Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Values Do Politicians Really Hold?

Ken Santema sends out a tweet with a link to this Mary Theroux post. Theroux contends that George W. Bush was not a conservative and Barack Obama is no liberal:
Mr. Bush was given a pass by conservatives who either thought an extraordinarily dangerous world required extraordinarily extra-Constitutional powers for the presidency, or who viewed him as a nice guy who could be trusted.
Mr. Obama is similarly being given a pass by liberals who like his rhetoric on gays or abortion or something. But the plain fact of the matter is he’s not a liberal. He demonstrably believes he can do whatever he wants, and that his motives and ability to do as he believes must not be questioned.
Coincidentally, Rod Dreher contends that "Progression" has won the day, a fact that makes it difficult to be a philosophical conservative as opposed to an ideological right-winger:
.  . . . as Alasdair MacIntyre has observed, all parties in American politics are devoted to Progression. It’s simply a matter of whether you are a “conservative” progressive, a progressive progressive, or a radical progressive. There is nothing conservative about a figure like, say, Newt Gingrich. I wonder, though, if we have a political culture in which it is all but impossible to be truly conservative, in the moral and philosophical, fullness of that term, as distinct from an ideological right-winger. I have my doubts.
Dreher either ignores the loud reactionary voices prevalent in American politics, or he relegates them to the "ideological right-winger" caucus. I'm not sure the latter is a correct assessment. Dreher correctly observes, however, the difficulty of developing and maintaining a philosophical consistency.

The common lack of concern for civil liberties and the perceived dominance of "Progression" or "ideologues" may have occurred because political parties accept as dogma "it's the economy, stupid." Focus on the economy can easily be summed up by a little girl in an AT&T commercial, "We want more; we want more," a sentiment that relegates non-material concerns like civil liberties to oblivion. Further, to privilege "more" one must accept progress as a primary value

Reviewing Michael Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: The Limits of Markets, Julian Baggini writes,

. . . Sandel argues we need a serious public debate about what values we want our politics to build and defend. That means dropping the illusion that politics is about no more than efficient management of the economy: it's about nothing less than competing visions of the good society.
Both parties, of course, claim to promote and defend values. Both parties, however, couch the values discussion in a utilitarian calculus beloved of high school policy debaters: adopt values in the way we say is best or risk extinction. Those threats, whether real or implied, limit the possibility of serious debate.


Ken Santema said...

It's almost amazing how much little debate there is. This is especially true for social issues.

Ironically I was unfollowed in Twitter following that tweet and got a DM calling me a "damn liberal in disguise". I don't know if he said that because I posted on a link that dared say Bush was not conservative; or that he was compared to Obama in any fashion.

(unrelated, typing on this tablet is a pain.)

Kal Lis said...

I don't know how one can argue that Bush was a conservative.

As I think I've said elsewhere, I love debate. I want the public square open to all. I just don't want people to shout so much