Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Republican Schism: Ideology Vs. Political Philosophy

Great Slate article discussing how conservatives are going to have a hard time with this.

Slate should be more clear though, when they say “conservatives”. There are really two somewhat-overlapping blocks of conservatives, and I think they really mean Republicans.

The modern Republican Party is a tenuous a marriage of convenience between two fundamentally incongruent ideas, politically. The case described in the above article tears at the heart of the tenuous relationship built by two very different types of “conservatives” to make the Republican Party:

Ideology: This is a focus on “traditional family” or “traditional values”. These are people who often fuse religion with political perspectives. All in all, these are generally connected to “social issues.”

Political Philosophy: This is the focus on “small government” and “states rights”, also known as “federalism”. In general, federalist thinking weights the balance of power between states and central government TOWARD the individual states. Essentially, this is a political belief in the supremacy of local government over central government. As such, they see the Constitution as saying power rests at the state level EXCEPT where explicitly stated otherwise. These are the “Live Free or Die” types.

Political conservatives are a dying breed within the Republican Party, but they view governance as bottom-up. The fundamental belief that government is at its best on a local level, and that each larger tier of government is a further removed from the people. Laws should have minimized and localized impact only.  This wing is no longer relevant, in terms of power, within the Republican Party (see Jim Jeffords).

Ideological conservatives within the Republican Party are currently led by ostensibly-Christian groups. As a bloc, they tend view the world through a top-down moralistic perspective, wherein morality literally “trickling down” from God and Jesus through government. Morals, therefore, must be enshrined in law and enforced from the top downward. This wing was strongest between 1996-2008. Since many “enemies” were ‘excommunicated” from relevance within the party, Republicans are floundering for a new voice that encapsulates both sides (e.g, Ronald Reagan), only to find there are no true political conservatives left.

Now, there are ways the ideology and political philosophy are congruent. Localities may have certain values (say, related to school prayer), where they believe the Federal Government has no say in the outcome. But when it comes to situations where conservative ideology comes up against conservative political philosophy, the Republicans are actually weighed down by ideology.

It should be interesting to see how this particular DOMA case turns out, because there is a strong politically-conservative Constitutional argument in favor of gay spousal rights.

It would take some intellectual gymnastics to say otherwise. But I have faith that Scalia, Roberts, and Alito will somehow be able to inject ideology into the SCOTUS. They always do, and claim it to be “original intent”.

Filed under: Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gingrich: “Gays and Secular Fascists”

This is precisely why Newt Gingrich is a reprehensible politician and will never elevate himself to the statesman status he clearly covets.

He actually called people who believe in EQUAL RIGHTS fascists. There was a time when liberals used to throw that word around with reckless abandon. But at least they understood the meaning. A fascist wants to impose government power upon the powerless, to strengthen the nation AT THE EXPENSE of its citizens, typically, the military-industrial complex.

There was a time when conservatives used a slightly more accurate epithet to describe people who believed in equality: communist.

Were this any other Republican, I’d be less up-in-arms. But Newt Gingrich isn’t just any Republican. In 1971, he received a PhD in “Modern European History” from Tulane, an excellent school. And, in 1971, you can bet everyone understood the political continuum, and where different ideas and values fit. And an American exceptionalist such as Gingrich would understand precisely where America, liberals in America, and conservatives in America, fit on that continuum.

Here goes:

Fascism is all the way over there on the far right. Communism is all the way over there, on the far left. From the right, we have plutocracy, monarchy, and oligarchy. From the right (typo) left are socialism and other collectivist views. And in the middle are republicanism (small “r”) and democracy (small “d”). American conservatives tend towards the former, and American liberals tend toward the latter.

NB: anarchy, being technically the absence of formal government, is not included on this. Libertarianism is a flavor of the impetus toward small “d” democracy.

Some would argue that the continuum is curved, to make something of a “U” or a circle, demonstrating that fascism and communism are, in their implementations, closer to each other than their ideals tell us they are. This is because on one extreme is the sovereignty of a single individual, who is in essence the country, and on the other is sovereignty of the collective national. In the middle is where sovereignty of the individual has its highest place.

So Gingrich knows better. He’s a historian who knows precisely how these ideologies fit on the spectrum, and precisely where those who want government to let them have individual rights actually belong: in the middle. He also is a politician, and knows precisely how his words would be understood.

What does this say about this type of Republican? They are using specific words to code for the fact that they, the moralist Christians (who tend to religious oligarchy) are the oppressed faction by those who want individual rights.

Victim language.

They also use rights language, like “small government”, to imply they want government out of their hair.

You cannot simultaneously want government out of your hair and expect it to enforce ANY moral value (Christian or otherwise). American government is not meant to protect the rights of the empowered against the powerless. It is meant to do the opposite.

You’re powerful, Mr. Gingrich, and playing victim is not only intellectually dishonest, it’s also dangerous. Because America has ACTUAL victims who need ACTUAL help. And when you enable the mindless cronies who DON’T understand history (such as O’Reilly) to practice that victimhood, you are enabling a whole slate boys who cried wolf. Hurting the powerless.

This is not a petty argument. And it’s not about whether gay marriage is right or wrong. It’s about abusing power to keep it, and abusing language to twist reality. White married heterosexual men are the most powerful people in this country. Clinging to power by pretending to be a victim is reprehensible. Someone ought to speak for the ACTUAL victims (though I myself am not one) and say this to you, Mr. Gingrich: You practice the most vile kind of un-Americanism that exists. You know you are lying to keep power, and yet you do it anyway.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

(Media) Blackout, Open Letter to John McCain

The new McCain has yet to emerge from his hole and tell us if it will continue to be winter or if summer is around the corner. So far, they feel as though a media blackout is the best way to go. The new McCain has been the opposite of the 2000 self.

Oh well. John McCain was once the guy who could reach through the chatter, across the aisle, and say the things that needed saying. He used to believe in country before party. He used to believe in doing the right thing, even if it was unpopular. John McCain was even considered by John Kerry for running mate, remember.

Open Letter to Senator McCain

Senator McCain, if you actually read this, I have only this to say: it’s too bad that you mortgaged your values for a campaign. You used to be the one to cut the crap, now you run with it. You used to be a Barry Goldwater Republican, and now you are a Dick Cheney Republican. I’m going to ignore the fact that you are running against Obama, and ask you this – what happened? You were an aisle-crosser. You called a spade a spade when you criticized Bush for pandering at Bob Jones University. Then you supported George Wallace Jr, a frequenter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a well-known white-supremacist/segregationist organization.

Senator McCain, I used to like you. I honestly believed that you could remake American politics. You were the honorable Republican in the room, yelling at the liars on both sides of the aisle. You were a critic, the check, the balance, that made the Republican party pause. You were Barry Goldwater’s intellectual heir. A true conservative who believed in state’s rights and libertarian values.

But no more. Your choice of Governor Palin is illustrative of this – she is a shoot-first thinker, with none of the qualities that made you a maverick. You were a maverick because you stood up for beliefs regardless of who agreed with you, and yet you worked with those who didn’t. She is a maverick because she refuses to cooperate with anyone who disagrees with her.  You were a maverick because you believed in radical transparency and government accountability. She is a maverick because she is shockingly opaque in her decision-making process, and tries to find ways to skirt accountability. You, on the other hand, were above such pettiness. That is why Democrats and Republicans alike used to think of you as a statesman.

No longer.

Your lies are shocking and obvious in the public, and your campaign reflects a Bush/Palin approach – opaque, divisive, and obfuscatory – and not the McCain we believed in. When it comes to the issues, I’m not surprised at some of your stances. But then you supported invading Iraq, despite the lack of intelligence. And you now no longer believe torture is torture? You, of all people?

And now you think the judicial system rules by fiat? Those justices you now admire believe the Constitution doesn’t apply to all people, and the government can do whatever they want to those people. That’s fiat. And the ones you don’t like are saying government should be small, and should protect people from those with power. That’s protecting individual liberty. Saying you “oppose judicial activism” is code for saying you only support people who agree with you. I recommend you read the Barnette case. And Marbury vs. Madison. You clearly don’t understand the role of courts, and how they always scale back government power. You’re talking now like the anti-Goldwater, a watered-down version of Bush. You’ve become the person you didn’t like.

If you are willing to forego your beliefs for victory, then you clearly deceived me, and America. “Straight talk” indeed. It doesn’t really matter to me now which one of you is the “real” John McCain, because you clearly showed your willingness to put party unity, and electoral victory, above the needs and wants of the United States of America. Senator McCain, I said in 1996 that you would have been a more compelling candidate than Bob Dole, I said in 1998 that I hope you are the 2000 Republican candidate because then it is not a choice between two evils, and I said in 2000 that I hope you hold Bush accountable.

Senator McCain, you failed me. If you win in November, it will be in spite of people like me, who used to think you were better than the bunch.

Best regards,


Filed under: Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Things On My Mind



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