Reuniting the Right

Conservative, CRDaily, Politics

In his new book, The Conservatarian Manifesto, Charles C. W. Cooke proffers a bright and eloquent vision for the future of the political Right – one that recognizes the mistakes of Bush-era centralization, but that maintains a fierce reliance upon the great tenets of traditional conservatism. Of course, the evolutionary process is not so simple, and if one wishes to follow Cooke’s advice for forging a renewed philosophical groundwork, one has to also reject the typical pundit’s lazy predictions regarding the Right’s great, unassailable divide. Accordingly, in its refreshing and lively way, The Conservatarian Manifesto considers a few powerful reasons for doing so: On the one hand, conservatives and libertarians must recognize the importance of their mutual respect for individual rights and limited government; on the other, they must defend the concept of federalism and convince the public that what California does is not necessarily so confining for Texas or North Carolina. At the end of the day, the Right ought to draw comfort from the fact that the political environment with which it is presented is, after the Obama years, ripe for change.

The book begins, though, by clearing up some of the stickier misconceptions about political ideology within the American system: While modern liberalism effectively boils down to an ardent belief in centralizing power and in government intervention, conservatism takes the classically liberal tradition and reinterprets it in a twenty-first-century context. Many observers consider this to mean that those on the Right want to keep all sorts of traditions, going as far back as you wish; but as Cooke points out, conservatives want to preserve the radical philosophy of the Founders – not tradition for its own sake, but rather the American tradition specifically because the Constitution does a wonderful job of codifying individual rights and preserving liberty.

Inasmuch as it dislikes the slowness of conservative change, however, libertarianism is different, thoroughly rejecting the Burkean, “socially conservative” element of the Right by opposing the Drug War and defending a more secular conception of marriage. According to Cooke, a conservatarian is someone whose opinions are torn between these two philosophies, not quite finding either one of them entirely convincing – whose motivation is “to render the American framework of government as free as possible and to decentralize power, returning the important rights to where they belong.” Cooke concludes, “This way can many of the cracks between the libertarians and the conservatives be mended.”

As such, the importance of federalism cannot be overstated, especially since it may be the key to bringing about a firmer cohesiveness between Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians. With regard to social issues, for example – a conflation that Cooke finds useless because it pretends as if the answers to abortion, gay marriage, and drugs are necessarily the same – federalism means that states can adopt policies that are particularized to the proclivities of their own people, without upsetting too much their friends in adjoining states. It may be true that a conservatarian is most likely to support gay marriage, and to oppose a Drug War that needlessly interferes with the private consumption of goods; but the key is to recognize that if the federal government got out of the way, the states could act as laboratories of democracy in which localism and bifurcation of power are respected. Under such a framework, social issues would not be so divisive, and conservatives and libertarians would be able to unite around a philosophy of returned power to the states. Although a good portion of The Conservatarian Manifesto is dedicated to Cooke’s own views regarding such issues as immigration, foreign policy, gay marriage, and the Drug War, its argument’s ultimate reliance is upon the beautiful notion of federalism.

But perhaps the most inspiring takeaway from Cooke’s writing is the way in which it expresses the utter commonality of the Right: It may be difficult to say for sure whether government should recognize gay marriage, but it is easy to see how conservatives and libertarians, alike, love the Constitution. Instead of harping pessimistically about the supposed “great divide,” the media would do well to understand that Rand Paul and Scott Walker both care deeply about individual rights and free markets. And as long as this remains true, the Left ought to be gravely worried, for its vision of equality of outcome will be the Right’s common enemy – its excessive focus on bureaucratic dominance will be the scourge around which, Cooke is confident, the Right will gladly take a stand.

Liberals in Indiana

Conservative, CRDaily, Politics

In the face of all this quackery regarding Indiana’s new and controversial RFRA – the one which takes further steps to protect religious freedoms – it is important to stay sane amongst all the leftist hysteria, to ignore the largely ignorant but nevertheless incessant whining emerging from hacks all over the web. In order to do so, however, one needs to understand the actual implications of the law, as divorced from what one might assume the law to entail.

First off, Indiana’s RFRA has been written, as I understand it, in the tradition of the federal RFRA that was signed into law by President Clinton, of all people. A slew of states already have similar laws with comparable aims – and have not received nearly as much backlash as has Indiana, because … well, you know … it wasn’t fashionable at the time to do so – showing in a definitive sense the extent to which the United States relies upon federalism. Many states may not feel that the federal provision goes far enough, or perhaps they think they need more idiosyncratic renderings of the principle in order to more fully protect their religious citizens; but whatever their reasons, the point is that as constitutionally guaranteed institutions of government, they have every right to take initiative in this area.

A second element to consider, of course, is the actual content of the law, which seems to me to have been simply enough explained by experts in the field so as to leave little room for confusion. In short, Indiana’s RFRA – according specifically to an article written for The Federalist by Gabriel Malor, an attorney in the DC area – was designed to provide courts with a framework through which they may better consider cases involving religious freedom. In the main, those who sue entities that make some claim of religious liberty for undertaking – or refusing to undertake – a particular action will have to convince judges and juries that the government has compelling reason to prevent the religious from citing their beliefs as safeguards. So, should a religious person claim that consuming a substance banned by Indiana state law is something necessarily commanded by his or her religion (to take an example from Malor’s piece), this law would force plaintiffs to provide a compelling reason to force that religious person from consuming the substance. If such an activity isn’t really affecting anyone else, then it is likely the courts will use the RFRA to protect the person’s religious liberty – not to ensure their performance of any discrimination prevented by the Civil Rights Act.

Of course, were the religious owners of a restaurant to try and refuse service to homosexuals (which they aren’t at all, in the first place), it would be very difficult for courts to use the RFRA to justify their claims – for not only are innocent third parties perniciously affected by an activity of that sort, but such would also set a dangerous precedent for the future of anti-discrimination law in the United States. But is that how the Left around the nation has consistently been interpreting the situation?

To be blunt and precise, no. Liberals have been acting as if the RFRA was drafted secretly in a church by fundamentalist law-makers who want to undermine civil-rights precedent. They know that it is not true, but it doesn’t really matter since the whole purpose of progressivism in the first place is to blankly oppose tradition in any area of life, no matter how respectable or frivolous. And so it is important to remember that which is becoming increasingly accurate when describing the Left: The true liberals in Indiana are not the ones who scream against First-Amendment protections, or who act as if any attempt to preserve America’s classically liberal traditions are necessarily discriminatory; the true liberals are those who understand the importance of allowing those with whom you disagree to carry on with their personal activity. For who wants to live in a country in which the feelings of some outweigh the Lockean natural rights of others?

The Danger of Cultural Relativism in our Foreign Policy

Conservative, Politics

Much is being made of the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran, warning them that any agreement reached with President Obama is not guaranteed to last past 2016, when there will be a new president in the White House. Some question the legality of this move, others its wisdom and what precedent it might set for future diplomatic negotiations with the United States. There is even a petition at whitehouse.gov calling for criminal charges against the 47, accompanied by cries of treason and claims of an “unprecedented breach of protocol.” Now, regardless of how blatantly false, mendacious, and misguided these claims are, they neglect a far more important and politically far less expedient point: what those who support the President in this endeavor to sign an agreement with Iran are missing is the absolute and utter irrationality of such a deal.

Fundamentally – for anyone to advocate a formal agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program, one has to have faith that Iran will actually comply with the agreement. Given its history of failing to do so, what makes anyone think this time will be different? What, then, is the point of such an agreement? If you have that confidence in Iran, you’re not only kidding yourself, but you’re also putting millions of lives at risk (unless the goal is to lure them into some false sense of security and then catch them “red-handed”).

Others argue that “Iran has every right to nuclear capability” and ask, “who are we to deny them this right?” At its vey core, such a statement is rooted in a cultural relativist worldview. In other words, one has to wholeheartedly believe that nothing separates Iran from the United States, that our differences are merely “matters of perspective,” and that we, as the United States, “have no right to deny them” nuclear power or nuclear weapons. It is a worldview, a belief system that completely abdicates any notion of right or wrong and chalks up all such characterizations to “difference” and mere matters of opinion.

But if you live in the real world, you will realize that Iran is an unadulterated evil. Its leaders are hateful, cruel, and ruthless madmen who have repeatedly expressed their desire and intentions to exterminate both Israel, the United States, and all the Jews of the world. It is a state riddled with absolute contempt for the West. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to posit that many of its people feel similarly. Iran is dangerous and simply has not proven itself to be a reasonable, responsible, peace-seeking member of the global community. This is why Iran does not have any sort of “right” to nuclear weapons.

What makes us different –  what makes us deserving of having nuclear power? Our civility, our common sense, our compassion,  our preference for peace, harmony, democracy as opposed to fanatical war and destruction, and our institutions and Constitutional foundation. It is impossible to equate these two sets of characteristics and it is because of this that Iran simply does not “deserve” to have nuclear weapons (of course, ideally, there would be no nuclear weapons at all in the world, but that’s utopian).

And finally, if my claim that the United States is deserving while Iran is not offends you and makes you want to cry out that we as a nation are merely “different,” I invite you to go live in one of these countries (Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, etc.) that is merely “different” from ours for a year and to report back to us how “different” those experiences of yours were.

The Philosophical Inconsistenty of Race-Baiting Liberals

Conservative

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Utah Representative Mia Love, and retired pediatric neurosurgeon and GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson – what do these three established individuals have in common? Well, they’re all black conservatives. They’ve also been labeled “tokens” and “Uncle Toms” by a vast array of liberals and progressives who refuse to recant the accusation that conservatives and Republicans are, generally speaking, racist. What this effectively does is rob these wonderful people of their dignity and of their independence while simultaneously calling into question their intelligence and their integrity. Yet, even though these insults are fundamentally rooted in Scott’s, Love’s, and Carson’s race, no one ever accuses these liberals and progressives of being racist.

It is interesting, then, that when conservatives criticize a liberal black man or woman for their decisions, opinions, or policies, you can always hear murmurs (or very often, outright cries) of racism, or at least people openly entertaining the idea that “race probably plays a role here.” This is simply assumed as a matter of course.

What this sort of double-standard really comes down to is a form of prejudice against conservatives. It seems that a lot of people operate under the assumption that if someone is racist, they must be conservative, that, generally speaking, only conservatives can be racist. This is a judgment, an assumption that is made about conservatives.

It is striking that this particular type of judgment, this assumption based on political ideology, doesn’t bother liberals. After all, people make these “judgments” and “assumptions” based on skin color as well, and this has race-baiters (who are, without seeking to speak divisively, largely liberal) like Al Sharpton crying racism 24/7.

In effect, what liberals who assume racist motives among conservatives are doing is the same thing police officers sometimes do when they encounter a group of, for instance, young black males in a suspicious situation. In this instance, the police might make a judgment, an assumption (voluntarily or involuntarily) that, based on previous experience or because young black males commit a disproportionate number of crimes, these young black males they’ve encountered in a situation must be committing some sort of crime – regardless of whether this is actually the case. It’s an assumption, a judgment that is made (again, voluntarily or involuntarily) based, superficially, on the young men’s race.

Similarly, to get back to the original thought: liberals make assumptions and judgments about conservatives. The assumption/judgment becomes about ideology instead of race, but it remains an assumption and a judgment, so it’s operating using precisely the same principle.

Thus, to bring this full circle: race-baiting liberals who are constantly and without real cause accusing conservatives of racism are doing the exact same thing they criticize in others. They chide police officers for making assumptions based on a set of perceived experiences and call them racist, but then they go around and make the same assumptions about conservatives.

Ultimately, the point of this post is not to pompously declare that we must totally disallow assumption-making. That isn’t a reasonable proposition because we’re all human, and we all make assumptions and pronounce judgments (voluntarily and involuntarily) every time we assemble a thought. What we should strive for, however, is to encourage people to look past their assumptions and make a concerted effort to become more open-minded, so that given the time to contemplate an issue, we are not speaking or making decisions BASED ON those assumptions.

DHS Funding and Politics

Conservative, CRDaily, Politics

While I generally consider myself a proud Republican – and while I almost always defend both the tactics and policies of the Republicans Party whenever necessary – I very much dislike the idiotic political strategy congressional Republicans have been attempting to use with regard to funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the past few weeks. In short, House Republicans passed a bill that ties together a challenge to President Obama’s “executive amnesty” with money for the DHS, such that if a Democrat wishes to vote in favor of providing the necessary funding for that particular department, he or she must also make an indirect show of opposition toward the President’s immigration policy. The bill ended up passing the House easily, but was held up in the Senate due to Democrats’ obvious uneasiness with regard to its ridiculous stipulations. As an ultimate result, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has been forced to reject or separate the bill lest Republicans come across as if they are opposed to public, domestic safety. In other words, this was a losing proposition for Republicans, no matter how you look at it.

In my view, President Obama’s use of executive fiat to essentially change immigration law constitutes an egregious violation of the separation of powers, and I have made this clear on multiple occasions; however, I cannot support, nor understand, a political move which not only ends up making Republicans look stupid, but which also challenges the President’s policy in an entirely inappropriate manner.

It simply is not fair for either party to tie two disparate pieces of potential legislation – in this case, funding for DHS and a challenge of “executive amnesty” – into one bill, and then cry foul when the other party does not want to vote on it. Obviously, Republicans were trying to force Democrats into making a politically unsavory move, but the end result has been its backfiring on Republicans who look like political craftsmen instead of sincere legislators with honest and well-reasoned issues with overreach from the executive branch. Once more, Congressional Republicans show themselves to be political novices. Their messaging abilities are insufficient to clear the air once they so flippantly fail at passing a piece of legislation through a congress that they, ironically, control.

Thus, I can once again point to the inefficacies of politics, the processes of which are frustrating, arduous, and often perverse. Legislative and government gridlock, according to the original designation of the American system, are not horrific outcomes; rather, they serve to illustrate why bureaucracy must get out of our lives in as complete a manner as possible – because it is so inept in answering the issues we face as citizens that it manages to profoundly complicate, burden, and stifle the marketplaces, programs, and activities that we freely create. Stumbling back to their districts, breathless from all the lies and half-truths they’ve been propagating, slobbering over their own electoral futures, do legislators honestly expect that voters will end up allowing them to continue on with their fatuous regulations and their pernicious revocations of our fundamental rights?

Indeed, they do. They do so because the Left has made it politically expedient to scale back our private liberty and flexibility under the false guise of a deceptive egalitarian ideal. So while I may express utter frustration with the political ineptitude of the Republican Party, you better believe that I will continue to support it in fighting the illiberalism of the modern Left.

A Few Political Thoughts …

Conservative, CRDaily, Politics

As frustrating as it is to try to think politically, here are a few things to consider with regard to the passage of the Keystone-Pipeline Bill in Congress:

For a Republican Party that has allowed itself to be characterized by the media as excessively callous toward public opinion, it is a laudable accomplishment. Not only does it put Democrats (especially President Obama) in the position of having to answer either to the environmental crowd or to the pro-economic-growth segment of the moderate Left, but also because it signals a new era of Republican togetherness and compromise in the face of an obstructive executive.

Most likely, President Obama will veto the bill. To him, the Keystone Pipeline is symbolic of the irresponsible usage of fossil fuels by capitalists in the private sector. But it remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to adequately explain this action to the public, especially considering the state of his approval amidst horrid foreign developments and economic ambiguity in the domestic arena. For all his rhetorical prowess, this seems to me to be a losing proposition for the President – a harbinger of his declining ability to bedazzle Americans with his charm and a sign of the volatility of his coming legacy.

Republicans must recognize however, that any incremental political benefit they gain from the Keystone issue will be altogether lost if they mindlessly attack President Obama for merely using the veto. After all, the federal government is designed in such a way as to ensure that the executive has a significant ability to check Congress’ power. Republicans need to criticize the President’s actual position on the Keystone Pipeline rather than his use of his implicit veto power, lest they end up embarrassing themselves in front of a populace that considers them hysteric. Regardless, I am not confident that this message would or will resonate with the likes of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the tea-party coalition.

So, although it is true that Keystone is most likely destined to perish under President Obama’s ballpoint pen, those of us who actually believe in the American system as it was created by the Founders can at least take solace in the fact that the President will be doing his job as it is delineated by the Constitution. This, indeed, is a far cry from his cowardly, perverse move on immigration policy – changing the law through executive fiat as if he were a monarch disillusioned with parliament, egotistically taking power into his own clumsy hands in some grand ruse. I, personally, am deeply convinced that process is important, in and of itself; if anything, this whole Keystone debacle will, by its end, illustrate the brilliance – but not the efficiency – of our structured, confined bureaucracy.