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The National Review Institute, founded by William Buckley, Jr. in 1991, and The Heartland Institute joined forces for an event with Charles C. W. Cooke featuring his book, “The Conservatarian Manifesto”, on Wednesday, March 25, in the Crystal Room of the Union League Cub, 65 West Jackson, Chicago. “The Conservatarian Manifesto” is a call to arms for an underserved movement among conservatives. The crucial tenets of this movement includes fiscal responsibility, constitutional obedience, and controlled government spending.
Author Charles C.W. Cooke is a writer at “National Review” and a graduate of Oxford University in England, where he studied modern history and politics. His work has focused especially on Anglo-American history, British liberty, free speech, the Second Amendment, and American exceptionalism. Cooke is the cohost of the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” podcast and has appeared on HBO (“Real Time” with Bill Maher), BBC, MSNBC, Fox News, The Blaze, CNBC, CTV, ABC, Sun News, and CBS. In addition to “National Review”, Mr. Cooke’s writings have also been published by the “National Interest”, “The Washington Times”, and the “New York Post.”
A “Conservatarian” is neither a libertarian or a conservative, as the word itself implies, but members of the right that are fiscally conservative but socially liberal. The question posed in Mr. Cooke’s book, “The Conservatarian Manifesto”, is whether conservatives and libertarians can find common ground and forge the next American political realignment. Set forth in Cook’s book are issues on which conservatives and libertarians can agree, such a limited government and gun rights, while libertarians often disagree with conservatives on the drug war, foreign policy, abortion and immigration. The blending together of the two is important if the Founders’ vision for liberty is to be preserved for future generations of Americans.
To Charlie Cooke, unlike how conservatives are generally described on the Left, they are the radicals who want the government to leave them alone. Conservatism is therefore marked by its unorthodoxy and its radicalism, standing for the more eccentric ideas that have surfaced only recently like property rights, separation of powers, a preference for local government over central planning, and a free and dynamic market economy.
History and Conservatism
It was Republican discouragement in the 2008 presidential election which led to Barack Obama capturing the presidency. Republicans, thinking G.W. Bush was a conservative, became discouraged when Bush changed his tune when in office with his compassionate brand of conservatism by passing the federal takeover of education with No Child Left Behind and other big spending programs that had nothing to do with 9/11. As such the Bush era was not a time worthy of celebration by most Republicans. For when looking back to the 90’s, the years under Clinton were quite good.
The state of the economy was a big factor in 2012. Only 1/4 of the American people thought the economy was getting better. Also, a majority of Americans favored repealing Obamacare. But despite these negatives, Obama won a second term.
Regarding 2016, Cooke believes that despite the disastrous policies imposed upon this nation by President Obama and his administration, they have not yet resulted in forever changing the realignment of the American political scene. In speaking about Republican chances for 2016, Democrats have slim pickings when it comes to presidential candidates. President Obama may not be on the ticket, but he has effectively wiped out the Democratic Party in many states.
Cooke did give this warning to conservative candidates who so often seek to go back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan in describing what they are all about. As Reagan left office in 1989 and it is now 2015, such a comparison is odd sounding to young people who weren’t even alive when Reagan was president. Conservatives need all the votes they can get, which means attention must be paid to the existence of a generational divide. A majority of young people believe in gay marriage, legalization of marijuana and abortion.
Federalism vs. progressivism
Conservatives are warned time and again that they must be more socially liberal, yet there is nothing that connects drugs to gay marriage or abortion. All are separate issues and separate questions that can’t be treated in the same way. Conservatives must highlight their opponents’ inconsistencies whenever and wherever they can, hammering home that it is best to leave social questions to local localities, to civil society, and to individuals.
In regard to the contraception controversy, this winning line is shared by the author: “We have no issue with contraception, but we don’t think nuns should be forced to pay for it.” The good news is that young Republicans are becoming more pro-life, even as they remain more in line with Democrats on gay marriage and illicit drugs.
As alluded to in the above two paragraph, with a nation that is moving more and more to a one size fits all policy which brings with it a host of problems, conservatives and libertarians must insist on a return to federalism in contrast to progressivism which is irreconcilable with federalism. Roughly 10 years ago 2/3’s of Americans offered positive assessment of all three levels of government: federal, state and local. Now a favorable rating for federal government has fallen to just 33%; state favorability is at 52%; and local government wins at 61%
Federalism allows Americans at the state level to make laws concerning pot use; marry members of the same sex; drink at 18; drive cars at 75 mph instead of 55; or to carry loaded guns on their hips. Ton Cruz was noted as consistent in wanting to remove the federal government from solving problems. For liberals who love power concentrated at the federal level with a single national policy as the best way forward, conservatives must remind liberals how big government hangs over them, even as they insist this is what they want.
The massive number of laws passed at the national level was referenced in accordance to the number of Americans who are exempted from them. One group of Americans, the Amish, were described as “the canary in the coal mine.” They want to be left alone. They are quite happy in their own communities. With so many laws past at the federal level, it’s impossible to know much of what is really legislated unless laws affect us personally. There are even laws for lumberjacks!
Nations are defined by more government
Often forgotten is that nations are more than just their governments. From the first days of this nation’s independence, of importance was preserving the national ethos. Hispanics generally have the same expectations and want the same things as white Americans, but when voting Hispanics most often select the Democratic Party, the perception being that the Democratic Party stands for the downtrodden and the poor. But unlike what many Republicans are told to believe, for many Hispanics amnesty is not the main issue. Republicans should start to appeal more effectively to the poor and the middle class. Simply starting to speak Spanish is not enough. Also to be recognized is that Republicans don’t really need to win the Hispanic vote. They only need to win more of it than they are winning now, while winning other votes.
For those who are pushing for amnesty, why would libertarians and many Republican be willing to import an unlimited number of individuals who will most likely vote Democratic, and who will increasingly outnumber those who are friends of liberty. What is more, this nation’s welfare system is going bankrupt. Importing millions of poor immigrants, though no fault of their own, will completely bankrupt the social welfare system at a time when many Americans are out of work. The interests of our own citizens must be served above the interests of citizens of other countries.
Regarding foreign policy, Charles Cooke makes no bones about it, Obama has no interest in foreign policy. For libertarians and others who believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy, they must be reminded that if this nation pulls back who will we leave the world to? Just who will fill the vacuum?
One success story is the gun issue. Facts have outweighed fiction and liberty has trumped fear to counter the emotional and dishonest anti-gun position which fails to hold up under scrutiny.
Confessing to not being a particularly religious person, Mr. Cooke did convey the importance of fighting tooth and nail for religious freedom.
One comment made by Cooke stands open to questioning: “As this country becomes more and more divided the pressure for one size government to fit all should evaporate?” How much more divided can this nation become?” Doesn’t division usually breed more dissatisfaction and strife?
The road ahead is uncertain
Conservatives have not drawn their cases well. This comment by Cooke could have lasting, positive implications: “If conservatives play their cards right they can begin to establish that those on the Left moderate and censor the culture and serve as the speech police, the arbiters of taste and the purveyors of mandates.”
In the final paragraph of Cooke’s book he presents a positive view of what conservatives have to offer this nation which could bode well for its future.
Conservatives have on their side the most successful, virtuous, and radical political philosophy in the history of the world. Unlike their opponents, whose ideology is distressing ahistorical and therefore liable to be shaped by the transient and fashionable demands of self-serving interest groups, conservatives have a North Star to guide them and to establish their place in history’s complex sky. Conservatives have lost their way from time to time: “Their task is to catch sight of the star once again, to work out what went wrong, and to sail on without loss of enthusiasm or purpose. The future is there for the taking.
The end result, as it involves the future of our nation, will depend on sufficient pressure applied from below at the grass roots level by conservatives and libertarians coming together to return this nation to federalism, under which this nation was conceived, to take back the Republican Party from the establishment which now controls the Party.
Heartland touts its accomplishments
Charles Cooke was introduced by Jim Lakely, Communications Director at The Heartland Institute. Before introducing Mr. Cooke, Jim Lakely shared three ways in which The Heartland Institute is making a difference in its 31 years of operation.
- Heartland is unique in that it’s the only organization that has a national reach and can likewise get into each state to make a difference.
- Heartland publishes four newspapers which are sent to every state and federal legislator: “Environmental & Climate News”; School Reform News”; Health Care News”; and “Budget and Tax Issues.”
- Known throughout the world for its work on the environment, Heartland will sponsor its 10th International Global Warming Conference this June in Washington, D.C. Notable is that the “National Review” for April will feature an insert from The Heartland Institute placed right in the middle of the magazine entitled “Global Warming: Crisis or Delusion?”, which will go to all 129,000 subscribers.