|Regardless of Election Result, Conservatives Must Remain Vigilant|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, November 01 2012
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.
Regardless of one’s religious outlook, that famous Ecclesiastical wisdom neatly captures the essence of conservative thought.
Moreover, it bears consideration no matter whom America elects as President on Tuesday, because history proves that a Romney win will demand continued vigilance and an Obama win will demand continued tenacity.
Conservatives, at their core, believe in timeless truths and the constant applicability of acquired wisdom. At the same time, unfortunately, we understand the fallibility of mankind and the fact that we repeatedly abandon or ignore that acquired wisdom under the mirage that “times have changed.” Although technology and the particular applications of our wisdom may change, conservatives recognize the undeniable reality that what we roughly know as “human nature” exists. Accordingly, mankind requires constant correction and reapplication of wisdom matured by many millennia.
For their part, in contrast, liberals of various station along the political continuum tend to conceptualize the human endeavor as more one-directional, potentially progressing constantly with just the right form of government guidance toward an achievable utopia. In other words, in the perfectibility of man, inexorable History with a capital “H.” In its most extreme forms, that vision leads to Soviet-style upheaval to cleanse man of behavioral residue and create the “New Man.” And in its milder forms, it leads to unsustainable and costly efforts to fine-tune society toward perfection. Consider, as just one example, the wreckage we know as the Great Society.
Or consider liberals’ canonization of Barack Obama, who would bring an era of healing and prosperity.
Somehow, each failure to perfect mankind through governmental force via the wisdom of so-called “superiors,” as the Police sang in “Synchronicity II,” does little to dissuade liberals from future attempts at even greater cost.
As we approach the conclusion of a particularly acrimonious and excruciating presidential campaign, conservatives must remember that what has been will be again, that what has been done will be done again.
In that vein, a recollection. This week, my colleague Troy Senik compellingly recalls his personal journey from four years ago to where we stand today. My own journey is similar to his in terms of motivation, but circumstantially different in a way that illustrates the truisms recited above.
In November 2000, I was practicing law in Los Angeles. On election night, some friends and I arrived at a Santa Monica pub just in time to see NBC call Florida for Al Gore. Irate, I stormed out, resigned to a hopelessly irredeemable American electorate, and blasted The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on repeat all the way home to Manhattan Beach. Something persuaded me to check the news later that night, and the rest is history. In my mind, the forces of Good had prevailed, and the future would unfold delightfully.
Or so I thought in my exuberance.
Four years later, a similar process unfolded. I considered the 2004 election even more pivotal than 2000, since electing John Kerry as President would signal weakness to the world and rejection to our troops abroad. That election night, we celebrated in the politically hostile Westwood area of Los Angeles, confident in four upcoming years of bliss.
Mere months later, the reality of Bush’s Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court occurred. Conservatives managed to correct the Bush Administration’s course, but not without intense effort and vigilance. Although conservatives can thank President Bush for such things as appointing Justices Roberts and Alito and steadfast support of the surge strategy in Iraq, other decisions proved not so palatable. From federal spending to bailouts to questionable executive and judicial appointments, Bush’s 2004 reelection in many ways proved Pyrrhic. Had the 2008 financial collapse occurred under a President Kerry, for instance, slurs and false accusations against supply-side economics would not carry the curious credibility that they currently do.
Obviously, the four years that followed the election of Barack Obama demanded even more vigilance. That vigilance, however, often paid off in terms of landmark legal victories, historic Congressional and statewide elections and popular revulsion against federal overreach. It’s not by accident, after all, that the term “stimulus” is never spoken even among its former apologists.
Those lessons simply confirm that Tuesday’s election won’t determine whether conservatives can relax and take the next four years off, as the mainstream media has the past four. There is nothing new under the sun, and what has happened before will happen again, even if in different iterations. The temptations of big government will persist, the demands to enlarge its power will continue, the attempts to malign the principles of market freedom and limited government will not disappear.
The timeless truths of conservatism will prevail, but only if we continue to stand up for them. Regardless of whom Americans elect.
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