“The Republican Party is no longer the party of limited government, with limited spending and limited taxes. It is now officially exactly right behind the Democrats—on everything. It is time for conservatives to start looking for a new home. There’s precious little left for us here.”
Thus spoke Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center and long-time movement conservative.
Although Bozell deserves two thumbs up for his remarks, it is still worth noting that his epiphany is a little late in the coming: if it was ever really the party of limited government, it has been eons since the GOP ceased being so.
Ron Paul labored indefatigably for decades to call his fellow partisans to their senses, but the self-avowed champions of “limited government” in Washington and “conservative” talk radio ridiculed and derided him. Just as he spotted the recession of ’08 long before it exploded and at a time when his competitors in the presidential primaries insisted that the economy was strong, so too did Paul recognize the identity-crisis in the Republican Party—the chasm between its rhetoric and its policies—years before it dawned upon the likes of Bozell.
It is crucial to bear in mind that it isn’t because Paul is so prescient that he has been ahead of the curve on this score. Rather, it is because Republicans have been so blind that accounts for why it has taken some of them this long to appreciate Paul’s insights.
The sources of this blindness are probably many. Doubtless, one of them just may be the glare from the contrast between what Republicans espouse with their lips and the policies for which they advocate.
To hear Bozell and others in the conservative movement, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Grand Old Party is just now beginning to retreat from its pledge to promote “limited government.” But we needn’t go all that far back in time to see that this simply isn’t so.
In fact, we needn’t go all that far back to realize that the very same voices on the right who have been screaming (rightly, I might add) from the rooftops over obscene levels of government spending and the like for the last four years uttered scarcely a peep over the same during the preceding eight.
Let us not forget that for six years—from 2000 to 2006—Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and the presidency. For six years prior to this, the Republicans dominated Congress. This period supplied a golden opportunity for the party of limited government to practice what it preached while definitively establishing once and for all to the country the intellectual and moral superiority of its ideas over those of its rivals.
Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, none of this happened. Instead, Republicans definitively established that all of their talk of “limited government” was just that.
That is, they established to the satisfaction of both their opponents as well as a not inconsiderable number of their constituents that they were just as committed to Big Government as were their nemeses. That ever fewer Republicans have showed up at the polls in the last two presidential election cycles proves that long before Bozell had his revelation, Republican voters on the ground got the message loudly and clearly.
But how could anyone not have seen this?
The scope and size of the federal government expanded exponentially while in the care of Republicans under Bush II. Not since Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” had the federal government figured so powerfully in American life. The only difference is that spending under Bush II was even greater than that which occurred under Johnson.
Bush II and his Republicans launched two woefully unpopular, drawn out wars. In prosecuting them, he assumed unto the executive branch heretofore unseen powers—like the ominously named “Patriot Act,” say—that has left legions of patriots shivering. This is bad enough in itself, but to compound the problem, it erects a dangerous precedent for future presidents to appropriate those very same powers for all manner of evil.
Of course, there is a host of other resolutely anti-conservative policies for which Bush II and his Congress successfully fought. To briefly touch upon only a few, there was: No Child Left Behind (the now nearly universally despised law that increased the federal government’s role in education); the Home Ownership Society (which facilitated the explosion of the housing bubble and the onslaught of the recession of ’08); Medicare “Part D” (the exorbitantly expensive prescription drug entitlement of ’03); and federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (an unprecedented step that only retarded any progress that the pro-life movement could be said to have made).
Bozell is right that “conservatives should start looking for a new home.” Yet he fails to see that this is a search that should have begun a long time ago.
The conventional wisdom notwithstanding, if Republicans are to stand a chance of winning any more national elections, it is not to Hispanics to whom they must turn.
As some of us have been arguing for quite some time, their salvation is to be found in whites of the working and middle classes.
By speaking to issues like so-called “affirmative action,” racially-charged policies that have proven to be to the detriment of just such whites, Republicans can promote the individualism for which they claim to stand while simultaneously relating to whites who would otherwise view them—as over six million whites who stayed home on Election Day viewed Mitt Romney—as hopelessly “out of touch.”
Even more importantly, Republicans—and all decent people—should labor to abolish “affirmative action” and the like because, hyperbole aside, all such policies are the instruments by which racial warfare is waged.
Whether your average American, black, white, or other, recognizes it or not, there is indeed a cold racial war of a sort transpiring in America. Evidence of the war, however, is not to be sought in mere interracial hostilities or distrust. That, say, individual blacks and whites dislike one another or even openly fight with one another does not a war make. Nor even would large-scale interracial conflict suffice to establish that there is a racial war in the sense in which I mean it.
Rather, that it is without exaggeration that we can speak of a racial war in America is born out by the fact that the federal government systematically—through policies like “affirmative action”—promotes the interests, or what are claimed to be in the interest, of various non-white groups at the cost of undercutting the interests of whites.
Yet in siding with some citizens over and against others, the government abandons its role as a neutral arbiter of conflicts in favor of assuming the role of participant in those conflicts. What this in turn means is that if it was ever a reality, the peace for the sake of which the government exists to guarantee is no more.
But as the great philosopher Thomas Hobbes observed way back in the seventeenth century, the only alternative to peace is war.
In his quest to supply an account of the authority of government, Hobbes invoked the philosophically distinguished concept of “the state of nature.” The latter refers to life prior to the formation of government. And for Hobbes, such life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” for in the absence of government, the absence of a commonly recognized authority to determine the conditions of just conduct, each person possesses absolute sovereignty over his life. However, this unconditional right on the part of each person to do whatever he thinks needs to be done to preserve his existence casts each in a perpetual contest for survival with all others.
The state of nature, that is, is a war of all against all. Hobbes writes that when “men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war, as is of every man, against every man.” It isn’t that men are always literally at each other’s throats where there is no “common power to keep them all in awe.” But war “consisteth not in battle only, or act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known [.]”
To end this war, each person consents to give up his absolute right to everything on the condition that every other person makes the same concession. The only way for this to occur, though, is for the parties to this “covenant” to give rise to a “common power”—government, or “the Sovereign,” as Hobbes refers to it—that will secure peace by functioning as a kind of umpire or referee. The Sovereign is the custodian of law and, hence, an impartial adjudicator of all conflicts that arise with respect to it.
Once the Sovereign relinquishes its role, though, then the state of nature—the state of war—resumes.
It is my contention that there is a racial war only in the sense that our government has abdicated the neutrality and impartiality that it is supposed to maintain in regard to the citizenry over which it presides. Insofar as our government shows partiality toward Americans of one race and against those of another—regardless of the races in question—it in effect prosecutes a kind of racial war.
This is why it is imperative that policies like “affirmative action” and the like be abolished.
And this is why it is imperative that Republicans, and all who are concerned with justice and peace, work toward that end.
Whatever else they disagree on, Republicans and Democrats are of one mind when it comes to paying lip service to the Constitution and its Framers.
Unfortunately, however, far more frequently than not, this is just lip service—especially in the case of self-styled “progressives.” In reality, there is an unbridgeable chasm between, on the one hand, the progressive’s rhetoric concerning the Constitution and its progenitors and, on the other, his attitude toward them.
At best, the progressive views the Constitution as an instrument to be exploited for the sake of impeding the allegedly “unconstitutional” designs of his opponents. At worst—and for the most part—he regards it as an impediment to his own designs.
Never does the progressive view the Constitution as the authority that its Framers intended for it to be.
Indeed, according to the very logic of the progressive’s vision, matters could not be otherwise. In other words, the progressive’s disdain for the Constitution and its authors will give way to genuine reverence if and only if he ceases to be a progressive.
What makes a progressive a progressive is that he has his eye forever on the future. The present has significance only inasmuch it supplies opportunities for paving the way for a brighter tomorrow. But for the past—the real past—there can be nothing but contempt on the progressive’s part. It isn’t that he is any more disinclined than anyone else to invoke past events and names when it suits his present purposes to do so. Yet the idea that the past has or can have any sort of authority over the present or future can only be anathema to the progressive.
There was a time when conservatives didn’t need to be reminded of this.
In the eighteenth century, at the height of the blood soaked Revolution in France, Edmund Burke—“the patron saint of conservatism”—combated tirelessly the progressive conceit that the past is an encumbrance to be surmounted.
Burke noted that if “the temporary possessors” of society are “unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors,” then they are liable to “act as if they were the entire masters” and, thus, bring ruin upon “the whole original fabric of their society [.]” The ease with which the progressives of his time sought to transform the state according to “floating fancies or fashions” threatened to sever “the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth [.]”
Famously, Burke declared that: “We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason,” for “we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.”
In glaring contrast, Thomas Paine, Burke’s contemporary—and adversary—expressed nothing short of outrage over the notion that the past has any sort of claim whatsoever on the present. “The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies,” he asserted. “Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.”
Paine continued: “Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require.”
Contra Burke, who he accused of “contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living,” Paine claimed that he was “contending for the rights of the living (emphasis original) [.]” He objected fiercely to “the rights of the living” being forfeited to “the manuscript assumed authority of the dead [.]”
Paine mocked Burke’s reverence for the wisdom of his ancestors by charging him with positing a sort of “political Adam, in whom all posterity are bound for ever [.]”
Paine’s vision is the progressive’s vision. And we can rest assured that our contemporaries on the left find the notion of a “political Adam” just as indefensible, just as ludicrous, as Pain found it.
But since our “political Adam” is represented by America’s Founders, this in turn implies that, if they are honest with themselves, progressives must acknowledge that it is at once indefensible and ludicrous that their compatriots should defer to the Founders.
Since the presidential and senatorial defeats it suffered this past Election Day, the Grand Old Party has been wrapped in the throes of an identity-crisis.
The thing of it is, far from being the epiphany that the usual talking heads on the right are making it out to be, the identity-crisis to which they speak is the very same crisis over which they have been perspiring for decades now. It is the same crisis of identity of which Republicans become acutely conscious at least every four years—whether they win or lose.
From all of the moaning and groaning, a common refrain can be gotten: The Republican Party must win over non-whites or else. On this score, Democrats and Republicans agree.
Yet as is almost always the case with conventional wisdom generally, this piece of conventional wisdom in particular is deeply flawed.
The speciousness of the conventional wisdom derives, not from what it says, but from what it fails to say.
For one, the nation’s changing racial demographics of which Republican and Democrat alike can’t seem to stop talking are not the forces of nature that the pundits’ tone would suggest. Asians and Hispanics—especially the latter—owe their growing numbers in no small measure to American immigration policy, specifically, immigration policy since 1965.
Until this juncture in our history, our immigration policy had always favored immigrants of European stock. But even throughout this time, there were several moments—like in 1924—when immigration was halted so as to allow for assimilation.
In glaring contrast, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 assigned pride of place to Third World immigrants, about 90% of whom have constituted all immigrants to the U.S. over the span of the last five decades. Of these non-white immigrants, the vast majority stems from below our southern border.
Since 1965, not only has the American government refused to arrest the flow of immigration. It has actually encouraged it via the non-enforcement of its laws, the allocation of all manner of goodies (entitlements) to illegal immigrants, bilingualism, and the granting of amnesty in one form or the other.
The point is this: unlike the shifts in the Earth’s tectonic plates, the tectonic-like shifts in America’s racial demographics are the products of design. They are the results of policy. This means that something can be done about them.
The conventional wisdom is mistaken in another respect. To hear the talking heads, particularly the Democratic talking heads, it is hard not to think that underlying all of the fatalistic chatter over the hemorrhaging of the white vote is the desire to expedite this pattern along. Some perspective here is desperately needed.
Although blacks, Hispanics, and Asian voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama (93%, 71%, and 73% respectively), with just 59% of the white vote, Mitt Romney still lost the popular vote by only 2%. In short, he would have defeated Obama handily had he garnered just 61% of white support.
This he could have done. At any rate, he stood a far greater chance of doing so than any Republican stands of increasing appreciably their party’s share of non-white support.
Sean Trende, of Real Clear Politics, has noted that over six million fewer whites showed up at the polls this year than in 2008. These whites dislike Obama, he notes, but, thanks to the President’s negative campaign strategy against his rival, they aren’t too keen about Romney either. Romney, these jaded white voters believe, really is the aloof, vulture capitalist that Obama depicted him as being.
Trende’s analysis is cogent as far as it goes. But it only goes so far. Romney, like the typical Republican that he is, took these whites’ votes for granted. If their perception of him was flawed, it was up to him to rectify it.
And he could have. He could have fought back against Obama’s smear campaign by speaking to those issues—affirmative action, Third world immigration (legal and illegal), crime, etc.—that are near and dear to the hearts of just those white voters who decided to stay home on Election Day. In doing so, he could have knocked out several birds with one stone as he advanced themes that were simultaneously conservative and American while speaking to the precarious economy in a way that would resonate with such voters. (The language of national debts and deficits and all of the zeros that it entails just isn’t the stuff of which the passions of the average working man or woman are made.)
Radically revise current immigration policy and genuinely work for an ever greater portion of the white vote. This is what the Republican Party must do if it wants to survive.