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.

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.

The Irony of “Liberal”

CRDaily, Politics

In a lecture he gave to the Kansas City Public Library, Kevin Williamson, a writer for National Review magazine, alluded to a stark and pernicious element that underlies modern political rhetoric, emphasizing the importance of “call[ing] politics by its true name” – not only so that we can have sensible public discourse about public policy and its effects, but also so that we can understand the political world in a larger and more fundamental sense. Williamson proceeded to conclude with exasperation: “People who want to return us to 1930s-style central-planning policies that have their origins in the administration of Bismarck are progressives … [people] who, under the guise of civil rights law, would like to tell you from their offices in Washington D.C. how you have to run your bakery in rural Colorado.” As Williamson pointedly intimated, we call these people liberal, perversely enough, and have allowed the development of a blistering irony, wherein our contemporary descriptive rhetoric has become so problematic that it looks to those who wish to invest the federal government with the power to determine wage rates – to those who support the President’s policy of changing immigration law without the consent of Congress – and attributes them the title, “liberal.”

If anything, Williamson seemed to be indicating a particularly discouraging and sobering reality about the current political theater – that people simply no longer know what liberalism is and that they have been goaded by Democrats into thinking that the name is an ideological fashion statement, worn upon one’s proverbial sleeve.

But if any definition of liberalism is to be honored, it is Thomas Jefferson’s, a man who in my mind will always rank as one of the United States’ most thoughtful political thinkers. Jefferson once wrote that “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others,” classifying a liberal as someone who upholds that and other enlightenment principles which reiterate government as an extension of a body of citizens – a body that is refulgent with the natural rights to which Jefferson, himself, referred in the Declaration. Williamson’s original statements can accordingly be restructured as such: Modern liberals, as represented in the political world by someone like Barack Obama or in the media realm by a journalist like Rachel Maddow, are not liberal – in fact, they do not even resemble true liberalism in any recognizable sense. Instead, modern liberals are among the most illiberal members of the legitimate political world, and our confusion of rhetoric in referring to them with a word related to liberty is a thing to be mourned.

So what do these modern liberals mean when they discuss their supposedly liberal ideas? Do they mean that the proper expression of liberty is one that excludes economic freedom, but simultaneously allows women to sanction a doctor to dismember a fetus without repercussion? Does it mean that the lazy can freely smoke marijuana, as long as the drug is provided equally by a coercive, bureaucratic body that taxes the middle class into extinction? Astonishingly, because modern liberals are merely disguised “illiberals” who despise individual devices and the laissez-faire mindset, the answer seems to be an emphatic “yes.” And thus we get the gross irony of the current political system – that those who are most hostile to its original constitutional and republican bases are the same politicians who have duped us all into calling them “liberal,” as if they had any respect for liberty in the first place.

Such disrespect for the notion of liberty seems to me to find its home on the college campus, where progressivism is so overwhelming that the few conservatives who live there are forced to purge themselves daily by reading National Review and by watching an hour of Fox News after classes. Indeed, there’s a reason that it is rare to encounter conservatives at state schools and elite, private institutions all over the country, and it would be a mistake to chalk it up to the Republicans’ poor social media skills: When a clueless, eighteen-year-old freshman strolls around campus his first year as student-life organizations of all sorts yell at him to support the newest environmental fad, to what extent can you expect him to avoid the actions he needs to undergo in order to be an accepted entity? He will be told over and over again that Republicans are evil, that conservatives hate poor people, and that southerners are politically ignorant – not just by misunderstood students, but also by professors with intellectual chips on their shoulders, who in turn make it difficult for anyone to escape such a predetermined political route in challenging the glib assumptions held by women’s studies majors or abortion fanatics. For those on the left who grace college campuses nationwide, the goal is to ensure the survival of their ridiculous maxim that liberalism has nothing to do with the pursuit of policies that limit the federal government’s scope, but everything to do with pitiful social acceptance and integration. In their arena, “liberal” becomes a social category that aspires to frivolously free thought defined only by an immature hatred of conventional thinking. It is a title that describes teenagers who look back to their parents and think, “I’m going to believe the exact opposite of what you do, simply because you are old, I am young, and I want to be cool.”

That statement is the essence of college-aged liberalism – a childish notion of freedom from one’s elders that is inextricably linked to the nectar of invigorating rebellion and the absence of personal responsibility. But more than that, modern liberals have managed to redefine their “ism” as a hallmark of postmodern acceptance within a thoroughly confused, religious world: Under the guise of tolerance, Elizabeth Warren-esque political operators scream about feelings and grievance – playing the victims to everyone else’s blatant ignorance – while all the while they prove themselves to be absolute enemies of diversity of thought, basking in their cocooned, intellectual sphere. Why else would there be such constant opposition to inviting speakers of a conservative bent, even if those speakers have had experiences that warrant relation on a college campus? Why else do they tolerate those angst-filled protestors – garish teenagers who will actually binge-drink themselves into oblivion because they know their parents would disapprove – who dress in all-black like Hamlet as they arrogantly declare, “I have that within which passeth show”? In a profound sense, modern liberals have allowed – indeed, caused – the notion of liberalism to mean not individualism or responsible self-determination, but rather the propensity to replace dignity with incessant complaint and hyper-sensitivity.

In the context of the current political debate, liberals have also been the troglodytes whose sole mission has been the cultivation of government dependence, touted under the misleading pretense of compassion and social justice – whose “well-intentioned” desires have created a sizable class of dependents that look to the government for their every move and that live with the depressing options put before them by obsequious bureaucrats. What a conversation it would be to tell Jefferson and Madison and Adams that liberals are those who stare in the eyes of the American people and make baseless financial promises about the probability of the welfare state’s survival – only to characterize the true champions of liberty as heartless Machiavellians whose understanding of the world is hampered by greed and materialism. The irony is obvious when you consider that the necessities of living a proud life cushioned by liberty are the very principles that are ever eroding in the face of liberal tactics.

Never has this proclivity for government dependence been better illustrated than by the Democrats’ recent advertising of a fictitious Julia – a woman whose entire life is bolstered by government intervention, formed by the manipulative hands of central-planners, and set into motion by expansive social programming. According to the advertisers’ perverse messaging, President Obama acts the role of the proverbial father of every man and child in the United States, waiting with his credit card to proliferate federal manna to a people hungry because his policies have obliterated wealth-creating, free-market incentives. Indeed, the arrogance is overwhelming, and it is a bit difficult to imagine how the beneficiaries of the “liberal” title can honestly continue to refer to themselves as such, especially when their entire motivation is centered on the flippant undermining of the American vision – to have the federal government so involved in the lives of its citizens that it flaunts the services it provides with taxpayer money as if it were some collective messiah here to transform us into heavenly angels. And it wouldn’t bother President Obama one bit to know that the founders would be crying if they could witness this profound transformation: To liberals the likes of him, liberalism means sacrificing individualism for collectivism, placing equality over liberty in the hierarchy of priorities, and using the federal government as an end-all to enforce their frightening conception of utopia.

This is all not to mention the most economically devastating aspect of modern liberals’ redefinition of liberalism: their obsession with centralization and federal standardization, as manifest in such horrors as the EPA and Common Core, its top-down vision of education reminiscent of something the Soviet Union may have attempted. The idea of allowing a federal entity to form a singular model or standard of performance and to force it down the throats of millions of people who live, act, and think differently is the defining aspect of the illiberal mindset – granting misguided bureaucrats the authority to exercise a position that they could not, under any circumstances, fulfill in any laudable sense. But when you have an ideology that cares primarily about control, the importance of implementing diverse standards – indeed, of eliminating fruitless and expansive models of all kinds – is lost to a seething vision of bureaucratic largess. The end result is that federalism morphs from an assurance of freedom to a useless antiquity – one with an outdated spirit of localization that ought to be cast aside in favor of unmitigated federal autonomy.

To condense, the irony of “liberal” is that the politicos who operate under the title’s contemporary classification manage to profoundly violate everything that classical liberalism signifies in the context of government: Modern liberalism is not a well-wrought philosophy, but rather a label that is paraded in academic circles among students who have nothing better to do than study every conceivable manifestation of grievance in the known world. Ultimately, the process of studying politics teaches that, in the context of the progressive left, liberalism means nothing – it is a clever front which used to mean something to real thinkers and sincere citizens, but that has now been corrupted by big-government sycophants like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid whose addiction to government is downright dangerous.

I would simply ask that the individuals who continue to cause this evolution admit that which is demonstrably true – that they are progressives of a most illiberal and pandering sort.