The Choice of Models in 2012
Some months ago, Princeton professor Robert George framed the 2012 elections as a choice between two models: 1) the model of the Republican candidates that’s based on “America’s founding principles” of “constitutional and limited government, the rule of law, democratic participation, the market system, the institution of marriage, [and] the sanctity of human life,” and 2) an “alternative model” put on the table by President Obama, a model that’s otherwise than the “historic, traditional, American, constitutional model.”
It’s fair to contrast the models of the president and his GOP challengers–the differences are worth considering–but to oppose them as strikingly as Robert George has done clouds the real differences between them. First of all, Obama’s model, for all its deficiencies and problems, does not represent a radical departure from trends in the American political tradition. His expansions and concentrations of state power have precedence in the United States. Second, the president’s model, while in some ways failing to reach the ideals George cherishes, is still based on them. The difference between the models of each party is a difference based on interpretation. Democrats and Republicans differ in how they understand the Constitution, the limits of government, the rule of law, democratic participation, the market system, the institution of marriage, and the sanctity of human life, but they both largely believe in some conception of these principles. Third, the models put forth by the Republican presidential candidates arguably violate these principles in some way or another. However much they champion these principles in theory, in reality they, like the president and his administration, are poor exemplars. George’s superficial and ideological analysis overlooks the actual similarities and differences between the presidential candidates and, as a result, misleads his audience about the choice of models in 2012.