More than once in the past few months someone or other has lamented the barrages of criticism the GOP candidates have launched against one another. They have bandied about words and phrases like “cannibalism” and “circular firing squad”, admonishing the Presidential aspirants to concentrate their fire on Obama and stifle criticisms that hurt the GOP’s chances of victory.
This would be all well and good if the purpose of election campaigns is simply to win power at any cost. But what if the main purpose is to make sure voters who care about their country have what they need to make a choice that truly serves the common good? What if this is an especially appropriate goal in a Presidential election? Once upon a time it was commonplace to remember the common sense arguments made for free and unrestricted debate, as in this observation from On Liberty by the English reasoner John Stuart Mill:
The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to prove them unfounded. If the challenge is not accepted, or is accepted and the attempt fails, we are far enough from certainty still; but we have done the best that the existing state of human reason admits of; we have neglected nothing that could give the truth a chance of reaching us: if the lists are kept open, we may hope that if there be a better truth, it will be found when the human mind is capable of receiving it.
In this thinking we need only substitute the phrase “a true representative” for each reference to truth itself to see how Mill’s reasoning applies to participation and debate in the electoral context.
This perspective on the subject gives rise to the suspicion that the ostensibly good natured promoters of peace and mutual restraint in political debate may (intentionally or not) be doing a disservice to voters. Let’s say that fellow partisans agree to observe an unspoken agreement not to criticize one another, but to focus instead on those rascals in the other party. What becomes of the rascals in their own party whose similar deportment is thus obscured from the voters? Voted into office on account of blind partisanship, these rascals covertly bring to it the same deficiencies their Party has loudly denounced. Voters who sought something better are fooled into perpetuating the deficiency they sought to remove which, on account of their support or acquiescence, becomes even more damaging than it was before.
Perhaps voters whose foremost care is for their country are best advised to be less concerned about what candidates do to one another, and most concerned about what each of them has done, is doing or proposes to do to the nation. It may be true that the shots they aim at one another harm the partisan interest they share. But what if, in their zeal to defeat one another, the brawl reveals them in stances that would otherwise be left obscure, stances that make it clear that, from one perspective or another, each of them has been firing shots aimed in the same general direction as the Party all of them profess to oppose;and that those shots are likely to prove fatal to the character, security and liberty of the country as a whole.
From the perspective of the common good, the real problem isn’t that the GOP candidates have been criticizing one another. It’s what those criticisms have revealed. Ron Paul’s backers criticize Gingrich’s fondness for Alvin Toffler’s elitist rejection of the form of government, of by and for the people (not the elites), the Constitution requires. Forces backing Gingrich and Santorum warn against Congressman Ron Paul’s isolationist, “blame America”, rationale for neglecting threats from anti-American fundamentalists in the Islamic world. Meanwhile, the Paul enthusiasts inveigh against Gingrich’s complicity in the elitist rape of America’s income, credit and economic wherewithal. Santorum’s criticism of Romney makes clear the Governor’s duplicity on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Romney’s criticism of Santorum unveils the Senator’s record as a “big government” conservative, willing to go along to get along even when it involves spending for causes (like Planned Parenthood’s pro-abortion agenda) Santorum decries as fatal to the character of the American people. Santorum notes that Romney was for Obama’s approach to health care before he was against it. Romney points out that Santorum was for Romney’s Presidential bid before he was against it, even though the Senator knew of the socialist characteristics of Romneycare in Massachusetts. And so it goes.
Where voter information is concerned, it appears that Mill was right. In a verbal free for all, “truth will out.”(Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene 2) The GOP’s self-serving leaders and partisan media bobbleheads (heads bobbing yes to whatever follows the Party Line) may blather on about how all this allegedly defamatory backbiting only hurts the Party’s chances next November. But against the charge of defamation, truth is a defense. Before voters give in to the prodding of these elitist partisans, they need carefully to consider the evidence that suggests that much of what these warring camps are saying about one another is true.
They should do this even if they are shortsighted enough to believe that the only thing that matters is to end Obama’s usurpation of the White House. For if good evidence supports the mutual recriminations of the GOP’s Presidential aspirants that fact becomes the basis for an Obama faction election strategy that will be hard to beat. Anyone the GOP nominates will have to run against the views and policies the Obama faction has advanced. But in every major area of policy, when the GOP nominee slams Obama’s approach Obama or his supporters will be able to cite one or more of the GOP aspirants who has advocated, signed off on, or voted for the same or similar approaches. In this way Obama will run the GOP against itself, neutralizing their intended criticisms with prominent examples from their own ranks.
The clincher, however, lies precisely in the much vaunted show of “unity” that is supposed eventually to replace the GOP’s current bickering. All the GOP aspirants have made it clear that they will support whoever their Party nominates, on the arguable grounds that any one of them is better than Obama. Logically this implies that no GOP aspirant is fatally flawed; that none of them takes a stand or advocates policies that will be fatally damaging to the nation. But this means that, for any given policy he has pursued, Obama can point to the fact that one or more of the GOP candidates supported the same or a similar approach. Why should a policy tolerated by the GOP in a Republican they consider fit for the Presidency be considered a fatal flaw when pursued by Obama?
There will be no lack of Obama faction hacks ready to imply that the answer must have more to do with Obama’s features than with his policies. The GOP is already setting itself up for this Judo like strategic overthrow by defaulting to an election strategy based on the assumption that voters will rally to any GOP nominee in order to remove Obama from office. They assume the opposition which Obama’s policies generate will lead voters to overlook the growing body of evidence which suggests that the elites in both Parties “are all socialists now”; that they all live in the shadow of a materialist world view that rejects the moral and spiritual sensibilities which inform the common sense of many Americans.
The GOP’s anti-Obama strategy relies upon mobilizing highly personalized animosity against him using rhetoric that pretends to see Obama as an especially deadly threat to America’s life and liberty. But Obama can defuse this strategy, and turn it against the GOP Republicans by asking a simple question “Why is essentially the same policy good when some Republican pursues it, but bad when I do?” With that question hanging in the air, the Obama faction’s spokespeople and Democrat Party media bobbleheads will charge forward. They will trumpet the accusation that, behind the GOP’s alarmist rhetoric, is a cynically ruthless and divisive plan to exploit what they will claim is the still vibrant reality of racism in the United States, particularly among the nationalist, constitutional, and religious forces the GOP seeks to rouse.
The GOP is vulnerable to this counterattack because of the impression made by its preemptive capitulations; its unwarranted retreats; its outright collaboration with Obama’s anti-constitutional expansion of government dominance. This saps credibility from the notion that there is any starkly fateful difference between GOP Republicans and Obama faction Democrats. If there’s a dime’s worth of difference between them, it’s sandwiched between one broken GOP promise and another. That’s hardly the wherewithal to support the claim that America’s survival hangs in the balance as voters choose between them.
Tragically, America’s fate does hang in the balance, but not across the fictional partisan divide that separates the GOP Republican and Democrat Parties. They are opposite wings of the same elitist faction, flapping in unison as socialism takes flight. Neither represents what was the distinctive feature of the American republic before representative government in this generation failed; and the key to America’s strength and leadership in the world. I mean the nation’s dedication to the proposition on which it was founded- that the Creator God of nature designed us by his might, and destined all for equal liberty as long as we do right.
In an effort to rally support from the true conservatives who revere it, the GOP uses rhetoric that purports to respect this founding principle. But true conservatives will not only espouse the principle of right and liberty. Using sound reasoning and common sense, they will apply and implement it in all their political choices, policies and actions. Yet for the past twenty years the GOP elite has been unwilling consistently to validate candidates who refuse to abjure or abandon the founding principle in any area critical to our strength and survival as a free people. As I have said elsewhere, to “make their bones” the politicians the elitists prefer must fatally compromise the founding principle either in moral conception (on issues like abortion and homosexual marriage) or in material consequence (by accepting dependency spawning socialist approaches that eclipse liberty and discourage individual self-discipline and responsibility.) So the GOP ends up forcing true conservatives to “take one for the team” (as Senator Santorum put it), by backing these candidates, these “lesser evils”, even though their stands and policies include some fatal flaw that departs from what is needed to sustain and perpetuate Constitutional, republican self-government.
But for every public official in America, as indeed for every citizen who understands and takes seriously the privilege of authentic self-government, doesn’t the real team consist of those who uphold the Constitution and the Creator endowed rights and blessings it is intended to secure? If “taking one for the team” means disserving these objectives, then aren’t you playing for the wrong team or, in this case, two teams gone wrong? We need to quit them both. We need to remember that, as a free people, we owe our identity first to the Creator and then to our common commitment to abide in the right He created us to see. Reaffirming that identity, we need to join together on a new team, one that is willing to give its all to serve God and our true liberty; one that inclines toward no party except America itself. Uniting as many willing to give, we will renew this one nation, under God. We will retake the path of its exceptional destiny; acting not just for ourselves but with and for all people of good conscience, wherever they abide, who are willing to share the journey.