Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – This goes out to you people out there that agitate this and promote this, and you do so on a daily basis, if not hour by hour. [mocking] “We gotta take the party back. We gotta kick these RINOs out.” As I have been trying to preach to what I hope is an expanding choir out there, that is another fool’s err. Carey explains it in writing in a manner in which I think is congruent with the way we’ve been talking about it. It’s brilliant prose. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Mike: A gentleman called earlier and said we ought to put all our faith and the eggs in the basket of the Republican Party. If we just took the party back for the good of everyone else, then all would be right with the world. Manna would fall from heaven, streets would be paved with gold, we’d all get along. Conservatives would learn they have to make deals with people that they don’t want to make deals with, and here’s the key part, that they don’t want to live with under the conditions that the other side wants to impose. Why should you bargain on that? Your bargaining chip is that you disagree. It is that you wish for things to be different, or wish for a peaceful existence under the republican rule.
George Carey, writing at the Imaginative Conservative website, this is a brilliant essay. The title is “Conservatism: A Look Ahead.” This is an update to an essay he posted in 2005, “The Future of Conservatism.” I’m going to read a part of this. This is posted in today’s Pile of Prep under the headline “If you read ONE essay on conservatism this year read this one.”
What I don’t think many traditionalists understand is that in the American political context a Burkean based conservatism cannot be true to itself if it is aligned permanently with either of our political parties. The most obvious considerations bear out this conclusion. On what basis can loyalty to an organization, lacking any abiding principles and seeking nothing more than electoral victory, be justified?
Are traditionalists obliged to follow a party that has lost whatever moral bearings it possessed?
To look at the issue of party and traditional conservatism from another angle, it is obvious that traditionalists simply cannot shuck principle. What principles? Here I offer up two of the most fundamental. The traditionalist should be ever mindful of the burdens that are placed on the young and yet to be born, a stricture that certainly should serve to make fiscal responsibility a guiding principle for traditionalists. Likewise, traditionalists should be acutely aware that a decision to go to war is the most important and gravest decision that any country can make precisely because of its consequences which inevitably involve the deliberate infliction of evil. Moreover, they also know that for leaders to mislead or lie to gain popular support for a “preventive” war is criminal; that to be “just,” a preventive war must meet extremely stringent requirements that virtually preclude its undertaking. [Mike: Don’t try and tell that to Bill Kristol and the gang at Weekly Standard or most of the rest of the conservative publishing world.] These observations, which relate directly to the most basic functions and responsibilities of a decent government are, as far as I can see, incontrovertible. And given the record of the Republican party, I see no reason why a traditionalist would want to be associated with it. Yes, the same can be said of the Democratic party, though, as I note above, traditionalists seem obsessed with the direction and health of the Republicans. But, it is asked, can’t the traditionalists “reclaim” the Republican party…
Mike: This goes out to you people out there that agitate this and promote this, and you do so on a daily basis, if not hour by hour. [mocking] “We gotta take the party back. We gotta kick these RINOs out.” As I have been trying to preach to what I hope is an expanding choir out there, that is another fool’s err. Carey explains it in writing in a manner in which I think is congruent with the way we’ve been talking about it. It’s brilliant prose. So can the traditionalists reclaim the Republican Party is the question. Here is George W. Carey’s answer at Imaginative Conservative posted yesterday:
My answer would be ”no.” Such a task is virtually impossible for two basic reasons; one, very practical; the other involving our political culture. At the practical level, the major constituent parts of the party are simply too powerful to dislodge. The Neos, for instance, are in firm control of its foreign policy – witness Romney’s pandering to the extremists of the Likud party in his “mission” to Israel, as well as the supportive statements of leading Republican politicians. Indeed, this has been the case since almost the outset of Bush II’s administration. The Neos’ money, outlets, and prominence, backed up by the resources of “conservative” “think” tanks, virtually assures their continued predominance among Republicans on matters of foreign policy, interventions, and the like. Beyond this, a huge, probably insurmountable obstacle to any reclamation is the mindless constituency. Think in terms of that majority of Republicans who still believe that, as Bush II put it, our enemies hate us because of our freedom. Or think of the Christian evangelists who seek to hasten the Second Coming through war in the holy land – a heresy, plain and simple — or of the spokesmen and apologists in the media – Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Hannity, to mention only the most prominent. At this level, the party is effectively brain dead, beyond repair.
Despite its thoroughly deplorable state, I have no doubt that the Republicans will enjoy electoral successes down the line, even recapturing the presidency. I hasten to add, however, that it will never again be home to traditionalists. The odds are – and this brings me to the matter of our political culture which poses still another obstacle to reclaiming the Republican party – that it will indefinitely remain a party seriously wanting both morally and intellectually. (The same may be said of the Democrats.) Our political culture, best understood in Calhounian terms of gaining and retaining power and the enormous bounty associated with it in modern times, assures that the sensibilities of traditionalists will be trumped if they stand athwart the party’s primary goals.
What are these conservative sensibilities? An especially important one that immediately comes to mind — one from which many of the most important principles that have served to bind traditional conservatives – arises from Burke’s understanding of society as a “partnership” between “those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” This conception places a heavy responsibility, of course, on the living; they are not, inter alia, to ignore or squander their inherited capital, moral and otherwise, nor should they unnecessarily burden future generations. What seems evident is that despite their rhetoric, and save when it has coincided with their broader goals, neither party operates upon this Burkean understanding of society. Their very nature, as we have argued above, prevents them from doing so.
Mike: Here’s his conclusion, George W. Carey, Imaginative Conservative website, posted in today’s Pile of Prep. Read the whole essay for yourselves. I challenge you to read it. As a matter of fact, I look for 150 comments posted underneath it, many of them in mighty protestation. [mocking] “It’s our only way out of it. We have to do the party.” According to Carey, that will lead to ruin and doom.
Where does this leave us? Traditionalists do have a role to play in the political arena. Clearly they should focus their political activity on those candidates, Republican or Democrat, who do show conservative sensibilities. The opportunity to do this seems best at the local and state levels, but wherever such candidates are found, they deserve our support. Then, too, to the extent possible conservatives should lend their voice to debates on policies, perhaps on occasion even organizing for greater effectiveness. Perhaps, in these capacities, they may have a salutary, though limited, influence on our political environment.
But the thrust of what I have to say points up the futility of attaching to either political party in hopes of influencing the direction it takes, as well as the shame that cannot help but come our way from doing so. [Mike: In other words, folks, if you help these people expand debt ceilings, if you help them continue authorizing Patriot Act and NDAA, if you help them continue authorizing federal funding of the ghastly procedure or abortion, if you help them continue the tyrannical federal injustice system, you ought to be shamed for doing so.] Instead of worrying about the trials and tribulations of the Republican party, for instance, we ought to repudiate it and move on. More importantly, if I am essentially correct, we ought to reorient our thinking about what we can accomplish through the political processes. We waste our time doing battle with entrenched and mindless party interests. As Bruce Frohnen and John Willson maintain, our time is better spent in striving to reinvigorate our intermediate institutions, particularly the church and family. I leave it to them to spell out how best we can do this, but I do think they point in the direction that traditional conservatism should take.
Mike: Bam and boom.
End Mike Church Show Transcript