THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
By: Dr. Charles Ormsby – June, 2012
You’ve probably heard of “Conservative Democrats.” Lately they have been as scarce as hen’s teeth.
Locally, I viewed the late Senator Steve Baddour (still breathing, but no longer a state senator) as a Conservative Democrat. While we had a modest overlap of views, we certainly differed on many issues. That being said, Senator Baddour operated within the realm of common sense. He was someone with whom one could conduct a rational discussion of public policy issues. When discussing education policy, he realized that the interests of students did not always align with the interests of the teachers unions. He understood that increasing taxes and regulations had a dampening effect on the economy and he appreciated that individual freedom was a critical characteristic of the American experience, not just some outdated concept to be sacrificed to a “progressive” (read reactionary) legislative initiative.
With little notice and less real explanation, Baddour recently announced his resignation from the Massachusetts Senate. The Senate will miss him, including the few Republicans who still reside there. Had the Senate been full of Baddours, we would be a substantially freer and more prosperous state. I hope, now that he has left the Senate, that Baddour will speak up for a more liberal, i.e., freedom-oriented, future for Massachusetts and the nation.
Nationally, Democrat Party leaders have done everything in their power to expunge any party members harboring even a tinge of conservative thinking. Of course, they embrace them when the alternative is anyone with even more conservative views — whether another Democrat or a Republican — but whenever they are able to replace them with a more progressive leftist, they have done so in a heartbeat.
I’ve been politically conscious since the very late 1950s. In high school I routinely read the U.S. News and World Report and especially enjoyed the editorials printed on the inside back cover. David Lawrence, who kept a portrait of FDR prominently displayed in his office, authored most of those editorials. Lawrence cut his journalistic teeth as a close friend of our first progressive president, Woodrow Wilson. Here is the U.S. News and World Report description of Lawrence’s early career:
“David Lawrence started his career as a student at Princeton University when he was a campus correspondent for the Associated Press and Woodrow Wilson was the college’s president. When Wilson ran for president of the United States, Lawrence followed him on the campaign trail, then chronicled his presidency as a Washington correspondent for AP and later for the New York Evening Post. So close was Lawrence to the president that he was often derided as Wilson’s ‘spokesman.’ Industrialist Henry Ford, in one of his notorious anti-Semitic screeds, called Jewish journalist David Lawrence, Wilson’s ‘unofficial mouthpiece’ and claimed he had the ‘run of the White House offices.’ ”
Despite his early exposure to the progressive ideology and his respect for FDR, Lawrence became a prominent conservative spokesman. In those days, it was common to disagree with others while respecting their good intentions.
In 1960 I watched the Democrat convention on TV. I decided I really liked John Kennedy and I especially appreciated his support for a strong foreign policy. That convention was followed by the Republican convention, at which point I waivered and finally decided Nixon was the better choice. Regardless of the outcome, I respected both candidates and felt no antipathy towards President Kennedy. His inaugural address was worthy of the support of all Americans and I think he deserves credit, along with Martin Luther King, for helping America begin the transition to a largely unsegregated and anti-discriminatory society. His foreign policy, despite the debacle of the Bay of Pigs invasion, was well-intended based on an honest assessment of America’s interests. All in all, most Americans could rally around their president even if they had a different political affiliation.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. What has happened?
The Democrat Party has swerved hard left, while the Republican Party has largely retained its former spectrum of ideological positions, possibly with a more philosophically consistent and committed set of core conservatives (more on this later).
By expunging, whenever possible, its more conservative members, the Democrat Party has moved further and further towards a consistently progressive-socialist-communist-fascist ideology. An ideology that, if made explicit, I believe most Democrats would reject.
As it drifted left, the Democrat Party was often described as Liberal, but of course it was the exactly the opposite. Liberalism describes a political philosophy that champions individual freedom and opposes government interference in the private affairs (including economic affairs) of individuals. The Democrat Party and its current embrace of progressive-socialist-communist-fascist ideology uniformly supports such interference.
If you are a traditional Democrat, you might be put off by the use of the terms “socialist, communist, and fascist” (“progressive” still retains a wholesome image to many) and view use of these terms as name calling. But it isn’t. It merely reflects the true, underlying ideology of those who believe government should rule the economy and dictate the choices that individuals must make.
Are Democrat leaders the equivalent of Stalin, Mao, or Hitler? Of course not. I’m sure they have no desire to commit the horrors of those regimes, but that does not mean there is not an underlying overlap of their political philosophies. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and I believe most Democrats, including much of their party’s leadership, are operating with good intentions.
But Hell is the destination nevertheless. That is where the current Democrat leadership is dragging us. And, unless the good folks who populate the Democrat party realize the radical shift towards these evil philosophies and help pull their party back from the abyss, our republic and our liberties are in grave danger.
As the Democrat Party shifted left, the political philosophy of the core conservatives in the Republican Party slowly matured. It was a messy migration that went through many fits and starts. It was influenced by: Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, one of my early influences; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and her philosophical works; the Austrian School of Economics, especially Bastiat, Say, Menger, Boehm-Bawerk, Von Mises, Hayek, Hazlitt, and Rothbard; the Chicago School of Economics, especially Milton Friedman; and the libertarian movement, among many others.
Nothing in politics is pure and simple, nor is it ever free of contradictions. That being said, this core philosophy, based on individual liberty, property rights, free markets, and limited government, now represents an influential segment of the Republican Party and Tea Party movement.
This is the major philosophical change in the Republican Party since 1960. While the spectrum of political opinion in the party has not shifted radically, the core philosophy has matured and become better grounded.
The choice between the Republicans and Democrats is now philosophically clearer than it has been for a long time. Traditional Democrats, the Kennedy and Clinton Democrats, and even old-timers clinging to FDR’s memories, must ask themselves if they and their grandchildren are better off with a hard-left, totalitarian philosophy ruling America or if a more freedom-oriented philosophy isn’t a better choice.
The political polarization we experience today has resulted from the Democrat embrace of a far-left, totalitarian political philosophy and the Republican re-discovery of the philosophic underpinnings of liberty. The American people have not fully recognized or understood this political divergence … but they are getting there.
I hope the many traditional Democrats will join us in this re-embrace of liberty.
I for one will welcome them with open arms. You should too.