Constitutional — then turn around and run these populous campaigns filled with “red meat” which cannot possibly be defended by the Constitution because the U.S. Constitution leaves such issues up to individual conscious on one hand and individual state law on the other.
Even with that consideration in mind, the U.S. Constitution does hold one’s own body as their own property and what they do with it is not the state’s business in matters of private discourse.
All of this adds up to an ideological shuck and jive dance immensely unserious and laughable as a political arm of conserving our constitutional framework. Worse, over the last 20 years it has been this type of “gas” calling itself conservatism which claims to be connected to the same kind intellectual tether as William F. Buckley, Jr., and Barry Goldwater — a half-wit assertion that cannot be maintained when one reads these men’s writings and listens to their numerous speeches about conservatism.
Mr Hinkle then concludes with the “wait and see” punch in the “conservative” gut.
Talk about drawing lines in the sand. These are not milquetoast conservatives, hand-picked by country-club RINOs. These are red-meat conservatives of crystalline purity and adamantine resolve — picked at a tea party-heavy convention attended by 13,000 of “the most strident voices in” the GOP, as a Bolling spokeman put it back in May.
After years of enduring candidates too moderate for their tastes, fire-and-brimstone conservatives have the ticket they always dreamed of — precisely the sort of Republican ticket, they insist, that wins elections. It is also precisely the sort of Republican ticket dreamed of by Democrats — who, believing the GOP slate is far too extreme for any rational voter to support, have made its conservative principles the focal point of the election.
In 34 days, we’ll find out whose theory is right.
Nice of Mr Hinkle to stick the fork in…sloooowly.
But numerous problems with Mr Hinkle’s exist. The first one is the one that continues to plague the conservative movement — that is, what folks mean by being really conservative isn’t so much conservative, but cultural fundamentalism unpacked above. True, fundamentalism goes in and out of style in some places, but it is not all that popular in general — and it contains antibodies which are nevertheless authoritarian in more than a few years. Moreover, it becomes antithetical to a free society when imposed on others outside such beliefs and claims.
Just as importantly, one should keep in mind that a person can be very conservative and not be fundamentalist at all. Fundamentalism. therefore, is often confused about what it means to be a “conserver” of classical liberalism.
Fundamentalism might be what conservatism has become in too many instances, which is decidedly tragic. And I would suggest that is why conservatives are no longer winning national elections effectively. Instead, conservatives of our recent times often lose winnable elections mainly because statist campaigns tilled with the earth of scare tactics mimicking conservatives as back-woods fundamentalists whom the public understandable decries as unelectable.
Which brings us back to Mr Hinkle’s article. Much of of what made these conservatives “adamantine” in Mr Hinkle’s fertile libertarian brain (to repeat Hinkle’s adjective) can hardly be suggested by observers to be the statements of folks who value freedom of religion, and freedom of the individual. Civilly speaking, there is no such thing as “false religion” because separation of Church and state decouples such judgments from being made by civil government.
The limited statement that conservatism wins when it is run on is often true. But what is calling itself “conservative” has enormous inconsistencies with the intellectual history of American conservatism.
Yes, Mitt Romney and John McCain and other moderate Republicans are a problem. And moderate Republicans often lose national elections because they have none of the ideological firepower to dismantle the ideology of the progressive left.
But bare “reaction-ism” should not be the compromise conservatives make either. And cultural/social “conservatism” which fires itself up on value judgments and positions the U.S. Constitution leaves to free citizens whom occupy free markets with free minds have liberty to to make up their mind about. Thus, such issues are removed from governmental purview purposely by the founder’s vision and should not therefore define a political philosophy based upon the preservation and animation of a Constitutional Republic.