Skip to comments.Generation X and The Tenets of Conservatism - ALAN KEYES
Posted on 03/08/2009 5:07:15 PM PDT by EternalVigilance
Loyal to Liberty
Conservative powerbrokers must accept the new reality on the ground: Generation X Conservatives have a different philosophical view of the world. Do not fear us; embrace us; we are the breath of fresh air the Conservatives so desperately need
For the most part, Generation X leans to the right when offered Reagan Conservatism; it's when the religious right shows up, most check out.
Conservatives lose all credibility to fight every nanny state issue because of abortion. Or are Conservatives for a nanny state when the rules play into their preferences? Why alienate millions of women because of our pro-life stance? The pro-life movement has its own inertia, why do Conservatives need to help? It would be great to get some more women in the Conservative tent.
In our battle to advance Reagan Conservatism how does promoting Christian morality help our cause?
March 8, 2009 10:16 AM
In response to my post about Sam Brownback's retreat from principle, this comment from Ed arrested my attention. He asks an important question; one that I'm sure reflects the thinking of millions of people like him. I believe that answering it is not at all difficult, though the reasoning involved requires several steps, in the course of which we recapitulate the tenets of conservatism.
1. The preservation of Freedom- In order to know whether promoting morality advances the cause, we must first think about the nature of the cause. Reagan conservatism is first and foremost about preserving freedom. It begins, like the United States itself, from the premise that as individuals all human beings have unalienable rights (rights inseparable from their humanity), among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To state the principle in this way begs a question however. What justifies the claim to these rights? As a matter of historical fact, America's founding generation justified it by reference to the will of the Creator, to whose Providence they trusted, and whom they regarded as the ruler and ultimate judge of the universe. All this they made clear in the Declaration of Independence, at the moment the United States came into existence as a free and independent nation. If members of Generation X embrace the American doctrine of freedom, they must either embrace this justification for it, or make the case for some other. Of course, they may be content to assert it as an existential act of will, without justification. But how does it promote conservatism to reduce its foundation to an arbitrary whim? If the claim to freedom is an arbitrary whim, why should it be preferred to the whims of wealth and power that are the basis for oligarchy, military tyranny or other forms of despotism? If there is no rational basis for the preference, how do we preserve it from the whirlpool of relativism, which in the end sucks political life into a maelstrom of perpetual conflict intermittently relieved by those eras of calm during which superior might reduces all to slavery and subjection?
2. Securing the blessings of liberty- Contrary to the inclinations of the more shallow libertarians, conservatism has nothing in common with anarchism, since it is based on preserving freedom, which means firmly establishing it on sustainable grounds. Anarchy is not sustainable, but inevitably produces first chaos, then tyranny. So, while respecting the premise of unalienable individual rights, conservatism also requires respect for the limits implied by the reasoning used to justify our claim to those rights. Put simply, if the claim to rights rests on the premise of God's authority, we cannot preserve the claim if we use our rights in a way that destroys respect for God's authority. The premise of freedom is equal rights. The premise of right is God's authority. Freedom exercised with respect for God's authority is liberty. Thus exercised it produces good results, which the preamble to the U.S. Constitution calls "the blessings of liberty." This of course implies that there are curses, or bad results that arise from the abuse of freedom, which abuse the Founders often referred to as licentiousness.
3. Establishing limited government- Conservatism respects the goals for our government set forth in the U.S. Constitution. It therefore seeks to secure the blessings of liberty and avoid the curse of licentiousness. In order to achieve this goal, freedom, whether for one individual or a large number, must be limited by respect for the rights that are inseparable from our humanity. Free government, though based upon consent, is therefore not the instrument of unbridled free will. It is government limited by respect for the right use of freedom (which is, by the way, the proper definition of a right), and for the authority that substantiates it.
4. Promoting respect for law- Government limited by respect for the right use of freedom is lawful government. This does not mean government in which people slavishly obey whatever their rulers declare to be the law. It means first of all respect for the premise of lawfulness. Lawfulness is the right exercise of freedom, so that when individuals conform their choices to what is right they behave lawfully. If they form a community on this basis, they constitute a society in which they literally govern themselves. But when individuals voluntarily behave in a lawful fashion they act morally. Morality is therefore the effective basis of self-government.
5. Preserving the moral basis of freedom- As individuals acting lawfully do what is required by right, others are obliged by their respect for what is right (and ultimately by respect for the authority of God which substantiates the claim of right) not to interfere with what they do. The exercise of right thus limits the actions of others. But the government is nothing more than the instrument of individuals when acting as a community. So when individuals act lawfully government is, like all others, obliged to respect their rights (that is, not to interfere with the actions they take in order to do what is right.) Whatever its powers, its exercise of those powers is limited to actions that are consistent with this obligation. Self-government is thus the effective basis for insisting upon limited government. But since the essential substance of self-government is moral action, morality is the effective basis for insisting upon limited government. Conversely, where morality and therefore self-government fail, the power of government must expand in order to restore respect for right. Such expansion must extend as far as the disorder produced by licentiousness requires. Given the ingenuity of human wickedness, this implies no limitation but what is required to maintain superior power.
The promotion of morality thus appears to be an essential prerequisite for limited government. Limited government is the key practical goal of conservatism. One advances a cause by actions that bring closer the achievement of its goal. Therefore the promotion of morality advances the cause of conservatism. It's worth noticing that the logic used to reach this conclusion, while consistent with Christian beliefs, is entirely based upon the understanding of rights and government contained in the fundamental civic documents of the United States (in particular the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.) If Generation X conservatives have a philosophical view of the world that rejects this understanding, they are not conservatives at all, at least not in any sense that Ronald Reagan or any other American conservative would comprehend. I also wonder whether their views are, in the true sense, philosophical. Opinions asserted without reason may be deeply felt. They may be authentic expressions of an individual's real identity, convictions or needs. But if old Socrates was any guide, when it comes to philosophy none of these attributes is a substitute for the simple willingness to accept the discipline of the search for truth. One of the greatest obstacles to this acceptance is the worship of one's own opinion.
Now I can hear you saying that the Founders reliance upon the authority of God was no more than their own opinion. But even Socrates did not hold that philosophy required the possession of truth, only the willingness constantly to submit to the examination made necessary by respect for it. Since thousands of years before the American founders, people who call upon the name of God have submitted themselves to this examination, as I do on the pages of this site. When the "philosophic view" of Generation X can make the same claim, it might be less unwise to consider trusting the fate of the world to their opinions. When they articulate and find some justification for their view that moves men to righteousness, and to give their all, in pain and war and martyrdom against injustice as the Christian gospel of love, or the American creed of freedom has done, it might be wise to do so. For now all we see is people who demand all so that their lusts may be satisfied, their fragile egos comforted, and their self-indulgent intellectual fantasies indulged. Such people lean toward the materialist version of conservatism as a way of avoiding the one discipline on offer from those now lifted to leadership, supposedly with the support of their Generation. I mean the discipline of government dependency, slavery and domination. Sadly, they do not realize that there is no sustainable choice that will respect their licentious whims. The real choice we face is between totalitarian government based ultimately on force, and self-government grounded upon respect for what is morally right.
One final word: Conservatives don't believe in the nanny state, but in the free republic, which requires among other things, respect for the authority of the Creator God on which our claim to freedom relies. In any case, I think it may be a mistake to refer to what leftists like Obama intend to impose as a nanny state. Sometimes nannies have been, a more than adequate substitute for mothers who think they have things they can do better. However if, as a free people, we have reached the stage when we have better things to do than to preserve our rights and respect the discipline implied by them, I see nothing in the history of humankind to justify the assumption that the resultant tyranny will be an adequate substitute for the loss of our individual and national dignity. When I'm tempted to think otherwise, I remember the moral degradation that Frederick Douglass and others held to be the greatest misery of my slave ancestors, and I think again.
For more current writing from Alan Keyes, please visit LoyaltoLiberty.com!
This Pro-Life, Generation-X Conservative was among the few Gen X’ers just old enough to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1984.
I consider myself very fortunate.
It is a failure of Conservatism to portray a “Right to Life” as a purely religious construct. All innocent life has a right to exist. That is regardless the existence of a God or not.
Conservatives lose all credibility to fight every nanny state issue because of abortion. Or are Conservatives for a nanny state when the rules play into their preferences? Why alienate millions of women because of our pro-life stance?
I get furious over the blatant dishonesty in the pro-abortion arguments and justifications. They show time after time how they are the ones with zero credibility
Saying enacting pro-life protections is "nanny government" is as ridiculous as enacting laws abolitioning slavery as "nanny government."
The proper role of government is not "nanny government" but securing our civil rights and liberties from hostiles, foreign and domestic. Therefore, it is the proper role of government to protect all, especially those most vulnerable in the history of our nation, slaves in the early part of our nation, and pre-born children in the most recent times.
Women who understand the concept of civil rights and liberties are easily at-home in the Reagan Conservative movement (pro-life cannot be divorced from the Reagan Revolution as much as pro-aborts attempt to convince otherwise), and on the flip-side, these same women are alienated from the pro-death/slave party the Democrats and their spin-offs parties, but you seldom here about their alienation. The spin is always pointed toward pro-lifers.
Agreed. I also believe it can (and Feminists for Life is a step in the right direction) be framed as a women’s and human rights issue.
Why alienate millions of women because of our pro-life stance?
The false dichotomy is between woman and pro-life - as though the two were mutually-exclusive. If anything, more women are pro-life than men.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
I am always appalled, as at a cock fight, a bus crash, or a cancer, when encountering the arguments of these “libertarians” who rail against the illegalization of abortion, and then shift instantly to a discussion of the “moral bedrock” claim that government exists to protect people from “force.”
If there is no God, the only rule is “Do whatever you wish, as long as you can get away with it.”
Roe v Wade should be overturned. If it were to be overturned it would not ban abortion, it would be remanded back to the states, so eachstates would then swt it’s own abortion laws. Liberal states would have liberal laws and conservative states more restrictive laws.
>>It is a failure of Conservatism to portray a Right to Life as a purely religious construct. All innocent life has a right to exist. That is regardless the existence of a God or not.<<
I agree 110%. I’m not especially religious, but I’m extremely pro-life. A combination of science and common sense should be enough to make anyone pro-life. It should be self-evident that a being with its own DNA and its own heartbeat - which clearly APPEARS to be a baby on the vivid ultrasounds we have these days - is, in fact, a baby.
Why isn’t this getting through to people? First of all, because pro-choicers have produced such pervasive propaganda framing this as a women’s rights issue and refusing to even discuss the personhood of the fetus. But pro-lifers have let them get away with it by allowing them to portray abortion as a religious issue.
You can’t argue religion to people who don’t believe in religion. “Sanctity of life” arguments mean nothing to secular people. You have to engage them on grounds they recognize: science, logic, and evidence. There is plenty to go around.
After you've dispensed with the unalienable right to live, which other unalienable rights do you want to allow the states to alienate?
The right to peaceably assemble?
The right to petition government for redress of grievances?
The right to keep and bear arms?
Trial by jury?
You are so right about the DNA. Though the fetus has DNA which is similar to both of its parents, it is totally unique. The argument that “a woman can do what she wants with her own body” is false because the fetus is NOT part of her body. It’s really more like a temporary parasite that is dependent on her body for a time, but who will soon be fully capable of surviving outside of it.
Because if you have the moral rectitude to MURDER another CITIZEN based upon his or her age, or lack thereof, you pretty much cant be trusted with SQUAT!
Missed Reagan but voted for Bush Sr. I disagree with Keyes in this one. It again tries to shut out the values and morals of the party and what they should promote! My two cents...
I agree. Those who say "there can be no morality without religion" tend to turn it into "there can be no morality without my particular brand of religion." So many young people, who know little about Christianity, assume that ethical questions are not relevant if you do not have a religious viewpoint. They have been trained to see ethical questions about life and death as the equivalent of arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The left has been able to frame abortion as a matter of sexual morality between two consenting adults - the question about whether the unborn child has any rights is ignored.
The left has been able to pose as freedom-loving mostly because they have been allowed to get away with their incomplete view of abortion and a few other issues. Most young people do not see that the left wants a regimented, authoritarian society where almost every personal aspect of one's life is monitored and controlled.
Ok, I'll bite. If religion and other metaphysical moral arguments are out-of-bounds, what makes "personhood" (to use pro-life terms) any more special than the animals that we routinely slaughter for food? If you are just going rely on logic and evidence, then why is it ok to say "this group of unique DNA is more special than that group of unique DNA"?
It seems that each person has their own threshold of what DNA is expendable and what should be kept as special. I'm not sure how you counter this without turning our society into a contradictory pretzel of reasoning.
It’s silly to pretend that secular people don’t distinguish between human and animal life. Both religious and secular people see murder - the destruction of an innocent human being - as an abhorrent crime, where only a small percentage of PETA types see the destruction of a cow or chicken the same way. Our laws reflect that. If pro-lifers put more energy into pointing out that abortion is the destruction of a human being - a being with unique human DNA, not some amorphous part of the mother’s body - more people would be against it.
And I never said religious arguments were out of bounds. For people with some religious background, I’m sure those arguments can be effective. But for those who don’t come from that worldview, it’s useless to argue on that basis. And I think the pro-life movement has severely overplayed the religion card at the expense of other approaches.
Okay, as far as I know about my generation, we have always been to few in number to have the impact of the Boomers or the Gen-Yer’s. Most of my generation has accepted this and pretty much understands that we have very little influence on the way things play out compared to those two groups. That being said, I would think that abandoning pro-life concepts to make nice with the youth would be the end of the conservative party. That is one of the few things that remains that actually is a difference between the two parties.
I would actually like to see them ramp up their efforts to champion pro-life and to point out that we have essentially allowed a massive crime against humanity to occur in America thanks to Roe vs. Wade. They should force the issue to be debated and voted on and quit relying on letting the judges make the laws. Historians will be hard pressed to not compare the crimes against humanity of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao with the abortion industry when all is said and done.
The Republican Party is pro-life in name only now. Don’t kid yourself.
I was right behind you, first voting in 1988. I thought Dukakis made it a blazingly simple, obvious choice, but every single one of my friends thought I was nuts for voting for a republican. Guess they’re the Gen-Xers we should be worried about. :/
Liberty doesn’t exist without the morality of the individual. Period.
This Gen-Xer is pro-life. Many of us are.
Here is something that helps:
Forms of government explained
This video explains:
Why what most of us are taught about right and leftist
governments is wrong
Why libs honestly think that to be too conservative is to be leaning towards Nazism and why this is not correct
Why most long lasting government s were Republics
What the Founding Fathers said about Democracies vs. Republics
Why 0Bama is trying to get us in an Oligarchy
I’m thinkin’ we’re already there.
Thanks for the post!
This reminds me of a person posting here, I won’t call this person a freeper because they were very, very new here. He argued that we need to give up conservative positions on gay marriage and abortion because he could not convince college students that those conservative positions were correct and the republicans would never win unless they could sway the college students and moderates who believe in abortion and special rights for gays. He also stated that Ronald Reagan’s principles would not be effective in today’s world.
The things I realized from his post were, he had no ability to win a debate or convince anyone to believe conservative ideas because he himself did not believe them. He could not speak conservative because he did not think like a conservative nor could he reason like a conservative.
Instead of being a sign of government interference, protecting life inside the womb is a sign of government consistency. We protect life outside the womb. It is only inside the womb where we refuse to accept the right of govt to do its job protecting its unborn citizens.
Instead of being an invasion of privacy, laws protecting marriage and the family have always had a societal benefit. To bring up children in love to understand the existence of rules, authority, and how we should relate to one another — there is no more ideal place than in a stable family with a mother and a father. Though not all families meet that, a family with a married father and mother is the highest standard for a family.
The state should be allowed to encourage traditional marriage and not forced to create a new set of laws, new set of rules, for marriage, divorce, and dealing with people who will never become one or produce children. In allowing gay marriage, you will have to increase the number of social workers and rules and regulations to protect the children who will never have two parents who are related and connected to them nor will they protect them by love and blood.
I had a discussion with a college student myself who could not understand why gays could not marry. After I explained that as a benefit to society, there was a compelling reason for govt. to have a say in what is acceptable in marriage, they began to understand the conservative position. No one had ever explained that to them before. They did not completely understand, but as I made the argument for limited govt., that there must be a truly compelling reason for govt. to create laws, they understood even more. If we add the fact that the federal govt. has gotten way off track making laws it has no business even deciding, I’m sure gen-x and even gen-y will see the need for limiting govt. reach.
The biggest problem I see is that few conservatives think conservatively enough to be able to present a conservative argument. If you don’t see how social conservatism meshes with fiscal conservatism and limited govt., then you will not be able to make a conservative argument that will convince anyone. Personal responsibility is at the core of each of the pillars of conservatism and personal responsibility comes straight from belief in God. He is the ultimate authority we all must answer to someday.
I turned 18 in time for the 1984 election, too.
I recall my first disagreement about an election—I got into an argument with a classmate in 1980 about who would win. He was convinced Carter would get a second term. I told him he was nuts, Reagan would win.
I was in middle school. Guess this political thing runs deep.
And another GenXer who is Pro-Life here. Any conservative friends my age are the same way.
It is a huge mistake to allow leftists to cast abortion in religious terms. Is religion relevant to abortion? Sure it is. It’s also relevant to other public policy matters like tax policy, the 2nd Amendment, etc., but we don’t support our arguments on those by saying “Jesus said so.” Every pro-lifer ought to be able to make a case against abortion on secular scientific & human-rights grounds.
Actually, I have observed that the liberals actually make more religious arguments on abortion — they talk about how it is impossible to determine “personhood” or when a baby gets a “soul” — these are nebulous, metaphysical concepts that are deliberately injected to cloud the issue. When a liberal starts talking this way, we should cut them off & say that their religious beliefs have no business being codified in law.
Of all the countless times I’ve asked those who argue for abortion (or compromise with it) simple questions about which of their own unalienable rights they’re willing to give up, using their own “logic,” I’ve never had one give an answer. They invariably slink away into silence.
The arguments from equality cuts to the bone.
Which of course is in keeping with the stated purpose of our Constitution: “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves AND our posterity.”
The Founders put the rights of those not yet born on an equal plane with their own rights.
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
“For the most part, Generation X leans to the right when offered Reagan Conservatism; it’s when the religious right shows up, most check out.”
Speak for yourself.
I think secular people do distinguish between human and animal life, but the reason they do is based on convenience, not logic. Pigs, for example, are happy when you pet them. They squeal when you cause them pain. They eat, sleep, reproduce - all on their own. They are alive in every sense of the word. What makes killing them for food more ok than killing an unborn baby?
Again, I think it comes back to a threshold of convenience that each person has, which is entirely subjective and not based in logic at all. It is OK to kill animals for food because its an efficient way to get calories, and its ok to kill an unborn fetus because that kid may put a crimp in the plans of its parents.
I disagree - while there are immoral and amoral people whose values revolve only around their own convenience, there are many secular people who have a strong moral code and place inherent worth in human life over animal life. You can argue with the logic of that - Where, you might ask, can we derive that worth, or any values at all, if not from a higher power? - but that’s not my point.
My point is not philosophical; it’s practical. I still contend that most people don’t think it’s okay to kill an innocent human being. The challenge of pro-lifers, then, is to show them - in scientific terms that everyone should be able to agree upon - that the fetus IS a human being.
If we put more energy into this approach, it would also be more difficult for libs to dismiss us as religious wackos - which they have done successfully - and don’t tell me you don’t care what they think. We are trying to save lives, and PR matters. If we let ourselves be painted as a bunch of Bible-thumpers, many people will ignore our message, and more babies will be destroyed.
Exactamundo! Roe v. Wade’s violation of basic precepts of federalism is its greatest flaw.
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