(Cross posted from Blogodidact) What with all the campaign autopsies that have been floated around since last Tuesday’s election, all the thinkers ret
hinking what went wrong and how to fix conservatism, it’s set one of George Carlin’s old comedy routines running around through my head on continuous loop, the bit on words that don’t go together,
“…the term Jumbo Shrimp has always amazed me. What is a Jumbo Shrimp? I mean, it’s like Military Intelligence – the words don’t go together, man… “
That’s what I especially hear when I hear that according to numerous rethinkers upon the state of conservatism, that in order to save conservatism, conservatism needs to be modernized, conservatism needs to get with the times.
Conservatism + Modernize. See what I mean? Just like Jumbo Shrimp.
Unfortunately, while George Carlin was trying to be funny, these folks are dead serious. They say, with a straight face, that in order to ‘modernize’ conservatism it will require ‘bold’ ‘new’ ‘thinking’ in regards to conservatism’s positions on college ‘educated’ youth, Latinos and supporters of gay marriage.
My immediate reaction, other than laughter, is that
- ‘bold’ thinking is not to be found in chasing after the presumed hot button issues of popular opinion.
- ‘New’ thinking is not found in reasserting the need to pander to decades old issues (and I don’t mean ‘decades old’ as in Old, but as in what’s merely fashionable, a passing fad).
- ‘Thinking’ is not what results from crunching numbers and electing to follow the higher tallies.
In addition to those obvious points, there’s also the fact that to the extent that you try to put a new face on an old philosophy in order to better appeal to the appetites of one particular group or another, it cannot be done without severing its principles, wrenching it out of its orbit, and transforming the entire project into an unseemly fraud.
That’s not to say that conservatism doesn’t need to reexamine its conclusions on these, and other issues, to strive to see more clearly how its stated conclusions compare with the truths that its philosophy brings to light – that should be the constant effort of all of those who claim to believe in it. But to advise adopting the conclusions of others, for the sake of winning popularity contests, that is hardly a conservative thing to do.
Do that and you will have no conservatism left to conserve.
Sooo… is it me that’s not modern enough in my thinking? Or is it they who are tediously ancient in theirs? What about you?
Again, while I realize the importance of the popular vote in elections, the deeper issue which the vote serves, the purpose of governing, is not to do what is popular, but to do what is proper and right. It is not the job of politicians to do what they know to be wrong, in order to gain popularity and power, but to do what is right and communicate that in a way that promotes the popularity of those ideas.
If you are losing elections, it isn’t your philosophy that’s the problem (assuming that it is true in the first place), but your politicians and their poor and ill-informed understanding of it and their ridiculous attempts to make it seem (!) ‘relevant’. Hello RNC, Romney, McCain, Dole, Bush, Ford….
Conservative vs. Liberal? Hardly
First, what is it that Conservatives are seeking to conserve? If they are being true to themselves, and to our Founding Fathers, then they should realize that they are supposed to be conserving the Classical Liberal philosophy which our nation was formed from and founded upon – preserving and extending the Liberty of its citizens.
Who are the opponents of Conservatives, Liberals? Hardly. What masquerades under the label ‘Liberal’, meaning to promote the greatest liberty, is not found in a party that desires to use govt regulation to control everything from your Dr’s prescriptions to the size of your Big Gulp. The proper label, as Hillary Clinton pointed out when running for President, is the term ‘Progressive’… which I find difficult to not amend to ProRegressive I’ll make clear in a moment.
The entire ProRegressive project has been predicated upon the idea that the ideas and principles of our Founders era, are outmoded, suitable only for a pre-technological and agrarian few but not for the modern technological many; that the way of ‘progress’ is to be found through the rejection of what is True across time in favor of what pragmatically seems to work… for the moment… and may change (or be changed) in the next moment).
It has been the goal of the ProRegressive movement, to transform the Constitution and the principles which animate it, into a figurehead for an all powerful administrative state that will replace those pesky Natural Rights, with Govt Promises and Privileges.
Are you seriously going to tell me that the way to ‘save’ conservatism, is through the embrace of its fiercest enemy and the rejection of that which makes it timeless and worthy of conserving? Because their ‘new’ ideas, which amount to nothing more than taking away your Rights which are yours by nature of being human, and giving you govt IOU’s for one privilege or another, that is supposedly a modern idea?
Ladies and Gents, that, putting powerful politicians in charge of your life, is not progress, it is regress. A century ago, President Coolidge framed that point nicely:
We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
For you who are seeking this ‘modernization’, just what is it, please, tell me, what is it that you are seeking to conserve? Your own power? Perhaps? Was your self-esteem damaged in the last election?
Timelessness over Modernistic
Oh, I hear you, trust me, I can just hear you saying,
‘There you go talking about what some dude said a CENTURY ago! What does that have to do with me? With us? Here! Today!’
A fair question, and no doubt followed up with… what about the ‘educated’ youth who want free this and that? Or of those Latinos who want special privileges? Or those gays who want to marry? Don’t we realistically have to pander and appeal to them? Don’t we need a slick new marketing tool that’ll convince them that we ‘care’ about them?
Let me ask you this: Do you really think that you, assuming that you believe a tenth of what you claim to want to conserve, do you really think that you, are going to pander to them, more convincingly than those other guys across the aisle? Do you really think the people who want that sort of thing, are going to buy Pander-Lite, when they can get the real thing from the party of FDR, LBJ, Clinton & Obama? Is there something you find that’s particularly modern about being stupid?
How about considering this instead: If you keep asking a question, over and over and over again, and have tried several of the different answers which that question leads to, and they have all failed (as happened with Ford, Bush 41, Dole, McCain, Romney), how about considering the possibility that you are asking the wrong question?
Rather than asking how conservatives can pretty themselves up and trick… oh, excuse me, appeal, appeal is of course what you meant to say, yeah, that’s the ticket, appeal to supporters of the young or the old or the Latinos or the gays, how about asking them if they’d really like their choices to depend upon what favors the current crop of politicians in Washington D.C. are willing to grant to (or withhold from) them… or whether they might rather be secure in their own power to make those decisions about their own lives for themselves?
How about those ‘educated youth’ consider and reflect upon how govt has already helped to increase the cost of education beyond their reach, and get back to me on just how much more they really want govt to help them out?
For those who what govt to mandate marriage laws, gay or otherwise, how about first considering just who it is it that marries people? There are a few options of course, Churches, Justices of the Peace, Ship Captains… but I don’t recall Congress being one of those typically involved in marrying people, do you? What place does govt have in marriage? Marriage is tough enough as it is, do you really want Govt involved in it? Do you really want an ever growing thousands of pages of statutes, codes and regulations describing and defining who it is that can get married?
Personally, I’d hate to see happen to the term “Marriage”, what has happened to the word “Gay”, there are any number of Christmas Carols that cannot be sung today without adolescents smirking when it comes time to sing the word. That kind of modernization I think we can do without. And traditionally, churches have defined Marriage as between a Man and a Woman… or as with Mormon’s of a century ago, and Muslims of the modern day, a Man and Women. And of course while the modern Muslims demand stoning to death any same sex dalliance of any kind, still, if you can find a church that is willing to marry you, why should the govt have a say in the matter? Aren’t you for a separation of church and state? Do you really want to change that?
Or are you one of those that say that you want the ‘respect’ of being able to say that you are ‘married’? Have you looked at the level of respect that congress has in this nation today? Do you seriously believe, that govt, whose own level of respect is at all time lows, is going to succeed in requiring others to give your associations their respect?
Really? Government + Respect. I’m hearing George Carlin talking about Jumbo Shrimp again… how about you?
Or is it that you want the legal standing of married people in regards to insurance, inheritance, etc? Then what you want is not something proceeding from the pulpit, but more of a civil union, such as can be performed by a Justices of the peace and Ship Captains; contractual obligations that unite two people in a legal union.
So aren’t you really saying that you want people to be able to form contracts and associations as they see fit, without the interference of others? Aren’t you really saying that even if a majority of the people want to deprive you of your Rights – that you have a Natural Right to oppose them? And that Govt should uphold your Individual Rights, even if a majority of the people wish it were otherwise? Aren’t you really saying that you want to make sure that no majority, moral or otherwise, can band together and deny you your liberty to make your own contracts and associate with who you please?
Welcome to another one of the timeless truths which make a Republican form of government (where Rights are upheld by law no matter the wishes of the majority), superior to that of a Democracy (where the majority decides what is, and isn’t, ‘right’), which is why our Founders defined, in our Constitution, that this nation would be a Republic,
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”
Our Founders, those who you claim to be conserving, believed that the government has no business dictating or altering the terms of a contract freely entered into by adults, they saw to it that no state shall… pass any….
“… Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts,”
That my friend, is as conservative (in the Classical Liberal sense) as it gets, and was just as True 200 years ago, as it is today, timeless, rather than merely modern. What benefit would ‘modernizing’ that bring to anyone?
Well… what about appealing to ‘Latinos’?
So… you think conservatives should start trying to appeal to ‘Latinos’. How? Do you really want me to start trilling my L’s like Obama and all of the other ridiculous News Anchors? Will that make me ‘Latino friendly’? Is pronouncing particular words, or buying burritos in areas I might not normally venture, really going to make lllLLLah-teen-OHhs, my friends? Is that going to show how much I respect ‘them’? Is it going to make ‘them’ like ‘me’?
No way Jose.
How about this, how about if you (Latino, Irish, Canadian, etc.) would like to live your own life, without interfering with the lives of others doing the same, how about we restrain govt, and anyone else who might want to overpower you, from interfering in your living of your own life? How about we see to it that the Law takes no notice of your race or wealth or accent; but only of the truth and justice of your position?
On top of that, study after study has found that Latinos tend to be far more conservative, than leftist – it isn’t Conservatism that has kept Latinos from voting on the Right side of the aisle, but idiot politicians paying more attention to rolling their L’s, than to making clear how conservatism protects the rights of Latinos and everyone else in this nation together.
How about that as a ‘conservative’ policy towards lllLLLah-teen-OHhs, gays, the young, the old, the rich the poor and everyone else?
Because that is the only genuinely New political ideal that has been developed over the last several thousand years, ideas that were first tested out by the Founding Fathers of this nation. All the other available options, whether statist, marxist, socialist, racist, they are anything but ‘new’ or the means of making ‘progress’; they are not new and they make no forward progress, they are instead the oldest ideas in game of political power. There is nothing older than those who seek to attain and hold power, by using it to play favors with those who (at the moment) can help them keep their hold on power, at the expense of every other ‘little’ person out there.
It was the true radicals, those of our Founding Father’s era, who looked that ancient evil in the face and said ‘No more’.
It took decades to work the kinks out, but those new ideas – the idea that govt derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, the idea that those holding the reigns of power in government must themselves obey its own laws, transforming that people into a nation of laws, and not of men, restraining itself from violating the individual rights of any of its people… that is the most brand spanking new idea on the political power scene, and all the others are out to get, and end, it, as they have been from the very beginning.
IMHO, That is a political philosophy worth conserving. How about you people who’d like to change that, drop the pretense of wanting to conserve anything at all, and just declare yourselves to be the ProRegressives you are? Because that is what you are if you are seeking to somehow ‘modernize’ conservatism. You are for, Pro, Regressing our system of government to a time where pesky things like Individual Rights and objective Laws didn’t interfere with the power of those in power to, in Thrasymachus’ words, do what they’d like for the ‘advantage of the stronger‘. that is what you are after, isn’t? You want to lure the votes of the young, the old, the gay and the Latino, so that their uninformed consent will make you stronger? Or as IEP summarizes it:
- Justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger (338c)
- Justice is obedience to laws (339b)
- Justice is nothing but the advantage of another (343c).
Just come out and say that you’d like to use the power of your organization to influence the ultimate organization, govt, to shower flattery and favors upon whichever group you feel will help you get whatever power it is that you want? How about you just come out and say that you are after Power for powers sake, and drop the pretense of wanting to secure anyone’s liberty to live their own lives in pursuit of their own chosen happiness?
Oh… yeah… it doesn’t work that way either, does it? If you come out and say that you want the power to tell people what to do with their own lives, people tend to not vote for them. So you have to pretend to before them, before you can be against them, is that it?
Well I’ll let you get back to trying to fooling all of the people all of the time, and I’ll just get back to doing my best to recover what is true; and to doing my best to conserve the only political philosophy ever created for the purpose of securing the liberty of its people to live their own lives, and the Constitution formed from those ideas, so that people can clearly see, just who it is that wants to give their fellows the liberty to live their own lives, and who it is that wants to grasp the reigns, and more importantly the whip, of power, so that they can gain power over everyone else, and use the power of govt to dictate how to live their lives for them.
Let me put the starting point of my position plainly. If what I believe is not true in any time and place, then it has no claim to truth, or to my interest. If what I believe excludes, or includes, anyone, on the basis of their age, race, wealth, gender, accent, origin, etc, then it has no claim to truth, or to my interest. And while admittedly conservatism requires an Educated people to prosper and prevail, a people ‘educated’ to the idea that nothing is right and nothing is wrong, have declared themselves to have no grasp of what is true, or any claim to my interest.
The way forward will not to be found by making ourselves more ‘modern’, but more timeless. I wish to conserve liberty, not to transform it into something less than zero. How about you?