Wisdom And Advocating The Essence of republicanism

On this past FOX News Sunday, they had Florida Republican Senate candidates Governor Charlie Crist and Speaker of the state House of Representatives Marc Rubio for a little debate. Crist is a traditional Republican who has picked up the endorsement of many national traditional Republicans. Rubio is an assertive ideological conservative who, with the revitalized conservative energy, has in a few months achieved a 30-40m point swing to a comfortable lead in the polls. It seemed to me that based on Crist’s polling deficit and the feeble attacks he had attempted in the previous week, that his best hope would be to try to politically kneecap Rubio with attempts to undermine his character.

Pretty quickly, Crist asserted that “We have a fundamental difference in our outlook on governing.” He said he thought government officials should use their office “to try to help people…” Those are words a liberal could be proud of. Rubio should have said, “Yes we do have a fundamental difference. I want to advance the exercise and the unique creative and productive potential of liberty.” Liberty is the fuel for human achievement and production that has created the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of the world.

I listened to a talk show host Wednesday, and a caller called in complaining that Republicans didn’t have a short and simple message to take to the black population like Democrats do (this was a conservative black caller). The host agreed. But, I thought about that and discussed an answer with my dad, at lunch. The essential message that conservatives must hammer is in two points, from which all the details flow, just as all of the commandments are summarized by and in Jesus as, love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

  1. An essential message of America’s founding is the wonder and the preeminence of liberty. Liberty is not only the essence of man’s experience as a free being, it is also the fuel of man’s drive, creativity and production, as evidenced in what developed in the American experience.
  2. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” This second essential is a foundation of morality (which defines republican – small “r”) beneath democracy. This is the answer to Democrats’ challenges about tending to the weak and/or deprived. Yes of course, we should tend to the weak and deprived. But that must be, “we, the people” and our communities, as I mentioned in the earlier email. And, it pointedly should not be we, the government, as that idea entirely destroys the idea of charity. Charity is the decency of the people, without which freedom and democracy won’t work. Quite to the contrary, government is the force of the law and ultimately the gun, which is no charity at all.

As I said, everything else that Republicans (large “r”) so often wade into the weeds to explain, flow from these two essential foundations. It produces the desirable ends that they often contend for, but it is the simple magic of liberty that is the essence of the message. And Republicans mustn’t cede the “moral” argument that Democrats make, but must defend the value of encouraging morality in the people, by advocating that as the essential companion of liberty to a good society. I hope you see that that somewhat mitigates against a purely libertarian/Randian sort of defense of liberty.


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