We Can Stop America's Slide into Socialism, by Sen. Jim DeMint
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BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Jim DeMint, a Senator from South Carolina, is not well-known nationally. This book is his shot at becoming better-known. Perhaps his goal is to run for president in 2012, but more likely his goal is to become a national leader of Christian conservatism. His unabashed defense of hard-core conservatism, and his unabashed application of Christianity as the core of his governing philosophy, make him a weak presidential candidate, but also make him a potentially strong conservative leader.
Sen. DeMint is a political ideologue, not a political philosopher. The difference is that an ideologue toes the party line because it's the party line, while a political philosophy has a coherent philosophy behind the set of beliefs. DeMint's core philosophy is that Christianity is good for society, but he carefully delineates how Christian society differs from Christian government. If DeMint applied that core philosophy to government, we wouldn't call him an ideologue. But instead he separates out his public policy from his belief in Christian society, and ends up just espousing a strict Reaganite voting record.
In fact, DeMint is such a strict Reaganite that he considers himself more of a Reaganite than Ronald Reagan. He criticizes Reagan for negotiating a deal with the Democrats that allowed Reagan billions for defense spending in exchange for allowing the Democrats billions in social spending (pp. 37-8).
Similarly, DeMint considers himself much more Republican than the other Republican members of Congress. He criticizes Republicans in Congress for the 2008-2009 bailout (pp. 122-3); for considering it their Congressional duty to help the poor (pp. 87-8); and for over-spending in general (p. 96). Some of DeMint's greatest venom is reserved for former Pres. Bush: DeMint describes Bush's call for "compassionate conservatism" as just another excuse for big spending (pp.48-50).
So the "party line" that DeMint toes is not the standard Republican party line, but the hard-core Reaganite party line, with a much more Christian core than Reagan ever espoused himself. For example, DeMint writes, "by 2008 it was hard to tell the Republicans from the Democrats" (p. 27). Indeed, to the OnTheIssues reader, except for the year references, DeMint's philosophy sounded more like 1989 than 2009, and the entire book seemed to have been written right after Reagan's retirement, with an "I-told-you-so" attitude for everything that came afterwards.
We mention "political philosophy" because this book is ostensibly about political philosophy. DeMint writes in the opening chapter, "It is my hope that this book will help see how creeping socialism is stealing our freedom, our prosperity, and our way of life" (p. 11), which pretty much sums up the core values upon which Reagan ran for president in 1980. DeMint cites numerous political thinkers, from Milton Friedman back to Friedrich Hayek and forward to Ronald Reagan, and claims that "this book is your plan and playbook for joining the fight to save freedom." In other words, DeMint would like to claim leadership in implementing the Friedman-Hayek-Reagan political philosophy.
Unfortunately for DeMint, his chosen philosophers disagree with him. Reagan was only moderately pro-life, whereas DeMint has a 100% pro-life voting record. Reagan moderately supported school prayer, whereas DeMint considers the 1962 Supreme Court decision banning school prayer to be the cause of most of society's subsequent failings (pp. 152-153). And of course DeMint would label Reagan's immigration policy "amnesty" and claims a leadership position in opposing amnesty now (p. 196).
DeMint further seems unaware that Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are libertarians, not conservatives. Yes, DeMint parrots those philosopher's anti-socialism viewpoint, claiming it as the motivation for the book: "Freedom is on the decline in America... Socialism has crept into almost every aspect of American life" (p. 57). But Friedman and Hayek applied that philosophy to the military while DeMint does not; Friedman and Hayek denounced American interventionism abroad, while DeMint considers it our duty to promote democracy abroad (pp. 59-60).
A key difference between libertarian philosophers and conservatives ideologues is that libertarians are consistent in opposing military spending as just another form of government spending. Ron Paul, whom DeMint cites on p. 87-88 as a fellow anti-spender, has an anti-spending voting record on defense spending directly opposite from DeMint's pro-military spending record. Ron Paul's stances are also directly opposite from DeMint's on the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, conscription, and how to deal with Iran's nukes. Ron Paul closely adheres to Friedman's and Hayek's libertarianism. DeMint does not.
Overall, DeMint caters to the right-wing talk-radio audience much more than to libertarians. That's fine if DeMint's goal is to host a right-wing talk-radio show -- we love them for stirring citizens to action! But DeMint claims that his goal is to change America by leading an anti-Socialist movement; Ron Paul has a much stronger claim to that role. And DeMint also seeks a leadership role as a Christian conservative -- but in that realm, Sarah Palin says the same things as DeMint, but with charm and humor where DeMint prefers venom and vitriol.
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, Nov. 2009
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Budget & Economy|
Barack Obama: OpEd: 2008 crisis from deregulated markets running wild.
Bill Clinton: OpEd: Left country on brink of recession in 2001.
George W. Bush: OpEd: weak budget negotiator against Democrats.
George W. Bush: OpEd: Blamed Wall Street bailout on others, but spent $1T.
Jim DeMint: Congress rewarded for spending; and punished for opposition.
Jim DeMint: Adamantly opposed to 2008 bailout.
Jim DeMint: Private spending multiplies; government only creates costs.
Jim DeMint: Bailouts & rescues of 2008 & 2009 were knee-jerk legislation.
Jim DeMint: Oppose $25B auto industry bailout; let the market work.
Newt Gingrich: Bailout combines bad policy with worst of Detroit's decay.
Paul Ryan: Road Map for America's Future: cut entitlement spending.
Ronald Reagan: Government is not the means to our prosperity.
Paul Ryan: 8.5% Business Consumption Tax instead of taxing profit.
George W. Bush: NCLB: Dropped state flexibility to garner Dem support.
George W. Bush: OpEd: NCLB's "teach the test" results in poorer education.
Jim DeMint: NCLB: More spending but no appreciable quality improvement.
Jim DeMint: True socialists guard government-run education.
Jim DeMint: Parents are trapped unless they can afford private school.
Jim DeMint: 1962 banning of school prayer also banned respect and honor.
Jim DeMint: Apply faith; education is not government responsibility.
Jim DeMint: A-PLUS Act: step away from federal control via school choice.
Jim DeMint: $5,000 per-student voucher to create private investment.
Energy & Oil|
Jim DeMint: Global warming may not be man-made.
Jim DeMint: USSR collapse exposes historical failure of socialism.
Jim DeMint: America is the example; spend to establish freedom abroad.
Jim DeMint: Stupid not to tax imports from foreign countries.
Milton Friedman: Protectionist trade policies caused the Great Depression.
Paul Ryan: 8.5% tax on imports from foreign countries.
Hank Paulson: 2008: Pushed trillion-dollar Wall Street bailout.
Jim DeMint: 1970s government did too much, and caused today's problems.
Jim DeMint: Government can't manage economy without restricting freedom.
Jim DeMint: I'm a recovering earmarker on a crusade to stop earmarks.
Jim DeMint: 2008: pushed one-year moratorium on earmarks.
Jim DeMint: We all benefit from government founded on Christian values.
Jim DeMint: Personal responsibility counterbalances central control.
Milton Friedman: Collectivism argument is simple; free market's is subtle.
Milton Friedman: Free society requires putting up with temporary evils.
Ronald Reagan: The more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.
Tom Coburn: Earmarks are gateway drug for wasteful government spending.
George W. Bush: Preferred that seniors use Medicare to buy private insurance.
Jim DeMint: Medicare went trillions into debt, & made seniors dependent.
Jim DeMint: Choice of affordable plans; keep from job to job.
John Shadegg: Allow buying health insurance from any state in the country.
Paul Ryan: Road Map: buy health insurance from any state in the country.
Paul Ryan: Replace Medicare with $9500/year private insurance payment.
Jim DeMint: Primary responsibility of government funding is defense.
Ronald Reagan: OpEd: To grow military, had to let Dems grow social programs.
Jim DeMint: 2007: Led effort to stop amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Mary Landrieu: Supported secret ballot when unions try to organize.
Principles & Values|
Barack Obama: OpEd: Spoke often during campaign of common struggles.
Barack Obama: OpEd: Victimology master; irrevocably bound to tragic past.
George W. Bush: OpEd: Compassionate conservatism means big spending.
Jim DeMint: Most members of Congress lean towards socialism.
Jim DeMint: Socialists prefer arbitrary affirmative justice to equality.
Jim DeMint: Freedom is on the decline in America.
Jim DeMint: Secular government good; but secular society destructive.
Jimmy Carter: 1970s: Too many of us worship self-indulgence & consumption.
Milton Friedman: Individual choice is the essence of freedom.
Paul Ryan: America's greatest strengths lie in Americans themselves.
Ron Paul: Just about everything Congress does is unconstitutional.
Ronald Reagan: Preserve the last best hope of man on earth.
Ronald Reagan: Private values must be at the heart of public policies.
Ronald Reagan: Replace left-right with up (freedom)& down (totalitarianism).
George W. Bush: OpEd: Tried to institute personal accounts; but AARP won.
Jim DeMint: People should own their Social Security accounts.
Jim DeMint: Right to own a personal Social Security account.
Jim DeMint: Social Security program is built on debt and dependency.
Paul Ryan: Road Map: invest 5.1% income into personal account.
Jim DeMint: Sales tax & tariffs ok; income tax confiscates wealth.
Jim DeMint: Half of all Americans now receive income from other half.
Paul Ryan: Road Map: simplified two-level flat tax.
Welfare & Poverty|
Jim DeMint: Volunteerism provides vision & backbone for community.
Jim DeMint: Nothing in Congressional duty requires helping the poor.
Jim DeMint: Government redistribution destroys voluntary charity.
Jim DeMint: Encourage voluntary charity via business, church & community.
Jim DeMint: Welfare programs deteriorate family structure.
The above quotations are from Saving Freedom:
We Can Stop America's Slide into Socialism, by Sen. Jim DeMint.
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- 2010: Take Back America, by Dick Morris
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- Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove
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- The Test of our Times, by Gov. Tom Ridge
- Saving Freedom, by Sen. Jim DeMint
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- Earlier election analyses