Throwing up principles

I don't know whether to title this post "Why I am Not a  Conservative" or "Why I Shouldn't Call Myself a Conservative," or even "Why I CANNOT Call myself a Conservative," but Iowa Congressman Steve King (the driving force behind the recent Conservative Principles Conference) has made a strong case that conservatism means social conservativism, and that economic conservatism cannot be separated from social conservatism.

It is impractical to believe that there is no social issue component of any of the problems facing America -- from education to national security, up to and including the overall economy.

Agreed. If social is cultural, and all communicated thoughts are social, then it is impossible for any expressed thought to not have a cultural/social component.

Nonetheless, there is a public conversation going on about the proper place for social issues -- given the current economic setting. But this is, itself, another debate we should not fear. All candidates need to address the notion of whether housing markets, health care mandates and illegal immigration are more economic matters than social issues.

Fear? Whether anyone fears discussing the proper place for social issues is beside the point. I might rather avoid it for strategic reasons, as I think coalition politics is a good idea right now. But is that really fear? I have spent years writing this blog, so I think I have made it quite clear what I think about various social issues and why I think what I think. If I hold my tongue in the interest of, say, Tea Party coalition politics, is that really because of "fear"? Or is it just because I don't think social issues are as important as the pressing economic issues facing the country? 

What's with injecting fear into this debate? Is the idea that by imputing cowardice to people, they will suddenly start arguing more fiercely?

Or might it be that King thinks people who disagree with him but do not say so are cowards?

Any ideas?

I have a creepy feeling that reminds me of the way I felt when various activists implied that people were afraid to have a "conversation" about race. Being politely silent is not the same thing as being afraid. Diplomacy is not cowardice.

But King says we need to have what he calls "a discussion."

We also need to have a discussion about whether life, marriage, home schooling and any other social issue, cannot be economics. All this, in addition to the effect on where to cut government spending.

If there's one thing I have learned about economics, it is that anything can be economics. "We" (whoever we are) can have whatever "discussions" we want, but I had thought that the "we" in the Tea Party had agreed that cutting government spending is the Most Important Thing.

Tea Party Principles, anyone?

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

With all due respect to King, while economics is included, it is a slightly broader topic than the above. Economics as a subject includes everything from Adam Smith to Keynes to Marx to Hayek to Mises, and to Friedman. A lot of things can be "economics," including the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" plan.

As well as life, marriage, Obamacare and more.

For example, a debate on the proper role of the judiciary includes the court's opinions on life and marriage, just as on Obamacare and eminent domain. The great debate over true constitutional limits cannot be confined to unemployment numbers and the stock market results.

I'm startled (and puzzled) by the shift from economics to the Constitution. Did anyone suggest that "constitutional limits" meant unemployment numbers and stock market results? 

Is it the conservative position that those who are not conservatives seek to confine the Constitution to these things? The last time I looked, it didn't even mention them. What does he mean? That the Constitution actually includes more things that aren't there, in addition to the things that already aren't there? Is the Constitution's silence about the stock market something that should be treated the same way as its silence about gay marriage? Or health care?

It strikes me that the man is trying to read things into the Constitution that simply are not there.

Like maybe marriage?

In debating the moral standards of American culture, we start with the basic premise that government must possess the moral authority to institute all manner of laws and regulations. In the minds of most Iowa caucus-goers, there is little difference between the ultimate power to tax and the power to define marriage.

The modern power to tax was granted (unfortunately, IMO) by the 16th Amendment. The "power to define marriage," sorry to say, is not only not among the designated powers of the Constitution, but I think the founders would be amazed to hear the suggestion that it was.

Whatever power it might be, King seems to think that it is inherent in government -- especially conservative government. Just as those he calls "conservatives" are invested with that magical "moral authority" to impose "all manner of laws and regulations," they also possess what he calls "true constitutional understanding and moral conviction":

The authority to do either is derived from the same source. Anyone watching the forum, including the media, must understand that if a candidate possesses a true constitutional understanding and moral conviction, including a conservative foundation on the social issues, we have faith they will get the rest of it right.

The three pillars of American exceptionalism are the Judeo-Christian ethic, Western civilization and free-market capitalism. If our U.S. economy is to be strong, these three pillars cannot be separated. Neither can the values of the family and faith coalitions be excluded from the economics debate -- they are integral to each other.

These American exceptionalism principles will be discussed Saturday, Mar. 26, when GOP presidential candidates and other national opinion leaders convene at my Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines.

All Americans have a high calling -- a religious term -- to serve our country by renewing our national culture through faith and free enterprise.

I think the man is morphing religion into politics and economics, and then into the Constitution. This is something he has every right to do, according to the First Amendment and according to the principles of Rhetoric. And I have just as much right to disagree. I'd say that I think the man comes close to violating his oath to support and defend the Constitution, except I try to be diplomatic and accomodating in the interest of the coalition I like to think I believe in.

I will say this, though. If Steve King and his ilk are right in their definition of conservatism, then not only do I know that I am not a conservative, but I am glad I am not.

Which doesn't make me a liberal, because liberals are socialists, socialism sucks, and Obama sucks so much that I would even vote for Steve King over him. 

I would have to take a vomit bag to the polls, though. Voting for that sort of conservative would make me sick. 

Not being a conservative sucks. In many ways, being a conservative would make my life so much easier. Not only could I agree with people instead of keeping my mouth shut, but I wouldn't have to throw up!

And being a liberal -- that would really open doors.

But that would be even worse than having to throw up occasionally. In fact, I would sooner die than become a liberal. Sickening though the idea is, I would rather be a Steve King conservative than a Barack Obama liberal. I hate the latter more than the former. (Some consolation that is.)

So I remain politically homeless. A loser, even. Sometimes it is depressing.

It's tough not to have the right principles.

posted by Eric on 03.29.11 at 12:57 AM










Comments

The fear is pretty straight (can you say that?) forward. Can you disown your lesbian daughter and still win elections?

The evidence is against it.

M. Simon   ·  March 29, 2011 7:06 AM

Eric,

May I suggest some new principles?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euiFGPR_Xz8

M. Simon   ·  March 29, 2011 7:14 AM

Eric,

Nice juxtaposition.

M. Simon   ·  March 29, 2011 10:21 AM

I can't really watch the videos right now (since I'm at work), but I'm right there with you, Eric. Although I'm sure I'm more "conservative" than you in some ways, on election day (just like you) I'm stuck with choosing which candidate or platform I find less revolting.

John S.   ·  March 29, 2011 11:30 AM

How many ways is this guy wrong? To start with, the colonies that didn't have a state religion often had Common Law Marriage - and that didn't require any government involvement at all. There are a few states that still accept it that way: live together as a married couple for long enough and you are married.

As I recall, one of the reasons the founders pushed freedom of religion was the way places like England were requiring marriage in the official church to acknowledge it at all - which put the minority denominations (and anyone who wasn't Christian) in a very unpleasant place.

We won't even go into the whole "it's immoral for you to tell me what to do, but I can tell you what to do" nonsense.

I should remember my husband's mantra. "People are stupid". It saves so much frustration.

Kate   ·  March 29, 2011 11:46 AM

What Kate said. And her husband's mantra is similar to mine - stolen from Heinlein (who probably stole it from someone else.

"It is impossible to make anything foolproof, because fools are so ingenious."

Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 29, 2011 6:11 PM

Oh, and YES, that quote is referring to the Constitution. They did their best, but...

Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 29, 2011 6:13 PM

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