BEFORE THE DEBATE: “America’s Right: a Conversation on a South Carolina campaign for elected office – Mark Sanford, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch and Eugene Platt”

by Catherine Fleming Bruce

(Presented verbatim from the ‘Good Governance in South Carolina 2013 Facebook page, Monday April 29, 2013)

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Good evening everyone! We are about to start our discussion on America’s right: A Conversation on a South Carolina campaign for elected office. In 30 minutes, Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch will debate in Charleston. We hope this commentary will provide food for thought and dialogue.

Author Robert B. Horwitz

Author Robert B. Horwitz

We posed questions to Robert B. Horwitz, on the release date of his new book: “America’s Right: Anti-establishment conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party”.  Mr. Horwitz is a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California at San Diego. Let’s start with defining anti-establishment conservatism.

'America's Right'

‘America’s Right’

Horwitz defines Anti-establishment conservatism:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act

Roosevelt/Truman 1944 poster

Roosevelt/Truman 1944 poster

“American conservatism broke into two factions after World War II. The main faction made its peace with the basic features of what historians call the post-war “liberal consensus”: state intervention into the economy and the modest welfare state established by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and President Truman’s policy of the containment of international communism. This faction was “establishment conservatism” or moderate Republicanism.”

“The other faction of post-war conservatism, which I have called ANTI-establishment conservatism, broke with the liberal consensus. It vociferously advocated the rollback of the New Deal on the one hand, and called for the military defeat of international communism on the other.

A mixture of libertarian (free market) and traditionalist (largely Christian moral) principles, anti-establishment conservatism is characterized by the embrace of individualism and capitalism, and a (selective) hatred of the state. In the realm of foreign policy, anti-establishment conservatism holds to American exceptionalism, that the United States is a special, even divinely consecrated nation whose values and interests coincide, and whose actions on the world stage bring the blessings of liberty to the world.”

Barry Goldwater, 1962

Barry Goldwater, 1962

“The first national candidate to embody anti-establishment conservatism was Barry Goldwater, who was soundly defeated in the 1964 presidential election by Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater stood for rolling back New Deal “socialism” and for defeating the Soviet Union by military means if necessary. Anti-establishment conservatism made a comeback in the 1970s, bringing evangelical Christians and neoconservatives into its fold, and with their support elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980. The Reagan revolution marked the essential triumph of anti-establishment conservative principles. The latest manifestation of anti-establishment conservatism is the Tea Party, characterized by its determined doctrines of small government, anti-tax, and anti-spending.”

Electoral College 1964

Electoral College 1964

“South Carolina has always been a state drawn to anti-establishment conservatism. Even though it was part of the “solid” Democratic South, South Carolina was one of only six states to vote for Barry Goldwater, and has voted Republican since (except in 1976 when it voted for fellow southerner Jimmy Carter). Some of that has to do with conservative economics; some of that has to do with white South Carolinians opposition to African-American advancement.

Newt Gingrich 2012 Presidential Elections Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Newt Gingrich 2012 Presidential Elections
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

South Carolina’s support of Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP primary was indicative that South Carolina Republicans had no great love of Romney, perceived representative of the GOP establishment.”

 

United States Capitol

United States Capitol

“Anti-establishment conservatism has always stood for small government and individual responsibility. As such, it has opposed the growth of government and links that growth with liberalism. Liberalism is attacked also because of its connection to secularism. Anti-establishment conservatives see the growth of the state and the decline in morals and individual responsibility as intimately interrelated. They view taxation as a liberal plot to take monies from hard-working producers of real economic value (workers and owners alike) to redistribute them to the undeserving (a category that includes minorities and parasitic professional elites).”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Next we asked Horwitz for his comments on possible impacts on foreign and domestic policy if an Anti-establishment winner emerged victorious on May 7th:

Horwitz responds:

Former SC Governor Mark Sanford

Former SC Governor Mark Sanford

“Mark Sanford fits the anti-establishment conservative mold – but this is not a particularly significant observation inasmuch as the entire Republican Party is today pretty much in thrall to this version of conservatism. Moderate, or establishment, Republicans have become a distinct minority within the GOP. Sanford showed his anti-establishment conservative bona fides as governor when he vetoed almost all the budgets that came out of the (Republican-controlled) legislature as containing too much pork. In 2009 he addressed and identified with a South Carolina Tea Party tax-day rally. Claiming that deficits and deficit spending were the source of the Great Recession, Sanford adamantly refused to accept Obama stimulus funds until forced to by the South Carolina Supreme Court.”

“A Sanford victory in the congressional race would restore him to his earlier congressional career as a strident fiscal conservative. A social conservative against abortion, Sanford seems not quite on board with the entire social conservative agenda. He opposed a bill offering faith-based license plates. But his marital peccadilloes appear to have wounded him with social conservatives.”

“In terms of foreign policy, it’s not clear what a Sanford victory would mean. Although anti-establishment conservatism under President George W. Bush led the way in championing military crusades abroad, including the disastrous war in Iraq, the failed Bush presidency injected a level of uncertainty in foreign policy in the GOP. Marco Rubio and others continue to back the muscular (largely neoconservative-inspired) Bush foreign policy; Rand Paul and his followers advocate a more prudent, even isolationist foreign policy. I am not aware where Sanford stands.”

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch

“Elizabeth Colbert Busch has campaigned as a moderate, pro-business Democrat. If elected, she is likely to follow the President on foreign policy and strike a stance somewhat to his right on domestic policy. “

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

We wanted to know, what’s the background? What are some historical points of development of anti-establishment conservatism: 1950’s, 1970’s, Reagan Administration, War on Terror?

Horwitz responds:

Ronald Reagan campaigning in 1980 with Senator Strom Thurmond in South Carolina

Ronald Reagan campaigning in 1980 with Senator Strom Thurmond in South Carolina

“After the collapse of Barry Goldwater’s presidential run, anti-establishment conservatives were eased out of Republican Party leadership positions. They collected themselves and built organizations and networks in media, think tanks, and foundations. They got their chance again in the 1970s. The liberal consensus broke down in the 1970s when domestically, Keynesian tools of fiscal and monetary policy were seen as unable to deal with the economic problems of the time: high unemployment, high inflation, and stagnant growth. The ongoing cultural revolution of the 1960s upended traditions and norms. Anti-establishment conservatives were able to address this turmoil with claims that the state had become too powerful and manipulative. Through their effective networks of think tanks, foundations, and media, anti-establishment conservatives helped galvanize constituencies that had not been much involved in politics – especially evangelical Christians who felt themselves under attack by the federal government and the culture of secular humanism – and brought them into the ambit of a reenergized, very conservative Republican Party. The election of Ronald Reagan marked the triumph of anti-establishment conservatism.”

“Since the Reagan victory, the anti-establishment movement has come to challenge the establishment Republican Party, if not mostly displace it. As this process has unfolded, the GOP, which historically had been relatively heterogeneous ideologically, by the mid-1990s began to look like a bona fide disciplined, conservative political party and, arguably, a religious one. As such, it increasingly displays utopian and dogmatic features.”

9-11 south tower plane strike

9-11 south tower plane strike

“The attacks of September 11, 2001 created a sense of fear and heightened sense of risk that were addressed by neoconservatives, who had become part of the anti-establishment conservative political alliance in the 1970s as well. The neoconservatives urged Bush to attack not just al-Qaeda, but Iraq. They provided a rationale for such military adventures, to wit, preventive war against rogue regimes and failed states on the one hand, and the ability of US military intervention to bring freedom to peoples long-suffering under dictatorships on the other.”

President Bush addresses the media at the Pentagon, Sept. 17 2001

President Bush addresses the media at the Pentagon, Sept. 17 2001

“The failure of the Bush presidency – two long-running wars, huge deficits, and especially economic collapse – left a newly elected President Obama with few options. As the Obama administration applied the Troubled Asset Relief Package and the economic stimulus, anti-establishment conservatives re-awoke and opposed these government programs as illegitimate and anathema to liberty.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

I asked about the Tea Party in South Carolina, and what would explain their motivations and goals:

Horwitz responds:

Tea Party rally in South Carolina

Tea Party rally in South Carolina

“The eminent historian Richard Hofstadter coined the phrase “the paranoid style in American politics” to try to understand the rage and conspiracy thinking that accompanied McCarthyism and the followers of Barry Goldwater in the 1950s and 60s. Hofstadter theorized that that rage owed to “status anxiety” of the white, largely religious Protestants who believed themselves becoming displaced by new groups and new social mores. A similar kind of rage can be found among Tea Partiers, whose hatred of liberalism and especially of President Obama knows few bounds and seems often impervious to facts.”

Governor Mark Sanford at Tea Party Rally in South Carolina

Governor Mark Sanford at Tea Party Rally in South Carolina

“Hofstadter’s paranoid style was about social psychology. While descriptively alluring, I don’t particularly like social psychology. I think the reasons for the Tea Party’s success has more to do with the 40-year attack on liberalism by anti-establishment conservative institutions, reinforced now by the echo-chamber effect of right-wing media.”

….and a definition of Social Gospel:

“The Social Gospel was the belief among mainline (liberal) Protestants at the beginning of the 20th century that good Christians could hasten the Kingdom of God through good works that alleviated the suffering of the poor and unfortunate. Traditional Protestants – those whom we now call fundamentalists – opposed the Social Gospel as blasphemy. Only God could change the world. Indeed, the secular world was Satan’s. What mattered was salvation, not good works”.

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Finally I asked Horwitz his view on this: “What forces are mobilizing, to oppose this brand of conservatism? What does the tight race in South Carolina’s Congressional Dist 1 suggest for South Carolina’s future, and the future of conservatism?”

Horwitz replies:

“My sense is that the Republican Party is now in the situation it found itself after Barry Goldwater was thrashed in the 1964 election. In the wake of that defeat, as I noted earlier, the anti-establishment conservatives were drummed out of the party’s leadership. A similar struggle (or at least conversation) is going on inside the Republican Party now, after it lost the 2012 election. But I highly doubt that the anti-establishment conservative wing – concentrated in the Tea Party faction – can or will be purged. The money that supports candidates is mostly outside party control, which allows rich, ideological, plutocrats like the Koch brothers much more sway than in previous years.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Now we have a few minutes for your questions. I posed this one from S.D. in Columbia:

“If (paranoid) fear is one of the bases of anti establishment conservatism (AEC), how come it is not shared equally? what i mean by Fear “shared equally” is that all of us could be afraid. In fact some are, and some are not. Why is that so? Is that related to the ability to think critically / logically? Going further in this direction of lack of critical / logical thinking, that is what we see with fundamentalist Christians. It is belief in whatever it is comfortable to believe in.”

Mr. Horwitz’ response:

“Sometimes what seems like the ability to think critically is bounded by patterns of thinking instilled by particular religious or intellectual traditions. If one is always looking for signs of corruption or has been trained to see evidence of Satan’s influence, one is bound to find them. The 18th century English philosopher John Locke suggested that it’s hard to ascertain the truth, so one should look hard and hold one’s conclusions on a contingent basis, always being open to contrary empirical information.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

this one from F.M. in Columbia:

“If Ronald Reagan actually conducted his political praxis in terms of raising taxes and foreign accommodationist REALPOLITIK, despite pandering to much anti-establishment conservative rhetoric, why, exactly is he perceived as the embodiment of the anti-establishment conservative agenda? Is it because of the creation of an illusion in the manner of Karl Rove’s later rhetoric or is there some other more fundamental reason?”

Horwitz replies:

“Good question. The case of Ronald Reagan is complicated. Reagan did help instill the revolt against liberalism, and with his support of deregulation, privatization, anti-union actions, etc, weakened the public sector and the social safety net and restored power and prerogative to corporations. But his rhetoric was far stronger than his actions, and he was a consummate politician in the sense of understanding what was possible and entered into negotiations to get there. True even in foreign policy. Unlike Reagan, today’s anti-establishment conservatives make the great (in their perspective) the enemy of the good. I don’t have a really good answer as to why they elevate Reagan to a pinnacle on which he actually did not sit. Could be the way that fundraisers and political campaigns constantly gain money and support by ginning up polarization.”

Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa:

Catherine Fleming Bruce

Catherine Fleming Bruce

Thanks to all of you for your participation in this discussion! Please stay with us for the Sanford-Colbert Busch debate, live from C-Span. (Review the Sanford-Colbert Busch debate here)

Read the introductory chapter of Horwitz’ ‘America’s Right: Anti-Establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party’ here:

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