Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Kesler on the ’08 Race and the Constitution

Charles Kesler writes in the new issue of The Claremont Review of Books about an intelligent (and therefore unlikely) way that GOP presidential contenders could make the ’08 race interesting: focus the debate on the Constitution. Democrats have been dictating the terms of the debate in recent years by proposing detailed policy initiatives described (by themselves and by the media) as noble ideas addressing the common good when they actually just answer a myriad of specialized interests. The GOP tendency has been to offer counter-proposals. Why do this tango? If it takes two, let’s fill our dance card with a new step: Constitutionalism. Doing this, Kesler argues, would have all kinds of immediate political benefits. This piece, like everything in the CRB, is worthy of a close read.

Unfortunately, Doug Jeffrey’s fine piece on Larry McMurtry’s American West is not yet available on-line. But that’s just one good reason among many why it’s a good idea to get a subscription.

Discussions - 25 Comments

All fine and well but there is the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room. Who would believe them? The GOP, until recently, had control of the presidency and both houses of congress. What did this get us? A huge growth in government.

They’ll have a hard time convincing me that they are the party of the Constitution when they so recently walked the walk of unlimited government.

All the frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination (McCain, Giuliani, Romney or Gingrich) are neocon / neoliberal stooges.

I’ve already signed the Conservative Exodus Project:

The Exodus Project is a huge mistake, amounting to an attempt to destroy the Republican party. If I were a Democrat, I’d take pleasure in every single attempt to promote this scheme, as the misguided "George" is doing. The Republican party does need more serious conservatives in its upper reaches. It also needs more people who are coldly realistic about getting and using power. And conservatives can do this. But not when they go off and piss in their little isolated corners.

Sorry, but I cannot take the GOP, or this article, seriously precisely because of what they did when they were in power.

They are not the party of limited government. They may talk about it but their actions spoke far louder to me.

The only Republican I would consider is Dr. Paul but I don’t think the GOP is smart enough to listen to him. And the reality is that Dr. Paul is a Libertarian in GOP clothing.

Democrats have been dictating the terms of the debate in recent years by proposing detailed policy initiatives described (by themselves and by the media) as noble ideas addressing the common good when they actually just answer a myriad of specialized interests. The GOP tendency has been to offer counter-proposals. Why do this tango?

I couldn’t agree more. These liberalism light responses to liberal Democratic initiatives drive me nuts. But who is Kesler kidding that Republican can credibly invoke the Constitution? If the GOP was interested in the Constitution they would all endorse Ron Paul and cut spending by 85 or 90%.

The Exodus Project is a huge mistake, amounting to an attempt to destroy the Republican party.

David, no one is trying to destroy the Republican Party. The CEP encourages conservatives to participate in the primary. They just believe that if a liberal RINO or pro-amnesty candidate gets the nomination then conservatives should vote third party this election. Unless conservatives are willing to withhold their vote, they squander their power.

Get behind a conservative and stop playing into the liberal’s hand.

How would those who sit on their hands in November 2008 feel about the judges nominated by a President Clinton or Obama? That’s a pretty high price for sending a message to the GOP.

Joe, they won’t feel anything about it. They aren’t serious enough to feel anything about it. If they don’t get everything their way, they’ll happily take nothing. They’ll be too busy feeling smug and chanting, "I told you so," to have the sense to feel anything. It’s the rest of us who will feel the pain they caused.

Julie, it’s the country. It’s the damage they do the country that comes first and foremost.

150 years from now, if the West survives, people will look back at those protesting in Portland, will look back at a Gore, at an Obama, at a Kerry, and will look back at us, at an electorate that tolerated such people, that accepted such crap from people who were supposed to be "political leaders," and shake their heads in dismay at how many could be so foolish, when the stakes were well nigh incalculable.

When Constantinople fell, when it was plundered and sacked, when the citizens thereof were raped, killed or enslaved, few of them were actually up on the ramparts. Few had the moral and physical fortitude to actually take part in the defense of their own city. There were less than a score of thousands defending the city, and the clear majority of them were from the Latin West. It was Westerners who fought to the death to hold the city, Spaniards, Italians, Austrians. The citizens of the Byzantine Empire would not fight. Others had to do their fighting for them. When news of the fall reached Rome, the Pope at the time never recovered, for the consequences of that rape of the east sent him into a profound gloom.

You know what period of time our present day reminds me most of, France, mid to late ’30s. For that too was a time when political intrigue was more important than the national security of France itself. I just rented and watched the first parts of the old WORLD AT WAR documentary. I haven’t watched it since I was a kid.

It’s unnerving how many comparisons there are to our present time. Absolutely unnerving.

I think ’08 has the potential to be similar to two U.S. elections. 1860 for the Democrats and 1912 for the Republicans.

Re. # 7

How come when the Republicans had the Presidency and both houses of Congress did they not pass legislation (which would only need 50% + 1) restricting the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on abortion, gay marriage, etc.? Legislation that Ron Paul has introduced, BTW.

The cynical and likely accurate explanation is because the GOP likes having the Judge issue as a stranglehold on conservatives every 4 years. Why did Bush support a Constitutional Amendment on gay marriage which he knew would not pass instead of statutorily restricting the jurisdiction of the Court which might have passed? (He actually opposed it.) It certainly would have had a good chance of passing if Bush twisted arms on it the way he did prescription drugs.

The Republican Party can continue to allow Judeo-Christianity to inform its platform, or it can revert to its Whig antecedents, and try to form policy distinct and apart from the distilled wisdom of 2,000 years of Christianity.

It’s really that simple.

There are Republicans who long to throw religious conservatives under the bus. There are Republicans who yearn for the day when they’ll receive the respect from Hollywood and the media that the Democrats do. And they believe that will happen when the Grand Old Party morphs back into the Whig Party.

So it’s Whigs versus members of the Grand Old Party. It’s Rockefeller "Republicans" versus Republicans. You can’t try to sever Judeo-Christianity from the Republican Party. At least you can’t do so and continue the masquerade that you’re a Republican. Our party was built by disaffected members of the Whigs and the Democrats, who were disgusted that their political leaders refused to take a moral AND Christian stand on slavery. Today, the modern Whigs desires to replicate those days, on abortion, and other hot-button social issues.

For my part, I’m a Republican. I’m against slavery, I’m against quotas, I’m against abortion, I’m against the burqas and the veils, which I utterly detest. I’m against the growth of social pathology. And I’m dead-set against the fatal illusion that America can remain the power for good that it has long been, without having Judeo-Christianity inform her domestic and foreign policies. I’m against Scowcroft, I’m against Baker, I’m against cozy deals wiht Mideast monsters. I’m against the Arab narrative.

And what I’m for is unvarnished American Exceptionalism.


Dr. Knippenberg, Mrs. Ponzi -

Would either of you assert that voting 3rd party is akin to the sitting upon of hands? It’s almost as if you indict those who don’t vote for your (READ: GOP) candidate, even if they don’t vote for the other team’s (Dem) candidate. A 3rd party vote might be wasted, in the larger scheme of things, but at least those (of us!) who do vote 3rd party aren’t voting for the Dems.


Dan -

The problem, as I see, with the views of Judeo-Christian conservatives, is not in their views, per se. Rather, it’s their inability or unwillingness to argue their stance without relying on ther religious and/or moral proclivities.

Case in point: Roe vs. Wade. Talk to a "conservative" about that case, and almost immediately, the conversation will take a moral bent, complete with citations of scripture, or at least Jefferson.

Why not argue it legally, which I think is Dr. Kessler’s point? A return to Federalist Jurusprudence (Ammendment 10, in this case), would go a much further in achieving the Pro-Life crowd’s agenda, all without resorting to unwinnable arguments in today’s bastion of moral relativism.

M. Shawn, I agree. And the reason they have to rely upon religious reference is they discarded Natural Law. If you’re convinced of the universal validity of Natural Law, then there is a certain level of confidence that through REASONED discussion, men and women of good faith can arrive at rational AND moral conclusions on subjects, such as the one you mentioned, Roe v. Wade.

You suggest arguing it legally. That’s been done, and it hasn’t proven effective. Not for want of persuasiveness, but because the legal argument ran into the wall of cultural prejudice. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the dissents in the Casey decision, but I suggest you do so. Scalia’s dissent is an utter tour de force. And he lays it out how the Roe decision is upheld WITHOUT any legal leg to stand on. Why? Because it must continue to stand, abortion must continue, because it simply must continue. O’Connor’s opinion concedes as much.

Law reflects culture. And at the heart of culture, there is a "cult."

I know that it’s difficult to even think of countering the riptides of moral relativism. Or rather the "dictatorship of relativism," as Benedict XVI aptly defined it. But ultimately, we have no choice. Whatever gains we may make, if we allow that "dictatorship of relativism" to continue, such gains will prove momentary.

Benedict’s speech at the University of Regensburg addressed exactly the point you made. For he proposed a discussion about the OBJECTIVE characteristics of God. Not subjective, not those gleaned from the prism of Judeo-Christianity, but a discussion on what must be true about God, for God TO BE God. That’s why he quoted that letter from that brave Byzantine Emperor, who challenged muslims on the inherent, inherent irrationality of their faith. Reason blasted through the dreary dogmas of the prophet. And the Emperor’s interlocutor WAS converted away from islam, by virtue of a REASONED dialogue about the OBJECTIVE essentials of the Almighty.

The West won’t survive without the utter destruction of political correctness and the dictatorship of relativism. It’s as simple as that.

Dan P. and Shawn,

Supporting a third party or a candidate who can’t win is tantamount to permitting the Democrats to win. You might regard a Democratic victory--and the judicial nominations that follow--as preferable to the wishy-washy Republican alternative. Fair enough. I, on the other hand, prefer half a loaf to none at all...not just on judges, but also on foreign policy.

JK, you don’t have to lecture me on that subject. I observed the whole Ross Perot fiasco, and I paid close attention to the nightmare that was the Clinton administration.

The Whigs disenchanted the Republicans, a Perot stepped into the vacuum that was created, and Clinton won.

The war comes first and foremost for me right now. It even trumps the judiciary. For decisions can be subsequently overruled, but the war, and I don’t just mean the campaign in Iraq, but the overall war, which involves Iran, Syria and S. Arabia, the real war comes first. And that means Rudy, McCain or Gingrich.

Romney is a sad joke, a bored billionaire who’s trying to find some way to amuse himself.

Shawn: Yes, I do assert that. I assert it emphatically.

"Supporting a third party or a candidate who can’t win is tantamount to permitting the Democrats to win."

I just disagree with this logic. Voting for a liberal or pro-amnesty Republican is not tantamount to anything. It IS voting for a liberal and/or pro-amnesty candidate.

The voting booth does not measure how reluctantly or enthusiastically a vote is cast. A vote is a 100% endorsement either way. I am not responsible for what other people do. I am not responsible for the outcome. The outcome is in the hands of God. I am only responsible for my vote.

If I vote for a liberal Republican that sends the signal that I am OK with that. Then the country and the party moves left with my apparent approval. The only way in the general to send the message that you want the country and the party to move right is to vote for a more conservative candidate.

It is not that I would prefer a Democrat to a wishy-washy Republican. It is that conservatives tanking a liberal GOP nominee would be better strategically for the cause than sheepishly voting for him. The former sends the signal that we can not be ignored. The latter sends the signal that we are in the hip pocket of the GOP. That we can be had.

Thank you, Dan Phillips, for confirming everything I said in #8.

"If they don’t get everything their way, they’ll happily take nothing. They’ll be too busy feeling smug..."

I don’t need everything my way. I would vote for Tancredo even though he is pro-war and not a pure constitutionalist a la Paul. As for feeling smug, if I voted for a liberal GOP nominee I would feel used.

Dan Phillips, I think your real problem is that you are not a Republican. In your situation, I suppose you have no choice but to vote for a third party candidate. You don’t agree enough with either of the two leading parties. For me, the war is the singular most important issue. But I come down on the other side of it. For you, you’d be better served by Democrats anyway. If you’ve got no dog in the fight, I suppose you can be a bemused spectator and waste you vote if you want to. I do not worry that many will follow you.

"Dan Phillips, I think your real problem is that you are not a Republican."

My "problem?" That is an interesting choice of words. Absolutely I am a conservative first and foremost. I believe conservatives should work in the GOP primary. This position gets me A LOT of flack from certain third party types, BTW. But they should not preemptively pledge to support the GOP nominee whoever he may be. That is suicidal.

Part of the problem with the conservative movement is that it too completely identified itself with the GOP. Richard Viguerie is now calling for conservatives to reassert their independence. He is right, just 50 years too late.

Your "problem" is that you are not really a conservative. You are a Republican. I submit that your ideological commitment to moderate GOP pragmatism is as firmly held as any pro-lifer’s or anti-immigration supporters beliefs are.

And why is the War, which is supposedly in response to a terrorist attack that killed thousands, more important to you than > 1 million dead babies per year?

Because if we lose that war we not only lose the lives and liberty of countless millions of living citizens--but also those of untold millions of unborn. We also lose any future chance to redeem ourselves. I should, I think, have taken my comment to you a step further. Your problem, such as it is, is less that you are not a Republican--but that you may not be a republican.

In point of fact, I consider myself to be more pro-life and more anti (illegal) immigration than any of those folks who will stomp their feet and take their vote home. Why? Because what I propose (i.e., not getting hysterical about perceived imperfections in the candidates until a full accounting of all them can be given) may actually help to achieve what I believe to be good for the party and the country. What you propose (stubbornly supporting losers who have no chance of achieving anything) does no one but your own self-indulgent conscience good. And you can have the term "conservative" or whatever brand of purity you wish to stamp upon yourself. I care not. I have said it many times before: in itself the term "conservative" it is utterly meaningless. If you cannot defend that which you wish to conserve as worthy of defense apart from your willful conservatism, then you statesmanship and success will ever elude your efforts. I do not wish to be associated with such a thing. But you can still be a "conservative" and I guess that makes you happy. Hooray for you and another lost cause.

"Because if we lose that war we not only lose the lives and liberty of countless millions of living citizens--but also those of untold millions of unborn. We also lose any future chance to redeem ourselves."

If we "lose" Iraq and the WoT (whatever that means) then we will lose our lives and liberty? How so? Which of those Middle Eastern countries stands ready to invade our shores? I didn’t know any of them had much of a Navy to speak of.

The threat of demographic dissolution from immigration is a MUCH greater threat to the long term health of the United States than is Islamic Terrorism. What are Rudy and the boys going to do about that?

Also, I’m not sure why I shouldn’t worry about my conscious.

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