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The Unrepentant Traditionalist
December 4, 2008

Wait, Work, and Wrassle:
One Catholic’s Perspective on Conservative Prospects

by Frank Creel

The best advice for a conservative fighting the urge to fling open a window and jump out? Wait four years.

Future historians will scratch their heads over why any sane human being would want to be taking a presidential oath of office in 2009. Four years from now, Barack Obama will be experiencing approximately what George W. Bush is experiencing now — a strong suspicion that becoming president was the biggest mistake of his life.

We and our chosen leaders have puffed up the bubble economy for almost half a century — I date this phenomenon back to the guns-and-butter approach of LBJ — and bursting that bubble has serious consequences with no quick fixes. Our financial system, our currency, our stocks, our real estate values, our dwindling manufacturing sector, and our consumer confidence have all taken a sharp blow.

Worse, perhaps, for the long term, the American economy’s dynamism and reputation for invincibility have been almost irreparably damaged in the eyes of important economic actors around the globe. The Chinese, Japanese, and Saudis certainly are well aware that it is their wealth that Henry Paulson is spreading around in a so-far-fruitless attempt to stabilize our financial system. The burning question of the day should be how soon those worthies, whose welfare dependents we have become, will cut their losses and convert their dollars to a stronger unit of exchange. Such a move would only magnify their losses, of course, as the dollar plunges, but stranger behavior than that has already been seen on Wall Street.

President-elect Obama surely realizes that the budgetary wherewithal to deliver on his Big Four campaign promises is yesterday’s cotton candy. His main problems in the next four years will be to avoid becoming the Democrats’ Herbert Hoover and to preserve enough popularity to capture his party’s nomination in 2012. Similar thoughts no doubt occurred to Hillary Clinton as she pondered whether to become Obama’s Secretary of State; if she waits until 2016, she will be just a few notches short of too-old John McCain in 2008.

The economy, in short, will make it a whole new ballgame in time for the 2010 midterm elections and déjà vu all over again in 2012. Voters will be receptive to some new changes, and conservatives need to identify the right ones.

Here is a list:

1. Keep attacking the federal bailout of Wall Street and the proposed bailout of Detroit. The bailouts reward greed and incompetence, and they will not work. It is already clear that both major parties are in the pockets of corporate giants, and voters will be looking for politicians who are not.

2. Assert that the discipline of bankruptcy is the best prescription for automakers. If GM can restructure under Chapter 11, reduce its debt, renegotiate its union contracts and pension obligations, and survive, fine. If not, its incompetent management team members will be out of jobs, and the market for Ford and Chrysler will be enlarged enough to enable them to buy GM’s remnants and hire back most of its workers.

3. Push for trade laws requiring importers to pay their workers a decent living wage (see papal encyclicals on this topic over the past century). Adopt policies calling for their governments to not artificially depress their currencies; if they fail to do so, assess an equalizing surcharge on imported products at the port of entry. This would level the playing field for American workers, help rebuild our manufacturing sector, and help the growth of foreign markets for our exports. It would also aid the growth of jobs in neighboring economies like Mexico, which would have less incentive to send its workers across our border illegally.

This is called killing three birds with one stone. (Note to Catholic bishops: Extending a welcoming hand to illegal aliens might seem like the Christian thing to do — but it encourages the breakup of families. Better to focus, as the universal church we are, on the economic injustice and stagnation that drive husbands and fathers away from their families.)

4. Get our troops out of Iraq, and then start chipping away at the rest of our far-flung and economically unjustifiable military empire (we have at least 737 military bases strewn around this messy world). Alarmed cries of “Isolationism!” will arise from elite bastions across the country, to which the sensible reply is “Durn tootin’!” Chastened by the economic implosion, if not by the stream of coffins flown into Dover, our people will be receptive to the idea that it makes no sense to fight terrorism on battlegrounds of the terrorists’ choosing. The real mission of the Department of Defense is functionally indistinguishable from that assigned to the Department of Homeland Security, which should be immediately disbanded. Whether Romana, Brittanica or Americana, militarily sought pax is the lethal pox of republics.

5. Continue hitting hard on the social issues, while never forgetting the primacy of pocket-book issues for American voters. Most Americans agree that aborting life in the womb is a creepy thing; that killing people, whether embryos or not, for scientific research is Nazi-like; and that marriage is conceptually a male-female thing. During the four years of President Obama’s term, it will be helpful to remind him that his party’s wholehearted embrace of abortion on demand has reduced this country’s African-American population by about 15 million souls (costing him at least 7 million votes in the recent election, based on exit polling showing a 96-percent-to-4-percent African-American split for Obama).

Exit polling also indicated that 54 percent of Catholics voted for the candidate who promised to undo all the state protections of the unborn enacted by states over the years since 1973. This leads to the final piece of advice.

6. Work to put some spine into the American Catholic episcopacy. Most of our bishops thought they had done their duty with the issuance of bland guidelines for forming a Catholic conscience before stepping into the voter booth. No names — not even a clear statement that the Democratic Party has closely identified itself with the culture of death, or that the Republican Party did very little to change that culture even when it controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. It is perfectly clear that, while some bishops actually prefer Democrats on the issues, most are just afraid of losing their precious tax exemptions.

It is equally clear that with virile leadership from our bishops and conscience-informed voting by Catholics as a unified bloc, the culture of death would quickly suffer political euthanasia — and the prospects for raising up a new party that is pro-life, anti-empire, and economically sane would be significantly enhanced. Maybe that is why the Lord instituted a male-only priesthood — so that in times of crisis real men would step forward.

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The Unrepentant Traditionalist is copyright (c) 2008 by Frank Creel and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

Frank Creel, Ph.D., has been a columnist for the Potomac News, Woodbridge, Virginia. His op-ed articles have been published in the Northern Virginia Journal, the Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, and the New York City Tribune. In 1992, his A Trilogy of Sonnets was published pseudonymously by Christendom Press.

See a complete biographical sketch.

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