By David Beilstein
IT appears the American conservative movement is in flux — intellectually, culturally, and politically. This is nothing to fear; as such developments have always been the harbinger of renewal in times past.
It was a big part of the modern conservative birth in the 1950’s; essential in electing that generation’s greatest conservative voices and policies. Still, bitter clinger’s cling — stale personalities, whose ineffective policies of the past still seek the lights of the main stage, using conservatism as nothing more than a punch line at metaphorical cocktail parties. Thankfully, there is a galvanising wind at conservatism’s back too — hopeful, ready for political battle.
If this blog could be of any service, it would be to recommend the conservative movement in these years seek to preserve (generally) two key conservative principals.
A conservation of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights for all citizens; secondly, the conservation of 18th century philosophy, which was the premise the Founders used to write the U.S. Constitution.
Both must be conserved — and just as importantly — communicated effectively in order for conservatism to be a popular force in electoral politics. Neither, sadly, has been communicated well in conservative politics since the 1994 Republican congressional policies, or within the executive branch, since Ronald Reagan’s first term.
That is going back some years. Since conservatism is often counter-intuitive — it must be communicated with more skill, and more vigour than progressivism.
Conservatism requires talent. Just as great success in life does.
Cluttered politics is ineffective politics. In the last few decades, conservatism has been damn cluttered — too many voices, too many concerns — sundry cultural warrior positions, lacking a point of view which sees the state as provisional, and unexceptional.
What government can do — by light of the Constitution — it should do effectively. But where government does not belong, conservatives are far better arguing the philosophical reasons behind such limited-government postures.
We cannot have a perfect society. But we can have an improving society — a good society, improving into the future for younger generations, seeking advancement, work, and liberty.
Conservatism must be about all Americans. It must speak clearly to all Americans — from the poor to the rich to the in between. It must meet those people where they work and where they live.
It must glimpse Americans within their diversities, seeing such differences as culturally rich, rather than problematic. Identity politics has deep-sixed the conservative movement to a woeful degree. The man or woman living in the urban beauty of Brooklyn, or arid lands of Wyoming, needs to understand conservatism is about protecting and animating the right for those people to till, plant, and grow their own gardens, as they see fit.
The beauty of conservatism is control — as much control as this mortal life affords. The arousal of Republicans for wealthy risk takers is not wrong — but it misses where many men and women are in our times. There is a sense in which security and stability are more important to Americans now, and Republicans must speak to that concern.
We have our marching orders.
In the past, the G.O.P. has not listened. But they are in a position where listening is now virtue — and maybe (electorally) survival.