February 23, 2009

Our Enemy, the GOP

Below is the text of a speech I gave this past weekend at the annual Pennsylvania State Constitution Party conference: 

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It is with considerable pleasure that I stand here tonight to address this gathering. What distinguishes you from the two federally funded patronage machines, also known as the Democrats and Republicans, is for me quite simple: I usually find myself agreeing with your positions but not very often with theirs. To your credit, you do not stand in fear of the media. You do not crave the affection of those who would never vote for you.  And you defend limited constitutional government and family arrangements that have been integral to all civilized societies up until a few years ago. Unlike the GOP, and certainly at the executive level, you would never try to score electoral points by calling for the amnestying of illegals. This is a tactic that has proved counterproductive for the Republicans, judging by the meager electoral results that it produced for the partisans of Bush and McCain among Latino voters in 2008.

It may be a case of accentuating the obvious to note that the GOP has become an only slightly less predictable source of leftist views than its opposition. That remains true even if some Republican politicians do stand up sometimes for limited government. I would be the last to disparage these exceptional GOP politicians, like the feisty congressmen who opposed Bush II?s immigration bill and the courageous state representative from Berks County, Sam Rohrer, who preceded me on this podium. I am also delighted that the GOP in it current oppositional mode is resisting Obama?s march toward socialism. I applaud this effort even though up until a week ago, the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was proposing his own party?s extensive mortgage bailout plan in lieu of the Democratic one.

Needless to say, I could imagine a very different situation if there were a Republican president, say Bush I, McCain, or Bush II. Whether the plan was for extensive federal control over education, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the quota-favorable Civil Rights Act of 1991, Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly supported their Republican presidents in voting for such measures.

Too often GOP officials speak out of both sides of their mouths, in a clumsy attempt to sound moderate and sensitive. Allow me to indicate my frustration with Republicans who agonize endlessly about their failure to win leftist affections. If the choice is between Arlen Specter and his Democratic opponent, I?d be hard pressed to find a reason to vote for either. Are we supposed to believe that having a Senator with an R label supporting affirmative action, expanded abortion rights, and a widened scope for federal interference in our economic lives represents the Right? In what way is such a Senator preferable to a Democrat voting for the same positions? One has to be a fool or a knave to believe the national media, when we are told that everyone displaying an R label is automatically on the right.

My advice to you is not to move toward any imaginary center. This notion of being in the center is itself a media-creation, and one used to push our national politics toward the left. No matter how urgently the GOP plays this game, it continues to be slimed as racist, sexist, and homophobic. And no matter how much more Wall Street gives to Democrats than Republicans, it is only the Republicans who are attacked as the friends of Big Business. By now the lesson should be clear: parties that intermittently claim to be on the right but cater to the Left, can only lose ground. They typically fall between two stools, upsetting their rightwing constituency while being unable to win votes from the leftist opposition. I for one was not unhappy to see McCain lose after pursuing this very bad strategy.  I only regret that a party like this one could not take advantage of his well deserved defeat.

It is we who should be able gain influence when and if the two institutionalized parties veer to the left at the same time. It is we who must be ready to build on the ruin caused by both parties in varying degrees. Overspending by the federal government, floods of illegals coming across our borders, and the involvement of social engineers and anti-discrimination experts in our daily lives will surely evoke a reaction. But the GOP will not likely stand athwart this disastrous course. That is because its national organization, to the extent it is not of the Left, craves the Left?s acceptance of it as a nice opposition.

Those who think this way have been able to manipulate the GOP base, but this too may be changing. In the last election, much of this base never came to the polls. In every national election since the Reagan landslides in the 1980s, moreover, the white Christian core of the party has become increasingly less visible. At the same time the GOP share of minority votes has either stayed the same or declined. Since the GOP began its latest outreach efforts to minorities about 20 years ago, its share of the black vote has shrunk from 1 in 8 to 1 in 30. It is not from the targets of GOP outreach but from disaligned Republicans and those on the right of every ethnic background that the CP will have to build itself up.

In all likelihood, the GOP will continue to try to reach out frenetically to the Left on immigration, gay rights, and affirmative action. It will also likely continue to push a liberal internationalist foreign policy centered on spreading the latest version of US democracy; with increased intervention in foreign countries in the name of the war on terrorism. The fact that the neoconservatives are working to sell this policy to the Obama administration should be for us welcome news It means that both parties may eventually be following the same imprudent course in international relations while ignoring that part of the Right that is skeptical about foreign adventures.

The CP does not operate in the same manner as the two authorized mega-parties. We are not a big business enterprise engorged with public revenues. Unlike the GOP and the Democrats, we do not have to worry about millions of hangers-on whose services have to be bought with booty extracted from taxpayers.  Such patronage parties can only survive by winning elections in the near term or by losing them by narrow margins, because their continuity depends on doing favors with public money.

We, by contrast, have declared our opposition to what the major parties celebrate, namely welfare state democracy. We do not pretend that a government limited by constitutionally enumerated powers should be reconstructing human relations, banning discrimination from the lives of designated victims or beneficiaries, or micromanaging families through social professionals. Nor does the argument that citizens should be equal before the law apply to those who are here illegally, any more than the belief that all human beings have a right to liberty requires us to rebuild other societies in the image of our political class?or to redistribute income to make everyone feel equally good about himself or herself. In short we do not need the booty that is vital for Demorep survival. It does not matter to us materially or professionally, if we do not win the next election. We are not trying to grab tax monies and jobs in the public sector to pay off cronies and ward-heelers. We are a party of principle, and we can wait until the established powers derail public affairs sufficiently so that we and our principles can be taken seriously by a critical mass of American citizens.

Of the two national parties, the real Right has just cause to hate the GOP far more than the Democrats. For one thing, the traditional right must fight the GOP octopus to gain recognition. The Democratic Left would never vote for us, except in some extraordinary situation, to weaken the GOP in a particular election. The real, continuing hindrance to our progress is the well-heeled Republican machine.

But that is not the only reason for us to despise the GOP even more than the Dems. Unlike the Republicans, Obama?s party stands foursquare for its principles; and we should admire the Democratic Left for believing in something other than winning elections. Their success did not result entirely from their use and occupation of the media and public education. It also had a great deal to do with the willingness of the Democratic Left to defend its positions openly and with pride. This in contrast to the wavering convictions of Republican leaders who cannot bring themselves to take emphatic stands against minority quotas, illegal immigration, and Sarah Palin?s much beloved anti-discrimination guidelines for women. In 2000 when George W. Bush and Al Gore were in a presidential debate and each was asked where he stood on minority preferences and set asides, the Democrat responded by expressing full support for his party?s policy, but the Republican, true to form, mumbled something in garbled syntax about ?affirmative recruitment.?

In the last presidential election, Barack Obama openly backed minority quotas, as he had done unflinchingly throughout his career. By contrast, his Republican opponent tried to create a slight but not noticeable distance from the pro-quota position he had occupied since 1998, without allowing himself to move too rapidly in the direction of clarity. McCain then tried to cover his tracks by publicly doing contrition for having failed to rally to the Martin Luther King national holiday in time. Too often even when the Reps do what is proper, they do so accidentally, inconsistently, and with sputtering embarrassment. Somehow it has never dawned on their apologists that what makes Republicans look silly next to Democrats is their evasiveness on controversial social issues and their unwillingness to stand firmly behind rightist positions. Although I disagree with the Democrats on most domestic issues, I applaud the relative frankness of their stands. If Republicans did the same, a party like this one would not be necessary.

A few weeks ago, I watched Mike Huckabee, a former GOP candidate for president and an ordained Southern Baptist minister, interviewing the former Democratic NY governor Mario Cuomo on FOX. Cuomo expressed forthrightly his beliefs that ?religion should have no part in our political life,? and he tried to apply this principle to his stand on abortion. Although the former governor claimed to be a devout Catholic, he also insisted he would never inflict his ?religious principle about abortion? on those who saw choice as a fundamental human right.

Note I?m not praising this opinions uttered by a former law professor. It is impossible for me to see how one can keep antiseptically apart theological and political positions, given the facts that human conscience shapes political choices, and that political and religious values are inescapably intertwined in public life. It is also doubtful that Cuomo would try to separate things of God from things of Caesar if he liked the politics of a particular religionist. More than once he has praised the religious conscience of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama.

Religion in political affairs is only a problem for Cuomo if someone has the nerve to put forth traditional Judeo-Christian or biblically-based views that clash with his leftist social agenda. It also became obvious from listening to him that his views on some issues are not at all thought through, for example, when he explains: ?I oppose abortion as a religious-moral outrage but I won?t interfere with someone else?s right to have one. In fact I?ll support measures to facilitate every woman?s access to this procedure, which I personally consider to be the taking of life.? Only a sociopath or a liar could even approach this degree of moral cynicism or idiocy. And such grotesque views typically emanate from people who would lament a great injustice being committed if we fail to pass new civil rights bills or anti-discrimination laws. Don?t they find it strange that they should be calling for extraordinary steps to uphold the unrestricted right of others to commit what they personally consider to be homicide? 

But the most striking thing about this interview was not Cuomo?s statement of belief but Huckabee?s response. As a respondent, the former governor was characteristically Republican, unctuously thanking Cuomo for engaging in dialogue and for stating how great it is to live in a country where such open discussion could take place. What I would have expected from Huckabee as a minimal response was to have pointed out the fallacy in Cuomo?s statements. I doubt he failed to see them, but as a member of the cravenly party, Huckabee could not bring himself to say what was self-evidently true. He would not suggest that Cuomo sounded foolish. His GOP mentality would not allow him to go that far in appearing ?rightwing.? A week before, however, Huckabee had behaved contentiously when he had gone after a more permissible target on his show, namely Ann Coulter. Presumably targets on his right were more appropriate, by media standards, for a would-be Republican presidential candidate than criticizing left liberals who enjoy the esteem of the political class.

One may respond to my criticism by citing such media celebrities as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who flail at Democrats every day. But my response to such a counterargument is that we are dealing in both cases with GOP shills. Such media personalities get Dittoheads up in arms about the abuses of the Democratic Party, in order to have them line up behind Bush, McCain, and Arlen Specter. Misdirected rage is made to serve establishment ends. The beneficiaries of these ritualized rants are the GOP operatives and in Rush?s case Hillary Clinton, when she was a presidential candidate last year. When it looked as if lots of right-wingers might cast sympathy votes for Ron Paul or Chuck Baldwin after McCain had sown up the GOP nomination, Rush, who is no friend of the antiwar Right, got his groupies to change party affiliations and to vote for Hillary. His cockamamie reason was that he was creating dissension within the opposition. What Rush was actually doing was trying to keep down the primary vote of the Republican Right while enhancing the presidential prospects of the New York Senator. About the same time the neoconservative press had begun to talk up Hillary?s virtues as a moderate. It was hoped in the Weekly Standard and on FOX news that she would continue the GOP foreign policy as president. Rush was simply acting in unison with those who help determine the content of his daily tirades.

Allow me to offer one final observation: Lots of GOP capital was wasted on a fool?s errand. It was an errand that certain advisors pushed on former president Bush and which became the defining issue for the GOP and for the conservative movement. Anyone who did not believe that American lives and treasure should be squandered on the mission of bringing democracy to Iraq was unceremoniously booted out of the official Right. Candidates like Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin were treated like moral lepers in the neoconservative press for daring to oppose an unwise American military involvement in Iraq. The entire conservative and GOP establishment was organized as a cheering gallery for this ill-conceived, foreign adventure.

To your party?s credit, you did not yield to conformist pressure. You stood your ground by questioning our invasion of Iraq and despite being scorned and marginalized by the antiwar Left as well as by the neoconservative-occupied media, you have emerged as a moral force on the current political scene. This moral capital is something you (or we) should point to with pride as the Constitution Party prepares for its future. We were on the right side of a deeply divisive issue, and we took our position as Americans, and not as partisans of the Democratic or Republican Party.

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