[NOTE] As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.
I’d like to make a small contribution toward changing the context and content of public debate. Understanding the ideological perspectives, beliefs, and values of those with whom we disagree is a good first step to engaging in more meaningful dialogue—idealistic as that may be. But why not? Is what we’re “doing” now any better?
If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.
~ ~ ~
For conservatives who want to regain that support, and for Republicans who want a chance to govern, a crucial first step is to see the inadequacy of the oppositional and negative approach to the question of the government’s purpose and role. It is inadequate not simply because it fails to give Republicans enough to offer voters. It is inadequate because it does not amount to a conservative vision — on historical, philosophical, or practical grounds.
Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner posted a lengthy article + several weeks ago discussing the current tactics and strategies of conservative governing [all quotes in this post are from that piece unless otherwise noted], and while I didn’t agree with many of their observations, the commentary was not without many strong points and sound advice to their fellow conservatives.
WHO IS GOING TO LISTEN?
Particularly among libertarians and some of those conservatives who identify with the Tea Party movement, government overreach has found its mirror image in fierce anti-government fervor.
That impulse is itself nothing new on the American right; what is different today is both its intensity and its widening appeal within conservative ranks. It involves a rhetorical zeal and indiscipline in which virtually every reference to government is negative, disparaging, and denigrating. It is justified by an apocalyptic narrative of American life: We are fast approaching a point of no return at which we stand to lose our basic liberties and our national character.
That far-right extremists and Tea Party members have developed a noticeable strain of paranoia and conspiracy-laden fears about the President’s agenda is not exactly news. This response to changes over which the base feels powerless to stem or control has been a defining feature of right-wing behavior for decades. So in that regard, the fervor demonstrated is par for the course (not that it’s justified).
ACTIONS CREATE OUTCOMES
But as with most behaviors—Left or Right—founded on unyielding ideologies, there are consequences. This blind, extremist-inspired headlong dash down the path of “no government, ever” thinking has real-world implications, and no immunity is granted to those huddling under the same ideological umbrella. No government is not an answer to the challenges we face.
Unwarranted paranoia stoked by a media wing whose first priority is not honesty or integrity doesn’t help us address our economic, environmental, or cultural concerns. It’s not a blessing for the political disputes, either. Ratings spikes and revenue dollars rolling in are obvious “benefits” to the war being waged between Left and Right, but those numbers don’t exist in a vacuum.
They translate into more intense polarization and partisanship, for one thing. Compromise and negotiation—long the hallmarks of an intelligent, forward-thinking, and wise political process designed for and guided by the notion of acting for the common good—has now become tantamount to treason. That some idiots on the Right are discussing impeachment of the President is only one indicator that some of the extremists have become completely dislodged from reason and reality.
Many of them will be surprised to find out that their narrow-minded adherence to a governing philosophy they have badly misconstrued is actually not a good thing for any of us. As Gerson and Wehner rightfully point out:
The federalist founders were indeed wary of the concentration of power in the federal government. At the same time, however, they did not — unlike some anti-federalist opponents of the Constitution — view government as an evil, or even as a necessary evil. Indeed, the most influential of the founders scorned such a view, referring to the ‘imbecility’ of a weak central government (in the form of the Articles of Confederation) compared to a relatively strong central government (which is what the Constitution created). In their view, government, properly understood and properly framed, was essential to promoting what they referred to as the ‘public good.’
I’m not convinced that many—if any—of the bug-eyed extremists have the capacity to appreciate the short- and long-term recklessness of their behaviors and statements. But I do still have an abundant faith in the millions of conservative voters who are keeping a safe distance from the wildest pursuits of their so-called leaders. It will be up to them to steer the Republican ship back in the direction of paths where the common good and national well-being are the goals.
I’ll have some additional thoughts on the Gerson-Wehner essay next week.
+ Michael Gerson is a Washington Post columnist, and Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Both have served prior Republican administrations.
~ My (wife’s) Photo: Gloucester MA sunset – 09.01.10
^ Watch for some new features debuting at this website:
* THE MIDDLE AGE FOLLIES
This new column began on February 3, 2014. It’s a slightly skewed look at life for those of us on the north side of 50.
* THE TRETIAK AGENDA
A political thriller filled with unexpected plot twists and drawn from real world historical events, this eBook is now available for purchase.
Excerpts are available at my website, at the link above.
* LIFE WILL ANSWER
(The inspiration for the other blog at this website). This eBook is scheduled for Publication on March 5, 2014.
Excerpts are being posted as of January 15th.
^ Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi
This blog is offered to encourage more enlightened public discourse—by sharing observations about the ideologies which motivate our political, economic, and cultural debates. The simple hope: shedding light on current “strategies” will prompt more of us to realize a different approach is at least worth considering … assuming a better future is worth pursuing. (It is!)
The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein