In a December 13 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Peter Berekowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued that big government and the sexual revolution are here to stay. He urged conservatives to get used to it and to content themselves with shaping those realities.
A similar argument was pressed upon Britons in the 19th century when socialism was in its ascendancy. To that, James Fitzjames Stephen responded: “The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.”
But Stephen and other conservatives of that period did not surrender to the waters. They offered a powerful alternative vision of ordered liberty. That vision and political theory is as potent today as it was more than a century ago.
There is no doubt that the welfare state will be difficult to dismantle. In fact, we are now struggling just to reduce its rate of growth. Yet, it will never be contained without the forceful articulation of the alternative conservative vision.
It is imperative that conservatives challenge the very legitimacy of the welfare state and show that its burdens, both financial and psychological, will inevitably destroy the American Republic. This necessarily means an engagement with progressives over political ideology. Theirs is fundamentally flawed. The conservative vision is the only hope for preserving a governing system that produced a nation that was truly the envy of the rest of the world.
Not all political concepts can coexist. Conservatism and big government cannot coexist. The ideology of American Progressivism, as practiced by the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress, is eroding the foundations of our constitutional system and national economy. That threat will not be defeated by efforts to shape and moderate the progressive ideology. Only a direct challenge holds the promise of achieving what is necessary to save the nation.
In the same way, conservatives cannot accept what the sexual revolution has produced if they intend to preserve the voluntary, mediating institutions without which, as the Founders understood, republican governance and ordered liberty are impossible. Progressives aim to weaken or destroy those voluntary institutions, particularly the family, that serve as our primary civilizing instruments and the crucial buffer between the individual and the State. There can be no serious argument about the adverse effect of the sexual revolution on the family institution.
Conservatives should not content themselves with merely shaping big government and the sexual revolution. Ideas do matter. The Republican Party must understand that or decline into irrelevance.
The sad condition of today’s Republican Party is not that it is too ideological. Rather, it has failed to live by its precepts and failed to articulate a true and constant conservative vision. It has disregarded the Constitution, supported massive increases in government spending, and enacted new entitlement programs. It has little or no credibility.
If ever there were a time for conservatives to be ideological, it is now. The only effective antidote to the vote-buying of progressives is a powerful, coherent articulation of a political theory that highlights the destructiveness of the welfare state and offers a compelling vision of a system of ordered liberty.
Focusing on shaping big government instead of waging a fight to replace the welfare state with an alternative system would be a disastrous course for conservatives to follow. Americans deserve an alternative vision, forcefully promoted, not a watered down version of the progressive vision.