Above Partisan Politics
Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
we look, man is born free; yet everywhere
we find him in chains of his own making.
of our mission
is to safeguard the integrity of Chivalry-Now as a cultural
code of ethical ideals. Its core principles need to be preserved
as well as built upon at the same time.
In this respect, cynicism reveals
itself to be our greatest enemy.
We live in a cynical world, catering to a mixed
hierarchy of faceless shopkeepers, ravenous wolves, and complacent
sheep. Their dominant values work hard to divert us from everything
we hold dear, including our quest for Truth. Many well-intentioned
Quest Knights failed because of this.
We need to understand that the flow of cynicism
remains inseparable from the status quo, where illusion, superficiality
and mass manipulation continue to flourish. Truth holds little priority
in such a world, to the detriment of moral ideals.
Nowhere is this more obvious than partisan politics,
where conflict and self-promotion regularly push expediency ahead
Chivalry-Now must always transcend "conservative versus
liberal" thinking. Unfortunately, we live in a climate saturated
by partisan propaganda, each side vying for people's loyalty by
instigating outrage of the basest kind, using patriotism, wedge
issues and regional factions to solidify its base. The media not
only plays into this. The power it wields, in its thirst for ratings,
often dictate the rules and methods.
dynamics of partisan politics has evolved over the years. It
can no longer be said that it is issue oriented, or even a clever
competition for party dominance. It has become nothing less than
an on-going struggle for power that can be likened to trench warfare
(a lot of casualties, no progress, and no end in sight). Each side
attempts to dehumanize the other with a barrage of spin, scandal-mongering,
innuendo and even outright lies.
Liberals have been pigeonholed as "bleeding
hearts," whose only purpose is to "tax and spend."
Conservatives have been charged with bigotry
and being in the pocket of big business.
These effective marketing ploys ignore the valuable
contributions made by either side. By repeating them decade after
decade, they completely distort the true meanings of conservative
and liberal. Our political system suffers because of it.
The original founders of the United States opposed
the formation of a two party system for the partisanship it would
foster. They feared that politicians would place the good of the
party before that of the nation. What we see today proves that they
The purpose of this treatise is to examine the
two party system using historical points of reference. It also challenges
the reader's conscience to find out if the truth really can set
ever said that Chivalry-Now was easy. It is a true philosophy
that challenges complacent thinking. That means recognizing and
confronting our personal biases in order to see beyond them.
we live in a cave without any contact from the media, each of us
has been exposed to political propaganda that was designed to frame
our vision of the world, according to specific agendas.
we were raised in a conservative environment, we probably have strong
conservative leanings. Chances are that there is little or nothing
we like about liberalism, with its "let government take care
of everything" attitude. We may see it as an enemy to our entire
way of life.
if raised liberal, we might feel an automatic rejection to anything
labeled conservative, which we find unbendingly biased, closed-minded
and resistant to change.
way, our views are tainted, divisive and sometimes hostile. If we
enjoy politics, we probably listen to advocates we identify with,
and turn away from all the others. On both sides of the equation,
we find intelligent, good-natured people who would otherwise get
along together fine. Is one right, the other wrong? Are both mistaken?
Most likely, their opinions have been shaped by marketing ploys
purposely designed to separate them. Professional advocates and
consultants use every rhetorical trick possible to keep it that
way. The last thing they want is for people to think for themselves
and form their own informed opinions.
you think you are immune to such deceptions? Many people do. Nonetheless,
a number of politicians get re-elected when they obviously should
not. Much needed legislation gets rejected for unconscionable reasons,
while bad policies quietly get passed with little notice. Spreading
false information remains unpunished no matter what trouble comes
strategists know that they don't have to fool all the people, all
of the time. The slimmest majority is all they need. Deception remains
a viable tool in their arsenal. One need only count the number of
times a speaker uses key words or phrases to know what their strategists
decided for that day.
extremists dominate talk shows even though the majority of voters
remain moderate. How do they deserve so much exposure? It's a business
decision by the media, and nothing more. Controversy increases ratings.
That our political system is irrevocably harmed is of no concern.
buy into this, despite complaints to the contrary. Like the media,
they feed on controversy as well, until it backfires. Even then,
the risk is worth it. Having a ready supply of indoctrinated supporters,
blinded by wedge issues that never get resolved, provides a loyal
base of support. They know that a significant number of voters will
continue to believe something is true even after proven to be false.
The faculties of reason only go so far when people surrender themselves
accept this as politics as usual. But should we? Democracy survives,
even as a republic, on an informed citizenry, and that means providing
honest information. What do we get instead? Spin. Misinformation.
Double-talk. Skirting the issues. Purposely taking things out of
context. To my mind, such tactics amount to treason.
an attempt to rise above all this, we need to leave our preconceptions
behind and see things as they really are.
begin with standard definitions.
a political movement founded on the autonomy and personal freedom
of the individual, progress and reform; government by law with
the consent of the governed. An economic theory in favor of laissez
faire capitalism and the free market. A 19th century political
idea that championed individual rights, civil liberties, and private
property. Principles, theories or actions that guarantee individual
freedoms in society.
political philosophy that favors tradition and gradual change,
where tradition refers to religious, cultural, or nationally defined
beliefs and customs. The term is derived from Latin, and means
to preserve; to protect from harm or loss. It favors limited government
involvement with respect to religious, cultural, or nationally
defined beliefs and customs. It believes in adhering to moral
absolutes. It emphasizes respect for traditional institutions,
distrust of government activism and opposition to sudden change.
Thanks to the
derogatory nature of partisan politics, these definitions scarcely
apply to today's usage of the words. Something important is missing
in who we are because of it.
word "liberal" has suffered serious defamation since
Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign, which purposely redefined
it. While this helped make his campaign successful, it maligned
the meaning of the word from then on. There are staunch conservatives
today who are trying to rectify this problem. Calling themselves
"classical liberals," they claim to represent
the original philosophy that the nation was built on.
liberalism is what the founders of the United States originally
stood for, a complicated system favoring citizen representatives
and rule of law. This was something radically new in the world.
It rejected tradition, such as that of the English monarchy, and
borrowed ideas taken from Age of Enlightenment thinkers, like as
John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It espoused
freedom, civil rights, and a free market economy. It was not a product
of conservatism. At the same time as the United States was becoming
a nation, English parliamentarian Edmund Burke, considered
the father of conservatism, fought to safeguard the traditional
rule of British monarchy. The last thing he wanted was a radical
movement like republicanism changing things. He intended to preserve
what most eighteenth century European governments were based on,
an aristocratic hierarchy.
how this liberalism was thought of by those who supported it:
Washington (a message to American Catholics)
"As mankind becomes more liberal, they will
be more able to allow that those who conduct themselves as worthy
members of the community are equally entitled to the protection
of civil government. I hope to see America among the foremost
nations in example of justice and liberality."
Emerson (writer; father of American Transcendentalism)
"We are reformers in spring and summer. In autumn and winter
we stand by the old. Reformers in the morning; conservatives at
night. Reform is affirmative; conservatism, negative. Conservatism
goes for comfort; reform for truth."
"The highest function of conservatism is to keep what progressiveness
has accomplished." (These words clearly illustrate how conservatism
and liberalism co-exist in natural relationship.)
values dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, and early Germanic
traditions, classical liberalism was still considered radical at
its debut. America's Declaration of Independence and Constitution
culminated from Western instincts that longed for freedom and citizen-based
government. What drove our founders in this direction, and provided
them with the vocabulary, was the inspiration of Enlightenment philosophers,
who lauded the potential for human reason, along with liberty and
the pursuit of happiness. Religious freedom, laissez faire capitalism,
human rights, and a republic built on checks and balances, were
all derived from this. Lumped together as a model for the rest of
the world, the ideals were known thereafter as liberal democracy.
perspectives did play a part in fashioning the new America. Anti-federalists,
in their scrutiny of the draft Constitution in favor of less centralized
government, voiced strong opinions in the form of wholesome, intellectual
debate. Here we find an early and very positive example of how these
two ideologies can be applied constructively. As evidenced in the
Federalist Papers and newspaper articles written at the time,
each side presented their views eloquently and, while admitting
the truths of the other, responded appropriately. Although Hamilton
and Madison won he day and the Constitution was ratified, conservative
sentiments continued to test and shape future developments with
liberalism, while significantly different from its classical roots,
still reflects some of the innovative spirit of the founders, who,
in carving out a new nation, strongly advocated for human rights.
is a political ideology that places its trust in tried and true
solutions from the past. It cherishes traditions and resists what
it deems as unnecessary change. When change is unavoidable, conservatives
prefer that it is evaluated with a fair amount of caution, tested
well, and implemented slowly.
Conservatives are prone to defend the status
quo, especially conservative or traditional aspects of the status
quo. Collectively, they prefer empirical knowledge to rationalism,
faith to reason, rugged individualism to any sort of dependency
or victim mentality. Many distrust human nature, which they feel
needs to be controlled by strong discipline. Even so, when it comes
to freedom, they prefer a minimalist approach to laws and regulations,
emphasizing personal responsibility instead. The idea of equality
seems obviously marred; individuals naturally vary according to
a host of variables, material success proving the superiority of
some over others (social Darwinism). They admire entrepreneurial
achievement. Success is considered well-earned and hard work is
encouraged. People reap what they sow. When down and out, they are
expected to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps."
When disaster strikes, it should be neighbor-helping-neighbor, not
some impersonal, federal program coming to the rescue.
Conservatives are known for believing in ethical
absolutes, and rejecting the pitfalls of relativism out of hand.
Ronald Reagan summarized his philosophy in a handful of declaratives:
"limited government, individual liberty, and the prospect of
a strong America." Simply put, and without a hint of relativism.
While 43% of Americans identify themselves as
conservative, this figure is misleading. Today's conservatism is
divided into various subsets, some of which have little in common.
There are social, cultural and economic conservatives, neocons,
theocons, libertarians, and people who model their beliefs on past
leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater,
and Ronald Reagan.
With so many factions vying for influence, the
conservative platform, which once centered on limiting government
powers and broadly maximizing freedom, now includes specific positions
on abortion, gay marriage, support of big business, lowering taxes,
gun ownership, and an automatic rejection of anything considered
In the past, conservatives leaned toward isolationism
and away from nation-building and wars of choice. Neocons,
who were previously liberals who switched sides during the upheaval
of the 1960s, believe just the opposite. They want America to flex
its military power freely to protect what they feel are national
"interests." They have little concern for cultural issues.
The Religious Right, on the other hand,
presses a cultural agenda that earlier conservatives would have
balked at. Theocons are very vocal on intrusive issues like
abortion and gay rights. Despite the intent of our founders, they
also want the United States to be recognized as a Christian nation,
subject to their interpretations of biblical law. That includes
mandatory prayer in school, accepting creationism as science, and
facilitating their own prophetic view of the end of time. Maximizing
personal freedom is not on their agenda. They go so far as to say
that the "separation of church and state," even as Thomas
Jefferson explained it, is an unconstitutional misinterpretation.
A seismic shift in the conservative Republican
Party occurred during the Civil Rights era when then Democratic
governor of Alabama, George Wallace, decided to oppose his
party's platform in order to champion segregation. He successfully
captured the attention of southern states with a thinly veiled "states-rights"
and "anti-federal government" rhetoric. Running for president
as an Independent, his hopes were dashed after an assassin's bullet
left him crippled.
His message survived, however. Protesting racial
integration, Wallace Democrats migrated to the Republican Party,
taking Wallace's agenda with them. Their efforts, often focusing
on regional and religious issues, managed to reshape the Republican
platform, at least in the south.
Today's traditional conservatives recognize that
a factionalized Republican Party cannot fulfill their vision of
the future, that of limited government, lower taxes, and maximized
personal freedom. They are trying to resurrect their ideals by withdrawing
from a divided ideology of disparate issues, and appealing their
message to new people.
Traditional conservatism supports many great
ideas that are found in Chivalry-Now, such as personal responsibility,
self-development, a respect for tradition, and looking to the past
for relevant answers to today's problems. Some might even consider
the chivalric code as a collection of moral absolutes designed to
resist the turbulence of relativism.
liberalism differs sharply from its original philosophy. The
presidency of Franklin Roosevelt instigated that change.
President Roosevelt confronted a series of dire
emergencies that threatened to destroy the country. The Great
Depression. Sixty percent of the population lived below the
poverty line. The rise of Communism. World War II, with America
fighting in several fronts at the same time. Half of the men enlisting
for military service being rejected due to physical unfitness; most
had never seen a doctor in their lives. While liberal capitalism
had reaped incredible benefits for the few, many in the working
class lived in squalor, either unemployed or working in sweathouses.
The American Dream appeared to be failing, and America along
Something drastic had to be done, but the government's
system of checks and balances was just too slow. Roosevelt declared
a state of emergency and assumed executive powers that would otherwise
be considered unconstitutional. Boldly introducing his extensive
New Deal agenda, including federal work programs, and Social
Security, raised more than a few eyebrows. Regulating big business
and the banking system to stabilize the economy pushed the envelop
further. Conservatives started to feel that the direction of the
country was out of control. Washington seemed to be taking a huge
step toward socialism. To make matters worse, Roosevelt mobilized
a huge military machine to confront Nazism and Imperial Japan. The
powers of the federal government, the executive branch especially,
were multiplying by leaps and bounds.
It was true that Roosevelt's social programs
were not based on careful planning. He was responding to the emergency
of the moment because he had to. Because of that, his programs were
welcomed by most people, but met with limited success. What eventually
turned the economy around was the wartime economy, the likes of
which no one had ever seen before.
Despite all this, Social Security remained something
special. It was a federally run retirement program financed from
payroll deductions. Medicare attached itself to provide medical
insurance for the aged and disabled. This was a major shift of direction
for liberalism but people appreciated it. It saved lives.
It gave the elderly a dignified way to survive, and provided limited
support to widows and surviving children. Raising the quality of
life for millions of people, it introduced a level of security never
before achieved, the kind of security that makes people feel more
free, despite the cost. The status of the federal government quickly
exceeded that of the states as being relevant to people's lives.
Karl Marx had previously predicted that
capitalist societies would fall apart due to class revolt. The Communist
Revolutions in Russia and China seemed to verify this. To belay
this possibility, the economy needed a large, satisfied, middle
class, and this was something that that laissez faire capitalism
had failed to produced. In fact, it was creating a new aristocracy
based on wealth (the Gilded Age).
To protect capitalism, New Deal liberals decided
that liberalism needed to continue federal interventionism. How
else could they hope to protect and expand a middle class from a
changing, ever more dangerous world? Subsidies and regulations seemed
the only course possible. That meant raising taxes.
This monumental shift from liberal capitalism,
was considered the crowning jewel of modern liberalism at the time.
Capitalism had been saved, people were more secure and healthy,
and prosperity spread while avoiding socialism. They felt that such
success proved that government had a proper role in shaping the
future. The era of bigger and bigger government had arrived.
Wary conservatives protested with legitimate
complaints. Costly programs were started with little testing, and
failed to take cultural influence into account. On top of all this,
a new relativism took hold of people's imaginations, brought on
by science, that portrayed just about every vice imaginable as a
treatable disease. People who believed in absolutes felt threatened.
President Johnson's Great Society programs
augmented the welfare system with generous increases for his War
on Poverty. While this effort helped people, it also resulted
in an unexpected recoil. Welfare caseloads were growing exponentially,
whereas they were previously in decline. Sanctioned by the Great
Society, welfare was becoming a way of life. This expansion formed
a subculture that suffered not only from poverty but crime and addiction
as well. While the intent of the new liberalism was laudable and
understandable, its results were devastating.
The turbulence of the 1960s compounded everything.
Although liberals supported the Viet Nam War
at first, that changed as casualties rose and no success was
immanent. When Republican Richard Nixon took the White House,
that was the clincher.
Liberals united with war protesters to end the
Viet Nam War, while at the same time adopting civil rights activists
to end segregation. To the eyes of conservatives, they were supporting
the radical fringe of the hippie movement, associated with drugs,
the sexual revolution and protest riots. When liberals then sided
with feminists to champion the Equal Rights Amendment, it
was no longer a contest between political ideologies. To conservatives,
it was a cultural declaration of war for the soul of America.
The result is what we have today: liberalism
promoting change to assure civil rights, convinced that the idea
that a non-regulating government weakens the nation; conservatism,
harking back to classical liberal ideas, believes that the nation
has lost its way. Both opinions reflect the same debate that was
raised prior to the Constitution being ratified.
Mainstream liberals don't fully understand the
upsurge of conservative criticism that rejects not only present
day efforts, but their greatest accomplishments as well, such as
minimum wage, old age pensions, food inspections, the 8 hour day,
work safety regulations, protection of our environment, clean air
They've become more cautious than before
one could almost say, more conservative. During the Clinton
presidency, the New Democrats proved themselves fiscally
responsible, supportive of welfare reform and more diplomatic with
their civil rights rhetoric.
Philosophically, liberals tend to believe that
people start off as basically good. Those who steer off course should
be rehabilitated instead of rejected. This differs sharply from
the conservative idea of fallen human nature needing strong discipline
to fall in line, and even stronger punishment when laws are breached.
The essence of today's liberalism supports a
level playing field of opportunities that transcend wealth, race,
religion, and bloodline. They derive this mandate from the Declaration
of Independence's words "all men are created equal,"
which they view as mandate for civil and minority rights.
As our founders knew, and subsequent generations
confirmed, the goal of inclusion has not been realized. Slavery
has been repealed. Women have gained suffrage. Laws have been changed
to end legal segregation. All these steps are viewed as positive
achievements, despite initial resistance by some. Most who were
against them have come around to uphold them.
As before, not everybody agrees that further
change is necessary. Some vocal conservatives feel that the conduits
of freedom are already available for everyone. Inclusion, if problematic
at all, is just a matter of time or individual effort. Others still
find groups they would deny.
Liberalism has supported great ideas that coincide
with Chivalry-Now, such as free thought, a strong focus on
reason, helping those in need, challenging stale beliefs and replacing
them with new idealism, individuality and compassion.
Extremes in Relationship
draws its strength and identity from its protest of modern liberalism.
Sidney Blumenthal said it this way: "conservatism requires
liberalism for its meaning;" and "without the enemy [liberalism]
to serve as nemesis
conservative politics would lack its organizing
principle." Conservative extremists make no qualms about blaming
liberalism for just about anything. Their constant barrage has effectively
reduced the liberal vision from something humanely reforming, to
something subversive, unpatriotic and prohibitively expensive.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Liberalism at its best seeks creative
but moderate reform to enhance human rights based on reasonable
assumptions. This is a good thing.
properly applied, preserves what is best from the past and restrains
progressive tendencies to a more cautious pace. This is good as
ideologies are rooted in classical liberalism that liberals try
to extend and conservatives try to preserve, such as capitalism,
and human rights as articulated in the Declaration of Independence,
Constitution, Bill of Rights and American Dream. Both sides modify
their views over time, inching their way toward reconciliation,
despite partisanship zeal.
example, today's conservatism honors and defends civil rights for
minorities that they refused to recognize in the 1960s. Liberalism
became far more fiscally responsible in the 90s, and supportive
of welfare reform. Neither side will admit its debt to the other
out of ideological stubbornness, but the truth is plain. Classical
liberalism unites them both as pillars of the same cause. There's
no need for a tug of war, when cooler heads see things as they are.
occasionally see hope in a dynamic called bipartisanship, when cooperation
produces negotiated change that is sound and beneficial for all.
When bipartisanship occurs, it is often praised as a political ideal,
the way things were intended. While this sentiment is meant to encourage
compromise and civility, it fails to deal with the negative side
of partisanship, which continues to seethe beneath the surface.
The Dark Side
often than not, the primary goal of each party is to increase
its own power and influence. They accomplish this by increasing
the number of their representatives. Seeing themselves more like
natural enemies than groups of patriotic statesmen, each wants to
dominate and silence the other.
When a party holds a significant majority, it
can please its base supporters by pushing through an extremist agenda,
completely ignoring the wishes of the other side, and the vast majority
of people in between.
The votary, however, is almost evenly divided
by party vote. Whichever gains power usually represents only a slight
majority. One or two percentage points, often won due to wedge issues
or candidate personality, cannot be construed as an ideological
mandate. When such a mandate is enforced anyway, resentments are
inevitable, thus furthering the divide. Most voters, no matter which
party they belong to, are not extremists, nor do they want the nation
led into extremism. It would be helpful if extremists could see
themselves as they really are: a radical minority, on either side.
When it comes to political corruption, party
loyalty often means defending guilty members for as long as possible,
hiding embarrassing truths, making graft a little easier to tolerate,
and even sanction.
People accept this as just the way things are
or worse, the way our system was designed to work. This acceptance
is where we fail as constituents of humanity's greatest hope. We
must turn this around and demand far more from politics.
Instead, most of us either complain to ourselves,
ignore politics completely, or buy into the dictates of partisanship.
Doing so, we fail to accept the responsibility of true citizens.
If we seriously challenge the ideas of political candidates, and
demand more accountability, things would improve. Power would return
to the people. Corrupt practices would fail.
start by facing the truth: The answers to our problems will
never be found in liberalism or conservatism.
Never. Each side is too limited, committing itself
to a constrained approach that refuses to accept possibilities that
disagree with their basic ideologies.
When we shirk our own responsibility for free
thinking, our support for one extreme or the other merely fortifies
a broken system.
Common sense tells us that a healthy life embraces
change and tradition, not pitting one against the other, so that
every victory associates itself with loss. Human nature should be
greater than that. It approaches problems directly for reasonable
solutions, not indirectly for less meaningful results.
Can the functions of a healthy state be so different?
Must it degrade by becoming cynical and inhuman? If it does, it
reflects the people who support it, who then carry the blame.
It is time to reject media propagandists, clever
campaign strategists, think-tank goons, and political pundits. These
professional hucksters flourish on the assumption that the majority
of people are easily duped.
It is time we no longer delight in scandal and
innuendo, as political strategists count on. Negative campaigning,
prefabricated by so-called experts, replace serious discussion about
the issues with media hype. Instead of presenting proper information
to help people decide the best course to take, it offers a media
circus that distracts us all.
It is time we choose to vote according to each
candidate's worth, rather than party affiliation or unrelated issues.
Chivalry-Now is the product of an ancient
code, which ties us to conservatism but it also embraces
the revolutionary spirit of the Enlightenment, rooted in liberalism.
so, it should never be seen as liberal or conservative, or even
a combination of the two.
it is simplicity itself: the integrity of the human spirit questing
for truth. No political label is needed.
again paraphrasing the philosopher Rousseau:
we look, man is born free; yet everywhere we find him in chains
of his own making.
often in life, we unknowingly forge the chains of our own ideological
slavery, and then latch them to our wrists. We do this when we relinquish
the responsibilities that freedom requires, when we accept the conclusions
of others and fail to judge things independently for ourselves.
think that freedom is just the ability to do what one wants to do.
There is another way to think of it, however. It includes the prerequisite
of liberating one's true self first. That means disengaging oneself
from predilections that we inherit from others, or from "group
think." It means resisting those who would lead us astray through
contrived rhetoric. It means finding one's own moral center and
allowing it to breathe the sweet air of freedom.
question is this: Can a person really be free if his moral center,
which is part of him, is not activated? How can a partial
man consider himself free?
and I cannot, by ourselves, cannot alter the course of partisan
politics. The most we can do is rise above it, do our parts as good
citizens, and encourage others to do the same. We can write to our
representatives and make our opinions known. We can hold them accountable
in public forums or in letters-to-the-editor. We can partake in
committees and introduce people to new ways of seeing things. We
can challenge our friends, politely of course, when they express
views that support conclusion that we know are wrong.
is more than just a code of ethics. It is a mindset that thrives
on authenticity, that questions things to find their deeper meaning.
In the search for truth, one does not have the luxury of taking
side with the interpretations of others. Truth is what it is. We
can only approach and appreciate it by our own volition.