The challenge of being politically conservative is that one seeks political power to reduce, or devolve, power to the people and to their localities.
In the famous words of Bill Buckley, "The job of conservatives was to stand athwart history, yelling, stop."
It seems to be almost impossible to do, practically. And in democratic systems, everything is about the politically practical. It's accidentally built into the DNA of the system, (although giant American federal bureaucracies handing out money and rules never was intended - or even envisioned -by our founders who detested the giant European bureacracies and centralized state systems, as in France).
Not everyone respects that heritage of ours. This week, I heard a voter quoted on the radio "Bush is focused on Iraq, but what is he doing to take care of me?" We have all heard such statements, because that attitude is pervasive, and, I believe, enormously destructive.
So how do conservatives hold on to power when the population has been trained for two or three generations of Left-tinged rule to reflexively expect "government to fix it" - whatever it may be?
There is only one way: to fill the nation with vigorous, optimistic, freedom-oriented, inspiring, courageous talk about the American way of life and the opportunities available to everyone to go out there and try to build whatever life they envision. Reagan knew how to do that. Bush has not the talent, nor the taste, for dramatic rhetoric - and neither did his dad.
The subject comes up because of two blog pieces over the past week addressing the "totalitarian" impulses of the Left. We have often written on that topic at Maggie's Farm.
Sisu from a piece titled "Simply an affirmation of naked power":
The totalitarian impulse runs deep and dark in our species. Curious how often it seems to ooze up through the cracks on the left side of the aisle. We've always distrusted the motives - beyond maintenance of raw power - of our own entrenched "progressive" Massachusetts Senator Edward Ted Kennedy.
Dr. Sanity, from a piece entitled "The Political Left and their Totalitarian Dreams":
What interests me is the transformation of the Democratic Party into a tool that every major enemy of this country--from the North Vietnamese, to the Soviets, to the Syrians all the way up to the present day-- has been able to use to advance their objectives at the expense of America. As Feldman notes, this does indeed give new meaning to the term "opposition party".
It also give new clarity to one of the issues that I have talked about on this blog repeatedly, and that is the complete betrayal by the political left in this country of the values and freedoms upon which the U.S. was founded.
I do believe that the Left has totalitarian dreams - a morally lost person can decide that the ends can justify the means if he cares about the "common good," and is certain that he's right. That is referring to the Left: I do not believe that all Dems have similar dreams, but I do think that they almost always favor policies which expand the federal state and its power - always for the "common good", mind you.
C.S Lewis, as quoted by Samizdata:
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies, The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Power, unlike money, is a zero-sum game. Every incremental increase in federal governmment power and authority over our lives is at the price of a bit of individual and local power and autonomy. And with that price goes a bit of the human spirit and a bit of what makes America unique in the world.
A brief photo history of the church steeple Our Bovine Final ExamThe Difficult Paradox of Conservatism: Seeking Power to Increase FreedomFlying Machines: Summer Fun with Toy AirplanesThe Gin and Tonic, Malaria, and Sickle-Cell
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