Washington insiders are agog over what seems to be a rather dramatic flip flop of principles by conservatives at the American Conservative Union, which touts itself as America’s oldest conservative lobbying organization. Like other conservative organizations, the ACU spouts the standard free-market, limited-government mantra that conservatives have employed since at least the 1950s: “our commitment to a market economy, the doctrine of original intent of the Framers of the Constitution, traditional moral values, and a strong national defense.”
According to a story broken by Politico.com, the ACU sent a letter to FedEx offering assistance in a legislative battle over unions in return for the payment of $2 million or $3 million to the ACU. The services were to consist of letters and op-eds written by the ACU in support of FedEx’s position.
FedEx rejected the ACU’s offer.
Then, on July 15 FedEx received a letter from eight conservative leaders, including ACU president David Keene, stating that they were supporting UPS in the dispute and criticizing FedEx for “false and disingenuous” statements.
The ACU is now denying that it has flip-flopped over the issue and claims to be still standing with FedEx. It says that Keene signed the anti-FedEx letter in his personal capacity, notwithstanding the fact that the letter included the ACU’s logo at the top of it (along with the logos of the other organizations to which the signers belonged) and also included Keene’s title as president of the ACU.
There is a much larger issue involved here, however, one involving the conservative movement in general: Conservatives sold out their principles long ago, not just for money but for the sake of acceptance, credibility, influence, and political power.
Let me first say that my critique of conservatives is not intended as a defense of liberals and liberalism. With their devotion to socialism and interventionism, along with all the federal spending that socialist and interventionist programs entail, liberals are primarily responsible for our nation’s loss of economic liberty and the serious threat to people’s economic well-being.
But generally speaking, liberals make no bones about being advocates of socialism and interventionism — or, as some might put it, of “big government.”
Oh, sure, liberals will get all worked up about being labeled socialists, or interventionists, or big-government types, but when you confront them with socialist and interventionist programs, they’ll puff out their chests and proudly endorse every one of them. Examples include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, welfare, economic regulations, subsidies, the drug war, trade restrictions, immigration controls, the Federal Reserve, and paper money.
In fact, the reason that liberals have always shown a natural affinity or sympathy toward people such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez is because of the ardent devotion to socialism that such rulers have. It’s not a surprise to liberals that the two socialist programs in Cuba that Castro is most proud of are national health care and public schooling.
So, at least liberals are, generally speaking, up front and straightforward with respect to their support for socialism and interventionism.
The problem with conservatives is that long ago they threw in the towel with respect to free-market principles and accepted the inevitability of the socialistic welfare state, even while continuing to spout their purported devotion to “moral principles, the free market, and limited government.” That’s why their articles, speeches, and studies inevitably end with their standard line, “The system needs reform” rather than call for the repeal of the program they’re carping about.
The conservative abandonment began taking place in the 1940s. Feeling that FDR’s New Deal revolution, which converted America into a socialistic and interventionist welfare state, was irreversible, conservatives concluded that they needed to change course. The only way to be accepted by the American electorate and the only way to be influential within the mainstream press would be, they felt, to become embracers of FDR’s socialist and interventionist revolution.
During the 1950s the conservative change picked up steam, and it became permanent with LBJ’s electoral blowout of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race.
Today, conservatives embrace every socialist and interventionist program that liberals do, while pretending that they remain devoted to “moral principles, free markets, and limited government.” That’s, in fact, why conservative resent libertarians. Since we, unlike them, have remained steadfastly committed to our principles, no matter what the cost, we inevitably remind people of what conservatives once were and what they have become.