By: Brian Sikma
In the wake of November’s disastrous election results, Republicans and conservatives have been pondering their future. Pundits with solutions abound. Going forward, it has been rightly noted, the future of conservatism is not tied to the future of the Republican party. In this time of analysis and internal discussion, the GOP is more in need of rejuvenation than the conservative movement, though work must be done in both camps.
In the conservative movement there are some who are advocating for a new conservatism, one that apparently accepts some of the premises advanced by left-leaning cultural institutions. Some observers argue that conservatives need to move beyond issues like abortion and replace them with issue planks dealing with the need for a green energy future and policies to reduce global warming. It is posited that we must set aside our views on some issues in favor of new causes that supposedly have attracted the public’s attention in ways that now surpass its prior fascination with the issues we have traditionally debated.
Do we really need to accept the underlying left-leaning premises of certain fashionable issues in order to be a relevant philosophy and movement of political, social, and economic thought? In other words, with respect to global warming must we accept the belief that man-generated activity is causing global warming? Must we really accept the “fact” that global warming is occurring beyond the very normal cyclical heating and cooling of the earth as a result of human activity? If conservatism is going to be relevant, it does not mean that we must follow the line of thinking suggested by some writers and confuse expanding our appeal with accepting dubious “facts” promoted by the left.
Do not misunderstand the point in all of this. Conservatives should indeed have views on environmental policy. But just as our position on the environment should not be one of simply dismissing the matter, our position should not be one that accepts fallacies that are untrue and make a genuinely conservative approach to this issue very hard. We cannot risk becoming irrelevant by failing to advocate for conservative, common-sense approaches to new issues, but doing that does not mean that we must accept unfounded claims no matter how popular they may be in some quarters.
But what of those issues that conservatives have long cared about but we are now told do not matter? The sanctity of human life, a debate that has taken on new proportions as the dimensions of science have expanded, and the importance of traditional marriage in a stable and vibrant society are two issues that appear to be “on the ropes” right now. Some contend that the matter of abortion is now too gruesome a subject to talk about. It is an old issue that has been hashed and rehashed and since it is no longer as relevant as other issues (so the argument goes), it should be at best minimized and at worst simply discarded. The same argument is applied to the gay-marriage versus traditional-marriage debate. Can’t we just move beyond these prickly issues that involve important relationship decisions between individuals in their private lives? The dangers inherent in following this wisdom should not be underestimated.
As we look for ways to revive our movement we should not cast aside those moral and social issues that helped lead to the birth of our movement in the first place. For fiscal conservatives and those of libertarian leanings, you should not forget the abortion issue or disregard those who are battling to preserve the definition of traditional marriage. For social conservatives, you should not let your deep commitment to demanding that government respect certain fundamental and basic human rights and institutions carry you to the point of ignoring those who work hard to control the size of government and defend economic freedom.
As a movement, we must broaden our appeal without becoming shallow in our thinking.