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We Are No Longer Conservatives; We Are Restorationists
Conservatives have long struggled to define the term “conservatism.” This makes sense since it’s always been less a political ideology than a life philosophy. Perhaps even an attitude.
When asked to define conservatism, Abraham Lincoln replied, “Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”
William F. Buckley updated his answer for the mid-20th century, framing it in opposition to liberalism. In other words, an anti-ideology. In his book Up from Liberalism (1959), Buckley declares conservativism is “freedom, individuality, the sense of community, the sanctity of the family, the supremacy of the conscience, the spiritual view of life.”
A half-century earlier, G.K. Chesterton didn’t so much define the term as identify the action it requires.
All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. [Orthodoxy, 1908]
It isn’t enough to “stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop.'” Conservatism requires intentional, aggressive work to evaluate the firehose of proposed changes, then promote the good ones and destroy the bad.
Or, as Reagan put it, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Reagan was prophetic. These days, conservatives spend a lot of time telling younger generations what it was once like to be free. We speak of lost liberties and wonder how best to restore them.
Here’s the plain fact: there’s no need for conservatism when there’s little left to conserve.
That’s why, over at The Federalist, John Daniel Davidson declared, “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives.”
Conservatives have long defined their politics in terms of what they wish to conserve or preserve — individual rights, family values, religious freedom, and so on. Conservatives, we are told, want to preserve the rich traditions and civilizational achievements of the past, pass them on to the next generation, and defend them from the left. In America, conservatives and classical liberals alike rightly believe an ascendent left wants to dismantle our constitutional system and transform America into a woke dystopia. The task of conservatives, going back many decades now, has been to stop them.
In an earlier era, this made sense. There was much to conserve. But any honest appraisal of our situation today renders such a definition absurd. After all, what have conservatives succeeded in conserving? In just my lifetime, they have lost much: marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years, the First Amendment, any semblance of control over our borders, a fundamental distinction between men and women, and, especially of late, the basic rule of law.
We have conserved a few things — gun rights, red-state economic policies, religious liberty (for now) — but it’s hard to argue with the main thrust of Davidson’s assessment.
The right isn’t conserving much but desperately trying to restore our freedom, our family, and our constitutional order.
Words mean things, and in the modern age, so does branding. I agree that “conservative” has outlasted its accuracy, but we need to call ourselves something. To that end…
We are no longer Conservatives; we are Restorationists.
We seek not to conserve the role of tradition in our society but to restore tradition to its rightful place.
Similarly, there are no national borders left to conserve; they must be restored.
The family is shattered and we must reintroduce this cornerstone of civilization. (That includes gender norms promoted from the dawn of time.)
Free speech must be placed back in the academy, workplace, and civil society.
All of this is work. Hard work. As such, it requires all of us to join the effort; neighbors, business leaders, teachers, and our government.
This is no longer the time for Conservation. On to Restoration.Published in Politics, Religion & Philosophy
Conservatives don’t have any foresight about the Fed and the Financial system. It totally gets in the way of conservatism and libertarianism’s ability to sell and function properly. Then everybody bitches about Socialism and populism.
Nobody ever does this, but I recommend that you watch the long interview of David Stockman on real vision. I think they took it out from the paywall. Also that Jeff Deist speech I post everywhere.
This is more about the Democrats, but the GOP had a part in it.
Remind yourself to vote.
How about “Restorians”?
Probably not too many people watched Andromeda, so they won’t know that it was a radical environmentalist group.
I don’t think that that is true; I think of Will as being restorative, just not with someone who he regards as cultivating a cult of personality. (Will left the Republican Party when Trump was nominated, but he will likely return in my opinion once the party rejects Trump.) In George Will’s most recent book, he dedicates it to Barry Goldwater, and Will clearly reveres Ronald Reagan, and if memory serves, George Will helped Reagan do debate prep.
If memory serves, Jimmy Stewart first opposed Reagan as not being sufficiently conservative.
If David French and George Will are not included in this movement, count me out. If Ricochet Founder Rob Long is not included in this movement, count me out. If Jonah Goldberg is not included in this movement, count me out. Good luck winning elections without us.
And yet he’s right about how “Conservatives” haven’t conserved anything. And one of the commentators there disagreed and insisted that conservatism has been “wildly successful.”
Didn’t need you in 2016, don’t need you in 2024.
George Will is still a conservative, he just refuses to “get on the Trump Train” as do I. He will never vote for Trump; in 2020, George Will wrote in “Mitch Daniels” for President, which I think was a splendid choice. I forget who George Will voted for in 2016; he sure didn’t vote for Trump.
I also want to make America great again, however the term “Make America Great Again” has been co-opted by Trump. My objection is to Trump, not to the notion of making America great again. We need to find a non-Trumpy term.
Compassionate Conservatism won re-election in 2004 and was the last time the Republican Party had a majority of the popular vote.
You really don’t know me very well, do you? I want much of the same things as you do, but not with a “cult of personality” leader who is more committed to re litigation of the 2020 election, instead of moving forward. I think that you are in denial of Trump’s “cult of personality.” Any candidate like Trump or Kari Lake who suggests that there are only two options in an election of “I win, or you cheated” is someone who is deeply in denial as he or she will not include the possibility that they can lose an election fair and square.
I like your Governor Brian Kemp a lot. I also like Ron DeSantis. Maybe we can start there to build common ground.
Thanks. It’s kind of you to wish us good luck.
Do you really mean it? I don’t think that I’d wish your movement good luck in winning elections.
You barely won in 2016, and in one term, Trump lost the House, the Senate and the Presidency, the first Republican to do so since Herbert Hoover’s first and only term.
We are doing well in 2022, despite Trump. If Trump had gone away we would be winning the Senate going away, but we are stuck with the Trump endorsed candidates. See Masters, Blake for example.
A Restoration Movement within the Republican Party will not be helped by the participation of these obscure personalities. Why don’t you @garyrobbins join them in forming a third part movement.
Hi Jerry. That was sarcastic. Trump is so driven to exclude others, he is amazed when we vote against him.
You can have a Conservative/Restorative movement or you can have a Trump movement. You can’t have both. I choose the former. Which do you choose?
Did he really?
You need help.
Libertarians For Biden!
I don’t think he’s very coherent over time, but what do I know. That interview is massively educational, though.
David French makes people really, really mad. lol I don’t understand what they are talking about most of the time, though.
No, this is my party and my movement also. But I won’t support a candidate who allows for only two options of “Either I win, or you cheated.” That is contrary to the Rule of Law. I am not going anywhere. We need to restore the Party of Reagan.
It appears that we may need to lose in 2024 to learn our lesson. If we nominate Trump in 2024, we lose. If we nominate anyone else, we win. Your choice.
Compassionate Conservatism = Mises.Org
This might help explain one reason.
That’s a great interview with George Will and Reason Magazine in Comment #77. I recommend it highly.
We are doing well because the Democrat party did everything wrong at the exact wrong moment in history. Everybody is suffering because of it, too.
Gary voted for this suffering.
Deplorable. The best names are those your opponents attach to you. You could look it up.
This is a good article.
Gary voted to remove Trump, full stop. Trump is an existential danger to the Republic and the Republican Party and had to be removed at any cost.
But I will grant you that the cost has been quite high.
Confusion remains. I was aghast at Trump but he hired conservatives and did well. He underestimated the Democrats so allowed the election to be stolen. He should have fired at least half of the bureaucracy as a modest beginning and he should have not allowed the idiot Dr. to share the podium with him. If Biden isn’t the candidate Trump probably won’t run, but if he does, any Republican, conservative or independent who votes against him, doesn’t understand anything that is going on with the Democrats. This election is a terminal event. I don’t know why it’s not obvious.
“You must compromise and support *our* candidates, but we will vote Democrat rather than support yours” has been the Bush-Republican double-standard for years. It is one of the reasons I have become so alienated from electoral politics.