Checking in with Conservatives
People have been arguing for the past few days (well, for a long time, but especially in the past few days) about collapses and/or shifts in American conservatism. Blame Wonkistan’s grouchy uncle Rod Dreher, who last weekend straight-up answered a reader who asked, “What is a conservative?” by pointing to Russell Kirk’s “Ten Conservative Principles.” Kirk:
Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.
[A]s Kirk said, conservatism is an attitude toward the world, not a dogmatic religion. It irritates me to no end that the American conservative mind is so closed, even to thinkers and resources in its own tradition. As Kirk’s tenth canon says, “The thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” That means that we have to be willing and able to think creatively about conservative principles, and apply them to new facts and circumstances. [Emphasis ours]
Dreher goes on to point out that conservatisms can be defined by their answer to the question, “What do you want to conserve?” Dreher’s answer — long-lived institutions of social order — informs his skepticism of free-market ideologues, military imperialism, and libertarians.
(Several days later he fleshed this idea out in a post entitled “How Should The GOP Change?” which went so far as to suggest that the next generation of Republicans support same-sex marriage legislation which staunchly protects religious institutions’ right to self-determination and conscience exemptions.)
Michael Brendan Dougherty, in the meantime, looks ahead to the post-2012 Republican Party. Many voices in the blogosphere hope that the party will come, at long last, to its senses. Dougherty gripes: “I expect conservatives in the next nominating contest will do what they always do: grudgingly accept a candidate that party elites deem a winner.”
And then David Brooks, in his Times column on Monday, detected a schism between “economic” and “traditional conservatives,” with the formula-spouting economic conservatives represented by Romney’s campaign management gradually seizing control of the Republican party. The result, he says?
The Republican Party has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition.
What say you? And isn’t it awesome that this debate even exists?