There was a very interesting and instructive conversation between This Week host George Stephanopoulos and California Governor Arne Schwarznegger broadcast yesterday that exposed some troubling attitudes on the part of some politicians who see nothing wrong in having the federal government expropriate your property to subsidize failure, incompetence, and in California’s case - government overreach.
First, it must be said that even though I am a “Big Tent” Republican, anyone who would abandon their principles in order to accede to the wishes of the mob isn’t much of a conservative. I don’t know what Schwarzenegger is, or what he believes - if he truly believes anything at all and not just blows with the winds of popular discontent - but one thing he isn’t is a conservative nor is he any kind of Republican that I can compare him to:
Schwarzenegger said Republicans in Washington must put aside their ideology and work with President Barack Obama on solving the economic crisis.
“You know, you’ve got to go beyond just the principles. You’ve got to go and say, ‘What is right for the country right now?’” he said. “I think that, if they — they should make an effort to work together and to find what is best for the people, because by derailing everything, it’s not going to help anybody, and it creates instability and insecurity.”
Stephanopoulos describing what Schwarzenegger said reveals a supposedly experienced and educated man who doesn’t know the difference between “ideology” and “principles.” Ideology can be defined as how we see the world through the prism supplied by our principles and defines where we come down on important issues like taxes, government spending, abortion, etc. One can change their position on issues - ideology - as long as you remain true to basic principles.
Principles, on the other hand, are virtually immutable philosophical concepts that form the underpinnings of ideology and are “true” to the extent that they are informed by logic and reason rather than emotion.. An example of a conservative principle is the belief that in a well ordered society, government is required to take from the people in taxes only that which it needs to function. Ideological conservatives transform that sensible principle into the issue of cutting taxes, feeling that the government has taken too much. It is an arguable point that I happen to agree with and which ideologues from the other side might see differently. But there is no conservative “principle” that specifically holds that cutting taxes is always the right thing to do in every situation nor even that it is necessary at all. It is this notion among others that ideological conservatives have conflated with “conservative principles” to the detriment of the movement.
As I have written previously, conservatism has become excessively ideological where instead of conservative principles informing ideology, a mindset has developed that equates ideology with principles, abandoning Burke and Hayek for Hannity and Limbaugh. Until conservatives can sort out and redefine for the modern age what our traditional, classical, view of man and his relationship to government and society means, it is probable that people will continue to listen to Rush rather than Russell Kirk (among others) and believe they are being exposed to conservative “principles” rather than the entertaining ideological slants of show biz personalities.
So I would agree that a little less ideology in these times is a good thing. But what about Arne’s call to set aside principles and do what’s best “for the country?” This presupposes that conservatives who are violently opposed to Obama’s bail out culture are only doing so out of spite or for political gain. Obviously, I vigorously reject that notion. What Mr. Obama is up to is such a total and complete anathema to my conservative principles that opposing him where I believe his subsidies and bailouts go beyond what is “best for the country” by my own definition becomes a necessity. Why should conservatives accept Mr. Obama’s notion of what is “best for the country.” Why should conservatives “put aside” their principles to support what every fiber of their being is telling them is wrong?
No doubt elections have consequences. But Mr. Obama did not run a campaign where he promised to fundamentally alter the relationship between the citizen and the government, where Washington was going to reward bad behavior by forcing the people to subsidize failure and bad decisions by their fellow citizens . If he had, he would have been roundly defeated. His campaign oozed moderation not radical left nostrums of bank nationalizations, trillion dollar stimuluses (when a sizable number of economists think half the spending in the bill would have been enough), and other radical surgery proposed for an economy that is in recession.
The left, the Democrats, and the media are advancing the narrative that we had no other choices available, that it was this or economic collapse. But that simply isn’t true. In fact, there is an entire school of economic thought that believes what the Obama Administration is doing is ruinous to our future, won’t stimulate the economy, and has thrust the federal government into the role of arbiter, choosing who wins and who loses when such decisions should (for the most part) be left to the market. These economists don’t hate America, aren’t glad to see people suffer, but follow a basic premise that government intervention in the economy of the size and scope proposed by the Obama Administration is wrong. This is not based on ideology but rather on their informed, scientific opinion. To dismiss or ignore this opinion because other economists say differently while pretending there was no other option than to chart the course being followed is pure, ideological politics - exactly what the Obama Administration accuses Republicans of doing.
Schwarzenegger and others may be willing to abandon principle in these uncertain times. How this is doing what is right “for the country” escapes me. It would seem to me that if everyone acted on their principles and did what they thought was best for the country, the nation would be well served, indeed. Yes, one side would win out over the other. That’s how democracy works. But we would be left with the satisfaction that we maintained our adherence to our fundamental beliefs and, as many of us believe, when it is shown that President Obama’s plans have done little to revive the economy, the American people will be more willing to listen to alternatives from those who opposed doing what was popular or politically viable in favor doing what we know from experience and the principles that inform our opinions was right.
There is no doubt that all GOP governors will take most of the money being proffered by the federal government. It won’t make them hypocrites any more than Democrats who voted against every defense spending bill that ever came down the pike are hypocrites for enjoying the freedom and security that spending buys or liberals talking down tax cuts and then not giving the money back when it shows up in their paychecks. Schwarznegger’s call to abandon principles and work for “the good of the country” is different. It is apparent the governor has little in the way of principles to abandon in the first place and that rather than doing what is best for all, he is doing what is best for himself. Unprincipled politicians are a dime a dozen and Schwarzenegger has proven himself to be the worst example in the Republican ranks.