I've writhed with discomfort under the weight of all the labels I've been asked to wear. None of them have fit. Even "constitutionalist" isn't quite perfect, as the Constitution of the United States could be amended -- admittedly, it wouldn't be easy -- to take away the protection of one or more of the God-given rights I cherish. Still, "constitutionalist" it is, for now at least.
This morning, I find myself unhappy with "conservative." Not because I have much of an issue with "conservative" political stances on most things, but because it carries a connotation that clashes with what the great majority of self-nominated conservatives sincerely want for America:
Conservatives and libertarians — whatever they are now called — should market themselves as the party of the future. Respecting the Constitution is important, but something more than that is necessary. With the Constitution as its only guide, it’s easy to tarnish conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans as the party of old white men because, well, as brilliant as they were, the Founders were just that — white men. (Yes, some of them were not old, but that’s a distinction without a difference when you’re talking about something that occurred over two hundred years ago.)
This new terminology should concentrate too on a certain kind of pragmatism. It should help end the pompous and self-satisfied exclusionism with which some like to define others as being in or out of a movement, as happened this year at CPAC.
The above is largely correct, with the following proviso: A political label should have as explicit a definition as possible. That's ample objective justification for CPAC to exclude GOProud. (Same-sex marriage, GOProud's reason for being, is a blatant contradiction to the rationale for marriage, the history of that critical institution, and the proper domain of politics.) Despite that, the enemies of America are making capital out of the exclusion of GOProud from CPAC, because it affords them the use of one of their favorite tactical cudgels: "You hate gay people! You don't want them to have equal rights!" Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but when you can shout through a titanic megaphone, the truth is at best a matter of secondary importance. Just ask Hitler.
The strategic cudgel to which Simon refers, however, is the notion that "conservatives" merely worship a particular era in the distant past and would like to return America to the gestalt of political conditions that applied then. That's a blatant slander, too -- and the label "conservative" has been successfully super-glued to that image, courtesy of its detractors in the Main Stream Media.
But the label isn't the whole of the problem. It's merely the name tag the political movement chooses to wear. There are bigger problems to be solved -- and conservative political thought has largely failed to address them, much less solve them.
A defensible political philosophy must have core principles. Inarguable core principles, the sort that defend themselves from their attacker by forcing the attacker to use them. Any "issue" position it takes must be derived from those principles; otherwise, it will become detrimental to the party's appeal. Neither major party possesses such principles at this time. (Neither does any minor political party, the delusions of Libertarian Party allegiants notwithstanding.) Of all the famous political thinkers in our history, the Founding Fathers came closest...and even they stopped short of the goal on a couple of drives.
Conservatives might need a new label, but they need to adopt -- and learn to articulate fearlessly and defend with great firmness -- the right principles. The place to begin is in the etymology of a single word:
When they grasp the principle resident in that one little word, and unite it to the equally critical principle of constitutionalism, they'll have a foundation to build on: a foundation that will grant them the most precious of all intellectual gifts:
(Apropos of all that, Sean Hannity should spend some time with a dictionary. He's hopelessly muddled about the meaning of the word "principle," which he abuses repeatedly and maddeningly. His inability to defend his position on the War on Drugs suggests that he could use remedial education of other sorts, as well. He's definitely not a political or philosophical guiding light, but then, what professional entertainer is?)