What Right Means Now
Here, over the wrestling zombie corpses of Jefferson and Hamilton, lies the future of the Republican Party. With it goes the future of the Republic. We must find a way to preserve the most essential values gifted to us by Jefferson, while adapting to an urbanized reality he would have deplored.
I firmly believe that only the Republican Party can meld the values of Jefferson and Hamilton successfully. We have attempted it with some success in the past under Lincoln and Roosevelt (monocle not glasses), and very nearly started to do it again under McCain. If we fail to make peace with the stuffy, aristocratic old ‘urb, Alexander Hamilton, we may still win some elections. We may still wield some power. But we will never again lead.
Into the vacuum we leave will advance an ideology that is well suited to an urban society, but has no regard for the individual. It will not be socialism any more than it will be communism. Yesterday’s battles belong to our grandfathers. Let them lay.
What we will face is the demoralizing rise of a paternal culture smothered by consumerism, in which few people can imagine any progress or innovation that rises from purely private activity. It will not be totalitarian. It will not be a dictatorship. But it will be a stifling and petty world where small problems breed small men. Where the end of risk brings the triumph of mediocrity. We slide farther down this slope every day.
So, you may interrupt, this is all very airy. But what will it mean in practical terms for the Republican Party to rediscover Alexander Hamilton while preserving the best of Jefferson? Thank you for asking. I’m going to get to that in great detail over time. But here is a summary of what it will take to bring on the Jeffertonians:
1) A smarter understanding of personal liberty then the sort of ‘Confederate Libertarianism’ of the Party’s far right. They have a catawampus vision of liberty in which government has almost no power to do anything useful like build a bridge or a commuter train, but unchecked power to peek into your bedroom, review your reading materials, and dictate your religion. We need to start fostering the genuine liberty we so lightly talk about.
2) Embracing responsible, honest government. Too often over the past generation the push to limit government power has reverted to a dirty insurgency. Wherever government can’t be contained or reduced, we have done what we can to undermine it. Examples can be seen in the way the Bush Administration handled agencies like the SEC and the Treasury and the disastrous impact on the economy.
3) Make peace with government. There are things government can do reasonably well. Say that three times in a row, take a breath, then repeat until it no longer burns your throat.
4) Do the above three things without losing sight of the notion that the purpose of government is to protect individual liberty. This is where Jefferson’s ideals fit in Hamilton’s world. Forget Kennedy’s soaring rhetoric. In a good government, the public exists to serve the private, not the other way around.
We’ll discuss policy details later. For now, we have a little more foundation to lay. We must talk about nutjobs.