Saturday, June 20, 2009

The "Level of Education Requirement" for Understanding Rerum Novarum According to a "Web Examination":
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

I originally intended to publish the quiz results I refer to in this posting on November 9, 2007 but it was shelved in favour of finishing and publishing a much more important expository musing which I had been working on bit by bit as I was inclined to. As it happens from time to time, when I take a few moments to peruse the archives and look in the drafts folder, I am reminded of unfinished materials. These are either ones I was not motivated at the time to finish or the circumstances that were involved in prompting me to draft them passed on in my mind to matters of greater contemporary importance.

With this being the 2700th posting to Rerum Novarum since its creation, I decided to resurrect this unfinished idea and complete it for posting at this time rather than go with a more customary posting. And as milestones such as this serve as good points of reference for reflection, I decided to expand slightly on what I wrote recently about what I called "writing photographs" in an expository musing from earlier in the month.{1}

As I noted in the aforementioned posting, I found it interesting to take a tour of sorts through some of my earliest essays from the college and high school days. Those writings are among the small percentage of papers I am keeping in the general recycling and shredding project which I am close to completing now.{2} I suppose it is a mixed bag that I rarely throw anything away from the drafts folder{3} and for this reason, there are even in draft form earlier sketches of materials that were later posted in completed form.{4} In the case of this "test" of the "reading level" of Rerum Novarum, I remember thinking at the time it would require some explanation because by posting it without a clarification it might appear to be a case of ego-feeding or potentially misconstrued that way anyway. And of course the text was no longer accessible so I had to tap into the Internet Archive to find working links to post it but in doing so, it gives me an opportunity perhaps to clarify something that I have long considered with this weblog: namely, its educational value to the extent there is one.

I should also note that I am not sure this is an accurate gauge quiz anyway because about the only way it could come off the way it did would be via an analysis of various words I use in composing the material for this weblog. The problem is, I have a larger vocabulary than most people and in order to facilitate that while at the same time keeping things to a reading level that someone of average or slightly below intelligence can comprehend without much need for clarifications, I as is my wont pepper in a few big words here and there. That factor is probably part of what triggered this sort of "high reading ability" weblog grade. But even if my presumption on this matter is incorrect, then perhaps pointing out what I aim for in blogging to the extent I aim at anything when involved in this endeavour will provide yet another piece to the mosaic that is the mind of your weblog host.

Though I have in mind a recapitulation thread to be published on the seventh anniversary of this weblog's founding to show some snapshots both of this weblog's development and my view of this medium as it has grown over time{5}, an encapsulated summary perhaps can be stated as follows:

I view this weblog as one of a variety of conduits{6} for the enunciation of various and sundry topics of interest that circulate in my mind on a regular basis or at a given time.

It is for the most part fortunate that I have accumulated a lot of knowledge on various subjects throughout my lifetime so far{7} but I was also fortunate to have certain circumstances which gave me an advantage over others including those whom I consider to be better people than myself.{8} But lest I tangent off on that subject, here without further ado are the links from the Internet Archive of the presumed "level of education requirement" for reading and understanding this weblog. The test generator can be viewed here:

Blog Test

And here is what the test generator said about this weblog as of early November 2007:



I ask of course that readers who try to read into this with anything less than honourable motivations to consider the clarification outlined in this posting in advance please because I frankly do not buy this assessment for an instant.{9} But enough on this matter for now.

Notes:

{1} On D-Day and "Writing Photographs" (circa June 6, 2009)

{2} I may very well have it completed by tomorrow -indeed after two weeks away from the project I am itching to finish it now whereas previously I was needed to take a break for a while to find the motivation to finish putting the lid on that veritable Pandora's Box of a project.

{3} If Blogger ever puts in place a feature that enables me to check off multiples of archive drafts and delete them all at once then the number of unfinished drafts will be cut down by at least 50% if not more. Out of 540 drafts as of this writing -some as old as January of 2005- about 50-60% of them are variations of pieces I later finished and published and the rest are either (i) to be finished as I am inclined to by virtue of time, circumstances, and motivations to do so or (ii) have been finished for some time and are awaiting a contemporary event or circumstance to justify their being published at that time. (And some of these threads are as old as two or three years.)

{4} Usually I remember if they were finished or not and (if not) I can usually figure it out in a matter of minutes. But the bad habit of being a "clutterbug" applies to more than just papers and files and also to some extent applies to the drafts folder of this humble weblog -though the kind of clutter found there is a lot easier to live with admittedly.

{5} This is an idea that just came to me in a flash when drafting this text -the intention of including that material in this posting itself would make things too overlong and unnecessary tangental to what the purpose of this posting ultimately is.

{6} Since its founding, this weblog was the predominant conduit of sorts for my musings but in the past year (particularly in the past six months), it has taken on more of secondary importance in some respects. This has happened for reasons I did not at the time anticipate but which nonetheless are what they are and for the indefinite future I do not foresee that changing.

{7} This is one benefit of learning to read at an early age and being from at least the second grade being "beyond test ranges" on measuring those capabilities. The hunger for knowledge fortunately has not dimmed as I have gotten older even if the amount of information I can assimilate and rapidly process due to time constraints and other reasons is not what it once was.

{8} To note two posts I can recall from the archives where I touch on one particularly notable example of what I am talking about:

Musings on My Father in Particular and the "Silent Generation" in General (circa August 22, 2002)

And then there are these excepts from a later collection of "miscellaneous musings":

I recall numerous times in my youth where it was said that I had "extraordinary" gifts or talents. No such accolades were ever laid at my fathers feet - quite the contrary actually. I believe that God takes greater joy in the ordinary than in the extraordinary. And that the ordinary is to be prized above the extraordinary because it is tested, it is reliable. And it often does not perceive of its true value... [My father] was by all statistical accounts an "ordinary" man. I assure you, statistics are woefully inadequate to express his true value: proof positive to me that what is classified as "extraordinary" is not of greater value than what is classified as "ordinary". Indeed arguably the "extraordinary" is of markedly lessor value and no one will convince me otherwise. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa October 19, 2002)]

I have rarely since that time gone into much detail on these subjects.

{9} For reasons I trust I have already enunciated adequately enough for now in this posting.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Rerum Novarum's
twenty seven hundreth post
will be published next
[Written on June 19, 2009]

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On the Predictions of "Joestradamus" and Current Geopolitical Realities:

I want to start by reminding those who may have forgotten about this little gem from then-Senator Joe Biden:

"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy...

Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy." [Joe Biden: Fundraising Speech in Seattle (circa October 19, 2008)]


Keeping those words in mind, I present to you this article for perusal by Andrea Tantaros circa yesterday:

Obama’s Red Phone Is Ringing and It’s Going Straight to Voicemail?

The only thing worse than President Obama's limp-wristed approach to the chaos in Iran is that this may spill over onto how we are going to handle North Korea who currently has a ship heading towards Singapore which is suspected of proliferating missile material.{1} There is also the possibility according to Japanese intelligence that North Korea may fire a missile at Hawaii on or around July 4th.{2}

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that there was a reason why President Bush classified these nations along with Iraq as an "Axis of Evil" back in early 2003. They were (in the case of Iraq) and are (in the case of Iran and North Korea) headed up by egotistical tyrants who not only have no interest in the liberty of their citizens but who govern their nations in ways that would make the Mafia look like Sunday school. The refusal to stand up when they attempt acts of provocation would result in them constantly trying to push the envelope. President Obama needs to stop his campaigning and start taking these things seriously. Unfortunately, he is proving what Alexander Hamilton so presciently noted in The Federalist about the importance of a strong executive for effective governance{3} by failing to provide that strength which is the hallmark of poor government.{4} Hopefully on national security issues and on dealing with Iran and North Korea, that pattern will not continue by President Obama but I would be lying if I said I was optimistic about that happening.

Notes:

{1} U.S. Military Tracking North Korean Ship Suspected of Proliferating Missiles, Nukes (Fox News)

{2} That is assuming of course that this story from the Daily Mail is an accurate one.

{3} Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy. [Alexander Hamilton: Excerpt from The Federalist #70 (circa March 18, 1788)]

{4} A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government. [Alexander Hamilton: Excerpt from The Federalist #70 (circa March 18, 1788)]

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Points to Ponder:
(On Life)

The dog that chases its tail will be dizzy. [George Clinton]

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Religion as a "Pure Good":
(Aka "From the Mailbag" Dept.)

An email received on June 12th inquired as to this question and I decided to respond with an email on the following day. There was a variety of bits to the note but the gist of the emailer's question is summarized in this question they raised:

Is religion a pure good in facilitating well-being during adulthood?

My response was as follows:

I would say that while one can through use of reason and logic reach certain core positions espoused by traditional religions at the same time, there is an intrinsic element to our beings that requires some degree of order and stability. There are of course those who can abuse this principle and frankly I think a lot of religions{1} are too stifling in the structures utilized. But that does not detract from the fact that psychologically however much one argues for more or less in that area there still has to be SOME order in one's life for the sake of their own well being.

This can be approached a variety of ways but in traditional religions to some extent and in various ways there are checks on the impulses of people which if not there can make them prone to following those impulses into destructive behaviour. I think it is wrong to say that people cannot have order in their lives rationally but at the same time, most people do not respond to things rationally so religion can provide that for them.

As far as being a "pure good" that is a tough standard for argument because it means there is no admixture of anything involving other motives if I am understanding the concept correctly. I am not sure much of anything or anyone except God would qualify as being "pure good" because nearly everything imperfect beings do involves some kind of self-interest however small to them it may be.{2} If you look at St. Paul's definition of charity in 1 Corinthians and all that it involves, does anyone meet every single jot and tittle of that criteria very often if at all??? I would say no because even if you were to go through the list and make sure you get everything on it right, you have then shown via pride that you have ulterior motives and basically negated everything in the process.

For that reason, I view St. Paul's description not as a checklist of everything that has to be present but instead as traits that characterize charitable actions so they are recognizable in others. We should of course strive to meet that ideal as often as possible and put the rest in God's hands who surely would consider our broken nature. It is probably better to classify religion not as a "pure good" but instead as useful or helpful and I have the words of St. Paul to Timothy in mind here; namely, "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" all of which by logical extension facilitates well-being. That in my mind describes religion at least in potentia better than by calling it a "pure good."


Notes:

{1} Including Catholicism in some manifestations.

{2} I hesitate to say "everything" and make a universal statement on the matter of course.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Setting the Record Straight on the "Myth of Ronald Reagan" and More on the Problems of the GOP:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Prefatory Note: This was originally written and posted to another publishing medium on May 19, 2009 and slightly tweaked for use on this weblog at the present time. -ISM]

The purpose of this posting is to build on one written earlier in the month and to deal to some extent with myths amongst many conservatives pertaining to the late great President Ronald Wilson Reagan. The note I want to build on in this posting is a shorter piece which can be read here:

Briefly on the Real Problem With the GOP (circa June 2, 2009)

Having clarified that, I want to start this thread by pointing out that I have posted bit and pieces at different times that involve the same basic theme: that of GOP party renewal. It may seem odd that a former Republican would concern themselves with what the GOP is doing right now but part of it perhaps is I see signs that the party is starting to get it again. I do not believe they have gotten it for twenty years -yes even in the era of the Republican controlled Congress in the pre-President Bush era they did not get it.{1} Or as I noted in a brief comment from May 4th of this year:

[T]he GOP since Steele was elected RNC chairman looks like they finally are starting to get it for the first time in a long time...

Notice that I did not say they have gotten it but instead that they are starting to get it. And it seems to me that the last two election verdicts have stamped in the minds of many in the party that they need to do something different. For this reason, we may in the future view 2008 as 1964 redux but only if we do not allow ourselves to be deluded about the past. And because the possibility of the latter is more pervasive than many may realize; ergo the reason I have decided at this time to write on the "myth of Ronald Reagan."

Now certainly one problem the GOP has had in the past twenty years is the attempt to placate moderate voters at the expense of principles. It is one thing to reach out to others -indeed this is always well and good. However, one can also take any good thing too far and the GOP was showing an unwillingness oftentimes to take stands on principle against the Democrats. There was also a perverse sense of entitlement to the GOP elections at the presidential level since 1988 and even before that time. Part of the problem with that kind of political entitlement mentality was that people presumed in 1988 that George H. W. Bush would be a worthy successor to Ronald Reagan rather than Jack Kemp and Bush won the nomination that year (followed by a healthy election landslide) by giving indications that he would continue to follow in Reagan's footsteps. He then betrayed this trust and that was what started the ball rolling in the direction we saw in the past twenty years. Another problem in that interim was the message that the GOP received in the 1994 midterms after Bill Clinton's election triumph over President Bush and Ross Perot two years earlier.

I have heard some try to posit the excuse that the GOP "did not know how to govern while in the majority" and while this may have been true in 1994{2}, it does not explain problems in subsequent years. It certainly does not explain what we saw when George H. W. Bush's son was elected and the GOP led congresses of the first six years of his presidency.{3} But there was also the sense of "entitlement" in the GOP where they viewed whoever came up short last time as "due" the next time. We saw this with Senator Bob Dole in 1996{4}, we also saw this in 2008 with Senator John McCain.{5} However, there is also a problem of nostalgia that while I have seen it addressed recently has been the source of criticism by some from the more conservative persuasion.

If there is one thing that has become an annoyance as of late it is reading the words of those who present facile solutions to the GOP's problem. Yes there were problems with letting the so-called "RINOS" have too much control of the party apparatus. But there is also the problem of opposing extremes with extremes; namely, those who would respond to an overly wide tent mentality with one that is much too narrow. I had/have in mind with this criticism those whom I call the "true believers." That was the reason I posted this comment in another medium a while back:

[T]he squabbles between factions of the GOP [are] regrettable but at the same time [I remind] "true believer" and the "political pragmatist" alike that Reagan incorporated both sides into his vision. A common ground needs to be struck or we will have four more years of [President Barack Hussein Obama]. There is nothing gained by flying your political plane into a mountain for "moral victories" if politically you achieve nothing. [Written on May 4, 2009]

I stand by every syllable of that statement much as I do this one:

[I understand] based on years of experience why [new GOP converts] are agitated by the attitudes of many who consider themselves "more conservative than thou" towards those trying to retool the GOP who do not share the views of the "more conservative than thou" crowd to seemingly a 100% degree. It is part of the reason why though sympathies are much closer to the GOP [this writer] is an Independent voter himself. [Written on May 4, 2009]

There are people who strangely enough think that politics is the art of the perfect or what they think things should be like without any deviation whatsoever. These are those who without rhyme or reason jump to any sliver group that they think represents the "pure and perfect" view of things -most prominent among the groups of irrelevancy is the Libertarians{6} but there are others also.

And I am sure there are plenty who would view what I am saying here as some kind of advocacy towards rubber-stamping anyone with an R by their name. That is not what I am saying. Personally, I have not rubber stamped anyone with an R by their name ever since I renounced the Republican party back in 1996 and I did not even do that in the years before that time. I am not saying that the GOP is without need of reform of course (heck, that is darn evident to anyone with a normal intact functioning brain at this point) but I am saying that there are a lot of areas where people with conservative outlooks are not going to agree on the precise prescription involved for fixing things.

Insisting on ideological purity as the price of political involvement inexorably results in political impotence -it always has and always will. What is needed is a convergence of points on which everyone whose views are for the most part "conservative" can all focus on. For under the umbrella of conservatism, there are certain principles that need to be advocated even if the precise approach advocated is not the same. This is what a lot of people who call themselves "conservatives" do not understand.{7}

There is also the question of success politically which ties into what I just said. And I could go over numerous times where certain conservatives of the "true believer" variety have committed a form of political hari kiri and made matters worse rather than better simply because they were not getting everything they wanted. Politics again is the art of the possible not of the perfect. And those who presume that the path to the future is to spend time nostalgically dwelling in the past need to realize that they consign themselves to political obsolescence when they do that.

It is all find and well to raise the banner of Reagan as many do but you have to know what Reagan really stood for and how he operated politically or else you will not learn from the past so that it informs your future: learning from the past being a hallmark of proper conservative philosophy.{8} With that in mind, we have to ask ourselves honestly this kind of question:

How many conservatives have been president in the past seventy-five years???

There was only one that I can think of and he won to no small part because of shrewd coalition building and connecting with the people. When Reagan did not have that coalition built (read: 1976) he did not get the nomination. Even Mr. Conservative himself{9} did not back Reagan in 1976 over Ford and it was not because Ford was more conservative. It was because Reagan did not have much of a chance of winning in the general election at that time. Reagan spent 1976-1980 canvassing the country and connecting with the people as he had in his GE days. As his GE activities represent a part of his biography that is not as well known, I want to dwell on it for a moment by referencing one of the biographies on the man that I have read in years past before picking up with the chronology of Reagan's political approach:

Reagan's political education begin in 1954 when he gratefully accepted an offer by the General Electric Company to host the show General Electric Theatre and travel around the country as a motivational speaker and corporate ambassador for the company...

Reagan worked for General Electric for eight years from 1954 to 1962 and through his extensive travels, former GE executive Edward Langley says, Reagan discovered "the native conservatism of working America." Month after month Reagan would address workers on the factory floor, or stop in the cafeteria to chat with secretaries, or be forklifted into the air to converse with welders. By his own account, he sometimes gave as many as fourteen talks a day, visiting every GE plant and meeting all the company's 250,000 workers.

His original speech to them focused on the virtues of the free market system and the benefits of GE's products. He attempted to establish a connection with people by telling them Hollywood stories. He was particularly eager to defend Hollywood against the charges of making debauchery seem glamorous. But he soon discovered that he was not addressing people's real concerns.

It was not what he said to them but what they said to him that was important. They were the kind of people he grew up with, and he saw them as hard-working, decent Americas for whom life had not been easy. He became a convert to their way of thinking and, in time, a champion for their interests. Indeed, what Reagan heard in the course of countless conversations formed the basis of a philosophy that was in touch with the sentiments of mainstream America --and utterly opposed to the conventional wisdom of the elites at the time. [Dinesh D'Sousa: From Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader page 52 (c. 1997)]

It was not long after he concluded his time with GE that Reagan made the speech that cemented his viability politically: a speech he authored called A Time of Choosing which was a last ditch effort to support the candidacy of the conservative Senator Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. Two years later, he won the governorship of California and held that position for two terms.

I outline these things because with each move politically Reagan was building coalitions{10} which helped him succeed at different political levels and not only among those who shared all of his views. Yet this very sort of coalition-building is in the current climate being frowned upon by so many who consider themselves Republicans today. And among the biggest critics are those who wave most proudly the banner of Reagan today who do not appear to realize that they are condemning the very approach that Reagan himself took!!!

Yes, I hate to say it but many of the very same people who are being critical of the Republicans currently claiming that party renewal is not to be made via "nostalgia" -and who are raising the banner of Reagan- often do not know very much about Reagan the man or his political approach. Reagan was in his time opposed in varying degrees by a variety of people only one of whom were the various liberal groups that everyone is familiar with. He was also opposed by people in his own party and not only those the "true believers" of today presume opposed him. It is true that the less philosophical and more pragmatic sorts (the extremes of which we would call RINOS today) opposed Reagan but he was also opposed by those who considered themselves the "philosophically pure" or "true believers." In the case of both the more moderate or pragmatic Republicans they admired Reagan as a man, his rapport with the American people, and they wanted to persuade Reagan to moderate a bit more. They also did not trust the "true believers" and wanted Reagan to not give them positions of influence.

But by contrast and not as well known is that there were "true believers" who shared much of Reagan's personal philosophy but they did not understand what Reagan knew about the importance of having political coalitions to actually get things done. These people who also had their positions of influence in Reagan's administration wanted Reagan to fire all the pragmatists to prevent his administration from being "less pure" as a result. They also fought him on his approach to the Soviet Union when Reagan modified it later in his term from what it was earlier on and in other areas as well. Yet Reagan did not listen to them and kept a mixture of people in his administration. This was done in no small part I am sure because Reagan knew that "true believers" more often than not fail to achieve things of note politically. The reason for this is because left to their own devices, they tend to let their ideology blind them to where they cannot see the political "land mines" in their path and avoid them.{11} This is what I meant when I said in one of the quoted bits above that "[t]here is nothing gained by flying your political plane into a mountain for 'moral victories' if politically you achieve nothing." And that is a principle that more and more people today seem to lose perspective on unfortunately.

It is not often realized that there is a certain type of conservative today who while they most often call for another Reagan are of the mentality of some of the conservatives who opposed Reagan back in the day. One of the bones of contention among that group of Reagan's critics as I already noted was Reagan's refusal to cast out of his administration those the "true believers" did not believe were ideologically pure enough. I do not believe for a moment that these "true believers" of today would act differently today if they were back in Reagan's time and observed things as they happened rather than relying on their current nostalgia which omits to account for these things.

To use a biblical analogy, they are like the Pharisees in Jesus' time who loved to build monuments to the prophets who lived in earlier times in the way they build monuments today to Reagan. Jesus noted that the Pharisees claimed that they would not have joined their ancestors and taken part in the stoning of the earlier prophets and bluntly stated that they would indeed have done so. In like manner, many of today's "true believers" who would build monuments to Reagan and who invoke his name would not have been his enthusiastic supporters but would have fought him the way those before them did.

I have not a shred of doubt in my mind that today's "true believers" if left to their own devices and without some sort of check and balance would also oppose another Reagan if one were to appear on the political landscape. The reason is because ideological sorts have their benefits of course but they also have their liabilities -one of which is that they make far too many things a matter of unbending principle and will not support anything less than what they want. They look for the perfect in politics in other words not the possible. Ronald Wilson Reagan was not of that sort of temperament politically even if he shared many of the same philosophical positions of the "true believers." This is why he succeeded politically where so many conservatives before him (and since him) have failed. But having outlined Reagan's GE activities and the approaches he took to make himself politically aware and viable, we pick up the time line after his 1976 failure to get the Republican nomination for president.

As I said, Reagan spent his time politically building coalitions at every step and when 1980 came around, he was finally ready to run. I should note that the coalitions that Reagan built were not just among people but also among ideas -to win elections you have to have broad support for certain ideas you choose to run on. By 1980, Reagan had built coalitions of people{12} and ideas that struck a chord with the public at large. And Reagan knew this because of his time traveling the country both in the late 1950's-early 1960's and also in the post-California governor years (1974-1980). If Reagan had taken the approach that many conservatives advocate now -namely kick out of his coalition those who did not agree with him on everything- he never would have won the governorship of California nor would he have won the presidency of the United States.

I reprise what I asked earlier, namely: how many conservatives have been president in the past seventy-five years??? Other than Calvin Coolidge who became president when Harding died{12}, I ask you to name for me another conservative president of the twentieth century of the sort that some conservatives claim we "need to have to win" now. Hoover??? Nope, he was a major meddler in economic matters and made a recession worse. FDR??? Nope. Truman??? Compared to Democrats since 1972 he was quite conservative but he was no conservative. Eisenhower??? Goldwater called his administration a "dime store New Deal" and not without reason. Kennedy??? Nope.{14} Johnson??? Hell no!!! Nixon??? He implemented wage and price freezes and many other Great Society things. Ford??? He was perhaps more conservative than any president since Eisenhower in some respects but not in others. Bush Sr??? He ran as another Reagan but governed in another fashion altogether. Clinton??? Nope. Bush Jr??? Very little of what he implemented could be considered conservative by the general standards of conservative philosophy.

So those who stake this claim, kindly tell me where it is proven that we either "need a conservative to win" or that an ideologically pure conservative without some kind of coalition support can win the general election. Goldwater failed in 1964 on the latter model and Reagan in 1976 could not get the nomination of the GOP with a similar approach. Only Reagan with a coalition of people -some of whom were not in agreement with one or more of his principled views- was able to do it. And for those who point to Reagan's landslide victories as "proof" of their assertions, Hoover won big in 1928, Eisenhower spanked Stevenson in 1952 and even worse in 1956, and Nixon after a healthy win in 1968 won by a landslide in 1972. Every one of these presidents had conservative support without which they would not have won either at all or in the fashion that they did. But conservatives trying to win without support from those who are not amongst those they would consider "ideologically pure"??? The last time that happened was 1964 and they won 52 electoral votes out of 538.

I reiterate a third time: politics is the art of the possible not the art of the perfect. Furthermore, conservatism as a political philosophy admits of a variety of applications to political and social problems. Not all conservatives approach the Constitution the same way. Some follow the Jefferson theoretical approach{15} and say that unless it is explicitly outlined in the Constitution it is not permissible. Others follow the approach of the majority of the Founding Fathers who recognized that there had to logically be certain implied powers so that the Constitution could work as a governing document in reality and not just theory. I have gone over these divergent factors of Constitutional approach in a couple of other postings to this humble weblog before and do not want to do so at this time so I will note them in a footnote so I do not get offtrack in what I am writing now.{16}

On matters where there is a divergence of opinions on how to apply conservative philosophy, there are some who view the idea of the federal government being limited in its power who are yet rather inconsistent in trying to force their religious beliefs onto others. There are conversely others who say the government has no business doing this. There are different approaches to trade{17}, different approaches to taxation and economic policy{18}, different approaches to national security and how that is best handled, etc. But I have found that most of whom I call "true believers" have no understanding or very little any of American and Constitutional history and the diversity of views under the conservative umbrella of philosophy.

To put it another way, conservatism is not merely what people like Rush Limbaugh say it is and while they are conservatives too and valuable allies, they do a disservice to conservatism when they try to present their views as the only ones permissible and sabotage politically anyone who does not agree with them in lockstep fashion.

To conclude these musings I want to reference something I wrote in another publishing medium to someone on the occasion of the passing of Jack Kemp:

[T]o listen to many conservatives going into town hall meetings and meeting people face to face is not the solution -just sitting there and taking a "if they want us they can find us" approach is. Jack Kemp spent time in the inner cities, he spoke with the people. Jack Kemp's model is the model of the future for the GOP and for those worried about "abandoning Reagan" Kemp showed how you could both keep the past from determining who you are and yet have it be a part of what you will become. Hopefully others who claim a loyalty to Reagan akin to what Kemp had will before the 2010 & 2012 elections also realize this. [Written on May 4, 2009]

It is my genuine hope that the opportunity that the next few years will present itself with will not be wasted by those who either believe there is no principle that cannot be compromised (i.e. the RINOS) or by those who believe that there is only one way to do anything and who try to undermine those who do not think on matters exactly as they do (i.e. the "true believers" of whom I spoke of earlier). The path of the future is indeed to learn from and implement the wisdom of the past but it must be a past rightly understood and not based only on myths. And for those Republicans who look to use the name of Reagan to rip down those who do not agree with them on everything, I will finish this note by reminding you of more things about Reagan that you obviously do not understand:

"Anyone who agrees with me 80% of the time is my friend and not my enemy."

This statement was enunciated by Ronald Reagan and encapsulated his political philosophy when it comes to coalition-building yet to listen to many of the conservatives on talk radio and in other places today, that approach is considered selling out. You read that right: by their own stated standards the same Ronald Reagan they claim to revere was a RINO!!! This is why I said earlier that the "true believers" despite building monuments to Reagan today nonetheless by their actions and statements condemn his view ala what the Pharisees did in Jesus' time with the prophets they claimed to revere.

"Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."

I have not been a Republican for over twelve years but even I am more faithful to the second statement (aka "Reagan's Eleventh Commandment") than many who brandish the GOP label today.

It would behoove those who take the approach of the media self-proclaimed "Reagan conservatives" towards the Republican party today -the party that after two consecutive election losses is giving every appearance of finally starting to get it and is returning to the basics including listening to the people- to learn a bit more about the man they claim to want to honour and whose electoral landslides they want to duplicate. Because there are a lot of details they are not familiar with obviously and the old proverb "God is in the details" applies here as much as it does anywhere else.

[Dedicated to the memories of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp]

Notes:

{1} That is not to say they were all bad of course -heck they were the best congresses we have had in a long time.

{2} I remember back in 1994-1996 being persuaded by this argument admittedly.

{3} I blame the president more for this than the congresses because President George W. Bush was on almost all issues not a strong leader and as Alexander Hamilton noted back in the late eighteenth century, lack of strength in an executive does not make for good government.

{4} Dole ran for unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for president in 1980 and 1988.

{5} Who was the runner up in 2000 for the GOP party nomination.

{6} And yes, any political group that in thirty-five years of existence has (i) never gotten more than 2% of the vote and (ii) has not come close to 2% in twenty-eight years is irrelevant.

{7} I refer to the idea that there can be an agreement amongst people on conservative philosophical principles but less agreement perhaps on how those principles are best applied to society.

{8} "Surely the first obligation of a political thinker is to understand the nature of man. The Conservative does not claim special powers of perception on this point, but he does claim a familiarity with the accumulated wisdom and experience of history, and he is not too proud to learn from the great minds of the past." [Senator Barry Goldwater: Excerpt from The Conscience of a Conservative as quoted in a Rerum Novarum posting (circa August 2, 2008)]

{9} I refer here to Senator Barry Goldwater.

{10} Among these was a group of self-made businessmen who after they watched Reagan's speech realized he would make a good political prospect for having a stance of non-compromise on the matters of freedom at home and abroad. They were the ones who offered to support a candidacy for governor of California if he promised to implement the principles of his speech while governor. (Reagan himself had not thought of running for political office but eventually he took them up on their offer.)

{11} This kind of shortsightedness on their part is why Reagan did not have an administration of only "true believers" and furthermore why he did not listen to them and fire those in his administration who were of a more moderate outlook.

{12} These consisted of conservatives and also some of who voted for him despite some misgivings or disagreements because of the alternative.

{13} Coolidge later won in his own right in 1924.

{14} Even those who would point to Kennedy's approach to taxes as being the same as Reagan's do not realize that conservatives of Kennedy's day did not support such approaches.

{15} I say "theoretical approach" because for all of their talk about literal approaches, Jefferson and Madison acted this way when it was in their best interests to and opposed it when it was not. See the material in the next footnote (particularly the one from February 6th) for details on this.

{16} Between Unconstitutionality and Unworkability (circa February 6, 2009)

On the Constitutional Standing of Wars Fought Without a Formal Declaration (circa December 26, 2007)

{17} Some support free trade either in theory or in practice while others support more protectionist approaches.

{18} You would not know it by listening to many conservative pundits but "supply side economics" is not the only acceptable economic policy for conservatives to advocate.

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