Were this not within the realm of probability, it would be funny
. Thanks to Scott for the attempt at lightening the mental load that is enduring the very real presence of non-conservatives in the Republican party.A Quizzical Reality
I am at something of a loss for how to analyze this reality, i.e. liberal Republicans. In my simple political philosophy, party affiliation should fall quite distinctly along philosophical lines. This is, sadly, not how reality presents itself. There are an unreasonably large number of Republicans whose personal philosophies are antithetical to my own - and many more times than not, antithetical as well to the generally understood tenets of the Republican party. Such is why I prefer the terms libertarian and conservative to Republican, when describing myself. Perhaps this is how it has always been - that those of us who are philosophically motivated will go where we are most welcomed, if but in word.Historical Motives
Forgive the affront to logic, but I have less than no respect for politically motivated types who ally themselves with a particular party for reasons other than personal philosophy. The least respectable reason among these is an assumptive history - a history which entitles one to forego a bold look at reality. Among such history, there is family history ("I'm in party X 'cause Pa and Grandpa were in party X."), regional history ("Every self-repecting New Englander chooses party X."), and ethnic history ("My people have always been members of party X.") to name a few. Static interpretations such as these of very dynamic histories is foolishness. Any respect for history is meaningless unless it serves as educator.A "truth" Stranger than Fiction
The two questions that dominate my thinking at most moments are 1, "What is truth?
" and 2, "How do my choices line up with that truth?" As such, the reality of liberal Republicans - people who have made choices which appear to fly in the face of what I have held as truth - well, this sends me back to question 1, "What is truth?"A Bloated Beast
How do the views of a liberal Republican square with the platform of the Republican Party
? I'd like to do that analysis for you here, but after pulling up said platform - all 92 pages of it
- I decided this was beyond the scope of what I care to endeavor. Really, if a political party's governing document contains more than three times the number of words as does the United States Constitution (42,000 v. 12,000), the party itself cannot be expected to be able to succinctly communicate its message. At 92 pages, the message to me is "do not read this document". The wordy liberalism of our age has produced a document which could be roughly summarized "everything to everybody". Until recently, this had been the exclusive modus operandi of the Democratic Party. I am compelled however to give the Democrats my appreciation in crafting a party platform
that is but 19,000 words. That's a full two Constitutions less than the Republican behemoth and a lot closer to something I might actually read on a very rainy weekend. I have heard many a Republican congressman claim to carry a copy of the Constitution in his coat pocket - some even taking it out on-camera to prove as much, but I have yet to hear one claim to similarly carry his party's platform.
With a Republican party platform this wide, it can only be so tall. In the attempt at being a platform which elevates the views of all (regardless of their basis in truth), it renders in reality as something incapable of effectively elevating the views of any. The bloated beast that is the Republican Party platform, however reflective of the grand scope of today's Federal Government, is merely a surface example of a misunderstanding which lies at the core of the party.The Misunderstanding
You could argue that the Constitution was purposely written to be simple and that the world of 1789 was a far simpler environment than that of today. You could further argue the Republican party's platform is the result of the attempt at describing and dealing with a complex world and that the Democrats' platform is far shorter because it is less reasoned, less grounded in today's complex reality. While I won't touch the last sentiment, I believe the prior ones are mistaken. The world today, while certainly more complex on the surface is just as simple as it has ever been at the core. The motivations which guide us personally are no more evolved than they were 20, 50, 100 or 1000 years ago. What has evolved is the rapidity with which we are expected to process surface compliexities. The misunderstanding is confusing this surface complexity with the core simplicity.
The two fundamental levels, if you will, require different interpretive tools with which to effectively process information. Surface complexities require more of a shades-of-gray (maybe) approach, while matters of core simplicity require a more discrete black-and-white (yes/no) approach. Dealing with issues of surface complexity over time produces stress, while similarly dealing with issues of core simplicity over time produces peace.A Document of Peace
The party platform should be a document of peace - that is, minimum complexity - and, as such, no more than a few pages at its core. While I understand that an issue, simple at root, can often require a complex resolution, these resolution strategies could and should be kept apart from the core document. A political party of principle is best served by its members fully understanding and capable of easily explaining its governing documents. The principal reason the Contract with America was so successful initially was its simplicity. Overburdened Americans respond very favorably to simplicity.Simple, Neat, and Wrong
H.L. Mencken once said that "For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong." This does not preclude the possibility of a solution that is simple, neat and correct, however it does bring up the point that for every one such solution, there are undoubtedly myriad wrong ones. Care must be taken to craft a party platform which, like the Constitution, is grounded firmly in history and tested against the backdrop of that history. Rather than conflict with the deepest sense of right and wrong in a man, it will resonate with that core, which some take as the image of the Creator. I envision that such a document, under ideal conditions and if fairly presented, will appeal to the vast majority of Americans - those whose core has not been so pelted with lies as to be beyond recognition.
Recall the notion of "the Reagan Democrat". This was the Democrat who, while remaining loyal to his party for historical reasons, voted for the Republican Reagan in 1980, 1984 or both. Reagan had a strong simplicity to his presentation that resonated with complexity-weary voters. In a real way, Reagan was the embodiment of a simplified Republican party platform, even if the underlying platforms of his presidency were well in excess of 30,000 words.
Does a simplified Republican party platform necessarily mean a lowest common denominator or "dumbing down" of the current document to suit the allegiance of all currently calling themselves Republican? I would argue that the current document is the incorrect starting point. A better point at which to start would at a retreat somewhere pleasant - a few days away from the surface complexities of modern life - with the first best governing documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, as the sole reading material on the agenda. In addition to comfortable clothing, representatives of the current party should come prepared with a legal pad and pen. A party platform that cannot comfortably be written by one man with one pen and one pad of paper is not going to be read by one man with one iota of common sense.The Document
Though there are several formats which might work, I suggest an outline, with introductory and closing comments, not to exceed a few paragraphs. The focus of that document should be maximizing "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", among the "certain unalienable rights" of man, and should be penned with an emphasis on ease of communication, not written with lofty or superfluous verbiage, as say, this document.
The Wedge of History
Reflecting upon history in light of the motivating core of simplicity in man will drive a wedge between the more conservative and more liberal elements of the current party. The primary reason for this is best explained by John Kekes in his essay, What is Conservatism?
Conservatism, like liberalism and socialism, has different versions, partly because conservatives often disagree with each other about the particular political arrangements that ought to be conserved. There is no disagreement among them, however, that the reasons for or against those arrangements are to be found in the history of the society whose arrangements they are. This commits conservatives to denying that the reasons are to be derived from a hypothetical contract, or from an imagined ideal order, or from what is supposed to be beneficial for the whole of humanity. In preference to these and other alternatives, conservatives look to the history of their own society because it exerts a formative influence on their present lives and on how it is reasonable for them to want to live in the future. The conservative attitude, however, is not an unexamined prejudice in favor of the historical arrangements of the conservatives’ society. They are in favor of conserving only those arrangements that their history has shown to be conducive to good lives.
Those who tend more to respect history as an arbiter of things "good" in society will remain with pad in hand. They will tend more than not to be conservative.