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Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Why I love the Grand Old Party. Part III.

"And that is the issue of this campaign that makes all of the other problems I have discussed academic, unless we realize that we are in a war that must be won.

"Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers."

"Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace--and you can have it in the next second--surrender.

"Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face--that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight and surrender."

--Ronald Reagan, "A Time for Choosing," 1964

Foreign Policy: Peace through Strength.

This is certainly an area in which my big-RR Republican world view trumps my little-r republicanism. Recently, a reader of this blog struck a little-r republicanism cord, when he denounced:

"a 'strong defense,' which [is a euphemism for] a gigantic world-wide military infrastructure. I find it a violation of the principle of small government to have a military which spends more than the rest of the world combined, and which not only makes our government bigger, but seeks to become or control the government in foreign countries such as Iraq."

This is not unlike Pat Buchanan's famous "republic not an empire" sentiment. These dissenters have a point. Lower-case republicanism inveighs against standing armies. Why? Standing armies tempt despots to employ force to threaten the liberty of the people. Moreover, standing armies allow rulers to make war on foreign enemies, causing destruction and deprivation for the many in pursuit of wealth for the few.

Therefore, when the framers eschewed the republican principle of a solely defense-oriented militia, and empowered the federal government to "raise and support Armies" and "provide and maintain a Navy," they rejected a fundamental assumption of their Revolutionary ideology.

Why did they do it?

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Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Please consider this brief biographical essay in aid of our discussion of modern Republicanism. Perhaps this will jar my thinking into the twentieth century. Originally published as an entry in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia earlier this year.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1890-1969.

Immensely successful and popular as Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War, General Dwight Eisenhower vaulted onto the political stage after his homecoming and won a landslide victory in 1952 to become the thirty-fourth president of the United States (1953-1961). Affectionately called “Ike” by millions of Americans, Eisenhower secured an even more lopsided victory in his 1956 bid for reelection. President Eisenhower presided over a period of robust growth and “happy days” at home, and he steered American foreign policy through a series of global crises in an increasingly perilous bipolar postwar world. His statecraft cemented the strategy of “containment” as the fixed American response to the threat of Soviet expansion during the Cold War world.

Although he cast himself as a Republican committed to less government and more local control, Eisenhower drew sharp criticism from conservatives before, during and after his presidency. His low marks emanated from what detractors called his acceptance of “New Dealism,” his cozy relationship with big business, and a “deficient understanding of Communism.” Eisenhower supported two massive national public works projects, the Interstate Highway System and the St. Lawrence Seaway Act, both of which poured billions of federal dollars into internal improvements designed to promote commerce. For many conservatives, the Eisenhower circle was blindly committed to a market-based economy and society. They were gratuitously materialistic and far too willing to sacrifice tradition on the altar of capitalism. He also appointed arguably the most liberal Chief Justice in the history of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren (although he later called it a “damn fool mistake”). In 1957, he boldly and unequivocally asserted federal supremacy over state rights when he dispatched the 101st Airborne to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce a federal court order desegregating Central High School. Eisenhower also ran afoul of the staunch anticommunist-wing of the Republican Party.

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In response to Gossenius's critique of the Republican Party:
Why I love the Grand Old Party. Part II.

Judicial Restraint: The Republican Party came to prominence railing against one of the most shameful Supreme Court decisions in American history: Dred Scott. Abraham Lincoln did not call the Taney court "activist" (according to one scholar, Arthur Schlesinger coined the term in 1947), but the Illinois Republican deemed the ruling unacceptably political and a vast overreach into policy making. When the Dred Scott decision seemed to extend the Constitutional right to own slaves into all federal territories, Lincoln charged that the Court usurped the democratic process. The Republican Party of today continues the tradition of advocating judicial restraint.

Of course, the courts are not apolitical or completely independent, and there are notable historical instances of Republican actions that seem to contradict "restraint" as a guiding principle. The Lochner era (roughly from the late-nineteenth century until the FDR appointees gained control of the Court) serves as an example of a Republican-dominated federal judiciary aggressively protecting business interests. A more recent example, the Republican majority on the Rehnquist Court ruled in favor of the plaintive in Bush v. Gore in 2000, which struck many as egregiously unrestrained. However, for the most part, the Republican Party prefers legislative solutions to major national questions rather than judicial interference in the democratic process, favoring local control via popular rule whenever possible. For example, consider issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and public religiosity. On the occasions when the Republican Party seeks to nationalize those sorts of issues, they tend to offer Constitutional amendments requiring super majorities of the American electorate rather than legal actions custom-designed to appeal to a judicial aristocracy.

Judicial Restraint is an important component in the Republican view of individual freedom and the role of government.

Please allow me another pause. In subsequent installments, I intend to reconcile the GOP small-government rhetoric with its penchant for internal improvement projects and assistance to business interests. Next up: Republican foreign policy. But you are invited, once again, to comment on my musings thus far.
In response to Gossenius's critique of the Republican Party:
Why I love the Grand Old Party.

Allow me this preface:

As Gossenius challenged GOP advocates to defend the party through positive argument only, I will not mention the Democratic Party in this essay, except to say: I admire the party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Paul Tsongas, Paul Wellstone, and Joe Lieberman. The Democratic Party has played (and hopefully will continue to play) a vital and positive role in shaping American history and political culture.

Having said that, let me take issue with an element of Gossenius's argument. He notes the irony of Republicans citing instances in which "the other side doesn't live up to the values...Republicans espouse and then betray" [my emphasis]. On the other hand, in an imperfect world in which we all fall short of exemplary, the standards we set for ourselves are an essential measure of who we aspire to be, which is extremely instructive in getting at who we are.

History. Formed to fight the spread of slavery, the Republican Party of the 1850s castigated the insidious institution for a number of reasons. Of course, Republicans absorbed a strain of heroic humanitarian anti-slavery thinking. Southerners labeled the Republicans the "Black Republicans," denoting that the despised abolitionists were especially fond of and optimistic about the new party. However, pure abolitionism was not the most important component of the early Republican ethos. In truth, the Republican Party was a big tent, which claimed within its ranks as many moderate and pragmatic racists as unadulterated abolitionists.

More significantly, fidelity to the market economy animated the early Republican Party. In his monograph Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men! (the title taken from the first GOP campaign slogan), Eric Foner argues early Republicans viewed the relatively new market ideology as the key to America's future success. Republicans like Abraham Lincoln saw slavery not only as a violation of founding ideals but at odds with vital economic principles. Lincoln et al saw the ability to work freely and succeed and ascend the socio-economic ladder as basic to individual freedom and national strength, and he saw slavery as inimical to the wondorous engine of equality and fortune that free labor offered. Born into rural deprivation, Lincoln understood the value of a system that allowed (or, even better, promoted) social mobility.

Republicans and the Market: A modern observer might ask why Abraham Lincoln was such a "toady" for big business? He saw the market economy as the great equalizer. Lincoln favored an economic and cultural system that rewarded persons of character, determination, and skill. That some entities would prosper and become very powerful (maybe inordinately powerful) seemed a reasonable, if not altogether agreeable, price to pay for individual opportunity. Lincoln favored a "just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all, gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition of all." In a nutshell free labor equaled national progress and individual freedom.

Market-oriented Republicanism is alive and well today. Think about the Wal-Mart debate. Although traditional conservatives and liberals alike find fault with Wal-Mart, wishing it would go away, market-oriented Republicans continue to defend Wal-Mart as an institution produced by the marketplace providing low cost essentials for millions of families of lower socio-economic rank who are working to move up the ladder, looking forward to the day they can shop at Dillards.

Granted, there are excesses and inequalities in the market. After a period of great growth in the American economy, another Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, inaugurated the era of government regulation. Republicans generally inveigh against a regulatory state (opting for deregulation whenever possible), but there are no laissez-faire Republicans. Republicans are unabashed supporters of capitalism--but none of us are so ideologically driven that we favor unrestricted capitalism.

We concede that the market is not always right. The market can run amok and cause economic, cultural, and political misery. Just as Madison argued that too much liberty was a danger to liberty, an unrestrained market-driven economy is fraught with peril. Nevertheless, I remain a big fan of liberty and market principles. On the whole, the market is a positive force in American culture, in part because market theory operates on such an honest and practical reading of human nature. It is up to us to balance the tensions inherent in a market economy.

But Lincoln was right. The free market is essential to American prosperity and security; it is also fundamental to the promises of the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ronald Reagan, another Illinois Republican born into mean circumstances, heard, understood, and preached this gospel of self improvement to an entire new generation of Americans.

Morality. Born during a period of spiritual and religious revival in American history, the Republican Party inherited a large constituency of evangelical Christian reformers. For 150 years, the GOP has welcomed the mantle of "the moral party," consistently leading to charges from opponents that the piety of the Republican Party was a false morality and hypocritical (an accusation often justified in its particulars).

True, the Republican Party has not been immune to scandal. Having conceded the obvious, however, I am happy to report that the Mark Foley's, Bob Ney's and Bob Sherwood's of the party don't last long after their sins are revealed. Not that Republicans don't believe in redemption--but they are inclined toward discipline first (usually exile from public service), repentance second, and rehabilitation later in private life.

The most perfidious of all American presidents, Richard Nixon, found that he could not count on Republicans in Congress to lock arms and defend him in partisan allegiance. His fellow party members proved essential in the fall of Nixon, investigating and leaking and breaking faith with their titular leader. And it was Republican stalwart Barry Goldwater who made the final call on the President to tell him that the jig was up.

In short, the constituency of the Republican Party is especially demanding. Scandals come and go--but the Republican rank-and-file has a very low tolerance for less-than-upright leaders. With the aid of an often hostile news media, the Republicans are in the constant process of self cleansing.

Please allow me to pause here. In subsequent installments, I intend to reconcile the GOP small-government rhetoric with its penchant for internal improvement projects and assistance to business interests. I also intend to touch on judicial restraint and Republican foreign policy. But you are invited to comment on my apologia thus far.