BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
Here we are, weeks away from choosing a Republican nominee for President of the United States, and simultaneously experiencing what appears to be the destruction (and hopefully at a point very soon some evidence of renewal) of the GOP.
Tactics used here in Mississippi by political operatives in 2014 in the U.S. Senate race between Chris McDaniel and Thad Cochran; the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to democrats to get them to the polls and to vote in an open Republican primary, resulting in the stealing of an election from Republican voters by way of manipulation, are blossoming today across the country into an outright political revolt.
I take no great pride in saying, “We told you so.” But, well . . .
My own attempts to get the attention of the party leadership to address concerns began in 2011, three years before the 2014 debacle. I wish those who I have spoken with over the years had taken it more seriously. When confronted with the reality of the situation in private conversations, few disagreed with the assessment of where we appeared to be headed. The problem is that no one in party leadership cared to do what was needed. Most desired then, as today, to protect their turf.
Some stuck their heads in the sand, unwilling to believe what was coming. Others kept selling the lie they wanted desperately to believe; that their political machinations would always hold the masses in line and they could keep the taxpayer funded gravy train roaring along to their favorite political and special interests indefinitely.
It is unfortunate. The political establishment has whistled past the graveyard and ignored the obvious for too long and now the day of reckoning is upon us. Those who care enough to pay attention know it and feel it.
There are those of us who have made the case this is a result of the greed of our party officials, the self-centered promotion of unprincipled candidates,
and the subsidizing of their well heeled benefactors.
Many of us have been trying to point out that the ship has long broken free from her moorings.
As I have traveled and spoken to groups most recently, one of the first questions I ask is, “Does the GOP still believe in the Republican Party platform?”
I usually follow that with the questions: “Do we still believe in the conservative foundation upon which that platform is built?” “Do we still believe in the most conservative and successful charter ever devised and written, the United States Constitution?” “Do we still believe in the rule of law?” And, “do we still reject the rule of men?”
Most nod in agreement. I’ve never had anyone stand up and say otherwise.
Though some would answer affirmatively in belief of these fundamentals, many have been too overcome with the gamesmanship of politics, tempted by craftiness, and excited by the indulgences of building themselves up through the character assassination of their perceived “opposition”. The gamification of politics became far more enticing and fun than staying true to those shared principles, and the resulting desire to win above all else began a splintering effect that we are seeing today in a widening chasm of mistrust.
If we are to get back on track as a party, as a nation and as a society it seems to me we must get to the root of the problem. It began, in my estimation, in the early 90’s when the GOP began a concerted effort to reduce the influence of social conservatism as a central tenet.
Today the term “social conservatism”, like that of conservatism in general, is one of the most misapplied and misrepresented of any in our time. “Conservatism” as a term has been co-opted by the miscreant power seekers who use it only for purposes of rhetoric and agency, and much of the general voting public have swallowed this construction hook, line and sinker.
We hear the use of terms like “real conservative” and “true conservative” as a means by which some hope to be perceived as the only legitimate heirs, the keepers of the flame, as if there were such a thing. A studied view of the history of the movement, if it can be called that, shows that no one person nor group can lay claim to such a title.
Conservatism cannot be redefined and it cannot be owned because it does not rely on an adherence to new ideas of a new era, nor does it rely exclusively on the ideas of a singular or selected past moment in time. Conservatism is the embodiment of the successes of society from ALL eras to rise above base emotions and disagreement. Even when the term first came into being it wasn’t used to describe a “new and improved” way of governance, but rather a recognition of the principles that have been realized over time and passed down from generation to generation.
Conservatism is not ideology. It is a negation of ideology. It is an acceptance of human nature. It is a rejection of the centralization of power and the use of that central authority to force a corrupted form of justice, which is indeed not justice at all.
In fact, Justice is another term that has been bastardized and debased. True uncorrupted justice requires at it’s most fundamental level the adherence to virtue, and we see little of that today.
This is at the core of our current dilemma. Without a return to virtue, the conservative connection to the GOP will forever be broken. Moreover, without a return to virtue, that is, the development of personal character that builds a society and holds it in place, then conservatism is lost forever regardless of the flavor of our politics.
While conservatism drives many to participate in politics, it is the studied person who understands this to be an uneasy connection. Politics is all too often about force, manipulation, and division. Unity, on the other hand, cannot be demanded of free people. It must be accepted through participation. Conservatism is about the permanent things that have united us throughout the history of mankind. These are the discoveries and the belief in timeless virtues that keep all of society from falling into chaos.
But how many in a culture of made for television reality really care anymore about permanence? The answer seems to be “not nearly enough.”
What are these virtues? They are many. But they are summed up in one term: order. The order of society is a grand reflection of the order of the individual soul. And that, my friends, is the root of our problem today. We have rejected order and replaced it with our own ideas, our own shrewd systems of control, and our own negative judgements of those we live and work alongside everyday, yet rarely ever get to truly know. In the place of permanence and reality we have substituted manufactured drama.
We have rejected true justice–that is, to each his own–and we have replaced it with our own version of a social justice built upon what a centralized force tells us is right, what is compassionate and “necessary.” We have replaced our struggle for individual integrity in our own face to face interactions with others with an unhealthy hero worship and the desire for oligarchical control to define justice for us. We have become sluggards begging for someone to do the difficult work in place of our individual discipline and internal admonition.
We have manipulated others for our own selfish purposes, and now we have become victims of a manipulative culture that we helped construct. We now live in a culture where lies can become truth no matter how definitively the facts prove otherwise, and where truth becomes a lie based on the personal outcomes preferred.
Until the GOP and the voters recognize that the departure from virtue and from truth and the descent into manipulative power and greed is at the root of what ails us, we will continue to see the rise of the type of politics we are witness to today.
Until we recognize again as our founding fathers did that all freedom comes from God and only a virtuous people can properly maintain that freedom, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of civilizations past.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege to write and discuss policy, history, philosophy, and politics with a much wider audience than I ever had reason to expect when I began. Many of you have been avid readers and I greatly appreciate the community of thoughtful friendship we have built together. I hope you’ll join me again over the next few weeks, maybe months–however long it takes–as I delve into the deeper discussion of these topics from the perspective of virtue.
For whatever reason it has been laid on my heart and in my mind that this subject should get a more detailed hearing. I don’t see too many addressing our challenges from this perspective right now, certainly not in a detailed way that might provide agreement. I hope you’ll join me as many of you have in years past as I try to find some detailed order in my own understanding. This could be a longer series than any I have ever before attempted. As always, I look forward to receiving your comments.
In the end we have to come to grip with the fact that there is nothing new under the sun, no matter how easily we are induced into glassy-eyed wonder at the “next greatest thing”.
There is no social construct, ideology nor philosophy that history hasn’t already proven to be contrary to liberty, and there is only one that we know to be the true protector of it. It has already been clearly defined. The question is do we as a society have the courage to recognize that “strait is the gate and narrow is the way.”
Do we have reason left to believe that enough people of character willing to engage still exist, and that a large enough and influential enough portion of society can come to the realization that the old way forward is still the only way forward?
Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He 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 email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett