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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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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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/17/gingrich-on-prop-8-protes_n_144452.html

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.

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