Friday, September 28, 2012

Conservatism and the Problem for Mitt Romney and the GOP in 2012

Being an unaffiliated independent voter who generally splits between Democrats and Republicans while looking for the most moderate and pragmatic legislators I can find, I have watched the implosion of Mitt Romney's campaign and the resilient nature of President Obama's administration with absolute fascination.  At times like this I look to the moderate voices on conservatism and politics, trying to sift through the white noise of ideology and campaigning.  As I noted recently with the recent national polls - and conservative commentary backlash - on Mitt Romney, I have tried to explain how it's not about Mitt - it's about the message.

Conservatism is struggling to find a voice among the moderate middle voters, even though they naturally and consciously veer to the right.  The problem is well articulated by David Brooks this week in the New York Times with his insightful commentary The Conservative Mind.  Most outspoken Republicans these days will actually miss the allusion in Brooks' title to the seminal work by Russel Kirk, an iconic figure in the annals of American conservatism.  And, that is the problem.  The flippant free-market ranters of the conservative right these days have little in common with the roots of conservatism among people like Kirk and Edmund Burke.  The conservative mind is about believing and supporting the traditional institutions that are the foundation of civilization - as Brooks notes, the conservative wants to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government.

Conservatism is not about opposing or having contempt for government.  In fact, the conservative knows the integral role government plays in restraining the irrational and primal side of the individual that puts the entire society at risk.  And, granted, the conservative values liberty above most things, and he worries about collectivism and cultures of dependency.  But there is little faith among the conservative for the "unbridled free market," which puts society as at much risk.  The social and financial inequality that results is not good for civilization.  Conservative blogger Rod Dreher (read and alluded to by Brooks) also argues for this pragmatism and cites the Ten Conservative Principles developed and articulated by Russel Kirk.  These are ideas that are worth reviewing - and Dreher's work with The American Conservative should be regular reading for the average Republican.

Certainly, checking in at The American Conservative from time to time is worthwhile - for it is the best explanation the GOP is going to find for Why Romney Is Losing.  I would like to see the GOP shift back to the thinking of people like Kirk and Burke and Disraeli and Brooks and Dreher.  But I don't hold out hope.  Thus, I continue to be stuck by the problem of not being overly thrilled with the Obama Presidency yet being repelled by the Romney Campaign.


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