Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 25, 2009

Constitutional Republicanism

I’ve described the division among Republicans as primarily the split between Establishment Republicans and Republican Conservatives.

Many Establishment Republicans in Virginia, in fact most, are Conservative.   Yet, their higher loyalty is to power.  Power for the Republican Party and power for individual politicians.

Republican Conservatives are Conservatives who assume the adjective ‘Republican’ out of necessity, not from devotion.  Although, when the hard political fights come, they tend to work with  more passion than most Establishment Republicans.

Some Conservatives have been bled from the base, like an old medical bleeding gone badly.  Some went to the Constitutional Party, but most just stay home and live life.

I’m a Republican Conservative.  About 15 years ago I’d describe myself as a Christian Populist.   That may fit still since populism is a flexible, plastic label.  But, I’m really a Republican Conservative.

I’ve written about the dissatisfaction of Virginians that looks like a brush fire is about to explode in flames – for a couple of years.  Hasn’t come together yet.  If the energy of Conservatives and Libertarians can come together and be focused, I have the right label. 

Constitutional Republicans.

Virginia, the Mother State, can be the home for the Constitutional Repub licans to surge and take the leadership of the Republican Party and our candidates at all levels. 

Constitutional Republicans are Republicans dedicated to restoring the 1787 Constitution to full power as the supreme law of the land.  

It means a return to Federalism.  Dismantling the national welfare state and returning welfare to the states.  And, on and on.  Read the Constitution.  Imagine the enumerated powers at the Federal level being the only  basis for Federal spending – and taxing. 

It could be the path to our Munificent Destiny.  

Let’s do it.


  1. It sounds a lot like the Constitution Party. . .

    I don’t think the republican lites would go along with it. They feel more inclined to cozy up to the elites in the media and Congress. So I disagree with your assessment of establishment types. Just look at McCain et al.

    I long for a “uniting” as you do, but I don’t think it will happen without a powerful conservative personality to lead it. He could draw together our different factions as Reagan did. Making them realize that they should join us, not by us abandoning our principles and joining them.

    Otherwise we are stuck with petty power plays as we are now experiencing.

    The key is if the Republican party is to survive it must be dedicated to principles based on the values that our republic was founded on. These are what we call conservative values today (actually they are classic liberalism). Libertarians will find much to attract them with us despite the fact that they won’t care for the traditional stance on moral issues, but will find us, on the whole, better than the liberal democrat opposition who they may only agree with on the moral issues.
    Unfortunately, the $ only types (establishment Republicans who we used to call Rockefeller Republicans) won’t like the conservatives at all nor the Libertarians. They really have more in common with Pelosi and Reid than conservatives.

    So the question here in the Old Dominion is: will our prospective candidate for governor step up to the task and be that leader to unite us around conservative values or will he slink about with the establishment crowd and their agenda?

  2. Dry Viking: I concur with your assessment. But, I’m not talking about uniting with the Establishment Republicans. I say take the power from within. The coalition is Conservatives and Libertarians. The Establishment Republicans will follow (as good sycophants) whoever is in power.

    Libertarians will love Federalism. If California wants pot sold at 7-11, so be it. If Massachusetts wants homosexual marriage, menage a trois and brother/sister ensemble, so be it.

    The 1787 Constitution is genius, whether or not it is divinely inspired or not, from a Virginian. Educated by the scholars of the Edinburgh Renaissance – the Scottish Enlightenment.

    The taking power part – finding and running candidates who won’t go stupid upon election is hard stuff. Really a lot of work. And – takes money. Real money.

  3. Well uh… one good reason that the establishment Republicans want Fredericks head… He won with 62%? that couldn’t be allowed to stand…

    I think you are right about uniting with Libertarians.. the Ron Paulians fight! If only they could accept the confirmed doctrine of Forward Defense in Europe and Asia…

    However, that is the ticket to getting actual Conservatives on the same page… We’ve bled to many Libertarians…

  4. STD: It’s majority vote within the coalition. So, the soundness of alliances that work = NATO and forward defense in our national interest can win.

    I just think about our Virginia. I think it is a combination that can win, win, win. And do great things in office.

    But, it is a lot of work.

  5. Ok, so who is going to be your party’s William Wallace? And it would be historically fitting to take on the establishment exactly where all this JF stuff seems to have originated. Loudoun County.

  6. Nice post Mr. Bowden. Do the libertarian’s vote really make up the difference for what would be lost amongst the moderate repubs; so much so to also overtake the Democrats? I’m not so sure.

    I also view more than just two overarching factions within the party. I see splits within each of the major separations.

    What about the portion of the Conservative wing who is rabidly pro-life? Would they go along with the Libertarian push? I would suggest not.

    Essentially, I see your post invoking a Barry Goldwater shift, which is not wrong by any stretch of the imagination. The issue I see within the party right now, though, is that no one is willing to bend. I’m just as guilty as the next person with my fiscal positions.

    It’s the principles of the people who make up the party which makes this a difficult shift.

    That is the difference between Republicans and Democrats. We have principles we are unwilling to bend on for the sake of a vote.

    I personally see the true unification of the party coming with returning to fiscal conservative (libertarian) roots. There must be a party within the nation that is willing to say “no”. We forgot that in 2002, but it must be rediscovered.

  7. Darrell: There was more than one patriot in 1776. I don’t care where it starts.

    AG: I hope I am one of those rabidly pro-life folks.

    I see this more as coalition building – Reagan …not to overwork what people are always looking for – but it clearly includes a shift in emphasis.

    If we rank order the issues to work – fiscal rises to the top of the list.

    Strong social Conservatives have to belly up to Federalism under the Consititution or not. I think most will. Which allows for loving alliances with Libertarians.

    The electoral math I have in mind is Virginia only. And, it isn’t based on the names of groups – because as you clearly point out the issues cut many, many ways. Voting is idiosyncratic and emotional.

    What wins is – candidate, campaign and issues. If you have the issues – like in Virginia in 2009 – it could include cutting taxes, cutting spending, and reforming entitlements – like the state’s portion of Medicaid – you win.

    Frankly, I think our ideas about limited government, lower taxes and reforming entitlements – while dismantling the federal welfare state and throwing it all back to the states where it belongs – wins about 55% of Virginia.

  8. I agree that the libertarians and conservatives will unite to support federalism; however only within limits. And there is the rub with your comment.

    While we should allow states to make most decisions on the laws in their state, we don’t allow different states to decide, for example that they choose to allow rape or murder or breaking the windows of shops owned by Jews. Those things are considered non-negotiable.

    Conservatives support state’s rights but questions such as abortion (murder) or homosexual marriages (sexual perversion) go beyond the realm of state’s rights and confront basic humanity.
    This is where the libertarians have to “give” and support the basics of preserving life. (I didn’t know someone could be rapidly pro-life, is that like being rapidly in favor of breathing or eating?)
    If the “third rail” topics like people’s right to life, and speech (which homosexual “rights” dooms for Christians, Jews and Moslems) then I think a workable coalition between conservatives and libertarians can be rekindled. But if they insist on denying the basics, then I don’t think you will find many conservatives willing to compromise on those issues.

  9. Sorry, big thumbs: I meant “rabidly”

  10. Dry Viking: You went to the heart of the matter. Murder and sexual behavior were legislative issues for the states from 1619 to the 20th century when the Feds got involved. If you want national laws on murder and sex, then amend the Constitution.

    I think many social Conservatives will see the opportunity in returning Federalism to what the Constitution says – in English. I don’t have numbers, but I think many would be good to go. Let Sodom and Gommorrah be Sodom and Gommorrah. And Virginia can be Virginia.

  11. Perhaps I poorly explained my thoughts on this. I am not advocating for national laws or a change to the Constitution. What I am saying is that if the coalition between libertarians and conservatives (here in VA or in any state) doesn’t recognize the basic rights like people’s right to life then conservatives won’t go along. The libertarians have to “give” on those or it breaks. I am not sure they are willing to do that, as too often people expect the conservatives to be the ones to cave on values. Your suggestion is that the conservatives yield on those issues. I disagree. Either way, someone has to give.

    Concerning sexual perversion, I could care less what consenting adults do in private, (let Sodom be Sodom) but draw the line at creating state laws that legitimize perversion. Those laws including hate crimes legislation restrict free speech and the right to hire people etc for everyone else. There was a case not long ago where a pastor in Sweden was arrested and charged for hate speech for simply reading the Bible word for word from the pulpit of his church. (We only need to look to Scandinavia to see where our current administrations policies will lead). having been a Scandinavian FAO will on active duty I am very familiar with the reality behind the social welfare states.

    So my point is that the coalition will only work if there is agreement on the fundamental issues. You suggest that conservatives compromise, I suggest that libertarians do so. There aren’t many of these issues, just a few foundational matters that require a yes or no answer. After that there is plenty of room for agreement.

  12. Dry Viking: I think we just talked past each other.

    The fundamental agreement should be on returning and keeping the Nation under the Constitution. That means Federalism.

    In each state we have a majority vote on which way we go on social issues.

    I’m not asking Conservatives to compromise on anything. Its up to the Conservatives in Virginia to fight for Virginia. And for the three Conservatives in Massachusetts to fight for Masachusetts.

    The incentive for Libertarians is the temporal primacy (not exclusionary presence) of fiscal matters. And dismantling unConstitutional federal power.

  13. Jim, I am not trying to be a pain, I enjoy the dialog and admit that you are probably right that we may be talking past one another. We are not that different on these things (and are probably in the same camp on most).

    I am entirely with you on dismantling federal power and following the tenth amendment. I think we all can band together as republicans on those things. It is getting there that is sticky as some other issues are in the way of that unity and they must be dealt with.

    My only point of disagreement with what I think you are advocating is that when the fight for Virginia or any other state commences, if the fundamental rights, like our right to life, are not supported by the libertarian wing, then the conservatives will bolt from the Republican party. Those issues are non-negotiable for us. Without the right to life it doesn’t matter how much of my money I get to keep. Without the freedom to speak, or worship because the government has given special status to people who wish to participate in sexual perversion and say it is unlawful for me to speak against it; I am no longer free and frankly the money just isn’t that important.

    Worse yet for the first objective you speak of, returning to the Constitution, it will be in jeopardy if the libertarians and Rockefeller Republicans form an alliance first to rid the party of its embarrassing conservatives who “rabidly” support our right to life, or protect our freedom of speech as seems to be happening now in Virginia and other states; then we will never achieve the unity between conservatives and libertarians that you speak of.

    The Democrats will win since without the conservatives the Republicans will never draw enough liberals or moderates to make up for the conservatives they will lose if they abandon the moral issues. If McCain had dumped Palin last fall as some advised, he would have finished much worse with only about 20% and wouldn’t have picked up any Obama voters in the exchange. Chuck Baldwin would have faired a bit better but that too wouldn’t matter as the Democrats would have run the table.

    The incentive for libertarians is that without us, they lose everything, with us they win much (dismantling of unconstitutional federal power) but perhaps not all they want (have to put up with the right to life and no special treatment for those who choose to practice sexual perversion).

    Case in point of this state problem is the Frederick case. Even though it is not a conservative-liberal issue it is widely perceived as such by many on both sides (some actively promote that understanding). Depending on how it goes, if they dump him without due process, there may be a significant number of conservatives who will feel this is directed at them and that they are “unwelcome” in the party and they will migrate to the Constitution Party that openly proclaims all the things you do AND guarantees the other issues like RTL won’t be compromised.

    Or take Pennsylvania where Toomey is again gaining a following against Specter. If the Republican establishment again disses the conservatives and supports the RINO, then any hope for Republicans in Pennsylvania is dead. The same thing will happen in state after state.

    My hope is that it doesn’t come to this. Conservatives, unfortunately, feel more and more alienated by what they see Republicans do in Richmond (and Washington). I hope that libertarians will realize that they need the conservatives (and the handful of key moral issues are the ones that resonate with conservatives). If the libertarians don’t support conservatives on these couple of “social” issues, life and marriage, there will be no alliance on the Constitutional issues of which you speak.

  14. Jim:
    I don’t expect a response soon as I see you are hard pressed and firing the FPF over on BD.

    I quit knocking my head against that wall some time ago when they thought the way to unite Virginia Republicans after the last election was to attack Lee and Jackson’s character. That will definitely build party unity across the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think BD is secretly supported by the DailyKos. It is dripping in “soros” even if it lacks the vulgarity of other liberal websites.

    Seems far too many “republicans” are trying to do everything possible to decimate us before we even go against the Democrats. This is not good. Many more become fed up each day.

    Forgive them for they know not what they do.

  15. Dry Viking: Let’s just look at the Mother State, our Old Dominion. The only thing the Establishment Republicans and Libertarians can agree on is their mutual contempt for Christians.

    We have much to make league with Libertarians. I had a conversation with an activist – homosexual, more libertarian social fiscal conservative Republican – today. He is fully on board with restoring the Consitution and then settling the social issues state by state. Anecdotal sample of one.

    As for BD and others, dumbYankees are what dumbYankees are. Agreed, they know not what they do.

  16. I am with you, just skeptical that it will play out. I support such an alliance with libertarians and will work to that end.

    But if the party puts up candidates who do not support the fundamental rights we all hold dear, I won’t support them. I, for one, have been taken by the “lesser of two evils” argument for the last time. I need to be able to face myself in the mirror in the morning. My vote, money, effort are tied to principle. I will split my ticket or write in if necessary, but will not support those who just want to enslave us at a little slower pace than the Democrats.

  17. Dry Viking: Amen.

  18. […] Here he notes a highly inappropriate vote by Virginia’s Republican delegation to Congress.  Here he describes the philosophical split between Republicans, and here and here he describes the […]

  19. […] worthwhile change and improvement, takes time and patience.  As Bowden describes it (here), there is a split in the Republican Party.  There are Establishment and Constitutional […]

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