Friday, November 15, 2002

Hawks and Eagles Living Together-Interesting sequence brewing over at Sullivan's digs around his new nomenclature for libertarian-leaning folks. He's offering the moniker "Eagle" (That will be fun, considering that Phyllis Schlafly has her Eagle Forum digs) to describe the pro-free-market, pro-military but morally permissive brand of ideology he'd like to see grow. Libertarian doesn't quite work, for it has a bit too much of a fringe persona to it, especially since many capital-L Libertarians look at the military with distrust and want a minimalist military to go along with a minimalist everything else, retreating to a "defend the borders and the rest of the world can fend for itself" isolationism that is unappealing in a post 9/11 world.
I'm tired of this hawk-dove paradigm. And we all know how tired left and right are as useful labels. (Yes, I know I use them, but sometimes, you gotta.) More revealing, perhaps, is the fiscal-conservative-social-liberal category, in which I think I'd probably be counted. (The roster of categories is therefore: social and fiscal libs; social and fiscal conservatives; socially liberal but fiscally conservative independents; and socially conservative and fiscally liberal independents.) But the war changes the matrix again, I think. There's a new group of people out there who are socially liberal but also foreign policy realists, especially among those who have been awakened to political engagement by September 11. Some of these used to be Scoop Jackson Democrats, but today's breed doesn't buy into the big government liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s either. Some are neocons who don't love the social right. Others are just Generation X and Y, who simply accept the social diversity of modern culture and want to see it defended against theocratic barbarians. These people are not comfortable with the Republicans' flirtation with the religious right, or their prosecution of the drug war or mixing of church and state; and they're not impressed by the Democrats' lack of seriousness in foreign policy or enmeshment with public sector interest groups. They're politically homeless, these people - but were probably key swing voters in the last election. Instead of hawks and doves, call these people "eagles." I think they'll play a key part in shaping the politics and culture of the next few years. Are you one?
No, I'm not, but Sully thinks Brink Lindsey is, pointing out this piece as a possible Eagle Manifesto.
But here's my problem, and the problem of the intolerant cookie-cutter-brains who want to read me out of libertarianism: If I'm not a libertarian, what am I? Am I a conservative? Let’s see -- I support the legalization of drugs and prostitution, abortion on demand in the first trimester, and the use of early-stage embryos in scientific research. I think that a flag-burning amendment and the restoration of prayer to public schools are dumb ideas. I don't subscribe to any organized religion. And I'd argue that much of the social and cultural ferment of the 1960s was positive. You think the conservatives will have me? Am I a liberal? Actually, that's how I think of myself. But calling myself a liberal in early 21st century America doesn't make much sense. I support a flat tax, full Social Security privatization, and school vouchers. I can call myself a free-market liberal, and I sometimes do, but that still doesn't clear up the confusion. After all, I’m for capital punishment, and I oppose racial preferences. I favor restrictions on abortion after the first trimester, and an outright ban on late-term procedures. And I find bobo prejudice against red-state America to be insufferable. Who will understand what I mean when I call myself a liberal? There's the rub: There are three labels that are strain to cover the whole range of American political opinion. Three boxes do not exactly make for a rich and nuanced taxonomy. It's inevitable that sizable groups of people will find it difficult to label themselves satisfactorily.
This isn't a standard-issue conservative. Let's take a look at the third paragraph of the excerpt. All the policy stands are supported by a majority of Republicans (maybe only a plurality on the flat tax, but most would want to move to a flatter tax) and are opposed by a majority of Democrats (although capital punishment would be close). Let's then take a look at the second paragraph where he lays out his liberal creds to see whether he’s that bad of a fit in the conservative camp. Legalization of Drugs It has a bigger constituency in the Democratic Party, but drug legalization is a minority position in each party. The Democrats are more agreeable to dealing with drug abuse as a medical rather than a legal problem, going easier on users and saving the wrath for the dealers. However, there are a lot of non-libertarian conservatives that have soured on the drug war; William Buckley has raised some eyebrows by being in favor of raising the white flag. If you present the argument from a more utilitarian, “the Drug War’s doing more harm than good, we’re better off regulating it than criminalizing it” approach and not as a druggie wanting to make his mind-alterer of choice legal, you’ll get a fairer hearing than you’d think within the conservative ranks. Legalization of Prostitution That’s a minority position in both parties as well, and is likely to stay that way for a while. First Trimester Abortion He’s pro-restrictions rather than hard-core pro-abortion-rights or anti-abortion. Could I make the case that he’s better off without Roe vs Wade? Without it, we can regulate second-trimester abortions and ban most late-term ones, replacing the current hands-off rule imposed by the Supreme Court. Give us three conservative Supreme Court nominees (one to replace Rehnquist and two to replace a pair of pro-Roe judges to get us to 5 votes) and we’ll have a shot of overturning Roe. If Roe is overturned, it doesn’t outlaw abortion entirely, but would allow states to regulate it. Most states would be about where Lindsey wants things; some states would ban it outright while others would keep the current Roe status-quo. Embryonic Research That's a legit rap for it's bumping into the religious conservative ethic that embryos are people worthy of protection. That’s one you’re going to have to grumble over with your more religious brethren. Banning flag-burning is a dumb idea I agree. Most of the flag-burners are making a political statement, which is “[Expletive deleted] the establishment!” I don’t have any concrete data to back it up, but I think that passing a constitutional amendment to make it possible to make flag burning illegal would only encourage it, for most protestors who would be in the mood for some flag-burning would love the street theater of being dragged off by the Gestapo for expressing their contempt for the system. A majority of Republicans would disagree, but if you point out that making it illegal will cause more dissing of the flag rather than less, you’d get a better hearing that you’d think. Prayer in public schools is a dumb idea Organized prayer is problematic, for any prayer that would be acceptable to a majority of people would be so watered down as to be useless. Individual prayer in school is a free-speech issue which most Eagles would back-up, but plugging for some sort of universally recited prayer is a fool’s errand. Unreligious There are plenty of non-Bible thumpers in the GOP. Newt wasn’t a choir-boy, and there are plenty of other people more likely to be watching the political shows on Sunday morning than to be in church. The 60s were good on balance Depends on what you are looking at. We’re a more egalitarian country then we were when I was a rug rat, with more avenues for advancement and fulfillment for women, racial and ethnic minorities and the disabled. We’re a more casual country. We have better respect for people’s personal rights. Such things have allowed our country to grow faster than if women were stuck at home or in a limited number of acceptable fields and if minorities were still blocked as a matter of course (yes, we still have some rednecks, but it’s illegal and social unacceptable to do so openly) from positions of importance and from a good education. However, the decay of respect for traditional moral values that blossomed in the 60s gave us a culture where sexual immorality, drug abuse, disrespect for the rule of law and lack of honesty became more accepted. When most conservatives blast the 60s, they aren’t looking to go back to Jim Crow or force families into the “Hi Honey, I’m Home” 50s sitcom mold. These Eagles have more in common with conservatives than they think. They don’t have much in common with the stereotype of the conservative bigot who wants his wife barefoot and pregnant and doesn’t think blacks and Hispanics are his equal and wants to convert the public elementary school into a week-long Sunday School class. When most conservatives long for the 50s rather than the 60s, they long for an era where morality was a bit stronger and people respected authority more. There is a cultural difference between people who grew up in the post-60s egalitarian era than those who grew up in the more bigoted and more sexist eras that came before. Older people will have more trouble accepting women and minorities in positions of authority. Even if these old-school oldsters say the politically appropriate things, their unease in this new egalitarian paradigm shows. As those oldsters retire from the political scene, a newer generation that’s used to having women and minorities around and occasionally in charge will replace them, helping to take away the stereotype of redneck conservative like Jesse Helms. If we get past the stereotypes, conservatives and Eagle libertarians can get along nicely. There will be frictions, but the slightly prudish dynamism of conservatives is a better fit for the Eagles than the permissive statism of the modern liberal. Right now, an Eagle party might get 20-25% support in a three-way race with a standard conservative and a standard liberal, if we assume we would have a run-off and people were free to vote their true preference. Barring a serious secularization trend or a total repudiation of big government by the left, the Eagles need to choose camps in order to get things done, and they are a better fit in the conservative camp.

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