Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who Cares About "Retaining Power"?

I am getting soooo disgusted with politicians these days. Case in point: I was reading a Mike Gallagher commentary on John McCain over at (link). Gallagher was interviewing David Frum, whom he claims makes a good case for John McCain as "possibly the perfect GOP candidate in an ever-changing country" over against "torchbearers of conservatism like Ann [Coulter] and Rush Limbaugh and others who believe that the real peril is in Republicans even considering moving one inch to the center." (As if it was all simply a matter of linear displacement -- quantitative, not qualitative, distinction.) Frum's clinching argument: "if the GOP has any chance of retaining power in D.C., the party should realize that this isn’t our father’s Republican Party anymore."

And there you have it. The bottom line in politics and with politicians and with beltway pundits and various and sundry satellites orbiting Washington is this: "retaining power." All else must serve the goal of "retaining power." Nothing is more important than "retaining power." Ideas, principles, interests, all must bow to "retaining power." Is there anything that is not subservient to "retaining power"?

My conclusion is that party politics is destroying conservatism just as it destroyed Christianity in the Netherlands. Why bring up the Netherlands? Because it is an entirely apropos case in point. After the Netherlands established a, for all practical purposes, godless atheistic state in the 19th century, conservative Christians developed an ideology and an institutional framework for participating within that "neutral" structure. Abraham Kuyper pioneered an ostensibly Christian version of participation within the neutral democratic state, which was and is unique to the Netherlands. In tandem with his establishment of an independent church denomination (the Gereformeerde kerk, in opposition to the established Hervormde kerk) he established a new political party, the Anti-Revolutionary party (ARP), closely allied to this denomination. When he became Prime Minister of the Netherlands, he and the ARP led the charge for establishing state funding for Christian education, whereby a group of parents could establish a school according to their beliefs and receive state funding for it. The system has become part of the structure of the Dutch way of life. There were other expressions of this "denominalization" of public life as well, as church denominations -- and other groupings: socialists, humanists, and the like -- each had their own newspaper, their own radio and TV (shared out under government auspices), their own sports clubs.

All of this led to the balkanization of Dutch society (verzuiling). Which would be bad enough in itself. But it also led to something worse. Dutch Christians were convinced that the best way to bring the Christian influence to bear on public life was through the ballot box, that political organization within the framework of the neutral state was the only viable alternative within a secularized framework. But what has happened is that the influence has gone all in one direction. There was a pipeline established between the church and the government via the political party. But that pipeline had valves opening in only one direction. All the influence went from the government, and from the state, to the church, deforming and undermining the church to the point that the church became the mirror image of the fashionable politics of the day, completely sold out to the secular, godless, pro-death, pro-dependency, pro-victimization, pro-multiculturalist, pro-earth-worship welfare state. And the role of Christian political parties is not to make the state listen to the church and the Christians, but to make the church and the Christians listen to the fashionable cultural power elite in Hilversum (where the media resides) and The Hague (where the politicians reside)!

The bottom line is that party politics is destroying Western civilization. And this should not be surprising. Politicians do not get elected to represent the citizenry in government, they get elected so as to represent government to the citizenry. They have a vested interest in government and the power of government. They exist to bolster and strengthen government. They are an interest group like any other. That is why, for them, power is the be-all-and-end-all. That is why they are not to be trusted. That is why they always disappoint when in power: because they promise the world in order to get elected, and blame everyone else in order to stay elected.

They then turn to scapegoating, which is the mode du jour for politicians. The fault always lies elsewhere, even when it is plain to see that the fault is of the politicians' own making. Oil is now the scapegoat for both the energy and the environmental crises, both of which are faux crises created by politicians for the purpose of growing government.

How long will citizens go along with this? Who knows? Will Rogers once said "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer" (my thanks to a Townhall poster for that quote). One thing that has to be realized is that politics is out of control. Constitutional reform is required to put the brakes on it. Friedrich von Hayek realized this and in his monumental Law, Legislation, and Liberty proposed constitutional reform as well as a renewed strengthening of private law as bulwarks against politicians gone wild.

Ultimately, though, constitutional reform will have to embrace the notion that there is no neutrality, that a confession of Christianity will have to be made in order to anchor law and the state in absolute, transcendent, unchanging principles, so that power can be put under control. The ballot box is not enough: there must be ground rules outside of which politicians and government cannot go. The natural-rights framework for restricting the power of the state has proven bankrupt; it cannot restrict because it keeps providing new pretexts for government expansion! Alexander Hamilton realized this when he proposed the establishment of a Christian Constitutional Society in 1802 -- yet another reason for his unjust vilification.

Stahl's pithy aphorism puts it best: "Authority, Not Majority." As he himself explained: "The opposition of authority and majority, which I made use of in my answer to an entirely unexpected attack from Bassermann (Erfurt, April 15th, 1850; cf. my Reden, p. 86) has since then been the catchword even for the opposing parties, a sign that it struck the focal point of the political struggle in our time. However, this had its final ground in nothing other than whether the ruling authority is from God or from men" (State Law and the Doctrine of State, forthcoming, WordBridge Publishing).

We appear to be heading into a "Perfect Storm" of left-wing control of government, regardless of political party. Not surprising -- ultimately, all political parties exist to ensure their own survival! May the havoc they wreak serve to discredit the putative messianic power of government once and for all. If only the churches had the nerve to pray thusly.

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