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Why Conservatives Have Lost the Political Battle for America’s Soul by Gary North

This was posted on one of GaryNorth.com forums.

The battle for America’s political soul is always fought on the battlefield of federal politics. That’s why conservatives lose, generation after generation.”

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer

Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. North, would you please elaborate on this, why you believe the battle for America’s political soul is fought in Federal politics and why it is that conservatives continue to lose, generation after generation?

From the time of the ratification of the United States Constitution, American politics shifted to the national level. One of the things that I realized late in my career, even though I had been trained as an historian of the colonial period, was this: it is virtually impossible to write a history of the United States after 1788 without dividing it into four-year segments. Presidential election years set the tone for the direction of the country, and this has been true ever since the early 19th century, when the federal government’s share of the economy was minimal. It is not a matter simply of money; it is a matter of political legitimacy. Issues of legitimacy are much more important than issues of taxation. Legitimacy tells what the taxes will be spent on. That is far more important than the amount of taxes collected.

The problem is this: voting for the President, who is the only representative of all the people, is functionally a covenantal act. People ratify a particular President, and in doing so, they transfer authority and legitimacy to him and to his administration.

 

Prior to the ratification of the Constitution, these events were limited to state and local governments, and before that to colonial governments that were technically under the authority of the King of England. Politics was local, and the great issues of the day were also local. These issues differed from state to state, or from colony to colony.

There was no national civil government. There was no national political issue that confronted citizens in every region. Because there was no national government, there was no means of covenant ratification, which first took place in 1788. There was no means of covenant renewal nationally. So, people did not think of themselves as Americans; they thought of themselves as residents of their particular state.

It is difficult to write a history of the United States politically prior to 1775. Other than the American Revolution, there were no national political events. There were so many different colonies, and so many different issues, that the focus of the historian of necessity moves to issues of economics, social institutions, literary trends, political theory in general, marriage patterns, church planting, and basically nonpolitical issues. These are what conservatives regard, at least in theory, as the central issues of civilization.

The problem with political conservatives today is that the Constitution created a national government, and this national government has the power to tax. It has grown systematically and without reversal since 1788. The issues of the day are increasingly those of national politics, because the federal government extracts a greater percentage of the public’s wealth than any other single institution. When there is that much loot to be divvied up, everybody wants to get his hands into the pile of loot. In taking this money, the government legitimizes certain activities of the government, and these activities steadily replace private institutions and local governments. The money that the government collects baptizes the various proposals that special interest groups have for national renewal. Renewal is seen as political. It takes a lot of money to redo the whole nation.

Conservative social thought de-emphasizes politics. This is why conservative social thought never gains much of a hearing in the modern world. The modern world is so obviously political, and the power of central governments is so great over every area of life, that all issues become politicized. The traditional conservative opposition to the very suggestion of political salvation is co-opted by their enemies. Conservatives over and over go out to vote as if their votes will fundamentally change the nature of American society. Ultimately, this cannot be true if conservative social theory is correct. Ultimately, the political institutions represent the people, and the great issues of daily life are not political; they are social, ethical, economic, ecclesiastical, and educational. The great issues of life are not political, yet at the same time the central government is pushing its way into every area of life. It is politicizing that which was not political prior to the Enlightenment.

EXCERPT

via Why Conservatives Have Lost the Political Battle for America’s Soul by Gary North.

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