Archive for May, 2011

PATRIOT Act Perils Cause Conservative Confusion

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Originally published at RLC.org

We’re in danger when the conservative instinct to defend law and order …  defies law and order.

Conservatives often talk about the Constitution and the importance of defending our founding charter. After all, without a strong rule of law, we could never have the kind of society worthy of conservative standards to begin with. One of the reasons many cite for voting Republican in a presidential race, even if they dislike the candidate, is that they believe at the very least, the Republican will nominate palatable Supreme Court Justices who interpret the Constitution conservatively, in effect defending the aforementioned centrally important rule of law. At times however, it seems that some people are confused about the context of the ‘conservative’ label. A conservative (IE: originalist) reading of the Constitution is not the same as a conservative (IE: political) interpretation.

The latter is judicial activism. It in no way differs from the “discovery” of rights that created the precedents necessary for Roe v. Wade to exist – and we all know one of the foremost conservative arguments against that case is based on the fact that it stands on rather shaky constitutional grounds; a defense rooted in a pro rule of law argument. But, it appears that for some (in particular the many pro-life Congressmen and Senators who favor the PATRIOT Act), it’s only convenient to use a constitutionally based argument when it suits your particular issue politically.

So what then, are orginialists who support the Constitution regardless of emotional arguments on issues deemed politically conservative, to make of last week’s PATRIOT Act renewal battle? Ultimately, despite the disappointment, it seems that Republicans with libertarian and constitutionally conservative values are at least making some progress.

Particularly positive is the fact that many freshmen who won on the tea party wave are taking seriously the fact that the PATRIOT Act does violate the Constitution. As Rand Paul, who filibustered the act, eloquently noted on the Senate floor, we cannot preserve the 4th amendment without the 2nd amendment, or the 1st. In fact, we need the entire bill of rights; it cannot protect our freedoms unless it comes together as a whole.

In the Senate, with some shady maneuvering (what else is new?), Harry Reid bypassed Rand Paul’s attempts at a filibuster by tacking the vote to reauthorize the provisions onto the Small Business Additional Temporary Extension Act of 2011. While only four Republican Senators voted against the act, Heller, Paul and Lee (on the tea party side of the spectrum) and Murkowski (a moderate), we ought to keep in mind that one individual Senator has a great deal of power, and that three new Senators with tea party sympathies making a difference on this issue is a flicker of hope as we emerge from the darkness of the Bush era.

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The Lost Ethic of Social Conservatism

Friday, May 20th, 2011

(Published at The Daily Caller, but edited heavily. This is the original.)

I’m an advocate of separating church and state, not because I necessarily worry the latter might suppress the former – but to protect the integrity of the church and related institutions in the face of federal encroachment. Unfortunately however, the buzz phrase “separation of church and state” has degenerated into a leftist talking point. This is in large part thanks to groups like the ACLU, and various SCOTUS decisions – especially Everson v. Board of Education, which mandated a ‘wall of separation’ between all church and government relations (despite prior, state level involvement), policed by the federal government.

As a result of this shift in perception toward centralization, in a self-defeating manner, contemporary social conservatives have responded by playing the opposite game. If the left is for fully separating church and state in a top down sense, then we must be for entirely conflating the two in that regard! For example, the Bush campaign’s “compassionate conservatism” that advocated policy initiatives in support of traditional families drew voters in 2000. This centralized method of dealing with social issues was apparently acceptable, no matter how much it sabotaged the ultimate goal and bastardized conservative philosophy.

Conservatives always lose when we allow the left to define the parameters of political discourse; yet we consistently permit this; often in lieu of crafting our own narratives. This has been an ongoing theme for some time, and has led to the fact that compromise always means finding a way to let the left make government a little bigger, because, well, at least it will be a bit smaller that way than if they got all of what they wanted! Alas, the left gets there incrementally as the right tacitly endorses the same methods that drive us toward inevitable implosion.

Post-Reagan, the right seems to have forgotten that constitutionally inspired small government and social conservatism are not only perfectly compatible, but naturally aligned in a philosophical sense. At its core, social conservatism values the self-determination of families; of churches; of communities. Government didn’t create those entities; why would it be fit to preserve them? History demonstrates that centralization always destroys society’s natural institutions. Authoritarianism is not, nor ever will be conservative in any intellectually honest sense.

The reason that growing up, despite having conservative instincts, I identified as a social liberal, was because I came of age in an era where social conservatism and utilizing government force to push morality were conflated. Only very recently, after studying in detail how neoconservatism redefined right-wing foreign policy, did I begin to understand how the fruits of the same philosophy impacted social conservatism by tying it to federal interventionism as well.

Noting all of this, I’ve started to depart from libertarianism in favor of traditional conservatism, because from a moral standpoint, I identify more with the latter philosophy. I’m only a libertarian insofar as I err on the side of being wary of government power and accepting of the fact that centralized force will not change other’s beliefs. Morally, I’m not liberal, or even libertarian. Perhaps in some ways, I’m more ‘tolerant’ than your run-of-the-mill social conservative; but I certainly believe in a number of absolute moral truths, in turn rejecting libertine and nihilistic viewpoints that are commonly found in libertarian circles.

Beginning to accept and understand that true conservatism is in reality, incompatible with centralized, state approved force, I’m comfortable noting where I am in fact a social conservative; despite misuse of the term that has been pervasive during the admittedly short 24 years I’ve been on this earth.

After all, what has government ever done to create, or even encourage an environment of social morality? I’d contend very little in a positive sense. The only thing government has done to social conservatism is tie it to state power in such a way as to remove the inherently grassroots and localized nature of social morality from its political philosophy. Any thoughtful and reflective social conservative who was charmed by the rhetorical promises made by Republicans in the past two decades should be capable of recognizing that at this point.

A true conservative; one who is both fiscally and socially so – or, even one who identifies only as the latter, would benefit from understanding that government can neither preserve nor push morality – it can only centralize the concept; in turn, taking away from the organic establishments that create the traditions worth conserving in the first place.

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RLC Endorsed Phil Moffett Falls Short in Kentucky

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Originally published at RLC.org

In Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial primary, RLC endorsed insurgent candidate Phil Moffett, despite performing better than expected, wasn’t able to beat his establishment opponent, State Senate President, David Williams. Upon first glance at the results with 70% of precincts reporting and Moffett down by about 7%, I was wondering where the vaunted Kentucky tea party network that propelled Senator Paul into office was. I was actually on the phone with Dave Nalle earlier when I went to my favorite source, Twitter, and did a #KYGov search to find the aforementioned information. Looking at what I unearthed, I said to Dave, “I’m honestly stunned that anyone who voted for Paul wouldn’t also vote for Moffett”. After further researching the dynamics however, it turns out there were various factors at play that made for very different races, despite the candidate’s similar ideology and being the tea party insurgents pitted against the establishment.

In fact, one of the first articles I came across when I googled Phil Moffett, directly answered the question I had rhetorically posed to Dave. “Why Phil Moffett Is Not Rand Paul”, written by Kevin Brennan at The National Journal, provided immense clarification regarding their differences.

The first issue, and one that is always central in any race, was Moffett’s problem with name recognition. Despite marketing himself as Senator Paul’s heir apparent, there’s no doubt that Ron Paul’s network is what initially provided his son with momentum. That, of course, leads into Moffett’s second problem; fundraising – which the elder Paul also aided his son with greatly. Williams ultimately outspent Moffett 10-1, which speaks volumes about Moffett’s lack of traction in the money raising area. Additionally, Moffett wasn’t able to capture Paul’s official endorsement, because Williams was also supported Paul against Grayson in 2010.

Rand Paul’s national network, combined with media fueled fervor over whether the Senate would be turned over to the Republicans, was also undoubtedly an advantage for him that Moffett lacked. Although Moffett’s campaign and allies such as Western Representation PAC tried to pitch the storyline that Moffett’s campaign was a national one because this GOP primary was the only one in 2011 in which the victor would face off with a pro Obama, Democrat incumbent Governor, creating national fervor in an off year over a primary that the media cares little about turned out to be nearly impossible.

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