Dr. Coburn's Rx for what ails America: Social Conservatism
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I just finished reading a book written by Sen. Tom Coburn in 2003 that is titled ‘Breach of Trust - How Washington turns Outsiders into insiders.’ My pre-conceived opinions and notion were that I was going to read a book written by a fiscal conservative with a lot of information about the politics of pork, career politicians, and the train wreck coming if Medicare and Social Security entitlements are not reformed. I did get those issues in spades in this book including graphs, a list of 10 things Congress does not want you to know about how it does business, and 3 myths that dissuadethe public from electing politicians who will truly represent their interests and govern within the confines of the Constitution. But I got so much more - hence the title of this blog.(gamecock helped me get this title.)
Tom Coburn is an Okie from Muskogee who after working in his famly’s optical business became a doctor at age 35, and was elected to the House at 46 in his first attempt at public office from a district that had not been represented by a Republican since 1922 and was thought to be unwinnable. He did not win by campaigning on pork and dirty politics and corruption. He used a social conservative campaign theme and ran on the belief that the goal for the congressman was to represent the values and attitudes of his district, not the values of Washington’s privileged political elite. This is a very smart and savvy strategy in a congressional district where the Ds greatly outnumber the Rs. I wrote in an earlier blog about how small-town Reagan Ds think about politics.
In general, while the other schools welcome the representative character of our democracy, Jacksonians tend to see representative rather than direct institutions as necessary evils, and to believe that governments breed corruption and inefficiency the way picnics breed ants. Every administration will be corrupt; every Congress and legislature will be, to some extent, the plaything of lobbyists. Career politicians are inherently untrustworthy; if it spends its life buzzing around the outhouse, it's probably a fly. Jacksonians see corruption as human nature and, within certain ill-defined boundaries of reason and moderation, an inevitable by-product of government.
It is perversion rather than corruption that most troubles Jacksonians: the possibility that the powers of government will be turned from the natural and proper object of supporting the well-being of the majority toward oppressing the majority in the service of an economic or cultural elite.
Another major point in this book that exemplifies his social conservativeness is when he wrote about how his religious faith gave him the strength to fight for principle over the temptations of ego and prestige. He also confessed in the book that he was not perfect in this fight, and he wrote
I believe the Scriptures teach that the motives of man are always mixed and that we are made pure, not by our own works, but by grace.
Tom Coburn gave a speech in 2000 at a dinner benefiting Patrick Henry College. He began by quoting Rev Martin Luther King, Jr
Cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right?
Now I know that some people might say all well and good that you like this book written back in 2003, but what does any of this have to do with the present and the future. I think some of what he wrote about that happened in the past still holds true today. In other words I’m not talkling about political spin that truth varies from person to person, but that truth is absolute and we do not define truth for ourselves; truth defines us.
He writes what he considered the best example of political spin calculations backfiring - the 1998 midterm election. Most top Republican consultants and elected congresscritters™ assumed the Rs would capitalize on Clinton’s foibles and pick up several seats. When a few restless congresscritters™ suggested during a meeting of the Republican conference prior to the 1998 elections that our agenda might not be bold enough to motivate our base, Newt Gingrich responded dismissively,
Clinton has already taken care of that.
In November, these two storms-a conservative base disgusted by Congress’s spending orgies and a public confused and turned off by the GOP’s handling of the impeachment process-converged, forming a perfect storm that nearly obliterated the GOP majority. Rather than gain seats the GOP majority was reduced to a mere 5 seats.
In those early cheerful days of 1995 the House GOP with their 73 new freshman GOP colleagues adopted a budget that called for the elimination of more than 200 wasteful and unconstitutional government programs, including 3 entire cabinet agencies: the departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce. With battle between Congress and the White House over this budget resulting in a government shutdown, the GOP leadership, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole surrendered to Pres. Bill Clinton. The GOP has never recovered from this loss.
Tom Coburn summed up his thoughts as he prepared to leave Congress in October of 2000 for his constituents in northeast Oklahoma.
The real hope for the long-term viability of the American experiment therefore, does not rest with the Republican party-or any political party for that matter. instead, it rests with the American people who decided to turn the political world upside down in 1994. If the American people can reacquaint themselves with our founders’ vision and elect representatives with true political courage-which exclude almost all career politicians-our course can be righted.
AMEN to We the People reacquainting ourselves with our founders’ vision. I worry there has been a steady introductory diet of a Karl Marx vision going on for awhile in the USA. I also hope we remember the lesson of the 1998 election of thinking victory is possible when you have no bold positive agenda, and only a negative attack against the other party.
Cross posted at The Minority Report