Avoiding The Right-wing Authoritarian Future – The Moral Values Way

(Unless otherwise noted, this posting includes extensive excerpts from Appendix VII, The New Patriotism, of the The 15% Solution, by ‘Jonathan Westminster,’ which is a penname for Steven Jonas. The second edition of this book that was just published, does not include this appendix.)

The right-wing authoritarians of both political parties have no use for the government except to both punish those not like them and provide welfare for the extremely wealthy. This also means eliminating any government programs that help those not like them. This is a key moral value for the extreme right and it is learned from a strict-father upbringing where severe punishment is applied from an early age to teach their view of right and wrong: You will be punished until you convert or you are disposable.

This is in absolute contradiction to the progressive moral values stated in the preambles of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution:

  • Our national purpose is made clear by the Declaration: to demonstrate unequivocably that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Crealor with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness … “
  • The purpose of our national government is also made clear in the Declaration, that is: “to secure these rights. Governments are instituted among men.”
  • The functions of our government in achieving this purpose are spelled out in the preamble to the Constitution: to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity[.]”

In an August, 2012 article, George Lakoff discusses this progressive morality and contrasts it with what the right-wing authoritarians want to support their moral values.

America’s soul resides in our relation to one another, the way citizens have from the beginning joined together to form a government whose mission is to protect and empower everyone equally, and to use that government for the sake of The Public, the system that provides the basic means for our freedom to live decent lives and pursue happiness of all kinds, whether it comes from wealth or making music, or becoming a doctor, a scientist, a businessman, an athlete, a teacher, or whatever you find fulfilling. The Public is what unites us in a common enterprise, and the destruction of The Public is a destruction of the bonds that hold us together.

The Congressional Budget office estimates that Ryan’s “long-term budget, if you project forward defense spending, would cut 91 percent from these and all other non-defense programs. Ninety-one percent.” That’s 91 percent of The Public gone: Medical and scientific research. Pell grants. The EPA. The NIH. NPR. The small business administration. Unemployment insurance. Regulation of corporations. Money to help state and local governments. Highway repair. Air traffic controllers. And all government employees doing everything The Public does.

The destruction of The Public is not reversible. It would be the death of the very idea of America. Here’s what it would mean.

Even more, a lot more, of the nation’s wealth than the current 40 percent going to the top 1 percent. Poverty up. Opportunity gone. No way for the poor and middle class to get a college education, and maybe not even a decent K – 12 education, and certainly not public pre-schools. As unemployment rises, competition for jobs gets greater, and so wages get even lower and pensions and health benefits disappear. As the public control of the airwaves disappears with the FCC, the corporate control of news rises, and objectivity of reporting gets much lower. Freedom of the press becomes meaningless. When the military controls almost all of the budget, it gets immensely strong in society, threatening civilian control of the military. When the EPA and FDA disappear, say goodbye to clean air, clean water, and safe food. Wilderness in the National Parks will not exist: it will be destroyed in the race to get at our natural resources — wood, minerals, oil and gas.

The biggest lie is that there is, or should be, no Public. The [right-wing] biggest lie is that Democracy is about personal freedom alone, about the “liberty” to seek your own interests with no responsibility for the interests or well-being of your fellow citizens. The biggest [right-wing] lie is a moral lie. If believed and carried to the conclusion defined by a Devil’s Budget, it means Evil with a capital E and the loss of the American soul.

The idea of American Individualism is a [right-wing] moral lie. There can be no Individualism without The Public. Individualism can only begin where The Public leaves off. Individualism begins after the roads are built, after individualists have had an education, after medical research has cured their diseases, after the individualists have received from The Public land grants, grazing, water, and mineral leases, oil and agriculture subsidies, after they have received crucial patents.

Lakoff concludes with the historical morality that gave America its soul:

In what was perhaps the first statement of the morality that lit the Soul of America, John Winthrop told his fellow passengers on the New World-bound Arbella in 1630:

…that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection. From hence it appears plainly that no man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy etc., out of any particular and singular respect to himself…

This is the morality that informs the Declaration and the Constitution. It is the morality that led to emancipation, to universal suffrage, to the New Deal and the Great Society, and Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear — with the recognition that we are all in this democratic experiment together. It is what, from the beginning, has informed the formation of The Public. It is that sense of morality that we must maintain.

Based on this, here is a definition for a progressive government:

A Government of, by, and for the people requires:
– A government with the moral purpose to equally protect and empower all the people such that their individual freedoms are maximized and such that economic, social, racial, and environmental injustices are minimized, and
– The active participation of a majority of the people to maintain such a government.

What must be done to avoid a right-wing authoritarian future and re-establish the progressive future as defined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution? For the answer, there is the The New Patriotism, a “larger project for a new economy and society” that is detailed below:

The New Patriotism is based on a true “strict constructionist” interpretation of the plain language of the Declaration and the Constitution including the Bill of Rights. Faithfully following the Doctrine of Original Intent, The New Patriotism takes the language of our two founding documents at face value. If the Declaration says “all men are created equal,” The New Patriotism takes it to mean that. It does not assume that some people are by their very nature more worthy, more privileged, or more capable than others, while others are intellectually inferior or economically “less eligible.”

If the Constitution says that a function of the Federal government is to “promote the general Welfare [emphasis added],” The New Patriotism takes it to mean that. It does not assume that the Federal government is to treat the well-being of certain segments of the population with “benign neglect” while it provides economic benefits for others.

The program of The New Patriotism is based upon and grows out of the five functions of the American Federal government as spelled out in the Preamble to the Constitution’:

  • Establish justice.
  • Insure domestic tranquility.
  • Provide for the common defense.
  • Promote the general welfare.
  • Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

The program of The New Patriotism is designed to fulfill these functions.

To establish Justice

Under the provisions of the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution the primary purpose of the Federal government is to secure the rights and liberties of its citizens. These rights are identified generically in the Declaration. They are spelled out in more detail in the Bill of Rights. Among these rights are:

  • Freedom of religion, speech, the press , and assembly (First Amendment).
  • The right of each State to form a “well-regulated militia” (Second Amendment).
  • Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the guarantee that arrest warrants will be detailed and issued by a responsible party only upon probable cause (Fourth Amendment).
  • Freedom from double jeopardy and any requirement of self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment).
  • The guarantee of due process of law in any matter involving potential deprivation of life, liberty, or property (Fifth Amendment, later applied to the states by the 14th Amendment).
  • The guarantee of a jury trial and defense counsel in criminal cases (Sixth Amendment).
  • The guarantee of a jury trial in most civil cases (Seventh Amendment).
  • Protection against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth Amendment).
  • The protection of rights “retained by the people” which are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution (Ninth Amendment).

The most important obligation of the Federal government in establishing justice, then, is to protect and defend the rights of its citizens. These rights include not only those specifically referred to in the Bill of Rights. They also include those unenumerated natural rights, such as the right to privacy, covered by the Ninth Amendment. There are few nations which have Bills of Rights, and fewer still with a legal and legislative history in which the provisions of the Bill of Rights have been so vigorously defended. The Bill of Rights is indeed one of the features of our Constitution which gives us claim to special status among nations. The Bill of Rights is the hallmark of American freedom, the measure of American liberty.

In vigorously defending the rights of our people, carrying out its obligation under the “To establish Justice” provision of the preamble to the Constitution, under The New Patriotism the Federal government would:

  • Protect freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy, and ensure equal access to the full range of pregnancy-related medical services for all women.
  • Ensure freedom of purely private, individual, unscheduled, voluntary prayer in our schools by any child wishing to pray, as long as such prayer did not interfere with the rights of others or cause any unreasonable disruption of school activities. At the same time, it would vigorously oppose attempts to schedule prayer time in school, whether on a compulsory or “voluntary” basis.
  • Secure equal opportunity in education and employment for all of our citizens, through the use of affirmative action where necessary.
  • Affirm that the Constitutional rights of women are fully secure, through adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment.
  • Assure protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Ensure the broad dissemination of the knowledge of Constitutional rights among the population, and protect the application of those rights In both the civil and criminal law.
  • Affirm and reinforce the rights of freedom of speech, assembly, religion and the press, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

    To insure domestic Tranquility

    Tranquility means peace and serenity. In the context of the Declaration and the Constitution, “domestic tranquility” goes beyond physical protection and the control of physical violence. It extends to the positive affirmation of a tranquil society, promoting efforts to diminish social conflict and personal misery, improving the quality of life for all those residing within the domestic confines of the United States, insuring national peace by helping to assure personal peace. Therefore, if domestic tranquility is to be insured, the Federal government has the obligation to:

    • Combat racism:
      – As a phenomenon that hurts everyone – those who practice it, as well as those who are its victims, whether physically, psychologically, socially, or economically.
      – As a phenomenon that is completely inconsistent with true American values.
      – As a phenomenon that costs the society dearly, saps productivity, and creates a real possibility for the physical disturbance of domestic tranquility in the future.
    • Expand educational opportunity significantly from pre-school through graduate school by investing appropriate new monies in the educational process.
    • Deal with the shortage of reasonably affordable housing for many as well as with the proliferation of homelessness in many parts of the country.
    • Address national problems in nutrition which range from chronic hunger in some populations to over nutrition in many others (obesity being the single most common health problem in the United States).
    • Provide for job training and employment opportunities for all who want to work.
    • Institute a comprehensive national health program that will provide health care cost coverage for all Americans and establish the promotion of health and the prevention of disease its first priority.

    To provide for the common Defence

    This Constitutional language makes it clear that the primary responsibility of the Federal government in military matters is defense of the homeland. Certainly in modern times this phrase has a meaning different from that of the 18th century. Just as the concept of what it means to “insure domestic tranquility” has expanded in the modern era, so has the concept of “defence.” In this nuclear/space/high-speed/electronic age, our military capability must extend beyond our physical borders. But if we are to be true to the Constitution, the primary focus of any foreign military endeavour must be related to the defense of our own territory.

    We need not and should not be the world’s policeman (contrary to the views of some [Summers]). We certainly don’t have to extend our military might around the globe to protect our trade and secure access to foreign natural resources. Japan and all of the European trading nations have proved this to be unnecessary. If we must venture beyond our borders, it should only be within strict legality and as part of an international security effort.

    This doctrine means that we should not plan for waging massive war, nuclear or otherwise. We should not plot the forceful over-throw of existing governments which we do not happen to like, unless they explicitly threaten to attack us. We should leave the responsibility for defending the borders of other countries primarily to those countries, except in very unusual circumstances.

    In the Third World, as part of an international effort we should strive to eliminate the causes of potential internal violence which threaten the peace and security of certain regions. They are: overpopulation, poverty, hunger, disease, un- and underemployment, lack of education. In many countries, especially in Latin America, we have allied ourselves with wealthy ruling elites simply because they professed “anti-communism.” These elites have arrogated to themselves major shares of their countries’ wealth leaving much of the population impoverished. They use their U.S. supplied, trained, and maintained armed forces not to defend against foreign attack but to oppress their own people and deny their human rights. By supporting such elites we make a mockery of our professions in support of human rights.

    We should aggressively promote democracy and human rights abroad. At the same time, we should recognize that democracy is more than simply holding elections. In the Third World especially, and in Eastern Europe as well, elections alone often do not solve people’s’ real problems. Therefore we should promote real democracy and human rights not only in countries that we have viewed as adversaries or “captive nations,” but also in those non-democratic countries which are aligned with us, such as South Africa,’ El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Guatemala.

    To “provide for the common Defence” then, the Federal government will:

    • Achieve major reductions in military spending, focusing first on the reduction of overseas military commitments and the termination of the development of most major new weapons systems. We will nevertheless remain the world’s premier military power.
    • Recognize that if we are to win the ideological struggle in the Third World, we must project true American values, there as well as at home. Therefore, we will have to adopt policies to reduce the potential for violent left-wing revolution in developing countries. Along these lines, we will remove our support for armies that exist primarily to control their own people, encourage land reform, and work to ameliorate the conditions that cause social revolution.
    • Abandon our support for right-wing revolts around the world which justify themselves by claiming to be “anti-communist.” This will enable us to reduce our capability to participate in “low-level” conflicts, which are always fraught with danger.
    • Work to expand peaceful trade and cultural exchanges, while adopting economic policies that improve American competitiveness by improving American skills and productivity.

    To promote the general Welfare

    This provision deals with economic matters and well-being. Following it, under The New Patriotism the focus of Federal economic policy will be on real problems and on solving them, to create the conditions that will foster well-being for all. As pointed out previously, Republicans like to focus on process phrases like “cut taxes,” or “free market, or “deregulate.” (Historically, regulation has ordinarily been a reactive, not a proactive function of government, made necessary by the unfettered actions of certain businesspeople and others. The primary purpose of regulation is to protect the interests of the ordinary person or the Commonwealth.’)

    The New Patriotism looks at the substantive “for what?” of these approaches. What will happen if this or that tax is cut by this or that much? What will happen if this activity is regulated/deregulated? Who will benefit? Who will be harmed? What concrete problems that affect people’s lives will be solved or made worse? How will the national interest be affected?

    The Reaganite/Bushists did not “tax and spend.” That would have been the fiscally conservative, responsible way to do things. Rather, they cut taxes for their primary benefactors and beneficiaries, the wealthy and the corporations (McIntyre). Then they spent anyway, and borrowed, and borrowed, and borrowed (Morland). Under The New Patriotism, if the government is going to spend, it tells the people what it is spending on, justifies it, and raises the money before spending, by taxing, not afterwards, by borrowing.

    Under The New Patriotism, “to provide for the general Welfare” the Federal
    government will:

    • Enact programs designed to significantly reduce the prevalence of poverty, as the only effective long-term solution to the problems of the welfare system.
    • Reform taxation policy to tax the rich fairly, reduce the growing financial gap between rich and everyone else, and save the middle classes from pauperization.
    • Reduce the Federal deficit by increasing taxes on those who can afford to pay, the wealthy and the large corporations, by reducing military spending, and by improving tax collection.
    • Adopt tax, fiscal, and planning policies that encourage investment in modernization and new productive capacity at home, while providing no subsidies for non-productive corporate takeovers. The export of capital will be discouraged and, if necessary, regulated.
    • Institute anti-trust policies that support and encourage free-market competition, especially in price, quality, and quantity of consumer goods and services, while discouraging the concentration of ownership (which tends to diminish competition and void the benefits of the free market).
    • Establish economic regulatory policies designed to produce a level economic playing field.
    • Develop a national housing program using private and public resources that sets a goal to provide affordable housing for all Americans.
    • Devote new Federal expenditures to the solution of more clearly defined problems through carefully designed programs, planned and carried out in cooperation with state and local government.

    To secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

    This phrase in the Preamble to the Constitution confers upon the Federal government the responsibility to look ahead and plan for the future. And what are the “blessings of liberty” as defined for us? Are they not, at the least, “life, liberty [itself], and the pursuit of happiness?” The preservation of liberty itself is to be carried out by the Federal government under the provisions of the “establish Justice” phrase. That leaves life and the pursuit of happiness as the other blessings of liberty that must be secured for our descendants as well as ourselves.

    Following what might be called the “foresight provision” of the Preamble to the Constitution, then, under The New Patriotism the Federal government will:

    • In cooperation with the States, develop and implement a comprehensive long-range plan for the repair, upgrading, replacement, and enhancement of the nation’s infrastructure, and provide significant funding for that effort.
    • In cooperation with the States, develop and implement a comprehensive long-range plan for the protection, up-grading, and restoration of the environment. It will deal with such matters as: sustainable use of animal, plant, and inanimate natural resources, solid waste disposal, toxic dump decontamination, nuclear waste disposal, air quality, water quality, preservation of wilderness areas and undeveloped land, soil conservation, and conservation of timber resources.
    • Develop and implement a comprehensive energy policy to emphasize fuels alternative to oil, the development of safe nuclear power and nuclear waste disposal [maybe not], and the vast expansion of solar [and wind] energy exploitation.
    • Develop a comprehensive policy to deal with the known dangers of global warming.

    The bottom line is that “moral values trump policy” and without including progressive moral values in every discussion of policy, progressive polices won’t stop the right-wing authoritarian future. Reagan, and many others since, have succeeded because they used right-wing authoritarian moral values to successfully promote their me-mine-my policies.

    I recall a conversation I had with Richard Wirthlin, Ronald Reagan’s chief strategist. In Wirthlin’s first poll for Reagan, he found that most voters disliked Reagan’s policies, but wanted to vote for him. There was, he discovered, a set of related reasons: Reagan spoke about values and used issues only to illuminate values. Values trump policies.



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    About Andy Hailey

    Vietnam Vet, UT El Paso Grad, Retired Aerospace Engineer, former union rep, 60's Republican now progressive, web admin, blogger.

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