Is Conservatism Worth Conserving?

Of course it is. Without question.

The term ‘conservative’ can be understood in a variety of ways, but I am not interested in qualifying or justifying that here.

The post I cited yesterday only told part of the story, because all stories are, ultimately, parts of a greater whole. What I didn’t mention was my extended engagement with a conservatism that went far beyond the scope of Rush and the EIB network.

Here is the excerpt on that, to balance the scales:

My Conservatism does not come from Limbaugh or Buchanan or Goldwater. No. I got it from books. Grand, old books. The golden, Richard John Neuhaus age of First Things (which, I think, is making a comeback). The ideas drew me in. These minds drank deeply from wells of the West all the way down to Homer, filled with waters from antiquity, the Early Church, the Middle Ages, Early Modernity, into the present. There was a fearlessness about these books and I’ve always taken that to be the great virtue of Conservatism. A certain immodesty. Often on the wrong side of history, but always for interesting reasons. The Conservative tent was wide and wild but, most of all, it was intellectual, in the very best sense. Conservatives were, to me, people who cared about big ideas and were willing to be indecent about them if they had to. Conservatives read and wrote books and required that conversation be rigorous and grounded in a passionate, uncompromising intellect. And they had fun, too.

I am a Conservative because I still believe that. I think every major academic turn in recent years — from the theological turn in phenomenology (Jean-Luc Marion, et al) to the ontological turn in continental/postmodern thought (Alain Badiou, et al) — shows this Conservative legacy is still viable. These big ideas have redemptive value in politics and we should require that politicians have some familiarity with them. The GOP was once the party where those ideas made their home, for the most part, especially after the culture wars of the 60′s and 70′s. That was where one could find heady, bookish things. For me, that was the allure and grandeur of the Grand Old Party: ideas.

I find that the love of ideas is receding in public life altogether. This is surely something to be conserved.


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