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A Liberator then, and still so today.
Forty-nine years ago, Barry Goldwater had some things to tell conservatives that are still relevant today. Please allow a digression, though, before we see what the late, great senator from Arizona had to say.
This past Tuesday afternoon, the Drudge Report posted as its lead, top-of-page item the report that Louisiana federal district judge Martin L.C. Feldman had issued a well-reasoned injunction to stop the Obama administration’s moratorium against deepwater oil drilling (the judge thus would allow the drilling to resume). At that very moment, sitting open right in front of me on my desk was a 1963 publication that contained a poem by the selfsame Martin L.C. Feldman. The poem isn’t very comprehensible without familiarity with T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and with the nursery rhyme “Who Killed Cock Robin?” But Feldman’s theme can be summed up as a criticism of those “who think they think,” but who don’t actually come down from their ivory towers or leave their social clubs in order to do the practical, real-world work of… well, of making the real world work. “The Etherized Patient,” Feldman writes, “still remains prone/ Never wanting to rise, it seems.”
As a judge 47 years later, Feldman’s injunction stands as a rebuke to the Obamites who “think they think” but who seem to have no conception, from within their self-selected ideological bubble, of how their oh-so-noble oil-drilling moratorium will affect the practical, real-world work of many tens of thousands of people who depend on the oil, and the drilling of it, for their livelihoods.
All of which is fine, but, how did my desk come, purely coincidentally, to feature a 47-year-old publication containing a poem by now-Judge Feldman?
My godfather Ben C. Toledano had asked for copies of the publication; that’s how. He had lost his copies in Hurricane Katrina. The publication was “Liberator,” a conservative journal founded at Tulane University by my father in April 1961. As far as I can tell, “Liberator” published just five issues in a little more than two years. Its small contributors list, though, turned out to be a font of future achievements. Feldman became a federal judge. Toledano, who served as editor of the final issue (with my dad still as publisher), was a path-breaking Republican nominee for mayor of New Orleans and for U.S. Senate from Louisiana. My dad later became Louisiana’s Republican National Committeeman. The first campus correspondent (every other major Louisiana college had a correspondent associated with Liberator) from Louisiana State University was Stanwood Duval Jr., who also is a federal district judge. (He turned out to be liberal, unfortunately; you can’t win ‘em all!) A campus correspondent from Louisiana Tech was one Stanley Tiner, who later became editor in chief of the major dailies in Shreveport, Mobile, Oklahoma City, and Biloxi — at the last of which, in his current position, he won a Pulitzer Prize.
A later correspondent from LSU was Morton Blackwell, now the conservative movement stalwart who runs the Leadership Institute and is in his sixth term as Republican National Committeeman from Virginia. A “corresponding editor” and writer was Helen Reddy, now known as Helen Blackwell. In addition to being Morton’s wife, she is a longtime and cherished leader of Republican women’s groups in Northern Virginia.
“Liberator” featured letters to the editor from William F. Buckley Jr., Sen. Strom Thurmond, National Review’s Frank S. Meyer (also the subject of a full-length interview), and other worthies. And “Liberator” featured exclusive essays by conservative intellectual theorist and historian Russell Kirk, and — as the cover story of the very first issue — by the aforementioned Sen. Barry Goldwater. These were all people who did not settle for merely “think[ing] they think” while actually “never wanting to rise” to do anything real. Not bad for a decidedly thin little journal printed on cheap yellow paper, out of the home apartment of a newlywed law student.
All of that digression leads us back around to Goldwater and the exclusive essay he did for my father’s “Liberator” in April 1961, expressing confidence in a “rapidly approaching period of vigorous conservatism in American political thinking.” It features an entire subsection titled with an odd-sounding (to today’s ears) phrase, “The Whole Man.” I had heard Goldwater use this phrase elsewhere on video, in the opening sentence of his 1964 GOP nomination acceptance speech at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. He also used the phrase several other times in that speech, but never explained it, not even really in context, so that it sounded almost like an affectation. But there in “Liberator,” three years earlier, Goldwater explained what he meant.
Conservatives are interested in the whole man, while the radical-liberals confine their interest to the material side of his nature. Conservatives believe that man is in part an economic and animal creature, but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires.… The conservative respects the individuality of man, realizing that man’s spiritual and material development is not something that can be directed by outside forces. Every man, for his individual good and the good of his society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he, not a super-state, must make. And these are choices that must involve the whole man [emphasis Goldwater’s own], if they are to be the right choices. If life were concerned only with material things, as the Liberal approach indicates, then I suppose the conduct of some men might be justified. The materialistic philosophies of Marx and Engels, which call for the suppression of the individual and glorify the collective, are only acceptable to people who deny the possibility of a more significant explanation for man’s existence….
The Liberals, with their emphasis on collectivism and conformity, and their willingness to use compulsion to achieve their ends, are actually suggesting a course of action which thoughtful men have rejected throughout history. The reason man must be treated as an individual is because he has an individual immortal soul. Thus, his freedom comes from God — as do all of his rights. In the scheme of things, government’s only proper role is in the protection of man’s God-given freedoms and rights. [All emphases again are Goldwater’s own.]
The conservative recognizes that the concentration of power in the hands of the few has always been the undoing of those who aspired to the fruits of freedom. Aware of the overbearing evidence of history as to the truth of this postulate, the conservative is fearful of the concentration of power which accompanies central government.
And then, with high relevance today, this: “I am convinced that most Americans now want to reverse the trend. I think that concern for our vanishing freedoms is genuine. I think that the people’s uneasiness in the stifling omnipresence of government has turned into something approaching alarm….”
If this doesn’t sound like an erudite explanation of the roots of the TEA Party phenomenon, you’re not paying attention. If Goldwater’s warnings don’t sound like today’s concerns about the Obamites, you’re not listening. If the late Arizona senator and today’s Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina (for one example) do not look like philosophical twins, your eyesight clearly has grown dim. (As an aside: It is too bad the current senior senator from Arizona, John McCain, understands all this no better than a rooster comprehends Aquinas. One can always hope that his primary threat from J.D. Hayworth can make McCain learn.)
Goldwater’s ideals stem from classic, limited-government, libertarian-leaning wisdom. They are ideals that echo today in the well-expressed beliefs of Ohio’s Joe the Plumber, and of the furniture refinisher in Spanish Fort, Alabama, and of the Sarah Palin-admiring young mother in Pocatello, Idaho. These people’s concern for vanishing freedoms is genuine. Their uneasiness about stiflingly omnipresent government approaches alarm. And they are absolutely right to feel that way.
But note what Goldwater said about “the whole man.” Note that the concerns are not merely economic or material. Note that both the roots and the fruits of conservatism are spiritual as well. And note that the spiritual and material parts of conservatism are not an “either/or” proposition, but a “both/and.” They are necessarily so. They are not two separate features grafted into a coalition, but naturally part and parcel of each other and mutually dependent on each other as complementary features of a single whole.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?