by N. A. Halkides 5/21/14
In Part I, I endeavored to show that what Republicans need to win against the Democratic Left in the Presidential contest is a principled Conservative with a coherent theory of government. Now I will attempt to establish a set of useful criteria by which we might judge prospective candidates, a task which has certainly proven difficult in the past due to Establishment Men pretending to be Conservatives and also, I think, because we Conservatives have been so desperate for what we might call “The Great Conservative Hope” we’re led to imagine our man has finally come to the rescue when in fact he has remained as elusive as the Jewish Messiah.
Let’s start by revisiting the four pillars of Conservatism developed earlier (see What is Conservatism?):
“(1) a belief in limited government and the necessity of considerably reducing the size of the current Leviathan; (2) a belief in traditional morality and the worth of every individual life; (3) a foreign policy that is nationalist in recognizing American interests and internationalist in recognizing our place among the nations of the world coupled to a commitment to a strong national defense; (4) recognition of the sanctity of life, including babies still in the womb.”
Taking these one at a time, we begin with “a belief in limited government” which explicitly negates the Progressive promise to use government as if it were a constructive force capable of building something. Government exists to preserve individual rights, not to “help” citizens (at the expense of their fellows, of course). This in turn implies a serious rollback of the regulatory and welfare state. Now we obviously cannot expect our champion to be too bold in announcing our intention to reduce welfare, but we can and should denounce it as a way of life, presenting our program as “entitlement reform” which means reducing benefits as much as we can and putting programs like Social Security and Medicare, which can’t be eliminated, on the road to privatization.
With regulatory reform we can and should be bolder, as the majority of the American people probably understand the need to remove red tape from all our lives, especially those of businessmen. Also, this will be the quickest road to economic recovery and will reduce spending as regulatory agencies are subjected to having their personnel reduced. The size of government is not a defining characteristic, but it is a useful metric, and it is clear that to begin moving the country to the right, the budget must be actually cut – it isn’t enough merely to slow the rate of growth as the Republican Establishment regularly promises – with a plan to achieve balance in a short period of time (I’d recommend four years or less) through domestic spending cuts and without tax increases.
We are led to our first two criteria for judging our candidates: (I) True Federal spending reductions (no gimmicks) including a plan for entitlement reform, and (II) Regulatory reform, or the embrace of free-market economics (this second will probably be easier to evaluate).
(2) above, the emphasis on individualism (as opposed to collectivism), does not lend itself well to easy evaluation. Its most obvious consequence, opposition to abortion, has been given a separate enumeration. I think what we need here is some sign the candidate believes in the freedom of the individual, something which is hardly ever spoken of in today’s debased political discourse. We might fit gun rights, obviously of first importance, in here. Therefore, we have (III) Recognition that government at all levels encroaches too far upon the individual sphere, and that the individual has the right to keep and bear arms, meaning arms suitable for infantrymen in accordance with the definition of “arms” and “militia” as they were understood at the time the 2nd Amendment was written.
(3) above means first that the candidate understands the defense budget, after years of cutting by Clinton and Obama, cannot be cut further. We’re a big country with two oceans to patrol, and can’t get by with the typical level of European defense outlays. At the same time, we should avoid getting embroiled in wars for the purposes of “peacekeeping” or nation-building. Let’s try to find a candidate who actually understands the U.S. military exists to guarantee our national security and is not simply a better-equipped version of the Peace Corp. Let me suggest for criterion (IV) that our candidate be reluctant to intervene militarily, but also understands that sometimes there is no alternative (say Afghanistan after 9/11) and that we need to have the best military in the world to make sure that if we do go in, we can win quickly and decisively.
(4) is simple – our candidate must oppose the abortion-on-demand policy of the Democratic Left. As noted above, it’s really derivable from (2) (worth of the individual) and is only separated out here because of the visibility of this issue and because we cannot afford to run a pro-abortion candidate who would split the usual Republican coalition and certainly lose in November. There probably aren’t too many Republicans anyway who are both in favor of limited government and abortion-on-demand; those who exist we should regard as erring sisters whom we hope will eventually see the light, but until then may not hold leadership positions within the GOP. At the same time, the Left will use abortion as a trap to try to get every Republican candidate to say something that sounds extreme and may be used against him. The prudent policy at the Federal level is to take the position that Roe v. Wade is wrong and should be overturned, leaving abortion to be regulated by the states. If the candidate must give his own views on abortion, he should take a position slightly to the right of the median American voter, much as Mitt Romney did – note that no one is claiming Romney lost the race because he was too extreme on abortion.
Let us now summarize our criteria:
I. The candidate must believe in real reductions in Federal spending, including entitlement reform, and believe in balancing the budget at the earliest practical moment without resorting to tax increases.
II. The candidate must embrace free-market economics and plan to seriously roll back the regulatory state.
III. The candidate must understand that government is far too powerful and intrusive, encroaching upon the individual sphere, and that the individual has the right to keep and bear arms, including but not limited to semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 and AK-47.
IV. The candidate must wish to avoid unnecessary military intervention, but also understand that where the security of the United States is at risk, we go in to fight and win. Destruction of the enemy, not building up benighted countries, is the function of our military, which must be second to none. The restoration of the old standard of American military preparedness, being able to win two wars simultaneously, seems advisable.
V. The candidate must agree the Federal government has no role in abortion, which is strictly a matter of concern for the states. If pressed, he may certainly oppose late-term abortions and take a position slightly to the right of the median American voter on this issue.
VI. The candidate should have a coherent theory of government (limited government).
Now let’s test out these criteria to see if they will really help us separate wheat from chaff. We can take a few obvious losers from past and present and see if they can be quickly eliminated using the new criteria.
1. John (Maverick) McCain – apart from being self-contradictory and incoherent, McCain apparently never saw a country he didn’t want to impose a no-fly zone over. Rejected by criteria (IV) and (VI).
2. Jeb Bush – his apparent enthusiasm for ever-more Federal control of education certainly implies he’s not prepared to roll back Leviathan, and as far as I know he’s never had one positive remark to make about free-market economics. Rejected by (I), (II), (III), and (VI). Also by being another Bush!
3. Ron Paul – rejected by (IV) and probably (VI).
4. Chris Christie – flunks criterion (III) immediately, and probably (I) and (II) on close examination.
At this point, two admissions: First, these criteria may not always be easy to apply, for instance to men like Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Rick Santorum. Walker and Santorum in particular are so difficult I think each one deserves a separate examination. Second, these criteria work by the method of elimination. Given the dearth of high-quality Conservative candidates, it could be that rigorous application will eliminate everyone running! I admit I have no solution to that problem.
Despite these drawbacks, I think we’ve got at least the beginning of something here. With a little refinement, we could have a practical metric by which to eliminate the losers, RINOs, and Establishment-Men from the ranks of Republican Presidential contenders, and then hope like hell there’s still somebody left to run. • (2502 views)