Robert had some qualms about coming forth with a direct response to another contribution and contributor here at America’s Right. I said “go for it” for more reasons than one — first, I always enjoy Robert’s writing, even when I disagree with it; second, we cannot have this single front in terms of perspective at this Web site . . . we learn from each other and, especially in the case of the divide among the American right, I think it’s incredibly important to hear all sides. Of course, I’ll continue to weigh in on this, but for now I’m enjoying the points made by Ron and by Robert, and by all of you in response. — Jeff
By Robert Wallace
I am a conservative by principle, and a Republican by practice. The argument for this position is simple: the only viable contender to the progressivism rife in the Democrat party is the Republican Party.
If you “vote your heart”–as Glenn Beck likes to put it–instead of your head then you end up in a situation where there are semi-conservative Blue Dog Democrats helping Nancy Pelosi to take the position as Speaker of the House and failing to provide a significant brake on her radical agenda.
As a general rule, I have a low opinion of those who turn their noses up at any party that doesn’t meet some mythical standard of ideological purity. Jefferson and Hamilton were both in Washington’s cabinet, remember? Grandiose gestures in defense of principle are generally hypocritical showboating. If you aren’t willing to think rationally and act strategically for the benefit of your principles — how committed to those principles can you really call yourself?
For the decade since I turned 18 and voted in my first election, this has been enough to get me to check the “R” candidate every time I vote, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.
Ronald Glenn’s recent piece here at America’s Right argued passionately for unity between the disparate wings of the GOP in the face of the Democratic onslaught, but he glossed over a critical problem. He argued that the party now consists of two major wings:
- The religious/social wing (Mike Huckabee)
- The economic/defense wing (Dick Cheney)
That may be true, but the problem is that neither of these wings is remotely conservative. Mike Huckabee may be an evangelical Christian and able televangelist, but his brand of conservatism has absolutely nothing to do with the concepts of limited government and individual liberty that served the philosophical basis for Constitutional politics. His vision of government is essentially the same as that of liberal progressives: an all-protecting nanny-state that ensures we cannot speak, hear, or do evil. The only difference between him and the progressive Democrats is that his definition of “evil” also includes abortion and gay marriage. So what? Harry Reid is pro-life too, you know. It’s not enough to have a good idea about what results we should aim for. A true conservative must be dedicated to a particular political process.
Then we’ve got Dick Cheney. As much as I admire him for his efforts to protect and defend the United States from terrorism and as much as I prefer his dispassionate, realistic view of international relations, the fact remains that his brand of proactive defense is alarmingly close to neo-imperialism. Whether the Iraq invasion was an example of real politik, a bold attempt to win an ideological conflict, or an excuse to further American hegemony is beyond the purposes of this piece, but one conclusion can be clearly drawn: Cheney’s expansive view of the boundaries for appropriate conduct in defending American security certainly do not present a defense of the principles of limited government.
So where is the wing of the Republican Party dedicated to constitutional principles? To individual liberties? To small government?
There isn’t one.
I haven’t forgotten Ron Paul. He–along with some notable exceptions–demonstrate that there are some real conservative individuals in the GOP. But remind me again: what is Ron Paul’s standing in the GOP? Oh, right. He’s a pariah. So much for a conservative wing of the party.
There was only one other candidate in the 2008 primaries who I believed got it, and that was Mitt Romney. I say that he got it because, if you’re truly committed to small government and conservative principles, then the elephants in the room are Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security. He alone–from either party–was prepared to deal seriously with these issues. He did not demonstrate the ideological purity of Ron Paul, but he certainly exhibited a fitting focus on the issue that should matter most to conservatives: cutting the federal government down to size.
But in the 2008 primaries Ron Paul barely managed to get a toehold in the debates, and Mitt Romney was tag-teamed by the two faux conservatives that best exemplified the dual progressive wings of the GOP (McCain and Huckabee).
So the questions I have for Ronald Glenn, and anyone else that wants to convince me to stay in the GOP tent are is this: Why I would want to continue to support a party that is not split between competing definitions of conservatism, but is in fact split between competing ideas of progressivism?
Even if the GOP does defeat the Democrats in 2010 and/or 2012, I have very little confidence that the country will change direction at all. Just the speed at which we’re headed away from liberty and towards statism.
If the bus is headed off the cliff, then fighting over how fast to keep going just doesn’t strike me as a rational conversation to have.
It’s time to change directions. The GOP can either come with the conservative movement or be left behind. If the choice is between abandoning conservatism and abandoning the GOP I already know which course I will take.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.