The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Where has moderation gone?

When I was growing up (I'm in my late 60s now) both of our two political parties had liberals, conservatives, and moderates. It was common for votes in Congress to have large numbers of both Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the question. But in recent years, this is becoming less and less the case. Why?

Some people cite the McGovern-Fraser reforms of the Democrats' selection of delegates to their national conventions, or the rise of Presidential primaries as the near-exclusive mode of picking delegates (as opposed to political bosses and elected officials, who used to pick a lot of the delegates). But this only affects the choice of Presidential candidates, not the hundreds of members of the two houses of Congress or the thousands of members of the fifty State legislatures. So it cannot be that.

One thing that has had an effect is the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Certainly the Southern political situation has greatly changed because of that. African-American Southerners, newly able to exercise their votes, joined the Democratic Party, pulling it leftward, while former conservative Democrats have moved into the Republican Party, jettisoning a hatred of that party that went back to the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, because the Democratic Party's Kennedy and Johnson were instrumental in pushing through those civil rights laws. (Examples of this abound. Strom Thurmond, the most obvious example, started political life as a Democrat, leading a revolt in 1948, but his States Rights Party still ran as the "true" Democratic Party in those Southern states where it won. By the end of his political career, he was very definitely a Republican. But the clearest example of this influx of conservative Democrats to the Republican party is probably little known. When I was in graduate school, the governor of Virginia was a Democrat named Mills Godwin. Governors of Virginia cannot be re-elected, but they can, it seems, run again after an interval out of office, so I was surprised to find out, years later and long after I had moved far away from Virginia, that the governor of Virginia was again Mills Godwin, but that he was now a Republican.) This has pulled the Republican Party rightward.

But this only affects the South. Most of the liberal-to-moderate Republicans were in the Northeast (and the few that still exist, like Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, still are). Nothing has happened to Northeastern politics like the civil rights revolution in the South. African-Americans could, and did, vote in the Northeast. They even elected officials, like Representative Adam Clayton Powell of New York. I cannot see what has changed.

Perhaps, the association of particular issues with liberalism and conservatism has. Prohibition used to be a liberal issue, if you look at the past (though liberals like Franklin Roosevelt were also responsible for its repeal). Certainly religious fundamentalism used to go with economic liberalism (if you don't believe that, think of William Jennings Bryan, the most outstanding example of both.) That does seem to have some connection with it, but it cannot account for it all — for one thing, this is a much more recent phenomenon than Bryan.

I wish I knew. I'd love to see a revival of "Rockefeller Republicanism." It was Nelson Rockefeller (and Dwight Eisenhower) that made me choose to be a Republican. By contrast, people like Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann make me ashamed to be one. But the absence of moderates in the Democratic Party makes it even more unattractive to me. So I'm really unhappy this year.

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