'Cause I Said So…

A Reply to David Frum’s “Waterloo”

Posted in Conservativism, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Care Reform, Obama, Republicans by kevinsoberg on April 7, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, David Frum declared Obama’s “victory” in the passage of “health care” to be the GOP’s absolute defeat. In his blog post, Waterloo (http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo), Frum blames passage of the final form of the legislation on Conservatives in the Republican Party. Frum argues that “sensible” Republicans were kept from participating in the crafting of the law by the anger of the GOP’s right-wing, with marching orders from those in the Conservative media. Further, Frum predicts federal government control of the health care industry to be irrevocable because even if the GOP gains control of Congress, it will never have enough votes or wherewithal to repeal an entitlement program, once instituted.

At the time, I was more interested in the actual passing of the “health care” bill than in what David Frum had to say about it. Yeah, I had heard he had written something that had upset some people, but what else is new, right? Like most Americans, I was too busy being upset that a temporary majority in Congress had once again taken it upon themselves to violate our Constitution and done whatever the hell they wanted to do, all in the name of, of course, the “people.” Don’t you wish these guys would stop doing things in our name, especially when they can’t get at least a bare majority to agree with them? When most of us disagree with something, it’s not “for”, it’s “to.”

Two weeks later, I’ve completed a personal post-mortem on the whole unsavory affair which included reading Frum’s Waterloo. The points he made, stated at top, are clear, concise, and well thought out, but, unfortunately, wrong. Typical for Frum, he sees things slightly out of kilter for a self-professed “conservative.” His worldview is easily explained, if you just accept that he isn’t a Conservative, at least not in the American understanding of the word.

Essentially, Frum is a Tory, a “conservative” of the English tradition. He sees conservatism as a means of balancing the unchecked expansionism of the Left. He seems to consider himself a disciple of Edmund Burke, who believed change should come through innovation, not invention. “Modernity” must come slowly, but it must come. The Tory must properly manage the ship of state and steer it out of troubled waters. The job of the Tory is to prevent the revolution. Frum doesn’t seem to understand that American Conservatism is a somewhat different philosophy.

American Conservatism is a catchall I’m using for the entire right-of-center political movement. It includes the mushy free-enterprise types, religious conservatives, libertarians, et al. The common thread through all strands of American Conservatism is the Constitution. We are all really Constutionalists. We are “conservative” because we want to conserve this document and the system of government it was supposed to codify. Yes, there are aspects of the American movement amenable to Burke, but foreign to us is that sense of statism’s inevitability.

Frum’s main point is that the Republicans’ refusal to negotiate with Obama resulted in a slightly worse law. Once again, his Tory nature led him to believe that we should slow the unstoppable. The American Conservative, the Constitutionalist, cannot accept a deal which attempts to moderate the “intolerable.” There is no “somewhat intolerable.” If we can agree to the federal government mandating a person purchase a product against their wishes, we would, in effect, say that federal power has no limit. Where would we be then?

Frum would probably consider that unrealistic, given the extra-Constitutional power already exercised by the federal government. Using that logic, any laws not enforced properly by officials would be effectively nullified. Malfeasance by officials does not change the law. Regardless of how political power is properly, or improperly, used, the U.S. federal government is limited in its scope by our Constitution. All that is necessary for the correct redistribution of power is for the people and states to reclaim it.

Once again, Frum reveals his Tory heritage. He comes from a political tradition in which all power rests with the state. There are no federal principles. There exists no written British constitution. It is just a collection of laws and precedents. All that is necessary for the complete reorganization of its structures is a simple act of Parliament. All power resides in the Sovereign, and in Britain, where once the Monarch was Sovereign, the power is in Parliament. You must remember that the British are “subjects” not “citizens.”

Frum points to examples of “conservative” backed state government health care plans to argue that it was short-sighted of Republicans to refuse to negotiate. Let me take this in two quick bites. First, in our federal system, states hold power beyond that given to the federal government. I philosophically disagree with all socialism, but unless forbidden in a state’s constitution, it’s up its citizens to make that decision. The states are the hothouses of democracy, and they are becoming choked with the overgrowth of socialism. Second, who, besides he and his backers, really considers Mitt Romney a “conservative”? Mitt’s a nice guy with some conservative positions, but do we need another Bush?

Finally, Frum predicts that the new health care laws will not be repealed. He may be right in the short-term. I cannot foresee the Republicans gaining sufficient votes to overturn a presidential veto, but we shouldn’t be deterred. As we say in the South, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” A Republican majority in the House or Senate can starve the numerous, newly created administrative agencies of the funds to enforce the new law. Agencies without funds are like weeds without sunlight or water, unsightly but dead.

Not that I think the Republicans shouldn’t face these laws head on. At every opportunity and in a myriad of forms, the Republicans should seek the direct repeal of this “intolerable.” We should be smart and not do just the easy parts, like repealing the taxes and the mandates, the entire enabling apparatus must be removed. Repealing legislation should be entered into every taxation and appropriations bill which comes before the President in the remaining two years of his term. The President should spend his remaining time in office expending what remains of his political capital on trying to “save” his signature piece of legislation.

So, Mr. Frum, I’m sorry, but your arguments, though well made, are ultimately unconvincing. We will not sell out our history, traditions, and government just to prevent a near-term loss. We will fight for our Constitution until the end, if necessary. If we cannot win this ideological battle, then all is really lost anyway.

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One Response

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  1. Stickeenotes said, on April 11, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Nicely said, Sir. I think you’re absolutely right in your analysis of Frum. He has no desire to see power returned to the states and an overall decentralization of authority which is ingrained within the constitutions numerous sets of checks and balances. If states are nothing but arbitrary entities, which are there to simply implement the edicts of the federal government, then we’ve lost part of what made us a great nation. That may be okay with Frum, but many of us who truly love this country, and the principles underlying its founding, cannot accept anything less than the full birthright so many fought and died to secure for us.


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