Helen Weir
The death of conservative conservatism
By Helen Weir
November 5, 2008

Flicking off Fox News Tuesday night when the defeat of the McCain/Palin ticket began to look inevitable, I went to bed and lapsed into a wicked nightmare. My own screams awakened me in the middle of the night and I sat up, sweating and trembling. Usually, at such times, one is grateful to stare at the familiar walls and let the terror of unreality drain away. In this case, the more I sorted out what had actually happened from what hadn't, the more I wished I could make myself go back to sleep again.

Americans from sea to shining sea have found themselves facing one of two afflictions on this first post-election morning. There are many who must be suffering from a political hangover, attributable to celebrating Obama's victory overmuch. Contrary to popular belief, the man has not been named Community-Organizer-for-Life, Global-Healer-in-Chief, or Grand Oprah of International Affairs. He has actually only been elected president of the United States for four years — not to take anything away from the importance of that office — and this is the United States, even now.

Then there are those in the "waking nightmare" category. For us, it's time to start sorting out reality from unreality, and facing up to all that reality entails. We'll be hearing a lot in coming months from the permanent blabbering class about the "death of conservatism," and they will seem, on the face of it, to have many facts with which to back up their case. That is why we must understand and keep firmly in mind that it is conservative conservatism that has expired during this election cycle, and not our movement per se.

What is conservative conservatism? It is a commitment to playing a good defense (or rather — except for the one, brief, shining moment of Governor Palin's acceptance speech — a pretty flawed defense) when your opponents have gone decisively on the offensive. It is that which John McCain quintessentially represents — the recalcitrant determination to believe that reaching across the aisle will be met with good will from the other side; that the mainstream media can be counted on, in the last analysis, to give us a fair shake; and that, if something waddles like a Marxist and quacks like a Marxist, it therefore isn't a Marxist.

Why did the crowd of McCain/Palin supporters resoundingly boo during McCain's concession speech, when the heroic war hero said he had the "honor" of congratulating Barack Obama on becoming the new leader of a country "we both love"? Because they recognize, as he evidently and tragically does not, that we are no longer living in the bygone era when Democrats and Republicans may have respectfully disagreed with one another about policy issues, but still basically held certain truths to be self-evident. We want leaders who will deal with the present-day reality of what the Democratic Party has become, not play political "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" where the survival of our democratic republic is concerned. John McCain once admonished Barack Obama that, if the junior senator from Illinois wanted to run against George Bush, he should have done so four years ago. McCain himself is running a little culturally late, if taking on JFK was his ultimate goal.

This whole "conservative conservative" approach, which may be summed up as the "big tent Republican" effort to live off of Reagan's cultural patrimony without respecting it or contributing to its growth and survival, is now officially defunct. If there's anything to rejoice about in today's disturbing headlines, that's it. We no longer have the luxury of watering down conservative principle to the point of disappearance, in this party.

Look at Saxby Chambliss' predicament, for example, however it ultimately plays out in a run-off. His seat isn't in danger of being ceded to the Democrats because his constituents want more congressional support for the left-leaning president elect, but rather, because the Republican fixture felt he had to do "something" about the bailout, and opted for the big government "solution" rather than the conservative one. That got him precisely nowhere. In deference to the new "Kumbaya" trend in American political discourse, let's join in a little folk song chorus for Saxby and his ilk: When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Our future is in the hands of the Jindals and the Palins and the Bachmanns, if we expect to have a future at all, and why shouldn't we expect it? Even Barack Obama tempered the megalomaniacal tone of his acceptance speech long enough to acknowledge that his complete agenda cannot realistically be implemented in "one year, or even in one term." We have a window of opportunity before us, and no excuse for not taking full advantage of it. The husband of whom Michelle is so proud may in fact be the president even of those of us who did not vote for him (as he less than graciously reminded us), and we may in fact be the president's good servants, but we are God's first. There is no cause, now or ever, to forget it. And God wins.

The Obama administration can therefore only turn into a wicked nightmare if our sleepwalking Republican leaders, not to mention slightly over half of our fellow Americans, refuse to wake up. Time for us honorary plumbers to start splashing a little cold water on their faces, don't you think?

© Helen Weir


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