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2008 Election &Conservatives &Culture wars &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 26 Aug 2008 09:37 am

Beyond the convention(al) . . .

As Bruce Walker’s American Thinker post yesterday below explains, our country has a largely conservative (or center-right) orientation.

“Sixty percent of Americans considered themselves conservative. Does this mean that most Americans do not know what ‘conservative’ means? No: The question specifically provides an out to people who are not sure about their ideology; it provides an out to people who want to be considered ‘moderate.’ Americans reject those choices. They overwhelmingly define themselves as ‘conservative.’ This is a huge political story – except that it is not ‘new’ at all.”

Many Americans may indeed be well disposed toward conservative principles. Yet without concrete ways and means to implement them and to pass them on to coming generations, this advantage for conservative leadership will likely soon disappear.

The National Conventions.

Vigilant conservatives can have some effect here on the Republican convention and can help restrain party apparatchiks from advancing the selection of grossly divisive vice-presidential nominees or diluting the party platform beyond recognition as a principled document.

But conservatives face more daunting tasks than decoding the show business of national conventions. Kibitzing the Democrat convention, and cheerleading the Republican convention are no substitutes for tough analysis and wise planning.

Presidential conventions, by their very nature, are about broad national themes. The rhetoric of nominees illustrates general directions. The words are meant to energize the faithful, not solve specific problems of governing or society or the economy or war and peace.

But conservatives, by their very principles, must be constantly concerned with the nuts-and-bolts of policy at all levels of government.

Down to earth.

This nuts-and-bolts perspective is particularly necessary today because of the growth of vast governmentalizing institutions. Unfortunately politicians representing conservatives have avoided addressing the metastasis of these organizations. And conservatives themselves have not held their elected voices accountable. Here are some of the most egregious examples:

(1) Public employee unions here have become virtual tax predators at all levels of government. Ask yourself how many Republican politicians name these unions as a serious state or national problem? As yourself how many times your state Republican Party has sounded this alarm?

(2) Feeding upon this power base, a public-school juggernaut not only runs costs up here and here way out of proportion to need and results, but also propagates a system of values that is often inimical to free-enterprise and to the concept of American sovereignty. Maryland just had a Republican governor who treated the expensive Thornton Plan as a near sacrament even though independent education voices criticized it severely here.

(3) Our university system (with some notable exceptions in the technical areas and apart from a few independent schools) has become here a seminary for the left. Yet Maryland legislators (including too many Republicans) were quick to impose more “diversity” requirements here on the Old Line State’s colleges and universties. Whether in Virginia or in Maryland, conservative graduates of so-called elite schools apparently fall right in line in supporting their own institutions financially while fearing to hold them accountable for their lack of intellectual diversity. Nationally, one group of Ivy alumni of several political persuasions tried to fight back to reform their university. These insurgent Dartmouth alumni failed in their campaign to keep their university administration from “packing” the Dartmouth trustees here with tame appointees. The anti-packing-campaign voices were national figures of outstanding accomplishment – – – but they were not able to prevail. We should all write this down: the conservative movement needs a continuing supply of professionally trained men and women to remain a serious force.

But what of the national conventions which are upon us? Conventions give us some flashes of insight into both the Other Team and our own. In times like the present, however, conservatives have to be doing a great deal more to get a handle on the threats we face and on what we must do about them.

As for the threats themselves, keeping state or local taxes down or getting a state marriage amendment adopted are both important goals for the grass roots. But they are not just something we try to do – – – then turn our attention to private matters after our best efforts. They are rather only the beginning in a series of urgent actions.

The Other Team has a society-wide plan for all of us – – – ranging from the carbon footprint of our lawnmowers, to where we might build and keep our homes, to how we express ourselves politically, to whether and under what circumstances we can defend ourselves against enemies abroad (or intruders at home). They even have a plan for keeping the practice of medicine on their own tight governmental leash. And we know they give a great deal of thought to how they plan to spend our money.

No likely presidential administration is going to do our work for us. Talk radio is essential, but listening to it is no substitute for action. We still have a society well-disposed toward our values. We have principled senators here and over 100 House members who pledge their name to an explicitly conservative association of U S Representatives. And we have organized grassroots and the internet.

But we only have to summon up the will.


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