Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ethereal; Ephemeral: Mitt Romney; Troll & Sycophant

Romney is a troll and a sycophant, which was very apparent to me early in the debate cycle. Those feelings did reach a pinnacle the other day when the video of him debasing 47% of Americans was released. But, I initially could not get a handle on why he angered me so much beyond his stupid indifference to people. One surely should not have been surprised by his country club on steroids attitude.  

Balancing political and philosophical differences between people is one of those things that makes America great and can make you hairless. There has been much hyperbole and rhetoric the past couple of days from the left and much of it appeals to visceral distaste for Romney’s comments, but there is much more sinister stuff going on here. I realized my displeasure is with a combination of Romney the man and the vision of the people that support him…let me explain.

Republicans and Democrats are liberals. America has always been a liberal state. But most Democrats are Liberals because of the implications of the values both hold. Republicans are liberals but not Liberals. It has become fashionable to refer to themselves as Conservatives; most Republicans are not Conservatives.
Both Democrats and Republicans maintain that there are certain inexorable values that a liberal society maintains to justify the structure and nature of its institutions. The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal…endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

A slight digression; Most Americans take pride in the Declaration of Independence and all for which it stands but not all Americans supported the view that Rights are divinely granted. Most secular people no doubt lean toward the Liberal arm of the Democratic Party, which maintains that reason guided by a sense of Justice and Fairness is the source of Rights. Liberals see a just society as one that provides its members with certain Rights about which reasonable people may disagree but certain values are prior, e.g., Freedom and Equality. Many Traditional Conservatives are secular and as I will discuss to do not believe in divinely inspired Rights. They do believe, however, that there are no special or prior rights, all reasonable values are equally important, and matter of conversation. 

As one might expect, defining these unalienable Rights and finding consensus for their implications is no easy task. But these are certain Rights that all liberals, Democrats and Republicans maintain belong to a free and equal people.
What is difficult and creates the tension is that there is a world of difference in what, for example, Republicans and Democrats mean by equality. This problem is also compounded by the fact that some of these values are mutually exclusive…meaning the implementation of one necessary effects the implementation of the other.  

One can easily imagine that the concept of equality is a difficult contentious concept to define; do we mean equality of outcome or equality of opportunity? Few would disagree with the idea of equality of opportunity. But Liberals and Republicans strongly differ over the implications for equality of outcome: Republicans, for the most part, believe our society should maximize the right of freedom by assuring only a framework: security and safety broadly understood so a person may as free as possible pursue her goals; Equality of Opportunity. There is a plurality of reasonable conceptions of a good life, it is not the government’s job to tell her what goals she should pursue or provide her the resources necessary to achieve those goals; it is her personal responsibility.  

Democrats also believe that the government should not tell a person what goals to pursue but they acknowledge that a large part of the success or failure she has in attaining her goals has to do with her starting place in life. There is such a disparity in the starting places between those with resources and those without and since success is so skewed in favor of those with more resources, that this inequality requires some adjustment. Equality means and Justice requires government to reallocate resources to those that are less fortunate through no fault of their own, to make up for this inequity. Since our government has no resources of its own, so goes the Republican story, the reallocation of assets from those citizens that have more to those that have less is an infringement on their God given Right of Freedom; mutually exclusive concepts.

Conservatism is also not easily defined as there a many types of conservative. Some like Edmund Burke believed that conservatism is an attitude more than a political philosophy. We live in a society, within a certain framework, and given that our society is a good society, we need to preserve its framework broadly understood. Traditional Conservatives are motivated by the belief that there are not unlimited resources and that a society benefits by best using its limited resources for those that have the best chance of enabling its future success. They also do not believe in a set of authoritative values. For them, a good society fosters an environment of equal values that enables members of the society to adopt their set of reasonable values so they may obtain their reasonable conception of a good life. 

It follows that Traditional Conservatives (secular conservatives) believe in limited government and freedom and personal responsibility but not necessarily because God endowed Americans with certain inalienable Rights. This is not to say that there are not religious Conservatives who believe in the divine story. I would suggest that most Americans who consider themselves Conservatives are of the religious persuasion as is the base of the Republican Party, as represented by its platform. 

But, I think this is why Republicans frequently call themselves Conservatives and not necessarily the other way around. It also explains why many Conservatives align with the Republican Party because of professed Republican belief in limited government and freedom and personal responsibility over the implications for social values held by Democrats. But I also contend that given the Democrat’s willingness to acknowledge that reasonable people can reasonably disagree, at the least, Traditional Conservatives would better serve themselves politically by aligning with the Democratic Party and having that debate; at least society will move forward upon consensus.  

Non-religious people are generally not inflexible because even if they hold a position strongly, they hold it because of the arguments or reasons supporting their views. They are, in their opinion, the best arguments for the position they hold. Their views are not entrenched and held because of faith or divine intervention…if someone could provide a better argument for the nature and structure of society, they are predisposed to listen and discuss.

This brings me to what angered me about Romney’s candid moment in the video.  Romney and his party is guided by very strong religious views not the least of which is that their rights are God given and that God has told them what the only implications are of the Rights He has granted. 

Their belief that they are divinely inspired, by definition, makes them unreasonable and intransigent people. God is infallible and so there is no conversation to have. Consequently, because their views and visions come from divine inspiration, they become intransient, there is no conversation to be had. In other words, Republicans, just think they are right and their world-vision divinely inspired provides them with no reason to be flexible and negotiate the implication of the values they claim to hold so dearly. It makes the debate between the left and right intractable; actually and unfortunately a  waste of time.

Mitt Romney, on the hand, believes in nothing and everything at the same time.  One might think that is a contradiction. But Romney, with the aid of his Etch-A-Sketch denies all that came before and then calmly morphs between to world where lives among his fellow trolls and returns to behave like the sycophant he is. We can only hope this all catches up with him and some reality sets in with the voting public.
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