I caught a very informative hour on C-Span last Saturday night. Longtime political operative Craig Shirley appeared at the Reagan Library in Santa Barbara to promote his newest book on the 1980 Reagan campaign (Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America).
Reagan was the first President I remember; it is largely because of who he was that I became interested in politics, so any hour I can devote to listening to a Reagan insider constitutes 60 minutes that I consider well spent, solely on those merits. Shirley shared many interesting anecdotes about Reagan and those who surrounded him in the 1980 campaign and offered salient commentary along the way. But it was essentially a tossoff observation that actually led to another major point (which I have since forgotten) that I wound up remembering most vividly and am still pondering 3 days later.
Shirley was expounding on the differences in perspective between the two major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. He stated that there is an organizing principle that animates both parties. For the Republican Party, that principle is FREEDOM. This leads to the belief that power is best vested in the individual, with the maximum amount of liberty consistent with law and order entrusted to the people. The people empower the government, not the other way around. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is organized around the principle of JUSTICE. This is carried out, in practice, through a trust in the power of government to exercise justice and right wrongs. By extension, then, individuals commit wrongs that government has to right.
I understand the general ideas surrounding this articulation, but had never heard it put exactly this way before. It is quite simple, but sometimes I miss the obvious. Shirley is quite right here, in fact devastatingly so.
Republicans, of course, are disappointed from time to time by the individuals in whom we vest the power of choice. All people are different and are guided by a diversity of philosophies. This means, then, that not everyone will choose the lifestyles, vote for the officials and advocate the policies we (specifically conservatives) wish they would. But we affirm the Jeffersonian principle, nonetheless, of government by the consent of the governed because we believe in the capability of people who are properly informed to make superior choices to a nameless bureaucrat.
Democrats have a different view. I am reading Ward Connerly’s autobiography Creating Equal right now (published in 2000). In Chapter 1, he portrays a riveting 1997 encounter between himself and some other minority public figures and then President Clinton & Vice-President Gore. The topic at hand, which it usually is when Connerly is involved in a public policy discussion, was affirmative action. In this context, Gore asserted the following, “Evil is coiled within the human soul.” Connerly editorialized that clearly, the implication was that it is only the hand of government that can undo the evil that humans will inflict on each other, if left to their own devices.
Although it pains me to say it, there is a kernel of truth in what Gore was saying. As a Christian, I accept the teaching of Romans 13, that government is an instrument of God to right wrongs. However, the mistake that Democrats all too often make is extrapolating that those involved in administering government are then infallible as long as they mean well. Good intentions mean everything and should ensure the survival of failed policies in perpetuity; Democrats don’t say that, but the old axiom is still true that actions speak leader than words.
The libertarian argument bears mention here as well: Government, of necessity, involves the use of force or at the very least, the willingness to utilize it in order to accomplish governmental ends. Threatened use of force cannot inculcate virtue in the populace, but it certainly can nurture resentment over time.
This is a truth of which President Obama is destined to become aware within the next year because his answer to every crisis, manufactured or genuine, is “more government.” Erick Erickson’s Red State blog reported this morning that President Obama has fewer advisors surrounding him who hail from the private sector (as opposed to government careers or, I suppose, academia) than any other President in the last 108 years.
Such implicit trust in the power of government leads ultimately to reprehensible and outrageous breaches of ethics. One of these instances came to light last week with the exposure of e-mails from London’s Climate Research Unit. These e-mails clearly reveal that data has been hidden and manipulated by people at high levels of power and decision making in the fields of science and government in order to suppress the implications of the continual COOLING of the earth, rather than the WARMING that has been touted by the Left.
George Stephanopolous and the roundtable panel discussed this on Sunday. Liberal economist Paul Krugman’s assertion on what has become known as Climategate was basically “Move along, kids; nothing to see here.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but Krugman is dead wrong and we’re not going to let him forget it. This story will not go away, not just because the Left is invested in “climate change” theories in order to pass Cap & Trade but because this represents further wielding of power to exercise “justice.” So the narrative, the organizing principle, continues on, even at the expense of truth and economic recovery, since Cap & Trade will inevitably, by the President’s own admission, result in “skyrocketing” energy costs.
The President is clearly intent on staying the course of massive government intervention, even though it will cost him politically. He should not be surprised, though, when another Jeffersonian truism is borne out in 11 more months and American voters, by and large a center-right leaning lot, send a message that indicates their agreement that “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”