Conservatism has become a destructive form of radicalism. Is it time to set it aside, for the sake of the Republic?
With the current political environment as it is, much has been espoused about the implosion of the GOP and the death of conservatism. To which I say, if what I see today is “conservatism,” then its death is a very good thing.
William F. Buckley said “Conservatism, except when it is expressed in pure idealism, takes into account reality.” But today’s self-proclaimed conservatives have no sense of reality, and have ventured so far from any reasonable standards of behavior that their demise would be a welcome change.
After the 2012 election, the GOP invested heavily in a post-mortem designed to establish a new path for the party, yet few of the targets established have been hit. Instead, the party has been hijacked by radical extremists who fail to acknowledge that our republic is a living, breathing thing, and that to be effective, our political system must keep pace.
It’s not a single issue – rather a general attitude of all-or-none, and a misguided belief that there is a magical moment available to right the ship. Words like civility and compromise have become anathema for conservatives. Good people who have devoted much of their lives to public service have been forced out by an angry and ignorant mob, and we are all worse off for it. Nothing of value will ever be accomplished by people, politicians and voters, who are unwilling to even acknowledge there are at least two sides to every issue, and the solution almost always will fall in the middle.
Nuance and negotiation have been replaced by hardline stances founded in fantasy. We live in a global community, we do business in a global economy, and yet we have people who would wall off our country in both regards. Should we allow unfettered and unchecked immigration into the U.S.? Of course not, but we cannot simply close our borders either. Should we turn a blind eye to improper practices by other countries to gain an unfair advantage in global trade? Most certainly not, but failure to pursue an equitable exchange of goods throughout the world is more harmful than helpful.
Conservatism cannot be an all-or-nothing, my-way-or-the-highway agenda. It cannot fail to embrace the ever shifting social mores in our country, and it cannot, in some misguided yearning for “the good old days,” ignore the rights of every citizen, regardless of gender, race, sexual affiliation, or religious preference.
Conservatism, as well as liberalism, must change course and steer back toward the middle. Dwight D. Eisenhower summed it up when he said:
Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong
Does this mean we are always going to agree or that every solution is always in the center? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but there are most assuredly no answers in the weeds on either side of the road. The answers will always lie somewhere between the two extremes, and will only ever be found through critical thinking on both sides, followed by civil debate, and ending in compromise.
Polarization is our single biggest enemy right now, and if the death of conservatism creates a new way of looking at our challenges, then we’re ultimately better off with it dead. Some will argue that radical liberalism then must die, too, and I would agree with that, as long as out of the ashes of both deaths rises a willingness to open a dialogue that is rooted in reality, and not foolhardy partisan fantasies.