Tag: Movements

The Conservative Movement is Dead; Long Live the Conservative Movement


national-review-anniversary-william-f-buckley-r “Only a few prefer liberty — the majority seek nothing more than fair masters.” Sallust, Histories

I have been thinking about what went wrong with the Conservative movement and why in a year where the Democrats nearly handed us the election we failed to capitalize yet again. It dawned on me that so much of the commentary focused on the Republican Party, conservatives in general, the failure of our gatekeepers, our “betrayal” by the establishment, and the inadequacies of the various candidates. What I want to do is look at the Conservative movement and see how it is doing.

The first question I want to answer is what the Conservative movement was and then I want to make the case for why it died and why we need it again. William F. Buckley is widely and, I think, correctly seen as the founder of the Conservative movement. He started the movement in reaction to the progressive consensus of the time that we had moved past the founding documents of America and that we had the capability of remaking society. This progressive consensus was that we could retain democracy and some of the rights promised in the US Constitution but, at the same time, we needed to abandon the restrictions on our power that the Constitution had put in place because we knew so much more than before and there was so much more that we could control. In other words, Liberty was not an important value when it was possible to know what was best for people and we had the ability to guide people to good outcomes.

Successful and Unsuccessful Movements


imageVaclav Havel wrote that successful political movements don’t start political. Instead, they begin focused on unique ideas about living. As the group gain members and sorts out its ideas, they develop a more comprehensive lifestyle which ultimately leads to a political conflict. But what happens when the group becomes untethered from its social origins and fixated solely on a political purpose?

Mark Hemingway at The Weekly Standard describes such a devolution taking place before our eyes in the Democrat Party:

Anyway, as the tension over the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] mounted, Obama couldn’t hide his frustration with Warren and so he called her out by name. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” Obama told Yahoo News reporter Matt Bai. As insults go, this is a subtle but classic Obama formulation; it’s undoubtedly true that Warren is a politician and motivated by political concerns. But by drawing this contrast between the two of them, the implication is that Obama is motivated by something more pure than the mere political concerns of Warren and “everybody else.”