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Republican Schism: Ideology Vs. Political Philosophy

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

http://www.slate.com/id/2212893/pagenum/all/

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”.

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Idealink by vijtable is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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