It was only last summer that the unity among the Democratic Party was being contrasted against the division within the Republican Party. However, in recent weeks we are seeing an increased divisiveness between the Democratic frontrunners. We are going to look at these phenomena within the context of the principles noted on this site as they are prominently on display in this year’s race, and we are at a critical juncture in our history when these principles are increasingly more important.
There is reason for the apparent greater unity among the Democrats. It is a relatively more homogeneous party, and this year’s contest is between a progressive and a socialist. They come from the same root. Both are collectivists who believe in the exercise of a large degree of government control over both the economy and people’s behavior by creating group rights. They are not arguing about the ends, but merely the means to be used to get there, how long it should take, and who will be in power once the ends are achieved. There are very few believing in first principles belonging to this party any; they no longer have a voice there.
The increasing support being given to Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, in light of the continuing problems being experienced by the Clinton campaign is telling. No one else from the party has stepped forward to even offer a different shade of choice. Biden recently talked about needing a more progressive tax code where everyone pays a fair share. But from Sander’s perspective, he is simply saying the same thing as Biden – it is just that Sander’s definition of fair share is different. Again a difference in the means and not the end. Socialism is a very expensive form of governance as the government controls nearly every aspect of its citizen’s lives, but no one seems to care enough to discuss the costs that would be associated with implementing his policies. We have clear examples in Europe and the former Soviet Union to understand its failures. Instead we talk about the unimaginable pressure put on Mrs. Clinton during her grueling eleven hours of testimony, and fail to mention the thirteen hours of hell that cost four Americans their lives one night in Benghazi. Who was really put under pressure, and who failed?
It still looks as though it is Clinton’s race to lose, but the weight of the various scandals appears to be taking a toll. As to the current email scandal, in comparing what is currently in the public domain with what happened to General Petraeus, there is no doubt that there should be some legal action taken – if we still have any notion of equality under the law. But again with the elitism inherent within collectivism, there is a notion that different rules apply to different groups and those rules are set by the elite themselves, and they are above such things as they are only trying to achieve the right ends on our behalf. We’ll see what is in the final FBI report.
The case is somewhat different among the Republicans. There is still a real split between the establishment (read progressives) and those who still believe in the first principles that we were founded on. Those principles include:
- Limited governance, the belief in self-reliance and independence, the freedom and ability to make our own decisions.
- Stewardship, the need to responsibly live within our means as both individuals and a people. Underlying this notion is virtue, a moral uprightness and willingness to do the right things for the common good. This common good applies to all within a society as there is only one people; unlike collectivism there are no groups to treat differently such as the rich vs. the poor, your race vs. my race, man vs. woman, old vs. young, blue collar vs. white collar, religious vs. secular, etc., etc., etc.
- Equality under the law, recognizing the common rights and nature that we share as opposed to someone’s idea of an equality of outcome. The focus is on where we start and not where we end up.
- A strong defense to preserve our society in order to pass it on to our descendants.
- Compliance with both the letter and spirit of the Constitution, the fulfillment of a promise made in our Declaration of Independence to govern ourselves in accordance with the rights we received from our Creator and His laws for us to live by.
- Faith in God, for a society cannot be successful without understanding and exercising both the languages of reason and faith. Nor will it last without passing that knowledge on to the next generation. This does not mean the Christian religion per se, but the principles and philosophy that underlie it. After all, at our Founding there were many different Christian denominations.
Progressives believe that government is the solution. Those who believe in first principles believe you are the solution. Despite the rhetoric, many establishment Republicans support bigger government with their actions – and inaction. They just want to apply big government differently. Look at what has happened since that party took control of both houses of congress. They are seldom fighting on the principles noted above, but instead fighting about maintaining political control. This is also a form of collectivism. As a party they voted to fund Obama’s agenda while claiming it is a victory. Really? It is only a collectivism victory. They were against the recent Iran deal, but at the same time voted for a measure that changed the control Congress had over foreign agreements from one approving an agreement into one needing a majority to veto an agreement. Again another victory? Mr. Trump is correct in this respect, we are being led by people who are incompetent and no longer care about the people that they have taken an oath to serve.
Many are supporting Mr. Trump as a strong man who can get things done. This desire is not surprising after the last seven years of historic incompetence that has been displayed by the political elite of both parties – an elite who should not even exist within our society. But listen to what Trump says. He is talking about making better deals to get things done. In all of this talk he is asserting that government is the answer, it just needs to be applied differently. He is for ethanol to diversify our energy resources. I agree. He is for the private sector competing and creating jobs by being successful. I agree. But it is not government’s role to develop ethanol or determine its viability as a resource. You can’t have it both ways.
How is the above position any different from what Clinton and Sanders are offering? Isn’t that part of the problem with big government that we’ve seen over and over again? It is not only the ends but the means used to obtain them that matter. I agree completely with what he states needs to change: immigration reform, trade reform, tax reform, improving national security (including defeating ISIS and standing with our allies), protecting our second amendment rights, taking care of our veterans, and removing the secularism that has driven faith from the marketplace. Add to this making the federal government behave in a fiscally responsible manner getting it out of all education, and I believe these are the issues we face and must soon successfully answer.
I am not saying that he is a bad man. The evidence is to the contrary; he has done many good things and his children are all responsible adults. These are evidence of a good character. But strength alone is not enough. There have been many strong men in leadership roles throughout history, and they have not necessarily served their people well. The list is long and includes the likes of: Julius Caesar, Caligula, Genghis Khan, Vlad III, Henry VIII, Napoleon, Ismail Inver Pasha, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Chavez, and Kim Jong Il – among many others. A leader must be both strong and principled, but not just any principles. I’m sure that all of those in the previous list had principles; ones based upon a group or groups, an elite, the military, a religion, an ideology. The principles they embrace and act upon must help others not by simply changing government, but instead by reducing government and thereby creating an environment where people have the opportunity to improve their own lives. What makes us successful as a people is an environment where we can make our own success, and that requires a government whose power is limited and diffuse.
History shows that not all will make it in this environment, but it will be their choice, and where there is a lack of ability – be it physical or mental - that is where our charity comes in, ours alone and not some government imitation, because caring for others is our responsibility. Collectivism breeds dependence, a form of slavery and corruption of our purpose. Simply changing the way the game is rigged is the old argument between the Jeffersonian and Hamilton factions early in our history. Creating the right environment is the first step, and we need to assess who can best do that in a principled manner in order to change our present course. It may be Mr. Trump, but if it is he will need to address more than just naming the issues and how he would improve the deal using big government as that is simply not enough. In a way it is just a Republican form of Obama, the same end with a different means. We must choose wisely, and I fear the time is short. But in order to choose wisely, we must first have our own house in order. We must know what we stand for. Are we there yet?