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August 3rd, 2011
Freethought San Marcos: How Tea Party ideologues are destroying conservatism

Freethought San Marcos: A column

Conservatism has been hijacked and dumped in the trash by a bunch of people who don’t believe in government, which means that they don’t support the idea of America and that they resent its ideals.

As a child in the 1950s, I saw President Eisenhower, a conservative, send troops to Little Rock to assure that Negro children could go to school unmolested by ordinary bigots and organized Klansmen because the Constitution afforded equal protection for all Americans. Eisenhower also supported the building of the interstate highway system, a big government program that has aided everyone, from families on vacation to truckers hauling the stuff of commerce.

Of course, there were a few wingnuts who called themselves conservatives during the post-World War II era. They were the progenitors of today’s Tea Party wingnuts, though I accept that not all Tea Partiers are unreasonable crazies. The 1950s wingnuts wanted to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, a position they announced widely on billboards. They took out threatening ads against President Kennedy in the Dallas Morning News the day he was assassinated in that city. But most conservatives in those days mainly did not want the government to interfere in the lives of Americans except to protect the health, safety, and welfare of everyone.

Now, so-called conservatives want to get into everyone’s bedroom, living room, and life. They want to tell us whom we can love and marry. They want to tell us where we can work. They want to control with whom we associate. They want to tell us where we can visit. They want to control the doctor-patient relationship. They want to use government to promote their own religious views and values.

Why does it matter what my private choices are about relationships if those choices are made between consenting adults? Previously, conservatives wanted to be left alone in their private lives. Now we have people who call themselves conservatives who want to legislate against same-sex marriage, and the ersatz conservatives of Utah (and elsewhere) are outspoken in support of criminal laws banning polygamy and cohabitation among consenting adults because they want to use the laws to control such private and personal decisions, usually for religious reasons.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote the standard by which all of us, including conservatives, should judge governmental action: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.” To use Jefferson’s standard, if another person’s actions “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg,” it is no business of the government or those who want to control my behavior. The conservative position should be that it is no one’s business.

The allegedly conservative representative from south Florida, Mario Diaz-Balart, wants to restrict Americans’ travel to Cuba still more than our laws already do. These authoritarian restrictions have been in place for fifty years in one form or another and should be anathema to conservatives and all freedom-lovers. The restrictions were eased minimally when Obama became president, but any restrictions at all offend Jefferson’s standard.

While polygamy may make for great entertainment on television (“Big Love” and “Sister Wives”), it is a serious matter for many consenting adults who find value in the practice and is a choice that does no harm to others. I am not writing here about the Warren Jeffs kind of polygamy that abuses children sexually and emotionally. The state has a legitimate interest in protecting children from abuse. I am writing about the use of the criminal laws to prohibit private relations between consenting adults. It is of no consequence whether it is something you or I would like to do. As Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and counsel of record in a law suit challenging Utah’s criminal polygamy laws, has written, “the right to live your life according to your own values and faith” is the main issue. So long as one’s actions do not harm others, including children, the government has no legitimate interest in interfering in anyone’s choice of life partners.

The same can be said of homosexual relations. Conservative icon Barry Goldwater opposed banning gays from the military. He put the matter in his blunt way: “You don’t need to be ‘straight’ to fight and die for your country, you just need to shoot straight.” Were he alive today, it would be consistent with his philosophy to keep the government out of the battle over gay marriage, as well. He would recognize the religious basis for the gay marriage prohibition, as he did on other matters, when he said, “Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives.” Goldwater and Jefferson had a lot in common.

Have you heard about “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage & Family,” a declaration of mostly anti-conservative principles being foisted on the candidates for the Republican nomination for president? It is a project of The Family Leader, a fundamentalist religious group based in Iowa, which is attempting to get presidential aspirants to sign on to its agenda. Among its provisions are declarations of personal behavior that are not my business, all related to marriage fidelity, monogamy, whom one marries, how much one enjoys sex, impediments to divorce, religious beliefs, and having lots of children.

Protecting women and children from illegal acts and protecting everyone from sexual harassment, along with support for the First Amendment, are among the few legitimate aims of government covered by the Declaration. Author, therapist, and political analyst Dr. Marty Klein has written about the Declaration, summing it up nicely: “Let me repeat: those who wish to be U.S. President are being asked to pledge their opposition to contraception, pornography, ‘easy’ divorce, and the separation of Church & state, while affirming their support for heterosexual monogamy. This policy position should be understood by all as radical, rather than ‘traditional’ or somehow ‘normal.’ ” It certainly is not conservative.

In an interview in 1975 in Reason Magazine, Ronald Reagan, a self-declared conservative and one dearly loved by nearly all Republicans, said, “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” Today’s conservatives have forgotten the lessons and views of their predecessors, largely because they have become dominated by the religious right and are willing to forget or distort the views of their former leaders. They have become radical reactionaries against personal freedom, rather than proponents of slow but steady progress toward the ideal of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The current debt ceiling imbroglio is but another example of the transformation of true conservatism. Since 1960, according to the Treasury Department, the debt limit has been raised or altered 78 times. Most of those times were under conservative Republican presidents, including 18 times under President Reagan, who recognized that honoring our financial commitments is the foundation of conservatism. That’s all the debt ceiling debate concerns. Previous congresses have spent money that they borrowed. The country is obligated to make payments to retire that debt. About 78% of the debt that has built up since George W. Bush took office until the present was caused by his fiscal policies according to the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities, which bases its analyses on nonpartisan authorities such as the Congressional Budget Office, the US Census Bureau, and the Government Accountability Office.

The deficit is another matter entirely. When President Clinton prepared to leave office in 1999, the budget of the US was balanced (due to his budgeting and that of his predecessor, George H. W. Bush), and the national debt would have been paid off by 2009 if President George W. Bush and a feckless Congress, including most members of both major parties, had not reduced taxes on the wealthiest Americans, started two wars, and passed a Medicare drug program, financing all of these actions with borrowed money.

This country has done well under both conservative and moderately-liberal rule from World War II until 2000. None of the presidents during this period were ideologues. They were largely pragmatists who wanted to make government work more than they wanted to adhere to a rigid ideology. But with the presidency of George W. Bush and now the dominance of Tea Partiers among congressional Republicans, adherence to rigid ideologies threatens to destroy what has been a government devoted for the most part to solving problems. For these ideologues, comity, consensus, compromise, and conservatism are not only dirty words, but are conditions to be avoided even if their absence destroys the Republic, which they may well do.

© Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San Marcos

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12 thoughts on “Freethought San Marcos: How Tea Party ideologues are destroying conservatism

  1. In your opening statement you make the erroneous and presumptuous comment that TEA Party members “don’t support the idea of America and that they resent its ideals”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it is the Obama regime which has circumvented the constition and rammed a government controlled health care system down our throats in a democratically controlled congress. 27 states are now sueing the government to prevent the Obamacare implementation.

    It is the atrocities of Obama Regime with his fellow Democrats which gave rise to the TEA party (which stands for “Taxed Enough Already”). The TRILLION dollar “Stimulous Packages” were nothing but a pay off given to democratic controlled districts after Obama was elected. Trillions of dollars in payback for his election sent as “entitlement” money. Obama also punishes states that did not support or vote for him (i.e. no shuttles left in Texas, and no disaster declaration due to the drought and wildfires in Texas.)

    No president in history has spent more money than Obama and not since Jimmy Carter have we seen such incompetence. His additional tax proposals only cause additional brain drain and US companies to move abroad to avoid the already heavy taxation.

    I was there in Austin when the Katrina “refugees” were arriving on aircraft to be moved to surrounding areas for shelter. Plane after plane arrived full of predominately democrats. Their attitude was “When are you going to feed me? When are you going to give us a place to stay?” “I want, I want I want”. There were also complaints that we were not moving fast enough to SERVE them. This is the society that the Democrats have created. A society of entitlements of “What can the government do for ME!”.

    Obama the narcissist and the Democrats are a huge embarrassment to Americans and they continue to destroy this country economically. It is the TEA party that is bringing the country back to the basics of Capitalism instead of “entitlements” from the government. “ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU!” – JFK.

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
    — Alexis de Tocqueville

    Tocqueville nailed the Democratic party and Obama exactly in his words. No truer words have been spoken. In November 2012 we will have a REAL change as the TEA party continues to grow and hold this regime accountable. I am a proud member of the TEA Party and I look to the one document that Obama has circumvented. It is called the CONSTITUTION!!

  2. One of the hallmark differences between the tea party and other Republicans is that the tea partiers don’t care about social issues. They are almost single issue tax voters. You can criticize them for adherence to norquist’s pledge or not being willing to compromise, but it isn’t really fair to criticize them for gay marriage because surveys show they don’t care about that issue.

  3. @Daniel Misiaszek

    What Lamar said is correct – “The deficit is another matter entirely. When President Clinton prepared to leave office in 1999, the budget of the US was balanced (due to his budgeting and that of his predecessor, George H. W. Bush), and the national debt would have been paid off by 2009 if President George W. Bush and a feckless Congress, including most members of both major parties, had not reduced taxes on the wealthiest Americans, started two wars, and passed a Medicare drug program, financing all of these actions with borrowed money.”

    Tea Party people ignore the historical facts of how we got here.
    Taxes are now lower than ever and corporations are wallowing in profit – more than ever before in American history. And the well-off? Well – the wealthy (as compared with the rest of us) are more wealthy than ever before in American history. And the rest of us are less well off then we have been in decades. In other words, the rich have gotten much richer and the other classes have just not prospered.

  4. The TEA party started when Bush issued the TARP bailout. We don’t care about gay marriage, abortion or any of that stuff. Rush Limbaugh and Palin are trying to turn a fiscal conservative movement into a social conservative movement.. Until we get a flat tax or a national sales tax we are all slaves to the whims of congress. They should only be allowed to spend what they take in period. Borrowing money from China will be our downfall.

    The reason we are angry is because we pay and pay and pay our income taxes every year. I have been working for 20 years now and have paid in well over
    $ 100,000 in income taxes.
    I have $ 5,000 dollars in the bank right now to show for 20 years of work while my worthless cousin gets $ 2,500 a month free cause he has 7 kids and didn’t marry the mother and neither has a job. I am tired of watching him sit on his butt everyday spending my tax dollars and selling drugs with lonestar card money. This is not the IDEAL America that I want to support with my labor and taxes !

  5. @NannyStater
    All of us are aware of the bad things we see in our lives as citizens.
    Your cousin might be a very good example of failure. But government does things for us that we don’t regularly make ourselves aware of – whether it’s the interstate highway we use to go from San Marcos to elsewhere or the enforcement of regulations that help keep salmonella from killing our kids. I do know that regulations cost tax dollars to enforce and also cost businesses to maintain compliance. People did not dream up the regulations for no good reason. Those regulations came about because people were damaged.
    Our economy has been severely damaged more than once because regulation did not stop the greedy and powerful from stuffing their pockets with wealth at the expense of all the rest of us.
    What we saw in Washington this week was a travesty. They have positioned us for an ongoing fight that all of us (except some of the rich) will lose. I see no way to turn things to the better. Tea Party people are frustrated. Liberals are frustrated. Some conservatives had rather a good week. But I believe we are headed to what will be a dark period in American history – if America even survives what is happening.

  6. How about just one year where I get to keep my income, just one stinking year where I don’t have to give up 10,000 dollars of my labor to the government. I have given them 20 years without missing a payment. Where is my holiday ?
    I think when a person turns 30, 40 and 50 years of age they should get that year off from paying income taxes. If we did that think of the new business and investments that would be made.
    They never prime the pump of the productive class, they just skim off their earnings and make them slaves to people like my cousin.
    If I got to keep $ 10,000 of income taxes every ten years I could possibly start my own small business and give him a job, instead the government decides to reward him with free money and punishes me for being LUCKY enough to have a job.

  7. To NancyStater:

    It is not your cousin (no matter how unworthy he may be) or all the others who receive the pittance called Medicaid that have been the primary cause of the soaring deficit. It is the unfunded programs (Medicare drug benefits developed to benefit insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and two wars) and reduced taxes on the wealthy passed over the past ten years, along with all of the farm subsidies, tax loopholes for the wealthy, and the elimination of tariffs on imported goods (as part of trade deals begun under Clinton) that have put us in such debt. The de-regulation of the financial sector beginning with Clinton led directly to our collapsed economy and the loss of jobs. But I agree that Obama has not focused on creating jobs to any significant degree when he had a chance to do so, and the Tea Partiers will not let him do so now.

  8. To Daniel Misiaszek:

    As others have pointed out, the Tea Party started before Obama was elected. The original stimulus was passed at the behest of Bush. The Wall Streeters, banks, and car companies got most of the stimulus money. These groups are not natural Democratic constituencies.

    I told you where my information came from about 78% of the deficit since 2000 being attributable to Bush and only 22% to Obama. What is the source of your claim that Obama has spent more money than any president in history? Inventing “facts” does not educate or inform others, and such a statement is not a matter of opinion, but one that can be verified or refuted by real numbers.

  9. Most of us TEA partiers distrust both parties. Repubs could have passed a flat or fair tax when they had the power and the dems could have raised taxes when they had the power. Neither party wants us free of debt. This debt makes us slaves perpetually and keeps congress in the power seat cause they get bribed to give out all those tax loopholes and subsidies in campaign cash and other means. If we had a national flat sales tax and eliminated the income tax and IRS they lose their power. We can choose not to buy stuff we can’t choose to stop paying our income taxes.

  10. I do agree that the current Income Tax method of funding the government is a very bad thing. I’ve looked at the Flat Tax and also the Fair Tax ( )and I have to think that either of them would be an improvement over what we have now. But our legislators are not about to give up the political power they have gained through their ability to manipulate the tax code. I also think that through the Supreme Court’s determination that a corporation is a person – regular citizen voters are now toast.

  11. Forget, please, “conservatism.” It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson’s Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

    “[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth.”

    Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

    John Lofton, Editor,
    Recovering Republican

  12. Interesting that the rules for comments say “…Be nice. Keep it clean”, and the so called “author” of this missive begins his oral excrement with labeling any person associated with views other than those he or she espouses, as “…wingnuts”.

    I contend that if you can’t put together a cognitive paragraph without slinging insults based upon no facts whatsoever, you are probably much better off sitting at home quietly, and practicing breathing without our mouth hanging open.

    Have a great day. Oh, I forgot. The goal of the Author of the piece is not to have a great day. It is to be miserable, and try to infect others with the same malady.

    So have a safe day, and try not to trip over your overinflated ego and hurt yourself.
    Chuck Roast

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