A Conservative’s Dilemma

The Choices Before Us

I’ve been receiving a number of emails today, some of which were authored by those who think I’ve been too rough on Congressman Paul, Governor Romney, or Speaker Gingrich, or any of the other candidates I may have from time to time examined.  A couple of very important and consistent conclusions can be drawn from all of these emails, and I thought it would be proper to consider them together with you.  Nearly every one of the notes goes on at length to defend the candidate in question, and each of them goes on to tell me in one way or another that I’m falling for some media narrative or other.  This suggests a confusion about what I believe, and I’d like to clear that up for readers, both new and old.

With Newt, I’m “too harsh” because I’m a “Beckerhead,” despite the fact that I’ve been critical of Beck at times.  With Mitt, I’m “too inflexible” because I’ve noted that he’s been all over the place on various issues. In the case of Ron Paul, I’m being told that I don’t know what conservatism is, despite spending much of the last half-year discussing that very subject.  So arises the question: “What’s the truth?”  The truth is that like so many of you, I am unhappy with the current roster of choices, and none of them offer me much hope with respect to electing a “conservative,” as I conceive that term to mean.

Of course, this necessarily leads to the question as to what constitutes a “conservative.”  Various people will offer you a range of definitions, and the dictionary will focus on the notion of “conserving traditions,” but I think that’s a tortured application of a term that in our political context has almost no discernible, concrete meaning any longer.  In part, it stems from the redefinition of terms over the last century or more of political discourse.  The statists sought cover under the labels “progressive,” “socialist,” “liberal,” and more recently, “libertarian.” We’ve concocted new terms to try to differentiate, and most of them have been misused or misapplied with absurd results.  Of all the abuses of terminology that makes me angry, it is the misuse of the terms “liberal” and “conservative.”  These two have been stretched and twisted and reshaped until they in no way resemble the people who claim them as labels.  What this argues for is a little truth in advertising by way of labels.  I’ve tired of this nonsense in respect to the way in which it is used to pigeon-hole people into associations with beliefs and ideas they do not share.

Rather than try to tell you a definition under any of the bastardizations of the modern usages, I’m going back to a time when these terms still had some meaning.  I wish to go back to the days of our founding to explain to you what it is that I believe.  In the end, you will brand me with any label you find useful, but I would have it that you understand at the very least what I believe, and take from that understanding what it implies about the sort of candidates I choose to support.

In the era of our founders, I would have been called a “liberal,” in the precisely classical sense that characterized Thomas Jefferson’s inclusion under that label.  It would in no measure imply the sort of collectivist reflex with which the current uses of the term “liberal” are nowadays stained.  In the specifics of my belief, I need little beyond this from the preamble of our Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,[74] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

I believe that such a government must regard the people it serves as its master, mindful of their individual rights in all things.  In this respect, I see government in the place of an honest umpire, neither for nor against any particular person, but in favor of a standard of right and wrong according to an objective set of rules the object of which is only the guarantee of those rights.

I also believe that government, in pursuit of the guarantee of those rights, must exercise its delegated authority in the name of an organized defense.  This means I believe in a vigorous national defense, but it also means I do not believe the purposes of our government should include military conquest. It means that I believe in a strong enforcement of our laws against criminals, but it also means I do not believe law should be placed in the service of plunder by some citizens of others.  It is this last that under modern constructs and usages characterizes me as a “conservative.”  I believe acts of government must serve all citizens simultaneously.  In today’s political discourse, there are those that would thereby label me a “libertarian,” and again, I would reach merely to history to make my case that it is not the object of government, as envisioned by our founders, to redistribute wealth or favors or benefits.  In this, I adhere to the sentiments of James Madison:

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.” — James Madison

This would nowadays be called a “libertarian” by some, but this does not answer all that a government is or must do. It merely speaks to what a government must not do.  Madison here offers a warning that our nation’s government has long ago discarded in reckless pursuit of the very objects against which he warned.  This is not the government of our founding, nor the government of its re-framing under our Constitution.   The argument of some is that we have a living constitution that permits reinterpretation, but that would be a detestable reinterpretation itself.  Our founders thought this Constitution ought to be flexible, and so it is, but not in the manner now described by modern “liberals” who I call “statists.”  The framers of our Constitution laid a foundation for our republic, and for change of its laws, and most important among the things they enshrined in the Constitution are the only valid method by which it was intended to be flexible.  Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

If you want to know the means by which ours was to be a “living constitution,” there in Article V you will find it.  Notice that it does not say that the meaning of the law is to be amended by reinterpreting its words.  It gives us the ability to change the meaning of the law by changing the law itself, either by the Amendment or Convention procedures as outlined therein.  I am a strong believer in this, because I know full and well how the statists have long preyed upon the ignorance and indulgence of the American people.  It offers me some hope that so many now finally understand what has been at stake in the progressive era, begun arguably with the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, but nevertheless in full swing by the time of Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural.

This would at first make the case of those who say I am therefore a modern-day “libertarian,” but I eschew that definition by virtue of all that term has now come to encompass.  Under this definition, I would necessarily reject any foreign involvements at all, but this is not so. I recognize as all conservatives do that there is the matter of reality from which one cannot escape.  Am I satisfied with the manner in which we have tended to a changing reality?  Hardly.  Am I satisfied that the measures we’ve undertaken were “necessary?”  Not at all.  Despite this seeming contradiction, I believe that we must fundamentally address this if we’re to  restore our constitution to its proper meaning.

As an example, I don’t believe the method by which we’ve circumvented the Constitution’s restrictions on military establishment is right and proper.  In our modern world, with push-button warfare of potentially devastating arms, it is necessary to consider that we ought to have not only a standing Navy at sea, but also a standing Army, which we do in fact have, even if Congress has continued the charade of no appropriations to that purpose for more than two years in technicality.  The National Security Act of 1947 does not amend the constitution, but merely adds to the charade.  I believe we ought to  amend the constitution to provide for this necessity rather than carry on with the fiction.

One must look at Madison’s quote above, in consideration of the government we now have, and wonder which Amendments provided for the growth of all those things against which he had warned.  The answer, of course, is simply: There haven’t been any.  Nowhere will you find an amendment providing for the welfare state, or education, or NASA, or a million other things that were considered by our framers as obscenities.  Whether I support them or not, still we have not amended the Constitution to permit them, but have instead acted on the notion of “necessity” as a matter of pure political expedience.  For this, I would be called a “radical” inasmuch as I present the radical notion that we ought and must adhere to our Constitution, or dispense with it and call our government something else, but it is not the government prescribed by the US Constitution, and has not been for many years.

This will lead inevitably to the question put forth by the adherents of Ron Paul, who will argue summarily on the basis I have outlined that I must be his kind of “conservative.”  This too is erroneous, for in fact what troubles me about Dr. Paul is that which has troubled me about much of modern “libertarian” dogma with respect to matters of national security: An unwavering belief in the absurd, the impossible, and the Utopian.   It is the key consideration among such “libertarians” that we must not involve ourselves in any matters but trade beyond our border, but since that will remain largely within the conduct of the private sector, the government need not be involved.

This is a lie, and an abrogation of our responsibility to the truth.  When Thomas Jefferson dispatched the Navy and its Marine forces to Tripoli in combat against the Barbary pirates, he did so not as an adventurist, but as a defender of American shipping.  It is preposterous to suggest that one’s trade will be sufficient intercourse with the world, because in truth there is yet another underlying and fundamental flaw that lies at the heart of such contentions: The abiding assumption that all others are guided by a similar reverence for those natural, unalienable rights of man that government exists to guarantee.  As Michele Bachmann said in Thursday night’s GOP Debate on FoxNews, only a knave or a fool believes this to be the case, and yet with nearly every dose of modern “libertarian” thought to which I exposed on the matter of defense and foreign policy(including Dr. Paul’s,) this juvenile, almost hippie-like presumption about the motives of all men emerges to a degree and extent that makes of their positions a laughing stock in the face of reality.

Contrary to the latter-day peacenik propaganda, we do not all “cherish the same things.”  If that were so, there would be no crime and no war and no strife anywhere among men, and yet it persists in our world, in our nation, and even in our neighborhoods and homes.  No unreality is more dangerous than such an assumption of the sort of Utopian relation of men and civilizations.  For what purpose do we have a government if not to defend us against those who do not share our views of the rights of man?

Damn me if you please, or if you feel as though you must, but do not permit yourself to believe I have not fully considered these issues.  Of late, I’ve given consideration to little else.  This entire blog is in service to that consideration, and to arouse yourselves to the belief that I would so casually entrust the future of this country, or its government to somebody on the basis of an unthinking support is patently absurd.  I don’t care if you call me “conservative” or “libertarian” or “liberal,” because I know in our current context, all those terms have lost their original meanings, but this much I do know:  I know what sort of candidate I would happily support.

I would support a candidate who shares my reverence for the Constitution in terms of the government’s relationship to its masters: We the people.  I would support a candidate who understands that our government now needs vast reforms, that some would call “sudden and relentless,” because our government has inverted its role in our lives, by which means it has become the master and we have become its servants.  I would support a candidate who understands the cruel and dangerous realities of our world, and is willing to act to bring our government and its operations into compliance with them by legal, constitutional means.  These are all the things, in general, that I would support, but I will not support any candidate absent any of these to any substantial degree.

These are the characteristics of the candidate I would support, but therein lies my personal dilemma, whatever you choose to call me:  None of the candidates now in the field have shown me that they are substantially, and in the greatest measure, what I believe such a candidate ought be.  I suspect the rapid climb and descent of one candidate after the other means that while many of you may not share my views entirely, the greater number of you are dissatisfied with your choices, and you now find yourself choosing from among what you consider an imperfect lot. In truth, I expect many people feel as I do in this matter, but this may be the nature of the choice we will have in 2012, and I fear, as do so many of you, that it will be insufficient to the grave national tests that lie ahead.  This may be my dilemma, but many of you share in it, and I wish for you the wisdom of Solomon.  We cannot afford to see this infant be rendered in halves.

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19 Responses to A Conservative’s Dilemma

  1. Stephen Czaja says:

    I am down to only 1 who I can happily support-Bachman.
    But I would pull the lever for Beaver Cleaver if that's who is untimately on the ballot under Barack obama's name!

    • Dave says:

      I would agree with you except…. I went all over Michelle Bachmann's web site and she only mentions the constitution when she calls herself a "constitutional conservative." I did not see anywhere on her site a commitment to upholding the constitution. As I have said before, if Bachmann or Santorum would speak more on their commitment to upholding the constitution when making decisions as president, then I would not have a problem voting for either of them. I can't understand why they don't. I would be spouting my commitment to the constitution all day long and take away Ron Paul's thunder. The reason Paul has the support he does is because of his commitment to the constitution. Combine commitment to upholding the constitution with conservative values and you are now THE candidate we've been looking for.

      • Steve Czaja says:

        Somehow I do not doubt Bachman or Santorum's commitment to the constitution. Not sure why you do.
        Dr Paul will be destroyed by Axelrod and his thugs in a general election. There are too many statements and newsletterts he has either written or approved of that point to anti-semitism and outright racism. And Obama will play that up to make it seem like the guy wears a white hood!
        A vote for Paul assures 4 more years of Obama. I was in on the Ross Perot experiment so I understand your passion, but it is not doable.
        Ron Paul is running on his followers emotion ; not any rational thought.
        sorry i can't agree with you. But like I say if somehow he does get the nomination I will holdy nose and pull the Rep Lever.
        And he better not go 3rd party. That would assure Obama of another 4 years!

      • Dave says:

        Steve, the reason I am uncomfortable with their commitment to the constitution is they don't tie it to anything they say. In fact, I don't hear them talk about it att all. They should link everyone of their positions to the constitution. For example, if Bachmann could explain how she would take action against Iran to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons in a way that was constitutional I would be all for it. Same with Santorum. I agree that Iran hates the U.S and Israel and would like to wipe us out in a heart beat if they could. No doubt in my mind. I also believe that our actions against any threats or attacks against us should be in line with our constitution. That is how we keep the president from becoming a king.

      • Dave says:

        Ron Paul doesn't have any more issues than Bachmann or Santorum, and frankly, I think they will try to paint any GOP nominee as a racist. A few months ago they painted Bachmann as a christian nut-job that believes she can "fix" gays. That's all it took to knock her down. Then they trotted out a few white women to make false accusations against Cain in order to take him out, since they obviuosly couldn't use the race card there. It is no secret the media is trying to pick our next canidate for us, and that they are in the tank for Obama. I can't say that any of the GOP candidates get me really fired up (like Reagan did). So I am left weighing the pros and cons. The most important thing to me is character and commitment to the constitution. I think Bachmann, Paul, and Santorum are all of good character. So what's left for me is commitment to the constituion.

    • Dave says:

      I am confortable with Ron Paul's commitment to the constitution, his policies on the FED, etc.. But, as with everyone else, even though he says he is for a strong defense, I don't get the warm and fuzzies there. It is his commitment to our defense that he needs to expound on. If he let it be known in no uncertain terms that the consequences for threatening or attacking America or American interests will be swift and devastating, that would go a long way towards making me more comfortable with him in regards to foreign policy.

      • Steve czaja says:

        A simple declaration of war (which Iran has already declared on us-along with Al Qeda) by our cowardly congress and an enforcement of the War Powers Act( which is redundant and may be unconstitutional-Congress alone has the power to decclare war) would go a long way towards ending the bickering and the "grey" areas of the constitution.
        Congress must simply re assert it's powers. Then hope for a favorable ruling with a very questionable and partisan Supreme court.
        If they cede their powers-then what's a President to do when he/she is charged with being Commander-in-Chief and the Chief protector of every nation that we signed a treaty with as well (of course) protecting American lives and interests.
        But, like so many, I am sick of wars that never end. We should only go into conflict with the will to win and win fast.
        Obama is the worst Commander I have ever seen. He somehow thinks that if we play nice and talk that somehow everyone will love and support us.
        Incase you were not aware. Probably 90% of the world is controlled by the fear of force. That is, sadly, the only language these rougue nations understand.
        Again, if Paul's name (or M.Mouse) is the only other name on the ballot with an R next to it. He gets my vote.

  2. SeanStLouis says:

    Very well said, Mark. Good food for thought.

    I'll just let this simmer for awhile.

  3. hey_sherm says:

    In the name of "Whats the Truth" Politicians should be treated for what they are architects of half truths. There was one politician i would of made an exception for but we threw her out with the bath water.

  4. Mark, you have the best writings with the truth of any I read. I admire and share your words with many I know. Still, we do have the ability to amiably agree to disagree. Though, this election is the most important of our present and future living, I do support Gingrich. Yes, he has many imperfections as do all of the candidates. I am of the opinion that he will change the direction of these marxist administrations, past and present. Absolutely, I will vote for anyone against Obama.

    • Dave says:

      I agree with you completely on your initial statement. Mark does a great job and maintains a good attitude. This is the only site I have really blogged on. I am on a search for the truth, and I think Mark is too. Sometimes I disagree with his logic, but, in his responses to my posts, he is always thoughtful and courteous, and I get the sense that he is willing to at least consider other viewpoints. I am not trying to kiss his a@@, just making an honest observation.

      On Gingrich, I'm sorry I just don't trust the guy. When Beck says you're a big government progressive, you're toast in my book. He has the evidence to back it up.

  5. Excellent post in which your sentiments are shared 100% by me and I suspect countless others. This description of conservatism was articulated quite well. Unfortunately, the people going before the country have not and are not educating the public in this manner.

  6. just-a-guy says:

    I am going to go way out on a limb and take the challenge to put a lables on you Mark. I think you are an 'American'.

    Quite possibly one of the most 'Patriotic' writers I've come across lately,
    at least currently in publication.

    I dont think you will make the mistake of letting that go to your head, and I would be reticent to heap what I consider praise on a person of any lessor integrity.

    So there you have it. I do hope I havent disappointed you by being less
    biased than you anticipated, or expected.

    That being said, I dont think your quite up to your potential. You have deemed your role to be limited to exposing the flaws of the candidates.
    That is being done already. I can understand a plain consideration of
    flaws in a total evaluation of a candidate, but a serious analysis of individual candidates must include the positives as well as the negatives. Any body but Obamma just isnt going to cut it in the here and now.

    In the here and now there has to be a consideration for that time that comes after the Primary and before the General. One of the reason we are seeing individual candidates rise and fall is because they are not being vetted before their rise.

    All pundits focus on the leader, and all lead with what they consider negative about them. None are willing to do the legwork, we need the pundits to do their real job and rate the candidates on where they stand, how good is there proposal to govern, and what in their experience qualifies their plans as doable, or just fluff.

    Dont be afraid to rank them according to your opinions – you will not be the deciding factor. It is the duty of your readers to proove or disproove your positions. It is yours to give them a starting point.. If you cannot
    then how exactly do you expect the common people to make the
    same decisions without the training you have given yourself to look seriously at the campaigns and to cut through the political positioning for the heart of what each candidate represents.

    You have stated the considered opinion that any of these candidates would make a better POTUS than Obama. Tell the American people why, and tell them in each case. Show them the positives because this is an election that will not be won by Obamma committing political suicide. I expect the numbers will be manipulated to at least show a 'trend of improvement' from here to the election, And only the informed will realize the 'real hammers' fall on the economy after the 2012 election.

    Maybe an article about this stuff ( like the keystone pipeline decision – that big tax-cut on social security – and OBAMMA CARE) that kicks in automatically and irrevocably after Obamma gets a second term
    need to be made plain.

    mchill/tampa

    • MarkAmerica says:

      Just-a-guy,

      Thank you for the kind words, and for the challenge. Frankly, that challenge you have outlined is something I'm working on myself. I am in the position of not knowing who to recommend, because I am dissatisfied with all of the candidates. That's not a cop-out. I'm really looking for a candidate who best fits my description, and I'm having a devil of a time.

      You're right to expect the Obama admin to manipulate the numbers. I've already shown on this site how they're fudging the unemployment numbers. I've discussed how the program known as Obamacare won't kick in with all of its naked tyranny until after the election. I've already discussed how "issuing waivers to the states that want them" may not even be legal, let alone sufficient to the problem. I've discussed briefly the payroll tax cut. At one point or another, I've discussed all of these things, for instance extensively discussing the relationship of energy to our economic condition and why we must produce more oil/gas/coal/nuclear here. Showed the clear linkage of energy costs to our economic growth.

      I suppose I could do as you suggest and write yet another article about Obama's failings, and I suspect I will anyway, since the man gives me constant cause, but like so many in the conservative hinterlands, I'm just trying to figure out if there is anybody I can get behind with full-throttle support. See the category Barack Obama for some of my numerous articles on the subject on the side-bar. There are more than one hundred that mention Obama in some aspect, but a fair number that deal specifically with him and his policies, and the actions of his administration.

      Thanks for reading, and I hope in time that I will have produced what you're looking to find here.

      Mark

      • just-a-guy says:

        "Thanks for reading, and I hope in time that I will have produced what you’re looking to find here."

        Dont get me wrong Mark – I like your style very much, and I find no fault with your content. You are a great writer.

        I am just pointing out the "progressive trap" in one writing as to suggest an outline for future writings. You will I expect put your own spin on things, and I will be entertained again and again.

        They stole 'Make it in America', and the Libertarians have already twisted 'keep America American' and twisted them both into some kind of doublespeak…

        How about 'God bless the Patriot' for a slogan?

        Can you help define what happened in the Defense Authorization Bill? Half the senators are saying its 'not new law'
        and the other half are saying there is a Democratic amendment in the bill that exempts American Citizens from the indefinite detention clause. I understand the bill authorizes soldiers to 'make captures and hold non citozens indefinitely' anywhere in the world including the USA – but I kind of got the idea it was a bipartisan concept to control terrorists above and beyond what Obama would want – I thought that the reason the Dems initiated the amendment to protect Akmerican citizens on American Soil. My perspective on the actions was that republicans wanted to give the tool to the soldiers who would still be expected to operate within the Constitution, specifically because Obama has tried to force a 'catch and release' policy with release imediate to the government where captured… it seems that policy puts soldiers in a catch 22 when the government in question does not want to deal with the prisoners in question or maybe does not want to prosecute the terrorists in question. I think it was the Republicans that insisted on the American Soil provision, specifically because they do not want soldiers to have to hand over foreign terrorists captured on American soil to the Lack of Justice Dept. Who can in turn bury the cases and release the suspects secretly for miranda violations and what have you.

        something like that anyway

        have a great day
        God bless the Patriot

        mchill/tampa

        • MarkAmerica says:

          just-a-guy,

          Actually, I did cover the NDAA a little more than a week ago. I've been reading some updates to the story, but I don't think people are reading it clearly, or perhaps I'm not. I don't see quite the conspiracy some have seen in it, but I'm open to being convinced.

          I actually think the ACLU tried to use the story to move the legislation in their direction for other reasons, since that organization originated the conspiratorial spin on the story.

  7. Gail says:

    The answer here is: Don't let the Lame Street Media make your dessions for you. If you like a canidiate then stick with them…I like NEWT and I am sticking with him!