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That Awful Word ‘Social’

January 30th, 2014 - 5:49 am

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That said, I think we want to be cautious about how that “truce” Mitch Daniels evoked has been understood. One way of getting at that is to look at how it has been assimilated to the so-called Buckley Rule or Buckley Doctrine—the idea, in its demotic transcription, that we conservatives ought to rally around the most conservative candidate who is also electable.

That’s how the Buckley Doctrine has been disseminated in its post-Buckley reincarnation. You’ve all heard it. My friend Karl Rove wheeled it out early and often in the last election.

But Neal Freeman, who was there at the creation, has demonstrated beyond cavil that the Buckley Doctrine as originally formulated was something quite different.

The year was 1964. The choice was between Nelson Rockefeller, the Republican establishment’s darling, and Barry Goldwater, the impossible firebrand. Whom should National Review endorse? The debate raged for some time in the sancta sanctorum of NR’s editorial offices, some editors arguing one side, some the other. In the fullness of time, the dictum came down from WFB himself: National Review would support “the rightwardmost viable candidate”—i.e., Barry Goldwater, unelectable in 1964 but viable in the sense of representing a robust and coherent conservative vision of the world.

It was the same in the 1965 New York mayoral race. Bill Buckley hadn’t a chance of winning. Indeed, when asked what he would do if he were to win, he famously replied: “Demand a recount.” But Bill’s candidacy was viable because it enabled him to put before the public an articulate case for various important conservative ideas.

The point is that powerful ideas can have powerful consequences. Barry Goldwater didn’t stand a chance of winning in 1964, but his candidacy was part of the galvanizing force that ushered Ronald Reagan into the White House fifteen years later. Bill’s mayoral race didn’t see him into Gracie Mansion, but it was one of the propaedeutic elements that helped see his brother Jim into the U.S. Senate a few years down the road. I think Neal Freeman got to the core distinction when he observed that “We all understand that it is Karl Rove’s mission to promote the Republican party. It was the mission of Bill Buckley to promote the conservative cause. There should be no confusion between the two.”

But of course there’s been lots of confusion between the two. Which brings me back to the question: “Should conservatives accept a truce on social issues?”

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Top Rated Comments   
"...the lowest and poorest member contributes by living more or less honestly and doing his duty."

Assuming this is true, there are an awful lot of people in our society who do NOT hold up their end of the bargain implied by the notion of "social justice".
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
So only Democrats should be allowed to address moral issues outside of churches, then? You know, like they've been doing constantly in the media and the culture for more than a generation?
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Social" justice is what the owner of the propaganda demands that it be. It has no relation to truth and has no relation to justice. It has every relation, however, living in its basement.

"Social" conservatives, want small government to act as Big Brother. Neat trick.

Frankly, border crashing isn't a "social" issue, it's a security issue. If the leftists want to import more voting Democrats, let them at least work for it.

If Republicans can't "message", can't articulate the higher ground...they can't win. The deck is rigged. Leftists own mass media, academia, unions, Hollywood and the Democratic Party.

But conservatives can't frame the issues well enough to defeat 50 years of incremental communist creep. Unless and until they recognize the landscape for what it is, they can't win.

They have no battle plan. No blueprint. No strategy. Ready, fire...aim.

It is little wonder they hop from patchwork quilt A to patchwork quilt B. Like frogs looking for the next lily pad.

Mitch Daniels was right. Because if you are going to articulate badly, it is better to not articulate. Keep doing it and we will lose this country to tyranny. And then you can sing My Akin Breaakin' Heart.

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (75)
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Since reading this post I began asking all my liberal friends, "In the phrase social justice, what does social mean?" Answers so far include: "I don't know", "I don't want to answer that", and "Don't ask me that here". This is great fun and I plan to continue for many weeks.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our Founders gave us "one man (now one person), one vote". How do we expand on this promise of equality of power? That's the question we should be asking. If we can find ways to do this, it'll resonate as forward-looking much more so than "social justice".
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
The word "social" added to "justice" means whatever the popular idea of justice is right now. To take away "social" would mean, for the Left, that there is some objective justice out there and that is something they roundly object to.

To take "social" away from "conservative" would suggest that if you want to call yourself a conservative you have to sign up for the hard stuff (marriage and abortion) too. It would rob the libertarian set of their precious autonomy.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's one way I've framed it to my Libertarian friends who wish "issues" such as marriage would just "go away":

"So let me get this straight. You're saying that if we would only hand over to the government the right to define marriage, family and even life itself--if we would only just do that--then that'll turn the government into our lapdog on things like marginal tax rates? I don't think that'll work."

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The fiscal issues facing this country are so dire, that if it takes "ignoring" social issues to win the elections, then that is fine with me. If the economy isn't fixed then all of this blathering about "social justice" will be meaningless.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The social issues facing this country are so dire, that if it takes "ignoring" fiscal issues to win the elections, then that is fine with me. If the society isn't fixed then all of this blathering about the "economy" will be meaningless.

Gee, that works just as well!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy LC
Most of the social issues are not amenable to legislation. The fiscal issues are.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seems to me that for both issues, some are and some aren't. I'm certainly not sure what would make the one less amenable *in toto* than the other.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy LC
The "fiscal" issues are generally matters of government taxation and spending -- obviously amenable to legislation because they are driven by legislation.
The "fiscal" issues also relate to government regulation because regulation often reduces economic activity. Reduced economic activity lowers revenues and raises expenses for largesse.
Social issues may intersect the fiscal issues -- eligibility for welfare is such an intersection, or what health care procedures are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
Many social issues are, or in my opinion should be, outside of government management and should be addressed through family, through church, through magazine articles and books. Family structure and responsibility is one such. Respect for one's sexuality and the sexuality of others, which could promote abstinence.
If one opposes homosexual conduct, the church and one's choices for entertainment are the route to go, not the statehouse or City Hall.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's thanks to unexamined libertarian assumptions that the lion's share of our current legislation addresses fiscal issues; saying that this justifies treating them as more inherently suited for government attention is a fallacy that they used to call a "just-so story." Additionally, you could phrase your other argument in a way that turns the tables, using household finances and personal money-management as examples to show that fiscal conservatism is essentially a personal matter.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
If one approves of homosexual conduct, the church and one's choices for entertainment are the route to go, not the statehouse or City Hall. If one opposes the slaughter of babies, where should one go?
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Democrats long ago discovered that what Mitch Daniels euphemistically referred to as “social issues” were effective sticks with which to beat Republicans, both conservatives and the other sort...It is the left-wingers who keep them front and center."

Democrats use the so called "social issues" as props, the same way Barack used the white-coated pretend doctors in the Rose Garden to promote pretend healthcare and the same way he used the severely injured Cory Remsburg at Tuesday night's SOTU.

Leftists "caring about" you is tantamount to government enslaving you. This is not completely lost on many of those who are, in fact, "beneficiaries" of pretend government largesse.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Justice is justice and it needs no adjectival appendages. Adding "social" in front of it is the Marxist way of perverting true justice. Social justice is simply injustice dressed up to fool the bandwagon crowd.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's face it, we are talking here about the abortion question and the gay rights questions. If you remove those issues, where the left has beliefs that they will never abandon, then what remains are fiscal issues, law and order issues, personal rights and responsibilities issues, etc. where the right has the high ground - potentially compelling to all but those who stupidly espouse full-on communism or socialism.

But by insisting on munging it all together, the right - at least given they way society feels now - will be relegated to the runner up position in politics. So many people just feel that intrusion and coercion in their private lives is far scarier than the affects of government incompetence and irresponsibility. So keep writing about how we should stand firm on these issues. The Progressive march will continue.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Which is why the Libertarian Party has become the juggernaut of politics over the last 50 years.

The people voting to take your money and import millions of illegal foreigners are not opposed to intrusive govt. It's a so-called moderate wet dream that we can have liberal social policy and a functioning economy. Our Weak Sisters in the Party think we can compromise in just the right way that liberals will like us. There isn't a shred of evidence that is possible.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hayek pointed out (in The Fatal Conceit) the rhetorical inversion that is accomplished by prepending the word 'social' to anything. It negates the sense of the subsequent word. Hence 'social justice' is unjust, for example. I'm not sure what 'social conservatism' is, but I'm pretty sure it's semantically null.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy David Gillies
Not sure I'll sign Mr. Hayek's point entirely. I agree that "social justice" is not.
"Social conservatism" is usually taken to mean a belief in personal agency and responsibility, that traditions have value until they are proven outdated or harmful, that government largesse is morally tainted, and that the only acceptable sex is heterosexual marital sex. Simplified a bit but it's a reasonable summary.
I subscribe about 85% to the agenda. But some that I agree with, I don't want legislated. And of course I don't want legislation on the part I don't agree with.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Grammys! Period!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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