Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Minor Musing: Breaking The South Dakota Conservative Coalition Down To Its Constituent Parts

Since I have a little extra time and want to avoid sorting the pile of books and kipple surrounding my personal area, aka "the nest," I thought I'd engage in a fool's errand and analyze the types of conservatives populating the South Dakota's blogosphere and political offices. I'm creating some of my own titles, and, as with any such grouping, I'm painting with a broad brush.

I will try to be more nuanced than those conservatives who have destroyed the word "liberal" by applying it to anyone whose political stance was metaphorically 1/16 of an inch to left of their own. I also will not apply Ronald Reagan, Tea Party, or social conservative as titles to any of these categories. All are too malleable to be used to explain differences.

First, Ken Santema, writing at Sodak Liberty, represents a strain of conservatism rather rare to South Dakota, a libertarian of the late Goldwater vein. It is the traditional libertarian view; leave adults alone so long as they don't do physical harm to others or defraud others. Were I to venture a guess, it's a relatively small group in the South Dakota conservative coalition.

Second, the neo-Randians are a group that has done the impossible; they have further perverted Ayn Rand's already perverse philosophy. Rand believed that business equaled wealth equaled morality, but to her credit, she wanted government away from business. The neo-Randians see government as a tool to aid and assist those with wealth at the expense of everyone else. It is South Dakota's dominant strain of conservatism efficiently practiced by Governors Rounds and Daugaard.

Third, there are a few iconoclasts with South Dakota's conservative community; chief among them Representative Rev. Steve Hickey who toes a social conservative line on most hot button social issues like abortion and gay marriage but strays from orthodoxy on the death penalty and usury laws, the latter stance causing the neo-Randians considerable consternation.

Fourth, Gordon Howie and Bob Ellis call themselves Christian conservatives, but much of their writing, especially Ellis's work, puts indicates they should be called angry populists. In the 19th Century, they would have helped form the Know Nothing coalition. Steve Sibson is a little more paranoid than angry but he fits here as well.

Fifth, is the neo-Birchers, William F. Buckley and Russel Kirk relegated the original Birch group to the fringes, but frequent DWC commenter, Jammer, seems to want to bring them back:
Members of the John Birch Society are some of the strongest defenders on the US Constitution in this country. They are also solid conservatives on almost every issue. I would challenge anyone who calls themselves a Republican to review the positions of the John Birch Society and tell me how they deviate from what you believe are Republican principles. I think you will be hard pressed to find very many areas that are not in agreement with the party platform.
Sixth, while dealing with the prefix "neo," one should mention Kristi Noem who seems to have a strong neo-con streak that involves supporting a government that is small enough to go to war with every other nation on the face of the Earth and spy on every American citizen. Perpetual war and supervision, according to neo-cons, are necessary to keep Americans safe,

Seventh, there are confused conservatives. I do not mean the adjective pejoratively These are good folks who enjoy small towns, church on Sunday morning, and hunting and fishing, facts that mean they are probably smart enough not to read blogs. They are Republicans by blood and tradition. They feel their world is slowly slipping away and don't know why, so they cast about between the various conservative  camps, always hearing answers that utter the old verities but never quite fit the new conditions, This is probably the largest group of South Dakota conservatives,and the ones who have been most ill-served by the neo-Randians and the neo-cons.

Finally, I invoked William F. Buckley earlier, I don't see too many South Dakota conservatives in the Buckley tradition. The closest seems to be PNR whose recent post about Stace Nelson prompted the train of thought that led to this musing. PNR reads and quotes the National Review rather than Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck. The former publication has the benefit of complete sentences and attempts mature thought; the latter three do not.

One final caveat, this list is in no particular order and will, as most lists of this kind do, reveal more about my biases than the ideas being categorized.


P&R said...

I think you're on to something with these broad categories. I hesitate to invoke Rand, though.

If one goes to the beginning of the Republican party in the 1840s and '50s, picking up the pieces of the Whigs, two of their major domestic planks were federal government sponsorship of a transcontinental railroad and what later became known as the Homestead Act.

These sorts of proposals aimed explicitly at promoting business, trade, and so on have been part of GOP thinking from the beginning. So I don't think Daugaard and Rounds (or others like them) are importing Rand as they are Chamber of Commerce. And this is where I think Noem is, for the most part.

I should point out, too, that the monitoring of American citizens has increased under Obama - it's not a neo-con position. Frankly, I don't think Noem is all that coherent or independently knowledgeable on foreign affairs, content to parrot the party line on such matters.

Kal Lis said...

I take your point about the Whigs but offer three defenses.

First, although I write this blog for my own amusement and to think things through, allusions to the Whigs probably insures no one else will read the post.

Second, and more importantly, Rounds and Daugaard seem to be doing to public works and promoting of commerce and trade what the Kelo decision did to eminent domain .

Third, appealing to the Whig tradition allows a direct connection to Lincoln. They have Lincoln's warts but few of his virtues.

Finally, Paul Ryan et al put Rand in the party by listing her as an influence. I don't believe Rounds Daugaard et al are immune to that influence.

I concur with your point about Noem.

I also totally agree with your points about Obama. I have a couple of posts somewhere saying the same thing. I will maintain that he would not have been able to go as far as he has without the neocons giving him cover and without Bush Cheney opening the door .

Once again, the neocon influence is rather strong with mainstream Republicans and I doubt South Dakota is immune