“Taxonomy (the science of classification) is often undervalued as a glorified form of filing—with each species in its folder, like a stamp in its prescribed place in an album; but taxonomy is a fundamental and dynamic science, dedicated to exploring the causes of relationships and similarities…
During the summer of 1776, then, the libertarian and anti-government values currently embraced by the “tea party”conservatives were, in fact, central features of the founding moment of the United States. While evangelicals will have a very hard time claiming Jefferson as one of their own, the original ethos of the American Revolution is, at least rhetorically, compatible with the political agenda of the contemporary conservative movement.
Of course there was a second founding moment in 1787, when a more expansive role for government was enshrined in the Constitution, and a framework created to sustain a dialogue about that role.
Then there was, in effect, a third founding, in the wake of the Civil War, which established the supremacy of the Union over the states (this was why Lincoln reinterpreted the American Revolution in the Gettysburg Address). As historian James McPherson has so nicely put it, after the Civil War the term “United States” became a singular rather than plural noun.
Finally, at the dawn of the 20th century, both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson led another expansion of federal authority, eventually consolidated inFranklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. FDR explained it best in his 1932 Commonwealth Club address in which he described the end of the frontier, the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society and the social and economic inequalities and dislocations generated by laissez-faire capitalism (that is, the Depression) as developments requiring what we now call the liberal state. Government had become “us” rather than “them.”
This brief tour of American history, which could be extended to include Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, reveals that modern-day conservatives have “the spirit of ‘76” on their side, as well as the power of Jefferson’s original formulation of the American creed. Liberals, on the other hand, have the arc of American history on their side, which until the presidency of Ronald Reagan seemed to have the final word in the debate. After all, who could imagine a successful political movement requiring the revocation of two centuries of American history? Barry Goldwater, who campaigned for president in 1968 on just such a radical agenda, received only 38% of the vote.
“As president, Reagan worked very well with Democrats to do big things. It is true that he worked to reduce the size of government and cut federal taxes and he eliminated many regulations, but he also raised taxes when necessary. In 1983, he doubled the gas tax to pay for highway infrastructure improvements. Today, that would be enough for some of the ideological enforcers to start looking for a “real” conservative to challenge him in a primary. Some Republicans today aren’t even willing to have conversations about protecting the environment, investing in the infrastructure America needs or improving healthcare. By holding their fingers in their ears when those topics arise, these Republicans aren’t just denying themselves a seat at the table; in a state such as California, they also deny a seat to every other Republican.”—Arnold Schwarzenegger (via azspot)