“Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose”

Since I gave Greg Weiner a shout-out for his New York Times piece about what it means to be an American liberal — and since the topic is dear to my heart — I’ll give David Brooks’ take on what it means to be an American conservative equal treatment. It’s worth reading.

For my part, anyone paying attention will know that I made my choice — conservative over Republican — many years and many presidents ago…

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“When Liberals Become Progressives…”

As a rule, I’m not much inclined to use this forum merely to link to other online information sources or posts without comment. That’s what Facebook and Twitter are for; this is something else.

However, given the fact that I wrote a whole book about what it means to be a ‘Conservative’ in modern America, the question of what it means to be a ‘Liberal’ in modern America — a subject I touched on in the book but on which I claim no particular experience or expertise — is a topic I find not only interesting but critical to the future well-being of our country. I am always on the lookout for good discussions about that.

I ran across one today, written by Greg Weiner, a former aide to Senator Bob Kerry (the other Senator Kerry), and published as an OpEd in The New York Times on 13 April 2018. I highly recommend it.

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Was the American Civil War about “States’ Rights”?

As a “conservative” — and, moreover, one who leans toward the libertarian version of “conservatism” — I sometimes find myself in conversation with other libertarian-minded people who identify the Civil War as the point in American history at which the original Federalism began to jump the rails, at which the Federal government first began its evisceration of the notion that a limited Federal government had, and should have, no jurisdiction over certain activities that were and are the purview and prerogative of the individual States. In their telling of the history of that war, it was less about slavery than about the southern States’ assertion of their rights to be free of Federal restraint. And, as a result, although they genuinely celebrate the immediate outcome of that conflict — the abolition of slavery — they also lament the resulting victory of Federal authority over “states’ rights.”

Despite the belief of a great many people that such notions must grow from an underlying base of belief in white supremacy and white nationalism — and despite the fact that there are, in fact, white supremacists and white nationalists who subscribe to and promote that narrative — I generally ascribe it, among the libertarian idealists, more to an honest, if misguided, lack of historical perspective coupled to a contemporary and compelling anxiety. Chattel slavery was, after all, abolished in the United States more than 150 years ago, in law by the Emancipation Proclamation and then in practice by the surrender of the Confederacy. Jim Crow laws were abolished by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, more than 50 years ago, and well over 2/3 of Americans now alive were not yet born when those laws fell. To a great many people — admittedly, people fortunate enough to be free of the ongoing yoke of discrimination in culture rather than in law — both slavery and Jim Crow feel like relics from a long-ago past, a problem already solved and well behind us. Whereas, the constraining yoke of an increasingly overweening and intrusive Federal government feels like a problem both modern and growing, a problem for today with direct and observable effects on their lives and on their futures.

Nonetheless, their sincerity does not make them right. This, then is directed to their attention and for their benefit, from one libertarian-minded conservative to another:

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Bias?

Donald Trump’s claim that judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnic background make him incapable of fairly adjudging the Trump University suit because of Trump’s own insulting assertions about Mexico and Mexicans is, of course, offensive on many levels.

But I find the vehemence with which his claims are denounced by the ‘liberal’ establishment a bit disingenuous. After all, isn’t what Trump is saying entirely consistent with their own official philosophy regarding race and ethnicity?

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“the law is a ass”

The only stated reason I’ve ever heard for why we need to constrain political participation by limiting campaign contributions is to prevent undue influence over government actions by those who contribute.

Perhaps Frank Guinta took too much money from his parents. But why is that such a huge thing? What are we afraid of?

Are we really concerned that his parents now have too much influence over him because they gave him money for his campaign?

Perhaps it is the rule that is a problem, not how well or badly it was followed….

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Filibuster executive appointments?

If the legislature has delegated its authority for making law to an executive agency, then it would seem prudent for the legislature to cast a critical eye on who it is allowing to exercise that authority on its behalf. In fact, it would seem downright irresponsible for it to do otherwise.

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Undecided Voter (again)

If I was standing in the voting booth at 9 pm on election day holding up the counting, they would have a good reason to complain and I would deserve their scorn. But complaining now, in the middle of the evening rush, that I haven’t yet bothered to place my order is just childish petulance. Hey, you in the media! I don’t really care how tired you are. It’s not time to go home yet!

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Politicians “making decisions about your birth control”

As a consumer of resources, I love the idea of someone else paying to support my lifestyle choices. But, as a producer of resources — and as a liberty-minded citizen of the American republic — I abhor the notion that the government should oblige me to provide for the lifestyle choices of others.

Perhaps the availability of contraception transcends mere “lifestyle choice” and comprises a public good worthy of government compulsion. Perhaps it doesn’t. That is worth a debate and I won’t pass judgement on it here.

But I must insist that those debating the issue do so honestly. No one is threatening to take away your birth control. All they are asking is that they not be forced to pay for it.

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Must Moral Authority come from direct experience?

Have you ever leaped into the heart of a raging fire to rescue someone trapped by the flames? Have you ever stepped into the middle of a domestic dispute to keep it from escalating into violence? Have you ever taught in an inner city classroom plagued by indifference and hostility? Have you ever tended and comforted patients with some fatal and contagious disease? Have you ever put your life on hold to aid the victims of some natural or man-made catastrophe halfway around the world? Have you even ever spent the day hauling away people’s garbage or cleaning their houses or doing some other equally unpleasant job?

I doubt you’ve done most, if even one, of those tasks. I also expect you think someone should do them; and I expect you think mayors and governors and presidents should advocate — and sometimes order — that people put themselves in harm’s way to see those tasks done, even if they have not done those things themselves.

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