May 8, 2007
Seizing the Moral High Ground for ReformBy Christopher Chantrill
Last week Mitt Romney cracked jokes with Jay Leno and mildly corrected Chris Matthews about the propriety of a Mormon advising Catholic bishops on church doctrine. But he got his Three Strongs message in:
Mild mannered Mitt was careful not to frighten the horses on anything so controversial as reform of the welfare state so it was John McCain who got branded the "cranky warrior" for getting angry about Iraq.
Rule One for conservative candidates in twenty-first century America is: Don't get defined as the mean-spirited candidate.
Of course, it's grossly unfair. The Rev. Al Sharpton can base an entire career on rage: "No Justice, No Peace!" Well-born feminists can swoon with outrage at the gender-based equivocations of ex-Harvard president Larry Summers. Media mavens can puff their important chests out like pouter pigeons over the edgy comments of former radio shock-jock Don Imus.
When conservatives try moralizing they get stigmatized as "mean-spirited."
And it's not just in America. Ever since the 1997 general election blowout the Conservative Party in Britain has been tagged as the "nasty" party. They hardly mention uncontrolled immigration, the failing National Health Service, and the "bog-standard" government school system without being labeled as "nasty."
Nicolas Sarkozy, the next president of France, had to watch his mouth in last week's pre-election debate with the socialist candidate Ségolène Royal lest he be judged too negative. But it was OK for Mme Royal to rip into him to her heart's content.
The reality of conservatism was described Sunday in the British Telegraph.
Maurice Saatchi, an associate of Margaret Thatcher, called for a conservatism of "practical idealism." He invoked the spirit of Ronald Reagan in his 1982 speech to the House of Commons. Then he wrote:
Why then do practical, idealistic conservatives get castigated as "mean-spirited" or "nasty?" It's simple.
If you try to reform government pensions, you are accused of throwing granny out into the street. If you try to reform government health care you are accused of snatching granny's medicines away. If you try to reform government education you are accused of blaming "our" teachers (usually women) and of not caring about kids.
Notice the common factor here? You cannot seize the high ground when you propose to reform a government program that benefits women. This is not because we have put women on a pedestal, oh no. In the twenty-first century we are past all of that.
In the post pedestal age, the problem is how to reform programs that benefit women without being stigmatized as nasty and mean-spirited.
After all, everyone recognizes women as more caring, more responsible, and more deserving than other humans.
You reform the programs with women leading the charge. It was conservative women who grasped that the Equal Rights Amendment made the relationship between the sexes into something "merely mechanical or materialistic." It was conservative women who understand that abortion on demand reduces sex into something "merely mechanical or materialistic." And it is conservative women with their moderate sisters who will lead the nation against a welfare state that makes the journey and meaning of every well-lived life into something "merely mechanical or materialistic."
The vision of socialism and the welfare state was to free people, women and workers especially, from a life of drudgery to live a full, creative life. Wrote Leon Trotsky at the end of Literature and Revolution:
But the cult of creativity is a chimera. Very, very few people are truly creative and indispensable, can ever hope to be, or ever will be. The reason we know this, writes Spengler, is that people on the cutting edge of research rush to publish before someone else gets there first. Obviously such people are in a horse race with other equally highly trained thoroughbreds, unlike Johann Sebastian Bach, a flat-out genius who had the field all to himself.
There is another way to build a life of meaning.
Best of all, you don't have to be a genius.
It is when a critical mass of women begin to articulate this incandescent truth to America that conservatives will reach the Promised Land of moral superiority. And then we will begin to reform the welfare state.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his http://www.roadtothemiddleclass.com