Friday, December 01, 2006

GOP Self-Assessment

As I mentioned yesterday, Ben Franklin once famously advised, "Listen to your enemies, they will tell you your faults." Needless to say, this is excellent advice and that which we should heed as we work to redefine the party of conservatism.

As a friend of mine recently wrote (sorry, can't find the link):

It is important to remember that "Conservatism" is not an ideology; it is a predisposition in defense of tradition. In the American political sense of the word, conservatism means to defend the original and traditional interpretation of the Constitution.

The Founders, and generations of Americans thereafter, did not consider that the federal government created by the Constitution had the authority to meddle in the private economy, or that federal courts had the power to legislate, or that the people were unfit to govern themselves through their state legislatures.

All of these traditional (i.e., conservative) understandings of the meaning of the Constitution began to be shredded in the 20th century, beginning with the New Deal and continuing through the Warren Court, then particularly Roe v Wade, and so on until culminating in Lawrence v Texas which reversed a precedent only seventeen years previous, and in the process overturned centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence.

So precisely what is it that our political enemies have to say about us? What are our faults? It seems to me that the "faults" most attributed to Republicans have little to do with the precept of conservative thought that I mentioned above. Instead, they are more simply drive-by criticisms like "Bush is an idiot." While I respect the President and his accomplishments well enough, he is hardly a conservative and never pretended to be otherwise. I do believe that he has made more poor policy and personnel decisions than any Chief Executive since President Carter. But, using Ambassador Franklin's advice, it is duly noted.

The second glaring example is the charge of a "culture of corruption." Again, it is hard to argue that we have positioned ourselves on the moral high ground in this regard. While I still find it difficult to believe that the party of the Daly Empire and Tammany Hall is somehow less corrupt, we clearly have allowed power to influence the worst in our leaders. Duly noted. President Reagan's 11th Commandment aside, we need to diligently cull our ranks of the worst offenders.

The third appears to be an indictment of social conservativism. Charges of "turning back the clock" and the like are laughable. But Congress only called for a special session one time in recent memory. Do you remember over what issue? Ms. Terry Schivao. After all of the crises we have been through and all of the issues that needed addressing, all we have to show is grandstanding and a massively failed effort. Maybe the charge should be more closely considered.

Clearly, Conservatives have a lot of soul-searching to do in the near future. This self-assessment should include Old Ben's advice. Instead of turning red in anger at the charges of the DNC, we should decide whether it is a fault that we can (or should) counter. Otherwise, the conservative movement will find itself forced to move increasingly left. To paraphrase Mr. Winston Churchill, "If you want nothing done, the National Republican Party are the best men for the task. They have no equal."