Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Burkean-Kirkean Conservative : Why George Will & Rick Tyler are Still Right

Many years ago after I published my first piece of commentary for the Denver Post about why my young children did not watch movies like Shrek, a close friend remarked to his wife, "For a liberal Democrat, that sounds pretty conservative ..." I just shook my head and kept my thoughts to myself, simply glad he read and enjoyed the piece. For in reality, I was neither a progressive (which is what he really meant) nor a Democrat at that time. On the other hand, while my belief system hadn't changed, I also hadn't been a Republican for more than a decade. Living in Colorado, I was like the majority of voters, unaffiliated and independent and regularly voting for members of both political parties. Though I'd grown up in a Republican household, I felt about the GOP (and the Democrats as well) the same way Ronald Reagan did early in his political rise when he left the Democrats, opining "I didn't leave my party; my party left me."

And, in the political and ideological boondoggle that is contemporary America in 2020, I am happy to see the publication of two important books on the belief system of conservatism, works that will hopefully bring people to more fruitful and less decisive discussion of what they believe and why. I recently finished George Will's The Conservative Sensibility and now I am just beginning and truly enjoying Rick Tyler's Still Right: and Immigrant-Loving, Hybrid-Driving, Composting American Makes the Case for Conservatism. These works are about the belief system, not stances on legislation and political positions that build party platforms. And the mistaking of platforms for beliefs is what leads old friends of Facebook to pejoratively throw the term liberal when I opine that mail-in balloting is safe effective and has been in practice in Colorado for years. Again, I'm just left shaking my head wondering where in the writings of Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk is a view on mail ballots at issue. 

Yet, when I mention Burke or talk about how I'm aligned with Kirk's conservative principals, which he outlined in The Conservative Mind, I generally get Hannity talking points in response. It's disheartening, to say the least, but it affirms my belief that these critics are Republican, but not conservative. Kirk was not interested in party agendas - he was interested in cultivation of the mind and spirit. It was not about marginal tax rates but about local communities and schools, traditions and institutions, and the value of culture through literature. These are ideas also discussed by George Will and Rick Tyler, and they are the conversations we should be having. While George Will never mentions Donald Trump in his book, Tyler talks quite directly about the man in the White House because the rise of Trump and his seemingly odd and inappropriate control of the GOP is wrong for the party and truly bad for the country. People like David Frum, David French, Rod Dreher, Ross Douthat, Andrew Sullivan, and David Brooks agree. These strong voices of conservatism know the damage that is being done to our national consciousness, and they are hoping to wake some people up.

Conservatism is the antithesis to the chaos, disruption, and instability that Donald Trump represents and cultivates. Conservatives believe in decorum and the very institutions that ground society and allow individual liberty to thrive. And so many of us are baffled by the support of him, even as we know that the divisiveness and tribalism that rules the day have left many voters feeling they have nowhere else to go. That's why we are "conservative but not Republican."

For some more reading on similar views, check out:

The Bohemian Burkean - NY Sun 

the Burkenstocked Burkean - National Review

The Crunch Conservative - NPR

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