Thursday, February 14, 2008

Whither Conservatism? Part III.

This post is shared with BigDadGib.

The primary season for the 2008 presidential election has been a long and tiring one, both for political junkies and the politicians themselves. With the Republican race winding down, John McCain is the nominee apparent, his ascension a mere formality of garnering enough delegates, despite the continued efforts of Mike Huckabee.

The race has been a tough one for conservatives, as our best candidates fell by the wayside. Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney - each departure seemed to be a nail in the coffin of Reagan conservatism. But conservatism did not begin with Ronald Reagan, no matter how much each Republican candidate tries to be him; indeed, they’ve done everything short of eating a jar of jelly beans on national TV to convince us that they carry his mantle. Likewise it did not end when he left office, though it has certainly been on hiatus in those lofty halls of power.

Thus we have all sorts of conservative pundits coming out with “What now?” articles, while the liberal media chortles with glee over the right-wing crackup. The subjects of these missives run the gamut from discussing the cause of the GOP rift, to calls to rise from the ashes of the old conservatism, to calls to surrender. Even the old liberal standard of “Change!” is being trotted out. However, I reject the notion that American Conservatism needs to change with the times and become the new revolution; that’s just letting liberalism move the goalposts by saying that today’s status quo was yesterday’s innovation. While true enough, I think it’s a mistake to apply that definition of “conservative” to American Conservatism.

American Conservatism is not a stubborn insistence on maintaining the status quo, but rather eschewing change for changes’ sake. It is not resisting all change, but making changes with consideration, where needed, and with wisdom. It is recognizing that though not all are capable of greatness, all should be free to reach for it. It is acknowledging that we are all equal in the eyes of God, with rights that no man or elected body can take away. It embraces a desire to protect those values that anchored the American peoples’ march from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It recognizes that authority is dangerous, and that power corrupts, thus there must be safeguards to protect against a tyranny of the majority.

Thus, I think Michelle Malkin has it right: Get fired up! Let us not be revolutionaries, but let us stoke the fires of patriotism lit by our Founding Fathers. Government does not exist solely from the White House, but from Congress, and in the Statehouse, and from the people. We won’t get a conservative in the White House this November, that much is assured, so why not focus on getting conservatives in Congress? Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that individuals with the most ability will never run for political office, because they will be busy building wealth, and will not be beholden to the crowd. A politician’s primary goal is to get re-elected, so he is behooved to listen to his constituents. Write to your representatives, call them on the phone; demand that they work for conservative principles and values. American Conservatism is and always has been a grass-roots enterprise.

Stop pining for the Gipper, stop sulking over Fred Thompson, and don’t get despondent about John McCain. Take Michelle’s advice: Get fired up!