The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “inconsistent conservatism”

A New Conservative Manifesto?

DonQuixoteunhorsed

“How to revive the flagging fortunes of the Republican Party might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled conservatives. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.”

Several weeks ago a piece appeared over at The American Conservative touting itself as a manifesto-of-sorts for a re-envisioned and reinvigorated conservatism: “Counterculture Conservatism: the right needs less Ayn Rand, more Flannery O’Connor.” Before the literary among you get excited, I should warn you that author Andrew J. Bacevich interacts with O’Connor nowhere in the article; in fact, by the end, I felt a little like Inigo Montoya (“you keep using that name; I do not think it means who you think it means”). Anyway, Bacevich’s opening lines (quoted above) are one measure consolation, one measure exhortation, and just a splash of knowing self-congratulation

True enough, a lot of people predicted that if and when Republicans lost the 2012 election, the party would attempt to reinvent itself, distancing itself from “loser issues” like the sanctity of biblical marriage, or the fight against abortion (of course, the party had already begun to do this when they put Mitt Romney in the race, but what’s a few months one way or the other to the long memory of history?). ‘Republican’ and ‘Conservative’ might be related terms, but fortunately they are not perfect synonyms, and many of the latter woke up and found themselves too “principled” to remain attached to the former. I followed the author this far because, truthfully, I was in that number and could say, without irony, “thank God for conservatism,” but he (in this case, the article’s author) wasn’t finished yet.

What, then, is Bacevich’s vision of conservatism in the coming epoch?

“The conservative tradition I have in mind may not satisfy purists. It doesn’t rise to the level of qualifying as anything so grandiose as a coherent philosophy. It’s more of a stew produced by combining sundry ingredients. The result, to use a word that ought warm the cockles of any conservative’s heart, is a sort of an intellectual slumgullion.”

His recipe for this mess of pottage includes, among other thinkers, heavy doses of Flannery O’Connor (he drops her name a second time, but by now I’m even more skeptical that he could explain satisfactorily why she belongs in the discussion) and Wendell Berry (who recently came out in support of gay marriage, which will seem more relevant in a minute)—“don’t skimp” he writes.

Next, there are the sweeping, inspirational value statements about the human responsibility of stewardship—“preserving our common inheritance and protecting that which possesses lasting value”—the importance of community—“ Conservatives understand that the most basic community, the little platoon of family, is under unrelenting assault”—awareness of pain and suffering—“conservatives also believe in Original Sin, by whatever name”—and patriotism—“America is amber waves of grain, not SEAL Team Six.”

Bacevich finally descends to the level of clear details in outlining the task that is before the next generation conservative.

“The key to success will be to pick the right fights against the right enemies, while forging smart tactical alliances. (By tactical, I do not mean cynical.) Conservatives need to discriminate between the issues that matter and those that don’t, the contests that can be won and those that can’t….So forget about dismantling the welfare state. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and, yes, Obamacare are here to stay. Forget about outlawing abortion or prohibiting gay marriage. Conservatives may judge the fruits produced by the sexual revolution poisonous, but the revolution itself is irreversible.”

He warns against a Quixotic tilting at windmills, while adopting for himself the conciliatory tone of the Don on his deathbed, claiming that there are no birds in last year’s nests. I mention Don Quixote, but the reader may also be reminded of the first-century Sadducees with their “smart tactical alliances.” This conservatism begins to sound less countercultural and more concultural or syncultural. One could hope that the author simply intends the Church to play a larger role than the State in transforming culture, but churches are mentioned as a kind of afterthought in the close of his manifesto and largely as a sheepish concession that they all “may be flawed.” The piece reads instead, as if conservatives simply have bigger (largely financial) fish to fry.

More recently, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman wrote an article (also for The American Conservative) entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” arguing,

“There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship [a happy marriage] with the person they love.”

But his essay’s final remarks strike a now familiar chord that complicates the simplicity of that emotional appeal:

“We are at a crossroads. I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game—because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.”

Neither Bacevich nor Huntsman is the force behind this shift, but they are both good indications of where the winds are blowing. Both outline a strategy that feigns compassion (or possibly misunderstands real compassion as a secondary end) in order to gain influence, especially in financial/economic arenas. These Conservatives are simply maneuvering to become the new Republicans and making moderate the new conservative.

Fortunately, the Christian remains more conservative than the Conservative. Kuyper would remind us that the state is meant to restrain sin out of love for the nation and concern for its culture; love and concern based in and upon the truly charitable, Gospel-oriented mission of the Church, where liberty and equality truly abide.

So, how to revive the flagging fortunes of the conservative movement might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled Christians. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.

 

Sean Johnson is a graduate student of Literature at the University of Dallas (TX) and husband to a beautiful pregnant woman.

Romney’s Loss: The Abortion Factor

by Adam McIntosh

Nothing puzzled me more than when conservatives kept insisting that Mitt Romney was a pro-life candidate for president. Many voters cast their ballot for Romney last week because of the abortion issue alone. Likewise, many Americans – including Christians – didn’t vote for Romney because of the abortion issue alone. Not because they are pro-choice, but because they don’t believe Romney is truly pro-life. It is an undeniable fact that Mitt Romney has been on both sides of the abortion debate throughout his career. Inconsistency is usually a good sign of not being trustworthy, but people can change their minds. For now, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The official narrative we are given is that Romney converted to the pro-life position in 2004. Throughout the 2012 campaign, he has used the typical pro-life rhetoric to his advantage. His website even had a great section on protecting the unborn. So far, so good. One could easily conclude that his days of supporting legal abortion and funding Planned Parenthood are done and in the past. But what did he say in the months leading up to election night?

On September 9th Romney was asked on NBC’s Meet The Press if he would fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. He replied:

Well, I don’t actually make the decision the Supreme Court makes and so they’ll have to make their own decision … I’ll reverse the president’s decision on using U.S. funds to pay for abortion outside this country. I don’t think also the taxpayers here should have to pay for abortion in this country … I hope to appoint justices to the Supreme Court that will follow the law and the constitution. And it would be my preference that they reverse Roe v. Wade and therefore they return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue.”

Though not the best answer, it is consistent with a pro-life position. Let’s continue.

On September 23rd Romney told CBS:

My position has been clear throughout this campaign. I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother. But recognize this is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court. The Democrats try and make this a political issue every four years, but this is a matter in the courts. It’s been settled for some time in the courts.”

On October 9th Romney said to the Des Moines Register:

There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

The very next day, October 10th, Romney said:

I’m a pro-life candidate. I’ll be a pro-life president. The actions I’ll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget. And also I’ve indicated I’ll reverse the Mexico City position of the president. I will reinstate the Mexico City policy.”

On October 16th Romney releases a TV ad pandering to pro-choice voters:

You know, those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraception seemed a bit extreme… Turns out, Romney doesn’t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother’s life.”

That’s five total statements regarding abortion over the span of five weeks and only two of them are consistent with a pro-life position. That means his pro-abortion statements outweigh his anti-abortion statements. His two good statements aren’t even unique to the pro-life movement! Certainly, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund abortions and Roe v. Wade should be overturned. But these ideals could just as well be uttered by a pro-choice constitutionalist. So, how should we interpret all of this?

Romney’s stated views are not exclusively pro-life and he can’t offer us a constitutional argument. He defers all responsibility to the Supreme Court, ignoring that the Constitution gives Congress the power to strip jurisdiction from federal courts. A pro-life president could push Congress to pass personhood legislation, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade. But not Romney. There’s no abortion legislation on his agenda, remember? The Supreme Court will have to make their own decision, remember? Romney wants abortion to be legal, remember? He alluded to abortion being a valid form of contraception, remember? It makes one wonder what’s left for Romney to be “pro-life” about.

There may have been legitimate reasons to vote for Romney last week. Unfortunately, pro-life activism wasn’t one of them.

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