To the silent Conservatives: You are relevant again.  It’s time to pull your weight….





Conservatism is the liberation agenda that focusses on conserving the limits and boundaries that protect freedom in a changing world.  Liberalism is the liberation agenda that focusses on changing the world by challenging limits and boundaries.  These political stances, taken together, advance civilization when they are in creative engagement with each other.  But that dialogic cooperation works only when their core principles are mutually commensurate.

For the moment, the hard left has fractured the working relationship between healthy liberalism and vital conservatism by substituting a postmodern, politically correct ideology for principled liberalism. Healthy liberalism was historically founded in a principled commitment to human freedom shared by conservatives.

The 2012 electoral success of the hard left has shocked conservatives into an incoherent crouch – grown men and women are in a metaphorical fetal position, grumbling unintelligibly or not at all.

Traditionally, conservatives have come together in opposition to the greatest threat, as in communism’s most aggressive phase 1947-1997. But when not firmly united around their core principles, conservatives can easily be shoehorned into “the party of NO” and “the coalition of privilege and prejudice.” Too many of today’s conservatives are not able to state their core principles, much less follow them and sell the sound conservative policies that are needed.

The left continues to score with its anachronistic attacks on the paleo-right because modern conservatives have failed to shed the baggage of their predecessors’ past political stances (such as an alliance with royal privilege in the old country, support for brutal union busting in the early industrial period and resistance to women’s suffrage – even though these and other positions have long since been abandoned. These were mistakes that “seemed good at the time.” In reality, they were moral errors that flowed out of a failure to understand and apply the fundamental ethical principles that undergird vital conservatism. Often, they were the result of what the writer- philosopher Ayn Rand described as “the inability to think in principles” (which is also the malady of the politically-correct ideologues that populate the postmodern left).

It seems that the left has been more vocal in criticizing crony capitalism and corrupt financiers than the conservatives have. A vital conservative movement would have been out in front on these issues, unafraid to take on the corrupt entanglement of commerce, banking and politics, because, after all, they represent a dishonorable breach of deeply held conservative principles.  Instead, conservatism has lost control of the core values-narrative because too many conservatives have been complicit in the erosion of the moral ground.  As a result, the most visible conservatives are tongue-tied when it comes to stating moral principles with sincerity and confidence; and they are quiet as night burglars when it comes to using moral principles to shame real people and real institutions.  Who do they think they’re protecting? …Allies? Who needs enemies when your allies are so corrupt that they give capitalism a bad name and discredit your cause in the bargain?

The moral ground that supports vital conservatism must be rediscovered before conservatism can recover its vitality.  The path to that recovery is marked by seven guideposts:

1)   An unshakable commitment to human dignity, the Universal baseline of respect for individual integrity, the foundation-stone of our rights;

2)   A fierce dedication to the protection of the individual, the family, the community, the state and the nation from all predators (whether criminals, terrorists, or authoritarian governments), because our lives, property and freedoms need real guardians;

3)   Rock-solid support for the sanctity of individual choice and for the practical measures that undergird the validity of our chosen promises, including the obligation to pay workers and to pay debts as promised, the right to be paid, to earn and retain the fruits of our earnings; this is an impartial support that starts at the humblest level by holding the powerful and the weak accountable to the same standard.

4)   Steadfast adherence to the justice principle – meaning proportionate individual accountability for one’s actions and their consequences, meaning risk and reward, risk and failure, crime and punishment, and all the rest;

5)   Firm rejection of collective “justice” (a contradiction in terms), because it always constitutes individual injustice, because the collective unfairly treats similar matters as if different, and different matters as if the same;

6)   Bright-line clear recognition that ordered liberty (the reciprocal recognition of human dignity, the protection of life affirming creative expression, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) is a moral imperative, not just some construct made up by the “dead white men” who wrote our founding documents;

7)   The sober and realistic recognition that the coercive powers of governments are legitimate or illegitimate only as they substantially conform to or fail to conform to these moral principles.

The moral ground does not erode away in a day.  It diminishes by stealth through a series of acts of compromise, temporary lapses, moments of expediency, each step of which at first seems to honor the larger moral principles while making just one exception. [Yes, there always must be compromises, especially as we face of some overarching, supreme challenge or mortal enemy. But that just ramps up the obligation to firmly and clearly restate the moral principle at stake, and the limits and temporary nature of the compromise.]

Here is the danger. Moral compromises all too quickly morph into the abandonment of the entire moral ground, high and low. This leaves liberty and human dignity as commodities. But commodities are subject to trading away.  If you will recall, trading away human freedom and dignity was the very basis of slavery.

The liberal West paid a steep price for its alliance with the Stalinists to defeat the Nazis. We can hardly fault that original decision, properly made on dire practical grounds. But our leaders were far too lax in making clear that the Soviet Regime was also an evil that we would need to confront, all too soon. The corruption of the left began during the early Cold War with its ambivalence and apologetics about Stalin and communism.

The habitual neglect of the moral foundation becomes corruption, and it inevitably empowers a dangerous malignancy to take on a terrifying momentum in the cukture. This is the current situation among the civilized Western nations, and even within the USA itself.

This is why conservatism is suddenly so relevant.  We are living in one of those historical pivot moments, a rapidly approaching branch point. The so-called party of “NO!’ is like the fire brigade that revelers finally call after they have set fire to their own homes. Without moral principles and concrete, confident actions leading to a working coalition, the fire brigade will fail to answer the call. And conservatives will have failed civilization at the crucial moment when the resurgence of their core principles was most desperately needed.

The signs of the historical pivot are manifold.  The fate of beleaguered Israel is an impending test. The debt, inflation, entitlement crisis is another. Stopping the rise of a nuclear-armed Islamic Imperium is still another.  But all these are just aspects the same historical pivot: Will a morally confident coalition surge up from the center, led by vital conservatives and reawakened freedom-loving liberals? Will it arrive in time to bring us back from the abyss?

If the conservative movement fails the moment – if we fail the moment, the consequences for our children, grandchildren, and their children will be unthinkably grim.

At the end, it will be a choice of legacies: Are we to be remembered in gratitude for our moral courage or in shame for our infamy?



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Watch for – Part Two: The New Coalition

The author is a California lawyer and analyst.  His web site, The Policy Think Site, is at <>, and his principal Blogs, The Dot 2 Dot Blog and The Out*Lawyer’s Blog, are linked there along with a Profile and additional contact information.


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