You may not be as conservative as ye think. Darryl Hart’s latest is, of course, good for an expanded commentary on what it means to be conservative in America. But for those looking for a more succinct but no less provocative way to navigate what it means–and doesn’t mean–to be conservative in America, there is Mark Mitchell at the Front Porch Republic
Let’s begin with a short quiz.
Question 1. Do you speak, think, and act more naturally in terms of individual rights or in terms of duties and responsibilities?
Question 2. Do you have duties to the past? To those who are no longer alive? To those yet to be born? Yes or No.
Question 3. Humans are progressively getting better technically, socially, politically, morally. If this is not true, it is only due to the bad will of some. True or False.
Question 4. America is the last best hope of the world. True or False.
…Now let’s reflect on some of this. It seems that those who call themselves conservatives and liberals today by and large emphasize their rights rather than duties; they show precious little concern for the past, both as a repository for knowledge or as a source of duties; and they tend to speak in the glowing terms of progress. Finally, they all too often lack the humility that the conservative feels deep in his bones. The conservative knows that all good things are at root a gift. This disposition of gratitude fosters humility, and humility is necessary if we are to live responsibly, for humility acknowledges limits and a denial of limits is a key feature of the liberal mind.
When we consider all of this in light of our current political climate, it becomes clear that the apparent differences between conservatives and liberals in America today are far less dramatic than we are often tempted to believe. What we have is a variety of liberals, some more radical than others, but a truly conservative position is illusive and, what is more important, probably not desired by most of the electorate; although, there is always a remnant, and this remnant, I believe, would grow if a truly conservative alternative was articulated in a clear and compelling way. Of course, Rush Limbaugh and the folks at Fox News—those standard bearers of “conservatism”—will find this analysis implausible, for their deepest commitments are to the very things that are antithetical to a legitimate and historically informed conservatism. Nevertheless, any attempt to continue using this fine word should include a conscious effort to resist abusing it for the purpose of political gain. It is, after all, a word worth conserving.