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Hogarth judge

February 2018

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I won't be forced to breed children!

An open letter to the Republican Party

One fact ought to be obvious to Republicans on Nov. 7, 2012.  The anti-abortion cult cost us the Senate. 

Todd Akins's stupid remarks about "legitimate rape" and Richard Mourdock's pithering that rape babies represent "the will of God" lost their races for them.  In doing so, of course, they deprived the Republican Party of its fiftieth and fifty-first seats.  If obstructing Obama at every turn is the chief purpose of the Republican party (and it shouldn't be), these two made it much harder. 

We have a problem.  As a lifelong Republican, I want the Republican party to become a majority party that wins elections.  We do, in fact, need to seriously address the issue of the Federal deficit and the expansion of entitlements.  Running against a less than popular President in a still poor economy, we ought to have had a fighting chance.  But frankly, noisy elements of the Party are scaring voters away.

The Republican party needs to move way back towards the center.  It especially needs to reduce the public profile of cultists and cranks, and hopefully, reduce their impact on our selection of candidates.  We need to stop making ourselves repugnant to educated and intelligent people. 

1. Conservatism

I consider myself a conservative with libertarian leanings that don't quite go all the way to full-fledged Libertarianism.  But while I see plenty of right-wing politics in the contemporary Republican Party, I see damned little conservatism.

Conservatism, to me, is a social philosophy, not an ideology or doctrine, that favors the retention of traditional institutions and social structures.  If they change, and they inevitably will, that change should ideally be organic and spontaneous, not forced.  More than anything else, it means always having an eye towards the downside, a skepticism about all forms of abstract doctrine, moral crusades, and plans from a book, and having the iron law of unintended consequences always in view. 

It follows from this that real conservatives like the American people pretty much as they are.  Real conservatism, by definition, excludes people who think that Americans are marching down the highway to hell, or that God will send plagues upon our heads for re-electing Obama.  If you think that, you aren't a conservative: you're just a kook, and you probably belong to a cult as well. 

It also follows from this that real conservatives like the American government pretty much as it is.  At minimum, you acknowledge that the government we now have, and as it has now developed, is in fact the government established by the U. S. constitution.  It has changed greatly from 1789, of course, responding to such crises as the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II.  But it has changed organically and naturally, through the legal procedures the Founders established.  Conservatives wish to strengthen and preserve its institutions, from the U.S. military to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. Constitution is not a scripture of any sort, and cannot be interpreted in a fundamentalist manner.  Doing so, again, is not conservative: it puts  doctrine before experience, the one thing conservatives do not do.  The framers may have been wiser than our contemporaries, but they were no cleverer.  They were politicians, not prophets; and canny but compromising politicians as well.  The features of the government they established, from the infamous clause that holds that a slave is 3/5 of a man, to the baroque feature of the Electoral College, were shot through with a spirit of compromise.  They compromised because it was the only way to get things done.

Doctrinaire readings of the Constitution that would wreak radical change on the shape of our current institutions are not conservative, even if they are founded on arguments from the text coupled with a sense that they represent the way things ought to be.  It's easy to see that the enactment of such doctrines would mess things up in unforeseen ways, even as the adoption of the gold standard would bring entirely foreseeable chaos. 

Real conservatives also acknowledge that the Constitution must be interpreted through the lens of history.  Arguments about state nullification of Federal law and proposals to secede from the union were settled in some minor unpleasantness about 150 years ago.  These arguments are dead and gone; when Lee surrendered at Appomatox, he surrendered them on your behalf.  Reviving them would not even occur to real conservatives. 

Real conservatives sound like moderates, in other words, because moderation and the exclusion of zealotry is the essence of conservatism.  The Republican In Name Only nonsense is anti-conservative to the core.  Conservatism by definition is lack of allegiance to an ideology, a doctrine, or a program. 

II. The anti-abortion cranks

The abstract doctrine that 'life begins at conception' began as a public relations ploy. Those who wanted legal abortion were for Freedom, so abortion opponents were for Life.  Unfortunately, ideas have consequences.  

What we have here now is a right-wing version of PETA, bawling for its lost darlings.  And this nonsense just cost us two Senate seats.  Two otherwise respectable candidates stood up before the people and declared that they believed that life begins at conception so sincerely that they'd be happy to force rape victims to carry children conceived in the crime to term.  They placed that high a value on the 'sacred lives' of pwecious widdle rape babies.  This hogwash repelled enough voters to cost them elections in solidly Republican states. 

The doctrine that life begins at conception is the foreign ideology of Europe's last fancy-dress dictatorship. I really do not care a fig about pwecious widdle darlings lost to abortion, and am happy that there are that many fewer welfare checks to write.  Every abortion today is a prison cell we won't have to pay for twenty years from now, and that makes the abstract argument about the beginning of life moot.  Do you really want hundreds of thousands more welfare babies and future criminals?

Moreover, my impression of the anti-abortion agitation underlines the fact that these are people that no conservative should want to empower.  The animal rightsers are our second worst group of domestic terrorists; the anti-abortion cranks are the worst.  They routinely commit murder and arson.  They're the sort of people who want to regale folks with dead fetuses in prime time.  You don't want them at your dinner party. 

Because of this, the organic wisdom of our institutions is confirmed in Roe v.Wade.  I know that the constitutional claims of the case are improvised.  Again, I just don't care.  The Supreme Court was wise to take the question out of politics.  That should be upheld. 

I don't think that the issue will become less divisive if turned back over to the legislatures; we have enough meritless proposals from fanatics already, and we certainly do not want to give them free rein to convert hundreds of your neighbors into criminals, much less the "murderers" the crackpots say they are.  We don't need another law that will be very widely disregarded, especially when there are moralistic mouth-breathers out there bawling for the blood of offenders. 

If you think that life begins at conception, get a life. 

III.  Curse Israel.  They deserve it.

More than 30 million Americans apparently imagine that we are living in the 'end times' of Biblical prophecy.  They are, of course, wrong in this; and of course this is the sort of nonsense no real conservative would take seriously for a moment.  Real conservatives don't think the world is coming to an end.

These beliefs are heresy, for various complicated theological reasons I won't go into in great detail.  (The Apostles' Creed teaches one Second Coming, one Last Judgment, and most importantly, one communion of believers in which there is "neither Jew nor Christian"; for in fact, in traditional Christian theology, the Church is God's new Israel.  Most end-times prophecy systems get one or more of these points wrong.)  More importantly, they are not only wrong, but crazy wrong: an invitation to look at contemporary history through the paranoia of a mass psychosis. 

Because we aren't living in the end times, the existence of a Jewish state of Israel has no cosmic significance.  This is where end times belief turns from the hobby of occult kooks and into a threat to the welfare of the nation.  For, the cultists maintain, the United States can win at Armageddon: but only if we 'bless Israel'.  And by that, they mean endorsing all of the military and territorial ambitions of the Israeli government. 

We're in enough trouble for blessing Israel.  It's true that Israel has been a relatively reliable ally, though they do spy on us more than I'm comfortable with.  The Iraq war was based on misleading intelligence and answered Israel's dearest wish to be rid of Saddam Hussain.  We can blame the current federal deficit on our wish to 'bless Israel'. 

A real conservative approaches foreign policy from a pragmatic standpoint, rather than an idealistic one, and certainly not an apocalyptic one.  I frankly question what benefits we the people of the United States are deriving from our close relationship with Israel.  Their treatment of the Palestinians makes living a normal life in the occupied territories impossible.  Whether or not it's a great human rights cause, Israeli policy towards the West Bank and Gaza is guaranteed to produce a large body of idle young men with a deep sense of grievance and too much time on their hands.  This is not wise.

The End Times are merely psychotic ravings from cultists.  Jesus has not let anybody off the hook on the 'peacemaker' business.   We need there to be more light between the United States and Israel.  We cannot go to war with Iran because they might get a bomb that threatens Israel.  We cannot afford it.  We don't need to in any case.

IV.  Evolution is fact.  Get used to it.   

Evolution denial, like end times belief, is a social problem in itself.  Evolution is fact; there is no debate.  Evolution is the foundational truth at the core of biology.  Evolution deniers are either too unrooted in reality or simply too stupid to hold public office. 

Among the developed nations, the performance of American science education ranks poor to middling.  According to Harvard, Americans fall far behind Latvia, Chile and Brazil, who learn three times the science American pupils do; Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia and Lithuania are also improving much faster. 'Researchers estimate that gains made by students in those 11 countries equate to about two years of learning." (www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG12-03_CatchingUp.pdf))

This is unacceptable, people.  I would support the addition of a strong biology component focused on evolution to the No Child Left Behind test program, and strongly downgrade school programs who leave their students with an inadequate grounding in fact-based science.  Especially, test the damned homeschoolers too.   Let it be known that evolution deniers don't go to college.  Impose nationally improved textbooks vetted by experts, and take the matter out of local school boards that have a potential for cultist capture.  We cannot be held behind by the forces of militant ignorance. 

Evolution denial is just as lunatic as Holocaust denial, just as evil too, and an even worse social problem here in the USA.  Evolution denial in education is child abuse.  It has no place in the Republican Party.  

V.  Conclusion

We really need to bring the Republican Party back towards the center.  Doing so will require that we take deliberate steps to exclude cultists and cranks. 

Look at the crop of clowns that were the ones who were willing to participate in the last season's Republican primaries.  Do you seriously imagine that the rest of the country would ever consider Donald Trump a serious contender for the highest office in the nation?  Herman Cain?  Michelle Bachmann?  Rick Santorum?  Sarah Palin? 

I didn't see a conservative among that lot.  I saw a pack of social radicals who seem to think that most of their neighbors ain't living right.  Now, the left wing sort of social radicals at least have goals that sorta-kinda make sense, stuff like health care or environmental protection.  These social radicals have goals that are based entirely on occult gibberish. 

We have serious statesmen we could have called on, respected people like Colin Powell, or even my own state's Richard Lugar or Mitch Daniels.  I hope to see a saner crop come next season.  The Republican party can be a majority party that actually unites Americans and governs prudently and pragmatically, one that even people with degrees can vote for without holding their noses.  Or we can continue to rely on a dwindling base of excitable rustics and unregenerate segregationists. 

What we can't do is repeat the 2012 election. 

Comments

In the past week, I have seen several Republicans give views like these. This is what we need, sanity and realistic thinking on both sides and being able to listen on points where we do not agree.
Well said! I lean to the left myself, but I can agree with pretty much everything you say here. It's sad that conservatism has come to be associated with crazy ultra-right-wing nutjobs. I hope that changes.