2012

What Peter Viereck Can Tell Today’s Conservatives

In later editions of his bookConservatism Revisited: The Revolt Against Ideology, Peter Viereck includes a second part with the provocative title “The New Conservatism: What Went Wrong?” In his provocative post on “cool kids” conservatism, Kelse mentions Viereck fairly negatively in a discussion about just what it is that conservatism is worth. I think Viereck presents a challenge to the libertarians and the conservatives on this blog (as well as a lot of what counts as the conservative right today) in those few pages. It is relevant today, just as it was when it was first published around 40 years ago.

Here are some passages which, I think, require contemporary conservatives to face some unpleasant political realities.

(from page 134 of the Transaction edition 2005)

In America, Southern agrarianism has long been the most gifted literary manifestation of the conservatism of yearning. Its most important intellectual manifesto was the Southern Symposium I’ll Take My Stand, 1930, contrasting
the cultivated human values of a lost aristocratic agrarianism with Northern commercialism and liberal materialism. At their best, these and more recent examples of the conservatism of yearning are needed warnings against shallow practicality. The fact that such warnings often come from the losing side of our Civil War is in itself a merit; thereby they caution a nation of success-worshippers against the price of success. But at their worst, such books of the 1930s, and again of today, lack the living roots of genuine conservatism and have only lifeless ones. The lifeless ones are really a synthetic substitute for roots, contrived by romantic nostalgia.

Such romanticizing conservatives refuse to face up to the old and solid historical roots of most or much American liberalism. What is really rootless and abstract is not the increasingly conservatized New Deal liberalism but the romantic conservatives’ own utopian dream of an aristocratic agrarian restoration. Their unhistorical appeal to history, their traditionless worship of tradition, characterize the conservatism of writers like Russell Kirk.

In contrast, a genuinely rooted, history-minded conservative conserves the roots that are really there, exactly as Burke did when he conserved not only the monarchist-conservative aspects of William the Third’s bloodless revolution of 1688 but also its constitutional-liberal aspects. The latter aspects, formulated by the British philosopher John Locke, have been summarized in England and America ever since by the word “Lockean.”

And he states further (this on page 142 of the previously mentioned edition)

What about the argument (very sincerely believed by National Review and Old Guard Republicans) that denies the label “conservative” to those of us who support trade unionism and who selectively support many New Deal reforms? According to this argument, our support of such humane and revolution-preventing reforms in politics—by New Dealers and democratic socialists—makes us indistinguishable from liberals in philosophy. Shall we then cease to call ourselves philosophical conservatives, despite our conservative view of history and human nature?

So, conservatives, what is your answer to his question?

Categories: 2012, Cultural renewal, Ideology, Rand Paul, Robert Nisbet, The Constitution, Traditionalism, Tyranny | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calvin Coolidge, Morality and Economy

The Acton Institute has an interview with Garland S. Tucker, III the author of The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election. The book is interesting because it examines the two major nominees in the 1924 election, the last time that both parties nominated conservatives. On why modern conservatives should know more about Calvin Coolidge, Tucker says,

Modern conservatives need to understand Calvin Coolidge because he is the only modern president who actually implemented the complete conservative agenda. Coolidge sharply reduced taxes, while also sharply reducing government spending, the national debt, and the regulatory scope of government. At the same time, he earned the approbation of a huge majority of the American electorate. In the face of a severe postwar recession in 1920, the Harding administration began to implement conservative policies, but the major implementation came under Coolidge (and Mellon) in 1923-1928. The result of lower tax rates and reduced government spending was the greatest sustained decade of economic growth in U. S. history.

But Coolidge is important not just for his economic views, but for what he sees as the connection between the economy and morality.

Coolidge once said, “I favor economy in government not just to save money, but to save people.” He not only believed strongly in the economic efficacy of free markets, individual initiative, and limited government , but he understood these economic principles were undergirded by moral principles. He saw the debilitating dependency created when citizens depend on the government rather than on themselves and their fellow citizens. The Washington Post commented, “Few persons, probably, have considered economy and taxation as moral issues. But Mr. Coolidge so considers them, and his observations give a fresh impression of the intensity of his feeling on this subject. He holds that economy, in connection with tax reduction and tax reform, involves the principle of conservation of national resources. A nation that dissipates its resources falls into moral decay.”

Well, that’s something to which conservatives and libertarians should pay attention.

Categories: 2012, Libertarianism, Traditionalism | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

President Obama and the Future of Conservatism

The re-election of President Barack Obama to a second term of office has sparked some intense debate about the place of conservatism in American politics in particular and in American society more broadly. This blog is no exception in its participation in this post-election evaluation of the state of conservatism at the precipice of a second term for the Obama presidency.

I am, perhaps, in the minority on this blog, because what I am going to say in this post-election autopsy differs from the majority on this blog who express a view which I think could be accurately labeled decadent conservatism. This is a worldview that turns history and experience on its head; it is a view that, to be honest, I don’t recognize as conservative, if conservatism is to be understood, defined and delimited by the Six Canons of Conservatism laid down by Russell Kirk so many years ago in his The Conservative Mind.

  1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.
  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems…
  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a “classless” society.”
  4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked…
  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophists, calculators, and economists” who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs
  6. Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress

Conservatism at its best is not supposed to be an ideology; conservatism at its best is supposed to be a practical, realistic and empirically-driven approach toward the world. In the lament over the re-election of President Obama, I think some conservatives miss out on being conservative. These conservatives have elevated the pure abstraction of ideology over the brass tacks that makes conservatism so, well, real. Really real, in a way that distinguishes it from and serves as its intrinsic appeal over all of its ideoligical opposites, such as the many varieties of leftism that have had the unpleasant fact of having existed.

However I fear that conservatism or conservatives – at least of some varieties – cannot legitimately or at least convincingly make that reference to reality in the wake of this response to President Obama’s re-election. Not if conservatives are rejecting history and experience in favor of celebrating abstract, vague and circuitous appeals to eras and ideas that are no longer relevant to the American cultural, social or political tradition. Well, a historicist cannot. A traditionalist, I suppose, can.

So, after this long, winding and lamenting encomium to conservatism, what do I think the re-election of President Obama means for conservatism? It means absolutely nothing. This is because conservatism is dying — conservatives are killing it.

If conservatives and conservatism want to begin to digest and respond to the re-election of President Obama, it would seem that we should take a page from Andrew Sullivan and read some Michael Oakeshott

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Post Election Analysis: Moderation as Vice

By some sort of cosmic irony, Mitt Romney’s defeat in the presidential election is now being held up as a sign that the ultra-conservatives exercise too much control in the Republican Party. Critics charge that if the Republican Party wants to become political relevant again, it must subdue its more radical elements and start putting forth more moderate candidates. Social issues need to be abandoned in order to attract more women voters, and the Republican line on immigration needs to be reconsidered in order to reach out to Hispanics.

According to this narrative, Republicans nominated Romney as a result of their “devil may care” attitude toward the broader electorate. And while this may or may not have been true in some of the other races around the country, anyone who followed the Republican Primary, however, knows this is patently false. To the contrary, Romney got the nod mostly because Republicans felt that he was their best chance to beat Obama. That assessment might have actually been correct, at least inasmuch as Romney never promised to spend his presidency talking about the dangers of contraception, somehow resisted the urge to talk about his policy toward U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, and because- no matter how much he loves America- that patriotism never lead him to cheat on his wife. Excuse me: cheat on his wives.

So it wasn’t as if Republicans were ignorantly throwing out the most radical candidate imaginable. On the contrary, Republicans nominated the candidate who they didn’t really believe in themselves: is it such a wonder that the rest of America didn’t either? Mitt Romney, the “etch-a-sketch” candidate, was supposed to be the perfect candidate largely based around the fact that he would say anything, be anyone he needed to be in order to become President.

In the end, it was Romney’s lack of conviction, his lack of authenticity that became his defining characteristic. By the end of the primary, rather than an “etch-a-sketch,” Romney became the “color-by-number” candidate: unhesitatingly trying to give conservatives, then Americans, everything they said they wanted. He became the best facsimile conservative around. He knew he couldn’t become “severely conservative” overnight, but he could be something so close that the untrained eye wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Romney said all the right things, appealed to all the right groups, and looked the part. To give an example that Romney himself is probably fairly familiar with: he aced the job interview. And as any job applicant will tell you: when you apply for a job, you tweak your resume to fit the position you are applying for, and then you tell them what you know they want to hear. Mitt Romney found out all too late that Americans are suspicious of “cookie-cutter” candidates; in that much, at least, the general electorate is wiser than the Republicans gave them credit for.

After all of the talk of the “lesser of two evils” and all of the nose-holding-while-voting, one lesson from this election should be patently clear: the problem is not that Republicans believe too strongly in their own principles. The problem is that Republicans continually vote for the “lesser of two evils” because they don’t actually believe their principles will work in practice.

When I filled out my absentee ballot, I wrote in Ron Paul for President and I caught hell for it from family members who told me I was “throwing away” my vote. What Romney’s failed candidacy shows, however, is that the real ones “throwing away” their votes are the ones who vote for the supposedly “electable” candidate who in the end stands for absolutely nothing.

Because it doesn’t matter how moderate and pragmatic the Republican nominee is- the Left will ultimately paint him as a radical. The solution to the Republican Party’s electoral woes is not to continue moving toward the center until (to paraphrase Mittens) we allow absolutely no daylight between ourselves and the Democrats, but rather to articulate a clear alternative to their policies. Let’s face it: we’ll never out-pander the Left.

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Post Election Analysis: Ok Guys. Pep Talk

What was it the Mayans said about 2012? Anyway, about last week: it could have gone better.

Let’s be honest here. The political future is bleak. A good portion of the populace would prefer the sham security of the state to liberty, with all the wondrous uncertainty that it entails. We can try to convince people, but it’s not that they don’t understand freedom; it’s that they don’t want it. It’s not that they don’t see the value of local control; it’s that they don’t want to take the responsibility themselves. As Ross Douthat explains: “Lesson of this election is always bail out, never touch entitlements.”

We took a beating, but that doesn’t end the world. From Deadwood (language alert):

I have no illusions about what Romney or the Republicans would have done if things had gone differently last week. If the Republicans had won we would have faced the same frustration that followed 2004, and 2000, and 1988, and 1984…etc. Things would have continued more or less in the same statist direction. Nevertheless, I do see the election as a clear ratification of statism in a way that a Romney victory was not. Even though Romney offered little in the way of an alternative, it was at least an opportunity for the electorate to say, “Well, to hell with this!” even though they would have to say the same thing in four years. That didn’t happen. If anything, the parties will both shift to the left (an illegitimate political term from the French Revolution, but you know what I mean). Certain encouraging trends that Kelse notes aside, it still means a repudiation of traditionalist and libertarian ideas. I’m happy we have those eight good YAL-endorsed candidates, but we have little else.

However, it is possible that the Republican Party will not shift to the left and become more statist, but more libertarian. It’s a dubious statement given the likely political fallout, but nonetheless it is probable that libertarians will have a larger microphone within the opposition party in the coming years. Neoconservative Bill Kristol affirmed the increasing presence of the Pauls and their type in the future of the Republican Party on Fox News. Apparently a hard pill for him to swallow.

I’m ambivalent as to whether this is a good thing. On the one hand, I like the Pauls for reasons Ben outlined before and I look forward to the increasing presence of Rand Paul on the national stage; on the other, many who claim to support them are fools. So when we say that followers of the Pauls will have an increasing role in the Republican Party, I don’t know that it will be a good thing for reasons that will become clear below.

Everyone, including the talking heads in the video posted above, have asserted that conservatives have lost on social issues. Maybe they’re right. In 1980, two thirds of people defined the family as father, mother, and children. Today, one third or less define it that way. All social conservative values essentially trend around the central place of the family. A decline in the traditional (as in the basic mom, pop, kids) understanding of the family tracks a decline in social conservative values. Many libertarians deny that the changing attitudes are a problem. Like the nineteenth century utilitarians they hate the intermediary institutions that circumscribe the individual, the family most of all. It alone is able to shape individuals from the cradle through all of their formative years. They see the collapse of the family as only one more step in the march of individual freedom. Unfortunately, in my experience, the Pauls pull a lot of support from this brand of libertarian.

The problem that should concern libertarians—and does concern traditionalists—is that the family is the unit that trains people to be self-sufficient and provides them with a financial (and emotional) safety net to keep them free from the need for government aid. Persons without that background will turn to the state to provide that security. If a kid wanted to go to college, the family would rally around and provide the means to get him there or at least co-sign on the loan. If he wanted to start a business, he would turn to his family for the starter loan. At least then, if the kid couldn’t make the payments he would have to work it off for mom and dad or dad’s brother Sam. But what if kids don’t have two parents? What if the only possible back up plan is to stick it to Uncle Sam (the proverbial Uncle Sam, not their actual Uncle Sam) when they don’t get a job or can’t make the payments?

No amount of ratiocination regarding the free market (and I like the free market) will convince them that their lives will be worse without guaranteed healthcare and guaranteed retirement funds and all the rest. The local community composed of family and friends used to provide for individuals financially when times were tough. Now we just turn to Ole’ Uncle Sam. The election is an indication that more and more people see things that way, either because they can’t imagine an alternative or because they aren’t willing to take the risk.

This is another way of saying that persons are more than homo economicus. Libertarians often make the same mistake as Marxists in thinking that people are only their economic interests: appeal to those and you win. The fact is, you don’t. Which is both reason for encouragement and discouragement. On the one hand, we have the trends on filial decline noted above: that’s the bad news. On the other hand, it means that we can still articulate a case for traditionalism and libertarianism and actually have a chance of prevailing.

This is all to say that the pre-political matters for politics. The political outcome of any election will only reflect the possibilities inherent in the pre-political elements already in place. The question then is: how can we influence those?

So let’s turn now to an oldie but goodie, Albert J. Nock’s 1936 essay in The Atlantic, “Isaiah’s Job.” Nock was notorious for his belief that speaking to the multitude was useless. He believed he was speaking to a Remnant who would endure through the contemporary civilizational crisis and rebuilt civilization once it became possible again. He uses the prophet Isaiah as the symbol for the man God calls to minister to the Remnant.  Isaiah, however, is confused as to his role. It doesn’t seem like any significant portion of the people will listen to him.

“Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”

It’s a great article. The problem is that it works from the premise of despair. Whatever traditionalists and libertarians want to say about the Republican Party and its presidential candidate, the election was still a repudiation of our values and ideas. People by and large embrace what Obama offers. This isn’t reason to despair. Renewal is possible among many people, not just a purported Remnant that will rebuild when all has fallen. Historically, it’s happened under worse circumstances.

What are we to do? Remember the scene from Deadwood above:

The world ends when you’re dead. Until then you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man and give some back.

Edmund Burke reportedly said something similar, “Never despair, but if you do, work in despair.” Kelse could be right; renewal could be on the horizon. Either way, whether for the Remnant or for the masses, we’ll keep blogging and attempting to articulate those permanent values that become clearer to us as we study and discuss the traditions of order and liberty we inherited.

Categories: 2012, Cultural renewal, Libertarianism, Traditionalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Murder She Tweeted (Twote?)

Now that the presidential campaign is over, we can finally start to look back on the race with some degree of objectivity. This is the moment that we political scientists live for: our chance to be clinically detached while attempting to engage a public that is still half-interested in politics.

This story is a few weeks old, but it gives a perfect snapshot of the 2012 election. We’ve already posted articles here and here, about out how childish and uninformed American political discourse has become. However, when we start to talk about assassination threats on Twitter, everything else starts to look pretty good in comparison.

Yes, assassination threats on Twitter. I wish I was joking.

It turns out that after the foreign policy debate a few weeks ago, an astounding number of Obama supporters took to Twitter to vent against Mitt Romney. And to issue death threats. To take one of many, many examples, look at the words of I_B_New_York: “i jus used close to $200 worth of food stamps today…Romney dont take that away..70% of America will assassinate u.” More examples are listed at the bottom of the article.

The threats kept coming through at least Monday, according to examiner.com. Once again, to take a particularly colorful example: Jamarea Gage writes: “I’ll personally f*****g kill Romney if he try’s some dumb nazi s**t f**k that.” Or this tweet by Lifted Boy: “I crash that f**king airplane that that f**got n**ga Romney, stab Mrs. Romney in her G** D**N esophagus. & won’t stop until the cops come in.”

In a way, I’m not that surprised. In fact, I’ve come to fully expect this kind of rhetorical violence, given our current political climate. What is interesting to note, however, is that there seems to be a double standard in the media’s coverage of Twitter death threats. Very few media outlets have touched the Romney threats, while two relatively isolated cases of assassination threats against Obama have received a staggering amount of media attention.

The first came back in September,  when there was a national furor over 16-year-old Alyssa Douglas tweeting the following:

Her Twitter and Facebook accounts were promptly deleted and she became a national symbol for racism and bigotry. A Daily Kos article (written, incidentally, under the hilarious nom de plume therehastobeaway) opined, “when a 16 year-old white girl takes to Twitter to openly call for the assassination of our President, you have got to wonder where we, as a society, have gone wrong;” [emphasis in the original]. The author went on to encourage viewers to contact the FBI, the Secret Service, and Ms. Douglas’ high school Principal. Ms. Douglas herself was quickly inundated with hate mail. Worst of all, she doubtless found life for her entire family turned completely upside down due to a single thoughtless, childish action.

The second example also took place back in September when Secret Service officers arrested Donte Jamar Sims in Charlotte, NC. Sims had tweeted, among other things, “Ima hit president Obama with that Lee Harvey Oswald swag” and “Well IMA Assassinate president Obama this evening.” I suppose on one level we can draw a distinction between the immediacy and specificity of Mr. Sims’ threats against the relative improbability of JCBaltodano’s “If Romney wins the elections I will start a national riot to kill his a**!” but that’s really missing the bigger point at hand.

All of this paints a very disturbing picture. Many leading Democrats placed the blame for Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting on Republican rhetoric. They were right, in at least one sense- not in suggesting that Jared Lee Loughner drew his inspiration from Sarah Palin, but in recognizing that there were larger cultural reasons for this violence. And while death threats against the President have been the subject of much media attention- much of it warranted, some of it perhaps not (as in the case of Alyssa Douglas)- there has been just as much, if not more hatred coming from Obama supporters in recent weeks.

The political climate is in shambles, and all of this goes to illustrate a point I made in my very first post on this blog: that a rotten culture leads to rotten politics. You can’t expect to fix the vitriol and violence in the political sphere without first addressing the deep-seated cultural problems that underlie this kind of rhetoric. If we continue down this path, it seems likely that violent rhetoric will soon lead to more and more acts of political violence.

Beneath the surface of every assassination threat lies a deep and unyielding spiritual need. And no amount of hand-wringing or public shaming by therehastobeaway is going to fix that need.

————————

Here are a couple examples from the MSN article mentioned at the beginning of the article:

Categories: 2012, Cultural renewal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Rest of Obama’s First Term May Commence

Well, Obama begins his second term. But really, it’s more like his first. Stanley Kurtz explains:

Ordinarily, a president enacts various policies in his first term, the public test-drives the changes, and the president’s reelection campaign is a referendum on those new policies. The difference in Obama’s case is that in order to secure reelection, he has backloaded nearly all of his most transformative and controversial changes into a second term. Obama’s next term will actually put into effect health-care reform, Dodd-Frank, and a host of other highly controversial policies that are already surging through the pipeline yet still barely known to the public.

I want everyone reading this to remember, I told you so. So don’t you dare blame me, I voted for Kodos!

Categories: 2012 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Google search: “Who is running for president”

Speaking of not voting, these people really shouldn’t vote. Google searches for “who is running for president” has been skyrocketing over the last few months.

Categories: 2012 | 2 Comments

Horwitz on Voting

Economist Steve Horwitz has this to say on his Facebook page,

I’m willing to bet my time spent writing and lecturing has turned dozens of people into libertarians, and some or many of whom actually vote. If so, then my time spent not voting and influencing ideas has an effect on the world of ideas and this election far greater than my own vote, or yours. So that is what I will do today instead of voting.

To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with voting. I just think there are far more effective ways of being an engaged citizen and protecting oneself and others against the foxes. Voting is neither the only nor most effective form of engaged citizenship. I will continue to teach, write, and speak, especially to public audiences, all of which are also ways of generating political change and guarding the henhouse from the foxes.

This relates to our perennial concern over the pre-political. Dr. Horwitz has a far greater influence over what people think and how they act–and therefore how they vote–because of his social and academic activities apart from casting his one vote, which he chooses not to do. John Adams would have called him an “aristocrat” in the sense that he exerts disproportionate but salutary influence on the society around him. Society, according to the conservative, needs such people to shape the pre-political toward ends that make good politics possible.

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Mencken on Democracy

This is an appropriate thought for election day. From H.L. Mencken:

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” H. L. Mencken

Now get to the polls, people! You know what you want! And you should get it!…

Categories: 2012 | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Hope, Change and the Staid President

My apologies to readers and fellow contributors to the blog; this is later in the day than I wanted to post. That being said, here it is.

Up to this post, our readers have been given advice (with one notable exception) to behave in a way that in practice results in a repudiation of the two-party system in which we participate. I do not think that voting third-party is an effective behavior; I think it is a radical behavior that is contrary to the tenets and the practice of conservatism. So, like Chuck O’Shea, I advocate the support of one of the major two-party candidates in this election. The candidate I support will be the one running against him. I believe that a conservative should support President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012.

This post is broken up into two sections: the first section will provide an anchor for the argument by way of description of a practical conceptualization of the kernel of conservatism as uncertainty; the second section will shift to a description of a case (through secondary sources) for why President Obama has governed as a conservative and why this should be sufficient to persuade conservatives to support him for re-election.


Part 1: Conservatism as Uncertainty

The arguments that have dominated this blog revolve around the definition of conservatism and the corollary of who and what qualifies as conservative today? Many of us on this blog have input time and energy into answering a question that pundits more important than we are
have dwelt. This suggests a broadness, perhaps more accurately and precisely, a foundational uncertainty to be the characteristic which is hallmark of conservatism. Conservatism, in a sense, is so dysfunctional and confused (or at least antifoundational) that a prominent conservative magazine is subjecting itself to an identical tortured process that we are conducting at the same time we are conducting it.

This uncertainty can be understood as an effect of a fluidity the vocabulary of the traditionalist-historicist conservative would recognize as the universal being expressed in the particular; further, in its vocabulary, it is what the rationalist would recognize as a fundamental abstract principle being applied to or filtered by and through reality: it is a cornerstone of a conservative case to support President Obama for re-election in 2012.


Part II: President Obama as Conservative, or the Prudence of Practice

Let me move to the second portion of this post, which lays out a case for the conservative support of President Obama by a brief examination of his policies in his first term.

Bruce Bartlett summarizes the case for Obama the conservative in the following bullet points (h/t to paul krugman

His stimulus bill was half the size that his advisers thought necessary;
He continued Bush’s war and national security policies without change and even retained Bush’s defense secretary;
He put forward a health plan almost identical to those that had been supported by Republicans such as Mitt Romney in the recent past, pointedly rejecting the single-payer option favored by liberals;
He caved to conservative demands that the Bush tax cuts be extended without getting any quid pro quo whatsoever;
And in the past few weeks he has supported deficit reductions that go far beyond those offered by Republicans.

I think that list makes a compelling case for the conservative to support President Obama for re-election in 2012. This is not about abstractions such as ideological purity, pro-life bona fides or any other conceptualization of conservatism whose essence exists outside of time and space; rather, this is about an on-the-ground, historically contingent conservatism which recognizes that history puts us in a set of circumstances in which liberal “big government” of the New Deal and Great Society are essential, defining characteristics of the relationship between a citizenry and its government; furthermore, that to recognize this relationship is to be cognizant of the historical concreteness that is, allegedly, at the core of conservatism. Such that this historical reality of post-New Deal and post-Great Society liberalism means that President Obama is the one conservative candidate running for President during this election. The other choices you have – which have been discussed on this blog – occupy positions on the ideological branches of the left and the right. When the pundits recognize a continuity between the two major parties’ candidates’ policies; and, when progressives recognize you to be a conservative and make a case against your candidacy for re-election, then you must be doing something right behind which conservatives (no pun intended) can throw their support.

If other conservatives want to make a convincing case that Obama is a liberal or a left-wing President of any type, then they will have to respond to the policies that he has implemented by effectively demonstrating how they represent a liberal rather than a conservative style of governance. References to a vague, amorphous, and essentially content-less notion of history or tradition will not be a strong foundation for a persuasive case against the conservative’s support for President Obama’s re-election. Nor will an effective case be made by attempting to demonstrate that his policies are contrary to certain principles (free-market, big government, etc) which are inherently conservative, at least not in an American sense of the term; nor is it sufficient to argue (however effectively one does make the argument), that in certain instances he has been an advocate, instigator or ally of policymakers or policy proposals that are contrary to alleged tenets of traditional culture (e.g., religious freedom or individual rights in the example of the health care reform bill): cherry picking is left for the fruit, it does not belong in a philosophically abstract or an empirical argument against a case for the re-election of President Obama.

The responses the economic crisis, the policies of reform, and the foreign policy that President Obama has pursued and implemented during his first term in office, point to a candidate for re-election who chooses to maintain a steady course and extract a limited amount from the circumstances given to him. That is to say, his presidency has been a conservative one. Stories of his past notwithstanding, he makes a poor example of a radical liberal, and an even poorer boogeyman of conservative critique, analysis and alarm. President Obama has governed with restraint; he has pursued policies with an eye toward the possible and not just purity of principle; he has behaved in a way that conservatives can and should recognize to be in resemblance to the doctrine, tenets and canons of conservatism. It is easy to understand why that is the case if one disregards the rhetoric and emotion that are expended in response to President Obama, and consider for a brief moment the policies he has actually pursued and realize that he is a conservative (or at least a run-of-the-mill Democrat, who is, nevertheless, probably more conservative – in a non-ideological understanding of the term – than most Republicans or self-described conservatives are at this point in our political history).

At the end of the day, the conservative is not left wondering why he should support President Obama in 2012; rather, he is left to wonder why he should not.

Categories: 2012, Ideology, Traditionalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Write in Ron Paul- The Only Conservative Choice

There is a peculiar hypocrisy that has been going around conservative circles in recent weeks and months: scores of genuine conservatives have dutifully lined up to vote for Mitt Romney, all the while lamenting the state of the political culture generally and the Republican Party in particular. They are convinced of two things above all else: 1) that they have no option other than voting for Romney and 2) that someone else is to blame for this sad state. They blame the mainstream media, the ever-declining culture, big business, party elites, and each other; seemingly, however, none of them stop to consider that blame lies most directly on those who continue to lend their support to a system that has shown so many times that it cannot work. If conservatives continue to vote for the Republican Party, no matter who they put forth, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Despite what you may have heard, conservatives do have a choice next week: a choice to either be on the side of the Constitution and traditional conservative values and a choice to be against them. Actually, two choices to be against them: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are actually on the same side on this issue, like virtually every other issue of any long-range consequence. Mathematically speaking, the practical effect your vote will have is negligible- it is more symbolic than anything else.

In the long run, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference which one of the two major candidates wins. The U.S. will remain on the fast track to bankruptcy. Our foreign policy will still wreak havoc abroad and fuel imperial delusions at home. The economy will eventually improve from the current depression, but the Fed will continue to cause economic turmoil in the future. Millions of unborn lives will continue to be sacrificed every year to the pagan god of “individual choice.” More and more economic and political power will be sucked into the vacuums of Wall Street and Washington, DC. More and more Americans will become reliant on an entitlement system that will become more and more untenable. Worst of all, the Constitution will continue to hemorrhage political meaning as it is undermined by Republicans and Democrats alike. If John Roberts’ decisive vote to uphold the Individual Mandate tells us anything, it is that so-called “strict constructionism” is dead on the Supreme Court.

In short, the system will continue along its current unsustainable trajectory.

There is a way out of this mess, albeit one that would require us to turn our backs on the path that both major parties have become hell-bent on walking. In order to save America in this late hour, we can no longer afford to compromise. Our national debt cannot sustain another Reagan or Bush, to say nothing of an Obama or Johnson. After decades of unsuccessful attempts at changing Washington from the inside, maybe it’s time for conservatives to finally realize that the answer to our present political crisis will not come from Washington, but from another source. In our constitutional system, the next most likely candidate for political action has always been, and will continue to be, the several states.

The question then becomes: will either of the candidates bring us closer to a country that lets the states take the lead on matters of national governance? Will either candidate be the first President in over a century to restore respect for the Constitution? Has either candidate shown any sign that they recognize the precarious position that the current trajectory has placed us in? I think not.

If my vote is to be purely symbolic and nothing else, I want to be sure that my vote will not be misidentified. Jill Stein may have some positive decentralist qualities, but overall stands for more statism than either major party candidate. The Constitution Party, as a whole, seems to be on relatively firm footing, but in selecting a candidate as mainstream as Virgil Goode, they demonstrate that they are willing to compromise political integrity in order to gain a few (and I mean a VERY few) votes. Gary Johnson has always leaned more toward the libertine side of libertarianism.

The one candidate that I can vote for without my voice being misconstrued is Congressman Ron Paul. For the past five years, he has been the most dependable national proponent for the constitution, for federalism, and for tradition- all of the values that traditionalists hold dear. He considers himself “libertarian,” but emphasizes an attendant personal moral responsibility more than Johnson does. That, combined with a lifelong demonstration of personal character, more than outweigh any distaste I might otherwise have for the misappropriation of the term “Revolution.” When I sent in my absentee ballot,  I voted for Ron Paul.

Categories: 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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