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The Confederate Lawyer
August 12, 2010

The Big Tent Is a Big Lie
by Charles G. Mills
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GLEN COVE, NY — Every four years, the professional politicians and their con-artist employees who run the media extravaganza that passes for a Republican Convention talk about a “big tent.” To them, a “big tent” is a metaphor for a Republican Party that welcomes those who want to bump off unborn babies and old people, abolish the idea that it takes a man and a woman to make a marriage, and destroy public decency.

Abortionists, mercy killers, homosexuals, and pornographers have no more business being welcomed at a party national convention than they do being held up as role models for Boy Scouts. This is not to say, however, that a “big tent” is a bad idea. George Washington’s first cabinet, after all, included both Hamilton and Jefferson. The problem is that the Republican establishment abhors a true big tent.

Sam Francis once pointed out that when the conservative movement turned away all the “Birchers, racists, anarchists and assorted monarchists, and kooks,” it was left with apparatchiks and an occasional con artists and outright crook, having rid itself of just about anyone who was “interesting, different, or creative.” That is a pretty good description of the neocon Republican “big tent.”

As long as the apparatchiks run the show, the list of the people who will not be allowed within shouting district of a microphone at a Republican convention is long. First and foremost are former Presidential candidates who want to talk about the culture war. Second are those who want to defend the valor of the Confederate Army or its Battle Flag, as well as those who believe that Reconstruction was corrupt and tyrannical or that the compromise of 1876 should be respected.

We will not hear a peep out of anyone who wants to end communist oppression in Cuba, mainland China, or North Korea, much less anyone who would like to see the Shah’s son back on the throne in Iran, or anyone who sympathizes with any monarchist movement in Europe. Indeed, the convention will not even hear a serious discussion of our policy in the Middle East beyond its purely military aspects.

There is a good chance that in November some Republican freshman senators and representatives will be elected, people who have original and exciting ideas about reforming Social Security and the Federal Reserve Bank. Do not expect to hear from them at the 2012 convention, either.

The list goes on. The problem is not limited to national politics. Do not expect much bold discussion of states’ rights, limited government, anticommunism, patriotism, immigration, or public decency at National Review, Commentary, Fox News, or even the Wall Street Journal.

Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan did not get where they did by avoiding controversial ideas. The modern conservative movement was not born by shunning ideas but by considering them. The staff of National Review in the 1950s was full of people with exciting and conflicting ideas. From the conference tables of conservative magazines to the midnight hamburger hangouts of college students, traditionalists and libertarians argued in a constructive fashion.

When we refuse to consider ideas, even those we consider absurd — Eisenhower was a communist, or the Civil Rights movement was wrong, or the role of government powers should be limited to preventing fraud and violence, or government should not exist, or even that government should be headed by a king with vast powers — we limit our options unnecessarily like the child who covers his ears to avoid hearing something. These absurd ideas are not important in themselves, but if we start excluding them we could soon begin to exclude more useful ones.

We need to be open to proposals like halving the number of cabinet departments, turning over the role of the Federal Reserve banks to private banks, giving Social Security contributors more control, replacing Social Security with a more private and rational system, returning control of the political systems and voter qualifications to the states, developing a new nationalist foreign policy, and other approaches that reflect the ideas of Goldwater and Reagan. Even Ayn Rand’s zombies have some ideas worth discussing.

The conservatism of the 1950s was created by thinking and arguing about unconventional ideas. We have now the worst of both worlds — we no longer defend those ideas, and we no longer imagine what we can do.

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The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2010 by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com. All rights reserved.

Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles about the law.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.

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