Thursday, April 9, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Becoming a conservative

I always have resisted the label "conservative" because it connotes "status quo" and I have always fought for change. Of late, I haven't much wanted to be in the company of some who call themselves conservatives, particularly those who created massive new entitlements, engaged in reckless spending and earmarks, or sought to destroy capitalism in order to save it.

edmund burkeAs George Will eloquently put it, "George W. Bush presided over the intellectual disarmament of conservatism." But it was a decline that began long before Bush. Post-Reagan conservatives enjoyed their greatest moment when they defeated the "Hillary-care" national health insurance scheme on the battlefield of ideas. But before long they exchanged their philosophical victory, and the congressional majorities it produced, for an intellectually vapid effort to vanquish Bill Clinton through the impeachment process. From their quest for power as an end in itself, Republicans never truly recovered.

Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, I suspect Republicans would have reverted to the crude politics of the Bill Clinton era. But instead we have President Barack Obama, who promised to "fundamentally transform America." From a proposed budget that would create the largest deficit in history to policies aimed at nationalizing vast portions of the American economy, it is clear he intends to do just that.

In so doing, Obama may do more to unite conservatives than anything since the collapse of Soviet communism--and in the process, to return conservatives to the place of their greatest strength: the battle over ideas.

Obama made me realize that the "change" I've pursued over the course of my career has been profoundly conservative, in that it derives consistently from the basic ideals enshrined in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The best way to resist a fundamental transformation of America is to continue to advance those ideals in a positive and principled way, demonstrating not only that freedom is right but that freedom works. And henceforth, I will do so proudly as a conservative.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Learn more:
The History of Economic Thought Website: Edmund Burke, 1729-1797

No comments: