It’s time for conservatives to start acting from convictions, not consensus
June 8, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Recently, I’ve been reading through Peter Hitchens’ memoir of his political journey, The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost Its Way, due to the fact that many of his observations were proven prophetic by Brexit and the left-leaning governance of the Tory Party. The book obviously primarily addresses European politics, but many of the observations Hitchens makes about British politics echo my thoughts about the current state of Canadian politics, as well – specifically, the fact that successful progressivist governments by the Liberal Party of Canada have shoved the Overton Window so far Left that our so-called conservative political parties are often distinguished from progressive parties only by their significantly better accounting skills.
Today’s Conservative parties, for example, seem to have long abandoned the idea that they’re actually supposed to be conserving something, and instead trail grumblingly along behind the cultural revolutions of the Left, occasionally raising their voices in protest with one eye fixed firmly on the polling numbers. Watching them do this reminds me of something Margaret Thatcher once told William F. Buckley.
“Consensus has reared its head – you must have consensus,” she noted. “It is a word, again, that you used not to use when I first came into politics. We had convictions, and we tried to persuade people that our convictions were the right ones. It is no good having convictions if you do not have the will to translate those convictions into action.”
That is precisely why many Conservative politicians sound so uninspired: It is hard to manage social decline while still injecting Old Testament wrath into speeches about imbalanced budgets. To paraphrase Buckley, today’s Conservative politicians are standing athwart history saying, “Do we really have to drive so fast?” Very few are actually willing to defend something that resembles traditional conservatism – instead, many have become quite adept at apologizing for it, or assuring voters in pathetic speeches that conservatives are basically liberals, so don’t be scared, please vote for us.
I recognize that conservative politicians are in a very difficult spot. The culture now sits, for the most part, firmly in the centre-left territory on the political spectrum when it comes to many social issues (although the public does not seem to be reacting very positively to the blitzkrieg of the trans activists, and the culture is not nearly as far-Left as our progressive politicians like to claim). But part of the reason for this is that there are very few politicians who are willing to clearly articulate the rationale behind many common-sense social conservative policy positions, for example, because they are too busy worrying about triggering another hatchet-job from the media, who will incidentally only praise a Conservative who has thoroughly abandoned, if not actually sold-out and criticized, any semblance of conservative policy.
The very best Conservative politician, in the eyes of the media, is one that actually attempts to claim that progressive policies are really conservative-ish, if you squint at them just right. (I’m looking at you, Michael Chong.) These fake conservative politicians can be quoted as proof that actual conservatives are fringe extremists, thus serving as useful idiots for the Left. Thus, the task of defining social conservatism has been largely left to the media, the progressive politicians, and the talking heads, who have managed to effectively tar traditional conservatives as social pariahs in possession of a wide range of phobias, and that they are extraordinarily unelectable. With no response from Conservative politicians in defence of traditional conservatism, the public has understandably developed some rather inaccurate views of what that ideology stands for in the first place.
That leaves Canadian conservatives in a situation where the Left faces each election declaring boldly that We will do this and this! while the Right, attempting to muster something that sounds like conviction, responds: We will allow that to happen, perhaps signal our mild discomfort with some of it, and then remind you that we have a better accountant! Many traditional conservatives still show up and vote out of self-defence, hoping to keep the government out of our homes and schools a little longer, but many others have developed a profound cynicism about the entire process due to the simple fact that there are only a handful of politicians actually willing to speak to any of the issues that they deeply care about. Most political parties claiming the name “Conservative” have at this point fundamentally ceded the ideological victories of the Left, and are now content to dicker over details while trying to find some reason to justify their political existence.
My response to all of this is not the humor-tinged political nihilism of Peter Hitchens, who regularly dismisses the idea that voting is a civic duty and has, by his own admission, more or less given up on politics. We live in a democracy, and thus have a responsibility to ensure that genuinely conservative candidates – of which there are a few – get elected, and use their voices to articulate our concerns and our priorities. It is a simple fact that traditional conservatives are outnumbered in Canada, and that we must take this fact into account when making our political calculations. But it is also true that there are more than enough of us to put people who will stand for our interests in places of power, and that we can demand action on issues where a plurality of support exists. It’s long past time that we stopped allowing our ideological enemies to define us, and began presenting a clearly-articulated vision that appeals to people who may have never heard of what conservatism is all about to begin with.