I was reading a blog by some college kids, the Undercurrent, that looks at the contradictions of the present Republican coalition.
In the aftermath of the substantial Democratic victory in last November’s election, Republicans nationwide are reported to be doing a great deal of “soul searching.” Indeed they should. After all, times are not looking good for the Republican Party. Former President Bush left office with record-low support, and both houses of Congress, along with the White House, are now solidly Democratic. Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor and recently elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, attributed the Republican loss in the last election to a lack of understanding of what the party stood for. In his words, “We didn’t have anything to say to the American people other than, ‘We’re not Democrats.’”Mr. Steele was not being entirely correct. What he should have said is that the Republicans want to go slowly towards government control of the economy and the Democrats want to go fast.
Saxby Chambliss, the newly re-elected Republican senator from Georgia, has echoed Steele, calling on the party to return to its principles.Ah. Yes. Social policy. Isn't social the root of socialism. Yes it is. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against social relations. I'm against them at the point of a government gun. What I call moral socialism.
But what principles are those? Historically, the political philosophy of the Republican Party has been an amalgam of advocacy for small government and capitalism, combined with support for religion and traditional values. The more capitalist element of the party tends to concern itself primarily with economic policy, traditionally supporting less government spending, lower taxes and deregulation. By contrast, the religionist element of the party tends to focus on social policy.
Which brings us to the inherent contradictions between the two elements of the party.
This clash in policy positions is the result of two distinct sets of political principles. In the past, both sides coexisted in an uneasy alliance, but over time the disagreements between them have become too great to reconcile. This is unsurprising: the two sets of political principles are grounded in two opposing ethical systems.I think the idea Jesus had about the separation of private morality from governance is the correct guiding principle. We seem to have a lot of Christians in America and very few followers of Jesus. I think Jesus said render unto Cesar. I don't recall him saying become Cesar. Did you know that the word czar comes from the word Cesar? And yet Bill Bennett our first Drug Czar is supposed to be a hell of a Christian. In fact he wrote a book, The BOOK OF VIRTUES, explaining how we can become more virtuous. I wonder if becoming a dictator (Cesar) is what he had in mind?
Capitalism upholds each individual’s right to exist for his own sake, independent from any group. Its moral foundation is rational self-interest. According to this morality, the good is the pursuit of one’s own happiness. Religion, on the other hand, implies a system where each individual exists to serve the group or greater good. Christian tradition is rife with admonishments against selfishness: “we are our brother’s keepers” is an obvious example. This sentiment represents the moral code of altruism, which holds fulfilling the needs of others as a moral imperative. The welfare state is a natural extension of this tenet. People need money, education, sanitation, transportation, etc. Under a religious (i.e. altruistic) morality, we are obligated to satisfy these needs for those unwilling or unable to do so themselves.
How can one reconcile these opposing beliefs? How can one unite the religious demand to selflessly help the needy through welfare state agencies (such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) with the capitalist insistence that an individual’s primary responsibility is achieving his own well-being? Where is the compromise between the religionist’s call to force children to pray in school and the capitalist’s call to maintain a barrier between church and state? How can one bring together the principle that a woman’s life is her own (the morality of rational self-interest), with the edict that a woman has a duty to protect the growth of an embryo (the morality of religion)?
The answer is that one can’t. There is no way to reconcile an individualistic, self-interested morality and an altruistic morality of religious duties. Politically, this means there is no way to support both capitalist and religious policies. “The party of principle,” as the GOP often calls itself, is currently governed by two sets of principles that fundamentally contradict one another.
The first years of President Obama’s administration provide the Republican Party with an opportunity to redefine itself. To do so, Republicans first need to decide what they stand for. They can become the party that promotes individual rights, small government, and capitalism, or they can become an ever more theocratic, intrusive, and socialist party.So even the author of this article is calling the Christianist elements of the party socialist. Good. It is catching on.
Now do I want to drive the Christianists out of the party? Of course not. I'd like to see them welcomed as long as they are willing to give up their moral socialism. And let me add that there is nothing wrong with socialism as long as people who want to practice it do it on their own dime. What I object to is having it enforced with government guns.
In any case it may not matter what I think should be done. The moral socialist in the Republican Party are a dying breed. I wish them well in their next life as long as they leave me alone in this one. Which is why I'm a member of the leave us alone coalition. And we even have our own flag too.
Cross Posted at Classical Values