Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell warned that Republicans ignore social issues at their peril in the upcoming November election, maintaining that the nation’s only path to a robust economy is an adherence to a strong moral code and the traditional family.
Blackwell, a senior fellow for family empowerment at the Family Research Council and a visiting professor of law at Liberty University, asserted during an appearance at the recent Right on Crime conference that the re-embrace of the “nuclear family” – married mother and father and children – will lead to recovery.
“Throughout history, in order for totalitarianism, Marxism or a welfare state to occur two things have to happen – the marginalization of the church and the destruction of the family,” Blackwell said. “When the state becomes the provider we have a muscular state that negatively affects those things.” [source: pjmedia.com 5/27/14]
This is the attitude killing the Republican Party. And it should.
Republicans like Ken Blackwell seek to battle Marxism, socialism and Big Government. They seek to do so through a code of morality. I agree.
But what should that code of morality be?
Blackwell’s answer, like other social conservatives in the Republican Party, is: tradition, family and church.
Tradition, family and church do not build gigantic economies or great civilizations. Innovative and independent thinkers do. Some individuals possess unusually high levels of ambition, motivation and ability. It’s for precisely this reason that societies must be left free, with no constraints on individuals whatsoever — aside from the obvious limitations on criminal force or fraud.
Some successful or accomplished individuals will point out that they could not have done it without their family, their church or whatever their support system happened to be. But it doesn’t change the fact that the person who accomplished something did so him- or herself. Nobody else did their thinking or work for them.
Tradition or family can be a hindrance as much as a force for good. Entrepreneurs and innovators, by definition, flout existing rules and ways of doing things in favor of something new. When it works, we cheer them. But it doesn’t mean they weren’t challenged, questioned or even persecuted in the process. They’re always called selfish, something automatically assumed morally bad by almost everyone. Ever heard of Galileo? Christopher Columbus? What if tradition, family and/or church conflict with the needs, wants, aspirations or rights of the individual? No doubt the social conservatives will answer: Well, that’s selfish. That’s wrong. Unless it isn’t.
And there you have it. Social conservative Republicans are on the same “moral team” as leftist Democrats. True, they don’t agree on some of the specifics such as gay marriage or abortion. But on a fundamental approach to morality they do agree: Self-interest and individualism are out; sacrifice of the individual is imperative. From there it’s only a matter of specifics. Gay marriage and abortion, while significant, are marginal issues compared to the big ticket item of what government may or may not do to the individual.
Note that the only things Republicans and Democrats truly fight about are homosexuality and abortion. This is why the welfare-entitlement state only grows and grows, even when Republicans control half of Congress, and even when Republicans controlled the entire government during most of the Bush years.
It’s not just politics. It’s morality.
Republicans like Ken Blackwell are essentially saying, “Marriage between a man and a woman only; no abortions. This is what really animates us.” Someone like me, who cares about individualism and individual rights, will fight this brand of Republican with every bit as much fervor as an Obama or Hillary socialist Democrat.
Society is changing. More and more people simply don’t care if gays get married. While some still see this as a threat to the Republic, probably just as many do not. The numbers are not with social conservatives on this issue, and time is not on their side, either. As for abortion, that will probably always remain a hot moral (and therefore political) issue. Nevertheless, a new study is showing that fewer younger people are having abortions than ever before. [see: New York Times 2/3/14, “What’s Behind the Declining Abortion Rate?”] Most want abortion legal, even though most prefer not to have one. These are not winning issues for Republicans. If they continue to fixate on them, they will continue to marginalize themselves even more than they already have.
Where it really counts, Republicans differ little from Democrats. They refuse to come out in defense of the individual’s right to live for his or her own sake.
We need a party to argue unequivocally that life is an end in itself, and yes this is selfish, and yes that’s actually a good thing. When people act with rational self-interest they also act with self-responsibility and they tend to maximize their productivity along with their wealth. This is good for society and it’s representative of a society always in growth and forward motion.
Freedom works, and it’s people’s birthright — their only birthright. Freedom is generated by the motivation, attitudes and actions of self-interested individuals. “Republicrat” welfare-regulatory-entitlement policies are systematically and incrementally destroying the vibrancy of our economy and the competence of our civilization. Republicans don’t have a moral leg to stand on when they can only reply, “Self-interest is bad, but we still don’t need all that government.” Why not? If self-interest must be marginalized or extinguished, you absolutely need a strong and activist government to ensure that people don’t act on their allegedly baser interests. That’s what Democrats are giving us. Republicans huddle in the corner, whine and complain, never taking a single courageous step to defend the morality of individualism against the holiness of the collective proposed by their opponents.
It may be true that Marxist and other authoritarian governments have persecuted religious people. But it does not follow that politicians must champion religion and tradition for their own sake. This is the job of ministers, preachers and others who wish to advance these ideas. It’s not the function of government. Religiously based dictatorships are every bit as hard on secular people as secular dictatorships are on religious people.
In fact, the secular left might be called the religious left. They seek to impose their secular ethical system of brother’s keeperism on the population, by force if necessary. In the extreme version that’s Marxism. We’re not there yet, but we’ve been inching our way there for about a century now, and under Obama it has merely accelerated. The more likely outcome in America is fascism, where private property is nominal and government runs just about everything from behind the scenes. Essentially, that’s what we’re getting now. I call it: rich man’s socialism.
You can’t decry or ignore individualism and expect to provide the moral base for a free society.
Go ahead, GOP, and make your stale old arguments. They’ll get you nowhere.
Michael J Hurd
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