CONSERVATISM IN REMISSION
By Sy Schechtman
Many years ago and much younger, I indeed thought and spoke as a child in the duplicitous field of political allegiance and belief. And I became one of those heroic heretics who changed to a Reagan Republican ex-democrat: one who after much anguishing soul searching left the enveloping and protecting folds of the Roosevelt New Deal enlightenment and bolted to the relatively staid ranks of “radical” conservatism. Oxymoronic contradictions to be sure, but somehow with soul satisfying action to sooth my dubious current perceptions at the time, of the “malaise” that President Carter gloomily diagnosed that our collective national psyche was mired in. Then we had the seeming Jimmy Carter ineptitude with the Iranian hostage crisis—and the failed rescue attempt--economic stagflation, and much social unrest among the young. Now we have conditions that also breed unrest; an unhappy foreign situation in the seemingly failed Iraq war, an economy that is not performing adequately according to everyone’s exalted expectations and teeters on the brink of recession, and evidently some uncertainty in our social fabric, with both the gender problem of Hilary Clintons’ evidently failed bid to be the first woman president and Barack Obama’s strong superceding effort to be the first black president on the Democratic ticket. And with very little national experience to lead the most powerful nation in the history of the world. And, with many critical issues to be confronted in regard to our continuing worldwide hegemony in affairs of foreign policy ---- and looming debt burdens both at home and abroad. All of this seemingly reflected in the evidently chronically weak exchange rate of the US dollar.
It is not unusual for the opposing, out
of power party, to ask or just infer “
are you better off now than at the last general
election?”. The answer now apparently
would be in the negative according to most polls. Certainly
in regard to our somewhat embattled
but still remarkably resilient outgoing president Bush, whose ratings are dubiously daunting,
somewhere in the low 30% at best.
However, equally unimpressive are the low ratings for the both houses of Congress,
completely Democratic for the last two years.
And the exuberant
mantra of the Obama message is
the compelling chant of change, which is
reinforced by only a rather thin gruel
of substance of new ideas, leading many
of us back to the wry complaint of years ago of “where’s the beef?”, or the more formal profundity of “ the more
things change the more they remain the same”.
This time the dynamic is not the momentous tide of new ideas or new modes of thought, but of
charismatic personality and
oratory and perhaps an empty suit when faced with all the other traumas of
governing this quasi world empire that our nation has become. Personally--- not this time around for me!
After another four years to round out at least one completed six year
senatorial term I may change my mind. But so far,
old duffer that I am, I am not willing
to change my Republican vote for a new,
increased bureaucracy and most probably increased taxes that end up
rather ineffectually spent. Which is why I left the New Deal camp for Reagan years ago. I am well aware of Hilary
But still not a universal paradigm for all national effort. We do not believe, ultimately, “that throwing money at problems” is necessarily the final answer, as always seems to be the case with an ever expanding federal bureaucracy. Indeed, the greatest conservative victory was the reform of the welfare dole, cutting drastically the number of people eligible for government relief payments. This was legislation sponsored by a Republican controlled congress in l994, during the so called mid term election Gingrich mini revolution, which Clinton vetoed twice before signing and promised to amend when and if reelected. He did win again but never revisited the welfare turf again, so successful was this legislation in ending excessive dependence on government welfare handouts, despite much wailing and moaning of inhuman treatment at its inception. Indeed, this legislation, Republican initiated when they dominated Congress during the 1994-96 sessions, Clinton always alluded to as one of he was most proud of, fondly, if mendaciously, claiming it as his own.
President Clinton’s most splendid hour politically—from a partisan Democratic view point --- came undoubtedly during the budget summitry negotiations with Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at Christmastime in l995. He refused to sign temporary appropriation bills authorizing federal salary checks during the two holiday weeks because of his disagreement with the Gingrich led Republican congressional majority over what he claimed were vital negative details that the Republicans were insisting on in the final budget deal. In effect this resulted in no pay checks over the crucial spending time of the Christmas holiday season. And he managed, with the aid of a compliant, sympathetic press to blame the Gingrich led Republicans for their callous neglect of the sanctity of the holiday season. In effect, it was as if Gingrich and Company, not Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, who stole Christmas! (And not kind hearted President Clinton who refused to authorize the Christmas salary checks!)
from this point on,
All this toward the end of
Today, of course, with the foreign entanglement of
We see already some flip flops in
previously declared positions that the opposition gleefully points out and is then denied as distortions of the original
statements. Most probably the end
result will be positions less divergent than is now apparent, and subsequent events, rightfully, will help
decide our course. Even the
The reality is that all of these key concerns at the moment are easily susceptible to compromise. The prime concern of both parties and their adherents should be the power of judicial and administrative appointments---all those people, unelected, who have to interpret and implement existing law. And interpreting implies more than a tinge of making or revising existing law. On the federal judiciary level this is an important, almost eternal lingering on. All appointments to the federal judiciary are for life, and the current Supreme Court will have about 4 or 5 vacancies in the next eight years that the incumbent president will have to fill. The fact that these are lifetime appointments makes their innate political leanings most important---a liberal or conservative court becomes part of most major political considerations. Indeed some hotly contested laws or events demand the High Courts’ decision, as to who won the Bush-- Gore Presidential election in 2000!. And, of course there is the abortion decision, which my be revisited once again if one or two more conservative justices are appointed. (There are now three sitting justices who would vote for some important abortion law revisions.)
And, incidentally, is not 15 or 20 years enough for these worthies in times where the rate of event change is accelerating and many times this tends to alter or even confound our sense of moral as well as legal certitude? And what would our founding fathers have thought in this continuing morass of change?
For Conservatives, indeed, the bottom line is doubtful. Obama, much to his credit, has used the internet as his new technique in fund raising, so far with great success turning the previously cash poor Democratic coffers into a three or four times margin over the conventional somewhat antiquated Republican funding raising. McCain looks a bit like a much older and small David in the ring against a substantial Goliath. But the American public has always liked the underdogs, provided that their message had substance. Harry Truman went cross country on the rear platform of a passenger train lambasting a “do nothing congress” and at each whistle stop drew small but enthusiastic crowds shouting “give ‘em hell Harry!” And “goliath” Tom Dewey’s well financed campaign was beaten. And, of course, Harry Truman, no college education except a continuing post graduate course in the College of Hard Knocks, continued Roosevelt’s monumental task of post World War II reconstruction and in his own right became one of the greatest presidents of the twentieth century.
My conservative feelings have always favored as much private initiative as possible. However I do not fear the enlarging growth aspects of government’s watchful eye. While human greed harnessed by free market capitalism ---and the enlarged share of personal wealth this makes possible--- inspires great productive efforts, we all see some abuses that must be curbed by necessary government control and regulation. (Human greed does go to excess at times and we can become not “my brother’s keeper” but his predator.) And I applaud some degree of affirmative action to help the education of the handicapped and poor to ensure a level playing field and equal opportunity in this technology driven world. Equal opportunity, but not equal outcomes! Above all I am a great believer in meritocracy. The best and the brightest must be amply rewarded. The right amounts, of course, has something to do with the prevailing optimism or pessimism of the times. But also nepotism is part of my makeup! I want my kids to succeed by meritocratic means but I have no qualms about nepotism to make the upward path they are on in our competitive society as pleasant as possible. Therefore the punishing inheritance (death) tax should be winnowed down to mega rich transfers only.
But above all I pray for a leader who has the wisdom and leadership to understand the true temper of the time. Nixon went to China in an astounding turnabout that was a plus for our country, and Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnamese conflict considerably after painting Goldwater as the true hawk who might use atomic weapons. So I do pray for some divine guidance to grace our President’s decisions or his—or her--- just getting lucky with the right moves at the right time!
Conservative, compassionate conservatism sgotill means rewarding individual initiative and effort. But alas it also has to address the reality of a large central bureaucracy, and the meld of private and public (as in Katrina) must be strengthened. Above all we are a blend of affirmative action and meritocracy. Helping the disadvantaged so that an equal playing field is possible but ensuring that the best and the brightest are amply rewarded. Also the important role of nepotism in our personal life. We parents now and in the future want our children’s future to be
List of topics
Obama has all the monmey
TRruman back of train campaign
Mcanin you can invite into house
TRumsn from bacvk of train, Bush and Kerry, who would yuou welcome into our living parlors
Change! The more things change the more they remain the some!