Tag Archives: republicans

Conservatism Alone is Not Enough

Most progressive pundits consider last week’s seven-hour summit on health care a waste of time.  Conservatives were generally pleased with the performance of the participating Republicans. Everyone stayed true to character as expected.  I watched the entire session and the only surprise for me was how prepared the Republicans were. A year of tea party protests and town hall meetings has at least taught the Republicans in Congress the language of conservatives and they use it well.  However, in listening to the discussion it became apparent that being merely conservative is not enough to get the country back on track.

As expected, the objections of the Republicans were mostly political.  Their primary objections were either about the process used to write the health care bills, or the astronomical cost of the Democratic proposals. These are important, but even if all the Republican proposals were accepted by the Democrats, the eventual transition from a lawfully constituted government to a progressive (American socialist) government would only be slowed, not stopped or reversed.

No serious objections were raised by any of the Republicans to a government attempt to deal with the problems of health care at the federal level. It is obvious, to any thinking individual, that we cannot afford the health care bill written by the Democrats. What no one is addressing is that we can no longer afford the constitution illiteracy that is rampant among our elected officials and the general public.  Therein lays our main problem, not only with health care, but also with the economy in general.

The only constitutional question raised during the seven and a half hour discussion concerned the mandate for individual citizens to buy health insurance.  No Democrat or Republican questioned the constitutionality of the federal government’s involvement in health care. The difference between Democrat proposals and Republican proposals exist only in the degree of government control not whether or not health care is a valid function of the federal government to begin with.

Of all the proposals made by the Republicans, only one can claim any Constitution support. That is the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines.  The primary purpose of the commerce clause is to insure free trade between the states. If health insurance were considered to be a product and not a service, then the commerce clause would apply under Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.  Other than that, all the proposals proposed by either party would be covered under the Tenth Amendment and would be among those powers reserved to the states and to the people.

Unless a way can be devised to motivate public officials to honor their oath of office to support and defend the Constitution there is no prospect for reversing our plunge toward progressivism (American socialism). The Illinois Conservative website hosts a number of tools for improving one’s knowledge and understanding of our founding principles and the founding documents. Our blog “The Constitution Sentinel” is wholly devoted to an on-line tutorial on the Constitution. We also have a version on the main website and are currently in the process of expanding our reference edition of the Constitution. Unfortunately, these continue to be the least visited sections of our site.

It is important to make support for the Constitution a major issue in the 2010 and 2012 elections if we are to have any chance of stopping Obama’s progressive policies and starting to return to the Constitutional Republic left us by the Founders. No true conservative should vote for any candidate who does not exhibit an understanding of his or her proper role under the Constitution.


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A Call for Truth in Political Labeling

Inspiration for this post comes from Meghan McCain, daughter of John McCain and Rush Limbaugh, talk show host.  Back in March of 2009, during an interview on “Larry King Live” in response to a question, Meghan McCain proudly announced that she was a “progressive Republican”.  Today a caller to Rush’s show wanted to know why he insisted on using the word liberal instead of progressive.  Rush’s answer was basically because the term liberal in recent years has picked up a negative image while progressive still carries the positive image of being forward looking and modern, and he uses liberal because he likes to tweak Democrats.

I am a fan of labels, particularly in the political arena.  The use of a truthful and accurate label to describe someone’s political philosophy is an efficient way to identify one’s approach to the issues that affect our lives.  However, in modern times, the use of labels has fallen into disfavor and using one leaves one open to the accusation of “name calling”.  In addition to that, a major problem with labels is that adherents to an unpopular political philosophy will attempt to hide their true beliefs by applying a misleading label to themselves.  Conversely, they will adopt a popular label in order to hide their true political philosophy. For example, virtually every Republican politician today, from Mark Kirk to John McCain to John Boehner refer to themselves as “conservative”.

Democrats, who for the most part, support a socialist agenda, insist on calling themselves “progressives”.  The result is that the average voter has a difficult time distinguishing a Republican from a RINO or a liberal Democrat from a socialist.  This confusion of labels is what causes many Americans to throw up their hands and declare “a pox on both your houses”, you’re all the same; which brings us to the question, what is the difference between a socialist, a progressive, a Republican and a conservative?

To understand these differences properly we have to look at the history of the terms.  Socialism, as an organized political philosophy began in the mid-nineteenth century, primarily from the teachings of Karl Marx in Germany. Its stated ideals of social and economic equality, a popular democracy and its opposition to the inequities of some segments of capitalism quickly won favor with many Americans.  However, Americans are different from Europeans so these socialists doctrines had to be Americanized. During the last decades of the nineteenth century, the American version of socialism adopted the label, “progressive”.

Political leaders of that era, which ended in the Great Depression, used many of the same tactics used today by the Democratic Party.  One that stands out is the demonization of capitalism. Leading capitalists were labeled “robber barons” and their financial empires were broken up or destroyed amid the cheers of the general public. Theodore Roosevelt became one of America’s most popular progressive leaders, earning the nickname of “Trust Buster” for his success in breaking up some of the largest capitalists institutions of his day.

The twentieth century dawned with progressivism being the most popular political philosophy in America.  The Presidential Election of 1912 featured four progressives vying for the office, representing four different political parties.  William Howard Taft, the incumbent ran as a progressive Republican, Woodrow Wilson as a progressive Democrat, Eugene Debs ran as a Socialist and Theodore Roosevelt ran on the new Progressive Party ticket.  Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote giving the election to Wilson.

The 1912 election was the beginning of the end for Constitutional government in America.  No matter who won the election the American people would have elected a progressive President. The one thing all four candidates had in common was the advocacy of a progressive income tax designed to facilitate a more equitable redistribution of the nation‘s wealth. A second similarity of the 1912 candidates was the belief in government’s ability to manage and eventually solve all of the country’s problems, if only its institutions were made more “democratic“.  In 1913 two progressive amendments were added to the Constitution, the Sixteenth, establishing a progressive income tax and the Seventeenth, requiring the popular election of Senators.

Socialism in its Americanized version, progressivism, was instrumental in bringing about the Great Depression.  America was slower than Europe in emerging from the Depression because of the twelve plus year reign of the Democrat Saint of Progressives, Franklin Roosevelt. Today, while the progressives make up the base of the Democrat Party, progressivism also exercises a strong influence on the Republican Party.

Progressive Republicans label themselves as “moderates” or sometimes as “fiscal conservatives”. It pains me to point this out, but many of those in the popular tea party movement would be more properly classified as “progressive conservatives”.  If that seems on the surface to be oxymoronic, let me clarify the term. Many self-identified conservatives are perfectly content with unconstitutional spending by the federal government as long as it is limited to things they perceive as being of personal benefit to them.  Education, infrastructure, and health care for example. They are content with unconstitutional taxation as long as it is not too oppressive to them personally. The same can be said of government regulation of businesses.  Unconstitutional regulations are considered Okay by many conservatives as long as they perceive it to be in their personal best interest.

It is difficult to define true conservatism today because there are so few examples to point to. To understand it properly we again have to go back in history to the first conservatives. During the early-post revolutionary period, the conservatives were known as anti-federalists.  After 1891 and the ratification of the Bill of Rights conservatives were popularly known as republicans.  The identifying characteristics were defense of the Constitution, rule of law, intolerance for government corruption, love of liberty and the sanctity of private property. Conservatism prevailed in America until the progressive era.  The last bulwark of conservatism was lost when the Supreme Court was successfully politicized by President Roosevelt in the mid-nineteen-thirties.

Since that time, conservatives have been in the minority, as they are today. A recent Gallop poll is being touted as evidence that conservatives are the largest voting block in America today.  Forty percent of those polled identified themselves as conservative, thirty-six percent as moderate and only twenty percent as liberal.  Before you break out the Champagne, consider the fact that most of those who identified themselves as conservatives were simply expressing their dissatisfaction with the excessive progressive policies of the Obama Administration not an ideologically understood preference for true conservative principles.

No one can rightfully claim the label of “conservative” who tolerates and often encourages the wanton violation of the Constitution by their elected officials whether they considerer themselves as fiscal conservatives, social conservatives or blue dog Democrats. When I hear self-proclaimed conservatives call for bipartisan federal solutions to things like health care, education, alternative energy and so forth, I fear for my country.

Progressivism is the American version of socialism.  Socialism and our Constitution are mutually exclusive. Constitution based conservatism cannot compromise with progressivism. It must defeat it or perish.  The call for bipartisanship is nothing more than a call for surrender, one battle at a time and can only lead to despotism. True conservatives do not want “smaller government”; they want a constitutionally limited government.  They do not want “lower taxes”; they want constitutionally authorized taxation only. They do not want a “less intrusive government”; they want the federal government out of their personal lives, period.

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The Republican Outreach

liberty-bellThere is no shortage of advice to the Republican Party regarding the need to “reach out” to Hispanics, Blacks, women, moderates and younger voters.  Conventional wisdom says that the way to do that is to moderate our position on social issues and offer an equal or better program to solve the problems of healthcare, education, energy and the environment.  However, they do not answer the two primary questions: Why, and How?

At first glance the question of, why? would appear easy.  If the Republican Party is to have any influence over the affairs of state, their candidates have to be elected first.  On the other hand,   who would benefit, and what would that benefit be, if the Republican Party gained office by catering to voters who would otherwise vote for a socialist/democrat candidate?  There would be a definite benefit to the professional Republican politician in advancing his or her career goals.  The Republican Party would benefit by increasing its power in the Federal government. But, what about the rank-and-file Republican and the general welfare of the country?

The rank-and-file Republican would benefit only in that the advance toward tyranny might be slowed to a degree and the payment for irresponsible spending might be postponed for a generation or two, but in general, the average republican voter would profit little.  The general welfare of the nation would suffer greatly.  By moving the Party left in order to attract more moderates, independents, and liberal voters, the only obstacle to the eventual transition from a Constitutional Republic to an Americanized Social Democracy would be removed.

We have faced the threat of federal tyranny throughout our history.  Rarely have we succeeded in hindering its progress for more than a short time.  The three most notable examples were the revolution of 1800, the Reagan revolution of 1980, and the Gingrich revolution of 1994.  In none of these were the principles of the Republican Party altered to attract “moderates” or “liberal voters”.  Instead, the American people were reminded of who we are and what we stand for, and in each case the American people responded.

The voters the Republican Party needs to win over is the uninformed voter, whether they be Hispanic, African American, moderate Democrats or Independents.  Republicans, especially conservatives need to focus in the next eighteen months on educating the American people on the founding principles that made America the most prosperous and free nation on the globe.  Instead of allowing the MSM and the Democrat Party to identify us as the “party of NO” and the “party of the rich”, we need to establish a new image as “the party of the Constitution”.

The first step is to school our Republican leaders and elected representatives in the founding documents.  Too may of them are more concerned about increasing their personal power than in defending the liberty of their constituents.  The Republican penchant to “go along to get along” has to be jettisoned in favor of a firm stand in defense of our founding principles.  All Americans understand the importance of a constitutional government when it is properly explained.

The 2010 race for congressional seats is already shaping up to be a contest between “squishy” Republicans on our side and dedicated socialists on the Democrat side.  We need to start now to identify candidates who understand, promote and defend the founding principles.  A good example of the problems Republicans will face in 2010 is the Florida Senate race.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “top GOP officials today took the unusual step of inserting themselves into a party primary, picking a moderate U.S. Senate candidate (Gov. Charlie Crist) over a conservative in Florida.”  “…in doing so, the top Republican officials also are aligning themselves with a candidate who has broken with party orthodoxy on environmental and voting rights issues and even appeared with President Obama to support the economic stimulus plan being lambasted by conservatives.”

Running against Crist in the primary will be Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a conservative of Cuban descent.   In many ways the Florida race will be a harbinger of just how serious conservatives are going to be in taking back the Congress from the socialists currently in charge.  The future of America depends on the 2010 primaries every bit as much as on the general election.  It goes without saying that the Republican Party leadership is going to be more concerned with protecting the seats of incumbents that have proven their ineffectiveness than in reforming the party to comply with the principles that have made America great.

Republicans who have shown themselves to place party above country and power above principle need to be challenged and defeated in the primaries.  That will only happen if the grass-roots movement that began with the “tea parties” continues into the 2010 primaries.

Republican Tent Starting to Leak

liberty-bellSenator Arlen Specter announced Tuesday that he was switching his party affiliation to the Democrats.  Predictably, the self-appointed Republican advisors attributed his defection to the growing trend of intolerance among the Republican rank-and-file toward politicians whose views differ from their own.  The Republican Party, we are reminded, is the party of the “big tent”, big enough to accommodate all species of political animals.

Big tents are fine, if you are running a circus.  However, the Republican Party is not a circus; it just looks that way.  Tents are intended to be temporary structures, and are notoriously unstable in the face of a storm.  If republicans (small “R”) are to regain the stature they have enjoyed in providing leadership for the American people over the past four hundred years they are going to need a structure somewhat more stable than a tent.

The Republican Party needs an edifice with a foundation strong enough to withstand any storm, even the “prefect storm” it is facing today.  Historically conservatism has been the foundation of the Republican Party since its founding in 1854.  The fortress of conservatism that protected the liberty of the people for more than a century began to be disassembled, stone by stone, in the Republican Party along with the rise of progressivism during the twentieth century.

Republicanism did not start with the Republican Party.  The words most frequently used by the founders before and after the Revolutionary War in their political discourse were the words, “republican” and “republicanism”.  These words are synonymous with what we mean when we talk about conservatism today—almost.  Republicanism in the Founders generation was based on six principles, not just the three most often used today to describe the “three legs” of conservatism:  small government, low taxes and private property.  In fact, the three legs of the conservative stool are not the most important as understood and practiced by the Founders.

Those principles were:

  1. Faith in God and His divine providence.
  2. Rule of law and zero tolerance for corruption.
  3. Allegiance to the Constitution.
  4. Limited government powers delegated by the people.
  5. Powers to tax limited to those necessary to run government.
  6. Right to private property as the fruits of labor.

Too many conservatives seem to have forgotten the first three principles while focusing totally on the latter.  While virtually all conservatives subscribe to these principles intellectually, few in the political class practice them in their public service.  Unless the Republican Party and its conservative base wishes to follow the Whigs into the dustbin of history, they need to return to the principles that have been shown to work over and over again.

The fact that Arlen Specter decided to rejoin the Democrats in a last ditch effort to salvage his political career is significant only to the extent that it prompts the Republican Party to reexamine its position.  From its inception, politics in America has been divided into two camps.  Those camps were summed up by President Reagan as those who believe government is the answer and those who believe government is the problem.  The departure of Specter is, hopefully, only the first step in the realignment of the two parties.  That realignment would be helped along if others would follow Specters example and align themselves with the party that most reflects their worldview, particularly, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and a few others.

As attractive as the idea of a “big tent” might be, we do not have that luxury at this time in history.  We need to follow the example of Ronald Reagan in attracting Democrats and Independents to our side by converting them to republicanism not by compromising republican principles.  It worked for Jefferson in 1800 and it worked for Reagan in 1980.  It will work for the Republican Party in 2010 and 2012, but only if it restores the first three principles of republicanism to the party and uses those principles, as well as the latter three, to persuade others to join them.

Third Party Movement Gaining Steam

minute-man-2-lithoOne of the things coming out of last week’s Tea Parties is resurgence in the number of conservatives considering a third party.  I use the term “third party” to refer to any of the many parties presenting themselves as alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats.

Third parties play an important role in our political system; I myself am a member of the Conservative Party USA.  However, if the effects of a third party are to be positive and not negative, it is important to take a cold-eyed, objective look at just what the party can actually accomplish and what its role should be.

There are always a number of third parties in play in any election.  On the left today, there is the Green Party, the Democratic Socialist of America, the Socialist Party USA, and the Communist Party USA. On the right, there is the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, the Conservative Party USA, and the American Conservative Party. There is also a multitude of local and regional third parties that I am not aware of.

No third party candidate, identified as such has ever been elected on a national ticket—I consider congressional elections to be state elections.  Few, running on a third party ticket have been elected to the Senate or House.  The only one I can think of offhand is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (DSA). I’m sure there are a few others, but the fact remains, third party candidates are almost always “also rans”.  The electability of a third party candidate becomes even more unlikely at the national level.

Our winner-take-all-system is not conducive to a successful third party.  The stronger a third party, the more destructive it becomes to its own ends.  In national elections, the strongest third party candidate always contributes to the election of the candidate least favorable to the policies they advocate.  That has been the consistent pattern for the past 150 years since the two major parties came into prominence.

Some will no doubt point out that the Republican Party began as a third party in 1854 and elected Abraham Lincoln President six years later in 1860.  The political climate today is quite different, however from that in 1854.  First, the political parties of the time did not have the power they have today.  The Whig Party, replaced by the Republican Party had only been in existence twenty years at the time and was not an exceptionally strong party.

Second, the slavery question had not yet been settled and was a major source of discontent during that period in history.  The Republican Party was a coalition of former Whigs and disaffected Democrats who agreed with their anti-slavery ideals.  Opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act was the catalyst that allowed the fledgling Republican Party to survive and prosper.  Abraham Lincoln, himself, was a leader in the Whig Party of Illinois prior to the Republican’s first national convention at Jackson, Michigan in 1854.

Another common misconception of history involves Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party.  Roosevelt was a leader in both the Progressive Party and the Republican Party.  He was elected Vice-President in 1900 on the Republican ticket with William McKinley.  McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and replaced by Roosevelt.  In 1904, Roosevelt won reelection as a Republican.  In 1912, he attempted to retake the Presidency from his former protégé William Howard Taft, as a Republican.

He lost the nomination to Taft and attempted to run as a third party candidate on the Bull Moose Party ticket, resulting in the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.  His third party try pulled so many progressives out of the Republican Party that it was dominated by conservatives until after the ‘32 election of Franklin Roosevelt.

In spite of the lack of electoral success at the polls, I am still a strong supporter of the third party movement so long as it does not carry out the role of “spoiler”.  To determine what third parties should be doing, let’s take a look at what works.

If asked to name the most successful political party in America most people would answer either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.  Both would be wrong.  The most successful party of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is the Democratic Socialists of America.  They control both houses of Congress and the White House, and without fielding a single candidate under their banner, for national elective office.  They spend their time and money promoting their principles and supporting candidates who advance those principles, usually Democrats.

It does not matter to the DSA leadership if the man in the White House or the leaders in Congress are labeled Socialists, Democrats or Republicans so long as they work to implement the socialist agenda and implement socialist policies.  As someone once said, “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

Conservatives need to develop the same attitude.  We should be spending our efforts in educating the public about the conservative principles of limited government, low taxes, and capitalist economics, while identifying and supporting candidates who will promote those principles and defend the natural rights of life, liberty and property identified in the Declaration of Independence.  In other words, we should be promoting the founding principles of America and supporting candidates who do likewise.

To attempt to run a conservative candidate in opposition to Republican Party candidates in the general elections of 2010 and 2012 will insure the continuation of socialist/democrat dominance for generations to come. Instead, we need to identify solid conservative candidates and encourage them to run in the Republican Primaries to replace RINOs currently holding the office.  The Republican Party is the natural and historical home of conservatives.  We just need to take it back from the linguini spine, constitutionally illiterate, “moderates” currently masquerading as Republicans.

I believe this is the best way to take back the Party and our country.  The alternative is tyranny, servitude to the state and a declining standard of living for everyone.

Renewing The Conservative Movement

liberty-bellDuring the 2008 Presidential campaigns, John McCain traveled the country declaring himself to be a “proud conservative”.  In fact, all the candidates presented themselves to the voters as conservatives.  Yet they all differed from each other in certain major issues, operating from different underlying principles. None consistently and convincingly advocated adherence to the founding principles of our nation, namely those found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Conventional wisdom counsels conservatives and Republicans to modify their positions to appeal more to various sub-groups and special interest.  This advice comes not only from the media and non-conservative and non-Republican sources, but often from self-labeled conservatives and Republicans as well.  The result is that many conservatives have become discouraged and confused concerning the conservative message.

The outpouring of support for Sarah Palin when she entered the race as McCain’s running mate gives credence to the argument that many Americans are hungering for true conservative leadership.  Single issue conservatives such as social-conservatives, fiscal-conservatives, and so-on, no longer provide the leadership sought by the true conservative patriot. Neither are leaders who mouth “bumper sticker slogans” and conservative sounding platitudes, while at the same time supporting big government programs like education, healthcare, open borders, and government interference with the free-market economy.

The conservative movement has gotten off track, and there is a growing group of patriots who are looking for ways to get it moving again in the right direction.  The problem is that the average person does not know where to start or what to do.  They are looking for someone to take the lead and tell them what to do before they do anything.  A political movement is more than a few people following a charismatic leader.  A political movement is millions of people cooperating in a common cause arising from shared principles and mutual goals.

In recent history the conservative movement has been likened to a three-legged stool, with one leg representing small government, the second representing national defense and the third low taxes.  That’s good, so far as it goes.  However, it provides little real guidance for the average person and does not give them a base for formulating their political opinions.  It fails to inform as to what the principles are that underlie the desirability of small government or low taxes, for example.

To me there are two basic principles underlying true conservatism, the unalienable “natural” rights of man given by God to all, and that the sole purpose of government is to protect those rights.  These two principles led our forefathers to fight the Revolutionary War and establish the Constitutional Republic known as the United States of America.  They are clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence and are the underlying principles of every article of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Thomas Jefferson included these rights under the headings of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Life

This right includes not only the right to be born, but the right to live, by the grace of God, until we die from natural causes.  It is the basic right underlying the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms for self-defense. It is to protect this right that Congress was given the constitutional power to make war and provide for the national defense.

Liberty

The right to liberty is the second unalienable right common to all mankind.  This is the right to use the facilities of our mind, body and spirit freely without interference, to decide for one‘s self what is in our own best interest, to believe whatever we wish to believe, and to express our thoughts freely.  This right is embodied in the First Amendment as the right to express our religious views freely without the interference or direction of government—freedom of religion; the right to express our thoughts without sanction or fear—freedom of the press; the right to join with others to secure our rights—freedom of assembly and association.

Amendments Five, Six, Seven and Eight are all designed to protect our right to liberty, guaranteeing us that our liberty cannot be taken from us without a fair and thorough review by the judicial system.

Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is an individual thing.  No person or government can give us happiness.  It is a condition of being that each of us must pursue and find for ourselves.  That’s why it is described in Jefferson’s list as a “pursuit” not as an end in itself.  Most scholars refer to “pursuit of happiness” as property rights.  Thomas Jefferson referred to it as “enjoyment of the fruits of our labor” which would include wealth, property, wages, other income, or the general pursuit of prosperity.

Each of us has the unalienable right to pursue our prosperity or “happiness” in our own way making our own decisions as to the routes to follow. Amendments Three, Four, Five, Thirteen, Fourteen 1:3, Article One 7:1, 8:1, 5, 9, and 9:4 are all intended to protect the right to “enjoy the fruits of one’s labor”. Unalienable means they cannot be transferred to another or taken away by law.  Government has no legitimate power to infringe on or otherwise interfere with the legitimate exercise of the unalienable rights of their citizens.

You will notice that all of these “rights groups” are self-sufficient within themselves.  They are dependent on outside agencies only in a passive way.  In other words, they can be interfered with by outside forces such as government or fellow citizens, but they cannot be granted by them.

It is important to distinguish between “rights” which are natural and independent, and “privileges” which are dependent on the actions of others or the granting by government.  Most if not all social programs commonly claimed as “rights” are in reality privileges and not rights at all.  For example, healthcare, financial or economic security, civil marriage, etc., are all privileges because they must be actively supplied by someone else, individually or collectively through government or other groups.

Government attempts at wealth or income redistribution or “leveling” are unconstitutional infringements on our property rights or the right to enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Taxes confiscated from a few in order to provide social programs for select individuals or groups are likewise unconstitutional infringements on our right to the “pursuit of happiness” insofar as it diminishes our own prosperity.

Any effort to renew the conservative movement and get it “back on track” must be anchored in these principles and directed toward the defense and promotion of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  These documents are the sum total of the true Conservative Manifesto.