Doug Smith: Text of address to Cabell County GOP event

7 Feb

gop event

Doug Smith is an historian and Associate Editor for Free State Patriot.  He recently addressed the Cabell County GOP at an event sponsored by the Cabell County Republican Executive Committee.  The following is the text from his oratory.


 

DOUG FOR FSP

I used to love football. Up until it became a political football, instead of a sport, I was crazy about the game. My 3 favorite teams were Green Bay, Marshall, and anyone playing WVU.

Vince Lombardi often said “When you continue to be defeated, go back to the basics. “So in his first practice with the Pack, after they blew a 4th quarter lead to lose the 1961 Championship game, he began with:

Gentlemen, this is a football. To which Wide Receiver Max McGee responded, “Slow down, Coach. You’re going too fast. “

I’d like to explore for a few moments the GOP penchant for losing fights they have in the bag, by taking Lombardi s advice to go back to the basics. Perhaps to start winning on conservative issues, we need to begin by understanding, and being able to defend, what we believe and who we are as conservatives. When I say defend, I do not mean to make excuses, as in GW Bush’s “compassionate Conservative.” This falsely implies 1: that to be conservative is to lack compassion, and 2: that compassion is the only worthwhile attribute.

On the 4th of July 1976, the 200th birthday of the United States, I walked down to pier 7 of the Navy Submarine Base, New London, CT, and reported aboard USS Gato, SSN 615, a 594 Class Nuclear Attack Submarine. Gato was the newest in the class of faster, silent, deep-diving Submarines, capable of operating at depths greater than 400 ft at speeds more than 25 knots. We carried 16 high speed Mk 48 anti-ship torpedoes, and up to 6 SubRoc anti-Submarine Rocket propelled Nuclear Warhead Depth Charges, with a variable yield from 1.5 to 250 Kilotons depending on the target. They had a kill radius of 5 miles. In plain terms, that means anything within 5 miles in any direction of ground zero simply ceased to exist.

By way of comparison, Little Boy, the bomb that devastated Hiroshima had a yield of 5 Kilotons.

Our mission was to hunt down and track Soviet Ballistic Missile Submarines, which had the capability to wipe out American cities. In my 5 years on the boat, I saw valves stamped “made by De Laval, of Huntington, WV”. They were cast out of K-Monel and Ni Cu produced at International Nickel, in Huntington, WV. That could account for a projected Soviet Submarine ICBM target map I saw with a circle drawn neatly around the Nickel Plant. They say that all politics is local, and regardless of the philosophical questions involved, all war in ultimately personal.

Given the nature of our weapons, and our mission, it was reasonable to ask the question: Do you have any problems firing a nuclear weapon and killing every man aboard an enemy submarine? Or perhaps an enemy task force, with hundreds of men? If the order comes, and your hand is on the switch, will you fire the weapon? And they do ask. Given that those 200 Russians 20 miles from us might be the ones launching a missile at Huntington, 1000 miles away from us; the answer was easy for me as a 20-year-old sailor. Darn right, I will. (Being a Submariner, talking to a Submarine Officer, I confess I may have phrased it a bit more colorfully at the time.)

At 63, as a somewhat faded and careworn old Chief Petty Officer, my answer is unchanged. Assuming things were so dire they would take me back on a boat again. That is because of my conviction the United States is the finest and freest country in the history of the world; that she has done more to free people and raise them out of poverty and misery than all the nations and empires that have ever existed. She is

Infinitely worth fighting for, worth killing for, worth dying for. That is why we were still out there. Despite the loss of the Thresher, the lead boat in our class, with a loss of all hands. We closed the hatch, and we submerged, and we spent months on end ready to go to war on 2 minutes notice. “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” John Stuart Mill. But the sad reality is that going down to the sea in ships is an adventure for young men.

So.

How can I defend that conviction about America when I am no longer wearing the uniform? There are many things I can do: work hard, be honest, be a good neighbor. But to be a good citizen, part of the task is to defend and support those ideals and principles that led to the founding of the country, and subsequently to all, and it is a very great all, the good she has done.

I believe those principles are best guarded and nurtured by the collection of beliefs and ideals that is Conservatism.

Abe Lincoln was our 1st Republican President, and he considered himself a conservative. He was certainly one Republican President for whom Republican and Conservative were synonymous. That is not always the case. Lincoln was certainly the first POTUS to follow that philosophy to preserve the vision of the Founders of the United States against those who rejected it in favor of an elitist form of government. Lincoln once said:

“What is conservatism? Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?”

I take his words to heart. While he was not the first conservative, (that distinction belongs to Edmund Burke, he certainly believed that this American ideal and experiment, 87 years in, was worth conserving, and was willing to pay a terrible price to see it endure.

I have been a Republican since the Gipper ran for POTUS while I was a young sailor and that Old Peanut Farmer was my C in C. I love and appreciate what Reagan stood for. I hate the capacity of my Grand Old Party for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Reagan agreed to amnesty in exchange for border security for which we are still waiting. Bush 41 made a deal with Ted Kennedy (Marylin Monroe and Mary Jo Kopechne and the Bay of Pigs fighters will tell you making a deal with a Kennedy is not going to end well for you) to break his promise of no new taxes in exchange for cuts in spending, for which we are still waiting. I don’t know about you, but after a decade of We will repeal Obamacare, root and branch, if you just give us the House. And the Senate. And more of the Senate. And the White House. And more judges. And we still wait for the border security Ted Kennedy promised Reagan, the spending cuts Ted Kennedy promised George HW Bush, (as far as I can tell, the only promise Ted Kennedy ever kept was “ Mary Jo, baby, I’m going to take you for the ride of your life), and the repeal of Obamacare. The GOP is so good at losing, you have to either decide that they are indeed the Stupid Party, or that they are not serious about their principles and RINO s like McCain and Flake are more mainstream than we like to admit. Now, I for one, am about ready to stop kicking that football.

To quote Ricky Ricardo, Lucy, you got some “splaining” to do!

When the Left wins, we get, predictably, higher taxes, more regulations, more abortions, more illegals, more political correctness (which is a high-sounding way of rejecting common sense), more Congressmen with $ 90,000 dollars in cold cash in their freezers, and the 40-year cancer on our culture and body politic that is the Clintons. When we win, we get, what? A few marginal victories but lose on the big issues. We pass lots of meaningless bills to repeal Obamacare, right up till we actually have the power to do so, and then we fold like a cheap suit.) If the Left wins, even a slight majority, we go along with their Ginsberg and Kagan Justices, and their whole agenda with a somewhat apologetic “Well, elections have consequences, they did win.” When WE win, we somewhat apologetically say, well, you have to understand how politics works. After all, we only have one half of one third of government and there is only so much we can do.” Odd how such restrictions did not seem to matter to a Democrat House, or, for most of my lifetime, a Democrat WV Legislature.

It has been said that Republicans are the stupid party, Democrats are the evil party. The GOP can always be counted on to do something stupid. The Democrats can always be relied upon to do something evil. Occasionally, the GOP is stupid enough to compromise with the Democrats, and then we get something spectacularly both stupid and evil.

So, do we really continue to lose because we are stupid? Well, let us entertain a different theory.

T.S. Eliot said “the tendency of liberals is to create bodies of men and women-of all classes-detached from tradition, alienated from religion, and susceptible to mass suggestion-mob rule. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined.”

William F Buckley said the conservative movement is an alternative to the liberal establishment that is based on principles of “freedom, individuality, the sense of community, the sanctity of the family, the supremacy of the conscience, the spiritual view of life.”

Conservatism as we know it began around the time of the French Revolution. Men like Edmund Burke saw that while there was much to criticize about Parliament and King, the barbaric fanaticism of the Mob rule in France tore at the foundations of civilized society and was not the way to go. Robespierre, the man who made the Mob, and egged them along to murder King Louie, Marie Antoinette, and 16,000 more Frenchmen in the terror, may have had a few moments to reconsider his position before the guillotine proved the problem of the Mob. We will never know, of course, because, to paraphrase the poem “A tisket a tasket a head in a basket, cannot respond to the questions we ask it.” Burke s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” influenced leaders both in England and in America to establish governments that would preserve justice and freedom.

. Our American War of Independence was not so much a revolution, as a separation from England. Adams, Hamilton, and Madison, did not desire to depose the King and tear down society in England, but to maintain and expand self-rule and freedom in American. The Constitution, written with an understanding of history and human nature, and recent bloody experience of the horrors of the French Revolution,     followed by a war of conquest by Napoleon, caused our founders to create arguably the most successful conservative device in all history.

Conservative leaders, ever since Burke and Adams, have subscribed to certain general ideas that we may set down, briefly, by way of definition. Conservatives distrust what Burke called “abstractions”—that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances. They do believe, nevertheless, in the existence of certain abiding truths which govern the conduct of human society.

Perhaps the chief principles which have characterized American conservative thought are those outlined by DR Russel Kirk in his 1956 book “The Conservative Mind.”

Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom that is more than human—in divine justice.

John Adams said “Our Constitution is made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. “At heart, political problems are moral and religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.

Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence.

Conservatives resist with impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what Tocqueville called “democratic despotism.” The PC mob that becomes hysterical at any thought that might differ from their own are a moribund piece of society. They can be “ safe and comfortable” in Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World, but they have no idea how to live in Adams and Madison’s society of free people.

Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their property and their personality.

Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is, society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of respect and duty.

Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic progress.

Conservatives value property for its own sake, of course; but they value it even more because without it all men and women are at the mercy of an omnipotent government.

Case in point, ask Suzette Kelo In 2000, the Town of New London, Ct, acting on a promised 1000 new jobs and 1.2 mill new taxes, exercised eminent domain to take homes in the Fort Trumbull area, including Kelo s, for Urban Renewal, with the specific purpose of giving the land to a developer for $1 a year, who would, after development, bring Pfizer, who received 10 years of tax breaks on their existing facility, and other tenants. The only “public purpose” was more money for New London. She sued. The case was heard by SCOTUS in 2005, Kelo vs New London was decided 5-4 for New London, with O’Conner, Scalia, Rehnquist, Thomas dissenting this grab of power and loss of rights as a total misreading of the Constitution. The Town subsequently spent 78 million to demolish the property, (a private party bought and moved the little pink house, as a monument to the stupidity) only to have Pfizer backed out, after their 10 year tax breaks expired, instead losing 1000 jobs. As it turned out, the property was only ever used as dump for Hurricane Irene debris. As of today, had the deal gone through, and Pfizer paid the 1.2 mill a year, New London would still be down 56 mill. 42 states enacted laws restricting takings. Not, I might add, WV.

Power is full of danger; therefore, the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs.

So far as possible, political power ought to be kept in the hands of private persons and local institutions. Centralization is ordinarily a sign of social decadence. “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”
John Stuart Mill

The past is a great storehouse of wisdom; as Burke said, “the individual is foolish, but the species is wise.” The conservative believes that we need to guide ourselves by the moral traditions, the social experience, and the whole complex body of knowledge bequeathed to us by our ancestors.

The conservative appeals beyond the rash opinion of the hour to what Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead”—that is, the considered opinions of the wise men and women who died before our time, the experience of the race. The conservative, in short, knows he was not born yesterday.

Modern society urgently needs true community: and true community is a world away from collectivism.

 

Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions, conservatives strive to keep community healthy. Conservatives are not selfish, but public-spirited. They know that collectivism means the end of real community, substituting uniformity for variety and force for willing cooperation.

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
― Mark Twain

In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world but ought not to try to remake the world in its image.

It is a law of politics, as well as of biology, that every living thing loves above all else—even above its own life—its distinct identity, which sets it off from all other things. The conservative does not aspire to domination of the world, nor does he relish the prospect of a world reduced to a single pattern of government and civilization.

Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political institutions.

We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell. We all are creatures of mingled good and evil; and, good institutions neglected, and ancient moral principles ignored, the evil in us tends to predominate. Therefore, the conservative is suspicious of all utopian schemes. He does not believe that, by power of positive law, we can solve all the problems of humanity. We can hope to make our world tolerable, but we cannot make it perfect. When progress is achieved, it is through prudent recognition of the limitations of human nature. We understand that the desire for the perfect is often an impediment to the achievement of the excellent. We have seen the results of Utopian schemes played out over and over, and see the results now in the streets of Caracas. (And, parenthetically, hear them espoused in the halls of Congress.)

 

Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial; and if innovation is undertaken in a spirit of presumption and enthusiasm, probably it will be disastrous.

All human institutions alter to some extent from age to age, for slow change is the means of conserving society, just as it is the means for renewing the human body. But American conservatives endeavor to reconcile the growth and alteration essential to our life with the strength of our social and moral traditions. Lord Falkland said “When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.” They understand that men and women are best content when they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values.

Chesterton’s Fence

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

 

Conservatism, then, is not simply the concern of the people who have much property and influence; it is not simply the defense of privilege and status. Most conservatives are neither rich nor powerful. But they do, even the most humble of them, derive great benefits from our established Republic. They have liberty, security of person and home, equal protection of the laws, the right to the fruits of their industry, and opportunity to do the best that is in them. They have a right to personality in life, and a right to consolation in death. Conservative principles shelter the hopes of everyone in society. And conservatism is a social concept important to everyone who desires equal justice and personal freedom and all the lovable old ways of humanity. Conservatism is not simply a defense of “capitalism.” (“Capitalism,” indeed, is a word coined by Karl Marx, intended from the beginning to imply that the only thing conservatives defend is vast accumulations of private capital.) But the true conservative does stoutly defend private property and a free economy, both for their own sake and because these are means to great ends.

No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Edmund Burke, 1729-1797

 

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