By David Beilstein
National Journal published this piece today. President Obama’s remarks about the Republican National Convention being stuck in the past — better ‘watched on black and white televisions’ — did include spicy grist worth responding too. During the RNC convention, I was a tad annoyed about the slippery dross of sentimentality poured over some of the themes — like the reverence for the past without properly defining it.
The problem for me, anyway, is that sentimentality is weak sauce to cook with. If anything, President Obama can animate the notion “Republicans are stuck in the past” pathos to some effect. Republicans need votes from people inclined to this kind of thinking to win majorities. Too many voters have an ear tuned to such oft cliches used ad hoc by leftist Democrats. For too many, Republican = “conservatism” — far too many more people believe conservative politics is code for unprogressive, fundamentalist, thinking.
The past is a slippery slope not only for voters disinclined to pull the lever for Mitt Romney but also for independents and Republican voters. For many, the past does not illustrate personal success. I, myself, enjoy my present and if God permits, my future more than the past. For me, the past was a struggle of motionless agony.
Same is true for many people. Conservative thought is not based on venerating the past wholesale. We are not interested in the past in a bubble — we do not look to the past on unexamined terms.
Conservatism is about examining wisdom ‘carried down through the ages’ in order to create progress for individual autonomy into future. Conservatism ‘conserves’ the principal pillars upon which innovation and progress animates itself in individual life. This animation — or progress — in individual life creates the “progress” of society in general. The problem with progressive politics is not its intentions to create progress, but that political progressivism of the leftist shell does the exact opposite of progress — but multiplies regression and limitation of human potential and striving.
In other words, progressivism does not enable its chief aim … a society progressing forward. No, progressivism restricts society, keeping it wedded to the limitations of individuals and society in dark years gone by.
It’s key Republicans (and in this case) the Romney campaign to explain what they mean by the past closing the door of President Obama’s ability to draw and parry based on red herrings and false dilemma fallacies. I’m not suggesting President Obama’s comments will change this election. The President has built a sterling record of failure and polls indicate the average voter is sympathetic to such realities. President Obama is down and behind in this election regardless of media hyperbole.
But it’s of strong importance those calling themselves conservatives explicate their etymology clearly for voters immersed in a culture of cliches and low-brow intellectual investigation. The Romney campaign needs to clearly articulate they are interested in the future — a prosperous future for those who work and strive — a future of expansive individual liberty and sovereignty.