Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why I no longer call myself a Republican

I am a conservative and I probably always will be a conservative. But for the last couple years or so I have become increasingly wary of labeling myself a Republican.

Mostly this is because the Republican party is no longer what it was. There is nothing conservative at all about a lot of Republican positions.

The classic example, of course, is the debate over torture. There are a lot of Republicans who think that we live in Jack Bauer's America, with year after year of ticking nuclear, biological and chemical bombs which will go off if we don't "do what needs to be done." "What needs to be done" usually includes vicious techniques like water-boarding, which I believe the Vice President referred to as "giving them a dunking" or something similar. Never mind that experienced interrogators say that you almost never get good intelligence through coercion, since the victim will say whatever he thinks you want to hear in order to make the pain stop.

Never mind, too, that people in the military find the entire concept abhorrent. The American military tradition is all about honor, virtue, chivalry. Torture - or, excuse me, "intense interrogation" - is not consistent with that worldview. My brother would certainly never obey an order to torture a "detainee." Unlike our terrorist enemies, he's not a moral monster. He is a United States Marine.

And the kicker is that torture is not conservative at all. Conservativism focuses on the dignity of the individual in relation to the common good. It is liberalism that demands that the inherent worth of the individual be sacrificed on the altar of the faceless collective. Hence, it's all right to torture this suspect or that suspect, since his dignity is expendable in order to serve the needs of the Republic.

Other recent incidents have underlined for me the fact that the Republican party is entering a wilderness period. Ann Coulter's little episode at the CPAC recently is a good example. She is more or less a right-wing Al Franken; I think Franken is an embarrassment to the Left, and Miss Coulter is an embarrassment to the Right. She is funny (sometimes), but she has no point. Her harsh rhetoric gets pretty old. Publicity stunts like the CPAC incident help her sell a lot of books and get her booked on TV shows, but they do zilch for the conservative movement (or for the Republican party, really). I am not the only conservative to find her (and her knee-jerk defenders) obnoxious.

Sean Hannity is another annoying example of this type. He shouts down guests on his program and generally asks a lot of "so have you stopped beating your wife yet?" questions. I actually like Alan Colmes better, in spite of the fact that I agree with Mr. Colmes about zero percent of the time.

I wish folks would put down the WorldNetDaily and pick up Russell Kirk, the father of 20th century conservativism. The jackets on his books don't feature an airbrushed portrait of himself, but the contents are actually intellectually salient. You can't have it all.

For a good comparison of Kirk and the "Big Mac-ization" of contemporary Republicanism (with somewhat of a positive spin), see this article on the phenomenon.

(Note: I was surprised to find out that Kirk converted to Catholicism late in life. I believe I read that for the most of his life he was agnostic or unaligned. This is just proof for my file that the Catholic Church is the natural home of conservatives ;)


  1. Maggie,

    Have you done any writing about your generation's gradual acceptance of far-left doctrine?

    In hearing old conservatives talk, there was a time that if a politician discussed abortion as a major part of his platform, he'd have been an utter failure. Same goes for "gay rights." Is my perception wrong? Do young people accept both of these as normal?


  2. I would not say so at all. The pro-life movement is strongest among the youth; if one examines the membership in NARAL, one finds lots of women past menopause... to be blunt.

    Gay rights are more "mainstream" among people my age, but that does not mean that everyone is on board. I had many friends in college who did not believe in gay marriage, civil unions, etc., even on an extremely liberal campus.

  3. Maggie,

    I don't know. I suppose I should go look for some statistics, but my impression is that the lion's share of, say, 17-34 year olds would support "choice" and "gay rights."

    Be careful not to assign those positive qualities in yourself to others. As an outside observer of your work, I'd say you (and your friends, too) are uncommon for your age and gender.

    That's a compliment, for the record.


  4. Hey Maggie,

    I posted this link in the comments on my blog, but figured the gentlemanly thing to do would also be to post it here for your readership.

    As far as the compliment goes, no need to thank me, you've earned your high marks. But Mom would also say the gentlemanly thing to do would be to say: you're welcome.