Archived Posts 2007 - Page 3 of 65 | Acton PowerBlog

Blog author: rnothstine
posted by on Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Ronald Reagan on the campaign trail 1976

As we enter the presidential primary season, a look back at the 1976 Republican Primary is appropriate, considering it was a pivotal moment in American conservatism. It is a presidential race that conservative writer Craig Shirley calls a “successful defeat.” While Ronald Reagan ultimately lost the nomination to incumbent President Gerald Ford, this race would end up transforming the conservative movement, the Republican Party, the country, and eventually the world.

Reagan came into the 1976 North Carolina primary having lost the first five consecutive primaries to Ford. The national party establishment was against Reagan, the media started to write him off, and his campaign was broke and in debt. Needless to say, the pressure to drop out of the race was nearly overwhelming.

Tom Ellis and then Senator Jesse Helms helped resurrect Reagan’s campaign from the dead. By spearheading a grassroots movement and focusing on Reagan’s conservative credentials, it led to a shocking upset in the Tar Heel State. Reagan’s victory meant it was the first time a sitting president had been defeated in a primary of a state where he actively campaigned. Many more primary victories for Reagan would follow.

During the race in the state, Reagan continually brought up the issue of the Panama Canal, following a rumor the Ford Administration was going to turn it over to Panama’s dictator. With heated energy and anger Reagan would repeatedly shout at every campaign stop, “It’s ours! We built it! We paid for it! And we should keep it.!” It was classic Reagan, and North Carolinians loved it.

Reagan also hit the administration hard on federal spending, government regulations, and being soft on Soviet aggression. He also attacked leaders in the other party, taking aim at Senator Ted Kennedy’s universal health care proposal. Reagan warned:

What the nation does not need is another workout of a collectivist formula based on an illusion promoting a delusion and delivering a boon-doggle. It is up to the private sector to provide answers in the onrushing health care political battle. If not, nationalized medicine will represent one more instance of surrendering a freedom by default.

Part of the reason for Reagan’s eventual loss showcased the extreme power of incumbency and Ford’s ability to raise his political game as well. Ford was again overshadowed however, when he invited Reagan down from his sky box at the GOP convention after Ford finished his acceptance speech to lead the party. Reagan delivered some highly inspirational off the cuff remarks, which is still considered one of his best speeches. It has been reported that horrified party activists on the convention floor gasped, “Oh my gosh – we nominated the wrong candidate.” Reagan was 65 years old at the time, some undoubtedly saw his remarks as a farewell to the party.

After the primary the political landscape in the United States changed. Jimmy Carter also ran against Ford as a Washington outsider, who sought to reform government. In addition he was a self avowed born again Christian, who promised to return a high degree of ethics to the oval office in the wake of Watergate.

But Carter’s enduring legacy was mismanaging the country and creating an election ripe for Reagan’s brand of conservatism. However, the 1976 campaign is where it all really started on the national level. Many Reagan biographers are correct in assuming without 1976, there would have been no campaign in 1980. The primary campaign in 1976 saw the power of conservative ideas on a national stage, and a reference to modern conservatism other than Barry Goldwater’s failed presidential campaign in 1964.

That Republican presidential candidates try to emulate Reagan only adds to his glory, but also creates an unrealistic expectation for themselves. But If conservatism is ever going to be revolutionary, anti-establishment, and popular again, the country and candidates will have to recapture some of the Spirit of 76.

[For a complete study of the 1976 Republican Primary Campaign and its significance check out Reagan's Revolution by Craig Shirley]

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I’ve seen this commercial a number of times this holiday season and it bothers me more and more every time:


But what precisely is wrong with this ad, and the spirit that animates it?

Rev. Billy might say that the problem lies with the gifts themselves. While he might be satisfied if the gifts came from places such as “the shelves of mom and pop stores, farmers markets, artisans and on Craigslist,” he certainly wouldn’t approve of gifts from a “big box” store like Best Buy.

But I don’t think the problem is with the gifts per se. I think it’s with the “givers.”

Speaking of material goods, Augustine writes, “Sin gains entrance through these and similar good things when we turn to them with immoderate desire, since they are the lowest kind of goods and we thereby turn away from the better and higher: from you yourself, O Lord our God, and your truth and your law.” Material goods, just like any other created reality, can be an occasion for sin and idolatry.

So if that is the problem, with our immoderate desires, what is the solution? Reordered desires. Rightly valuing material goods and gifts as penultimate and limited created goods.

What might change in this commercial if we applied these solutions? How would the commercial look different? Rev. Billy might have the family give handmade gifts or secondhand items, or perhaps forego material gifts altogether and take a family walk. These things all have their own value.

But there are good things at Best Buy and other stores, too. That’s what makes it so important to be discerning about how we use good gifts, and that’s what makes Rev. Billy’s message so problematic.

An Augustinian solution to the problem in that Best Buy ad would be something more like this: the family would bring some gifts to Grandma to share with her, and the family would all spend time together enjoying each others’ company and the material goods associated with the holiday. The focus wouldn’t be exclusively on the gifts themselves (as it is in the commercial’s current form), but neither would such a view denigrate the objective, albeit limited, good of material gift-giving.

Rev. Billy: “We’re supporters of Jesus.”


What’s wrong with Christmas consumerism? It isn’t the fact of consumption itself. It’s in the disordered and immoderate desires for earthly goods when compared with the truly and ultimately important spiritual goods.

So while the Best Buy ad runs afoul of virtue by over-emphasizing material goods, Rev. Billy goes to the opposite extreme by not valuing them enough. As Augustine also wrote, “He who uses temporal goods ill, however, shall lose them, and shall not receive eternal goods either.” This would include not appreciating the material benefits God bestows on us.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Monday, December 10, 2007

Acton has been called upon from several different outlets to provide commentary and analysis on Mitt Romney’s December 6 “Faith in America” speech. Following is a quick list of links to our various responses (which we’ll keep updated):

Audio:

News:

Background

Here at Global Warming Consensus Watch World Headquarters we’re bold. We push the limits. We tackle subjects that other bloggers just don’t have the guts to tackle (I’m looking at you, Ballor). And if that means we need to do a post on kangaroo flatulance, then that’s what we do.

But what, you may be asking, does the gassy emission of the herbivorous marsupial of the family Macropodidae, of Australia and adjacent islands, have to do with climate change? We’re glad you asked! It seems that our bouncy buddies from the land down under may play a central role in opening up a whole new class of offsets:

AUSTRALIAN scientists are trying to give kangaroo-style stomachs to cattle and sheep in a bid to cut the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, researchers say.

Pardon me.

Thanks to special bacteria in their stomachs, kangaroo flatulence contains no methane and scientists want to transfer that bacteria to cattle and sheep who emit large quantities of the harmful gas.

While the usual image of greenhouse gas pollution is a billowing smokestack pushing out carbon dioxide, livestock passing wind contribute a surprisingly high percentage of total emissions in some countries.

“Fourteen per cent of emissions from all sources in Australia is from enteric methane from cattle and sheep,” said Athol Klieve, a senior research scientist with the Queensland Government.

“And if you look at another country such as New Zealand, which has got a much higher agricultural base, they’re actually up around 50 per cent,” he said.

Link courtesy of Weasel Zippers. One wonders – who was the courageous scientist who discovered that kangaroo gas contains no methane?

This development may prove more important to Australia that it seems at first glance, as on the heels of this report comes news that new Aussie PM Kevin Rudd, fresh off an election victory over John Howard, has already backed away from an election pledge to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions after finding out that in doing so, electricity costs would skyrocket:

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd last night did an about-face on deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, days after Australia’s delegation backed the plan at the climate talks in Bali.

A government representative at the talks this week said Australia backed a 25-40 per cent cut on 1990 emission levels by 2020.

But after warnings it would lead to huge rises in electricity prices, Mr Rudd said the Government would not support the target.

The repudiation of the delegate’s position represents the first stumble by the new Government’s in its approach to climate change.

You’d think that would be something he could have looked into before making the promise. Ah well, no matter – There are other things that Australians can do to make up the difference

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, December 7, 2007

In one of this week’s Acton Commentaries, Ray Nothstine and I juxtapose a static, sedentary dependence on government subsidies with a dynamic, entrepreneurial spirit of innovation.

The impetus for this short piece was an article that originally appeared in the Grand Rapids Press (linked in the commentary). I have two things to say about these stories and then I want to add some further reflections on the world of agricultures subsidies.

First, I found the article’s “hook” to be quite shoddy and lame. The blatant attempt to “shock” the reader into a reaction of disgust that a billionaire like Dick DeVos, yes, “that Dick DeVos,” got a whopping “$6,000 in federal farm subsidies from 2003 to 2005.” That’s roughly $2k a year for three years.

Unsurprisingly, DeVos’ spokesperson didn’t know anything about it. It’s ludicrous to think that a guy with as much on his plate as Dick DeVos would have any time for what is essentially pocket change for a billionaire. Does the fact that DeVos got a subsidy even though he campaigned on eliminating government waste make him a hypocrite?

Judge for yourself, but I think these payments say more about the government’s inefficiency and waste than they do about DeVos’ integrity. People of all income brackets pay tax professionals to maximize their returns. For the very wealthy, it’s simply a process that’s on a bigger scale, that’s much more thorough, and with many more loopholes than when you or I go to H&R Block. The more diversified your holdings, the more likely there are a plethora of tax breaks for you to exploit. The breathless lede to this story was simply off-putting to me, especially given the rather clear political undertones of the insinuations.

“Simplify, man.”

What’s the real lesson? As a recycling hippie once told The Simpsons‘ Principal Skinner in a quite different context, “Simplify, man.” Simplify the tax code and eliminate all these special interest loopholes.

But the complaint about the story’s hook is really a minor quibble compared to my second point. In a companion piece, Lisa Rose Starner, executive director at Blandford Nature Center and Mixed Greens says that farm subsidies are essentially about “social justice.” That’s right, subsidies are about social justice. They’re about the social injustice of subsidizing a product so that people from poorer nations around the world, who would like to do more than simply engage in subsistence farming, can’t compete in a global marketplace because prices are artificially deflated. So, our subsidies are feeding the rich at the expense of the poor in more ways than one.

Of course, the pat response is that other nations are subsidizing too, so our subsidies are just leveling the playing field. To be sure, the world of agricultural business is a complex one, as many of the commenters on our piece point out. Direct farm subsidies are just one thin slice of the government’s intervention into agriculture. Perhaps they’re the most obvious, but they may also not be the most insidious. As one astute reader wrote to me, “The web of market interference in ag is broad and complex.”

Simplify, man.

Update: The Detroit News ran a version of the original piece here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Friday, December 7, 2007

Awhile back in a PowerBlog exclusive I asserted, “Many, if not most, young evangelicals are just as conservative on life issues as their forebears.”

Here are some references to back that up:

First,

  • 70% Evangelicals 18-29 who favor “making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion.”
  • 55% Evangelicals 30 and older who favor this.

(HT: Go Figure) From: “Young White Evangelicals: Less Republican, Still Conservative,” Pew Research Center.

And next, “In attitudes toward education, drugs, abortion, religion, marriage, and divorce, the current generation of teenagers and young adults appears in many respects to be more culturally conservative than its immediate predecessors.” From: “Crime, Drugs, Welfare—and Other Good News,” Commentary.

On second thought, perhaps what I said before was even an understatement.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, is scheduled to join Fox Business host David Asman tonight to discuss the new documentary, “What Would Jesus Buy?” They’ll be joined by documentary producer Morgan Spurlock and performance artist Bill Talen, of the “Church of Stop Shopping.” The segment is set to air between 7-8 p.m. Eastern time. Check your local listings — and expect a lively debate.

Watch the WWJB? trailer here.

Update: Here’s the interview…

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Thursday, December 6, 2007

For those of us who cherish liberty and the freedom we enjoy in the west to engage in spirited debate, stories like this are very disturbing:

Up north, the Canadian Islamic Congress announced the other day that at least two of Canada’s “Human Rights Commissions” – one federal, one provincial – had agreed to hear their complaints that their “human rights” had been breached by this “flagrantly Islamophobic” excerpt from my book, as published in the country’s bestselling news magazine, Maclean’s.

Here’s hoping that this one gets tossed out of court quickly. And remember – eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Blog author: jcouretas
posted by on Thursday, December 6, 2007

The following is a statement by Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, on Mitt Romney’s Dec. 6 “Faith in America” speech:

Mitt Romney is right that religion and morality are core convictions in American society. Our freedom depends on this, I completely agree. Without the ability to manage our lives morally, the state steps into the vacuum, both in response to public demand and to serve the state’s own interests in expanding power.

But soon after spelling this out, in part, he makes this bold claim, which I believe repeats John F. Kennedy’s error: “Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.”

So here we have an odd tension. Religion matters, he says. But religious authority does not and should not matter in the management of our public lives. If this proposition had been believed by the kings of Europe in the Middle Ages, freedom would never have been born, for it was precisely the jealousy of religious authority that led to limits on the state and kept that state at bay.

Similarly, it was the churches before and after the American Revolution which said no to the leviathan state, precisely because it had intruded into areas that more properly belong to religious authority. The churches didn’t merely mind their own business; they spoke to the whole of society, and we should be thankful for that.

Maybe we are not accustomed to thinking of religion as a limit on government. But this has largely been so and continues to be so. It was the Catholic Church that beat back communism in Eastern Europe and just last week prevented dictatorship in Venezuela. In our own country, the churches are the main protectors of religious liberty, for they tend to resist intrusion by the state at every level.

The idea of authority is inescapable. If public officeholders are not to obey religious authority, what authority do they submit to? Perhaps we can say the Constitution but the signers of that document too held fast to religious convictions. More likely the authority to which they submit is legislation and its enforcement arm, meaning that to the extent that they brush off their religious institutions, they will tend to become obsequious toward the state.

For my part, I find it strange that American culture should require someone running for president to make a break with his or own religious authority. This strikes me as an attack on the conscience. The right question we should be asking: What does the religious authority teach about the role of the state?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is expected to address the topic of his Mormon faith in a speech at the George Bush Library in College Station, Texas, tomorrow. The obvious comparisons are being made to President John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, who gave a speech in 1960 to assuage the concerns of American protestants over papal influence in the White House.

Kennedy’s speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association can be found here. In addition, there is also a link for the question and answer portion of his speech found here.

How much does Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith play into his recent slip in Republican primary polls? Some polls have pointed to the fact that one in five of all voters would not support a Mormon candidate for president. But Romney has picked up the support of many evangelical leaders, including the very conservative Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University. For the record, Jones believes, like many conservative evangelicals, that Mormonism is a cult. While the cult language may be too strong, Mormonism certainly falls outside of Christian orthodoxy.

Theological differences aside, many evangelicals support Romney for his new found conservatism, and as the best conservative alternative to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Romney previously supported abortion as Governor of Massachusetts, and was once seen as a strong defender of gay rights. He has since altered his stances on those issues to better attract more conservative Republican primary voters.

In his speech Romney will probably avoid any serious theological discussion of the Mormon faith, while stressing the shared sense of moral and political values he shares with conservative Christians. It is obviously wise for voters to support the candidate who best fits their world view.

Understandably, conservative Methodists would not vote for Hillary Clinton just because she is a United Methodist. The same thing could be said about left of center United Methodists and their unlikelihood to vote for another fellow Methodist, President Bush.

It’s a process that has continually played itself at the ballot box before. In 1980, evangelicals overwhelmingly supported President Reagan over confessed born again Christian, Jimmy Carter. Reagan’s brand of conservatism resonated powerfully with evangelical voters. While Reagan was also a Christian, he was not as outspoken in his Christianity as Carter. In addition, Reagan was also the first divorced man to be elected president.

Romney should be supported or opposed on the issues, and not for the simple fact that he is a Mormon. Romney can use the speech to highlight similarities with all traditional faith communities in America, and the shared American heritage of religious freedom.

For further information on this issue listen to the radio interview titled Romney, Giuliani, Faith & Politics . The interview is with Acton’s Education Director Michael Miller, who appeared on Mitch Henck’s radio show, Outside the Box. Miller also appeared on John Watson’s radio program to discuss “Romney’s Faith and the Presidency.”

Update: A link to the text of the speech can now be found on Mitt Romney’s campaign website. In addition, there is also a link to the video of the speech found here.

Quote from Romney’s speech today:

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”