Over the past six months, we have maintained an active neutrality between Presidential candidates Donald Trump & Ted Cruz. Avowedly Conservative, outspoken in opposition to Socialist trends & usurpations since a High School Sophomore in 1950, we have seen a great many Conservative political campaigns lost in a failure to recognize a common interest among political factions--all too often simply in a failure to understand reasons for the different immediate focus of otherwise natural allies. Our "active neutrality" is in response to a recognition of that problem.
To better understand both the danger & remedy to an unfortunate, but growing, antagonism between Trump & Cruz supporters, seeking support from Conservative Americans in the coming Presidential Primaries, it is necessary to draw attention to a long-standing fallacy in political analysis: A mistaken notion that you can correctly measure the level, quality or degree, of one's Conservatism either by a check list of particular stands, or by how one explains or does not explain his approach to political decision making. The problem is that particular stands on political or social issues (including the economic) will always depend to a major extent on each individual's subjective focus; while how a subject explains or does not explain an approach to decision making, will depend on just whom he is trying to impress.
There is no real litmus test for Conservatism; as should be obvious to anyone on brief reflection. Conservatism is--and always has been, as the term connotes--about preserving what one considers important, in a social, cultural, historic & genetic heritage. One person may be more focused on one aspect, another on another. There is no natural law that demands that all have the same focus--indeed, the notion flies in the face of the concept that man is Blessed with Free Will; with freedom to decide priorities--and, of course, bear the consequences.
Conservatism is about preserving social--both cultural & material, as well as spiritual, family & historic--achievement. It is not about the purity of particular stands on particular issues; not judged by an arbitrary check list; nor about the weight to be given to any particular stand, in understanding the total perspective of any subject. Attempts to redefine "conservatism," so as to measure adherence to an arbitrary litmus test, do not measure conservatism, but the subjectivity of the litmus test designer--one who, whether or not truly conservative is, at least to the extent that he deigns to measure others by so subjective a standard, clearly an egoist.
It is not in any Conservative interest to disparage Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. The primary appeal of the one nicely complements that of the other; each having a strong particular appeal to a distinct segment of the broader Conservative constituency. Donald Trump's greatest appeal is to a patriotic motivation--a "my country right or wrong" mentality;--while Ted Cruz has the greater appeal to those who justify Conservatism in terms of the specific philosophic arguments, which guided the Founding Fathers in creating the institutions now challenged. To turn America back towards her heritage, this November, we need maximum support from both those who now back Donald Trump & those who now back Ted Cruz. Our purpose, here, is to illustrate aspects of this premise, to make it easier to work together.
That Donald Trump is very willing to stand up for traditional American values, is clear in his total disdain for a "politically correct," apologetic American, idiocy that has long stifled Conservatives in academia & in the mass media. While he does not usually expound on the philosophic roots of Conservatism, as do many of us--including this writer & Ted Cruz;--that is not a correct measure (or any measure, really) of the extent of his commitment to the preservation of the cultural, material & historic achievements of rooted Americans. Such difference in the method of advocacy--of projecting or prioritizing certain Conservative values-- does not determine who is, or is not, a Conservative.
Has Trump advocated some non-Conservative programs in the past? To be sure. Does he take a popular, as opposed to an academic & philosophic approach to major issues? To be sure. Does that make a patriotic American, who wants to preserve the culture & greatness of America--who has compellingly changed his personal focus in that direction--less of a Conservative than one who claims a right to "grade" others on previous philosophic focus, rather than their present commitment & purpose? No. It does not. The person who wants to grade on verbal focus, rather than dedication to preservation--to ultimate purpose, rather than method or technique;--is on an ego trip, not a philosophic search. Philosophy is about finding truth, not marketing a particular approach.
Donald Trump has been effective because most Conservatives--as most of those of any shade of opinion--are driven more by emotional identification with a political & social perspective, than by complex philosophic analysis. It is idiotic to reject that approach in any political campaign.
An equally mistaken political course--here with respect to Ted Cruz--is to reject a man of demonstrated principle--and the clear intellectual ability to argue effectively for that principle--because he is not oriented to a pseudo pragmatism. To specifically apply the point to Ted Cruz, who stands like a rock for the enduring values of the Founders of America: He has been attacked as "ineffective," because lesser Senators, betraying their oaths for personal advantage, have declared him difficult to work with. While Cruz may indeed seem rigid to those who choose not to see the whole picture; a refusal to compromise principle, in order to get along with corrupt colleagues, is certainly not an approach that Conservatives should ever reject. While it may be possible for Donald Trump to put such fear of consequences into the minds of the corrupt, to force many to behave better; that hardly diminishes the moral standing or ultimate effectiveness of a Senator, who perhaps better than any other, clearly understands & honors the enduring Constitutional intent.
Now while maintaining neutrality between Trump & Cruz, our inclination is to comment on an aspect of the present campaign, which reflects a recurring problem for political Conservatives for generations: a tendency among self-anointed Conservative "intellectuals"--perhaps only misguided egoists--to engage in what is now deemed "politically correct" (even thirty years before anyone coined the term), to try to force a particular egoist's check-list of priorities on the rest of us. Thus National Review recently devoted an issue to attacking Trump, from a parochial perspective of what they would define as "Conservatism."
The problem is not that National Review writers argue for certain Conservative values--that is certainly fine. The point is that they fail to acknowledge that other Conservative values, are Conservative values. They have been engaging in the pretense that they have some special mandate to decide what is acceptable Conservative behavior for over half a century; relying on a variety of intellectual "snobbery" to denigrate Conservative political figures, who appeal more to the common voter than to a far smaller number of more academically focused Conservative writers.
National Review is not alone in this attitude. Generally the same approach has been followed by competing journalists, also claiming to speak for Conservatism. Thus, Donald Trump has been assailed as a "populist," as was George Wallace in the 1960s & Pat Buchanan in the 1990s; although both Wallace & Buchanan were actually more Conservative, on more issues, than many of those who arrogantly mislabeled them. (To illustrate the point, Phyllis Schlafly, who wrote the book, A Choice Not An Echo, which contributed more to the 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater than perhaps any other, has more impeccable Conservative credentials than anyone now at National Review. She recently endorsed Donald Trump as the best hope for America today.)
Now, do not mistake the point. There have been many genuinely Conservative writers, who at one time or another wrote for National Review. There have been times when the journal has been a major contributor to the Conservative cause. But their antics in trying to convince others that patriotic induced Conservatism is less truly Conservatism than academic postulations on particular issues--often modified to humor the "politically correct"--only make them look ridiculous.
Note the link to the article on Jason Richwine, below, as another example of how "politically correct Conservatives" actually have conceded core issues, as to the preservation of heritage, to the Academic Left. Or consider how the free traders, who currently disparage Donald Trump on tariffs, illustrate the same point.
The Founding Fathers favored tariffs as a method of raising revenue, while rejecting the very notion of a graduated income tax. Being Jeffersonian, we have always opposed high tariffs; but pro-or con, positions on tariffs will never define one as a "Conservative" or "Radical." Each side can point to deeply rooted values of earlier proponents. And so far as the economic argument, that high tariffs interfere with optimum economic development? That is not the defining point.
Tariffs are not just--or even primarily--intended as a protection for local industry. They are also a traditional (i.e. to that extent Conservative) way to fund Government. Will increasing graduated income taxes, which wreak havoc on capital formations, provide a more benign approach to raising revenue? Do those egoists, posing as defenders of "Conservatism," in denouncing Donald Trump for threatening to raise tariffs to protect American jobs, even want to discuss the subject?
Not having a clear answer, we have deliberately not weighed in on the Ted Cruz eligibility issue. There are complicating factors, which almost no one has addressed. It would be tragically ironic--yet not necessarily juridically wrong--if the candidate, who shows the clearest understanding of the Founders' philosophic perspective, were to be disqualified from serving. Our prayer is that Cruz will take Trump's advice and seek an expedited Declaratory Judgment, so we can all look forward. Our other prayer is that the supporters of each will tone down the unnecessary antagonism.
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