Listeners to my Constitution Radio program on KCAA 1050 AM on Saturdays at 2:00 Pacific often email me to ask questions about things I say on the show. One of the most common questions is my reference to myself as a Classical Centrist.
What is a Classical Centrist?
To understand my self-proclaimed political designation, one must understand the political spectrum we use here in the United States, and the political climate we seem to find ourselves in.
In France, during the approach of the French Revolution, which followed the American Revolution by a mere decade, a battle raged against the monarchy, and the established church. In the legislative assembly those that supported no change, keeping the monarchy, and the powerful State Church, sat on the right side of the meeting hall. Those that were calling for change, for a secular society that would replace the existing system, and influenced by the Enlightenment sat on the left side of the hall. It is this model of a political spectrum that most left-of-center people use. Therefore, religiosity is automatically a rightwing thing. Fear of change, if not refusal to change, is also considered by these people to be to the right. Those calling for change, and secularism, are considered to be automatically on the left.
Other influences have also guided this European political spectrum.
Since it was decided that communism, for example, was on the far left because of its system of change, and because it was atheist in manner, and Adolf Hitler claimed his system to be the opposite of communism, fascism is considered to be rightwing. It didn't matter that Nazism is also socialist in nature. Because Hitler said it was the opposite of communism, it was assumed that it was, even though he stood for stronger government involvement in the lives of the citizens - just like communism.
In America, a different political spectrum arose after the forging of this nation. The United States did not have a monarchy, nor was an established religion allowed to emerge through the federal system. The limiting principles of the Constitution were the opposite of the European systems, making the founders quite liberal for the time period as they demanded change, yet the new system was nothing like the calls for change in Europe.
Then, when the founders created the federal government through the Constitution, they did something very fascinating. They took an old world idea of a central government, and took a uniquely American angle by only allowing the central government to handle external issues, while leaving all internal issues to the States, and local governments.
What emerged was a political spectrum that determined what was to the left and to the right based on the amount of government. To the far right, or zero percent government, is anarchy. To the far left, or one hundred percent government, is totalitarianism.
Based on that model, systems with stronger control over the citizens through an overpowering political system all reside on the left. Such systems would include communism, fascism, socialism, monarchies, and theocracies. . . like Islamism.
The United States Constitution dared to toy with the idea of creating a central government. Tyrannies unanimously emerge from powerful central governments, and the Founding Fathers knew it. The Anti-Federalists protested against the formation of the stronger central government, and demanded a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the possibility of this new government taking the rights of the people. The debates during the convention of 1787 were fierce. The battle between laissez faire and statism forced the founders to conduct the convention in secrecy, fearing that the fight for a new government might make the people doubt their political leaders.
The Articles of Confederation gave the new country too weak of a government. When Shays' Rebellion rose up because the American Revolution's veterans were angry over their financial debt that continued to rise while they fought to preserve the independence declared on July 4, 1776, the weak government was unable to quell the insurrection, so the merchants in Boston sent a mercenary force to do the job.
The old government was a lamb too weak to handle the needs of the new nation. What the new country needed was a lion. The problem with lions is that they eat you. So the delegates in the Constitutional Convention knew that the lion they were creating must be restrained. The chains of the Constitution were designed to restrain the federal government, to limit it to only external matters, while protecting the sovereignty of the States.
The Constitution created a central government, a left-of-center idea, and limited it to only be able to handle external matters, a right-of-center idea. That means that based on the American model of a political spectrum, the Constitution is dead center, or at least it was in 1787.
As a Constituitionalist, that makes me a Classical Centrist.