The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Just say NO to provincial conservatism

Photo of Emily Esfahani Smith
Emily Esfahani Smith
Managing Editor, Defining Ideas

Where is William F. Buckley Jr. when you need him?

In 1962, as the conservative movement in America was trying to raise itself from the dead, there arose a menace that threatened to not only render it foolish, but discredit it altogether: the John Birch Society, which had been founded only a few years earlier. In those years, the John Birch Society became a “cause célèbre,” as Buckley once wrote, for claiming among other things that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a secret communist agent. Buckley’s common-sense conservatism would not stand for this. In that year, he penned a National Review editorial that excoriated the John Birch Society for its conspiratorial positions that were “far removed from common sense.” With the stroke of a pen, he purged these radicals from the conservative movement, and made conservatism relevant in a time when some were declaring liberalism to be the only viable tradition.

Today, too, as we hear cries of conservatism’s death, conservative leaders need Buckley’s moral courage as they separate the wheat from the chaff of the conservative movement. While there are energetic and vibrant elements of contemporary conservatism, there are also the wigged-out elements, more agitated than prudent, that will run conservatism till the wheels come off, and leave plenty of fodder for the rascally left — and liberal media — to exploit. In other words, if we don’t deal with our own conspiratorial mischief-makers and short-sighted ideologues, nobody will be talking about the death of conservatism. They will be talking about its suicide.

Two issues illustrate how these mischief-makers and ideologues can discredit conservatism.

The first is that of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, which is still a hot issue — and embarrassingly so. Public Policy Polling released a figure just yesterday saying that 51% of Republican primary voters do not believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States. This is in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, which includes, but is not limited to: 1) the state of Hawaii testifying to the fact that Obama was born there; 2) Obama releasing his certificate of live birth; and 3) several high-level officials saying that they have seen Obama’s original certificate. To Buckley, aggregating the facts and analyzing them were the bedrock of common-sense conservatism. Can it really be the case that most conservative primary voters are so “far removed from common sense”? Already, the media has taken this story and run with it, trying to paint conservatives in general as conspiracy theorists, since to these hammers, everything is a nail.

The facts being what they are, conservatives should put to rest the “controversy” of where Obama was born, and focus on the meaty issues of the deficit and health care. Even Justin Bieber, Canada’s falsetto choir boy, is talking health care.

Certain vocal conservatives have also shown themselves to be short-sighted ideologues when it comes to the issue of log-cabin Republicans — otherwise known as gay conservatives. By now, readers here know that certain social conservative groups boycotted CPAC due to the participation of GOProud, a gay conservative group. But one CPAC boycotter went further. In a column for Townhall.com, Star Parker explained that she chose not to attend CPAC this year — even though she has attended the event in the past — because “the idea of a ‘gay conservative’ is an oxymoron. ‘Gay’ is everything that ‘conservative’ is not.” The gay worldview, Parker thinks, “is man-centered rather than God-centered. It is a world view that rejects eternal truths passed on from the beginning of time.” And she adds, “Although the world view that ‘gay conservatives’ choose to invent may diverge from the world view of liberals, their common ground is they make it all up…These eternal truths provide the light in the fog that keeps us from crashing on the rocky shores where our base instincts lead us.”

  • Swen

    Let the purges begin! Gays will no longer be allowed to participate because you can’t be gay and conservative. Birthers should be excluded because they’re an embarrassment and give the media ammunition to attack conservatives (as if the media would play nice except for them). Libertarians should shun objectivists because they’re isolationists and thus, not really conservative. Neo-cons should be excluded because they’re war mongers and thus, lovers of more powerful government. Ron Paul supporters are fanatics and superannuated ten-year-olds and isolationists. And the beat goes on.

    After all the people and groups who lack sufficient credibility and ideological purity are excluded CPAC will be able to hold their conventions in a room at the Super 8 and their irrelevance will be well-deserved. Because that Big Tent idea was just silly. Who cares if all these despised groups might vote conservative 80% of the time? It’s how they vote the other 20% that should be cause to exclude them.

    Groucho was right, I wouldn’t want to belong to this organization if it would have me as a member.

  • Ben P

    I guess Orwell’s memory hole goes deep. No one in the Conservative movement seems to remember the record deficits under Bush. Or how about the health care reform that was mostly a handout to the drug companies known as Medicare part D? So much for “the meaty issues of the deficit and health care.” So what if Obama is worse? I’m supposed to care because Conservatives are less evil than the liberals?

    While I may agree about gay conservatives, saying people who oppose gay rights don’t belong in the Conservative movement is hilarious. The religious right was given the credit for electing Bush to both of his terms. These voters eventually came to be cynically called “values voters” by the media. To say people at the core of the Conservative movement for the last decade should be shut out is preposterous. But I guess it’s hard denouncing dirty Arabs who want Sharia law when you harbor your own religious zealots who want to impose their own Christian version of Sharia law on America.

  • ScarboroughCountry

    Absolutely brilliant work, Emily.

    So many conservatives claim they want to deal with the issues, and then they spend so much time clamoring about birther issues or gay rights or abortion (I’m against abortion, but BIG GOVERNMENT needs to STAY OUT OF IT)

    Emily writes of what true conservatism is supposed to be about. Kudos to her.

  • Pizza Trays

    “Just say NO to provincial conservatism”? LOL: But America was founded by provincial conservatives.

    Also, isn’t that CBS’s position? In any case, the funny thing is many urban blacks and white gays agree with Parker’s politically-incorrect views. Note that African-Americans helped to defeat “gay marriage” in California, and more than a few metropolitan gays say you can’t be gay and conservative.

    I have a better idea: tell tribal “conservative gay” groups that sexual identity politics is so 1990s. Just say no.

    As for Obama’s birth certificate, he could shut critics up by (a) showing his birth certificate and (b) refusing to praise Islam at every opportunity. -Ben

    • MerryJ1

      “But America was founded by provincial conservatives” ??? No, America was founded by classical liberals. The conservatives of the Colonial era were the royalists and loyalists who opposed Independence.

      Sure, Obama could “shut critics up by … showing his birth certificate…” but that would counteract his gambit of stacking kindling under that faux controversy, if not actually striking the match to it. True it was the Hillary Clinton campaign that covertly pushed it into public consciousness, but it was the Obama campaign that stoked receptiveness with pseudo-complaints that McCain’s eligibility for the Presidency might be questionable because he was born on foreign land (on an American Military base).