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May 4th, 2012

The Dynamics of the Season, Part III

By Sam Clovis

It seems whenever I encounter someone who admits they are a moderate they give the impression that being around a conservative makes them uncomfortable.  Though the moderates are loyal to the republican party, they drive conservative and libertarian members of the party crazy.  To reiterate, we make them uncomfortable and they make us crazy.

The issues upon which conservatives and moderates agree usually are found first in national security and secondarily in fiscal responsibility.  There is little light between moderates and conservatives when it comes to protecting this country.  The congruence on this issue is striking.  This congruence often time comes all the way home to discussions about homeland security.  Conservatives stand firmly on the rule of law and the idea that people in this country illegally impose costs on those who are here legally.  The simple fact that tax-paying citizens have to provide public education, safety and health services for illegal immigrants seems to go beyond simply not supporting the covenant.  Illegal immigration erodes values by standing in defiance to the laws of the land and, because of this defiance, resources must be diverted from other programs that benefit legal residents.  To this day, the rule of law remains one of the most dominant themes upon which a striking and compelling majority of Americans agree.

Fiscal responsibility on the part of government seems to be another area where conservatives and moderates find common ground.  There does seem, however, to be some daylight between philosophies in this area.  The moderates seem to always want to reach across the aisle to seek bipartisan solutions to things.  Finding common ground during last summer’s debt ceiling debate is a classic example.  The conservative caucus in the republican conference in the house did not want to bend.  Extracting spending cuts—a conservative’s answer to balancing the budget—was not part of the solution.  Rather than standing on principle and proving that the government could still pay its bills without raising the debt ceiling, moderates in the party agreed with the democrat leadership on a deal that continued to kick the can down the road.  Cooperating seemed the best way to go to make sure republicans did not get blamed for “shutting down government.”

Of course, reaching across the aisle would be just fine if the other side was interested in bipartisan cooperation.  Subsequently, to keep peace and to show a sense of “good citizenship,” moderates seem to get more comfortable with big government, the welfare state and the fact that the power vested in the national government is a natural evolution of our system of government.  Of course, all of this is anathema for the conservative.

Where conservatives and moderates seem to be most uncomfortable with each other is when social issues and the Constitution are brought up.  The conservative feels so strongly about the Constitution that there is little discussion beyond those that relate to original intent.  Cafeteria Constitutionalism, that strain of political philosophy that allows adherents to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution they might want to sort, seems far too convenient for many.  The Constitution, to any conservative, is inviolate in its totality.  The fact that over the past 100 years power has inexorably shifted from the states to the central government does seem to bother nearly enough people.  Add to this a demonstrable shift in power away from the legislative branch to the executive branch at the national level, and the nation is precariously close to arriving at a near-dictatorship in the office of the president.  This state of affairs is so far removed from the intent of the Constitution as to defy reason.  Institutions matter, and understanding the history of this nation is critical to understanding the context of events.

The tensions between moderates and conservatives on social issues is often palpable.  One gets the impression that most moderates believe life begins at conception and that protecting life is important.  However, there seems to be cognitive dissonance when the fundamental science of conception conflicts with the sanctity of the human body.  The arguments made in Roe v. Wade are based on a presumption of privacy for the woman.  This, of course, is Constitutional fiction, as there is no article, section or paragraph that mentions that term.  As the majority in the Supreme Court wrote in that fateful decision, there is a “penumbra” of reason that implies privacy is a right bestowed on everyone.  The mythology created to rationalize one of the worst decisions ever made by the Court continues to plague us today.  Still, abortion and the right to life discussion cause uneasiness with a lot of people in the party.

As with the science of life, one gets the impression that most moderates get the positive aspects of traditional marriage and the nuclear family.  Most conservatives, if pressed, would find little argument that people, regardless of sex, can live together harmoniously and contribute to their communities.  To call same-sex unions marriage is another matter.

Only about .5%–that’s right, less than one percent—of households in America are same-sex households.  Further, 14th Amendment protections that extend to citizens based on religion, military service, race, gender, age and disability are based on tradition and primary characteristics—what we can see.  The marriage argument is the false front offered to gain the Constitutional protections for those who choose a particular behavior or follow a particular lifestyle.  To offer 14th Amendment protections is illogical, at best.  Thus, on two significant fronts, moderates and conservatives are restless with each other.

In the final installment.  I will discuss how all these political philosophies mesh in the party and why these differing views are healthy for a party that offers a much larger tent than our opposition.  Take heart, republicans—all republicans—make America a stronger nation.

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About the Author

Sam Clovis

Sam Clovis is college professor, retired Air Force fighter pilot and former radio talk show host. He has been active in republican politics in Iowa for quite some time and is a highly visible and outspoken conservative. He has run for office in Iowa and remains a popular conservative figure.

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