Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Where Do Conservatives Go?
Written by: Answerman

Given the step I've finally taken in renouncing my identity as a Republican, I have been thinking about the associational options for disillusioned conservatives such as myself. Third parties are unrealistic barring some sort of cataclysm so random that it's not worth planning for. Those conservatives who dream of some "true" conservative party are being silly and fanciful, and I have no time for them.

But what does that leave? Republicans, Democrats, and independence? Republican usefulness to the conservative movement has long since peaked, and independence is very unsatisfying, because an independent is one who is part of no movement whatsoever. Democrats? I could never be one myself. Even if that party evolved in the next generation or so (against all reasonable projections of current trends, I hasten to add) into something entirely different and less loathsome that its current manifestation, I could never join up. Quite simply, too much hatred for the Democrat Party has shot through my veins for so long that I know the mere word "Democrat," whatever its substantive connotation, will always make me (1) recoil in horror and contempt and (2) want to kill someone.

But I must say that I think it imperative for conservatives to regain a say, however small and however long it takes, in Democrat Party politics. Until the late 1980s, there were flourishing conservative movements (different in outlook and type, for sure) in both political parties. But in the last decade plus, the Loony Left took full control of the Democrat Party and booted conservative Democrats like Zell Miller into either the Republican Party or the political wilderness (where their voices, like those of independents of all stripes, are quite meaningless in any long-term, philosophical sense). While most of you are likely to agree that this purge has been harmful to Democrats and helpful to Republicans, what it has most emphatically NOT been is helpful to conservatives.

Conservatism cannot be too closely linked to a single party, because then it becomes more bureaucratic in nature and less, well, conservative. Witness conservatism under the Republican big tent today as compare to 20 or 25 years ago. Conservatism is a state of mind and a political approach rather than a political ideology. Except in rare political contexts (the current context may be one of these), conservatism cannot exist as a political program. It's political power, then, comes from its ability as a movement to influence MULTIPLE political institutions, so that in the up-and-down nature of partisan politics, while Democrats may win one year and Republicans the next, conservatism can thrive continuously. The current situation, where almost any victory in any political race anywhere in the country by any member of one of just two major political parties spells a marginal defeat for the conservative cause, is untenable. Conservatism cannot thrive in such an environment. That's why, just as the Democrats need conservatives for their political well-being, conservatives need to have some of their own be Democrats for their philosophical well-being.

Look at the social rather than the political context, and you'll see how uncontroversial a premise the one I just outlined should be. No one believes that conservatism can thrive as a social force by channeling itself through one type of institution, such as the church. Rather, there must be conservatives in the church, in academia, and in all sorts of civic institutions in order for a healthy conservatism to have its say in our social lives and interactions. In my view, the same holds true in politics. If conservatives merely congregate in the Republican Party and hope to win every race on the ballot, they will fail. If conservatives can find their voice in the Democrat Party as well (and as they have throughout most of that party's history), they will have the opportunity to flourish.

For myself, I am consigned by my personal circumstances and prejudices to the political wilderness.

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John Beck

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