The Jefferson-Hamilton Handshake, Bridging the Republican Divide

*** (When I make this mark ***, I am noting a place a Blue GOP centrist sub/urbanite is apt to disagree and hang up. Instead, I invite you to comment and/or disagree, or at least reconsider and continue reading. I promise not to say anything petty about your side…or tell a Mitch joke…but do try to put your whole mind to this. I’ll admit you’re my betters if you’ll admit you have a real short attention span.)

The Hook

I was at a party Friday with an old friend and long time Virginia Republican Party insider. A strong conservative when the party is out of power, he is down-the-line all-business when his party is in. He (McDonnell, Cuccinelli & Co) is back in power, and that’s that. His conservatism is now policy-driven, not philosophical. So, for the life of their terms, which he sees as eight years at least, the festering divide between Red and Blue Republicans in Virginia is moot. It will all be settled with political arm-twisting and executive fiat…and “his people” will be doing the twisting.

This is why the GOP always keeps one foot in the water bucket during a thunderstorm; never fixing that hole in the roof, because, when it’s raining, it too wet to go outside, and when it’s sunny, hell, there ain’t no leak. For a century this view of politics has held sway in state capitals and in Washington alike, but today, it doesn’t take into account that the Obama’s and others have every intention of turning Virginia, and the rest, into little more than administrative accounting units over those next eight years, or that the only real defense against this takeover will be a bridging of that divide between the Red and Blue GOP.

In other words, while sitting pretty for the time being, he sees his party’s future pretty much as a Greek school teacher might have pictured her retirement villa in 2002…versus right now. This is what I told him last night. This gap has to be fixed, and you (your governor) needs to set about fixing it. We all do. And it has to be conservatives who reach out. After all, we claim primary ownership of “”the handshake”. (***1 Tell me where I’m wrong here. This is a major divide with the Blue GOP, i.e. how we both view the Enemy threat, and whether the threat is to us, America, or just to us, the Party.)

I’d like to convince you Blue Republicans of this need and perhaps convince you to shake hands with us conservatives in a way perhaps you have never considered. And yes, this will require some soul searching and re-assessing.

The Class Struggle, the Usual Suspect

Long before I ever got into my book debate with Moses Sands (1998) about the Constitution and common man, he and I spoke many times about the role of class in American society and politics. We agreed it is worse now (1990s) than it had been in the 1890s, at the time of the robber barons, or the 1950s with the rise of the new capitalists after the Depression and WWII. The difference is a matter of demographics, a Blue diaspora, and hard math, with far more Americans better educated and a higher percentage in shirt and tie professions…and many, many more in government-related work, where it’s simply harder to be a conservative and draw a state paycheck. It should be hard to be a Republican, as well. All this can be laid at the feet of the Left, for well over 100 years, for this divide is not an accident, and the objects/victims of their assault had always been the Blue Republicans, by replacing core Republican philosophy with class consciousness. The Left’s class consciousness, which despite the rhetoric is elitist and condescending, taking away that one thing that defines core Republican principles; the handshake.

I’ve tried to get my arms around this class issue for the longest time. I think Frank Capra came closest to capturing it as a matter for popular consumption, and recommend his films (which you all know) as a good primer to this subject, especially “You Can’t Take it With You” and “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”, but really all of them, from “Mr Deeds” to even “Pocketful of Miracles”, when he suddenly quit the business. Capra always inserted a few run-ins between the classes where the uppers always came away the better for the collision, by way of saying they are the ones missing out of the true meaning and patina of life in America. That was a common theme with Capra, and those episodes deserve serious analysis. (***2 If anyone from the uppers want to debate Capra’s films, feel free.)

The Jefferson-Hamilton Handshake, and a Brief History

If you don’t already know, Jefferson and Hamilton didn’t like one another. Modern conservatives (of the Burke, Kirk and Buckley National Review school) liked Hamilton more than they do Jefferson, who they found to be a romantic, but also a little too rural agrarian in their sensibilities. (***3) Jefferson sounds a little Bluish GOP to me. Doesn’t he you?…upper class, landed aristocrat, best schools, renaissance man, inventor, philosopher and intellectual, architect, builder of universities, even empire, but sadly, slave holder…though not the inseminater of same, it seems. Hamilton, on the other hand, was self-educated, of questionable parentage, rags-to-riches, but also intellectual, though less lofty and more pragmatic, viewing the world though the eyes of urbanity, and was killed in a gun fight. (***4) Hamilton sounds a little red-necky to me, doesn’t he you?…a low-born man of ambition, when “ambitious” was a term of scorn by the upper classes, as one who, in the English sense of the day, was always trying to rise above his station…without their leave.

In all honesty I don’t know where either of these men fit into defining the Blue side of the modern Republican Party, so I invite your comments for my own edification. (***5) I’m not a scholar of either man, but feel I have a good sense of both from their writing and their lives. (In fact, as to my only claim to true scholarship, Brothels and Bottles, I burned all my notes on those subjects the same day in 1980 I burned my law license…so that i could enter the world of constitutional conservatism a man redeemed of all past sins…but still one of experience. In that sense I can write here with some authority.)

What I know best that Jefferson did was betray his class, just like the other southern colonial leaders who put their John Hancock on the Declaration in 1776. They were all considered men who had betrayed their class (which does not sound like a very Blue-GOP thing to do) and while Charles Beard, a Wilson-era Progressive historian (who cost me an A my last semester at university because I told the prof on my final exam he was full of baloney) attempted to show that these men started the revolution because of economic gain, he in fact was full of baloney. Think about it. Imagine John Kerry deciding that he would risk all he currently owned, go into hiding for seven years, lose all his friends from Yale and down at the Chilton Club, on the chance that if this new ragtag group he’d signed up with could actually defeat the greatest army in the world, he would get a share twice that in Massachusetts than he already owned. Think about it. Where are the percentages…if you’re a beta male? Beard was a progressive fool (but I repeat myself)…because he could never understand or even consider the great personal courage it required to look your own class(mates) in the eye and deny them…over a thing as “trivial” as the dignity and rights of a bunch of low born rednecks (of the day)….a thing by the way no left-winger can do or has done since Whitaker Chambers. Beard was a cynic about the nobility of human ideals, as are most leftists, but still, his constitutional views have been trolling around like little spirochetes in the venereal version of constitutional history for two generations, at least. You (we) were all injected.

While intellectually I favor Hamilton more in discussions about the Constitution (which was his baby, not Jefferson’s, anyway) I will always measure Tom Jefferson for the unquantifiable courage required to place the ethereal ideas of liberty and human dignity over his comfortable station in life. And to my friends at NR, Jefferson also did (still does) a thing that no conservative or constitutional writer has ever been able to do, and that is make men around the world weep over this little-understood and new-found notion of freedom. I’ve seen it, and know it to be so. With one simple phrase…”we hold these truths to be self-evident“…he answered a question those newly-freed men and women of East Europe and Russia had been searching for for over a generation. It was they who pointed this out to me, not the other way around, that the operative word of the entire preamble to the Declaration was “self-evident”, meaning that even Ivan Ivanovitch could “pursue life, liberty, happiness without permission of state.” I have since renamed that the “Homer Simpson Clause to the Declaration of Independence”, for it defines the primary purpose of the “more perfect union” laid out in the Constitution. (***6, name one greater, I ask you. Moreover, if you disagree with this particular view of pursuing life, liberty, etc, let me know here and now, then you can go. No need to proceed further. But do leave a name, as I’d like to send Vinnie and Augie over to introduce you to our new and improved rolled-up newspaper, filled with I-bar.)

Jefferson’s language also brought about the one and only handshake between Jefferson and Hamilton, for while I doubt they ever physically shook on anything, they would agree that it is for the common man, not the uncommon man, this new nation was devised, bled for and forged, from 1776 thru 1787. (***7) Again, if you are of the Blue GOP persuasion, tell me where I’m wrong here, for this is the handshake we have to reform in order to defeat the Left.  Or are you only interested in defeating the Democrats? Time to decide.

The Blue GOP Diaspora, from the Doctrine of Liberty to Something Else

Take a look at the Red-Blue political map of the United States, then a Red-Blue map of individual states. First take note, what you see as the wellspring of liberalism in the United States today, the northeast, was until around 1914, the home of the intellectual soul of the Republican Party as it was defined by the Doctrine of Liberty, (that term belonging to a fellow named George William Curtis, a founder of the Republican Party, and from a speech he gave to Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard in 1863…you can look it up).

Only the most intellectually incurious would not ask how that bastion of “Liberty-thought” could become the home of its most hateful enemy within a century? (***8) Look at the maps to see hot rot can set in. What was a solid Red Northeast in 1900 became a “liberal” Blue northeast by the 1960s, then moved through the midwest and has for years been snatching individual western states, so that the West Coast is arguably as solidly Democrat blue as the Northeast, only, just as the “progressive-liberals” dropped God by WWI, their successor Leftist-progressives dropped “liberal” of any of its classical humanist meaning by 1980. The West Coast has never really been liberal, just of the Left. (***9 If you’re looking for the glue that holds you together still, Liberal and Left, I’ll only provide a hint or two, but as I promised not to become too petty, a little critical self-examination will lead you to the same place.)

But even in Red States of the south and west, when you look at them individually you see that the urban areas are usually Democrat-Leftist blue as well. Show me an inner city or a major university and the likelihood it is Blue (***8 Care to analyze why?)

The political fallout: the trend has been in recent election cycles that the suburbs around these city centers, which while not entirely blue, are beginning to take on a purplish tone, in part because, in close elections between a conservative and a liberal, many of you lean toward the Democrat, based on what appears to be class considerations? (***9 Tell me if this is not so. Better still, tell me why. And if that answer is in any way philosophical, please, go into some depth, for it has been our opinion around here for the longest time you don’t have much. The shallowness of intellectual depth has always been one of the hallmarks of the Left. This is an opportunity to distinguish yourselves.)

Now, like anyone we all get a little angry when a Republican of any stripe openly comes out for the Democrat, as the Scozzafava woman (May she wear the tattoo of a hundred rampaging elephants’ paws) did in New York last year. But this has also happened in several primaries, many chronicled here on RedState, when many Blue GOP insiders have given open support to the Dem candidate after their guy lost. I’m sure a few of you even voted for that Coakley women. (You know who you are.)In the governor’s election in Virginia four years ago, a sizable number of suburban GOP Virginians around the Beltway and Richmond proudly and loudly voted for Tim Kaine over Jerry Kilgore, ostensibly because of his pro-life stance (which is not even a state issue), but circumstantially because of his down-state country twang. Since a pro-lifer got (more of) those Blue GOP votes this time, I’m just saying…maybe they wanted someone more of their own class in the governor’s mansion? Ya think? It was a close election and Kilgore won two thirds of the state by territory, and Kaine did great damage to the Commonwealth, and will be an historical embarrassment, not to mention being a certified dork. Tsk tsk. For shame. For shame.

By contrast, as a rule RedStaters tend to back the GOP nominee unless their blue credentials are notoriously leftwing or debased, or both, as that Scozzafava woman (May the fleas of a thousand camels nest in her bloomers) proved to be. It’s that sense of fair play we’re trying to impress on our Tea Party friends, who, we gather, you don’t like. (Get used to ’em.) Instead, more often we (stupidly) stayed at home, but still didn’t brag about it. So no, we did not vote for Obama in 2008 or the Dems in general in 2006. We just played stupid. Not traitorous. (***10)

So, for a little history refresher, those Blue states of the northeast, Maine down to the Mason-Dixon Line, at one time were the center of intellectual “conservative” thought in America, and by “intellectual” I mean Augustine, Aquinas, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, von Hayek, and by “conservative” I don’t mean, laissez faire pro-robber baron, low taxes, keep-the-poor-poor and on their side of the tracks conservative (current Democrat policy), but rather “Doctrine of Liberty” conservative. I ask again, what happened? (***11).

Let me tell you what happened for it is a history of where most of the Blue GOP came from. It’s your more recent roots. The long and short of it is that from the anti-slavery movement in the northeast, which formed the Republican Party in 1856 on through roughly 1900-1910, the guiding intellectual movement in the United States was the “dignity of man”, but it ran up against the most overwhelming migration of the world’s poorest and most down-trodden imaginable onto these shores. Why, we almost missed Karl Marx altogether because of it, as he most certainly did us, had it not been for the children of that new wealth somebody’s daddy created), who began studying Marx and Hegel and others in Europe, to bring their thinking back…well, to the centers of leaning where?… in the northeast.

And the collision between the Doctrine of Liberty and those teeming masses of ignorant and poor, well it took awhile to take shape, for while it had been developed with former slaves in mind, alas, by the time they began escaping the South they found that the Wops, Slopes, Gooks, Hunkies, Slavs, and papists of every stripe including the Mick Irish had gotten there first and set the stage for what they could expect…social and cultural segregation, everyone to his own neighborhood.

This collision of the liberty doctrine with unwashed humanity killed one church, literally, possibly more, for as Dr King saw in horror in 1968, but the black comedian Dick Gregory noted as a punchline to a joke a few years earlier “…in the North they don’t care how big you get, just so long as you don’t get too close.”. When the blacks started migrating north in the mid-1900s they walked right into a culture-war that had been started by J P Morgan and his church against those unwashed papists, for which, it seems, all those great ideas of social engineering from Europe offered better cures than the old Doctrine of Liberty, which I argue never had a chance. (This time it will.) I leave causality to you, but these socialist-progressive cures started out being God-based, only quickly filtered Him out of the equations, and with it, Morgan’s church. (When a church turns left, it doesn’t look back. Like Stepin Fetchit, it can’t afford to.) By WWI few Republicans rarely spoke of Liberty, or the Constitution, but rather whatever issues of the day the Progressives laid on the table. They were no longer leading, they were being led, and had reduced their philosophy to a few mechanical sound bytes (of the day) about low taxes, and letting business be business. “Liberty” was dead, replaced by sound management. By FDR’s time almost no one even questioned the way the Democrat-Progressives-Liberals set the table, and only complained of the quality of the Reed and Barton tableware. The Doctrine of Liberty was but a curiosity….except to a few inquiring minds, who went on to form the heart and soul of what is today known as “conservatism”, which, you might have guessed is neither knee-jerk, nor pedestrian. It is the last home of the original Republican philosophy. It’s the elephant in the room. It is where all modern conservatives claim their heritage, a set of shoulders we never knew we even had. (***12)

The Handshake, Redux

(***13) By way of orientation, if at any time you want to stop and look at your feet, and the shoulders you’re standing on, as a benchmark for how your world developed the past three generations, and how you see the rest of America around you, feel free to do so, because if you went to college, any college since 1950, you are part of that progressive tradition brought over from Europe in the early 1900s…unless, UNLESS, due to good upbringing outside of public schools, or good luck, much of it provided by men like Bill Buckley, you held onto enough common sense and critical thinking so as to ask questions, rather than take on faith, and be willing to wait for the answers to be revealed before taking action or making irreversible decisions. (During Vietnam this was called the “crossroads” my generation confronted, where to a great extent, the best went one way, and the so-called brightest went the other. That beat goes on.)

I’m not a Catholic, but if I can find an old cathedral I will worship there every Sunday, just so I can watch one of the most ancient of handshakes, the Eucharist, take place, a process that is over a thousand years old, but it is no different than the handshake that goes all the way back to Augustine and Aquinas, and through them all the way up to both Jefferson and Hamilton…and now to we few, which first begat, and now protects those ancient ideals of human dignity and liberty.

Now I don’t write this to impute any of you of the Blue GOP persuasion as actually being in bed with the Left. I believe you don’t like the Left either. That’s not my purpose here. Rather, I want to explain to conservatives who read here, but possibly to you as well, since you don’t appear to study those shoulders you stand on as often as we do, about the culture you were raised in, especially if you were raised in a true-blue state, or a blue city/suburb. For instance, take abortion, which seems to be a bigger sticking point in your craw than ours. We’ve debated here on RedState whether the Constitution, by its strict construction (the conservative judicial model) prohibits abortion, and generally concluded “no” although a few insists that the “pursuit of life” (from Jefferson) entails a protection of it. Most of us agree that it should stop at the state line, so no matter how philosophically and religiously repugnant we find it, it is for the people of the individual state to decide. (This is the quantum leap that Teddy and so many other Democrat CINO’s could never let themselves, well, leap: that the people should decide and the Constitution had already figured out how best to do that. They are either stupid, or have another plan altogether. My question to you…do you also?) Still, that is where we would like to see the abortion debate returned. (***14 How about you? That too is worth a handshake, if you agree.)

But, you see, Virginia last time around showed that perhaps abortion is but a disguise for a deeper class-based dislike, you know, for bitter-clingers, religious people in general, especially if they actually wear an apron around the house. We understand that you weren’t raised around “them”, or knew “”them” through school. You probably weren’t allowed to play at “their” house. But maybe a great aunt you went to visit once a month? An old family Bible? With photos? Still, look down at those shoulders you stand on, then try to figure out, using the critical thinking skills you’ve acquired over the years from all that fine schooling, how you’ve managed to turn your entire identity away from those shoulders. Hell, there’s a Christian in there somewhere. Even Canadians will admit that…as much as it pains them. (Bernie loves working Canadians.) It’s from them the entire ideal, the Prime Directive of the Republican Party is found, which is that those up the hill will always reach back down and offer a handshake, a reciprocal handshake, to those at the bottom, just beginning that upward climb? After all, all you’re doing is shaking hands with your own ancestors. Ashamed of them? The Left is. It’s what defines them.

We conservatives consider it our duty to offer that handshake because someone somewhere offered it to one of those shoulders we stand on, thus putting us where we are. It’s that simple. The Republican Party stands for gratitude, if it stands for nothing…and as we grapple with tax policy, health care, the environment, we never lose sight of that simple foundation, someone else’s shoulders, and the simple, even easy (for most) duty to always extend that hand.

The Hook, Redux

As for our political relations with Blue GOP’ers, you’ve noted we didn’t just support Scott Brown, a pro-lifer, in Massachusetts, we had a great hand in this victory. (***15 Sorry, we did.) We need to vanquish the Left, on that I think you agree. You just don’t seem to consider Democrats to be of the Left, in part because (my opinion) you think they are so much like yourselves. (***16, Sorry, no they are not.) They have spent 30 years, since Reagan, driving a wedge between you and us, in part because he stole their working classes away from them, and they thought, by playing the class card, you would be amenable to not asking that old Reagan coalition back. You know, working class papists in South Boston. It seems they still like us, at least a little, if we say the right things…and mean it. And they trust us a whole lot more.

The Constitution is and always has been a live-and-let-live document and doctrine, cut off at the state line. And as such we are certainly willing to forgive you the backwardness of your history and your culture, your absence of intellectual depth, if you will only forgive us ours, as well, so we can get about destroying a common enemy.

So here’s the deal. Help us beat the Left, then when you look around to find all the Democrats have gone as well, you can become the new Democratic party, or even call yourselves something else. Even Republicans. I know, we can be the Whigs. Anything but the Greens. I don’t care. We just have to get rid of this insidious evil amongst us first. And then we can get down to fighting our political (and cultural) differences under the original Constitutional scheme, Republicans vs Hicks. Whatever. Then, just like 1856, you can start showing us which fork to use for the salad course, and we can show you how to tell a burro from a jackass. Imagine the giant leap forward we will have made toward the original purpose of the Founders, and the giant leap we’ve taken the Republican Party away from the abyss we now teeter next to?