Conservatives’ Jim DeMint Problem
In service of defending his proposition that departing far-right Senator Jim DeMint is a “hero” whose record is one libertarians should celebrate, Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney makes an argument that many on the left’ll find surprisingly agreeable. Carney’s take, bluntly put, is that there is no ideologically principled separation between fiscal and social conservatism. And, really, who better to stand as an exemplar of conservative singularity than the man who somewhat recently claimed unmarried but sexually active women should be barred from public education:
DeMint and others could make deeper philosophical arguments about family, church and community as counterweights to state power, but there are also the basic facts on the ground: The best fiscal conservatives in politics are all social conservatives…
Self-described “fiscal conservatives and social moderates” almost never end up being both. Most end up embracing taxes, regulation and spending like Mark Kirk, with a Club for Growth lifetime score of 52 percent. The rest become pro-lifers like Pat Toomey.
Traditional morality and limited government aren’t enemies. They’re friends.
I read Carney often. He’s one of the few hard-right pundits whose work I find intellectually stimulating and often worth engaging. But this is probably the first time I’ve ever actually agreed with the man. (Beyond generalities most of the human race can co-sign, like eating humans is bad or the Affordable Care Act is not how my ideal healthcare system would look.) Still, when you’re right, you’re right! And when it comes to the unsustainable nature of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism — as well as the harmonious potentiality of far-right views on issues fiscal and social, both — Carney is right.
Here’s the thing about social and fiscal conservatism: fundamentally, they’re both about dominance and control. In the face of private power run amok, the best of the fiscal conservatives are complacent. To the social liberation of countless women in the past 40 years, social conservatives are openly and uniformly hostile.
This is not to say that conservatives individuals or organizations are authoritarians. Many—no, most are not. But they may hold fast to romantic, nostalgic, and finally false imaginings of what conservatism-in-practice entails. Or they may be suffering from overoptimism when it comes to the liberatory affect of the free market. Maybe they’re just wrong.
Regardless, in the end they’ll find themselves at a crossroads. There are two possible endings. You can end up ideologically muddled but humane, thoughtful, intellectually curious, and with sundry desirable characteristics. You can also end up like Jim and Tim; and how that makes you feel will probably tell you everything you need to know.
[x-posted @ jubilee]