Be Better Than Evan McMullin

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 December 27, 2017|
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Making failed presidential candidate and radical NeverTrumper Evan McMullin look like the smart guy in the room is quite a trick. But commentators on one of McMullin’s recent tweets have done just that.

Defending his pal Jennifer Rubin, McMullin offered his definition of conservatism:

There is a lot to criticize here—a general imprecision in language and the promotion of principles unconnected to present realities are all fair game. But in their zeal to reject McMullin’s epic levels of pomposity and ignorance, some of his critics have gone too far.

The conservative site Twitchy pounced on McMullin’s tweet, arguing that he has mistaken America’s Founding principles with those of Revolutionary France. How so? Because McMullin mentions “equality” and “liberty,” which are supposedly alien to the American political tradition.

Here are some of the critiques:

“Liberté, égalité, fraternité” after all was the motto of Robespierre and the Jacobin revolutionaries, right?

In fact, this is a complete misreading of the American Founding. Equality and liberty and the relationship between those two principles are central to understanding America—before, during, and after the American Revolution. Rejecting these principles because some people have misunderstood or misapplied them is exactly the wrong thing to do. Why cede such noble ideas to the likes of Evan McMullin?

Just take a look at the Declaration of Independence, whose first “self-evident” truth is that “all men are created equal.” In fact, eight state constitutions at the time of the founding featured similar language on equality. It is impossible to make sense of our revolution without grappling with the importance of this idea.

The Founders understood that whatever our particular differences may be—race, talents, religion, intellectual potential—all human beings, by virtue of the fact that they are human beings, are equal in that sense of being like creatures. It is unequal to the dignity of adult human beings that they should be ruled without their consent, so their equality demands government by consent.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter shortly before he died: “The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.” The divine right of kings and rule by an unaccountable administrative state are both affronts to our natural equality.

Reconciling Equality and Liberty
Once we understand equality in this light, we cannot escape the importance of liberty in the philosophical and moral architecture of the American Founding. After all, the central “unalienable” natural right listed in the Declaration is “liberty.”

The Founders’ conception of liberty, as Thomas G. West has argued, was bound “within the moral limits of the law of nature”—a law that man cannot transgress without penalties that will be meted out by his Creator in the next world.

Modern sexual ethics based on a radically autonomous view of human action and the idea that we have the “freedom” to do whatever we wish as long we don’t harm anyone else—the “no harm” principle that is a cornerstone of libertarianism—are equally rejections of the Founders’ teachings. The difference between liberty and license is a difference in kind, not in degree.

Compare this to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. While the French Declaration also deals in universal principles, in contrast to the American Declaration of Independence, those principles are largely unconnected to man as he actually lives. They are not drawn from observations about the nature of things as they are.

The French Declaration casts aside prudence (asserting that “ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments”), seeks to obliterate all of the people’s traditions, bases the authority of law on “general will” rather than seeking to draw out the enlightened consent of the governed, and rejects liberty rightly understood (“every citizen summoned or apprehended in pursuance of the law must obey immediately; he renders himself culpable by resistance”).

It’s no wonder that the American Founders were generally skeptical of the French Revolution. Even Jefferson began to have doubts as the guillotines continued to fall without any sign of stopping.

Abandoning—and Recovering—First Principles 
However much traditionalists, paleoconservatives, Southern Agrarians, and other types of conservatives continue to argue that appeals to natural rights are 
the great evil to be avoided, these principles are not the problem. They do not account for the rise of our current crisis of liberalism or for the wrong turns our nation has taken.

Instead, our problems arise from a failure to defend equality and liberty as our Founders understood them. Our problem is that we have permitted the invoking of incoherent notions of rights that make no room for prudence. In this general thoughtlessness, we come dangerously close to demanding principles that resemble those of the French Revolution.

Human beings cannot function barring appeals to universals. Think of the miracle of the common noun, for instance. What does it mean to say one is sitting in a “chair” if there is no such thing in the abstract as “chairness”? We only understand each other because of observed reality and the necessity for a universal concept of chairs upon which humans can sit. Chairs may come in many shapes and sizes and varieties of luxury, but in their essential nature, they all share the purpose for which they were created.    

The Evan McMullins of the world are not wrong on the face of it in their appeals to liberty and equality. They are wrong about what those principles are and what they mean for us today.

Supposing that a caricatured version of the 1980 Republican Party platform filtered through John Rawls’ teachings is the embodiment of these central American principles is an embarrassing failure to grapple seriously with American ideas. To toss a favorite phrase of theirs back at them, “It’s not who we are.”  It has never been.

To defend the principles of the American Founding, we must first know what they are and then connect them to policies that speak to the circumstances we are facing today. Evan McMullin decidedly does not. Sadly, neither do many of his critics. We have to be better than both.

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About the Author:

Mike Sabo
Mike Sabo is a Mt. Vernon Fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a recent graduate of the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. He and his wife live in Alexandria, Virginia.
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25 Comments

  1. Trent December 27, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I agree. It is a lesson of history, particularly of the American Founding, that we can share the very same principles and yet have very different ideas about how to pursue those principles in public policy and politics.

  2. Epaminondas December 27, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Homosexuals like McMullin cannot be trusted. They are born bad and are natural traitors. Here is a quote from the Wiki article on Guy Burgess…

    “Born into a wealthy middle-class family, Burgess was educated at Eton College, the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and Trinity College, Cambridge. An active homosexual and assiduous networker, he embraced left-wing politics at Cambridge and eventually joined the Communist Party. He was recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1935, on the recommendation of Kim Philby. After leaving Cambridge, Burgess worked for the BBC as a producer, a stint briefly interrupted by a spell as a full-time MI6 intelligence officer, before joining the Foreign Office in 1944.”

    The same scum are thick as fleas in our government and in the arts and entertainment industries.

    • Mike D'Virgilio December 28, 2017 at 8:52 am

      I’ll admit I laughed at, “Homosexuals like McMullin . . . ” But how do you know he is? Or is this just a rhetorical swipe? He’s from Utah, right? I thought they didn’t allow homosexuals there, so he can’t be.

      • Epaminondas December 28, 2017 at 9:38 am

        He is careful to keep it under wraps. And that’s good. But I don’t trust this cuck, and neither should you.

  3. Marshall Gill December 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Forced equality has led to some of the most egregious violations of human beings ever committed. Indeed, equality is nothing more than “collectivize” which is abjectly evil when applied to human individuals. Equality UNDER LAW is the only equality to which lovers of human liberty should hold allegiance.

    • American Spartan January 5, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      Amen

  4. tz1 December 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    The problem is the half-libertarian position. I will be a libertarian until my “not harming others” causes me harm or problems, then I’ll be a socialist.
    If the “adults” who are eating the poisonous fruit of the sexual revolution had to pay out of their own pockets for the STDs, infertility treatments, no he-said she-said rape accusations, contraception (and weren’t allowed to murder for abortion, but both parents had to kick in for child support to a normal, nuclear couple to raise the child), they might not engage.
    Same with drugs – ok, burn yourself out in your ’20s, but what happens when you are 40 or 60 and haven’t saved anything and various parts of your body are rotting?

    Archbishop Fulton J Sheen noted the freedom of the US is not to do what we please, but what we ought. Of which there are still an infinite variety – I can write a book, invent a device, raise a family, do charity – but not do things which destroy either myself or my community.

    Equality? If you are stupid and/or evil, you should own and suffer the consequences regardless of race, gender, or whatever else.

    Thomas Jefferson did think the black race wasn’t compatble, but Frederic Douglas wasn’t around then. There are many who aren’t compatible, and they need to find somewhere else to be (or America needs leftist reservations where the socialists would have autonomy without draining resources from the industrious and thrifty).

    For you need a culture as well as the principles.

    • ECM December 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Hear, hear!

  5. ECM December 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Be Better Than Evan McMullin

    That’s a really low bar: I managed that just by visiting the bathroom this morning–and I had Mexican last night.

  6. hamburgertoday2017 December 27, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    We end up squabbling over the meaning of key words because words have power, even if they don’t always have a generally-agreed-upon meaning. Words like ‘conservatism’ or ‘liberalism’ have histories of use, but I’m not sure they have definitions precisely because their meaning is constantly being challenged and renewed.

    It matters how the Founders meant their evocation of ‘Equality’ to be understood, the same with ‘Liberty’ but we, as the Inheritors and Custodians, have to revitalize and deploy these ideas (whether we use the specific words or not) today. I don’t think there’s any democratic way of getting beyond the contesting of key words, I’m just convinced that the contests always get us very far. More relevant are the answers to the questions, ‘What kind of America do we want to live in?’, ‘What price(s) are we willing to pay to achieve that vision?’

  7. Landslide Hillary December 27, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    McMuffin should be beheaded

    • Rustynail December 28, 2017 at 11:42 am

      You should be flagged and blocked

      • Landslide Hillary December 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm

        You should toughen up … a lot.
        The deep state McMuffin is fronting has stolen your birthright … Thomas Jerreferson’s democracy.
        There is no punishment that’s too harsh.

      • Brian B December 30, 2017 at 8:05 pm

        Why don’t you download Killfile then you can block him personally while others can do as they please?
        That way we can all be free and equal.

        • Rustynail December 31, 2017 at 7:48 pm

          Because there is a little arrow that works fine.
          Equal?

  8. Trevor Cook December 27, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    McEggHead isn’t even a Conservative!

  9. BanBait December 28, 2017 at 6:16 am

    The problem with McMuffin is that he’s gone Full Max Boot and thrown in with the Marxists and traitors on the Left. We have a president that obviously so offends his sensibilities that he chooses to ignore the sharp limitations in the power of executive agencies, the Neil Gorsuch appointment and now the tax bill, which embody the “principles” of separation of powers, limited government and private property rights. Therefore, I would posit that McMuffin has no actual principles, he just has butthurt and a wounded ego. Like every other SwampRat in Washington, he needs Rat B Gone, not a Twitter account.

  10. Panope Vreeland December 28, 2017 at 11:23 am

    This is the second time I’ve detected a David French strain in Mr. Sabo. Affecting to be above the fray, pure, not like the dirty soldiers down below. The criticisms of McMullin are dead on. They say liberty they mean tyranny. They say equality they mean everybody equally under their heel. Just like the French Revolution. (And if you guys can’t design your website to where the comments don’t jump up and down it is hard to take you seriously believe it or not. Basics matter.)

  11. Xen December 28, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    McMullin is Robespierre, therefore Trump is the Messiah, or at least a paragon of conservative virtue and the embodiment of the Founders’ principles? Is that right?

  12. SmartProf December 29, 2017 at 6:12 am

    The irony about the McMullin candidacy is that the only state where he got a significant share of the vote was Utah.
    And that vote was not so much about “conservative principles,” but the fact that McMullin was a fellow Mormon.
    In other words, the votes McMullin got were for “tribal” reasons–precisely the kind of bloc voting that, when it’s nationalist and for Trump, the NeverTrumpers disdain!

    • BilltheBruinsFan December 29, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Not necessarily. Look no further than presidential candidates Romney and Huntsman. Mormon missionary service in Europe at a tender age may have infected them with an ‘enlightened’ (big-government) viewpoint.

      • SmartProf December 29, 2017 at 11:04 am

        What you say may be true, but that wasn’t my point.
        My point was that McMullin opposed Trump’s “tribalism,” but McMullin’s votes came mainly from the same kind of tribalism.

        • BilltheBruinsFan December 29, 2017 at 2:47 pm

          OK, got it–agreed.

  13. BilltheBruinsFan December 29, 2017 at 8:42 am

    ‘Yes’ to equality of opportunity, but a thousand times ‘no’ to creeping equality of outcome. De Tocqueville warned against this.

  14. Brian B December 30, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    The problem is twofold;

    1. The dope seems to be saying ‘liberty and equality’ are THE founding principles.
    Wouldn’t it be a bit more appropriate for him to go to the fairly well known ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ if he’s going to tell us what the our founding principles were, since they were directly from the founders’ pen?

    2. I can’t remember the second one so I’ll just say, some guys should not shave their heads, guys with bulbous alien looking ones topping the list. Of course what’s inside it seems a little problematic as well.

Comments are closed.