Bring Back Burke: Revitalizing American Conservatism in the Twenty-First Century
Jack Brent Greenberg Hopkins School Senior Project Advisers: Mr. Thomas W. Peters & Mr. James Gette Chairman of Senior Project Committee: Mr. Ian Melchinger Presented Before Senior Project Fair May 23, 2014
â€œ It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare .â€?
- Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
PART I: BEGINNING WITH BURKE Six governorships. Sixty-three House seats. Six Senate seats. The actual electoral gains for the Republican Party in the 2010 midterm elections, though great in number and significant in impact,1 composed only the opening verse to the battle chant of victory the Tea Party sang as the United States began to look as if it were converting from blue to red. President Barack Obama had his opportunity to advance his agenda for the past two years, and would still have the chance to right the ship of his political career over the next twenty-four months, but the demise of 2010 would leave the Tea Party and the Grand Old Party in earnest hope that the Democrats would suffer the same defeat in 2012 and a Republican, ideally a bona fide Conservative one, could enter the Oval Office and allow the Party to truly move on from the Presidencies of the Bushes.
Accordingly, the Republican and Tea Parties began their entrance into the 2012
Presidential Election by perpetually assailing the President and his tenure in office; the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act became known noted for how they reflected on the President than how they affected American society. The Presidentâ€™s daily life, from his exclusion of Bible passages on the White House Christmas card 2 to his airing his March Madness predictions on ESPN,3 helped to exacerbate negative sentiments towards the Commander-in-Chief that accompanied notions that he was a Muslim, Fascist, Marxist, Kenyan, the Anti-Christ, or some amalgam of the preceding appellations. Somehow, the strategy failed to fulfill Conservative hopes for the 2012 election cycle. The matchup between President Obama 1 The New York Times, "Election Results 2010," Nytimes.com, last modified November 3, 2010, http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/results. 2 "Republicans Furious over Bo Obama Holiday Card," video file, 3:40, Youtube.com, posted by The Young Turks, December 10, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwyYrlAx1aI. 3 "Fox News Attacks Obama with March Madness," video file, 3:56, Youtube.com, posted by The Young Turks, March 27, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7a5CRynKp4.
and Fmr. Gov. of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, originally expected to be an incredibly close race, became a decisive victory for Obama and the Democratic Party, complemented by significant victories in U.S. Senate races and gains in the U.S. House of Representatives. The presidential contest was the fifth battle for the Oval Office in the post-Reagan era where the Republican candidate failed to win the popular vote and left a large sect of the American electorate and a swath of political insiders contemplating what could have possibly gone wrong. Various sources, ranging from the national Party4 to anyone offered a speaking role on 24/7 cable news, presented their cases for what the Republicans need to do over the next few years to prevent a repeat of 2012 in the next go-around, even if the Republicans were to have better luck in the 2014 midterm elections when fewer eligible voters will be casting ballots. 5 The proposals thus far leave much to be desired, rooted in insubstantive platitudes and vague directives that are too lacking in resolve to achieve anything for the Party. Yes, the GOP needs to do a far better job attracting female, young, and minority voters while attempting to disabuse the popular perception that the Republican mantle is entirely reserved for old, white males intent on preserving their wealth. However, the mere acknowledgement that one has a problem does not qualify as a solution, especially when attempting to resolve issues within a political organization that is currently consumed in a civil war over its future direction and suffers from internal cleavages that remain truly irreconcilable. Piecemeal propositions will fail to relieve the Party of its overarching issues or secure a sustainable plan for redevelopment and, eventually, growth. From this understanding came the birth of The RINO Party, a project aimed to terminate the Tea Partyâ€™s undue and overweening influence on the Grand Old Party through the creation of 4 Henry Barbour et al., "Growth & Opportunity Project," Goproject.gop.com, last modified March 17, 2014, http://goproject.gop.com/. 5 Dan Balz, "Democrats Seek to Reshape Midterm Electorate along Lines of a Presidential Year," Washingtonpost.com, last modified April 19, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-seek-toreshape-midterm-electorate-along-lines-of-a-presidential-year/2014/04/19/1cf11fc6-c63d-11e3-9f377ce307c56815_story.html.
a recentered national Party with a revised conservative platform and updated strategy. The operation evolved rather quickly and ultimately developed singularity in purpose, introducing a perspective that could excite the Party hard-liners and disappointed defectors alike. What if, amidst all the cacophony and craziness that is contemporary American political discourse, we could reintroduce a modern Party to its classical roots? Just as Christians defer to the teachings of Jesus and Muslims embrace the principles communicated by Mohammed, Republicans ought to reflect on their recent electoral failings to reintroduce themselves to â€œthe first conservativeâ€?6 Edmund Burke, the Irish-born English transplant who has achieved as much renown for his philosophy as he has for his politics, masteries of which he developed during his nearly thirty year tenure in the House of Commons. The current iteration of the Grand Old Party is certainly not detached from the founder of their ideology; many Republican-backed policy positions are directly in line with the initiatives Burke advanced and there remain a significant amount of elected Republicans who exemplify the spirit and approach of Burke in their governance. However, there is certainly much room for improvement if conservatism in the Twenty-First Century hopes to qualify as thetical to Burkeâ€™s construction. Though Jon Huntsman and reduced regulations on small businesses may correspond with Burke's teachings, Cliven Bundy and the elimination of core components within the American bureaucracy certainly do not. Where ration, restraint, and a respect for tradition combat the perils of zealotry and hyperbole, Burke finds his ideological compatriot.
6 Luther Spoehr, "Review of Jesse Norman's 'Edmund Burke: The First Conservative,'" Hnn.us, last modified January 13, 2014, http://hnn.us/article/154384.
PART II: BLASTED FROM BURKE There may be no public statement in recorded history that is quite as antithetical to Burkean thinking as ideological rival Thomas Paine’s encouragement that “we have it in our power to begin the world over again.”7 Burke felt that with any revolution came the opportunity to undo the preceding progress of society and favored political reform as the proper vehicle of change. Following the fall of the Bastille, Frenchman Charles-Jean François Depont wrote to Burke inquiring as to his perspective on the overthrow of the French monarchy.
responded with grave concern, saying, “I must delay my congratulations on your acquisition of liberty. You may have made a revolution, but not a reformation. You may have subverted monarchy, but not recovered freedom.”8 The simple abandonment of an undesirable element of French society did not ensure that its successor would ameliorate the issues within the country; if anything, the destruction of the existing foundations of the country caused the state to lose much more than it could hope to gain.
Though Burke does equate change with conservatism,
revolution was simply too risky and too destructive to achieve merit as a form of political strategy. Many within the new Republican Party not only disagree with Burke’s sentiments, but proudly espouse the supposed virtues of revolution as if they suffered alongside George Washington’s troops at Valley Forge or bore witness to the rolling of Louis XIV’s head. While promoting her book Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again on the now-defunct Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN in January of 2012, 2010 Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell states that her intent in writing the book was to inspire people “who are a part of the Tea Party movement so that they can continue in this movement to bring
7 Yuval Levin, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 34. 8 Ibid, 29.
America back to the Second American Revolution,” 9 a reference to the period of Tea Party strength that culminated in the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives and victories in several key Senate races as part of the 2010 midterm elections. Barely more than a year after the zenith of this so-called revolution, O’Donnell wants to revive the frenzy that produced several artificial crises over debt ceilings, government shutdowns, and fiscal cliffs and earned Congress its lowest approval ratings since Reconstruction. The perpetuity of revolution for which O’Donnell advocates is the very form of zealotry against which Burke strongly advocated. Though we may have it in our power to begin the world over again, the outright promotion of such capability not only fails to be conservative, but is clearly detrimental to the fate of this nation. Though Burke was a committed adversary of revolution, he had no qualms about striving for political reforms, especially in the beginning of his Parliamentary career. Burke sought to make legislative advances that addressed domestic finances, trade policies, tolerance of religious dissenters, crime and punishment, corruption within the Indian colonial government, the role of the monarchy in the political process, and slavery. 10 Despite his reverence for tradition and consistency, Burke still felt that “when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, [he] is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise.” 11 Principles ought to be defended only to the extent which they are beneficial to society; otherwise, compromise and alterations must occur in the service of the Platonian common good. Accordingly, Burke would have never endorsed efforts by organizations like Heritage Action and Tea Party darlings like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas 9 CNN, "Christine O'Donnell Walks out of CNN Interview When Asked about Witchcraft, Gay Marriage," video file, 3:16, Huffingtonpost.com, January 11, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/17/christine-odonnell-walks-outwitchcraft_n_929986.html. 10 Levin, The Great Debate: Edmund, 9. 11 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), 3:283.
to allow the federal government of the United States of America to shutdown in October of 2013 if funding for the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare,” were not eliminated.12 Cruz was not only willing to enter a government shutdown - a sixteen day period in which roughly 800,000 federal employees were furloughed and estimatedly cost the United States economy $55 Billion, among its other destructive consequences 13 - but also encouraged his colleagues to pursue the option given that “Republicans could pass a bill to fund the troops and other core priorities.”14 Cruz and his allies would be perfectly fine with the metaphorical ship that Burke details in the conclusion of Reflections on the Revolution in France sinking, so long as he could later salvage the only parts of the vessel that he liked. To do otherwise would be an abandonment of principle for the Senator, a public demonstration of a deficiency in integrity as capitulatory as standing atop the Capitol waving a white flag.
The group of
“conservatives” that allowed the federal government to shutdown for the first time in nearly twenty years not only committed a disservice to their Party 15and nation, but also acted in clear contradiction to their ideological forefather, for their is no element of equipoise when havoc is wreaked. One of the greatest tragedies underlying the damage the Tea Party movement has done onto the Republican brand and the country is that many who have advanced the movement as elected officials are men and women of otherwise profound capability, potential that very well could have been employed for the betterment of this nation. Burke laments similarly in his 12 Josh Barro, "Ted Cruz Is Making Life Miserable for House Republicans," Businessinsider.com, last modified September 17, 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/ted-cruz-is-making-life-miserable-for-house-republicans-20139. 13 Holly Yan, "Government Shutdown: Get Up to Speed in 20 Questions," Cnn.com, last modified October 1, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/government-shutdown-up-to-speed/. 14 Jonathon Strong and Andrew Stiles, "House Aide to Cruz Staffer: ‘You’re Not Dealing in Reality’," Nationalreview.com, last modified September 16, 2013, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/358636/house-aidecruz-staffer-youre-not-dealing-reality-jonathan-strong-andrew-stiles. 15 Paul Steinhauser, "CNN Poll: GOP Would Bear the Brunt of Shutdown Blame," Cnn.com, last modified September 30, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/politics/cnn-poll-shutdown-blame/index.html.
critique of the philosophical writings of Henry St John, First Viscount Bolingbroke. Following the death of Lord Bolingbroke and the publication of his works, Burke questions what delight the late Tory leader could “find in employing a capacity which might be usefully exerted for the noblest purposes, in a sort of sullen labor, in which, if the author could succeed, he is obliged to own, that nothing could be more fatal to mankind than his success.” 16 Howbeit Burke targeted Bolingbroke for the insubstantive nature of his philosophical offerings on religion, government, and virtue, his pointed attacked remains germane when considering the backgrounds of many Tea Party heroes. Ted Cruz not only received an A.B. from Princeton University with cum laude honors and his J.D. from Harvard University with magna cum laude honors, but was also considered “off-the-charts brilliant” by Fmr. Harvard Law School Professor Alan M. Dershowitz, Cruz’s first-year criminal-law instructor.17 Another Tea Party favorite, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, earned a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University and also has degrees from Harvard and Tulane. Had Fmr. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich succeed in his pursuit of the Presidency in 2012, he would have been the first Ph.D. in the White House since Woodrow Wilson.
Despite the great intellectual capacity of these men, their brand of politics is
discouragingly void of their brain power, as exemplified by Gingrich’s 2012 campaign platform that advocated for the replacement of school janitors with students and the annexation of the Moon by the United States and promised the return of gas prices to below $2.50 a gallon with few, if any, details as to how he would achieve such a goal as President. 18 Just as Burke had hoped Lord Bolingbroke could have used his natural ability and experience to craft a series of 16 Edmund Burke, "A Vindication of Natural Society: Or, a View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind from Every Species of Artificial Society," 1756, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), 1:iii, Kindle edition. 17 Brian Bolduc, "‘As Good as It Gets:' Ted Cruz Runs for Senate," Nationalreview.com, last modified October 17, 2011, https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/296299/good-it-gets. 18 Jordan Weissman, "Newt's Right! We Really Could Have $2.50 Gas (for $190 Billion a Year)," Theatlantic.com, last modified March 7, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/03/newts-right-we-really-could-have250-gas-for-190-billion-a-year/254124/.
satisfying treatises for British society, the more qualified amongst the Tea Party crowd ought to have opted for a more constructive political brand, even if “it is far more easy to maintain a wrong cause, and to support paradoxical opinions to the satisfaction of a common auditory, than to establish a doubtful truth by solid and conclusive arguments.”19 Were the ultraconservative wing of the Grand Party to have all of its desires filled, its members would no longer be called Republicans. Sarah Palin has mentioned the possibility of Republican defectors creating a third-party alternative if the “GOP continues to back away from the planks in our platform,”20 David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter who coined the term “axis of evil” believes the departure of Tea Partyists from the Republican Party would be mutually beneficial,21and a prominent supporter of the Tea Party - Sen. Mike Lee of Utah this past year - has delivered an alternative response to the State of the Union Address on behalf of the movement since 2011.22 However, Burke would likely consider these separatist sentiments destructive to the goals of both establishment Republicans and Tea Party-minded GOPers. Burke, who believed “that parties must ever exist in a free country,” 23 favored unity and conciliation in the formation of these organizations, saying “we ought to act in party with all the moderation which does not absolutely enervate that vigor, and quench that fervency of spirit, without which the best wishes for the public good must evaporate in empty speculation.” 24 While political parties must be passionate about their positions, that enthusiasm needs to be expressed universally within the party’s ranks. Accordingly, parties must strive away from the 19 Burke, "A Vindication of Natural," in The Works of the Right, 1:v. 20 Alexandra Jaffe, "Sarah Palin floats third party if GOP 'abandons us,'" Thehill.com, last modified June 30, 2013, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/308651-sarah-palin-floats-third-party-if-gop-abandons-us. 21 David Frum, "A Tea Party Exit Would Be a Blessing for GOP," Cnn.com, last modified October 14, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/14/opinion/frum-tea-party-third-party/. 22 Brady McCombs, "Tea Party Response to 2014 State of the Union Delivered by Mike Lee," Huffingtonpost.com, last modified January 28, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/28/tea-party-response_n_4681661.html. 23 Edmund Burke, "Speech on Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies," 1775, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), 2:95. 24 Edmund Burke, "Observations on a Late Publication, Intituled 'The Present State of the Nation," 1769, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke(London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), 1:3.
extremities of the ideologies they represent, a sensible strategy the Tea Party and its supporters wholly reject. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a longtime public servant who has also served as Governor of Tennessee and as Secretary of Education, received a letter in August of 2013 from twenty ultraconservative groups in the state informing him that “our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous. America faces serious challenges and needs policymakers who will defend conservative values, not work with those who are actively undermining those values” and threatening him with a strong primary challenge from the right, in spite of no other candidates having entered the Republican primary at the time.25
Similarly, Arizona Senator and one-time Republican
presidential nominee John McCain was censured by his own state party, an occurrence that the Arizona Republican Party claims unique only “in times of great crisis or betrayal.” Labeling McCain’s legislative record as “disastrous and harmful to Arizona and the United States,” the state chapter of the Party also castigated the five-term senator for his attempts to prevent the outbreak of artificial crises like the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 and the government shutdown of 2013, work the censure claimed was “best associated with liberal Democrats.” 26 The growth and audaciousness of the Tea Party within the GOP has not only caused disunity within the Republican infrastructure, but has concerningly created an irreverence for senior Party leaders who governed long before America knew of a Tea Party protest that occurred outside of Boston with commitment to principle and willingness to find common ground, just as Burke had envisioned. Given the ire the Tea Party holds for those who share their party label but construct their ideologies differently, the outright contempt the ultraconservative movement expressed towards 25 Corey Boles, "Conservatives to Sen. Alexander: Time to Retire," Wsj.com, last modified August 14, 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/08/14/conservatives-to-sen-alexander-time-to-retire/. 26 Burgess Everett, "Arizona GOP Reprimands John McCain as Too Liberal," Politico.com, last modified January 26, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/john-mccain-too-liberal-arizona-gop-102617.html.
the President and other Democrats appears to come by natural extension. Oftentimes, the attacks fail to root themselves in any substance and are simply ad hominem in nature. Fmr. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania called President Obama a “snob” during his 2012 failed campaign for the Oval Office, claiming that the President wanted every American to go to college - a statement deemed “False” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checker Politifact 27 - so he could “remake you in his image.”28 Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who similarly failed in her quest to move into the White House in 2012, threatened to sue Obama in January for 2014 if he were to exercise his Constitutionally-backed right to issue executive orders regarding pensions and the minimum wage, declaring that “he may think he is king, he may declare he’s a king, but that’s not what he is under the Constitution.” Ironically, Bachmann is the one lacking the legal authority in the battle she threatens to wage, as the President cannot be sued for any of his actions while he served his tenure per the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Nixon v. Fitzgerald.29 Fmr. Florida Congressman Allen West, a Tea Party icon who spent only one term in the House of Representatives before losing his bid for reelection, had been particularly vocal in his personal attacks as a member of Congress. West, who was fired from his post-Congressional job in September of 2013 for making a sexist and anti-Semitic remark to another employee, 30 has suggested that there are up to eighty Democrats in Congress who are communists and that Joseph Goebbels would “be very proud of the Democrat party,” referred to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who also represented Florida in the House, as “vile” and “not a lady,” and called the President of the United States a “low-level socialist agitator” in the same Fox News 27 Louis Jacobson, "Did Obama Say Everyone Should Go to College?," Politifact.com, last modified February 27, 2012, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/feb/27/did-obama-say-everyone-should-go-college/. 28 "Santorum: Obama a 'Snob' for Wanting Everyone to Go to College," video file, 1:10, Youtube.com, posted by Talking Points Memo, February 25, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkjbJOSwq3A. 29 Caitlin Dickinson, "Can Bachmann Really Sue ‘King’ Obama?," Thedailybeast.com, last modified January 30, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/can-bachmann-really-sue-king-obama.html. 30 Cord Jefferson, "Allen West Is Gone from Another Job following Alleged Anti-Semitism," Gawker.com, last modified September 26, 2013, http://gawker.com/allen-west-is-gone-from-another-job-following-alleged-a1405960754.
interview where he reminded the audience that the President’s middle name is Hussein. West similarly harbors no love for Obama’s supporters, having labeled them “a threat to the gene pool.”31 However, the shamefulness of both Bachmann and West’s remarks are outright incomparable to remarks made by potentially the only individual who can claim the title of Tea Party celebrity - Ted Nugent. Whereas the Democrats’ star power rests with the activist spirit of well-regarded household names like George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson, the GOP gets to deal with the ceaseless tirade of nonsensicality that was Clint Eastwood’s addresses before the Republican National Convention in 2012 when its members are not compelled to appear on cable news to denounce Nugent for calling Obama a “subhuman mongrel” 32 or “scam artist.”33 This brand of contemptuous politics promotes both incivility and distrust in our government, a tendency Burke warns his readership against by identifying how “we set ourselves to bite the hand that feeds us; that with a malignant insanity, we oppose the measures, and ungratefully vilify the persons, of those whose sole object is our own peace and prosperity.” 34 Tea Party rhetoric would imply that disagreeing with the principles of the movement inherently makes an individual worthy of scorn and contempt for the mere expression of their beliefs, an intolerance of dissent that would be more identifiable in the Presidential matchup of 1828 between Jackson and Adams than in the modern history of this nation. The intense tenor of these attacks has continued to polarize the nation to its greatest extent since the Civil War and installed a great
31 "13 Outrageous Allen West Comments: House Democrats ‘Communists’ & More," Thedailybeast.com, last modified April 12, 2012, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/12/13-outrageous-allen-west-commentshouse-democrats-communists-more.html. 32 Alyssa Rosenberg, "How Conservatives Can Develop a Better Class of Political Celebrities than Donald Trump and Ted Nugent," Thinkprogress.org, last modified February 21, 2014, http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2014/02/21/3318851/ted-nugent-donald-trump/. 33 Timothy Johnson, "TIMELINE: Ted Nugent's Racist Obama Comment Shakes up Texas Governor's Race," Mediamatters.org, last modified March 3, 2014, http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/03/03/timeline-ted-nugents-racistobama-comment-shake/198312. 34 Edmund Burke, "Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents," 1770, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), 1:9, Kindle edition.
sense of skepticism in the American citizenry of their representative government. 35 Just as Burke had warned society not to do, the Honorable Opposition is no longer considered to be such. Though the Tea Partiers have struggled to address which departments of the federal government they would abolish36 or when the most recent outbreaks of Swine Flu occurred,37there remains an even more important question that the movement has failed to answer, a question that has plagued every anti-system organization in the history of political science: What happens after they have made their impact, when the discontented have had their conditions met and a movement of people united in their rage can no longer depend on their fury for motivation? Burke cautions his adherents away from subscribing to the beliefs of such fanatics, advising that “these wretches engage under those banners with a fury greater than if they were animated by revenge for their own proper wrongs.”38 Certainly, there have emerged grassroots movement in American political history that have taken a stance in defense of liberty and against the growth of government, including the 1978 Proposition 13 rebellion in California and the insurgent candidacies of H. Ross Perot in the 1992 and 1996 Presidential elections. However, these movements are no longer relevant to the current political framework of this country. As if these campaigns were honeybees, they were moribund following the deliverance of their sting. According to Professor Raymond A. Smith of Columbia University, “The Tea Party is but one example of a common form of political insurgency—one that almost always
35 Jonathan Haidt and Marc J. Hetherington, "Look How Far We’ve Come Apart," Nytimes.com, last modified September 17, 2012, http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/look-how-far-weve-come-apart/? _php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0. 36 Arlette Saenz and Emily Friedman, "Rick Perry’s Debate Lapse: ‘Oops’ – Can’t Remember Department of Energy," Abcnews.go.com, last modified November 9, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/rick-perrysdebate-lapse-oops-cant-remember-department-of-energy. 37 Ryan Powers, "Bachmann: It’s ‘Interesting’ That the Last Swine Flu Outbreak Also Occurred under a ‘Democrat President.’," Thinkprogress.org, last modified April 28, 2009, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/04/28/37894/bachmann-flu-democrats/. 38 Burke, "A Vindication of Natural," in The Works of the Right, 1:60.
loses in the long run.”39 The foundations upon which the Tea Party has grown have failed to provide the movement with any sustainable path towards longevity. This fate appears already to be emerging, as the Tea Party’s approval ratings have reached their lowest depths since 2010 amongst Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike.
Even more startling for the
movement may be the statistic that only ten percent of registered voters surveyed indicated that they strongly support the campaign,40 troubling given how dependent the Tea Party’s existence is on the fervency of its janissaries. Burke would have no tolerance for such forays into the radical depths of his ideology, and the Republican Party must heed his concerns to preserve the credibility of its conservative brand and secure its potential for electoral victories.
PART III: THE REMNANTS OF BURKE
39 Raymond A. Smith, "How Do Tea Parties End?," Politico.com, last modified February 2, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/tea-party-how-will-it-end-102984.html#.Uu_89HddWx4. 40 Sean Sullivan, "The Decline of the Tea Party — in 5 Charts," Washingtonpost.com, last modified December 12, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/12/12/the-decline-of-the-tea-party-in-5-charts/.
However, there lies hope in the fact that the entirety of the Republican Party has not been consumed by the increased prominence of pseudo-conservatism and the emergence of the Tea Party. Elements of Burkean thinking do still appear within the Grand Old Party, albeit not as vocally or captivatingly as does the philosophy of those further right on the political spectrum. Even some planks of the modern Republican Party platform could have earned strong support from the late English statesman. The GOP has maintained a firm stance in favor of deregulation ever since the Party emerged from its early anti-abolitionist roots into a twentieth-century political powerhouse.41 President Ronald Reagan famously declared in his first inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem” 42 and House Republicans have grown much more fervent in their pursuit of anti-regulatory measures since the Tea Party victories of 2010.43 Burke was also skeptical of the benefits of further regulation enacted by the legislative branch, fearing that the burden of such measures could pose more harm than the issues they were intended to ameliorate: “your regulations have done more mischief in cold blood, than all the rage of the fiercest animals in their greatest terrors, or furies, has ever done, or ever could do!”44 Though Burke certainly did not endorse the concept a utopian libertarian state - as noted by his belief in a “decent, regulated preeminence” 45 - he did believe that curatives ought to be reserved for the remediation of anomalies, rather than act as outright attempts to ensure “the people are happy, united, wealthy, and powerful.” 46 Here, Reagan and 41 William MacDonald, "Can the Republican Party Reform?," The North American Review 194, no. 673 (December 1911): 835, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/25119641? Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&searchText=republican&searchText=party&searchUri=%2Faction %2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Drepublican%2Bparty%26amp%3Bacc%3Don%26amp%3Bwc%3Don%26amp %3Bfc%3Doff. 42 "C-SPAN: President Reagan 1981 Inaugural Address," video file, 20:48, Youtube.com, posted by C-SPAN, January 14, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpPt7xGx4Xo. 43 Billy House, "House GOP's Anti-Regulatory Docket," Nationaljournal.com, last modified August 29, 2011, http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/house-gop-s-anti-regulatory-docket-20110829. 44 Burke, "A Vindication of Natural," in The Works of the Right, 1:48. 45 Burke, Reflections on the Revolution, in The Works of the Right, 3:161. 46 Ibid, 235.
Burke find themselves in agreement - the good of society is promoted through the accomplishments and traditions of the people and their progenitors, not congressional or parliamentary resolutions. Likewise, the Grand Old Party has branded itself as dedicated to fiscal responsibility, even if such marketing has become more rooted in platitudes than policy. Originally formulated from conservative objections to the New Deal,47 the notion of fiscal responsibility has maintained an especially strong resonance amongst Republicans in recent years due to the conservative discrediting of both the Obama and Bush Administrations for, among other matters, the vast increase in the national debt of the United States. The ardent interest in this form of fiscal moderation has produced a series of proposals across the various gradients of conservatism, ranging from the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011 supported by Speaker of the House John Boehner that calls for strong reductions on both current and future spending by the federal government and proposes a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution 48 to a proposal by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party fan favorite, that would reduce the amount of government benefits available to women who have children out of wedlock, saying “I don’t know how you do all that because then it’s tough to tell a woman with four kids that she’s got a fifth kid we’re not going to give her any more money. But we have to figure out how to get that message through because that is part of the answer.” 49 Regardless of the means advocated to achieve such fiscal goals, the current iteration of the Republican Party does back an economic agenda that corresponds with Burke’s hopes for the finances of Great Britain. Burke expressed concerns with the prospect revenue stemming from colonial trade being able to cover the 47 Julian E. Zelizer, "The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal: Fiscal Conservatism and the Roosevelt Administration, 1933-1938," Presidential Studies Quarterly 30, no. 2 (June 2000): 336, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27552097?seq=2. 48 Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011, H.R. 2560, 112th Cong., 1st Sess. (2011). 49 Bryce Covert, "Senator Floats Idea to Penalize Low-Income Women Who Have Children," Thinkprogress.org, last modified January 29, 2014, http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/01/29/3220881/rand-paul-welfare-capchildren/.
expenses of the First Anglo-Mysore War, reminding his readership that “That the more expense is incurred by a nation, the more money will be required to defray it; that in proportion to the continuance of that expense, will be the continuance of borrowing; that the increase of borrowing and the increase of debt will go hand in hand; and lastly, that the more money you want, the harder it will be to get it; and that the scarcity of the commodity will enhance the price.” 50 The economics are quite simple, so elementary that Burke prefaces them by reaffirming that “two and two make four;” however, they do serve as the basis of any budgetary policy. Excessive spending naturally produces an increase in the deficit that causes the national debt to rise and threatens the value of British currency, a fate that disconcerted Burke just as Republicans share their deep concerns over the “mountain of debt for our children and grandchildren.” 51 When government opts to increase expenditures or bring in additional revenue, conservatism in both the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries call for restraint. Many of the greatest statesmen in American history, as recognized by both liberals and conservatives, have been Republicans.
Beyond his additional striking political qualities,
Abraham Lincoln is revered for assembling a cabinet that, in spite of featuring some of his greatest political rivals within his party, reconciled its personal and political differences to achieve victory in the American Civil War and secure passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Henry Kissinger, though a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, expressed serious concerns with the Administration’s lack of planning prior to the conflict and acknowledged that “the new power struggles would...be very violent” in the summer of 2002. 52
Even Ronald Reagan,
critiqued by the left for his economic policies and foreign policy mishaps, is almost universally 50 Burke, "Observations on a Late," in The Works of the Right, 1:46. 51 Mike Pence, "Pence Op-Ed: 'On Debt Day, with Regret,'" Votesmart.org, last modified April 26, 2009, http://votesmart.org/public-statement/421555/pence-op-ed-on-debt-day-with-regret#.U2aHZ-ZdWx4. 52 Robert D. Kaplan, "In Defense of Henry Kissinger," Theatlantic.com, last modified April 24, 2013, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/the-statesman/309283/?single_page=true.
recognized as “The Great Communicator,” noted for his ability to convey “a sense of intimacy and warmth, regardless of venue...because he saw it as an opportunity to build relationships.” 53 Character is an integral to the modern conservative ideology as free-market principles and a prohibitive military.
The Preamble of the 2012 Republican National Committee Platform
addresses “American values” far more extensively than the Democratic equivalent does, affirming that the “American people possess vast reserves of courage and determination and the capacity to hear the truth and chart a strong course. They are eager for the opportunity to take on life’s challenges and, through faith and hard work, transform the future for the better.” 54 Though the Republican Party has been challenged for the prominence of its social positions within its ideological framework and hardline stances adopted on issues like same-sex abortion are contrary to the political spirit of Burke, the first conservative does idealize the valor in public service: “It is because they know...that he will never negotiate away their honor or his own: and that, in or out of power, change of situation will make no alteration in his conduct. This will give to such a person in such a body, an authority and respect that no minister ever enjoyed among his venal dependents, in the highest plenitude of his power; such as servility never can give, such as ambition never can receive or relish.”55
Regardless of changing political dynamics or
opportunities for advancement, the archetypal statesman Burke details is guided only by what he feels to be in the best interest of his constituency and country. Republicans have long assumed this mantle, emulating the monolithic William F. Buckley’s description of the conservative as someone who “stands athwart history yelling ‘Stop’ at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or
53 Dick Wirthlin and Wynton C. Hall, The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me about Politics, Leadership, and Life (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 4. 54 The Platform Committee, "Republican Platform 2012," Gop.com, last modified August 22, 2012, http://www.gop.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2012GOPPlatform.pdf. 55 Burke, "Observations on a Late," in The Works of the Right, 1:308.
to have much patience with those who so urge it.” 56 So long as the conservative’s principles are in line with Burkean thinking, he ought to defend them even if they are unpopular. Accordingly, he will earn a level of respect that is greater in worth than any myopic abandonment could have earned him. Three months before announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, Herman Cain spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and declared that “the objective of the liberals is to destroy this country, the objective of the liberals is to make America mediocre.” Though Cain’s assertion of progressives brainwashing the United States citizenry with “S.I.N. tactics”57 is nothing but hyperbole, there statement does hint at an underlying truth: Republicans are more patriotic than Democrats. A Harvard University study published in November of 2011 revealed that even Fourth of July Parades host more Republican voters than Democrats and that children who attend these festivities are more likely to register as members of the Grand Old Party once they reach voting age, substantiating claims by the report’s authors that “the political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century.”58 Burke not only appreciates the harboring of positive sentiments towards one’s country, but sees such allegiance as an asset to the act of legislating, writing that “this retrospective wisdom, and historical patriotism, are things of wonderful convenience, and serve admirably to reconcile the old quarrel between speculation and practice.”59 Love of nation, especially if the admiration has been long-standing, affords policy decisions an additional layer of credibility. Crafted in the service of the common good rather 56 William F. Buckley, "Our Mission Statement," Nationalreview.com, last modified November 19, 1955, http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/223549/our-mission-statement/william-f-buckley-jr.
57 Kyle Mantyla, "Herman Cain: 'Stupid People Are Ruining America,'" Rightwingwatch.org, last modified February 11, 2011, http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/herman-cain-stupid-people-are-ruining-america. 58 Paul Bedard, "Harvard: July 4th Parades Are Right-Wing," Usnews.com, last modified June 30, 2011, http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2011/06/30/harvard-july-4th-parades-are-right-wing. 59 Burke, "Thoughts on the Cause," in The Works of the Right, 1:16.
than special interest, such legislative work will enable the success of the nation for the policymakers have so passionately and outwardly displayed their allegiance. The Republican Party, according to the writings of Burke, would be well-served to tap into the patriotic fervor they have fostered over the past century to become both better politicians and public servants. Similarly, there remains potential in the Republican Party’s zealous reverence for the nation’s Founding Fathers as the GOP attempts to develop a plan for sustainable growth. Conservatives, especially those associated with the Tea Party, have a strong penchant for citing the men who established the United States of America alongside many of their proposals, even if such claims are disingenuous. 2010 Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle defended attacks on her ultraconservative positions by claiming “[the public] probably said that about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and Ben Franklin.” 60
Businessman Matt Bevin, whose
challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from the right in a Republican primary in Kentucky for reelection to his seat, objected to critiques of his appearance at a pro-cockfighting rally through a mention of how the Founding Fathers “were all...very involved in this and always have been.”61 Attempting to drum up support for her eventual Presidential bid in Iowa, home of the nation’s first primary contest, Representative Michele Bachmann declared her admiration for the Founding Fathers and how they “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”62 The statement, as preposterous and disconnected from history as it may be, does reflect an attachment to the Founding Fathers that the Grand Old Party ought to integrate into both its policies and strategies, just as Burke would have supported: “Thanks to our sullen 60 Rob Chernow, "The Founding Fathers versus the Tea Party," Nytimes.com, last modified September 23, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/opinion/24chernow.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. 61 Lindsay Abrams, "Tea Party Candidate Matt Bevin: The Founding Fathers Were “Very Involved” in Cockfighting and Dogfighting," Salon.com, last modified April 4, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/04/04/tea_party_candidate_matt_bevin_the_founding_fathers_were_very_involved_in_co ckfighting_and_dogfighting/. 62 Jon Bershad, "Bachmann: America’s Founders ‘Worked Tirelessly until Slavery Was No More’," Mediaite.com, last modified January 24, 2011, http://www.mediaite.com/tv/bachmann-americas-founders-worked-tirelessly-untilslavery-was-no-more-in-the-us/.
resistance to innovation, thanks to the cold sluggishness of our national character, we still bear the stamp of our forefathers...”63 As misguided and careless as the ultraconservatives have been in associating their suppositions with some of the greatest intellectuals this country has ever known, their intent does reside within Burkean territory. A full-throated proponent of tradition’s prominence in proceeding political matters, Burke encouraged the canonization of a nation’s founders as a means of tempering the cacophony of contemporary political discourse with a reverence for the work that has led to the presence of the modern state. Liberty becomes recognized not only as a right to be exercised, but a testament to a free nation’s history. By crediting the progenitor, the country acts in noble interest and the Republican Party affords itself the opportunity to embrace the remaining spirit of Burke within the GOP to further the conservative ideology.
PART IV: CARRYING IN BURKE The debate over the future of the Republican Party will ferociously wage on, both within the GOP and the Fourth Estate. A plethora of solutions intended to remedy the issues exposed by the Republican defeats of 2012 have been offered up somewhere within the pages of The New 63 Burke, Reflections on the Revolution, in The Works of the Right, 3:182.
York Times, the streaming of HuffPost Live, or the walls of Heath Commons, amongst other respectable domains. Far too many of these proposals are either wrapped so tightly in ambiguous language and cursory attempts at long-term initiatives that they lack any merit beyond achieving the Party some semblance of introspection or inherently inclined to disaffect the core constituency of the Party or the voters the GOP needs to attract. Building a sustainable conservative political organization requires a holistic evaluation of the ongoing plight that avoids oversimplification and narrow-mindedness as well as piecemealing. The directive must be straightforward yet enforceable, clearly reflecting the spirit in which it is rooted while remaining unmarred by minutiae. Most importantly, any effort at reform must resist the temptation to base the revamp around moving the entire Republican Party of the United States closer to the center or farther to the right, as evidenced by Intelligence Squaredâ€™s attempt to craft a thoughtful debate around such a resolution that merely resulted in the audience leaving more polarized than it had entered.64 Therefore, a reintroduction of Edmund Burke into contemporary conservatism is not only a strong proposal, but an essential initiative. By embracing conservative principles, remaining succinct yet specific, and avoiding the minefield of navigating leftward or rightward on the political spectrum, the call to reacquaint the Grand Old Party with its ideological voorvader has a strong chance of succeeding in saving the Republicans from themselves. Now is the time for the Republican Party to abandon the Tea Party movement. The ideological purity, fervent resistance to compromise, fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism, denial of science, ignoramic rejection of factual information, antipathy towards progress, demonization of education, desire to control womenâ€™s bodies, severe xenophobia, tribal mentality, intolerance of dissent, and pathological hatred of the United States government that
64 "The GOP Must Seize the Center or Die Full Debate- Intelligence Squared," video file, 1:46:59, Youtube.com, posted by IntelligenceSquared Debates, April 17, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bayJo5mMecs.
Will McAvoy details as characteristic of the Tea Party in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom65 truly have a greater place in the Taliban than they do in the political organization that presented the nation with Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan, for even the Gipper would be labeled a Republican in Name Only by the ultraconservatives who have called him “a former liberal...who would never be elected today.”66 With far more advanced technological resources,67 opportunities to transition the South into blue states,68 and early indications of the strength of a potential Presidential bid by Fmr. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,69 the Democratic Party is strongly poised to fare quite well in the 2016 Presidential Election and national contests thereafter in spite of the issues that plague the Obama Administration in its second term. Accordingly, if the Republicans are serious about securing electoral victories in the years of Presidential contests, they must forsake the fervency and nonsensicality for which the Tea Party stands and opt instead for a more reasoned, rationed, and restrained approach that still embraces both the spirit and principles of conservatism; they must reconnect with the first conservative. The implementation of Burkean principles into the Republican Party and rejection of the influence the Tea Party has held within the GOP does not consist of favoring any candidate over another or dropping certain policy positions to become more moderate. Rather, the aims of the operation must center around cultivating an ethos within the Grand Old Party that Burke would 65 "The Newsroom - Tea Party Is the American Taliban," video file, 6:10, Youtube.com, posted by Home Box Office, August 27, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGAvwSp86hY. 66 Lee Fang, "Rep. Duncan Hunter: Ronald Reagan ‘Would Never Be Elected Today’ Because He’s a ‘Moderate/Former Liberal’," Thinkprogress.org, last modified July 5, 2011, http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/07/05/260973/hunter-reagan-communists/. 67 Robert Draper, "Can the Republicans Be Saved from Obsolescence?," Nytimes.com, last modified February 14, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/magazine/can-the-republicans-be-saved-from-obsolescence.html?_r=0. 68 Scott Arceneaux, "Painting Dixie Blue," Politico.com, last modified February 20, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/south-democrats-painting-dixie-blue-103746.html? ml=m_pm#.UwkwBEJdWx4. 69 Liz Kreutz, "Virginia Senator Pledges Support for Hillary Clinton in 2016," Abcnews.go.com, last modified May 2, 2014, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/05/tim-kaine-pledges-support-for-hillary-clinton-in-2016/.
have endorsed as integral to his political mission and his compatriotic Whigs. Were the Republicans to embrace Burkean conservatism, there would be no debt ceiling debacles, fiscal cliff fights, or showdowns over government shutdowns. There would be no mention of Benghazi beyond the acknowledgement that the incident was a terrible tragedy, the Internal Revenue System’s targeting of certain political action groups would be condemned but not exaggerated, and not even a hint of hypocrisy would emerge in discussing the leaks of Edward Snowden when the Bush Administration and conservative media defended the practices of the National Security Agency only a few years ago.70 Cliven Bundy would be recognized as a treasonist rather than a national hero, long-serving incumbents would not have to fear a primary challenge from the right over their support of long overdue immigration-reform,71and a national political organization with which one-quarter of Americans72 would not wholly dismiss the opinion of ninety-seven percent of climate scientists.73 Instead, the nation could depend upon a Republican Party that dismissed exaggeration, short-term societal desires, and undue and overweening attachment to wrongly-rooted principles in favor of preserving the core ideals and institutions, as they have evolved over time, that have ensured the United States of America’s continuance as that “Shining City on a Hill.”74
Then, the Republican Party will have brought back Burke.
70 "Hannity Then and Now on NSA Surveillance," video file, 1:59, Youtube.com, posted by Media Matters for America, June 12, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t27ie4qFlXM. 71 Maggie Haberman, "FWD.us: GOP Primary Worries Overblown," Politico.com, last modified February 21, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/fwdus-gop-primaries-103791.html. 72 Jeffrey M. Jones, "Record-High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents," Gallup.com, last modified January 28, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/166763/record-high-americans-identify-independents.aspx. 73 Brad Bannon, "The GOP Fiddles While the Planet Burns," Usnews.com, last modified July 3, 2013, http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/brad-bannon/2013/07/03/gop-denial-on-global-warming-rape-and-science. 74 Ronald Reagan, "Farewell Address," speech presented in The White House, January 11, 1989, Millercenter.org, last modified 2013, http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/3418.
PART V: AN ODE TO BURKE ET AL. Abrams, Lindsay. “Tea Party Candidate Matt Bevin: The Founding Fathers Were “Very Involved” in Cockfighting and Dogfighting.” Salon.com. Last modified April 4, 2014. http://www.salon.com/2014/04/04/tea_party_candidate_matt_bevin_the_founding_fathers_were_ very_involved_in_cockfighting_and_dogfighting/. Arceneaux, Scott. “Painting Dixie Blue.” Politico.com. Last modified February 20, 2014. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/south-democrats-painting-dixie-blue103746.html?ml=m_pm#.UwkwBEJdWx4.
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