BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
It is unfortunate to see the misrepresentation going on by Ryan Walters, and his descent into labeling and grouping anyone and everyone who doesn’t adhere to what he perceives to be the “politically correct” way to worship at the “politically correct” alter.
His latest comes on the heels of some anonymous hack coming after me personally for the unforgivable sin of suggesting politics in Mississippi needs some grownups to enter the room.
I don’t know what the newfound fascination is with me personally. I recall writing nothing that is a departure from the positions I have held and have written about for over a decade. But, unlike the personal attacks of the cowardly whose politics are about gossip mongering and drama, at least Ryan mentions a somewhat substantive position to make his argument and he stands behind it enough to put his name on it.
Ryan claims in his commentary to being “truly astonished” that I would be:
sick of people who want to wear the Constitution like body armor, while refusing to educate themselves as to the social responsibilities that make communities work and fulfills the promise of the God-given freedom that the Constitution recognizes.
Ryan writes that he was “taken aback by such talk from someone who claims to believe as ‘WE’ do” (Emphasis on the word ‘WE’ is mine). He goes on to add that my reference to the term ‘social responsibility’ is just too near the “progressive notion of social justice” and that “the Constitution is not about that” and has “nothing to do with it”.
I notice he didn’t bother to provide a link to the entire article to let his readers investigate for themselves the full context of my commentary outside of his interpretation of handpicked passages. Looks like the divide and conquer tactics aren’t solely the territory of liberal Democrats or “establishment” Republicans these days.
Constitutional Conservatism Has A History
Knowing that he is a history guy, I doubt Ryan is unfamiliar with Alexis de Tocqueville. Maybe he would like to brush up a bit.
Tocqueville was a French political thinker and wrote what is considered to be among the first publications on political science and sociology. He was a supporter of the French Revolution and the principles of representative government. In 1831 he traveled to the United States to record his thoughts and to analyze the social conditions of the new Constitutional Republic for the purpose of helping his native France deal with the upheaval in their own system of government.
His detached and scientific approach to observations of the American experience and social order under the United States Constitution have been widely referenced and revered. His writing has influenced some of the greatest political philosophers and scientists in history, and his theories on why the American experience was successful have largely been proven through studies that show where things went off track for our nation. There is a direct philosophical line that moves from Locke and Burke who influenced the Founding Fathers to Tocqueville, and finds its way eventually through Hayek, Kirk, Friedman, and Buckley before settling on Goldwater and then Ronald Reagan. These are but a few of the names. There are many, many more in that long line.
So what did Tocqueville think about the concept of community in our Constitutional Republic? I’ll borrow a passage from writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry:
Most conservatives usually sing the virtues of local government as “laboratories of democracy”–in other words, if we have decentralized government, different places can try different things out and a) find solutions that work better for their particular problems and b) help bubble up good ideas from the local level to the state and national level.
That’s all true enough but, Tocqueville says, local government is fundamental not so much because it’s a “laboratory” of democracy but because it’s a school of democracy. Through such accountable and democratic government, Americans learn to be democratic citizens. They learn to be involved in the common good. They learn to take charge of their own affairs, as a community. Tocqueville writes that it’s because of local democracy that Americans can make state and Federal democracy work—by learning, in their bones, to expect and demand accountability from public officials and to be involved in public issues.
Conservative stalwart Russell Kirk’s work in defining conservatism’s moorings put it even more succinctly. He said:
Modern society urgently needs true community; and true community is a world away from collectivism. Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions, conservatives strive to keep community healthy.
Kirk further explains:
Conservative principles shelter the hopes of everyone who desires equal justice and personal freedom and all the lovable old ways of humanity. Conservatism is not simply a defense of “capitalism.”
Constitutional Conservatism that maintains healthy communities through voluntary associations–and how big government schemes and federal bureaucratic discretion have robbed the people in communities of the value of those associations–is further explained in the research of political scientists and public policy professors like Charles Murray and Robert Putnam, among others.
In other words, this is not a new concept. In fact, it’s the core principle of conservative thought throughout history.
“Conservatism Of Thought And Imagination“
Chris McDaniel himself spoke of this in his Town Hall tour during the U.S. Senate campaign, and he specifically referenced Putnam’s work on the importance of community while in DeSoto County discussing traditional values and . . . you guessed it . . . Social Conservatism.
Does that mean Ryan disagrees with Chris on the importance of community, and if so does Ryan fail his own purity test? Is he a “true conservative” and is he really a “McDaniel Republican” or does this disagreement disqualify him? Should ‘WE’ be “taken aback” by such a notion?
I won’t pass judgement by claiming to be able to answer any of those questions about Ryan. But that’s the point. He has no claim to be able to answer those questions about anyone else, either.
I thought shutting down engaged dialogue by way of dehumanizing labels and angry agitation based in personality politics was a tactic used by Progressives who couldn’t otherwise defend their position. Unfortunately, it seems to have made its way into the unhinged rants of a few of our own who want blind allegiance to a political brand instead of honest discussion of public policy built on principle. It’s a form of political jihad, with the end purpose being to convert or silence by intimidation.
Some prefer to work towards creating a reconnection to the traditional values of social conservatism that act as check against federal encroachment on personal responsibility. You can count me among that number which is why I’ve been happy to be a part of the re-launch of Generation Mississippi.
You can watch the video about it’s inception HERE.
Others can play the political games with the name-calling and divisive drama devoid of any real substance. As for me, I think Russell Kirk’s words written back in 1957 still apply today when he said “modern radicalism detests religious faith, private virtue, traditional personality, and the life of simple satisfactions. Everything worth conserving is menaced in our generation. Mere unthinking negative opposition to the current of events, clutching in despair at what we still retain, will not suffice in this age. A conservatism of instinct must be reinforced by a conservatism of thought and imagination.”
That is a view of conservatism that is based in real-world application from it’s historically correct place. And yes, when it comes to providing the formal structure that requires the people to participate in maintaining their freedom or risk losing it, history shows us that the Constitution most certainly IS “about that.”
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett