December 10, 2012

“Tim Carney: Jim DeMint was the libertarian hero of the Senate”

My, but this argument does sound so very familiar somehow. I just wish I could place where I’ve heard it before…

For libertarians, Christian conservative pro-lifer Jim DeMint was the best thing to come through the Senate in decades. DeMint, quitting early to run the conservative Heritage Foundation, embodied an underappreciated fact of life in Washington: The politicians who most consistently defend economic liberty are the cultural conservatives.

The National Taxpayers Union gave DeMint a 93 percent rating last year, putting him third out of 100. DeMint scored 100 percent from the Club for Growth, whose sole focus is economic conservatism.

Until last year, DeMint was the only senator with a lifetime 100 percent from the Club for Growth. He still has a perfect record, but now he has company: Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson — all pro-life conservative freshmen derided as “Jim DeMint disciples” by the likes of lobbyist Trent Lott.

Many libertarians realize that DeMint has been one of their best allies in the U.S. Senate. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, editors of Reason magazine, are libertarians with social liberal tendencies. When they interviewed him in May, they pointed out how much this Christian social conservative had to offer their ilk.

[...]

When DeMint departs from Republican orthodoxy, it’s in the libertarian direction. He broke with his party just after Thanksgiving, when he voted to bar indefinite detention of Americans suspected of terrorism. Then he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act, a bugbear of civil libertarians.

DeMint was an early and vocal opponent of the industry-backed Stop Online Piracy Act, which galvanized civil libertarians on the Left and Right last year.

On military spending, DeMint also parts ways with his party leadership, calling for cuts. “Not just the waste,” he said in May. “We do need to rethink the money we spend on military and defense. … Frankly, some of our spending is politically driven because a particular defense system or ship is built in a certain congressional district or state.”

[...]

DeMint and others could make deeper philosophical arguments about family, church and community as counterweights to state power, but there are also the basic facts on the ground: The best fiscal conservatives in politics are all social conservatives. Look at the Club for Growth scorecard again. All the most fiscally conservative senators are pro-life. You have to go down to No. 27 in the Club’s rankings — Mark Kirk — to find a pro-choicer.

Self-described “fiscal conservatives and social moderates” almost never end up being both. Most end up embracing taxes, regulation and spending like Mark Kirk, with a Club for Growth lifetime score of 52 percent. The rest become pro-lifers like Pat Toomey.

Traditional morality and limited government aren’t enemies. They’re friends. DeMint proved that, and he left behind heirs who will continue to do so.

This is precisely the case I made for Santorum (after Bachmann’s departure) during the primaries — and I was rebuffed by “conservative” opinion leaders,  whose websites continue to be the big drivers of the GOP narrative — but that’s because these influence peddlers care more, I’m now convinced, about appearing cosmopolitan than in truly backing conservative principles.  To be clear, this does not mean they reject those principles necessarily; just that the calculus for them involves appearances and fear of how some social conservative beliefs will be used to vilify or lampoon all conservatives and cost them elections.

My advice to these folks is to get over that.  Don’t accept the dumbing down of your political and ideological message.  Don’t allow the left to create the frames — from within which you will always be forced to respond defensively.

I realize it’s difficult to explain to people why strong religious beliefs — when juxtaposed against the State’s increasing drive toward (supposedly) morally-neutral secular humanism (which is anything but morally neutral, and in fact has become in effect the “theocracy” those who hate social cons claim to fear) — create a bulwark against government expansion.  Particularly when it’s far easier to pretend to the same OUTRAGE the left expresses in order to get in front of a PR nightmare, itself driven by sound-bite politics that the right has increasing allowed is an intractable political given.

But the truth is, religious freedom, freedom of conscience, the fidelity to Constitutional principles, most especially federalism and distrust of a judicial priesthood — all of these things put social conservatives in a position to make the case that an expanding federal Leviathan is not only looking to infringe upon their beliefs, but in doing so it is setting up the legal justifications to circumscribe the liberty of all Americans.

All we have to do is be willing to make principled arguments.

Instead, we have the Jen Rubin’s of the world savaging conservatives like DeMint — while our “conservative” punditry, from Rubin to Brooks to Kristol to Colin Powell and a host of others — continue to offer up comfortable ways to surrender to the inevitability of a left-liberal government.

And that’s because the GOP establishment whom they support believes in just that.

Sadly, what I’ve come to realize over the last 5 or 6 years, is that “our” side is just as filled with useful idiots as is the left’s.  And stating that aloud publicly doesn’t win you many friends, that much I can tell you.

(h/t Daniel S)

Posted by Jeff G. @ 10:24am
52 comments | Trackback

Comments (52)

  1. Years back, one of my two friends who is also a political ally and I were musing about how it came to pass that we felt (far) more sympathy for the values and ideas expressed by the religious “other” than for those held by the secular cosmopolitans with whom we shared cultural affinities. I think our bullshit session hinted at the more politically sophisticated argument Jeff and a very few others have been advancing about the natural alliance between socials cons and the liberty oriented. We figured that the universal taint of original sin, and the concomitant humility it engenders with respect to man’s coneception of himself, was more in tune with our notion of intransigent human nature and the imperfectability of man than the assumptions underlying the secular progressive worldview.

    Once you break the world down in a more Sowellian model of constrained and unconstrained view of human nature, Jeff’s argument for the alliance of the religious and liberty minded doesn’t seem at all controversial. We just need both sides to articulate it, and DeMint strikes me as the most promising candidate to do so on the social con side.

  2. Trilling’s moral realist/moral idealist distinction, expoounded upon by Himmelfarb and Knox Beran is useful as well.

    Levin’s utopian masterminds is good too.

  3. Thanks for the tip. Think I’ll gift myself a copy of Himmelfarb’s book of essays on the moral imagination of conservatives, which seems to have been reissued recently with some new essays.

  4. We figured that the universal taint of original sin, and the concomitant humility it engenders with respect to man’s coneception of himself, was more in tune with our notion of intransigent human nature and the imperfectability of man than the assumptions underlying the secular progressive worldview.

    You don’t need to do the god thing to realize that all power is eventually abused: you just need a pair of eyes.

  5. Also pick up On Looking into the Abyss

  6. I wish.

  7. this is mostly just cause non-lifeydoodle fiscal conservative Rs can’t make it through the primary in a lot of states, cause of their apostasy

  8. (regarding the notion that all it takes are eyes)

  9. second verse
    same as the first!

  10. Where are all the fiscally conservative deathydoodles?

  11. mt molehill, Ernst and dicentra have led me to think of the natural human drive to invest in human perfectibility or alternatively, utopian thinking, as an urge modified, brought to a practical solution to the political problem by religious belief, shifting the scene of the proposed perfection from this world to that, thus providing an avenue upon which to leave human beings to conduct their urge (to utopian thinking or human perfection) while simultaneously leaving the earthy aspect of human life to the less ideal aims of politics. Well, maybe. It’s just a conjecture for now, since it only just occurred to me, as I’ve never thought about the matter in this odd way.

  12. where is Minty D’s bill to decriminalise the marijuanas

  13. Where are the RINO bills to cut taxes and regulations on tobacco and alcohol?

  14. socially liberal, fiscally conservative politician = unicorn/leprechaun/jackalope

    Does not exist.

  15. where are the lifeydoodle bills to cut taxes and regulations on tobacco and alcohol?

  16. sdferr

    My Monday-morning parsing “ability” isn’t sure if you’re talking about the urge to immanentize the eschaton or not.

  17. where is Minty D’s bill to decriminalise the marijuanas

    Up in smoke.

  18. Harry Reid blocks them, along with his deathydoodle enablers.

  19. There might be some common ground on alcohol and tobacco, and their might not.

    If there is, you’re unlikely to find it by bringing abortion and gay marriage into the mix.

  20. I didn’t have the actual terms [immanentize etc.] pass through my feeble mind at the time di, certainly not in the context of the urge I gisted, but for all that, it could be there whether I knew it or not. It’s accountable to my ignorance, I think.

  21. Sure, that works too: there are those who want to immamentize the eschaton. And there are those who do not.

  22. Where are the deathydoodle bills to cut taxes and regulations on tobacco and alcohol? Where is your point?

  23. Where are all the fiscally conservative deathydoodles?

    Along with the fiscally liberal lifeydoodles, Pelosi bent them all over and rode them dirty in the 2009-2010 session to get Obamcare passed and then dropped them like the used scum bags they were to make “The Party” purer in times to come.

    That they liked it was just gravy.

  24. Here is today’s inspirational reading:

    In 2012, the Republicans lost the national election. But, at the same time, they garnered in 2010 and 2012 a strength at the state and local level that they have not seen as a party since the 1920s. The fact that the Republicans in Michigan have just passed right-to-work legislation is proof that the Tea-Party impulse is by no means dead. The year 2012 may be remembered not as the year in which the latest wave of Progressivism triumphed. It may be remembered as a year in which the Republican resurgence hit a minor bump in the road. Stay tuned.

  25. The radio news just now reports that Obazma has stepped into the right to work fight in Michigan, taking the side of “screw the public, we’ll have their money”.

  26. Where is your point?

    Between and above his pikachu ears.

    Alternate punchline: Under his buccan hat.

  27. “Socially liberal” and “economically conservative” bring you Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, Arnold Schwarzenneger and a whole host of others who constantly vote or act to enlarge the scope of government when the chips are down. It is the mantra of people who don’t understand – as DeMint does – that social and economic issues are inexorably intertwined.

  28. Obazma has stepped into the right to work fight in Michigan

    That right there, the feds meddling in state business, should piss off everybody, not just republicans.

    Unfortunately, most I fear will consider it an expectation. Like children expecting daddy to resolve their argument.

  29. Michigan RTW links, here, here, here, here, here, here, here. By Any Means Necessary in action.

  30. Not expectation, the Dems are begging for it. See my 5th “here”.

  31. happyfeet is the living, breathing incarnation of the perfect is the enemy of the good.

  32. Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who on Thursday called the votes to approve the right-to-work measure “petty and vindictive politics,” sparked more backlash Friday when she said she wants the president, who is set to visit Detroit on a previously scheduled political trip on Monday, to push back on Republican Gov. Rick Snyder by holding back federal money for a new international bridge project to Canada and a badly needed mass-transit program in ailing Detroit

    It’s hard to know what to do with that. The audacity is astounding.

  33. The irony of deploring “petty and vindictive politics” and then demanding Obama punish Michigan for adopting laws fully in accordance with the state’s constitution, would — once upon a time — have been worthy of comment.

    Instead, it’s the new <urk>

    Ahem. Sorry, almost violated one of my own rhetorical rules. Ironically.

  34. She is also being discussed as the Democrat gubernatorial candidate for 2014.

  35. Wait, the Michigan Senate Democratic Leader wants the federal government to not spend money? Take the offer before she realizes what she has done.

  36. I thought Obama was in Lansing? That’s quite a ways from Detroit.

    Did he go to both, geoff?

  37. Sure, that works too: there are those who want to immamentize the eschaton. And there are those who do not.

    I’ve heard actual liberals actually say that religious people are standing in the way of progress because we’re sittin’ on our hands, waitin’ for Jay-sus to come usher in paradise on earth.

    Which, doy. Whom else are we going to trust?

    Even if you’re not all Christian and religious-y and stuff, you can still insist that you’ll welcome paradise-on-Earth only “when Jesus Himself engineers it.”

    That way, you’re still telling the proggs “no way, no how” and also annoying them by invoking deity.

  38. I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention Oakeshott’s “Tower of Babel” essay, which concludes:

    Those who in Elysian fields would dwell
    do but extend the boundaries of hell.

  39. Funny how the deathydoodles always want someone else to pay for them too.

  40. DeMint is DeMan!

    Said here before and finally the rest of America (short of Happyfeet) will start to realize it.

    happyfeet says December 10, 2012 at 11:25 am
    “this is mostly just cause non-lifeydoodle fiscal conservative Rs can’t make it through the primary in a lot of states, cause of their apostasy”

    When did Jim DeMint run for President again? I think I would remember that cus I got a WWJDD bumper sticker (right under my WWJD one;).

  41. Obama was in Detroit for a previously scheduled event not Lansing IFAIK. Lansing isn’t that far. By road about 100 miles or so from Detroit.

  42. hmmm I don’t put stickers on my car

  43. hmmm I don’t put stickers on my car

    the state does it for you

  44. Thanks, geoff. I was thinking it was a lot further away.

  45. Who said anything about cars? I keep mine right in front of me. But I bet either one would be just as welcome on cars in California as they are here.

  46. sometimes I put stickers on my trapper keeper but then I get bored and end up picking them off without even thinking about it especially during algebra

  47. “happyfeet is the living, breathing incarnation of the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

    You’re giving way too much credit.

  48. Merry Christmas Mr Thorn joy to the world the lord is come

  49. this is mostly just cause non-lifeydoodle fiscal conservative Rs can’t make it through the primary in a lot of states, cause of their apostasy

    I started trying to make some heads or tails of this, but then I lost interest.

    I think I got stuck trying to understand what feets means by “lifeydoodle”. Which is pretty much the same place that I realized that it doesn’t matter.

  50. I’m hungry

    but at least it’s not raining

  51. (((Just tap it in, tap it in.)))

    *putt*

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