Tag archives: Conservatism

Conservatism’s Good - and Under-reported Ideas

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 24, 2014

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) today unveiled a plan designed to “expand (economic) opportunity in America—to deliver real change, real solutions, and real results” (http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=389081#.U9FlzkCuo7k).

It is likely there are proposals and assumptions in Ryan’s plan with which I agree, and others with which I do not. What has caught my attention is the way some of the media are covering his remarks. Here are some examples:

Ryan’s plan is substantive, far-reaching, and clear. It has much to commend it. Let’s also grant for the sake of argument that in addition to wanting to offer proposals that offer real hope, Ryan wants to dispel some of the stereotypes about Republicans not caring for the poor. That’s perfectly understandable and politically valid.

Yet with that said, why should he or anyone have to dispel a notion that is, itself, patently false?

Conservatives have long offered myriad proposals to help address issues of economic opportunity, educational failure, family collapse, and the struggles of millions of Americans wrestling with at-best modest incomes and dwindling hopes.

Yet the standard media narrative – heartless conservatives who pine for “orgiastic tax-cutting, the slashing of government programs, the championing of Wall Street” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/magazine/can-the-gop-be-a-party-of-ideas.html) – clings to the conservative movement like plastic wrap.

Why? Simply because so many in the “mainstream” media repeat it so often and, concurrently, so seldom report on the many ideas conservatives have generated that are designed to address intransigent social and economic problems. This is maddening, even if predictable, and also one of the principal reasons conservatives now operate their own print and electronic media outlets and networks.

Of course, sometimes a conservative spokesman will say something untoward or excessive. Pick a politician, Left or Right, who sometimes says things not almost immediately regretted. Do such offensive but incidental comments characterize entire movements, whole patterns of philosophy and ideas? No. Yet much too often, conservatives are portrayed as the purveyors of greed and callousness because of the few stupid statements of a few people.

Economic indicators cannot measure the values held by our children, or the suffering felt by broken families,” according to my old boss, U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN). “We have discovered that our growing GNP also includes massive prison construction to house a lost generation, drug counseling in elementary schools, suicide hotlines, teen pregnancy centers, and clinics for battered children” (https://wikis.engrade.com/morality1/morality4).

The Senator said this in a speech in 1991. Since then, at least two things haven’t changed: The media’s general stereotyping of conservatives as heartless materialists, and their failure to report conservative ideas about how best to help our fellow citizens in need.

To death and taxes, perhaps media disinterest in conservative proposals should be added as an inevitability. This is not excuse for conservatives not to “stay in there pitching,” but a reminder that the next time you’re tempted to ask, “Why don’t conservatives say something about (pick your issue)?,” in all likelihood they already have.

Warning to Conservatives from Paul Ryan: Don’t Rely on the Supreme Court

by Family Research Council

July 16, 2014

The Supreme Court is not a hero, and the conservative movement is not a damsel in distress.

This is one concept Congressman Paul Ryan (WI) discussed in his Independence Day Address, which he delivered at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center this past Tuesday.

In the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions favoring religious liberty, conservatives could fall into the trap of putting their hope in a panel of judicial experts. This is a tendency that Ryan warned against in his final remarks:

Finally, there is the temptation to ask courts to intervene and solve our problems for us. Some conservatives think of judges the way Progressives think of bureaucrats: technical experts with the solutions to constitutional conflicts. But judges, like bureaucrats, are often the problem. We must be mindful of this temptation. It is true the Supreme Court can be an ally in conflicts surrounding the constitution. But, it can also be an adversary.”

Personally, the image of the Supreme Court as an adversary quickly brings the Roe V. Wade decision to mind. This decision legalized abortion and denied millions of Americans their right to life outside the womb. The Pro-Life movement would decidedly argue that, in the case of Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court was an opponent of fundamental Constitutional and human rights.

Paul Ryan continued his statement, saying, “Let’s remember that under our Constitution of self-government, the court that really counts is the court of public opinion, where the American people hand down their verdict on Election Day.”

Congressman Ryan’s cautionary statements ring true. While each Supreme Court decision that upholds religious freedom and human life ought to be celebrated and encouraged, conservatives must not begin to neglect the importance of public opinion. The battle of ideas—whether concerning abortion, religious liberty or any other hot-button issue—is still taking place every day on Capitol Hill, in schools, and at the family dinner table.

This call to continue working to win the hearts and minds of Americans should leave conservatives throughout the country with a sense of empowerment, not discouragement. Each individual has the opportunity to reach out to his or her neighbor. Through conversations about political or moral dilemmas, acts of service, or prayer, individuals have the ability to impact the culture more fully than any Supreme Court decision.

The truth is that the conservative movement doesn’t need the Supreme Court as its hero. Rather than putting trust in institutions, conservatism draws its strength from individuals who carry out their duty and charity in faith that America will be blessed because of it. Hopefully the Supreme Court will sustain this renewed commitment to honor the Constitution and the American citizens. But whether it does or not, we must continue to stand firm and champion conservative ideals to a nation that desperately needs them.

Perfect Together: Social and Defense Conservatives”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 12, 2014

My friend Bob Patterson has written a perceptive piece in National Review Online on what should be recognized as the natural alliance between national security conservatives and socially conservative Christians.

As he notes, “(President Obama) anticipates spending $844 billion on federal welfare programs in 2015, a whopping 4.6 percent of projected GDP. In comparison, President Reagan whittled federal welfare spending to 2.2 percent of GDP in his second term. To put it another way, in 1985 we spent nearly two and a half times as many dollars on defense as on welfare, but if Obama gets his way, next year we’ll be spending 35 percent more on welfare than on defense. And that doesn’t count state-level welfare spending, which accounts for the highest single line-item of state budgets.”

Read Bob’s piece in its entirety here.

The Other Religious Right

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 22, 2012

The “Religious Right” is once again the subject of great media scrutiny. Just look for the term in any search engine, and more articles than one reasonably can read will pop-up. Most will be caustic, a few will smack of an academic detachment that borders, invariably, on the condescending, and the majority will be uncomprehending.

The demise of the Religious Right is reported copiously and regularly every four years or so. Odd; why is this dying breed so rigorously and persistently courted or deliberately ignored by politicians whenever they seek election?

As a Christian working for a large socially conservative organization, generally I don’t recognize the caricatures of religious activists that appear in the popular prints. Some leader made an off-the-wall statement 15 years ago and, apparently, it represents the thought and conduct of tens of millions to this day. Illogical as this is, it is the steadfast trope of the Left.

Thus, I read with great gratification John Mark Reynolds’ “The Other Religious Right.” Professor Reynolds, an Evangelical, observes that “the comment boxes on blogs, left and right, are full of people who see their Party as Good and the other Party as Orcs, but in real life those folk are rare. I have met them, but I have heard more than one sermon against them. They are, in my experience, marginalized by their own folly.”

This captures my experience, as well. The socially conservative Christians I know almost universally are compassionate, thoughtful, approachable, principled, and well-informed. Do they, or I, always speak with perfect nuance or total probity? No; we are human, and thus make mistakes. But the people I know, and with whom I serve, are far more characterized by their forgiving spirits and their eagerness to share the love of Christ (including through extraordinarily generous giving to international development ministries) than by the ignorance, bigotry, and bluster attributed to them by their smug and seemingly mystified opponents.

Growing up my church and my family worked to protect unborn children by law, because it was just, writes Professor Reynolds.

We had not dropped this protection, the Supreme Court took it. We certainly werent stupid enough to think the law would make people good, but we did think that the law could protect some unborn children. Periodically, we would step back and examine our motives. Critics were plentiful and happily pointed out our sins. We are now in the third iteration of the post-politics evangelicalism I remember. It is so predictable …

Predictable but frequent and, Im glad to report, tremendously exaggerated. The humble, committed Evangelical conservatives I know have an unabated passion for the sanctity of life, the centrality of religious liberty, and the importance of marriage and family to a decent society. They are going nowhere, fast.