Is Small Government Not a Conservative Value Anymore?

I am not going to argue with Tony Perkins about his discounting the results of his own poll at the Value Voter Summit, organized by Perkins’s own organization, the Family Research Council. If Perkins believes his organization is not able to represent the majority of socially conservative Americans in its events, then so be it, I will agree with him. I actually thought about it four years ago when Mitt Romney won the same poll. I just couldn’t see how socially conservative Americans can have the same values with a Mormon who is also big-government proponent, pro-high-taxes, sponsored by Goldman Sachs (the same Goldman Sachs that is also the biggest sponsor for Obama) and is the original architect of what today is known as Obamacare. In one way or another, Perkins and I came to the same conclusion about the Family Research Council: It has outlived its ability to live up to its purpose.

Perkins’s dislike for the results of his own poll aside, I disagree with something Perkins said after he discounted the results of the poll. He first said that Ron Paul didn’t represent the values of the socially conservative Americans. Well, I have no sufficient information about the values of those socially conservative Americans; Perkins does. May be he is right, may be he isn’t, who knows.

But then, Perkins said the following:

We should not discount there’s a lot of discontent with big ineffective government that’s taking place in this country, and I think the Ron Paul campaign reflects that. The message of his campaign is sending is something other campaigns have to listen to as well.

There are two big problems with this statement, and with the context of the statement.

First, Perkins is a politician. And when a politician talks, watch out for those double adjectives. Social-democratic. National Socialist. Progressive communitarian. Socially responsible. There’s a reason why a politician uses double adjectives. One is to capture part of the audience he knows distrusts him. The other adjective is to negate the meaning of the first one. Or the other way around.

Here we have “discontent with big ineffective government.” Those that are against “big government” will be hooked up: See, Perkins is against big government. But then there is the qualifier, the second adjective: ineffective. In other words, not just “big government,” but “big ineffective government.”

Read my lips: There is no discontent with big effective government. That’s what Perkins is saying, in a smooth political way.

The truth is, the discontent is not with big ineffective government. It is with big government, period. Those of us who are against big government, don’t give a penny if it is effective or not. In fact, I shudder at the thought of a big and effective government. I have seen it firsthand, in Eastern Europe. A government that’s both big and effective always accomplishes its goals. The problem is, big government’s goals are never the people’s goals. So if I had to choose between big effective and big ineffective government, I’ll vote for ineffectiveness every time.

But even better, I prefer small government. The Founding Fathers of this nation did not revolt because the British government was big and ineffective. They revolted because it was big, period. This is the good old conservative American way: No big governments. Perkins’s twist on this issue raises doubts about his understanding of what America stood for, originally.

I have a second bone to pick as well. Ron Paul’s values, according to Perkins, do not represent the values of socially conservative America; but Paul’s campaign reflects better on the issue of big government than the other campaigns.

The conclusion is: Perkins believes that the issue of big or small government is of no concern for the socially conservative America. A social conservative, that is, doesn’t care if the government is big or small; he doesn’t care if our lives are over-regulated by Washington DC. Social conservative values don’t include such things as low taxes, liberty, no regulation, federalism, freedom from government intervention and interference, etc. A social conservative, therefore, can live under a big government – provided it is “effective,” of course.

In other words, Perkins sees no connection between the size of the government and the threat that government is for the traditional family or the churches, which are proper social conservative values. He measures the candidates by their piecemeal rhetoric in favor of a few socially conservative topics Perkins believes are pertinent; but outside of those few topics, there is also the issue of government, which is of no concern as a value to a social conservative.

Perkins needs a lesson from the Founding Fathers, and specifically from John Witherspoon, about the proper relation between all the values civil and social, and why the issue of big government is just as much a social conservative value as is abortion, the family, or the church. Here’s Rev. Witherspoon speaking:

There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage.

Keep in mind that for the people at the time “religious liberty” included many things: family, education, freedom of speech, freedom to worship, etc. All socially conservative values. And here John Witherspoon is saying that those socially conservative liberties are tied to our civil liberties, to our freedom from government interference and force. In our modern language, Witherspoon is saying: “Don’t expect that big government will let you have your religious liberties. Big government is a threat to your socially conservative values.”

Therefore, for Perkins to talk about the issue of big government outside of the issue of socially conservative values means that Perkins never really understood “socially conservative” the way our Founding Fathers understood it.

So may be Perkins is right. May be his organization doesn’t represent socially conservative Americans anymore.