Introductory Mea Culpa
Intellectual honesty requires some reflection and admissions of inconsistency when one’s positions shift over time. That is where I, and ostensibly, many other Conservatives currently find ourselves. It has become evident that utility and the Tyranny of the Urgent caused us to push aside a truly (and consistently) Conservative vision for foreign policy during the past fifty years. The unimaginable events of September 11th, 2001 created what amounted to a perpetual At War status for our country. As Republicans and Conservatives, we gave our tacit (and sometimes vocal) approval to the Bush administration as it molded the country towards this permanent War footing. In the eleven and a half years since the terrorist attack, we have failed to recognize that allowing the executive to exercise extreme War Powers indefinitely was quite a different thing from supporting national security vigilance. So, late though it is, consider this post to be my official statement of mea maxima culpa. I believe many others find themselves in the same boat as I. So that is why we stood (or rather, sat at our laptops) with Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and a few others who made up a rag-tag band of brothers for thirteen incredible hours.
The Times, They Are A-Changin’
The issues were many and somewhat changing as the 13 hour filibuster went on. But, primarily, there were some Libertarian-leaning and Conservative members of the Senate who took rightful umbrage at the notion that the Executive Branch of the US Government seemed to feel it could trump the 5th Amendment whenever it felt like it.
Make no mistake about it, what happened on March 6th 2013 represents a dramatic shift in the future of the two major political parties in the U.S. We are witnessing a turn-of-the-century re-alignment. There are almost eerie parallels between where the Democratic and Republican Parties may find themselves philosophically in both 1916 and 2016.
A Bit of Background
There are two strains of thought that, strangely, both grew out of Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy. The underlying thought is the Progressive impulse to be hopelessly entangled in the affairs of other nations. That produced two different sub-sets of foreign policy thinking that sometimes work together and sometimes seem opposed (even though they came from the same framework).
The first is an Imperialist bent that sees the United States as responsible for the direction the world takes. This goes well beyond the common sense approach of looking out for our best interests and leads to military and CIA actions around the world.
The second is the unusual desire to abdicate U.S. sovereignty to either other nations individually, or collectively to some sort of World organization.
On the first issue, the Democratic Party has mostly shied away from for the past fifty years, while the Republican Party has grown much more comfortable with this stance in the same period.
The second issue is where the majority of the Democratic Party currently feel most comfortable.
The key thing to note is that both Parties are actually following the lead of Wilsonian Progressivism.
The Paradigm Shift
Until March 6, 2013, there was not an actual non-Progressive viewpoint firmly espoused by either major party.
Rand Paul’s filibuster changed that. While the Republican Old Guard clung viciously and ‘pettily’ to their brand of Interventionism, the younger Republican members of the Senate became the Party’s new leaders. And, indeed, it is the newer members of the Senate and House who have the ability to shift Republican policy towards a less Interventionist mindset (since they are not on record as supporting the actions of President George W. Bush’s administration).
The Democratic Party (!) now stands to inherit both strands of Wilson’s Progressive-era foreign policy. They have made capitulation to foreign countries into an art form. They seek to diminish the moral authority the U.S. has exercised over the world for the last 70 years. And yet…at the exact same time, they now own the expansive War Powers that have been given to the Executive Branch in the 50 years. Those War Powers guarantee an interventionist foreign policy. Obama’s re-election made Wilson’s Progressivism temporarily triumphant. However, it’s a schizophrenic policy that cannot hold for long and will be nothing but trouble for the Democrats. Welcome to 1916, Democrats.
The Republican Party, as mentioned previously, now has the chance to offer a truly different direction in foreign policy. I suggest that they own it. A policy of strong national security through the framework of non-interventionism, a roll back of out-of-control Government spending, a return to normalcy after a long war abroad and the accompanying abuses of civil liberties at home. This is what the Republican Party of 1920 ran on and won handily. The Republican’s of 2016 would do well to also run on a Return to Normalcy… and back it up with a move towards non-interventionism – both foreign and domestic.
A Century of Progress
They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is painfully true. And Solomon did say that there is nothing new under the sun. For all the unique events of the past 100 years, we are basically back to the point of having the same arguments in 2013 that we did in 1913. The names and faces have changed dramatically, but in substance, the arguments are the same: Intervention vs. Non-Intervention, Increasing Government Spending vs. Balancing the Federal Budget, Presidential War Powers vs. Civil Liberties. The republicans chose the right side of those issues in 1920. I am daily ever more and more hopeful that the Republican’s of 2016 will do likewise.
Here’s to Normalcy and a Government that actually abides by its Constitutional limits!!!