Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Paradox of the New Conservative

A quick word on Harwood’s last post, concerning the paradox of the new conservative. It always strikes me as hypocritical to see Republicans play the states’ rights card when it suits their agenda and disregard it when it doesn’t. For example, abortion should be an issue left to the states, but we need a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Doesn’t make much sense as a consistent logical framework.

But the conservative position of sometimes states’ rights/sometimes federal mandate is only paradoxical if you assume that its proponents begin with a broad political philosophy (e.g. the federal government should generally defer to state legislatures, except in matters concerning national welfare, safety, commerce, etc.) from which they derive the planks of their platform. In reality, just the opposite is happening. Conservatives are starting with their beliefs (homosexuality is immoral, abortion is immoral, business interests trump environmental concerns) and working retroactively to design a philosophy of government to justify them. It’s only natural that a philosophy designed in this way comes out looking inconsistent.

Harwood’s right when he suggests that the infusion of Christian conservatism has a lot to do with the Republican flip-flopping on the issue of states’ rights. Christian conservatism is at the heart of the paradox of the new conservative. Indeed, the party that once worked for limited government now requires a robust and active federal government to push its moral agenda through the states.

Yes, we are living in a bizzaro world of American politics where free market libertarians and born again Christians seek refuge under the mantle of the same political party. Strange days.

--Matthew McCoy