Prudence or Purity

BigTentby Glenn Fairman   2/10/14
If true, the post-mortem realization that the Republican Party’s bid to oust Barack Obama was sealed by internal schism and faction is a bitter pill to swallow. With so much at stake, mortal necessity required that the party marshal its forces in order to take down a man whose admitted enmity to our American Constitutional framework threatened to transform our unique political character. In light of the results of 2012, we now know that instead of amassing forces to our flag, we indeed saw a Vanishing Act of evangelicals along with our more libertarian brethren who refused to close ranks and man the ladders to scale the Progressive stronghold. It therefore becomes imperative for us to understand if the cleavages and stratifications that mark the Republican Big Tent strategy reveals a faded paradigm seeking realignment; or if the fault can be ascribed to the unreasonable expectations of the party’s constituent parts. If the latter, how do we gather these horses back within the stable?

As in all things human, politics is more art than science. As humans are animated towards their perceptions of the political good, their expectations can be narrow and often singular. It requires a wise legislator to cull a political vision and command these wings into a viable coalition within republics. But even politicians of the caliber of Solon or Lycurgus are dependent upon human material that understand the nature of sacrifice and compromise that successful politics requires. Sometimes, factions within a coalition cease to view themselves as important component parts and instead seek preeminence: intractably refusing to enter into the political bargaining that must be made as preludes to victory. For some, compromise is viewed as capitulation or treachery.

There is a diverse chasm between the expectations that motivate the temporal and the eternal view of existence. And for Christians, the dual allegiances that are held to Caesar and Creator create an internal anxiety lest one offend the interests of either. Within the simmering cauldron of America’s culture war, the single or dual issue voter often mistakes the forest for the trees and refuses to stand down—lest he be judged lukewarm and found wanting in the Final Reckoning. Rather than brook compromise or settle for future gains through incremental victory, it is not uncommon for those True Believers to pronounce “a pox on both Houses,” and withdraw into a metaphorical monastery awaiting the End of Days.

Political hubris results when a constituency’s inflated self-image decides that they are “the tail which wags the dog.” Therein, the opportunity for modern politics withers and common interests fall out with one another. And while there are certainly red lines that should not be surrendered, we cannot ignore the very prudent wisdom that one often must suffer the lesser of two evils when engaging in the political art. Those Americans more attuned to the call of revelation than the smoke filled room are often hard pressed to accept this raw human reality, and perhaps rightly so; but it is a cold chiseled reality nonetheless. By refusing to lower one’s gaze below the horizon of the Heavenly City, we often condemn ourselves to languish at the Infernal Gates.

As a Christian believer, I will be the first to agree that a lack of political prudence among our flock kept a segment of evangelicals at home last November. Whether it was the specter of having an “LDS Heretic” in the White House or as a resignation of disgust at the temporal world (the whole world lieth in the Evil One) remains an open question. A not insignificant number of true believers no doubt are so detached from the fetid nature of politics that they believe that the Fall of the West is inevitable and by doing nothing, one might well hasten the Lord’s return. While I share their sentiments at times, I remind you that we are told to strengthen what yet remains by Christ himself. We are to occupy and become salt to a perishing world. We cannot abandon things political to adversaries who have no such qualms in legislating for their utopia. But that being said, Social Conservatives had help in engineering the Republicans’ effort at stealing defeat from the jaws of victory.

The libertarian moral neutrality that abandons many of Conservatism’s social issues fueled by the Randian Ethical Egoism that has captured the imaginations of Americans, have also split off a good segment of what we characterize as the provenance of the Republicans. For the philosophical libertarian, the political locus has ever been the individual while the state is a necessary evil—with a bold emphasis on the evil. As it interprets society through a lens that effectively atomizes a whole into discrete parts, the libertarian weltanschauung by necessity injects a fundamental distortion that is ultimately corrosive of the body politic. Like all ultimately liberal philosophies that posit that “the right precedes the good,” the ultimate purpose of the political community is either deemed unknowable or a furtive dream of the Classical Mind. As such, libertarianism lowers the moral/political bar and would seek the satisfaction of the individual as its relativist aim: a vision of man unrestrained from the question of political purpose. Therefore, the libertarian ethos ultimately owes no secure allegiance to the spirit of the Founders’ architectural construction of duty and obligation that undergirds the moderate relationship between citizen and regime.

Having one foot within the Progressive camp and the other wedded to the Right’s lip service to the constrained state and sound economics, the Libertarian Party has far more to lose than to gain by standing down to that Socialist cancer metastasizing in Washington. That being said, Ron Paul, knowing the implications of an Obama redux, could not bring himself to concede a purity of principle and make common cause with Conservatives. Ideologically tethered to an arguably short-sighted isolationist foreign policy and a perhaps even more logical incoherence between social pathologies and the linkage to their very real moral and fiscal implications further down the road, the party took their marbles and went home. In refusing to concede orthodoxy, they have helped tie the mutton bib ‘round the wolf’s chin out of stubborn and futile principle. The libertarian segment of the Republican and Party and the Libertarian party itself must understand where their interests ultimately lie.

Despite a profusion of angry words that have been uttered in passion and haste, the Republican Party needs both of these Storied Houses intact as we once again begin to launch ourselves into the breach in arresting the forces who would erect the homogenous collective . Although there is a fundamental and some would say irreconcilable tension between both political visions, both represent what is ultimately appealing within the party. Individual freedom is of crowning important within our Constitutional system, yet that freedom must be tempered and realized towards an end that rings true in the American heart. It will be the party’s success or ultimate failure in promoting a central vision to reconcile that tension which determines if we are bound for ascendency or irrelevancy.

For both libertarians and religious social conservatives, an ideological purity that is inconsistent with the nature of political life has ensnared many noble minds. In the realm of the political, the Best Possible is all we can hope for and the Best Regime only resides in the idyllic City of Speech. Plato made this fundamental wisdom uniquely evident in revealing this relationship in The Republic and in The Laws: which are arguably the most earnest and introspective works ever to illuminate the nature of how men shall then live. The unwillingness to accept a half measure of a Good is an affliction that imperils the possibility of Political Life. Without sacrificing our core virtues, we must understand what Aristotle viewed as prudence—the application of reasoned means in the service towards a higher end.
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at • (2959 views)

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19 Responses to Prudence or Purity

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    There is speculation that a number of Christians stayed home because Romney is a Mormon. Who knows how big a part this played? But what was that next to Obama being an America-hating Marxist?

    Clearly Libertarians stayed home. Myself, I’m “purist” when it comes to drafting political ideology. But when it comes to the voting booth, I do what Russell Crowe mentioned in “Master and Commander.” I choose the lesser of two weevils.

    And I am on record as stating that although I disagree with a number of Rand Paul’s views, I would enthusiastically support him if he was the nominee for president. Only a fool, a baby, or pot-head would be so petulant as to stay home because perfect wasn’t on the menu.

    Part of the problem, too, (lest we put too much blame on any one voting faction) is that Romney was a liar, a fraud, and a really nice guy. But he was no conservative. He was enacting at the state level what we are now suffering from at the national level — socialism. If the Republicans want to win another national election, they must offer up an alternative to socialism, not just a vapid “me too” Democrat Lite.

    Few Republicans seem to be of that mind. And if there are more than we know, few of them have the brains or guts to articulate a conservative message. There is a deep pussy-ism infecting the Republican Party.

    As Rush Limbaugh notes, conservatism works every time it’s tried. And one of the realities is that the Republican Establishment is not conservative. In fact, they are vociferously hostile to conservatives. I foresee the total meltdown of the Republican Party. And if it can be replaced with something better then good riddance.

  2. steve lancaster says:

    “If the Republicans want to win another national election, they must offer up an alternative to socialism, not just a vapid “me too” Democrat Lite”

    I do not think that you can blame GOP losses on libertarians as there are not enough libertarians, even the ones who claim libertarian leanings, but are in fact progressive, in the country to make up the approximately 5 millions votes that Romney lost by, or the 3 million that McCain lost by. The reason both of these men lost is because they are no different than BHO. It is not the lesser of two evils there is no qualitative difference. No, the reality is that many voters who normally favor conservatives have just given up on the GOP and view it exactly as you say, democrat lite.

    The goal is consistency and conservative economics. I know that the social conservatives will have a fit, but you have to drop the marriage thing, allow it to become a simple contract with NO federal guidelines. The social issue has been before us for over 50 years, it is abortion and the inherent racism of its advocates like planned parenthood. It is on this issue and Obamacare that the democrats are vulnerable. And it is here that real libertarians, conservatives, and evangelicals can unite.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      McCain lost by a larger margin than Romney (who actually got slightly more votes than McCain despite a lower overall turnout once all the votes were counted, which didn’t happen until early December). While I doubt Romney’s lost was due to libertarians, there were a few House and Senate races in which the Libertarian candidate won enough votes to allow a Democrat to win with a plurality, and in some cases the Republican might have won otherwise.

      As for homosexual marriage, this should be primarily a matter for the states, but the fact remains that there are certain aspects in which the Feds must be involved. The best choice might be to pass a new version of DOMA which keeps the provision allowing states to ignore homosexual marriages contracted in other states and uses the laws of the individual states to indicate marital status for purposes of federal tax law. And if, while doing so, they could get rid of the anti-discrimination law actions, that would be very helpful.

      • Rosalys says:

        States have no more legitimate right to legislate homosexual “marriage” into existence than the Feds do. They do have an obligation to recognize reality; that reality being that marriage joins together two separate genders for the purpose of bringing into existence the next generation and (hopefully!) raising them to be good citizens. Everyone instinctively knows this. The Republican Party has ceded this reality for the expediency of “electability” and has been losing elections anyway.

        The Republican Party loves my vote buts hates me. The biggest enemy of the Tea Party is the Republican establishment! One can understand the vilification of Sarah Palin by the Democrates, but I can not understand why so many Republicans joined in with them. Increasingly I’m having trouble finding any common ground with any of the ruling class. Oh I voted for Romney – and afterwards vowed I will never again give my vote to another hand picked candidate being shoved down my throat!

        I honestly believe that this once great and largely God-fearing nation is now under divine judgement.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I pretty much agree, Rosalys, although the state has the right to redefine marriage (given that they do have those legal powers) just as Caligula had the right to make one of his horses a Senator. If tradition, reality, and common sense mean nothing, anything can be written into law.

          You seem to have a crystal-clear vision of the Republican Party: “The Republican Party loves my vote buts hates me. The biggest enemy of the Tea Party is the Republican establishment!” One might say that the Karl Marx Party (Democrats) hates the Tea Party more, but that’s a quibble.

          One thing to recognize is that most Republicans are in no meaningful way Republican. You can call a cat a dog but that doesn’t make it a dog. Republicans are now hostile to traditional, god-fearing America. They are, for all intents and purposes, Democrat Lite.

          There have probably been two men relevant to American history who have voluntarily laid down earthly power: Jesus Christ and George Washington. And you will be hard-pressed (other than rare people such as Ted Cruz) to find a Republican who is for reducing the power of the state and thus reducing his own power.

          The reality of government now is that it is so big it sets the agenda and defines the parameters. It shapes the way people (and parties) think about things. This is no less true of the Republican Party. And given mankind’s infinite capacity to rationalize, Republicans thus have become a statist party. They are barely even an opposition party to the Democrats. They are all, for all intents and purposes, part of a ruling class.

          And to justify their statist orientation (not that the pin-heads who gravitate to governmental power aren’t already full of themselves), they believe themselves to be a special and higher class off people. More importantly, this means that they view your average American with disdain. These are not god-fearing people. These are people who believe the state is god.

          Therefore anyone who believes in God, in limited government, in our Constitution, and in just plain decency must be mocked, especially including Sarah Palin. As Dennis Prager often says, “Those who do not hate evil hate the people who fight evil.” Those who see the exponential growth of state power as a serious problem must be mocked.

          But what is true for politicians is also true of people. We have become statist as well. We have made of government our god (or at least our surrogate family). Our entitlements, for example, are unsustainable. We have up to 100 trillion dollars in unfunded socialist entitlement liabilities. That means that this pyramid scheme of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other “free stuff” is not working and can’t work. And yet, to be fair to the politicians, the people (who have become an entitlement-minded mob….even if some do self-identify as conservative) will eat alive any politician who tries to roll back this corrosive and unsustainable socialism.

          So it works both ways. To some extent, I understand the reluctance of Republicans to tackle the growing socialist state. It’s much easier just to go along with it. The people have become so corrupted by all forms of entitlements that it is not fertile ground for common-sense reforms.

          • Rosalys says:

            Absolutely, Brad! We are in this sorry state of affairs because We the People have allowed it to. I see no hope for this country without a wholesale repentance the size and scope of what Ninevah experienced after their little visit from Jonah. This is NOT going to end well.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, I basically agree with you. The states have the power to define civil marriage because they’re the ones in charge of the process. I do oppose homosexual marriage, though I can also accept that we MAY be in the process of genuinely changing the meaning of “marriage” (as words’ meanings often evolve over time). But the forced redefinition, either by courts or by the federal government for the country as a whole, is abominable.

          • Rosalys says:

            The states have the power, but they do not have the lawful authority to change the definition of anything! This is what the progressives do all the time. They change the meanings of words to fit their program. They change the titles of their abominations in order to try to fool us into thinking they’ve changed. Marriage doesn’t need redefining. Homosexual coupling doesn’t need to be called marriage. It already has a perfectly good name. It’s called PERVERSION!

            • Faba Calculo says:

              Unless you and Timothy are using it in very different ways, I’m not understanding your distinction between “power” and “lawful authority”.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    Not so long ago, I was crucified for writing this. I suspect that the reasons that animate this loathing still remain. But the dilemma remains fixed: Will the West be lost if it chooses wrongly……..political prudence or ideological purity?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Hmmm. There’s a story there to be told there. I think what you said is quite reasonable. I’m a “true believer” in terms of America, liberty, and constitutional government. But what makes our civilization different is that there is (or was) no central role to be played by radicalism — that is, rule by the mob or high passions.

      That is why we are a republic not a democracy. The dirty little secret (couched in such careful language by Madison in the Federalist Papers, for example), is that your average hooplehead isn’t qualified to govern, let alone vote. That is why many states quite rightly had requirements that one owned property in order to vote. It was a way of not only having skin in the game (so that the mob didn’t, as it does today, simply vote itself other people’s money) but it was based upon that idea that those who owned property had more real-world experience in terms of property rights, business, and the wisdom that tends to accumulate from being a builder, not a moocher.

      I really wish it was a matter of prudence vs. ideological purity. I don’t have a problem with people believing strongly in something (if this is an honest belief and not subterfuge). If someone believes in Utopia, well, that’s at least something. But more and more what is happening in our society is that we believe in nothing. Our beliefs (such as they are) tend to be extravagant and exaggerated (the basis of your typical one-issue voter) because people are not well schooled in civics these days. What we are well schooled in is vulgarity, celebrity, narcissism, and the entitlement mentality. So we are entitled to have our one idea (sometimes a kooky one, or an exaggerated one, and often a personal one for selfish reasons) be the be-all, end-all of how we view civics. And thus we become de facto retards as citizens.

      So give me a true socialist any day who believes in Utopian over the hordes of people who either believe in nothing or cling to one issue because they know of no other.

      And then you have the huge faction of people who have been corrupted by entitlements. Most of the “one issue” stuff is, to my mind, just self-deceit. When it comes to voting, most people vote according to “free stuff” and I think fool themselves by going on about one issue or another. For instance, I don’t take libertarians at face value regarding liberty. Many of them (if not most of them) simply want their vices normalized, just as gay people want their behavior normalized. But when it actually comes down to playing the adult and choosing a fuzzy Mormon over a crystal-clear Marxist, they stay home. They can’t be bothered because liberty is not their agenda. It’s a smokescreen, a self-rationalization.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Single-issue voters share with the leeches a key characteristic: they tend to be extreme teleologues. This is especially true for liberals, who tend to have the infantile notion that their wants MUST be fulfilled. Such people don’t care how they get what they want as long as they get it, which is convenient for those who want a “living” (i.e., dead as written) constitution.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I’m not familiar with the term, “teleologues.” But I totally agree when you say “Such people don’t care how they get what they want as long as they get it.”

          It reminds me of a Mark Steyn quote, and I’ll paraphrase from memory: Socialism isn’t bad simply because it’s unaffordable. It’s bad because it corrupts society and turns us all into moochers.

          Or something like that.

          • Steve lancaster says:

            Dare I say it? You are a secret libertarian! Do you have plans to, go Galt? We have a secret cave in the heart of the Ozarks where we hold out, just follow the purple haze.

            Seriously, much of what you say real libertarians will readily agree. I have high hopes for you.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Steve, I’m not sure what I said that is uniquely libertarian. Central to conservatism is the idea that a Big Compassionate Welfare State tends only toward creating a dependent class. It’s good for the politicians in that they get do advertise themselves as “do-gooders.” It’s good for the created dependent class because they are getting something for nothing. But it’s not good for society at large nor is it good for the people who are forced to pay for this unholy and selfish alliance.

              Conservatives understand that most of man’s miseries are created by his foul morals. And the welfare state simply accommodates those foul morals. Who needs to change if the state is there to bail you out from your bad behavior? There’s something to be said for going hungry if one is not willing to work.

              A conservative understands that there is a redemptive aspect (both for the giver and the receiver) in private charity. But as for government charity, there is no redemptive aspect. People who receive “free stuff,” rather than being grateful, gain the mindset that this “free stuff” is theirs by right.

              I like how Theodore Dalrymple put it in his book, “If Symptoms Still Persist”:

              A man who thinks he has many rights knows neither gratitude nor contentment. If they are fulfilled — well, they are his rights. He has received only his due, and there is nothing to be grateful for. But, if they are unfulfilled, he conceives himself ill-used and goes into a sulk.

              I think the above can also apply to what Mr. Kung calls “the Bolsheviks of the right.” It’s possible to become so “rights-based” as a matter of unwavering slogan that one gains the entitlement mentality and thinks oneself a victim. I have a friend who believes central to modern libertarianism is this idea that they are all victims.

              But, truly, no conservative worth his or her salt could not have libertarianism in his blood as one component. It’s sort of like baking a cake. You need flour, salt, baking powder, chocolate (or vanilla), eggs, and probably a few other ingredients as well (it’s been a while since I baked a cake). The end product is good. But would it be good if one took just one of these ingredients and made a steady diet of it (salt, for example)?

              And that is what I think libertarianism is. It may shock libertarians to hear a conservative speak like a libertarian. But that is only one of the ingredients that goes into making a conservative. And if some libertarians are surprised at this, I suspect it is because they know little to nothing about conservatism.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I got teleology from the late Joseph Sobran, and use teleologue as a back-formation. It refers to people who are totally oriented toward the goal without concern for how it’s attained.

  4. steve lancaster says:

    I agree with Churchill, “after trying everything else the Americans will finely get it right”.

    However, I believe that much of Europe is lost to liberty. Perhaps, the Brits, Germans and the Poles will fail to fall to the pagan demon unleashed in the 20th century, but France, Italy, Spain and the low countries will not. The demographics are against them.

  5. Timothy Lane says:

    In 2008 I supported Fred Thompson initially because I figured he was probably about as good a candidate on the issues as anyone else, and he didn’t have any of the flaws (such as McCain’s age, Huckabee’s preaching, and Romney’s Mormonism) that were likely to turn off at least some voters. (By the time of the Kentucky primary, McCain was the presumptive nominee with Paul his only active opponent. I voted for the latter although one rating indicated that McCain was a tad closer to me than Paul.) It excluded many of McCain’s problematic stands.) But so far I’ve always ended up voting GOP as the lesser of evils (it obviously is no longer possible for a Democrat to be a lesser evil against anyone this side of Satan, if then).

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