Background: This conversation started as some back-and-forth between myself an commenter okiepoli just under two months ago, in the Cooler Heads Prevail post. In my defense I didn't realize that he had sent me an mail, due to my habit of simply deleting any emails that look like they're notifying me of blog comments, opting instead to read them on the actual blog. And this one was interesting to me, because okie falls into an odd, but growing Category of voter, especially as that Tea Party insanity claims any remnant of the Right not already claimed by the funny-mentalists: A self-identified Conservative Republican who basically sees nothing of value in the Republican Party. Now, to be sure, that's certain my kind of "Conservative Republican." LOL. I'm both kidding and not kidding when I say we need more like him. (What I mean is, but the cynical and the principled interpretation of that statement hold true! LOL) And I may be simplifying things a bit, off course. I only know him from his posts here and on MMFA, and for the longest time had him pegged as a LIBERAL, due to nothing else that his penchant from joining in on most of the rounds of Republican bashing. So, following up for that earlier post, he sent me the email below to continue the conversation that blogger apparently would let his post in the comments section. (I'll have to see if there is something I can do about the character limitation. because it really is too short.)
Just as with my response to Steeve's email, I'm going to put the excerpts from okie's in yellow.
Sorry it took so long to get back to this - you may have noticed a decreased presence on MMfA also. I've been "live(ing) in interesting times" lately, mostly due to the end of the fiscal year at work. (DOD civilian) And you have 8 new posts I need to catch up with since.
A two-parter, huh? OK, I'll play along:
PART the FIRST – RE: your first reply:
You say, "Unfortunately that school of thought was largely abandoned back in 1980, and all that remains of it now is a distant memory, clung to by the few principled (true) Conservatives left."
Why do you hate Pres. Reagan? (j/k) I would pin the start of the downhill slide to the early '70's – Pres. Nixon was as progressive a Republican as you could hope to find. I think he was confused by the concept of a relatively weak presidency - Constitutionally a mere figurehead – the weakest of the three branches. (See: The Federalist Papers: #67 - 77, specifically #69, 70 &77, arguments can be found in The Antifederalist Papers: #67 – 77.) Combine a pro-unitary executive view with the idea that 'peaceniks,' 'leftists,' and Democrats (my words, not his) were an enemy to be beaten at any cost to prevent the country from sliding towards communism, were, in my view, his downfall.
Pres. Ford wasn't bad, but he wasn't perceived as being 'good' and certainly didn't come across as being as strong as Pres. Nixon. Nixon's pardon combined with the state of the nation at the end of Ford's term, voter dissatisfaction with any Republican rule – weak or strong – and the promise of government reform gave us Pres. Carter. (You can defend Carter if you want to, but you don't need to on my account.)
This may come as a surprise, not only coming from a self-identified Liberal, and one who's written a piece on how badly Nixon really sucked, but really? I don't think Nixon was all that bad a President, as long as we're only talking policy. You can criticise the war tactics, although you can defend them as well, but in the end, he DID end the damned war. He created several important Government regulatory agencies, and normalized relations with China. (Which again, one can argue either way, but I'd take the problems we have now over what would have been 40 years with a second major player in the Cold War and the arms race.
The way I see it, much like with Carter, the biggest problem with Nixon was Nixon himself. His personal issues far outweighed any policy issues he may have had. I mean, come on... spying on the Democrats in 1972?! He won 520-17 for cripes sake! And I don't think ANY of that came from any secret information he might have gleaned from those shenanigans. His personal demons got in the way of his better judgment. But Watergate was paranoia, not policy. And without Watergate? No one today would even know who Gerald Ford was.
Nixon would be a RINO today. He may have been perceived as pretty hard-Right in his day, but remember that he was coming in after Lyndon Johnson, maybe the last public servant who was still supporting the "New Deal" philosophy of Roosevelt. IMHO? He also had his policy flaws (Vietnam?) but he was the last truly liberal President, and maybe the last truly principled, leader we've had in the White House.
I feel it's important to point out that Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford all had distinguished military service in foreign theatres, as did Sen. Goldwater. This distinction is lacking when we turn our attention to:
Reagan never had to be a hero (but he played one on TV!), or even come close to an enemy – his 'service' was all done state-side. I'm not sure if that is the difference – merely memorizing the lines and mouthing the words – vs actually having to live the life... Anyway, you and others have repeatedly pointed out Reagan's faults, to which I would only add. Reagan probably could be classified as the 'event horizon' of 'principled Conservatism.'
Wait... who "hates Reagan" now? ;)
Speaking of Reagan, who popularized the term 'welfare queen,' now might be a good time for an aside on my thoughts on the welfare state:
I don't consider myself a heartless bastard so I care, at least a little, about my fellow inhabitants on this speck of mud we call home. I subscribe to the oft mis-attributed phrase "Charity begins at home..." - unfortunately, it seems to end there as well for the modern crop of Republicans. I would challenge them to prove that they are not heartless bastards by "promote(ing) the general Welfare" - not necessarily by taxing and funding social programs, perhaps by getting personally involved? Many folks would defend their charity by saying "I donate..." clothing (they no longer wear,) household items, canned goods, yada, yada, yada – I do that too. Here's the difference – it takes money and people for the kind non-profits to operate – those canned goods that you wouldn't eat unless you were starving, those clothes that you cleaned out of your closet to make room for newer, more fashionable (or better-fitting, whatever) clothing – they're NOT going to collect, warehouse, sort, repackage and distribute themselves. It takes trucks, fuel, space and PEOPLE!
OK, first of all? No one thinks of themselves as a "heartless bastard." I'm sure even Rush Limbaugh thinks of himself as a generous and magnanimous guy fighting for what he honestly believes is right. I'm not suggesting the you are one, not at all, only that this statement doesn't really mean anything. ;)
Second of all, while I applaud anyone's participation in charity, and feel that there is a lot of good work being done in that area... Do you really think it would ever be enough? If we got rid of the welfare state, do you really think a few dollars here and there, some threadbare clothing, and as many cans of creamed corn will really make up the difference? What's more, I propose that if the taxes were lower proportionately, once those programs were cut, that charitable donations might actually DROP as the marginal return, in terms of the tax deduction, drops.
What more, while I don't adopt the label "Keynesian," I do understand how Keynesian economics WORKS. All that welfare money? Goes right into the economy. Every after-tax penny of it immediately becomes someone else's income. People who WORK. And people who would also be OUT OF WORK in that big chuck of revenue was suddenly denied them or their employer. (Which in turn would that much less consumption by those people, and less revenue for than many more businesses.) Whether or not huge deficits can change the course of an economy is up for debate. What is FACT is that Taxing and Spending - in unison, now, as a balanced budget - increase incomes for everyone. And cutting taxes and spending - in unison - will hurt just about everyone. Those rich folks at the top? They're going to be rich either way. They get every penny they pay in taxes BACK through all the increased consumption resulting from the increased spending. And the farther down the ladder the spending starts, the more people's income it will become before finally being whittled way by taxes and acts of non-consumption (savings.) Tax-cuts for the rich? Pretty much ALL end up as acts of non-consumption. They'll save it. So it benefits no one but them. But a welfare case? Spends every penny, and thus gives the highest economic benefit to the economy. THAT'S the fundamental difference between supply-siders and Keynesian: Recognition that the health of the economy depends far more on CONSUMPTION that it does PRODUCTION. (That, and a recognition of the fact that right now? Stuff is pretty cheap. WAGES and INCOME are what's keeping consumption down, not high prices.
I volunteer two hours every two weeks at a kitchen. (I'd do more, it's extremely rewarding in it's own 'warm-fuzzy' way, but I _really_ can't find the time in my schedule.) I manage to work in about 24 'unscheduled' hours a year for projects for Goodwill, SA and some local groups. I'm doing more than some (I suspect many,) and less than others (I suspect too few.)
I applaud you. I'm ashamed to say that I've done no more than donate, myself. And while I can make any excuse I want, I'll be honest: Even without the hectic family life, I probably still wouldn't donate much time. So you could argue that I'm as much a part of the problem, from the Left. But hey, I'll do my part: I pay my taxes, and I'm not out campaigning to get rid of the social safety nets. In fact, I would see them strengthened. That may seem like the weaker choice from a Conservative's perspective, but I simply believe that more can be accomplished for the rich, middle class and poor alike by using the resources of the Federal Government instead of society loose change. And remember: Johnson, Nixon/Ford, Carter? All of those administrations were basically deficit neutral, at least as compared to everyone since Reagan. So it's not the "Great Society" program that are killing us. It our unwillingness to PAY for this great nation, thanks in large part to Ronald "Event Horizon" Reagan and the culture of deficit spending that he kicked off.
I challenge any 'Republican' (or anyone else, for that matter,) who decries the cost of social programs and the tax burden they cause to step-up and either whip out their checkbook or invest their time – otherwise they should admit that they're heartless bastards or, STFU, pay their taxes, and attempt to salve their consciences with the previously mentioned "I donate..." defense. (sorry for the rant – one of my pet peeves.)
Hey, I hear you. And I feel a little bit better now about saying "I donate," because I'm NOT one of the one's complaining about high taxes.
Back to your post: "For me, the label (and the party) is irrelevant. I'm pretty sure we both just think what we think and believe as we do. You're mat be more comfortable with the one label, or party. Me? I couldn;t care less what soemone wants to call it."
In "The Federalist Papers" #10, Madison rails against 'Factions' (political parties,) as does Washington in his Farewell Address – Who am I to pit myself against these and other great thinkers on that subject? Unfortunately, a 'mob mentality' trumps logic. Many people can't be bothered to think independently and have forgotten the wisdom of their elders (or betters, as the case may be.) I would say that modern life has become too fast-paced to allow for considered thought and reasonable debate – but I take our conversation to be evidence that this is not the case. Hell, even during the Founders time, dirt-farmers who worked from sun-up to sun-down managed to find the time to weigh-in on political issues. (I guess they weren't too busy watching TV.)
The evolution of Political Parties was inevitable. It's human nature and really the nature of a Democracy. Even in parliamentary systems, they still end up forming coalitions, so you effectively still end up with two sides: The Government and the Opposition. Those are a bit more diverse groups than what we have, but until recently there were Liberal Republicans, and there remains rather a few Conservative Democrats. But multiple parties just means split votes, and everything only gets messier. Like in Great Britain recently, where the Liberal Democrats, who are to the Left of Labor, joined with the Conservative to put them over the top. And it's a mess. The Liberals lost on all points - hence the austerity policies that are being enacted, and which I mentioned a few posts ago. So while Parties suck, there's really no way around them. Washington and Madison were absolutely right, but they were asking way too much of humanity.
I wouldn't mind if we had at least 5 or 6 viable parties that addressed a variety of issues, values and views. I feel the choices would stimulate thought and debate, and would be preferable to the two-party monopoly that we currently see.
Wouldn't matter. Wouldn't make a bit of difference. (See above, LOL) And more and more I'm coming to the impression that we really DON'T have two Parties. The Democrats have shown themselves to be little more than "Republican-lite." And the funny thing? The Tea-Baggers say the same thing about the Republicans!" And I can certainly perceive a POV form which BOTH of these statements are true! And that might be why Congress is so partisan: It's no longer about the policy. The policies aren't that far apart. So it's all about which team wins. Now if the TeaBagger's take over the right? And we have ourselves a little Coffee Party on the Left? And we compete for the moderates? (Thus moderating both sides in the process?) THEN we'll have true two-party system.
"What the right practices these days may not be "Conservative" but that's what it's called and I utterly reject it. And if they're going to throw the "Liberal" label at me, then screw 'em. I'LL WEAR IT WITH PRIDE."
So you're OK with letting dishonest people pervert the meaning of words? I know you're not, and neither is Classic! There should be no shame in those labels. We are victims of a campaign to distort the language and those subversives who are conducting that campaign should be called-out and beaten over the head with a dictionary. (Pocket-version or collegiate with large type – depending on the severity of the crime.)
It's not that I'm "OK" with the meaning of words being perverted. But I'm still a pragmatist. You say "Conservative" but I hear very little from you that I can't, very fairly, call "Liberal." So you choose to use a definition that most people, for whatever reason, no longer really consider valid. Tragic yes, buts that;'s the reality of it. If I really wanted to choose a label for myself? Anti-Neo-Conservative might fit better than any. But is there really any difference between that and "Liberal"? Not really. And hey, "Anti-Neo-Conservative" might be another way of saying "Classic Conservative" or even "Libertarian." The only thing that puts me on the side of "Liberal" is my recognition that the policies of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson work.
And the political Landscape shifted far more in the past 30 years than I have. I've matured: After all I was only 8 years old when Reagan was elected. So while I could idolize him as a kid, I had little understanding of policy. Now that I do, I find that it's not so much that my core beliefs have changed, only that I didn't realize, as a child, how much Reagan differed form them. And I don't think ANYONE at the time realized the full extent of the long-lasting damage his polices would do.
In 1979, I may have been just Left of center. But I find myself practically on the hard Left now, because the republic's perception of the Center has been puled so far to the Right! And really I don't care about the Label, or the Party. They're just tools I can use to describe what I believe in, in a simple way that can give a complete stranger some idea what those beliefs are. It's not a perfect picture, but I dare say that when I say "Liberal" people get a more accurate picture of me than the do of YOU when you say "Conservative."
You can argue who's right and who's wrong. (Answer: You're right; they're wrong.) I'm just being practical. I can't change the world if no one knows what the hell I'm talking about! LOL
"And it shows."
"So... COME TO THE DARK SIDE!!! (we have cake)"
But I'm watching my weight! ;)
"Thanks for your comment, and for that lucid, principled, well written post on MMFA. Can I use it?"
Fine Print: Copyright restrictions, yada, yada, yada. In whole or in part, etc. Not valid in any other state (of mind.) /Fine Print Thanks for the compliment, you're welcome to quote me. (Especially now that you threw my half-baked idea for solar-powered nuke waste-disposal out there for the world to see. Who knew being outed could be so liberating! Freed from the secret shame. Joy!)
I give up. I'm not even sure at this point WHAT "shows." LOL. But I'm glad we agree. LOL
PART the SECOND – RE: Oh, hey Okie, one thing
Ed note: "Okie" refers to someone from Oklahoma – capitalization and use correct in that sense. okiepoli is the screen-name of one opinionated blow-hard from Oklahoma – not capitalized by choice – suitable short-form "okie"
Duely noted. ;)
You said: ""Larger" Government (whatever THAT means) might be harder to "keep track" of, but "smaller" government, by contrast, give any/all of the individals in it more power individually. Personally, I'd like to try it the opposite way... Check out www.thirty-thousand.org.
I followed that link from your blog 22 July, 2010, and collected 7.73 Megs of information from the site and related links – I admit I am intrigued, but haven't had the time to digest and analyze it yet. My argument on size of government is more to do with scope rather than numbers of people or dollars. That said, I still believe that 'smaller' (limited scope,) more efficient (most-bang-for-buck) government is better than 'larger' (broad scope,) inefficient (expanding bureaucracy) government. (My definition of bureaucrat: a non-elected public 'servant' whose decrees (regulations, codes, etc.) carry the weight of law (I can be fined, jailed or otherwise punished for non-compliance.))
I offer this personal observation to clarify my position:
Recently, the OKC "Jesus House" non-profit made the news due to some scandalous activity. My conversations with other volunteers leads me to believe the allegations are true, and I will no longer donate money to that organization until the problems are corrected. It saddens me because Jesus House is such a valuable resource for the homeless in my city, and I know that many others are withholding donations and it has more of a negative effect on the quality and quantity of services offered than it does to the (mis-)management. Still, I made the choice – not some bureaucrat in a bureaucracy that is slow to recognize and correct it's mistakes. I agree – poverty, homelessness, hunger, etc. in the wealthiest nation in the world, is shameful. I also believe, with all my heart, that a government cannot adequately address, much less cure, these social ills.
I'm also dismayed by the Republican support of 'faith-based' organizations – tax-exempt for 501c's I'm OK with, but any kind of grant with that provision seems to cross the line I draw for separation. Where would we stop? If we give a penny to the next "Heaven's Gate" cult, we'd need to give three cents to the next Branch Davidians, more to the next Jim Jones, etc. until we get to the more main-stream folks. (Based on the percent of population represented by these faiths.) To apportion the money otherwise would smack of favoritism.
Again, government (federal) should concern itself with government affairs, LIKE PRESENTING A BUDGET FOR THE PRESIDENT TO SIGN BY APRIL, instead of shirking it's (Congress) Constitutional duty and running the country on continuing resolutions. State and local governments should concern themselves with their respective concerns. Society, through the efforts of it's members and Non-governmental Organizations (NGO's) should address social problems. There are levels of scope involved for each – local, regional, national, global – and levels of commitment. Political and social involvement is a citizens duty.
Wow. That's mouthful and then some! LOL. I really don't DISAGREE with anything you've said here. My only "counter," if that's even the right word for it, is this:
1) As I stated previously, there are far more resources available at the federal level to combat poverty that would otherwise be available at the charitable level. We need BOTH, and of course I'm fine with people dong charitable work. I just don't understand the mentality that the two must be in competition with each other, instead of part of the same solution. (Which is how I see them.)
And we DO have a repsonsibilty ot combat that poverty if for no other reason than we don't actually aim for full employemnt! As a coutnry, we actually have a targeted unemployment rate! So if we're going to keep ANYONE out of work as a matter of policy, I'd say we have some responsibility to them.
2) Regarding "punishing wrongdoing." I'm going to offer something I learned, from a very conservative professor I might add, when I got my MBA. In any given organization, redundantcny combats fraud. It does this by requiring more people to be involved in any given conspiracy. And the more people involved, the more likely that one squeals or that it is otherwise discovered.
You can see a very simple example of this at the movie theatre: Why do you pay one person and then give your ticket to someone else? Why don;t you just PAY and then GO IN? Because by separating the two processes, you have an accurate count of ticket purchases from one person, that makes it harder for the cashier to steal from the register without being caught. And even if they tried to coordinate their efforts, all it would take is to be off by one or two ticket purchases here and there for management to know something's screwy is going on.
In contrast, a friend of mine has her own business. She's very good at the service she provide, but she's not much at the business side of things. She had just two people running the office, doing the billing and tracking the books. And these two? Milked her to the tune of $700,000 over several years. How? No redundantcny. No one checking theirr work. No checks and balances against which their numbers would ever be compared. By the time she finally caught on? Her business was on the brink of bankruptcy.
People get frustrated with bureaucracies, and that's understandable. But at least in those cases their is a PROCESS. If I'm dealing with one person who has all the power? That can be a mixed blessing, big time. If s/he wants to help me it's great. But if their job is as a gatekeeper? And they DON'T want to help me? I'm twice as screwed as I am dealing with the bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are SLOW. But a single point of decision making? Is FINAL. And of course, it becomes very easy for that person to pull of the very kind of shenanigans you are describing, if there are not redundant layers of process that his work will be compared against.
Again, big or small doesn't really matter to me. The fact that so many things don't work, IMHO, has nothing to do with the size. It has to do with political games where people don't like something so they slash their budget and then go on TV and say, "Look! It doesn't even WORK!" We can accomplish great things when we want to. And we'd be that much better off if politicians and the media weren't so good at fooling people. I maintain, and I think you;d agree with me, that a well infomred populace would all but wipe out the modern Republican party. (And the modern Democrats as well, but they would be pushed back to their more historcical place in the true American Left.)
Anyway, that was a very interesting perspective, but I still don't see why you cling to the labels like you do! I read what you say, and, right or wrong, it just doesn't jive what I think of when I hear "Conservative" and certainly not when I hear "Republican."
And thanks so much for the e-mail, and for your continuous contributions to this blog. I don't think you'll be changing my positions anytime soon (I don't think we're all that far apart on most things to begin with) but I do really appreciate having a principled Conservative around to keep me honest!