Principle and Process

 

imageSo here we are, looking at another major election in just over a year, and our intra-party divisions don’t just increase, they’re becoming an out-and-out canyon. You can see the conflict summed up in many ways: Tea Party vs. Mainstream, Movement vs. Establishment, Fringe vs. RINOs, and Chaos Marine vs. Imperial Space Marine. Okay, I made that last one up*. I find these terms inadequate, however. More and more, I find the real divide as Principle vs. Process.

Principle Republicans tend to perceive themselves as embracing our nation’s founding ideas. For the Principle Republican, small government is key. This is not necessarily a reference on locality, but rather on the presence of government in daily life. Indeed, you only need to look at San Francisco or Seattle to see that local government does not necessarily mean small government. The Principle Republican sees government as necessary — which largely differentiates him from more libertarian line of thought — but prefers a government as described in the Tao of Taos: one which has a light touch, where the people see themselves as accomplishing things rather than the government. Mark Levin’s book Liberty and Tyranny† eloquently describes the thinking of the Principle Republican.

For the Principle Republican, the process takes a back seat to principle. The advancement of liberty over tyranny, the genuine embrace of small government over big government, and the recognition of the individual over the state takes precedent. The ideas of the Founders are tantamount. This is not intended as a worship of past figures but, rather, as a recognition of their ideas. Principle Republicans prefer to hear their politicians speak about Liberty, especially if it has a capital “L.”

Principle Republicans are not without fault. They’ve a tendency to want to abandon the process altogether, which has its perils. Today’s Democrats enjoy abandoning process in favor of their principles and the result has been a disastrous undermining of liberty; it would be a mistake to think this no-holds-barred attitude would be solely a left-wing problem. They also tend to place increasingly demanding criteria on elected officials, sometimes demanding purity that none can meet. And though I adhere to the Principle Republican side, I fear plenty here would probably demand George Washington’s ouster for being a RINO‡.

Though they are on the opposite side of our internecine debate, Process Republicans also respect the Founders’ ideals, but also emphasize the system they set in place. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for the republican system of checks, balances, and procedures that encourage moderation and consideration over reckless abandon. We live in a world where people expect government to “get things done” and the process is there to moderate how it’s done and (hopefully) temper and hone ideas into effective tools of government. The Federalist Papers** can help one get into the mind of a Process Republican. Liberty had already been attained by the states. The Federalist Papers discuss the ideas that lead in part to the process we are in today.

Liberty is good, but — says the Process Republican — without checks and balances it can easily lead to confusion or anarchy. The State exists and requires a system to guide and control it, otherwise we get what we had in the Articles of Confederation which was bad enough that the Founders got together to rethink things.

Process Republicans have their faults as well. Converse to their counterparts, they sometimes want to ignore principle entirely in favor of process. Unmoored from principle at all, process continues going forward without a thought as to whether it’s going in the right direction. When “getting things done” becomes a bigger principle than advancing a principle, process leads away from proper goals. Moreover, Process Republicans become annoyed with their sometimes impatient counterparts. Rather than explain how the system can be used to advance liberty, they begin to demand Principle Republicans to be quiet, knuckle down††, and let things play out.

Understanding each other at this point is of tantamount importance. Principle Republicans want Process Republicans to understand liberty and advance us toward it. We’d like to be addressed as valuable members of the party, not as problem students in need of Ritalin. Meanwhile, Process Republicans would like the Principle Republicans to exercise discretion and patience. When Process Republicans lay out a plan of action, they’d really appreciate it if we Principle Republicans didn’t light the plan on fire because it doesn’t accomplish everything at once. Principle Republicans are worried that we are losing the ideas we love; Process Republicans are worried that we might overstep our bounds and abandon a system that works well.

Republican democracy is an inherently messy process. You can’t get ten people to easily agree on pizza toppings‡‡; getting a nation of hundreds of millions to agree on questions of public policy is exponentially more difficult. The strength of our nation’s founding was not just the ideas or just the system, but rather a system that fosters and empowers the ideas espoused. It is time we value our differences and recognize that our differences complement each other, rather than separate us.

* But that would be so cool if either side could settle their differences over mini-warfare games. Yes, I just suggested a solution that favors me. Also, Space Orks are best.

† The book contains far less vitriol and screaming than a typical Mark Levin broadcast. Also, the book is less likely to call you stupid.

‡ He wasn’t even that. Our first president as you know had no party. Also, there were no Republicans then. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT PEOPLE!

** Principle Republicans take heart! We have the Anti Federalist Papers. In your face, Alexander Hamilton!

†† … buckle down, do it, do it, do it …

‡‡ For the record: Pepperoni is the only topping that truly belongs on a Pure Republican Pizza. Adding pineapple to your pizza is a sure sign of a RINO.

There are 18 comments.

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  1. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Your description is spot on for about 1% of the electorate. The issue I take is that the average voter is not stupid, but not obsessed with ideology either.

    The issues bubbling up are not process or principle but class versus class. Neither the process nor principle folks are very happy with this years voter revolt, all you have to do is read the Rico threads.

    There is a general distrust of the entire political class, for the good reason that they serve  donors and elites and the rest of the voters pay for it. The other reason is almost all politicians leave office many times richer than when they entered.

    While 1% of the GOP is having an ideological fistfight, the populists are either going to render them useless or they will fight off the populists and lose what they have.

    • #1
  2. V the K Member
    V the K
    @VtheK

    The line of the “Process Republicans” is that “we agree on Principles, we just differ on ‘tactics.'”

    But somehow “tactics” always seem to end up advancing a progressive, Big Government, Democrat agenda.

    • #2
  3. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    V the K:The line of the “Process Republicans” is that “we agree on Principles, we just differ on ‘tactics.’”

    But somehow “tactics” always seem to end up advancing a progressive, Big Government, Democrat agenda.

    That’s because they are called lies.

    • #3
  4. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    TKC1101:

    The class vs. class is just another name for what I’ve stated, although taken to the extreme of the negative ends of my two descriptions. The political class would fall in the process camp, though one so unmoored from the concept of liberty that the process is the be-all and end-all. The end goal has ceased to be the advancement of freedom and instead transformed into the perpetuation of the system as-is in spite of consequences. As I stated. We’re moving forward without thought about where forward is going.

    I have, of course, not addressed corruption on either side of these philosophies for simplicity’s sake. Corruption is rather prevalent, but I’d hoped to discuss where we can come together. There’s no value in trying to compromise with corruption. Incidentally, this is the major flaw in what is apparently the current Process Republican plan. They are frequently trying to come to compromise with the Democrats in power who are corrupt to the core.

    As Machiavelli notes in The Discourses, we cannot simply legislate our way out of corruption: the corrupt aren’t obeying present laws and have no impetus to follow new laws. That, however, is an entirely different topic I believe.

    • #4
  5. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    V the K

    I believe your statement more demonstrates my point. We are slouching towards statism because Process Republicans mistakenly believe that their process can accomplish what they want, which seems to be status quo. Also, I think they suck at compromise. I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but compromise is a process where one side is at one end and the other side at the other end, and they meet in the middle, but today’s Republicans start in the middle while the Democrats start at their far end (or even further away). The result is compromise meets in a middle far left that what would be desired. Keeping in mind the concepts of liberty and freedom would do more service to the compromises than maintaining the appearance of the process.

    • #5
  6. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    Adhering to the processes defined in the Constitution ought to be a matter of principle.

    One such process is that all spending originates in the house.  Supposedly, if the house doesn’t want to spend it, it doesn’t get spent.  “Process” Republicans aren’t particularly principled about that process.

    • #6
  7. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    C. U. Douglas:TKC1101:

    The class vs. class is just another name for what I’ve stated, although taken to the extreme of the negative ends of my two descriptions. The political class would fall in the process camp, though one so unmoored from the concept of liberty that the process is the be-all and end-all. The end goal has ceased to be the advancement of freedom and instead transformed into the perpetuation of the system as-is in spite of consequences. As I stated. We’re moving forward without thought about where forward is going.

    I have, of course, not addressed corruption on either side of these philosophies for simplicity’s sake. Corruption is rather prevalent, but I’d hoped to discuss where we can come together. There’s no value in trying to compromise with corruption. Incidentally, this is the major flaw in what is apparently the current Process Republican plan. They are frequently trying to come to compromise with the Democrats in power who are corrupt to the core.

    As Machiavelli notes in The Discourses, we cannot simply legislate our way out of corruption: the corrupt aren’t obeying present laws and have no impetus to follow new laws. That, however, is an entirely different topic I believe.

    The divide is not a few corrupt process politicians, it is that almost all process politicians are corrupt. Keeping the process going means you will use the process for your sponsors bidding without any question at all. No sponsor, no process.

    One cannot address this as two sides of equal morality.  You are either in politics to adhere to some principles , or you are there to keep the machinery moving for those who hand you money, and the money I am referring to is not their paycheck, funded by the voters.

    • #7
  8. Palaeologus Inactive
    Palaeologus
    @Palaeologus

    TKC1101: The divide is not a few corrupt process politicians, it is that almost all process politicians are corrupt. Keeping the process going means you will use the process for your sponsors bidding without any question at all. No sponsor, no process.

    There is some truth to this, but there are many types of sponsors.

    Usually this type of phrasing is an attempt to conjure up a shadowy cabal of special interests/ corps/ billionaires, but occasionally they’re more accurately called “voters” or “citizens.”

    The desire to feather one’s nest or protect one’s stake from competition is hardly limited to some subset of GOP politicians and a few donors.

    Anywho, plenty of the “principle” pols and their supporters are corrupt. They’re just dancing for a different audience.

    • #8
  9. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Palaeologus:

    TKC1101: The divide is not a few corrupt process politicians, it is that almost all process politicians are corrupt. Keeping the process going means you will use the process for your sponsors bidding without any question at all. No sponsor, no process.

    There is some truth to this, but there are many types of sponsors.

    Usually this type of phrasing is an attempt to conjure up a shadowy cabal of special interests/ corps/ billionaires, but occasionally they’re more accurately called “voters” or “citizens.”

    The desire to feather one’s nest or protect one’s stake from competition is hardly limited to some subset of GOP politicians and a few donors.

    Anywho, plenty of the “principle” pols and their supporters are corrupt. They’re just dancing for a different audience.

    The money influence is hardly ‘shadowy;, it is right out in the open, but one cannot have it displayed by the media.  There are no cabals, just politicians up for sale. The principle poles just source different money.

    The system may be beyond reform without a very committed, wealthy individual who cannot be bought.  I am not holding my breath.

    • #9
  10. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    C. U. Douglas:……………… Process Republicans ………. suck at compromise. I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but compromise is a process where one side is at one end and the other side at the other end, and they meet in the middle, but today’s Republicans start in the middle while the Democrats start at their far end (or even further away). The result is compromise meets in a middle far left that what would be desired. …….

    Wrong; this definition of compromise can only come from someone who has never negotiated substantive issues; it is the cartoon definition.

    Some process people are as you describe- power lifers with Stockholm Syndrome, glomming onto the goodies and satisfying supporters.

    Others (Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are good examples) are also principle Republicans, whose invocation of principle is largely dictated strategically based on the lay of the land.  You move when and in the places where you can make progress, and keep your powder strategically dry when you lack the power to accomplish what you need.

    The Loud Right who piously claim “principle” are often either a) simply impatient with the reality of the power distribution, or b) for sale- to a different group of donors.

    The Left’s power comes from an administration that can’t be effectively defeated in the PR war right now, and the eternal inherent advantage of the Left- the fact that the average voter is low information and likes free stuff.

    • #10
  11. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    C. U. Douglas: The strength of our nation’s founding was not just the ideas or just the system, but rather a system that fosters and empowers the ideas espoused

    Bazinga.

    • #11
  12. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Enjoyed reading this conversation.  Thanks.  I think I will read it a few more times … lots to think about.

    • #12
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Duane Oyen: The Loud Right who piously claim “principle” are often either a) simply impatient with the reality of the power distribution [….]

    Many Republican voters have been waiting for longer than I have been alive. And there’s something wrong when Democrats can effect major changes without absolute control of both White House and Congress but Republicans can’t.

    Paul Ryan, our new Speaker, offered a budget plan that depends upon decades of unbroken Republican dominance. That’s hardly realistic (though I respect that he at least tabled the issues and offered a concrete plan).

    BastiatJunior:Adhering to the processes defined in the Constitution ought to be a matter of principle.

    One such process is that all spending originates in the house.  Supposedly, if the house doesn’t want to spend it, it doesn’t get spent.  “Process” Republicans aren’t particularly principled about that process.

    This is my primary objection to CU’s formulation, which I generally agree with. He says, “Process Republicans also respect the Founders’ ideals, but also emphasize the system they set in place.” That’s incorrect. Process Republicans emphasize the system as it looks today after centuries of corruption, rather than the system as laid out in the Constitution.

    Many fairly believe that is a pragmatic approach. But I see little interest among process-focused Republicans for undoing what damage has been done. Their interest is in mildly “managing the decline”, not in attempting to restore liberty and Constitutional restraints.

    • #13
  14. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    Aaron Miller:

    Duane Oyen: The Loud Right who piously claim “principle” are often either a) simply impatient with the reality of the power distribution [….]

    ……..there’s something wrong when Democrats can effect major changes without absolute control of both White House and Congress but Republicans can’t.

    Paul Ryan, our new Speaker, offered a budget plan that depends upon decades of unbroken Republican dominance……..

    Bastiat- …………….

    …….I see little interest among process-focused Republicans for undoing what damage has been done. Their interest is in mildly “managing the decline”, not in attempting to restore liberty and Constitutional restraints.

    Very idealistic, Aaron.  Now explain to me how to get it done in the real world, where Reagan- with Senate control and a conservative (Boll Weevil) House- did not eliminate even one Cabinet department.

    And don’t say “the power of the purse”.  We already explained the problem with that.  The fact is, our side has an inherent disadvantage because 85+% of the public does not agree with the core principles (or tactics) of the “Freedom Caucus”, which is itself, BTW, heavily “PRO-AMNESTY!”

    As I mentioned in a different forum, the primary “principle” of the current group of revolters is the fact that agriculture state Rep. Tim Huelskamp- the chronic loudest griper in the House- got removed from his Agriculture Committee seat.  Now, why do you think a Kansas guy cares so  much about that Committee?  It sure is not because he wants to eliminate all farm programs.

    • #14
  15. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Duane Oyen: The fact is, our side has an inherent disadvantage because 85+% of the public does not agree with the core principles (or tactics) of the “Freedom Caucus”

    Agreed. Limited, local government is not a common value of voters. But Reagan provided the example of moving the middle toward him, rather than the other way around. He applied pressure on Democrats by ably communicating conservative values in the media, going “over the heads” of Democrats to convince voters instead. He spoke consistently in moral terms, not like an accountant, in part because that’s what voters respond to. Rhetoric is influential, as you have lamented many times in regard to “principle” Republicans.

    If our politics is to move in the direction of lawfulness and liberty, then our politicians must offer that as an option. Otherwise, we are headed in the direction of the Soviets, desiring ever less because we expect ever less as political realities.

    Concretely, the main barrier to Republican effectiveness is their own hesitation. Reagan was advised that his stance against unions and his anti-Soviet decisions were political suicide, but he stood his ground and was rewarded. Republicans have had opportunities to do likewise, as with the debt ceiling; but  they won’t risk elections to accomplish anything and they communicate terribly.

    I don’t expect half the legislation I’d like. Most cuts wouldn’t be popular. But Republican politicians risk little and so gain little. Weakness isn’t electorally attractive.

    • #15
  16. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Principle vs Process is precisely where the divergence is between the GOP Leadership and the GOP activists.

    • #16
  17. TempTime Member
    TempTime
    @TempTime

    Aaron Miller:  … and they communicate terribly.

    Exactly.  If Boehner, Graham, McConnell, McCain, Christie, Pataki, Ryan, and Kasich are the only Republicans you ever see/hear on the TV/ news  — and:

    You are not aligned with any political party — would you vote Republican?

    You are aligned with the Democratic party — would you vote Republican?

    You are aligned with the Republican party — would vote Republican?

    • #17
  18. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    OK fine, but let us keep clear the difference between public goods and private goods.  Public goods are jointly consumed and people can’t be excluded from them.  I order a steak and fries in a restaurant, I get to eat it.  It is a private good.  If that restaurant has loud rock playing in it’s speakers, I get it whether I want it or not, whether I want that music or any music, but if I want to eat there I have to put up with it, or ask the staff to turn it down or turn it off.  It is a public good.  Fortunately for me, restaurants are private goods so all I have to do is find one that doesn’t play music I don’t like and that has good steaks priced right. Public goods are controversial because tastes (interests) differ and we get them whether we want them  or not.  The larger and more diverse the  country the more controversial are public goods and the more these should be decentralized or privatized.  Get big enough, diverse enough and centralized enough with increasing amounts of public goods and civil order breaks down and dictatorship becomes essential.   Parents of several kids of different sexes and larger age differences know that individual toys, i.e. private goods, don’t cause fights, but that which TV or film to watch leads to endless debate until you impose your will, i.e. dictatorship, or buy another set, decentralize.

    • #18
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