Blogging can give you exposure. For example, a student in Belgium is writing a paper on American Republicans and he thought to interview me, because of my blog. He is a “European Socialist” and he wants to understand American Republicans. I am always happy to be interviewed!
Below is the interview questions and my answers. When Bart (the European Socialist) finishes his study, I will link to it on Political Pipeline, if possible.
Q1: If you had to describe republicanism in a few keywords, what would they be?
Republicanism is non-domination as any given individual’s public policy. The aggregation of these individuals practicing non-domination is called res publica (i.e., public thing). But are you asking me about the essence of the Republican Party in America? If so, they are “classic liberals” and not really “republicans” (defined above). Basically, liberalism is based on open capitalism and free and fair elections (i.e., representative democracy). But republicans actually practice “rule by the people.” Like, in early American history, the people had the right to “instruct” their representatives on legislation at the national level (i.e., right of instruction).
Both American parties are liberal parties. The Democratic Party in America consists mostly of progressives liberals who ideologically associate with Rawls (manipulate capitalism for the benefit of the least advantaged in society). The Republican Party in America consists of mostly conservative liberals who ideologically associate with Nozick (do not manipulate capitalism so that all people can freely work together. Taxes for “redistribution” will cause the decay of society, since people won’t need to work hard to make the middle class). So, “republicans” are not “liberals” and I expect that they associate as “Independents” in America (like me). I vote for whoever is “more republican” in any given election. However, if I ran for office, I would run as a “Republican.”
I think that the Republican impulse to keep business in the private sector is good, mostly because the “republican’s res publica” would not be the result of strong national governmental intervention into society (i.e., socialists). I think, therefore, that I would use liberalism to promote republicanism in the private sector (i.e., create jobs to “care for the community”). In an election, I would label myself as a “compassionate conservative” and not as a classic liberal. Because of the demographics of the American society, I would have a harder time winning the primary (with so many classic liberals in society) than the general election (because I would get the Independent and possibly some “weak Democrat” vote and all my Republican votes). I would not call for new governmental intervention into private markets. I would make new incentives for non-profits to become very prolific (create college / non-profit job partnerships to help education, healthcare, and social industries promote the “general welfare” of the people).
Q2:How would you rank the following topic according to their general importance? Economy, national defense, health care, education, energy and courts? And rank them to the extent these topics should been controlled by government.
1. Energy (3 of 10) incentivize green energy
2. economy (3 of 10), incentivize non-profits
3. health care (3 of 10), see #2
4 education (2 of 10), see #2
5. courts (8 of 10), lay lawyers as mediators in civil matters is good
6. national defense (10 of 10), fundamentally the national government’s responsibility in all matters
Q3: The traditional definition of republicanism seems like a general idea that is accepted by virtually everyone in the Western World. Liberty, protection of your life and property, government in the hands of the people etc. What should I add to this list of basic elements in order to make me better understand the uniqueness of contemporary American republicanism? And What makes you different from the Democratic party?
Republicans take government in the hands of the people literally. For example, over 400 local / regional communities (i.e., not national) passed “Bill of Rights Resolutions” to stop corruption of power via the national government. Some local laws passed even explicitly said that the local police are required to not comply with the USA Patriot Act when in violation of local laws (i.e., civil liberties as protections from government). Representative democracy (i.e., liberalism) is better than authoritarianism, in general, but it is not the same as republicanism. Indeed, the Republican Party supports the people’s power and agency actively and publicly. This is why President Ronald Reagan’s public policy called “devolution” (i.e., return power to states / local communities) was so welcomed, and why Republicans in the 2012 election were still talking about Reagan!
The ironic part is that the Democratic Party want to institutionalize republicanism (i.e., force all the people to live by strong republican institutions). For example, a republican as Franchise Owner of a burger restaurant would set his or her salary at $1,000,000 and would share profits above $1M with the employees. When a republican burger place makes $3M in profits, the managers make $150,000 instead of $50,000 a year. Democrats want to make this republican sentiment the law (as liberalism manipulating capitalism for the least advantaged). But republicans and Republicans see this as a limitation and restriction on private / public freedom. Further, republicans may even vote for the Democrat who called for such legislation during great times of inequality (i.e., perhaps 2016).
The problem is pretty complex. Even though “Independents” hold a majority of the plurality (i.e., more than Republicans and Democrats), the Republicans and Democrats are a majority of the American society and likely a majority of the members in the two parties. Further, there are authoritarians in the American society who might very well associate Party ID with “Independents”, as well as followers of biblical thought (i.e., it’s not about liberalism, but it’s about which party appeals to “my Jesus” better). We don’t know what percent of the American population are “republicans” (2014).
But republicans are not “socialists” in the American sense, since republicans are against Rousseau’s general will (i.e., how Americans think socialists solve public problems) (see Pettit 2012). Like, neither the republican or Republican wants the national government to solve public problems; rather, to foster relationships for the people to do it. For the liberal Republican, there is no strong impulse to solve inequality. For the republican who runs for political office, there is a strong impulse to help foster an equality of available resources for the people (i.e., lack of wealth does not keep Americans from higher education, healthcare, or from creating new jobs in the economy).
The problem is that “republicans” have had difficulty in proposing new public policy to replace liberalism. In early 21st America, liberalism utterly dominates. The Republicans and Democrats in Washington just have opposing views regarding exactly how liberalism should continue to dominate, because there are few viable republican solutions being proposed.
Q4: Is the opposition between the left and the right in economic issues a difference in morals or trust in the government? For example, do you think that people shouldn’t get social benefits because at the end of the day it will hold them back in some or another way? Or because it’s their personal responsibility to take care of themselves? In the former, it would be a discussion about economics, sociology and psychology, while the latter is an ethical statement.
The American society has long demonstrated authoritarian (i.e., proprietors slavery, segregation, racism) people in society, as well as liberals (equal opportunity in capitalism and representative democracy for all people) and republicans (all people need the resources to succeed for a sustainable society for all people to enjoy equal rights). These multiple traditions fight for agency and power. You really need to get at the essence of these different groups of American voters.
Authoritarians want to rule economically, socially, psychologically, and ethically over the people. The people should simply obey the rules organized vertically. Entire groups of people may be excluded from power and hold no agency. The government’s purpose may be benevolent, and the economy may radically grow (i.e., China), but liberalism and republicanism are dead.
Liberal Democrats should have high trust that their government will manipulate capitalism to protect the least advantaged for the benefit of all the people. They fortify liberalism via new rules (i.e., restructuring), and the people need a lot of trust to be sure the manipulation won’t cause more harm to capitalism than good. After all, all liberals fundamentally support equal opportunity in capitalism.
Liberal Republicans strongly believe that a natural capitalistic system will increase the people’s possibilities and organize society according to will and capability. All people are given an equal opportunity, but the government is not in the business of providing jobs and income for the people. There is little trust that governmental manipulation of capitalism will benefit the future growth of the capitalism, and thereby the welfare of the people. In fact, they doubt that very much.
Republicans (the ideology, not the party) think that the society should rapidly evolve to enable the people to distribute all the resources necessary for any given individual to reach his or her potential. This fundamentally doesn’t require a national government to dictate public policy to the people, since the people are the creators of public policy (i.e., Bill of Rights resolutions 2002-2007).
Q5: What are the three most important moments in history? Let’s say in the past 300 years.
The American founding. It was by republicans, and not liberals. In fact, the American founders greatly feared America’s liberal society. They designed a constitution to help protect republicans from a liberal / authoritarian society for all people in all ages.
The end of WWII. Authoritarianism was momentarily crushed in most public places. A new world community began and the death of de jure authoritarianism began.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and speeches. They transcend liberalism and are very much republican. This watershed moment will matter for all people in all ages.
Q6: Which books, movies, songs… or people should I check out (or even contact and interview) in order to understand American republicanism better?
If you want to know more about American republicanism, then you should read my dissertation (forthcoming). There isn’t much more information on the matter. In fact, most American political scientists simply focus on America’s two liberal party structures, and they exclude republicanism from the analysis. This is because the field of political science has found it difficult to define republicanism (i.e., my dissertation).
About “Republicans” as liberals under the Republican party name, you should try to contact the Republican National Committee. Then, you should contact state party offices (perhaps a random sample). Groups in society may include The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute (see http://think-tanks.findthedata.org/d/t/Conservative)
For movies, “republicans” are pretty “Hollywood.” Think about what it means for a society to not only show that the people organize relationships around the idea of non-domination, but that they also create massive industries demonstrating this ideology. Think about Django Unchained, where even the main character was chained to capitalism and finally contemplated the “common good.” Or Inglorious Basterds, which focused on labeling domination (i.e., cutting the Nazi symbol into the forehead of a Nazi) and promoting the idea of equality, accountability, and responsibility. Or The Butler, which shows the brutality of authoritarianism forced upon massive amounts of American citizens–and the answer of overcoming authoritarianism via the imposition of republicanism in society. We witnessed that the obedience to republican virtue triumphs over all other political languages as a viable ideology for any given American.
Books? Read Pacepa’s Disinformation!