On the Stakes in the Current Election

You've doubtless seen the news from yesterday; obviously I am pleased to see Mr. Santorum do well.  The key thing about yesterday's events, though, is not that they change the race all that much:  they put Mr. Santorum in the lead in terms of the number of states won, but given the structure of the primary that has no bearing on who actually becomes the nominee.

What it may do is give him the airtime he needs to become better known to the voters.  There is a certain sense in which our archetypes about how stories should be told influence our view of the world.  News stories about elections almost always take on the form of The Favorite and The Underdog; this race so far has been chiefly about competition for the role of The Underdog.  If yesterday cements Mr. Santorum in that role, we'll be ready to tell the story; much of The Favorite's strength comes from the fact that he has had no clear challenger, but rather a series of characters moving in and out of the role.

Though I often write about elections, it is not my habit to participate more than by voting.  This year may be different.  We are seeing a substantial fracture in the Democratic coalition because of the Obama administration's move to force Catholic charities to do things that are sins according to Catholic doctrine.  Much has been written about that lately, and I don't have more to add to it than to say that it is an important question in determining the degree to which we expect religion's submission to the state.  It is a difficult moral question even for Army chaplains who have binding oaths in both directions; but private citizens engaged in a religious charity have only one such binding obligation, and it is not to the state.

This is an attempt to redefine a basic part of the bargain at the root of our social contract.  John Locke wrote of his desire to see churches give up all coercive force to the state, in return for freedom from coercion in matters of faith.  The state's lane does not include using its coercive force to command a voluntary religious society into sin.  This is something we ought all to oppose, and I think Mr. Santorum is uniquely placed to do so.  (However, in fairness, I would like to note that Mr. Romney's organization believes its record on the same issue in MA has been distorted in the press; scroll to "Another false claim" for his perspective on the matter.)

We have always opposed the Affordable Health Care Act, precisely because massive Federal involvement in health care entails loss of freedom in the most intimate areas of our lives.  The loss of practical religious freedom is only the first such command.  If we are not successful, others will follow.

23 comments:

rcl said...

I'm pleased to see Santorum's rise. Winning Colorado is really the topper. It's a good bellwether for western states; 50/50 blue urban/red rural and with mucho dinero and jobs bottled up by the EPA and Interior.

Of the current GOP field he'd be my first choice. The federal attack on the First Amendment and the Catholic Church puts him in the spotlight. Good timing.

As for Mitt's supposed excuse...

...the clear intent of the legislature was for this bill to supersede any contradictory statutes or provisions... It was in this context that Romney told the Department of Public Health they had to enforce the intent of the law even though he disagreed with it.

He comes out sounding just like every pro-choice Catholic doesn't he? Only a fool wouldn't have known the Democrat legislature would be putting forward this bill. Romney's no fool. He uses Massachusetts as cover for his own lack of principle. If he was the "conservative" he claims to be the governor would have fought for our God given right to religious liberty right then and there.

Grim said...

I'm not sure on this one. I like the idea of an executive who feels bound to execute not just the letter of the law, but by the intent of the legislature. That seems like faithfulness to his duty to me; and faithfulness with the People, in that this approach trusts them to appoint whom they prefer to each office. Maintaining that trust between the People and the elected officials is a necessary condition for the stability of the Republic.

On the other hand, this is a bedrock principle of our system. If you find that the legislature is clearly out of order with it, it seems like you'd have an obligation to resist within the confines of your duty to enforce the law. I can thus see both sides of this one; and while I tend to the view that upholding the bedrock Constitutional principles is more important, I also can see that it is fitting for an executive to be submissive to the legislature's intent as to what the law should say.

So, I'm going to come down on this one by disagreeing with Mr. Romney's approach; but without condemning it, as I can see the value of executive submission to legislative intent.

Cass said...

Only a fool wouldn't have known the Democrat legislature would be putting forward this bill. Romney's no fool.

He vetoed the bill. His veto was overridden - overwhelmingly.

He uses Massachusetts as cover for his own lack of principle. If he was the "conservative" he claims to be the governor would have fought for our God given right to religious liberty right then and there.

How? By refusing to enforce the law as written? (in which case the legislature had already said they'd explicitly revoke the old law). They had the votes.

Or by taking a losing case to court and letting the liberal MA courts (you know, the ones that discovered a Constitutional right to gay marriage) do the same thing?

Which of those options would have resulted in a different outcome?

Which of those options would not have cost the taxpayers (who overwhelmingly supported the bill) a ton of money while not changing the outcome?

The logic here escapes me.

rcl said...

The logic goes all the way back to Romney's coalition with the Democrats to socialize healthcare in the first place. The man is a proven genius in analyzing much more complex systems than the Massachusetts legislature. You don't return 30 to 50 percent ROI without the ability to see long term causes and effects.

That understood I think his coalition with the left to create Romneycare already envisioned the probability of the violations of religious liberty. He accepted that risk. The creation of Romneycare was worth more to him than the threats to liberty it enabled. He covered his butt with a veto but a guy like him would have seen it coming. He chose this path.

As governor his official actions do seem correct and "democratic" but the mob can't vote away God given rights. I don't know if his AG was on his side or not. Nor whether his executive authority provided tools to block enforcement. Still, as the leader of the conservative party in his state, irrespective of his stand on abortion, there is much he could have done or encouraged by partnering with 1st Amendment and Pro-Life organizations in efforts to rescind the offensive law.

The first statement of the Bill of Rights established our religious liberty. My point is that any one who appreciates the importance of that right finds a way to defend it. You don't just shake it off and walk on. A leader finds a way to act.

Cass said...

I don't know if his AG was on his side or not. Nor whether his executive authority provided tools to block enforcement. Still, as the leader of the conservative party in his state, irrespective of his stand on abortion, there is much he could have done or encouraged by partnering with 1st Amendment and Pro-Life organizations in efforts to rescind the offensive law.

The AG had already said the new law superseded the old law.

How do you rescind a law when the legislature has the votes to block you?

You might want to read this, RCL. It is signed by leaders of several religious and pro-life orgs (the ones you say he did nothing for)

Excerpt:

* Affirmed the culture of life. Governor Romney has vetoed bills to provide access to the socalled “morning-after pill,” which is an abortifacient, as well as a bill providing for
expansive, embryo-destroying stem cell research. He vetoed the latter bill in 2005 because
he could not “in good conscience allow this bill to become law.”

• Stood for religious freedom. Last year, Governor Romney was stalwart in defense of the
right of Catholic Charities of Boston to refuse to allow homosexual couples to adopt children
in its care. Catholic Charities was loudly accused of “discrimination,” but Governor Romney
correctly pointed out that it is unjust to force a religious agency to violate the tenets of its
faith in order to placate a special-interest group.


• Filed “An Act Protecting Religious Freedom” in the Massachusetts legislature to save
Catholic Charities of Boston and other religious groups from being forced to violate their
moral principles or stop doing important charitable work.

Cass said...

The logic goes all the way back to Romney's coalition with the Democrats to socialize healthcare in the first place. The man is a proven genius in analyzing much more complex systems than the Massachusetts legislature. You don't return 30 to 50 percent ROI without the ability to see long term causes and effects. That understood I think his coalition with the left to create Romneycare already envisioned the probability of the violations of religious liberty. He accepted that risk.

Yep. What you're ignoring is that the legislature didn't need Romney's help to pass health care.

They controlled 85% of the votes.

Perhaps you think it would have been a better outcome to have NO conservative input into the eventual bill?

Because that's what we're talking about here.

Eric Blair said...

Instapundit linked to a Libertarian 'open letter' to GOP primary voters:
http://www.unitedliberty.org/articles/9553-an-open-letter-to-gop-primary-voters-from-a-libertarian

I know I tend to view Santorum as just the other side of the coin, from the current administration, so to speak. I don't think he's interested in smaller government.

Plus, he was a Senator. Enough with the Congressmen.

Grim said...

I saw that letter.

I'm not sure what to say about it; Santorum strikes me as being more like the Southern Democrats I came up with than like the ordinary Republican. He's interested in the working man (which means Union in the north, but not down South); and while he's not interested in violating the church/state barrier, he is interested in using the state to enact certain values he's come to religiously.

That's not a violation of Locke's ideals. The Church isn't claiming a right to coerce; rather, citizens of the state who happen to be members of churches are using the mechanisms of the state, by the laws of the state, to enact rules they happen to believe in for religious reasons. There's nothing obviously wrong with that, even if it means I can't buy beer on Sunday (a fact which occasionally annoys, but does not really harm, me).

The libertarian position is not one I hold to in any case. The man who believes he is the master of his fate usually ends up hurting those who depend upon him, or who love him. If Locke had a flaw it was his atomism: his belief that each individual was a unit unto himself.

My critique of Locke, you may remember, was that it is really the comitatus that matters to the formation or alteration of the social contract: the brotherhood. I think I know who Santorum takes to be his comitatus. I'm not sure I know who any of the other remaining candidates would take for a brother. Obama, at least, has Eric Holder even if he no longer has the Rev. Mr. Wright; who does Gingrich have? I'm not sure I know who Romney would take to be his brother, either.

We stand or fall together. It's the brotherhood that matters. You know that as well as I do.

Cass said...

I think I know who Santorum takes to be his comitatus.

People who agree with him? Or everyone?

/running away

Seriously, my biggest single objection to Santorum (his complete lack of executive experience set aside for a moment) is that I don't think he knows how to talk to people he doesn't understand.

He's great at preaching to the choir, and that's valuable. But his choir is only a subset of the nation. To me, the nation is the comitatus, not that subset who agree with me.

Grim said...

There have been times when that was almost true -- World War II, say. It's almost even the American ideal, written into the idea that all citizens have the right to bear arms both for their own security and because the security of the state depends on it.

The Romans had an instrument of corporal and even capital punishment was the fasces. The idea was that it symbolized strength through unity, just as each stick was easily broken separately but very strong when bound together. Strong enough that, in the hands of the proper state official, it could kill.

We think of that symbol mostly in terms of its modern namesake -- "Fascism" -- but if you follow the link, you can see a statue of Cincinnatus holding fasces from Cincinnati. It's an idea very much at the core of who we intended to be.

The problem with Gingrich is that he can't see himself as part of the bundle of sticks; he can only see himself as the man whose personal excellence gives him the right to decide how the sticks are used.

The problem with Obama is that he is dividing the bundle, intending to use one part of it against the other.

The problem with Santorum -- your problem with him, I mean -- is that he intends to reunite the bundle with the old cord. A lot of the sticks don't care for that cord anymore. That's a problem, but it's a deeper problem than for Santorum alone. I'm not sure a nation can really overcome that problem: if it no longer believes in the vision that once united it, it may be that the bundle no longer belongs together.

As for Mr. Romney, I'm not sure he sees the individual sticks as being as important as they really are. When I say that I don't know whom he takes to be his brother, I mean just that: I don't know if he has a sense that encompasses any of us as his brother, on an equal plane. This is a problem for Gingrich as well.

Cass said...

As for Mr. Romney, I'm not sure he sees the individual sticks as being as important as they really are. When I say that I don't know whom he takes to be his brother, I mean just that: I don't know if he has a sense that encompasses any of us as his brother, on an equal plane. This is a problem for Gingrich as well.

I think he has a sense that encompasses ALL of us - the ones who agree with him and the ones who don't. And I would say that he doesn't believe force should be used to bind people who disagree with a cord odious to many of them.

This is the central difficulty of our time. I see nothing in Santorum's rhetoric or past achievements to suggest that he has the ability to speak persuasively to people who don't already agree with him. In fact, he alienates many folks who generally agree with him. I know this, because that's what I think and that's what many of my Republican friends are telling me.

Romney has a similar problem, but unlike Santorum I suspect he understands that a free nation can't force compliance on people against their will. He, like me, is a nudger. I nudge and retreat and over time many times I'm able to slowly change minds or build consensus. I often fail, too.

But then persuasion really is the only option out there. And to persuade those who don't already agree with you, you can't begin by outraging their sensibilities. That's Santorum's problem: he makes people mad.

Romney's is that people who want rapid change regardless of how the rest of the country feels will never be satisfied with anything less than something they're not willing to say openly that they support (and which, were it done to them by a progressive Prez, they'd bitterly resent).

It is a puzzlement :p

Grim said...

Actually, Romney has the same problem: he makes me mad, and many others beside me. We've had this discussion, so you know my position: I resent his apparent belief that he can talk one way to MA voters (running left of Kennedy) and another way to me (running to the right), and we'll both just eat it up. That makes me much angrier than anything Obama says, since I know that Obama believes what he's saying even when I disagree with it (and even when it's a lie -- he seems, for example, really to believe that he is a centrist compromiser, even though he's run a massively partisan and divisive administration).

Persuasion isn't the only option. It's certainly not the option Obama is giving to the Catholic charities ("You guys really should cover morning-after pills; it's the right thing to do"). You've often said yourself that if we don't use the government to legislate at least some of our moral ideals, others will.

Now, the general idea that you're after is one you know that I believe in: an America for all of us, left and right. The one place where Romney has been firm is the one place I don't have a problem with him: the idea that Romneycare was appropriate for MA. I fully believe both that the 10th Amendment makes such a move appropriate at the state level, and also that a universal health care plan may be the right thing for a liberal state with liberal values. A Federalist approach, including a strong shift of powers back to the states in accord with the 10A, is good for all of us.

At the same time, though, there are some things we have to fight for; and that, I think I am right to say, has been your position as well as mine for a very long time.

Cass said...

: I resent his apparent belief that he can talk one way to MA voters (running left of Kennedy) and another way to me (running to the right), and we'll both just eat it up.

You mean you resent your assumption of his private thoughts and motives (which you cannot and do not know). You are free to resent your assumptions about the motivations of a man you have openly admitted you do not understand, based on your assumptions of what you think he thinks.

A bit circular for me, but then I'm not the one making this argument :p

Grim said...

Right, I mean I resent the only explanation I can come up with that makes any sense. I have to judge this way because, well, we never have access to anyone's private thoughts, but we still have to deal with them. Sometimes I can understand where someone is coming from because they're doing something I recognize; Romney doesn't seem to do much that I recognize.

He's alien to me, but this explanation at least explains. It makes sense for a politician to speak one way to voters who think left, and another way to voters who think right. That seems like the only probable explanation; but, I expect that if he were here to ask, Romney would tell me "It's not worth getting upset about."

Cass said...

Grim, your (again) unsupported assertion that Romney "ran to the Left of Ted Kennedy" is... well, unsupported (unless you consider simply repeating Newt Gingrich sound bytes to be evidence).

But I'll actually provide some support for my assertion that you're factually incorrect. Last time I checked, none of these positions were held by Kennedy:

... the document [Contract for America] contains a number of proposals that Romney has made a centerpiece of his campaign, including welfare reform, a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto for the president.

His refusal to endorse the Contract with America was based more on tactics than disagreement with the proposals. Again, from the Boston Globe:
**********

Romney then outlined what he called his style of governing. “If you want to get something done in Washington, you don’t end up picking teams with Republicans on one side and Democrats on the other entering into a contract saying, ‘OK, we’re all going to do this,’ and then of course if that works, then the other side feels like they’re the loser,’’ Romney said. “But if it wins, they feel like the winner. I don’t like winners and losers in Washington. I’d rather say let’s get together and work together.’’

Those words, mirroring the views of more moderate Republicans, could not have been more at odds with Gingrich’s view of political power. He advised Republican candidates to describe themselves with words such as “courage’’ and “freedom’’ and to label Democrats with words such as “pathetic’’ and “traitor.’’

After becoming speaker, Gingrich used his power to force the government into a shutdown rather than compromise with Democrats during budget negotiations. That move backfired among the general public and helped lead his fellow Republicans to oust him in 1998.

*******

Yeah. That worked well.

Cass said...

And let's not forget that this was Romney back in 1994. He lost. It's not surprising that he lost, because Ted Kennedy is an icon in MA.

It took real guts to run against him, and there is actual evidence that even back in 1994 Romney was endorsing conservative principles.

We've got a Congress now that is so polarized that it can't even perform its most basic function (passing a freaking budget). You seem to believe that the answer to this is... more polarization.

I believe we need a man with Reagan's ability to work with the other side.

Cass said...

Right, I mean I resent the only explanation I can come up with that makes any sense.

Only if you insist on dismissing the several explanations I've offered as "not making any sense".

Does that mean I am speaking in bad faith too? Or that I just expect you to believe me?

Grim said...

I've never accused you of bad faith, Cass. I don't have that impression of you at all.

I do think your general line of argument is in some cases wrong, and in other cases unconvincing. Your recent post on abortion foes, for example, comes down with 'the case against Romney is not a slam dunk.' It's a great case if I were a juror and he were on trial; I'm willing to agree that you've proven that there may be reasonable doubt.

If we were talking about sending him to prison, I'd vote your way. We're not, though: we're talking about investing him with vast new power. It isn't a good sign when a large part of your argument for why you should be elected sounds like a defense counsel at work in a criminal trial against you!

So that's the part that isn't convincing. The part that I think you have wrong is the part where you argue that Romney's inconsistency on principled statements arises from an interest in compromise.

That would make sense if, in 1994, he had been saying something like "Whatever my personal feelings and beliefs, I respect that the people of this state firmly believe that [abortion is a sacrament / strict gun control is good / etc], and I pledge to respect that general sense."

What he actually said was "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain & support it," and "We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them. I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety."

So, you know, the kind of candidate you want him to be I could support. That's not the language of compromise, though; it's the language of "I believe exactly as you do," and he's telling me the same thing now. Your explanation doesn't make sense of what he has said, even though I can firmly understand why you would want a candidate who thought the way you want to think he thinks.

Cass said...

What he actually said was "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain & support it,"

That was his position in 1994. Since then he says that his position has changed.

So has mine.

To you, this change is "proof" of some nefarious political calculation. To me, it speaks to my own gradual (very gradual) change of heart. In 1994 I was openly and unabashedly pro-choice despite my personal belief that abortion is wrong. There is no conflict here. I did not then think Roe should be reversed.

I did not think so in 1998 either. Sometime around 2005 (whoa... was I running for office?) I read a book that changed my position.

Now I believe Roe is bad law and should be reversed and the states left to decide for themselves. I would not favor a federal law outlawing abortion. Now you explain to me where I differ from Romney.

Grim said...

To me, the change is not proof of some nefarious political calculation; what seems to be strong evidence (if not proof -- remember, I'm granting that defense counsel has established reasonable doubt) is that he also changed his position on other hot-button issues like gun control.

But perhaps you have also changed your mind about gun laws, and the meaning of the second amendment; and perhaps that also tracks to Romney's time line more or less precisely.

Nevertheless, I watch this 2002 clip -- the same one I cited at your place tonight -- and I don't see a man who's trying to explain where his heart is. I see a man who's jockeying for position.

Now that's what he came to do, and he won; maybe he'd have explained it differently off the air and outside of a debate. I don't know that. I do know, though, that he's engaged in debates again now; and now, as then, what he has to say just happens to be exactly in line with what voters want to hear.

Cass said...

perhaps you have also changed your mind about gun laws, and the meaning of the second amendment; and perhaps that also tracks to Romney's time line more or less precisely.

As a matter of fact, I started out very anti-gun. My stance on gun control took even longer than my change of heart on abortion and I suspect that I am still well to the left of many conservatives. I see no need for assault weapons, for instance. My son is a cop, he owns several guns and I'm comfortable with that.

On the video, I had already seen that video and you and I see two vastly different things in it. I see a man whose opponents are persistently mischaracterizing his position and trying to trap him into saying something they can exploit.

And yes - he's being careful. He should be careful in the post-Bork environment. Any conservative who isn't careful in that kind of situation is (IMO) stupid.

Dad29 said...

Romney established gay marriage in MA by executive order, whereas the MA Supremes had said that gay marriage must be enacted by the Legislature. The Legislature did NOT act on the Court's order.

IOW, Romney "caved" with no pressure whatever on that matter.

One cannot hold that Romney is "conservative" and obedient to the "rule of law" (as in MassCare) and also hold that his executive orders were well-founded, because they were not so.

IOW, he's a closet Liberal, but talks a very, very, good 'conservative' game.

Yes, I'll vote for him instead of the Current Occupant, should it come to that.

But Romney engenders zero passion from me, or Conservatives as a whole.

Santorum's Reagan-Democrat ploy will work very well, by the way. Remember that Ron Reagan, too, was regarded as "too conservative" to win a Presidential election.

rcl said...

Cass, I was offline most of the week. If you see this I am quite aware of the info you posted. I understand your point. I know Romney's not your guy but you're being reasonable about his qualities.

Now is the time to stop "being reasonable" over the abrogation of natural rights to the state. I consider anyone in a leadership position who doesn't grasp that we're on a knife edge regarding law and liberty to be unqualified for leadership whether they're a bishop, a governor or an executive of a "conservative" party or organization.

Where I'm coming from... David Horowitz' intro for Colonel West last October.

I was at numerous events back in the '60s with Mr. Horowitz. From those days I'm two or three degrees of separation from Bill Ayers and Barack Obama, and Fidel Castro for that matter. Most people refuse to believe it but our current leaders are working to dismantle the US Constitution.

There is no room for weakness and compromise. In my opinion that leaves out 95% of the Republican Party including Mitt Romney.