On Fraternity

August 4, 2008 at 9:52 am

Danny Kruger, a special adviser to David Cameron — leader of the British conservative Party — has penned an excellent essay that American conservatives could learn a lot from. Now before any of my friends get angry and point out that the British conservatives are playing fast and loose with conservative principles when it comes to their policy prescriptions, let me say, I agree. However, that does not discount the ideas that Kruger has put forth in this essay.

On Fraternity puts the focus where it should be: making government work for people.

The battle of ideas is not over but entering a new and more interesting phase, according to Danny Kruger, special adviser to Conservative Party leader David Cameron MP. In the late 20th century, politics was the clash between Liberty on one hand and Equality on the other – a battle over the respective roles of the individual and the state. This remains the basic axis of our politics. But rather than a straightforward clash between Liberty and Equality, politics today is a contest for possession of the principle beyond them both: Fraternity. 

In his booklet On Fraternity, published by the independent think-tank Civitas, Kruger sketches the philosophical framework of the new battle of ideas, drawing on the writings of Locke, Burke and Hegel. He argues that Liberty, not Equality, is the natural ally of Fraternity, and that individual freedom, not state coercion, best protects the institutions of belonging and promotes the habits of solidarity.

At the heart of Kruger’s argument is a fundamentally correct understanding of human anthropology.  We are at our best when we are connected to others. We need fraternity. Fraternity provides the proper context for learning, for growing and for becoming properly socialised. The result is a vibrant and healthy civil society.

Society today is headed in the opposite direction, where individials are increasingly alientated from community, from family and therefore from society. No man is an island, and Kruger understands that. He argues that conservative policies are the proper prescription for reconnecting the isolated man with his community.

Of course the Left has hijacked this language. Liberal politicians talk of helping the least of these in society. They talk of social obligations and responsibility. But underneath their rhetoric is an unmistakeable truth: In the name of equal outcomes (instead of opportunities) the state will assume these obligations, not individuals. Or as Kruger writes, the promise of the modern liberal is that the state will erect “a great steel citadel to house everyone together and equally.” Behind this steel monstrosity, individuals will be protected from the “harsh winds of reality.”

Like most liberal prescriptions, this one hurts those it purports to help. The poor are further disconnected from communities as the state assumes the obligations that should be those of the community. The isolated in society are subjected to more loneliness, as their only connection with the society at large is through large and unfamiliar federal programs that create dependency and rob both the recipient and the would-be giver of the rewards that come with real charity on a personal level.

In this picture, the state with all its grandiose intentions is nothing more than a thief and deceiver. With its rhetoric about society it promises something that it has not the capacity to deliver and instead it indiscriminately doles out the addictive poison of federal aid with the purpose of nourishing itself, not society.

Kruger is on to something here. I highly recommend his essay, On Fraternity.

PS - For those of you still subscribed to this feed, you will be seeing the resumption of posts as my employment has changed. I won’t be as frequent as I used to be, but I do intend to write a few posts a week at least.

Chapman to DeMint’s Office

January 2, 2007 at 11:48 am

2007 brings a big change for me.

I recently accepted a position with South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. Starting this week I will be leaving Heritage to serve as DeMint’s Senior Communications Advisor. In that capacity I will be helping Senator DeMint with speechwriting and communications strategies.

Of course, given my background I will be paying special attention to the blogosphere. Conservative bloggers will have a friend and a resource in Senator DeMint, no doubt about it.

DeMint was recently elected to chair the conservative Senate Republican Steering Committee. As leader of that group, I believe DeMint is poised to become an even more visible conservative leader in a Congress that is now ripe for such leadership.

Late in the 109th Congress observers saw Senator DeMint team up with Senator Tom Coburn to shut down the Senate favor factory much to the chagrin of many pork-addicted lawmakers. Those kind of heroics will become even more necessary now that the GOP is in the minority and in need of a righting of the ship. Keep an eye out for DeMint as he leads the charge on issues conservatives care most deeply about in the 110th Congress.

The Heritage Foundation will always be my ideological home. For decades now Heritage has been on the front lines of the battle fighting hard to build an America “where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.” In that fight Heritage has so often been the standard bearer for Reaganesque conservative principles that have been the anchor to which conservatives are tethered.

My affiliation with Heritage makes me proud.

Of late, Heritage has recognized the growing importance of new media and has made strategic decisions to be a leader in the field. Hiring me was part of that strategy and they have done one better in hiring my replacement, Rob Bluey from Human Events.

Under Rob’s leadership Heritage will continue to be a leader in the think tank world when it comes to new media.

As for TimChapmanBlog.com, I will keep the site and the archives up but my posting will be rare and will probably concentrate on less political topics — to be honest, I have yet to really work out what I will do with this space. Subscribe to the rss feed if you want to be notified of occassional new posts.

So for now, this is a sign off of sorts. I will still write, but it will be for Senator DeMint and Senate conservatives at the Steering Committee. I look forward to the challenge that this presents and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work for Senator DeMint.

Finally, thanks to all of you who have been regular readers of this blog. Without you guys checking in daily and joining in the conversation via email or comments, my blogging would not have been nearly as much fun.

Big government Republicans

December 19, 2006 at 8:55 am

Former speechwriter for President Bush Michael Gerson wrote in his Newsweek column this week about a “Republican identity crisis.” In this piece, Gerson attacks conservatives in the following manner:

My low point with the Republican Party came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In attempting to deliver benefits to victims, the administration found men and women who had never had a bank account; families entirely disconnected from the mainstream economy. A problem rooted in generations of governmentally enforced oppression—slavery and segregation—demanded an active response from government to encourage economic empowerment and social mobility.

Yet the response of many Republicans was to use the disaster as an excuse for cutting government spending, particularly the Medicare prescription-drug benefit for seniors. At a post-Katrina meeting with White House officials, one conservative think-tank sage urged: “The president needs to give up something he wants. Why not the AIDS program for Africa?”

This reaction previews a broader, high-stakes Republican debate as we head toward the 2008 election. One Republican Party—the Republican Party of movement conservatives on Capitol Hill and in the think-tank world—will argue that the “big government Republicanism” of the Bush era has been a reason for recent defeats. Like all fundamentalists, the antigovernment conservatives preach that greater influence requires a return to purity—the purity of Reaganism.

But the golden age of austerity under Reagan is a myth. During the Reagan years, big government got bigger, with federal spending reaching 23.5 percent of GDP (compared with just over 20 percent under the current president). But the Reagan reality is more admirable than the myth. He wisely chose what was historically necessary—large defense increases and tax reductions—over what was politically unachievable: a massive rollback of government.

Gerson continues:

As antigovernment conservatives seek to purify the Republican Party, it is reasonable to ask if the purest among them are conservatives at all. The combination of disdain for government, a reflexive preference for markets and an unbalanced emphasis on individual choice is usually called libertarianism. The old conservatives had some concerns about that creed, which Russell Kirk called “an ideology of universal selfishness.” Conservatives have generally taught that the health of society is determined by the health of institutions: families, neighborhoods, schools, congregations. Unfettered individualism can loosen those bonds, while government can act to strengthen them. By this standard, good public policies—from incentives to charitable giving, to imposing minimal standards on inner-city schools—are not apostasy; they are a thoroughly orthodox, conservative commitment to the common good.

A good friend of mine emailed me his reaction to Gerson’s piece which I think worth posting:

In a nutshell, Gerson asserts that Reagan wasn’t really a small government conservative, and that greater government intervention is necessary to help those in need.I respect Gerson’s abilities immensely, but his inclination towards bigger government is misguided and wrong. I’m surprised that Gerson, an incredibly well-read theological scholar and evangelical, is not more familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis, who insistently cautioned against faith in the concept of an omnicompetent government.

In his essay “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State” Lewis writes:

We have on the one hand a desperate need; hunger, sickness and the dread of war. We have, on the other, the conception of something that might meet it; omnicompetent global technocracy. Are not these the ideal opportunity for enslavement? This is how it has entered before; a desperate need (real or apparent) in the one party, a power (real or apparent) to relieve it, in the other. In the ancient world individuals have sold themselves as slaves in order to eat. So in society. Here is a witch-doctor who can save us from the sorcerers — a war-lord who can save us from the barbarians — a Church who can save us from Hell. Give them what they ask, give ourselves to them bound and blindfold, if only they will! Perhaps the terrible bargain will be made again. We cannot blame men for making it. We can hardly wish them not to. Yet we can hardly bear that they should.

Gerson asks in his column, “What does antigovernment conservatism offer to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare? Nothing.” That is an incredibly depressing assertion to be made by someone so astute. I have no doubt about Gerson’s intentions, his sincerity, or his desire to help those in need. What is so sad about his statement is that it conveys a complete lack of faith in any compassionate individual to offer assistance to those in need without a nudge from government.

The question that Gerson needs to ask himself is this: “Over the last 50 years, what has big government given to inner-city neighborhoods where violence is common and families are rare?” The answer? Nothing but dependence, incompetence, and injustice.

Former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card told The New Yorker earlier this year that Gerson was “a C.S. Lewis type”. If only it were so.

Gilmore for President?

December 13, 2006 at 1:37 pm

Make no mistake about it, there is indeed a void right now in the prospective 2008 field that is begging to be filled by a candidate that conservatives can wholeheartedly embrace. Is former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore that candidate?

Jonathan Martin reports:

“There is a need for a conservative who’s electable,” Gilmore argues emphatically in a conversation with National Review Online at his Georgetown law office.

And Gilmore has somebody in mind who could fit that bill.

Jim Gilmore.

“I’m considering a national candidacy,” he says bluntly.

He’s been to Iowa four times, South Carolina twice in just the last month, and was in California in August to speak to their state party’s convention. He’s also reached out to longtime GOP activists in some of these key states, sounding them out about a potential White House bid.

To Gilmore, nobody else in the presidential mix has his credentials: Army intelligence officer, local prosecutor, state attorney general, governor, national party leader, and chairman of a terrorism and homeland-security commission that predated 9/11.

And, to the point, Gilmore notes that, “as governor, I governed as a conservative.” While the other top candidates in the field have “to move” to the Right to get right with the base, he’s already there.

The DeLay view

December 13, 2006 at 8:50 am

EDITOR’s NOTE: The following post was written by a Heritage Foundation colleague Alex Adrianson who attended a meeting yesterday with other bloggers (including myself) and Tom DeLay. Alex, who is the editor of The Insider Online, gives his take on DeLay and provides a good synopsis of the issues covered in yesterday’s meeting. I write briefly about the meeting here. Robert Bluey covers it extensively here. If you would like to email Alex regarding his post, send me a note and I will forward it on.

Yesterday at The Heritage Foundation, Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told to a weekly meeting of bloggers that conservatives need to rethink how they advance a small-government agenda. Calling the proliferation of congressional earmarks disgusting and in need of reform, DeLay nevertheless said that the focus should be less on the amount of money the federal government spends than on redefining government based on conservative principles. DeLay argued for an agenda of entitlement reform and eliminating whole departments such as Energy, Education, Commerce, and significantly downsizing the Department of Agriculture.

DeLay came to the group in order to promote his new political Web site (TomDeLay.com) and its affiliated Grass-roots Action and Information Network (GAIN). In addition to the usual political fare (calling Barrack-Obama a Marxist-Leninist), DeLay made a vigorous case for small government as a matter of political principle, not just as a budgetary imperative.

For example, DeLay defended his vote for the prescription drug entitlement (something which other conservative groups, including The Heritage Foundation, have criticized) even though it increased spending. He said it was the right thing to do because it applied conservative principles to a socialist welfare program. Noting that the new program uses choice and competition to update a program created before prescription drugs were a major part of health care, DeLay said greater use of prescription drugs could make Americans healthier and save money in the long run. He also said that Health Savings Accounts, part of the same political package, are a major innovation that moves health care away from first-dollar insurance coverage. That problem is cited by many conservative policy analysts as the major factor driving health care expenditures up. The ultimate goal, said DeLay, should be to repeal Medicare altogether and get government out of the health care sector.

DeLay responded specifically to questions about the proliferation of budgetary earmarks during the era of united Republican government. He said it had gotten out of hand under Bush, and that it was partly his (DeLay’s) fault for letting it get out of hand. But he also argued that earmarks played a legitimate role as an institutional check on the power of the President. President Clinton, he noted, didn’t want to spend money in Republican districts. (By this standard, one supposes that Democrats are now being politically foolish in forswearing earmarks for the next year, since they face a President of the other party.)

DeLay also took a shot at the Coburn-Obama spending transparency law, saying it wouldn’t do much except help members show how much they had done for their constituents. DeLay does propose, however, his own version of earmark reform. He wants Congress, as part of redesigning the appropriations process, to set criteria by which earmarks can be judged. He also proposes that Congress bring entitlement spending into the annual budget process.

DeLay says that government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product is the most meaningful measure by which to judge Congress’s budgetary performance. And by that measure, he said, things weren’t all that bad. Federal spending has increased slightly since declining to 18.4 percent of GDP right before Bush became President, but then, noted DeLay, a war happened. DeLay said he was actually very miffed at Sen. John McCain for saying that Congress was spending money like a drunken sailor.

Unlike many others who have diagnosed the Republican defeat, DeLay does not believe that Republicans lost because they stopped being conservative. He believes Republicans were not effective at explaining what they were doing, and he said he includes himself in that indictment. He cited two other factors: the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform, which he says gave all power to the shadow party of George Soros; and the fact that he had to resign from House leadership because of indictments brought against him by his political opponents. The replacement leadership, he said, was slow to get a campaign strategy up and running, and when they did they made mistakes like having President Bush talk up the war in September.

On McCain-Feingold, DeLay said: “I don’t think there is enough money in politics,” noting that this year Americans spent more money on potato chips than was spent on the midterm elections.

All in all, an interesting session with a man many conservatives blame for the Republican loss in November. While I don’t agree with his pooh-poohing of earmarks, he is right when he says that the argument for small government should come from conservative principles, not green eye shades.

Boehner: Contract with America alive and well

December 8, 2006 at 12:12 pm

In the closing hours of the 109th Congress and the 12 year Republican House majority, Majority Leader John Boehner has distributed a memo to his colleagues in which he lays out the mission ahead for Republicans. Among other things, Boehner suggest to his colleagues that the “the Contract with America is alive and well - perhaps more now than it has been at any other time in recent years.”

Read Boehner’s entire memo in the extended section. Read the rest of this entry »

No Christmas for the big spenders

December 8, 2006 at 6:10 am

Today in my column I profile the efforts of conservatives in the Senate who have succeeded in blocking a raft of last-minute prok projects. Led by Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, these conservatives have taken away the appropriators’ usually dependable Christmas list.

Ryan moves up the ranks on budget committee

December 7, 2006 at 12:34 pm

Word on the hill is that the young up and comer Paul Ryan was just selected by the steering committee to be the next top ranking GOP member on the House Budget Committee. I mentioned earlier in the week that this choice between Ryan and Ander Crenshaw was one to watch. Ryan ranked 13th on the committee, while Crenshaw was next in line. This was improbable to say the least.

Ryan’s selection suggests House GOP leadership backed Ryan who was seen as the more conservative candidate (a good sign). This comes a day after Jeb Hensarling was elected to succeed Mike Pence at the RSC.

Conservatives are giddy to say the least.

Ryan has made a name for himself as being a champion on social security reform and budget issues like the line item veto.

The future of the RSC

December 7, 2006 at 11:52 am

Newly-elected Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling is thinking about the future of the RSC. According to RSC staff, he is kicking things off on an open note.

Throughout the afternoon Hensarling’s office will be open to all members of the RSC who have an opinion on where the body of 100-plus conservatives should go from here.

This afternoon will serve as “a come-and-go listening session to solicit counsel on the future of the Republican Study Committee,” said Hensarling’s Communications Director Brad Dayspring.

“The meeting will take place in his office for several hours. This will be the first in a series of listening sessions that Congressman Hensarling will host to seek guidance from Members on ways to improve the RSC and to discuss the role that the RSC should play in the 110th Congress.”

UPDATE: Writing for the WSJ Opinion Journal Political Diary email Stephen Moore notes:

One problem for the RSC going forward is its size. What was once a small, dedicated caucus for unwavering conservatives, of which there are now only about 30 in the entire Congress, expanded to 100 members and lost its hard edge. Members routinely began to wander from RSC positions. Smaller and more principled is probably a better approach for the Study Committee. If there are only 25-30 ideologically committed conservatives, so be it. One of the Hensarling supporters tells me: “Jeb should understand that it’s better not to thin the soup by adding marginal members who don’t believe in half the policy positions we take. Somebody has to take on Nancy Pelosi.” Yes, and at times, Messrs. Boehner and Blunt too.

Hensarling elected RSC Chairman

December 6, 2006 at 1:12 pm

Jeb Hensarling was just elected as the next Chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Hensarling beat his rival Todd Tiahrt by a vote of 57-42.

UPDATE: Former RSC Chairman (that sounds weird), Mike Pence, released the following statement:

“The members of the Republican Study Committee chose wisely in electing Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas as their chairman for the 110th Congress.”As the first contested election for chairman of the RSC, this was a choice between two good conservatives. I commend Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas on a well-fought campaign and on his many years of conservative leadership.

“Jeb Hensarling is a friend of freedom like no other. Over the past two years, Jeb has been at the center of every battle where House conservatives made a difference for fiscal discipline and reform. Jeb Hensarling is the right man to lead House conservatives in the 110th Congress.

“For his integrity, his personal courage and his unparalleled devotion to the conservative agenda, I welcome the election of my friend, and freedom’s friend, Jeb Hensarling of Texas as the next chairman of the Republican Study Committee.”

UPDATE: RSC Chairman Jeb Hensarling released the following statement:

“I would like to congratulate Congressman Todd Tiahrt for running a good race. He is a strong conservative and great asset to the RSC,” said Hensarling.”I am humbled by the results of today’s election and am honored to be chosen by my colleagues as RSC Chairman for the 110th Congress. The RSC has a deep bench of talented public servants who are committed to the principles of Ronald Reagan and the Contract With America, and each will be essential in developing and communicating our conservative message.

“Working together with our leadership, conservatives will articulate our commitment to our key principles of limited government, individual empowerment, a strong national defense and traditional values to the American people. We will continue the march for liberty and freedom with passion, building a new Republican Majority in the process.”

Who will lead the RSC?

December 6, 2006 at 10:36 am

While the press covers the release of the Iraq Study Group report, an important closed door meeting of House conservatives goes relatively unnoticed. The Republican Study Committee today in the noon hour will select their next leader. Will the RSC stay with a Pence-like leader in Jeb Hensarling, or go to a different style with the more leadership/appropriator aligned Todd Tiahrt?

The answer to that question could have significant implications for the future of the Republican Study Committee.

Waiting…

Senate Republicans building new message team

December 5, 2006 at 1:29 pm

Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are assembling a new team to get out the GOP message.

Roll Call reports:

McConnell still is assembling his team, but the incoming Minority Leader is working to hire a handful of message, new media and speech-writing staffers to work for the new communications arm. It is expected to be up and running before Jan. 3, when the Senate reconvenes for the 110th Congress.

McConnell currently is coordinating with the other five incoming GOP leaders and rank-and-file party members to figure out ways to increase their participation in communicating the Republican message. He also is working with other Senators and leaders to carve out particular roles, in both policy and communications, to advance the party’s goals.

McConnell wants the party’s communications operation to be a “team” effort that taps into the strengths of individual Senators, sources close to the Senator said.

This is welcome news. Now that congressional conservatives are in the minority, message, not legislation, is the name of the game. Democrats are in control and they will schedule legislation for both the House and Senate floors. Republicans must find a way to get their message out no matter what bills Dems bring to the floor.

The tools to do this exist, especially in the Senate. The great freedom senators enjoy allows them to offer amendments to virtually any legislative vehicle crossing the Senate floor. Every liberal bill scheduled for floor debate must be seen as an opportunity for conservatives to change the conversation by offering their alternatives.

Additionally, with 49 Republicans in the minority, McConnell will have all the leverage he needs to slow down or stop big spending liberal bills. But when Republicans do this, they need to make it clear that they are not obstructing progress in the Senate. Rather, they need to explain that they are fighting for the American taxpayer’s right to keep more of the money he or she earns.

A final thought: when Republicans proposed the Contract with America in 1994 they did not necessarily emphasize “conservatism.” Rather, they emphasized conservative issues that were popular with conservatives, moderates and even some liberals (think welfare reform). There is nothing wrong with conservatives picking agenda items that are popular with a broad swath of the American people and then employing the proper messaging strategy to push those agenda items.

Hensarling vs. Tiahrt

December 5, 2006 at 11:23 am

National Review’s Johnathan Martin previews tomorrow’s Republican Study Committee leadership election between Representatives Jeb Hensarling and Todd Tiahrt:

Where they really differ is in style. This is not just reflected in their contrasting public images, but also in their respective supporters. Emblematic of their differences in tenure, Tiahrt and Hensarling have something of a generational gap in their list of public backers.With Tiahrt are the RSC’s “founders,” those who restarted the conservative caucus after it was initially abolished following the GOP sweep in 1994,” Rep’s Dan Burton (Ind.), John Doolittle (Calif.) and Sam Johnson (Tex.). Also on board are Rep’s Chris Cannon (Utah), Mark Souder (Ind.), and Dave Weldon (Fla.).

These members have each served at least a decade in the House. Soulder and Weldon, like Tiahrt, are products of Class of ’94 and Weldon and Doolittle are both appropriators.

While all conservatives, these members, like the man they’re backing, have practiced a different brand of internal politics. They’re more reliable votes for the GOP leadership and less apt to harpoon those leaders for straying from conservative doctrine.

Hensarling’s team, too, reflects the candidate’s nature. Included are current RSC chair Mike Pence (Ind.) and rabble-rousing Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), two of the biggest thorns in the side of the leadership, who both came to Congress in 2000. Also backing Hensarling is Rep. John Shadegg (AZ), Pence’s predecessor at the RSC. Shadegg and Pence, of course, challenged Roy Blunt and John Boehner for their leadership positions last month, with each losing badly.

A pro-Hensarling source points out that the Texan also has two members of the leadership, Conference Secretary John Carter (Tex.) and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), publicly backing his bid. But one leadership aide knows what they’ll be getting with Hensarling atop the RSC.

“He won’t be anymore of a pain in the ass than Pence was,” this staffer says, finding the positive angle.