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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sheriff Morgan's Anti-Democratic View: Wrong to "Appease Political Opponents"


This post challenges on constitutional grounds "Sir David, Knight of Grace's" claims made before the Rotary Club of Pensacola in August 2013, regarding appeasing "political opponents."

In the context of recommending William Manchester's three-volume biography of Winston Spencer Churchill, Sheriff Morgan stated:

"And what you’ll find striking, and I find striking by the way, is the policy of appeasement that we go through in almost a cyclic mode throughout our communities and our societies.  An appeasement across the board.  We intend to appease crime; we intend to appease political opponents; we intend to appease those who have different religious beliefs than we do.  And the frightening thing about these volumes is this, if you changed NAZI to Muslim, you'll have a terrific eye opener in the history and the way the world is progressing." [emphasis added]

"Appease Political Opponents"

Are we to assume that Sheriff Morgan misspoke on this issue, too?  I have no way of knowing if Sheriff Morgan passed a basic civics course in high school.  Or, if he took Political Science courses in college.  But, to the best of my recollection a democratic political system is not based on appeasement but on compromise, as political parties (no matter how many there are in the legislature) trade favors to achieve results; they give something to get something, even if they remain true to their principles.

Sheriff Morgan is a libertarian/conservative Republican who went to the Ron Paul shindig in Pensacola during 2008 where he may have met an old acquaintance from Pensacola, Pastor Chuck Baldwin, the Ron Paul-endorsed 2008 presidential candidate of the Christian Reconstructionist's Constitution Party, a party founded by the late Howard Phillips, one of the architects of the Christian Right in the late 1970s.  This political party, linked to white supremacists, promoted the formation of the Patriot militia, Christian supremacy and dominionism over all institutions of society.

Since 2009, the Republican Party has been in open warfare against President Obama, the Democratic Party, and historical interpretations of the Constitution favoring the separation of church and state.  And, when President Clinton was in office the same constellation of political and extra-political forces also tried to undermine his legitimacy and administration.

So, where did Sheriff Morgan get his ideas that Republicans' political compromise with Democrats amounts to appeasement--a term even he linked to Nazi Germany in his Rotary Club speech?  Well, from the authoritarian, dominionist Christian Right wing of the Republican Party.

But, do not take a progressives' word for it.  Let's examine how conservative operatives and scholars view the Republican Party and the influence the Christian Right has had on it.
  • John Dean (Broken Government, 2007: xi, xii, 18, 175, and xiv; Conservatives Without Conscience, 2007: xiv and xxxix)
John Dean, the former White House counsel for President Nixon and a self-described “Goldwater conservative,” noted that the Republican Party had “incorporated…an undemocratic mentality into its governing philosophy” and that conservatives ruled “callously and ruthlessly.”

Dean’s 2007 book Broken Government detailed how “the conservative-based Republican Party in fact excels at everything in modern politics except governing the nation” and had “simply dismantled or ignored countless well-established processes found in the rules, customs, norms, traditions, laws, and constitutional mandates” in order to “destroy [the federal government] branch by branch.”

Dean, in his other 2007 book that was to have been co-authored with former Senator Barry Goldwater, Conservatives Without Conscience, wrote that under the strong influence of “conservative authoritarianism” which dominates both the conservative movement and the Republican Party, that conservatism as a philosophy had “regressed to its earliest authoritarian roots” and was best described as “moralistic, negative, arrogant, condescending, self-righteous…[and] authoritarian.”
  • Kevin Phillips (American Theocracy, 2006: vii, 232, and 237)
Kevin Phillips, a former leading political strategist for the Republican Party, observed in his 2006 book, American Theocracy, that the Republican Party’s coalition consisted of the oil, natural gas, and coal industries; the financial-industry complex that achieves wealth through the socialization of risk backed by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve System; the Christian Right which is driven by the dominionist Christian Reconstructionists; and, a neo-Confederate movement driven by the collaboration of pro-Confederacy southern heritage groups and the Christian Reconstructionists, as well as the domination of the region by the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention which reinforces the cultural and political dimensions of the neo-Confederate movement.

As Phillips put it, the elections of 2000 and 2004 “mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in U.S. history.”  Phillips noted that state-level Republican parties “most conspicuously in the South and Southwest, endorsed so-called Christian-nation party platforms.  These unusual platforms, as yet nationally uncataloged, set out in varying degrees the radical political theology of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, the tenets of which range from using the Bible as a basis for domestic law to emphasizing religious schools and women’s subordination to men….

By 2001 theology…began to displace logic and realpolitik in official Washington, especially within the Republican Party.”  Theological positions determined social policy related to “birth, life, death, sex, health, medicine, marriage, and the role of the family,” as well as policy efforts by both the “Bush White House and the religious right to reduce the current separation between church and state.”
  • Sam Tanenhaus (The Death of Conservatism: A Movement and Its Consequences, 2010: 19, 20, and 119)
Sam Tanenhaus, a Burkean conservative, observed that the dominant strand of modern conservatism was Jacobin in that movement conservatives “routinely demonize government institutions” and are “revanchists committed to a counter-revolution.”

He complained that movement conservatism was based on orthodoxy which vigorously opposes compromise, whereas the Democratic Party’s governing principle is consensus which “implies compromise.”

According to Tanenhaus, conservatives “subordinate governance to politics and ideological certitude….Practically, this vision of orthodoxy amounts to war fought by other means."

He lamented that conservative “intellectuals and political leaders mounted a crusade against civil society—its traditions, its mores, its mutual obligations” while pursuing a “relentless drive for ideological purity."
  • Geoffrey Kabaservice (Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party From Eisenhower to the Tea Party, 2012: 393, 394, 395, 401, and 388)
Historian Geoffrey Kabaservice observed that conservatives were able to drive moderate Republicans out of the party, in part, due to their “funds beyond the wildest dreams of moderates” that created an “infrastructure of think tanks, publishing houses, media outlets, PACs, and pressure groups.”

Within the party, especially during Bush II’s presidency, the definition of an acceptable Republican narrowed considerably to the point where Goldwater “was accused of being a RINO” (Republican In Name Only).  Kabaservice noted that conservatives dominate the Republican Party and its infrastructure and are increasingly intolerant of ideological diversity.  He feared that if only the Democratic Party is orientated towards moderation, then “the consequences are likely to be dire [and] may prove toxic to government effectiveness and perhaps even to America’s social stability.”

Kabaservice concluded his study by noting that “[o]ne of the likeliest ways America might be destroyed would be if one of its two major parties were rendered dysfunctional, and yet this seemed to be the direction in which the GOP was heading…. Its leaders showed little interest in appealing to moderates, repudiating extremism, reaching out to new constituencies, or upholding the party’s legacy of civil rights and civil liberties.”
  • Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, 2012: 103)
And the bipartisan scholars, Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, came to the very unwelcome but similar conclusion in their 2012 book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks that the “Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition, all but declaring war on the government.”

Mann and Ornstein suggested that in order to begin making the American political system functional, it was a necessary but not a sufficient condition to bring “the Republican Party back into the mainstream of American politics."

Concluding Observation

Sheriff Morgan's anti-democratic temperament and belief that political compromise between the Republican and Democratic political parties is equivalent to appeasement, is very much consistent with the authoritarian, moralistic, conservative, dominionist Christian wing of the Republican Party.  If Sheriff Morgan has different sources for his ideas, he owes it to the voting electorate to specify those sources and to clarify why political compromise means "appeasement."

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