Bull Moose of the Day: Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner at the Ethics and Public Policy Center is our Bull Moose of the Day.

Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage
Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage (Photo credit: Alaskan Dude)

In his essay “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Virtue” in Commentary, Wehner fires an important shot against the forces that brought the GOP so far to the right and, if they had their way, would continue to drag us down that path. By harkening to Barry Goldwater‘s infamous speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention (a moment that GOP historian Geoffery Kabaservice flags as the beginning of the Republican lurch to the right), Wehner points us back to the kind of Republican Party and the kind of conservatism that is built on principle but ultimately dedicated to an America for all Americans.

Wehner notes that we can all envision moments when extreme measures would be justified, but they are rare. However:

That said, my concern about those who endorse extremism is that it is by its very nature militant, a break with the kind of moderation that is essential for a free society. Extremism, of course, characterized the French Revolution, which (unlike the American Revolution) so unnerved Edmund Burke. It leads to dogmatism and distorted thinking, to viewing politics in apocalyptic terms.

He has captured in a single paragraph the problem of the Tea Party, and of those Republicans who find themselves sucked into the apocalyptic dogmatism of the Tea Partistas, whether by inclination or compulsion.

And in so doing he has, I hope, begun a process that will lead the GOP not just away from the reactionary leanings of the Tea Party, but back to its roots as the party of wise, practical, balanced progress typified by Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and (on their better days) Dick Nixon and Ron Reagan.

There is always a role for the ideologue in any political organization. But we cannot govern the nation as prisoners of absolutes, whether they be radical or reactionary. Wehner, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, gets this, to his lasting credit.

Food Stamps: What is the Tea Party Thinking?

Benjamin Harrison, former President of the Uni...
Benjamin Harrison, former President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.

Benjamin Harrison

Harrison was a Republican, further proof (if any more were needed) that the reactionary cretins running the GOP today are an historical aberration, and that they need to be banished to the dark fringes from which they crawled.

A more intelligent, compassionate take from our side of the aisle comes from Rob Dreher at The American Conservative when he wrote in July:

“Look, I will grant you that the food stamp program almost certainly needs reform, given the astronomical rate of growth in the past decade, past even what you would expect in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. On the other hand, we have a lot more poor people, and people barely making it.”

Dreher and I agree that playing Scrooge to the little guy while filling Bit Ag’s pockets with farm subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare is not looking out for the common good: it is patronage politics at its ugliest. This is not a conservative value. It is not a liberal value. In fact, it is not an American value: it is the kind of behavior that drove our forefathers out of Old Blighty in the first place, and it has to come to an end.

A social safety net should never become a hammock. At the same time, it should work for those who truly need it, especially as our economy languishes on the slipping threshold of a genuine recovery. It is time for a better, more effective food stamp program, but let’s have the alternative ready before we rip this one out from under so many of our fellow Americans.

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