Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Presidency

Dr. Kesler operates on Obama and the Republicans

As he had before with his exegesis of The Audacity of Hope, Charles Kesler hits all the high notes in his latest thoughts on Obama's ambition and Republican haplessness, which appear, again, in that indispensable organon The Claremont Review of Books.

One issue I would give more emphasis to: Kesler rightly wants conservatives and Republicans to outflank Obama by returning to the principles of the American Founding, instead of being distracted by this or that tactic or even worse by misunderstanding Reagan conservatism. But even here Obama can readily block the right by his own appeal to the Declaration of Independence, as he does in his books. And Republicans play along with this--Kesler does not note how often Bush appealed to the Declaration--by failing to make the Declaration a document affirming limited government, a denial to the death that government is based on arbitrary will.

Both the left and the right make the Declaration a justification for active government. That is one reason liberals like it and conservatives hate it. (Robert Bork's misguided cynicism about the Declaration was on to something.) Kesler is of course right about returning to the founding, but we're in the fight of our lives against a post-modern post-nationalist who has embraced the Declaration for the wrong reasons and will twist it to his convenience. Speak of the triumph of the will! The argument is that basic, about who we are as Americans. And, despite the Obamacare setback, he is still the Tiger Woods of the course.

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Discussions - 6 Comments

Kesler's article should be read in tandem with Henry Olsen's in the same issue of the Claremont Review.

AD's post is largely vacuous.

Forgive me for my petulance, AD. Feeble as my powers of perception are, it was difficult forecasting your knowledge before you spelled it out for me. Though I would disagree that either are banalities; for what are community control and familial self-reliance but the accoutrements of the founding?

For whatever reason, Ken Thomas elected to delete my two rather non-inflammatory comments.

I will offer that community control and self-reliance were of necessity aspects of the actual foundation of this country (in 1607, not 1776). It is true that the proximate political disputes in 1776 concerned the authority of the imperial government to impose obligations of one sort or another. One ought, I think, to take care to qualify this principle in some way or one would find oneself composing an apologia for an armed rebellion in Santa Monica. What I think we face today is the assaults on the vernacular way of life derived from what Thomas Sowell has called the 'vision of the anointed'. Constraints on the discretion of local government and private associations are aspects of that. I am not much for intellectual history, but I think the political struggle of the latter 18th century which prefigures our own is not that between the British Crown and the colonial gentry. Recall for a moment, however, the French Revolutionary calendar and the Cult of the Supreme Being and then consider Goodrich v. Massachusetts. I think the motors of both of these may be quite similar. Let us hope our resistance is more successful (and less sanguinary) than the Vendee.

I didn't delete nothin'.

Art Deco, Thomas Jefferson already qualified the principle of rebellion by writing that it "should not be changed for light and transient causes" and only "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism."

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