Jeff Goldstein on contemporary conservatism and the GOP's future

The founder of conservative-libertarian blog Photo: Photo used with permission of Jeff Goldstein; photographer's name not provided

FLORIDA, April 17, 2013 — Over the last several years, the American right-wing has become considerably more hardline. Might there be a specific reason for this?

One of the gravest concerns frequently cited with modern conservatism is the rise of hot-button social issues. What can be said about this? Speaking of right-leaning politics, what does it mean to be a traditional conservative?

In the Republican Party, followers of Ron Paul are storming the establishment’s gates, so to speak. At the same time, social rightists are attempting to become the GOP’s dominant faction. All of this has left moderates more or less out of the picture. During the years ahead, which path might the Party take? 

Jeff Goldstein is the founder and operator of Protein Wisdom, which is among the foremost of conservative-to-libertarian blogs. In this second part of our discussion, Goldstein answers the above mentioned questions and tells us about what inspired him to become involved in the political realm.

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Joseph F. Cotto: Over the last several years, the American right-wing has become considerably more hardline. Do you suppose that there might be a specific reason for this?

Jeff Goldstein:  I’m not sure I’d characterize the right-wing as “more hardline”; I’d be willing to allow that they are far more interested in principles-based politics than they have been in the recent past, though that’s hardly surprising when your party keeps preaching moderation, political “realism” and “pragmatism” — which too often translates into counseling that, for purposes of electoral politics, we hide the very principles that make conservatives and constitutionalists conservatives and constitutionalists.

I guess many of we newly-minted “extremists” figure that if we’re going to lose to the Democrats, we might at least do it with people who actually believe in what it is we believe in. And who knows? Maybe we’ll actually win by taking principled stands and addressing all Americans, preaching liberty and prosperity and growth and free markets, rather than by running focus groups and trying to triangulate identity blocs in order to find the perfect balance of pander.

Cotto: One of the gravest concerns frequently cited with modern conservatism is the rise of hot-button social issues. What is your opinion about this?

Goldstein: My opinion is that conservatives acting conservatively isn’t all that shocking. And it isn’t conservatives, for the most part, who are working so tirelessly to re-imagine nearly every traditional institution, pushing their social agendas through the courts, oftentimes under the guise of “civil rights” or “equal protection”.

Or, to put it another way, reacting to attacks on traditional institutions by social engineers is simply that: a defensive posture born of necessity, assuming one actually believes in the institutions being threatened. And yet it is social cons who are routinely blamed for having stirred up these “wedge issues.” 

That’s not a fair or accurate description of the dynamic. And frankly, it doesn’t help when many on the right seek cheap grace by joining with the left to scapegoat them. I’m the farthest thing from a social conservative. But I understand their positions, and I’m bothered by how easy it’s become, even on the right, to belittle them in an attempt to showcase one’s own presumed cosmopolitanism.

Cotto: In your view, what does it mean to be a traditional conservative?

Goldstein: Traditional conservatism is wary of making change just for the sake of change and tends to operate from a basis in experience rather than ideology. As a classical liberal, I believe in equality of opportunity, a nation of stable and reasonable law, the primacy of the individual, and fidelity to the Constitution as the basis for our social compact. 

Cotto: In the Republican Party, followers of Ron Paul are storming the establishment’s gates, so to speak. At the same time, social rightists are attempting to become the GOP’s dominant faction. All of this has left moderates more or less out of the picture. During the years ahead, which path do you see the Party taking?

Goldstein: That depends on the moderates, I guess. It’s one thing to preach compromise when all the parties at the table are proceeding from the same basic plot line: belief in liberty secured by a capitalist system that relies on free markets and a government that protects natural rights. But when we’re counseled to compromise for the sake of compromising — that is, to embrace form over function — and what we’re required to do is compromise with an alien ideology that has as its intent to undermine the very system within which it is operating, that isn’t so much a call to compromise as it is a call to surrender to the incremental deconstruction of our founding principles.

Going forward, I guess I’d hope that those Republicans who continue to preach this strategy — I’m thinking here, for instance, of Colin Powell — would just get it over with and call themselves Democrats. As a rule, voting twice for Barack Obama and claiming to be a Republican means you’ve simply been too lazy to officially change your party affiliation. 

Cotto: What inspired you to become involved in the political realm?

Goldstein: Like many of the old school bloggers, 911 — and the subsequent rash of coverage by the mainstream press that in so many cases attempted to pin blame for the attack on things like American imperialism or colonialism, etc. — led me to look elsewhere for my news. At the time, a few online sites offering a pro-American alternative to the legacy media caught my attention, and as they updated frequently and seemed to be more on top of the news than the major networks — gathering and collating stories and data from disparate sources and collecting them through links — I became first a fan, and not much later a participant.

That I’ve kept it up as long as I have is a testament to my stubbornness. And I suppose the teacher part of my professional past has never left me.




Far-left? Far-right? Get realRead more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


 


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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