American conservatism has long been synonymous with protecting and promoting the U.S. Constitution. Barry Goldwater explained what it meant to be a conservative leader in his famous 1960 book “The Conscience of a Conservative”:
The turn will come when we entrust the conduct of our affairs to the men who understand that their first duty as public officials is to divest themselves of the power that they have been given. It will come when Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic.
In 1995, authors Alvin and Heidi Toffler published “Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave.” The Tofflers formulated something they called the “futurist” movement, in which they believed technological advancement would usher in massive civilizational change. One of the implications of their envisioned societal transformation was alluded to on page 91 of their futurist tome:
For this wisdom above all, we thank Mr. Jefferson, who helped create the system that served us so well for so long and that now must, in its turn, die and be replaced.
“The system … Mr. Jefferson … helped create … now must … die and be replaced”?
We can safely assume the Tofflers were speaking of Thomas Jefferson. We can also infer that “the system” Mr. Jefferson and his generation helped create was the experiment in limited government known as the United States Constitution.
Wrote Newt Gingrich in the foreword to “Creating a New Civilization”:
This book is a key effort in the direction of empowering citizens … to truly take the leap to invent a (new) civilization.
“A new civilization”?
Goldwater believed that conservatives would finally win the day when “Americans, in hundreds of communities throughout the nation, decide to put the man in office who is pledged to enforce the Constitution and restore the Republic.” Yet the man many Republicans currently want to put in this nation’s highest office once heartily endorsed a fad philosophy that essentially advocated the death of the U.S. Constitution to make way for a “new civilization” that would replace the old republic.
Not that the current Republican presidential front-runner has ever been a big fan of the Constitution. Based on his record, we can assume that Gingrich’s “new civilization” would include individual health care mandates, cap-and-trade, bank bailouts, gun control, amnesty for illegal aliens, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Plan D, Planned Parenthood funding — all of which our Constitution prohibits. No wonder Gingrich needs our nation’s founding charter out of the way.
But rattling off Gingrich’s many liberal policy offenses is easy. What is far more disturbing than Newt’s constant support for dreadful ideas is his consistently anti-conservative frame of mind from which they spring. Russell Kirk wrote that, “In essence, the conservative person is simply one who finds the permanent things more pleasing than Chaos … A people’s historic continuity of experience, says the conservative, offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers.”
Completely void of Kirk’s custom-and-habit conservatism, Gingrich has not only always been eager to follow outlandish “coffee-house philosophers” like the Tofflers, he fancies himself as one — and Newt has always been way over-caffeinated. Gingrich is really not the oft-perceived brilliant man brimming with innovative ideas, but a political schizophrenic whose philosophical center never holds because he doesn’t have one. Said former Congressman Mickey Edwards (R-OK), “I’ve known Newt now for 30 years almost. But I wouldn’t be able to describe what his real principles are.”
Business Insider’s Michael Brendan Dougherty explains further:
Newt Gingrich always has ideas. He has 5-point plans for fixing everything. He’s constantly pitching these “solutions.” Ever wonder why Newt Gingrich has so many ideas? It’s pretty simple. Ideas come to you easily when you have no principles to get in the way of your roaming untrained intellect.
National Review’s Yuval Levin has made a similar observation:
[Gingrich] exhibit[s] the technocratic countenance of the Rockefeller Republican — a program for every problem. Conservative humility about human nature and about the potential of technical solutions is not readily discernible …
Gingrich has supported so many liberal policies and ideas, of which conservatives now find so hard to explain, because he has no tangible guiding philosophy. Gingrich possesses the liberal fascination with discarding the past and advancing human “progress” yet none of the “conservative humility about human nature.” Gingrich’s “roaming untrained intellect” has led him to all sorts of fads and bizarre endorsements because he has never had a permanent set of principles to keep him from going off the deep end. In fact, Gingrich lives off the deep end.
Kirk wrote that “conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order …” In this light, Gingrich’s mind is determinedly anti-conservative — ready to revolutionize society on a “futurist” whim, even discarding the United States Constitution if necessary to indulge his intellectual fancy.
It should come as no surprise to keen observers that Gingrich would have endorsed a book that essentially said the Constitution needed to “die.” Still, such sentiment is a complete reversal of what the American right has stood for during most of its existence. And if Gingrich and what he represents is now conservatism, Barry Goldwater no longer has any claim on that term.
Jack Hunter writes at the “Paulitical Ticker,” where he is the official Ron Paul 2012 campaign blogger.