Saturday, February 25, 2017

Matt Lewis and the Burkean, Kirk-ean story of Conservatism

"I'm a man without a party." 

That revelation was shared with me this weekend by an acquaintance, as we waxed philosophic about the political events of recent weeks. The President-elect's mystifying war with the media had left that former free-market Republican feeling as if he didn't recognize the political party of his youth. "I voted for Evan McMullen" he explained. It's not an uncommon feeling for many conservatives, though the reality is that many in the party no longer even understand what it means to be conservative. While that in and of itself is not necessarily a problem, it can be for those who are feeling "conservative, but not Republican."

I've been thinking a lot about political ideology in recent weeks, especially as the Republican Party continues to deal with the rift in its identity. For moderates like me, the GOP has been an unwelcome place for at least a few decades, and the Reagan Democrats have been left with little choice but to become independents. In realilty, the definitions of liberal/progressive and conservative have blurred in relation to political party, and as a student of political history, I am bothered by the appropriation of the terms. Maybe I shouldn't be. But language matters to me, and I challenge the current herd of Republicans who tout conservatism as their belief system when they don't really know or represent what that means. 

For that reason, I am really enjoying Matt Lewis' timely and thoughtful examination of politics and party, Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections ... Lewis is definitely one of the rising stars in conservative commentary, and his well-researched history and analysis of conservatism and its relationship to the GOP is insightful to say the least. It's quite a sad development that "a majority of registered GOP voters don't even know what the acronym stands for," and most have never heard of Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk. Perhaps they don't care, and maybe that knowledge doesn't matter. Still, knowledge and education matter for those who think critically about their world. And, like the work of George Will and David Frum before him, Lewis has some important conclusions about the state of conservatism and the Republican Party.

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