Alan Keyes
October 18, 2012
Obama's adamantly un-American radicalism meets Romney's self-cancelling conservative pose
By Alan Keyes

[A post a few days ago featured a comment that aptly described the situation of the GOP's conservative grassroots base as a political version of spousal abuse syndrome. This morning, I read the following pithy comment from the same reader, freelance writer Virginia Rathbun, about one of the subjects in Tuesday night's Obama/Romney exchange. I post it here, along with some thoughts of my own which it inspired.]


During the second debate, Barrack Obama issued a direct and accurate challenge to Romney on social issues: "In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured.... Governor Romney not only opposed it; he suggested that in fact, employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage...." Obama also voiced his opposition to Romney's promise to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney was not given the opportunity to retort. (Was this to signal there is really no difference between the two individuals' viewpoints, or is "severely conservative" Romney not allowed to speak?) Romney, ever averse to being taken seriously at his word to the Republican base, immediately clarified that he is firmly on both sides of the issue. "I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not [said to the base]. I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not [said to the left]. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives [said to all]."

Of course, the issue isn't whether any official or employer can tell a woman to use or not use contraceptives, but Romney's verbal gymnastics help to muddy the waters and lead astray the inattentive. Perhaps the word choice is the deliberate obfuscation that lends itself to "clearer" (but still mutable) interpretation later. "Well, I was just assuring women I would defend their right to always have access to contraceptives," or some such nonsense. Freudian slip Romney finished by saying: "The president's statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong." Magical Romney strikes again: Now you see the conscience clause, now you don't...


The appearance of sharp disagreement between Romney and Obama on the issue of conscience-coercing health insurance mandates is a false pretense. This is clear from the fact that in dealing with it, they both speak the same language. Both use the term "right" as if it is simply a matter of individual choice, with no standard or rule to govern it. They use the term in this way because both embrace the elitist faction's rejection of the first premise of American self-government — that there is a standard of right common to all human beings, which "the laws of nature and of nature's God" oblige all to respect.

Absent this common and authoritative standard of choice, all that is left of respect for right is the demand that individual freedom be respected. In light of this demand, Obama says "insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody." In light of it, Romney proclaims his personal beliefs about what bureaucrats and employers should not do and what every women in America should have.

When it comes to using the essential power of government, however, the notion that individual freedom, per se, should be respected is patently self-contradictory. This is true because no use of government power can simply be a matter of individual choice. By definition, government represents the action of a community, a combination of individuals united and actuated by the will or judgment they have in common. If with respect to any given action, each and every individual remains perfectly free to do as they choose, there can be no assurance of common action, and no secure expectation of any particular result. Where there is no reliable security for action, there is no government to speak of, only a beguiling and contemptible pretense of government, quickly dispelled by individual recalcitrance.

Of course, if one or a few individuals resist the common will of a larger number, the greater force may overcome the lesser. But in that case, what becomes of the notion that individual choice "needs to be" or "should be" respected? Such language suggests that there is some requirement or standard that forbids the individuals with the greater force from simply using that force to impose their will upon the others. But if individual choice "needs to be" or "should be" respected, why should the individual choices that comprise the greater force be thwarted by resistance from those who do not agree with them?

The answer to that question cannot be framed in terms of respect for individual choice, because one way or the other, individual choices will be disrespected. On one side or the other, people will be compelled to accept an outcome they would not otherwise choose to accept. The principle of respect for individual choice is not by itself sufficient to justify this compulsion. Yet in the final analysis, without some such justification, the rhetoric of respect for individual choice is revealed to be nothing more than a mask for the imposition of superior force, with no regard for anything else.

The principles of America's self-government avoid this self-contradiction because they frame the justification for the use of government's coercive power in terms of God-endowed right. According to those principles, the essence of right is not a demand to choose freely. Rather, the essence of true freedom is the determination to choose rightly. The just powers of government exist for the security of those who are determined to exercise (i.e., to do or practice) God-endowed right, not to empower those who unjustly use power to compel others to do or submit to, God-defying wrong. Given this purpose, right of conscience is not just one unalienable right among others. The defense of true conscience against unjust coercion is at the heart of the capacity to recognize and preserve any vestige of unalienable right at all.

Both Romney and Obama represent the elitist faction's determination to return to the practice of government based upon superior force (however achieved), without regard for just constraints derived from the God-endowed standard of justice that applies to all humanity. Obama represents the wing of the elitist faction that openly adheres to the ideological view that makes the forces of human history the arbiter of human affairs. Romney represents the wing that upholds the rhetorical mask of respect for some standard of justice that transcends such historical forces. But, as his actions show with reasonable consistency, he does not do so because he himself respects that standard. He does so because those who do respect it are, for the moment, still a force to be reckoned with and exploited in American politics. His assignment (and that of the GOP as presently constituted) is to dissipate that force by drawing its energy to himself and then dispersing it without effect (like the heat sink attached to a CPU.)

This explains the self-cancelling effect of Romney's supposed conversion to the principled conservative cause. On account of that effect (reviewed in this detailed summary by Amy Contrada), his supposed career as a "conservative" on the issues of God-endowed right is so tortuous and convoluted as to be comical. But once the conservative pretense is removed, Romney's public career has a consistency that has tragic implications for the future of liberty.

If there is a comic side to it, the joke is on leaders in the movement to preserve and defend God-endowed right foolish enough to tout Romney as one of their own. Obama's socialist radicalism has roused the kind of grassroots opposition that threatens to upset the comfortable lives and little empires they have built upon politely civil opposition to the slaughter of innocence and conscience. If he is re-elected, the battle to defeat these evils will probably have to take a form that involves risky, sacrificial witness to truth. Is it for fear of this that these leaders are so determined to convince their grassroots constituents that Romney represents a real alternative to Obama, when his record says otherwise? Thanks to that determination, they are forced into evasive silence about the facts of Romney's record, else he could not pose as an advocate of the cause they espouse. With every twist and turn of his self-cancelling pose, he stretches the truth on the rack of his much-vaunted "pragmatism." He has gone so far as, by example, to encourage the assault against someone like Todd Akin, though the congressman is one of the few politicians standing firm in order to demonstrate that the defense of God-endowed right is not a rhetorical tool, but a true standard of justice.

Ordinarily when someone who's supposed to be on your side willfully turns their deadly "friendly fire" against your buddies in the fray, you take it as strong evidence of treachery. What kind of people think that a future over which that kind of treachery presides will be the "lesser of evils?" What kind of people conclude that it's preferable to be done in by deceitful treachery you empower in your own camp than to endure hard battle against the enemies of God's truth, openly declared. Faced with two candidates like Obama and Romney, true conscience requires that we reject them both. Otherwise neither of them will have to assault our right of conscience. We will already have given it up for lost.
 For the Lord's Day (Oct. 14, 2012)
To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election — one featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism — when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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