T Nation

The Next Conservatism

The Next Conservatism
By Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind

“Conservatism has become so weak in ideas that during the presidency of George W. Bush, the word �??conservative�?? could be and was applied with scant objection to policies that were starkly anti-conservative. Americans witnessed �??conservative�?? Wilsonianism, if not Jacobinism, in foreign policy and an unnecessary foreign war; record �??conservative�?? trade and federal budget deficits; major �??conservative�?? expansions of the power of the federal government at the expense of traditional liberties; and nonchalant �??conservative�?? de-industrialization and dispossession of the middle class in the name of Ricardian free trade and Benthamite utilitarianism. No wonder the American people are confused and disillusioned by conservatism if these are its actions when in power. Were Russell Kirk still with us, what would he now call himself?”

“Real conservatism rejects all ideologies, recognizing them as armed cant. In their place, it offers a way of life built upon customs, traditions, and habits�??themselves the products of the experiences of many generations. Because people are capable of learning over time, when they may do so in a specific, continuous cultural setting, the conservative way of life comes to reflect the prudential virtues: modesty, the dignity of labor, conservation and saving, the importance of family and community, personal duties and obligations, and caution in innovation. While these virtues tend to manifest themselves in most traditional societies, with variations conservatives usually value, they have had their happiest outcome in the traditional culture of the Christian West.”

“While conservatives have won many political victories since the election of Ronald Reagan, the Left has continued to win the culture war. Unfortunately, culture is more powerful than politics. Conservatives have thus won tactically while losing strategically, with the consequence that American society has continued to decline into the abyss that opened before it in the 1960s.”

“Its agenda should include the abandonment of a Wilsonian foreign policy, which is promoted by neoconservatives and neoliberals alike, and a return to a policy based on America�??s concrete interests. Following the disaster of the war in Iraq, the American people may again be open to a non-interventionist foreign policy, as advocated more than half a century ago by Sen. Robert A. Taft. The next conservatism should explain that a realistic foreign policy is not isolationism, which is a bogeyman invented by globalists. America was never Japan under the Bakufu. Rather, through most of our history we related to the rest of the world, actively and successfully, through the private means of trade and ideas rather than by playing the game of Great Power. The Founders warned that we could either preserve liberty at home or seek Great Power status but not both. The next conservatism prefers liberty to the trappings of empire.”

"Both of these authors have been involved in the conservative movement since they were in high school, back in the Pleistocene. The movement�??s main problem over all those years has been its tendency to subordinate itself to the Republican Party.

During George W. Bush�??s presidency, this tendency grew so powerful that most of the Washington elements of the conservative movement became wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party. Grassroots conservative activists and many movement leaders outside Washington, especially those on the Religious Right, did not fall into this trap. But buckets of Republican money poured into conservative institutions that were willing to play the game, so most did. To the conservative movement�??s recent intellectual sterility, Republican Party ownership added corruption."

Of course, Weyrich promptly endorsed Mitt Romney last week…