Monday, May 18, 2009

Don Feder And "Weenie Conservatives"/Moderating Truth Or Demeanor, And The Future Of Conservatism

I find it a little ironic that I want to qualify what Don Feder says in WEENIE CONSERVATIVES ["Then there's Alan Keyes..."]
as he inveighs against Obama’s deeds and plans while I’m myself not yet settled that I’m pleased to fight in an America that in principle is almost unrecognizable as such. We began ceding principle elements of America, a long time ago. Congress misinterpreted the commerce clause of The Constitution to impose it’s will on nearly any aspect of life many decades ago, and we sat still with our full bellies, warm homes and television sets, and did nothing. Reprising on steroids the folly of the Dred Scott decision with its defiance of the inalienable rights of all men, The Supreme Court 25 years ago manufactured an interpretation of The Constitution, ruling that killing human children in the womb MUST be legally permissible across the nation. And, no jurisdiction in the country said, “No, we won’t do that.” These and similar things have been perpetrated on American society, and the response has amounted to scattered whimpers. Perhaps we are fortunate today, that a more assertive people built a society that as of now doesn’t face a titanic challenge technologically and militarily. But, we shouldn’t hold our collective breath. Globally accessible technology today can reek unprecedented damage with relatively small human and material resources. Whether from a thusly equipped ideological force or a large and assertive even modestly wealthy country, America today does not possess the character and resolve to long withstand such a challenge. Before it arises, the most comfortable way to plan for such an event is to marinate in delusion about human nature and pretend that such a threat is impossible.

I’ve argued with naive idealism that misunderstands human nature fort all of my life. Wouldn’t it be simpler and better for everyone if we just went our separate ways? To say that of course, you have to be prepared to fight with more than words. Not because liberals have ideals like Lincoln to save the American experiment and to correct the insipient contradiction of the “inalienable rights” of men and the practice of slavery. No. It’s surely difficult to imagine how they would muster the character to fight, but the animus of liberals would be very simple: the vampires want to hold sway over conservatives who defend constitutional rights and American ideals BECAUSE THEY FEED ON THE PRODUCT OF THE LABOR OF THOSE PEOPLE. I’m old and disabled. In a field of battle, MY side would shoot me to protect the platoon. Back to words... I’m working on an itemization of the follies I’m tired of debating.

But, should we be moderate in presenting truth or mild in our demeanor? It seemed to me that Feder raises an opportunity to ask this important question. We should never equivocate on principle. But, we needn’t frighten people with our demeanor. To me, conservatism is a matter of ideas, not a state of the spleen or the sphincter. I’m not compromising on my conservatism. But, in recent years, I’ve been misguidedly accused of (shudder) “moderation.” I believe as Feder cites Goldwater that, “Extermism in the defense of liberty is no vice and moderation in the defense of justice is no virtue.” Probably worse is the sort of bland and stagnant aversion to essential principle that is suggested to conservatives by mass-media and some Republicans. Don’t listen to any Republican who says things suitable for the media. I don’t use the word, “mainstream,” because they aren’t, unless the stream of which we speak is the lines of broadcast communication. The Internet is today’s super-agora of ideas. If ways are devised to regulate that, will people stand by for that imposition, too?

First of all, I’ve never been known as one who was conciliatory about what I believed was truth. I’ve always been seen as one who was dogged in pressing what I believed was the truth. Some surely saw this as an inclination too often pushed beyond what was necessary and productive in some situations. I know that I will often withdraw from a discussion whilst I mentally masticate and analyze the relevant question, only to return with a point after the conversation has vacated the subject.

In politics I regard assertive pursuit of the truth as necessary and essential, and one can’t expect a statement of the truth to be persuasive or accepted if it is not clearly and assertively articulated. While I respect his resolve in defending the country in the face of political/media opposition (though he wasn’t lucid in prosecuting or defending the effort), George W. Bush was reliably not clear or assertive in defending constitutional principles domestically. I’m in his home state of Texas, where he was governor. I never voted for him for president. As I’ve often said, when he was elected president, I said “Leviathan gets a night manager,” and I wasn’t surprised by what followed. The promiscuous spending that Bush signed onto, set the table for Obama to throw all caution to the wind. George W. Bush is philosophically ambiguous. He’s no statesman and no leader. He’s a decent and patriotic administrator. He’s…well, he’s a Bush. I supported Alan Keyes in the primary seasons of the 2000 and 1996 elections.

Of 14 Republican candidates in 2000, I only favored McCain less than Bush. I now regard that as a mistake. Bush never vetoed a bill while Republicans controlled Congress. That wouldn’t have happened with a spending hawk McCain. And, he would even have defended the country more assertively. I disagreed with McCain often. But I believe he believed what he believed. Bush believed only a few things strongly. But I supported Huckabee in these primaries against McCain. And, he is a big reason I faced such slander from twisted sphincter conservatives, and still do. Such viscerally-driven conservatives are very prone to engage the oh-so-enlightened tactics of the left at radical liberal sites, where they typically resort is not to substance, but to moral and intellectual disparagement. These on both the right and left are not amenable to reason or refutation, but have set their emotional jaws like pit bulls and will not unclench them. Discussion soon becomes pointless.

Huckabee was derided by these, I think for a few reasons. For one thing, he was caricatured as only a “social” conservative. In many forums, so was I, even though I was conservative before social conservatives existed and actually differed some from Huckabee on social issues, at least in rhetoric and approach. But Pat Toomey and The Club for Growth campaigned for a year against Huckabee as a “tax and spend liberal.” If that were true, I would never have supported him. But it quite simply is not true. The Club for Growth’s campaign was a mercenary payoff to its largest contributors who were either politically or personally motivated. With that slander out there, it was picked up by the political campaigns of Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, neither of whom was as conservative as Huckabee. Both had things in their records (and not just social things) that Huckabee would have had no part of. I can detail that, if necessary. Huckabee repeatedly cited the 10th Amendment separation of state-federal powers. Romney and Thompson displayed no concern for it.

His critics found corroboration in the fact that Huckabee advocated concern “for Main Street as well as Wall St.” So do I. But some conservatives flinch at such talk, like a dog who flinches when you hold up a newspaper, because he is accustomed to being beaten with it. But A) conservatism IS good for everyone. And B) Main Streeters outnumber Wall Streeters more than 10 to 1. Huckabee was right when he said if we can’t sell our message to Main Street, we’re going to lose a lot of elections. My first vote for president was for Reagan in the ’76 primary against Ford. Reagan sold Main Street, and Main Street profited from conservative principles. Like Reagan, Huckabee spoke with a smile, not with anger. We can hate deeds. We have to love people. Jesus did both.

Some things don’t matter enough to break the dishes over, much less frighten or aggravate people; though again it seems we are past that point on other big things. There are usually Biblical paradigms for what I believe. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul discusses eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols, admitting that it means nothing. But he says you should not scandalize those who would be offended and associate our words with what to them is scandal. So, we must uphold what is essential but not fight over what is not. I referred to this back in 2000, when the issue of The Confederate Flag arose. We know that people legitimately want to honor their forefathers who fought under that flag. But given the fact that, correctly or not, some associate it with racism, it isn’t too much to display it at homes and museums, but not poke people in the eye by flying it in front of a state capitol. Private property and personal freedom are constitutional issues that can’t be compromised.. But some things aren’t. How much of an offense are they worth?

In any case, the Constitution of a fresh nation would need to explicitly disbar what was often more implicit in the original US Constitution, just as The Emancipation Proclamation and thw 14th Amendment made explicit what was implicit in “All men are created equal...”

WEENIE CONSERVATIVES ["Then there's Alan Keyes..."]

Monday, May 11, 2009

Big Ambitions, Urgent Focus - Optimism And Realism

I have for months now intended to turn a corner on my Blog from political campaigning and commenting, and broaden it to include general philosophical perspectives. I haven’t luminous credentials in either politics or philosophy: I consider myself a studied amateur in both. I have observed politics most all of my life and participated in the process of political conventions. I studied philosophy in college and graduate school, finishing a couple of years before taking to work and marriage without finishing a thesis and securing a graduate degree to flaunt. However, I had determined to discuss my experience with multiple sclerosis and how that experience and study has illuminated my existing perspectives. I may not have a graduate degree or a political office, but I have a certifiable diagnosis of and 16+ years of experience with multiple sclerosis. The course of the disease varies in victims, from occasional disturbances to a gradual or possibly more precipitous decline. On such a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably around a 5: many facilities are weakened, but none are entirely devastated. I walk a hundred yards or so, slowly with a walker. My vision is diminished somewhat, as is the tactical perception of my fingertips, my fine motor coordination, and some other ordinary physical facilities. But, my convictions seem to get only more sharpened, and my enthusiasm for discussing them is still keen.

I intended to direct my Blog in this ambitiously broad direction, and have written (but not posted) a post to announce having turned this corner. However, pulling it all together in one direction was an imposing project, and as time passes, the enormity and urgency of discussing the social prospects look ever stronger. I will still appeal to these other matters, and I AM positive that, as much as American politics provoke me. It is certainly not the most important thing in life. In fact, we as Americans are spoiled by what we have had. Most of the history of human life on earth has had to engage the challenge to be joyful with infinitely less in terms of both wealth and freedom. It’s probably the provision of both in America that highlights the grief of watching this dismantling of the values that produced it. For weeks now, I have wondered how America might surmount the massive folly of government usurping of authority and resources, extinguishing of innovation and production, and creating an almost unfathomable and certainly inhibiting debt. While I have listened to many conservatives who have reconciled their ambitions to recovery and even are confident of coming political victories, I have not grasped an answer to my question and am not so sanguine; the record in history of reversing the sort decisive changes that Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress intend and have already wrought is very poor and looks unlikely short of some dramatic upheaval. Achieving such a revolution absent violence would be an extraordinary accomplishment.

Speaking of overreach and subsequent reform, last Thursday, Glenn Beck had judge Andrew Napolitano on his program: Napolitano on Beck: Montana 2nd Amendment and States Rights Part 1 (5-7-09)(obviously, there’s a Part 2) They discussed a state measure in Montana that would reject federal attempts to regulate firearms that were manufactured and remained in Montana that would supposedly fall outside the federal justification of “regulating interstate commerce,” which over time has come to cover most any measure that the federal government wants to impose. State representatives from Utah and Texas who are posing similar measures joined them. Napolitano said he thought that the Supreme Court as comprised today, might affirm such measures, and Beck got a little excited about the idea that the interstate commerce justification might be undermined. I sat there thinking that would be great but he shouldn't get his hopes up: basically, that it isn’t going to happen. By Monday, Beck had a writer on who said he didn’t think The Supreme Court would buy it; that the laws needed to be more tightly defined.

But, even that writer isn’t considering the real problem, that once power is exercised, people don’t kindly give it up, whether in politics, in business, churches or anywhere else. It’s human nature. Let me give you a few examples from my own experience, and they are only examples of what is all but universal. I have a friend in Texas that I first met during the campaign preceding the 1996 election. He’s a fellow conservative who in the early '90’s served on The Republican Party of Texas rules committee and was a state parliamentarian. He’s a rules guy and changed some rules in the state party during that period…until the party caught on that the rules changes would make party officials more accountable to the state arty platform and devolve power from the central party apparatus to the state executive committee chosen from around the state and more accountable to the people: basically constraining the maneuvering and bargaining power of the central party officials. Henceforward, the party has put a sock in his mouth via parliamentary contrivance and personal ridicule. Even to today, he soldiers on with what would be worthy rules change proposals.

Until my uneven health made it difficult, I served for a while on the board of an extraordinarily connected and active pro-life organization. Much focus was of course, put toward the effort of pressing alterations in the law. At one point, with a case before The Supreme Court, our legal counsel expressed optimism about submitting a brief with an argument that he thought would undermine Roe v. Wade. A friend and I thought such optimism was ill founded and of course, it was.

In both of these cases the main problem is not the rules or the argument. The main point is that when it came right down to it, neither of those things mattered. While the other side will do what it can with argument and finagling, if it is ultimately necessary, they will deceive and cheat, which is what happened in the face of rules changes at that 1996 convention. The issue isn’t rules or argument or laws. The issue is that power once held, will be retained if at all possible, by hook or by crook. So it is with Beck’s dreams of obviating the commerce clause justification for federal regulation, which would be about as easy to execute as removing Congress’ huge power to manipulate the tax code. Federally, I support The Fair Tax, which would do just that. But, I know that it would never be put in place short of an unprecedented social upheaval. And The Fair Tax itself doesn’t even directly address the problem of over-taxation and government waste. It just changes how the current level of taxation is collected, but returns control to the people, who determine the level of their taxation through the level of their spending.

As of today, reviving state sovereignty seems a more urgent project.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dennis Prager - How Did Absolom Earn His Father's Love?

Recently, I have had some physical issues, as well as some computer problems in the past week. When the personal waters have assumed a relative calm, I have intended to resurrect my Blog, if in a somewhat altered direction. But still, I have typically listened to Dennis Prager’s often provocative weekday radio program. Today in his weekly “Ultimate Issues” hour, Prager discussed the idea of forgiveness, specifically questioning as he often does, the idea of “unconditional love” as commended in Christianity. Prager insisted as others have that for Christians God’s forgiveness is in fact earned by the act of accepting Christ and his work on your behalf. Indeed, he is correct in the fact that Christians will often affirm that forgiveness is offered but not delivered in the absence of such a an individual decision.

However, while The New Testament affirms that forgiveness is assured for those who DO voluntarily accept the grace offered in Christ, and both OT and NT assert that sin is called to account, NOWHERE does The New Testament specifically say that anyone who does NOT personally confess Jesus Christ is hopelessly lost. Quickly, let me say what I am NOT suggesting: a) I am not at all discounting Prager’s overall observation that from childrens' competitions to an adult’s earning of a living, our society is ever more inclining to reward something for nothing. I entirely agree and join in his lament. But more importantly, as a Christian, b) I am not denying that Jesus Christ is the unique medium of salvation, which I affirm more emphatically.

Christians most often refer to Jesus own words.

In The King James Version familiar to many:
John 14:5-7 (King James Version)
5Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

John 14:5-7 (Contemporary English Version)
5Thomas said, "Lord, we don't even know where you are going! How can we know the way?"
6"I am the way, the truth, and the life!" Jesus answered. "Without me, no one can go to the Father. 7If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him."

I intensely believe that all who to attain eternity with God, will do so by virtue of Christ’s work, which was not historically incidental but essential and definitive of the restoration of all of creation. Many Christians may regard the posture as unorthodox, but as to identifying individually who those redeemed humans are, that is WAAAAY above my pay grade. It is OK to say that I don’t know. As I once told a friend who asked about a friend who had died, what I do know is that no injustice will befall him. Christians are charged to tell the good news of Jesus Christ to others, but that is not good news only about a life after death: it is good news about life HERE AND NOW. And, the indispensable surrender to God of human beings is not that of their deeds. It is a humility such that might recognize who is sovereign and certainly who is not: human beings. Prager rightly observed that faith in Christ is subsequently evidenced in the fruit of behavior. But, that is service due an acknowledged master, not recompense for Christ’s work, which is literally the height of a futile idea.

It is more than a mere metaphor when scripture refers to God as father. God doesn’t love us for our deeds. God loves us because we are His children, literally his progeny. Years ago, I explained to our children that we will always love them and care for their welfare because they are our children. As most all lessons have Biblical models, I related to them two Bible accounts: 0ne from The New Testament and one from The Old Testament. There is much to be said with respect to Jesus’ claim that He came not to condemn the law, but to fulfill it. The elements and the prefiguring of Jesus pervade historical Judaism in what Christians now call The Old Testament. The graciousness toward the outsider commended by Christianity is in the instruction to the ancient Israelites of how to treat “the alien.” God gave the son of the promise, as Abraham was spared of doing. Jesus himself is the Passover Lamb. These are only among the tall monuments.

The New Testament account I related to my kids was the well-known tale related by Jesus that is called, “The Prodigal Son.” The son leaves the father’s house and ways, pursuing self-indulgent and wasteful living. But, when that way leads to desolation and despair and he realizes that his father’s servants fare better than he is, the son determines to return home. His father sees him approaching and runs out to meet him and “falls on his neck” and kisses him. The son says that he has sinned and does not deserve to be called his son. But, the father says to bring him the best attire and to prepare the fatted calf for a feast, for “my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

The Old Testament account is if anything more stark: David’s son Absolom not only forsook his father the King, but organized a rebellion and plot to overthrow his father’s kingdom. When amid the execution of that plan, Absolem is killed, David cries out, “Oh Absolom, Absolom, my son, my son! Would God that I had died instead of you!” How is that not unconditional love? And, can’t most parents of even the barest character relate to the horror of loss of even the most craven and/or spiteful child? Look at both of these stories in Luke 15 and II Samuel 15 for anything hinting at the son’s earning of the father’s love. Quite to the contrary in both cases, the entire point of both stories is the son’s lack of merit of the father’s expression. In both cases, it is just that aspect that is the moving and compelling point of the story.