The past few weeks have highlighted one of the most problematic aspects of the modern conservative movement, namely that it has endorsed modernity. There is nothing modern about conservatism. Conservatism is based on a belief in the organic and unchanging nature of man. At its core are traditions, obligations, responsibilities, faith, reason and duty. These virtues are immutable, unchanging and eternal.
It is summed up in the simple phrase, “God, Family, Country.” Conservatives owe many obediences; the highest is to God and that which is closely related: Obedience to the truth. This takes a variety of forms, but one of the most important is obedience to history as it was, not revisionism.
There are five illustrations where conservatives, in a futile attempt to appear modern, have brought about strategic failure.
The first is over the Electoral College. The rising star of the Democratic Party, a self-declared socialist, recently summed up the new left’s attack on the Electoral College by arguing that it is a vestige of slavery. Conservatives were immediately indignant. Few conservatives attacked this nonsense with the actual foundation of the Electoral College. They talked about big states and small states and also political tradition; some even suggested that it was good that it has transitioned.
The Electoral College is one of the last vestiges of republicanism (as in a Republic) remaining in America. It was designed to put a stop to mob rule, a currently popular term. The House is the chamber of sentiment, the Senate is the chamber of reason, and the presidency is the guardian of the Constitution. Due to this, the president was never intended, nor should he be, elected by a popular majority.
The second is over Iraq. It appears that the left wishes to bring this up at any point where foreign affairs are discussed. The mistake made early on by conservatives was to only focus on the weapons of mass destruction which the American intelligence community assured President Bush were active. However, Iraq was more than that. It was one of the worst state sponsors of terrorism; it had engaged in chemical weapons attacks against its own people, and it was preparing for expansion once the UN sanctions were lifted.
However, it also provided the best option for democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration knew this before the invasion but did not communicate this until later. It, therefore, appeared as an add-on, instead of the core that it was. Now, many conservatives who endorsed the war backtrack and backslide. This emboldens the left and only makes their radical agenda in foreign policy easier to attain. Conservatives need to support the actions of President Bush boldly, and assertively.
The third is over the Second Amendment. The NRA is on a roller coaster about whether to rely on the actual foundation of the Second Amendment or what they think will appeal to the masses. They and their allies have made a colossal blunder by focusing on hunting, personal defense, and target shooting instead of the foundation illustrated by John Locke and the Founding Fathers. Namely, that a government that owns a monopoly of arms is a government that can impose tyranny.
A free people armed is the last best check on an illegitimate government. Whether some think this is too far-fetched for the American people to understand or not is difficult to say. However, it frames the debate with the truth and defeats all naysayers Only a fool would argue that a future American government could never be a tyranny.
The fourth one is over the moaning over gridlock. There are many platitudes about bipartisanship and the failure to accomplish this legislative item or that. However, what the electorate needs to be reminded of is that the alternative to a system that could radically change — was tyranny. This is not to argue that gridlock is inherently good, but it is to illustrate that this is the cost to avoid the excesses and extremes of almost every other civilization. By not characterizing it in these terms grants the extremists the ammunition to engage in radicalism.
The final fallacy is over great men. The “out-of-fashion” historian Carlyle argued, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He correctly argued that it is to the heroic figure that we owe so much. Conservatives should stop apologizing for the great men of civilization. The recent Winston Churchill controversy, the yearly wringing of hands over Christopher Columbus, and the continued, methodical and strategic attempt to destroy the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln should not be met by apologies, but by righteous anger.
The critics do not understand, nor are they able to match the trials and tribulations of these men. They know nothing of the perils of the Battle of Britain, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, or the crossing of the Atlantic. The left well-full knows that if they can knock these men off their pedestals, the rest of Western civilization will follow. In the end, out of fear, they are the biggest believers in the great man theory of history. If not, they would not try so desperately hard to destroy their reputations.
Conservatives have always warned of the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. This is one of the fundamental values, and it does no good to anyone, especially the American electorate, when those that pride themselves on guarding the truth of the past do not themselves hold it as sacred.
Lamont Colucci is associate professor of politics at Ripon College and author of “The National Security Doctrines of the American Presidency: How they Shape our Present and Future” (Praeger, 2012).
This piece originally ran in the Washington Times on 23 October, 2018.