All Done but the Moulderinâ€™
By: Warner Todd Huston
What for Federalism With Thompsonâ€™s Loss?
The question many of us dreaded is upon us. Fred Thompson has shown he cannot capture enough primary victories in his race for the White House. This brings us to a seminal question; what does Fred Thompson’s withdrawing from the race — or his irrelevancy to it — mean for the conservative cause? Even more specifically, what does it mean for the concept of Federalism? There is only one answer possible and it is one none of us want to hear. It means that, for the foreseeable future and for all intents and purposes the concept of Federalism in particular and the conservative agenda in general are more or less back burner issues in Washington D.C.
Now, I am not saying that no conservative issues will ever again win the day in D.C. I am also not saying that we conservatives should pack our bags and go home. Staying in the fight is absolutely a must for sure. But winning in the big game by taking the White House, or leading the cause from out in front is seemingly out of the question for now. Unfortunately, we are nearly back to a similar situation as the conservative movement was in1979, a day when conservatism was barely able to gather enough forces to win at small issues in Congress and in the national debate. Only, this time, there will be no Ronald Reagan poised to lead the charge.
Fred Thompson was the last chance we will see for a very long time for a president that is a traditional, conservative, principled American presidential candidate. We will see from this point on candidates who are far more socialist than conservative with their base ideological philosophy. Sure they will pretend at being conservative, but they will not be and their records will prove it.
Candidates like the center, left Mitt Romney and Rudly Giuliani will be the norm for the GOP because it will be assumed both by pundits and political campaign operatives that the strictly conservative candidate is doomed to lose. No one of Reagan’s basic small government principles will be able to run for the White House for a very long time with Thompson’s bowing out.
The tea leaves will be read, and read properly, that the American people do not want a president that is against giving them free stuff out of government coffers. The people will seem to have firmly spoken and they have said that they want a president that is a father, maybe even a nanny, instead of one who will require them to stand on their own two feetâ€¦ not that the average voter truly understands what this means.
This is a situation of our own making, too. Conservatism has not lost the battle for hearts and minds really, for the American people are at heart a conservative people. Unfortunately, we conservatives have little grass roots support among the voters to buoy that basic conservative philosophy.
What the conservative movement had come to rely on was to have “a” man leading us all forward. Ronald Reagan was all at once our greatest victory and our biggest disaster, for he lulled conservatives into the false sense that a white knight will mount his charger and lead us to victory. Because of Reaganâ€™s victory we placed our focus on the national scene and forgot about the grass roots, born of Goldwaterism, that brought Reagan to power. We got too caught up in victory on the national scene, forgetting that we need votes to pull it off.
Worse than that, many Republicans see a disaster even more disastrous than that of losing the White House. The next president will have the opportunity to place several Supreme Court judges on the bench. With that in mind, many members of the Republican Party claim that placing judges on the bench is the most important role that a president has and that, because of this, we must support the GOP nominee no matter who that might be. To affect the ideological balance in the country today, they say, it is a must to have a Republican in the White House. To a degree they are right, but they are only right because of how the game is now being played. It isn’t a permanent feature but a late rule change that has made this situation so.
Seeing as how the rules of the game stand as they now do, there is certainly a point to the claim about SCOTUS and lower court appointees being a major issue, of course. The problem is, it truly won’t make much difference if we have a Republican president or a Democrat in office as to whether or not the bench continues in its nascent Federalist or constructionist direction if those candidates are left of center ideologically. Neither Party as now constituted will continue that direction and the current constructionist direction that the SCOTUS has recently taken will find its days numbered.
Consider a politically weakened GOP president that leans to the Democrat Party side of the aisle anyway. Such a president will of necessity have to appoint left leaning judges that will get by an adversarial Senate. So, in the short run, it wonâ€™t make much difference whether we have left leaning Republicans or a democrat in office because no constructionist judges will find their way to the bench, anyway.
Let us review the current GOP candidates. By looking at the two GOP frontrunners, for instance, all you’ll find in Romney and Giuliani are two people who have never one time in their entire history ever proven that a strict constructionist judge is who they’d appoint to the bench. Neither Romney nor Giuliani has ever been a constitutional constructionist and neither has ever appointed someone to the bench that can, even in a remote way, be considered a conservative jurist. Further, both men led their constituencies by using the law to get their way instead of following it, both bent and twisted it to win — not always a bad thing, agreed but a bad sign when wondering what sort of judge they’d favor.
And as for John McCain, he has proven that he hasnâ€™t the first clue what the Constitution stands for in the first place. He also has a long, long record of reaching out across the aisle to “work with” the Democrats and has displayed much evidence that his is not a conservative use for the bench. From the border to security he has shown that his ideas of the law are far from the conservative movementâ€™s ideals. Then add to the mix McCainâ€™s unbalanced compulsion to be loved by the media and we get a dangerous mixture for a conservative, constructionist court.
Now, it is granted that a Democrat will pick a SCOTUS nominee that has the lamentable “living Constitution” theory of jurisprudence. There isn’t a Democrat on the national scene that has much reverence for the Constitution and their SCOTUS nominees will, to a person, be judges who will do their level best to gut the law of the land. It is quite possible that the Republican nominees to the bench will be marginally better than the sort of extremists that we will see from the Democrats, so that might be enough reason in and of itself to vote for whomever is the GOP nominee for president. But it is no certainty and, therefore, this presents us with a dilemma worth contemplating. Is voting for a liberal Republican candidate who will be only marginally better than a Democrat worth selling your soul for? A further question becomes, is there any reason to vest our hopes in the White House? The answer for the conservative movement is clearly no on the second and possibly no on the first.
As to the second, can we as true conservatives really continue to support one man after another who has contempt for our principles? Can we continue to support the Romneys, McCains, and Giulianis of this world without losing our souls? There is something to be said for compromise, yes. Our system has been built upon it. But, compromise implies that we get something out of the deal if only once in a while. I am hard pressed to see where conservatives have gotten much from the White House or Congress since Newt left the Speakerâ€™s chair. We have made progress since Reaganâ€™s day, but only in small victories, nothing decisive.
Much as we all love to invoke Ronald Reagan, hereâ€™s something he said that truly applies here. â€œA political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers.â€
Can we truly say that a Giuliani, a Romney, a Huckabee or a McCain will â€œrepresentâ€ those â€œcertain fundamental beliefsâ€? I sure canâ€™t.
What is beyond question is that we have erred in our tactics. Ronald Reagan gave us a false sense that conservatives could continue to win the White House and that such a win would bring Congress into line close afterward. Neither has been the case. We must realize that Reagan was a singular man and we’d best stop looking for him again.
So, what, then, do we do? We have lost the White House for the foreseeable future, the SCOTUS is nearly out of reach, and the welfare state (or at least the philosophy underlying that welfare state) is going to hold sway for a long time — so far, our most socialist president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is still winning the game. Is all lost? Are we done for, set to begin to traverse that road that led to the destruction of Europe, a road that we thought we might have diverged from? Has big government permanently won the argument?
Not necessarily. Americans are still wary of government and that is to our favor. Americans are still a conservative people, for the most part, and that is also one for the good guys. But we need to build on this basic sentiment.
I should point out that the big government road is a road that we never really left, but one that had a few more conservative bumps in it than the one Europe took. But, we are and have been headed in the same direction as Europe.
There is but one solution when all is said and done. In fact, it is the only solution and it always was. It is one that we began to work towards at the outset of the Goldwater days, but have since abandoned. In those early days, to lay the ideological basis of our new conservative message, we built think tanks, launched magazines, wrote books and educated the public. We were puny then, but our efforts built the ground that Reagan trod upon to reach the national stage. Without the intellectual work of conservatives in the early 1960s, the thrilling days of the 1980s could never have occurred.
The by word here is education and that is an area we have abandoned in our flirtation with a power, a flirtation that we vested ourselves in way too early. Not that we should have abandoned the effort to gain real political power but that we vested all our efforts in that direction, foolishly imagining that we “won” the national debate when Reagan took the oath of office in 1980.
There is one big, glaring reason why we saw only fleeting success in Congress and the White House and one reason why we have not been able to sustain it. We are relying on a public to vote on our ideas when they don’t even understand them and cannot do so. It’s not because they are stupid people, mind you. Like I said, an American’s basic instinct is conservative, after all. No, it is because they aren’t educated enough in true American principles, history and civics to understand a word we are saying to them.
Let’s face it. It is our own fault. We left to the extreme left the education of the very voters we are expecting to be educated enough to vote in our ideas. We have left to anti-Americans the care and feeding of our children, those who have become and will later become the same voter base we need to reach. It is no wonder that most voters don’t have the slightest clue how bad their nanny state, socialist Congressmen, Senators and presidential candidates are for the country. They don’t have enough knowledge to understand why we are right.
We have but one solution. We need to worry less about winning the White House and more about defeating extreme leftism in our schools. That means we need to stop the feminization of our fetid schools and we need to turn our attention to the education of our youth in American principles, American history, civics and the sort of values that America lived by until the far left took over our school systems. We need to defeat Dewyism, we need to excise the anti-Americanism of Charles Beard, Howard Zinn, Jonathan Kozol, Noam Chomsky and their ilk. It wonâ€™t be easy because weâ€™ve allowed them to steal a 100-year march on us, but we must try.
On a daily basis our children are fed a hatred for our country. They are told our history is evil, that our Founders were hypocrites and liars, that we are inherently the most unfair, uncaring people, that our economy oppresses “the poor,” and that we are nothing at all special. Then, Europe is held up as some shining example of truth, right thinking secularism and liberty.
From Kindergarten to the University we need to take back our educational system because without a generation that has the slightest idea of what America is, why she is great and good, and what our system is and means, we are doomed to see one socialist after another sit in the Oval Office, doomed to see one Euro-lite character upon the next win election.
And, because we have abandoned the most important arena, the education of our citizenry, to the enemies of American principles, it is our own fault. The only way we can form the bedrock upon which our principles can stand, as a movement we need to turn far more attention to our schools than we have thus far.
Noah Webster of Websterâ€™s Dictionary fame, warned us about educating our children. â€œEvery child in America should be acquainted with his own country.â€ He said. â€œHe should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.â€
Exactly so, Mr. Webster. His is a warning that we are utterly failing to heed, though.
School choice. Traditional education. History. Civics. These are the things we must restore to prominence in our schools or we simply won’t have enough voters that understand why the conservative agenda is the correct road to travel.
Raise a moron and he will make a moron’s choices. Inform him, teach him and he will at least have a choice. And I am confident that the choice made will be a conservative one.