Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Progressives vs. Founders

Not too long ago, I referenced Michael Barone’s terminology for the current political argument taking place in our country. Here is his quote:

Over the past 14 months, our political debate has been transformed into an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives. The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government.
I think it’s important to keep that representation in mind as we watch “attempts at reconciliation” and “mending of fences” after the recent midterm elections. The theme being advanced by our culture is that we need to exhibit a cordial bipartisanship and move forward.

Not so fast…

Here’s an example of the quandary: President Obama’s 10/27/10 speech to the White House Council on Women and Girls.

You are probably wondering, “What could possibly be wrong with this? Everybody wants to end violence against women!”

The problem comes down to the contention between Progressives and Founders. Here’s a Pajamas Media piece by Carey Roberts that sheds some light on the issue.

And here’s my two cents…

Americans have a Constitution that includes Amendment XIV. That amendment defines what constitutes a citizen of the United States, and specifically states that any person within the United States has “equal protection of the laws.”

That’s the rub. How do you work the problem of domestic violence? Do you use the Constitution to go after those instances where individuals are denied equal protection, or do you set up special rules and regulations for a particular identity group?

President Obama takes the approach that women need to feel their government is watching out for them, and he is the one who will ensure special treatment for this group. It’s part of the rotational identity group syndrome where politicians emphasize a particular group identity by gender, skin tone, political affiliation, etc. and selectively inform the groups that the politician is “dedicated to fighting for their rights.”

The difference is stark: Founders want to ensure the protection of individual rights while Progressives want to ensure preferences for identity groups. How does one reconcile the two?

Maybe the underlying data show that the identity group is in fact suffering discrimination? Unfortunately, in the case of domestic violence, the facts do not show gender discrimination against women. The opposite is true!

And so things become complicated. We’ve now got the President of the United States basing an identity group appeal on a lie! He may believe that women are receiving unfair and longer sentences for their crimes, but it is the opposite gender (men) who are suffering that fate.

And then there’s this problem: Our government officials take an Oath of Office where they swear (or affirm) to defend the Constitution of the United States. When they choose to promote identity group rights to the exclusion of those individual rights specified in the Constitution, is that defending the Constitution? Are they reneging on their Oath?

It comes down to issues of principle. As stated in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s an extraordinary statement and an exceptional founding principle.

I’m siding with The Founding Principles. Will our new Republican leadership do the same?

UPDATE 11/10/2010:
James Ceaser at Real Clear Politics has an analysis of the recent midterm elections (h/t Power Line) that rings true.  He characterizes the election as the "Great Repudiation" and contrasts the Democratic Party analysis ("The election outcome was all the result of a misunderstanding.") with the Tea Party movement's introduction of the Constitution into the debate.  All of you Founders out there will find this article worthwhile.

UPDATE 2/24/2011:
David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy brings up that troubling issue of the Constitution in the context of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Our public officials take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.  Progressive leaders sincerely believe that the oath also gives them the power to not enforce the Constitution when it conflicts with their point of view.  It almost makes you want to look up the definition of "anarchy."

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