I have been reading Jonah Goldberg's articles since the mid 1990s, when I discovered him at National Review Online, along with his couch, which seemed to star in some of his pieces as a character in its own right. Goldberg has matured into a father, husband, and a thoughtful conservative voice. So the article appearing at Townhall.com today entitled Conservative Establishment Divided Against Itself somewhat surprised me. Goldberg has become a part of the "Republican Establishment." Goldberg claims that he has not moved from the principles he so eloquently spoke about a decade and a half ago, but rather it is we, the conservative base, who has moved further to the right.
Long pause, staring out the window of the office overlooking the PolyKahr estates....
He is correct. I cannot speak for everyone else, but I can relate my own journey to come to this point in my life. I suspect others have followed similar pathways that have led them to a place close to mine. Conservatism, in the mind of Goldberg, is not an ideology. There are no unifying principles to Goldbergs conservatism except that the conservative is the one standing athwart history yelling "stop." The conservative says "think about the unintended consequences," or "think how this could be used by your worst enemy." Unfortunately, the Left usually thinks it has thought of the unintended consequences. Also, unfortunately, the conservatives have been too polite to use what the Left has given us against them.
You can see the problem with this state of affairs already. The Left constantly frames the issues we are all talking about. Slowly they marshal their forces until it appears they have the majority opinion. The conservative press makes arguments against the proposal, but since these are often based on tradition, religion, and the nature of man, all things the Left rejects, the arguments are dismissed out of hand. Out of desperation, the conservative offers up a "compromise" which is less destructive, but in fact the Left has just won yet again. We conservatives find ourselves in the ridiculous position of trying to defend programs that before we were against. It is disconcerting to see so called "conservative" politicians trying to figure out how to save Social Security and Medicare, for example. Today the Left starts out as if what is has always been, and keeps pushing the nation ever leftward. For example, taking the gun control scheme currently in place, they run around asking why we in the gun rights community can't compromise on "reasonable, common sense" gun control. But if the truth be actually told, most of the 20,000 laws currently on the books are illegal and unconstitutional, and should be stricken.
Then I thought of the word, "conservative." A "conservative" conserves. But what is it he is trying to conserve? In Europe, conservatives try to conserve the monarchy. For the most part they have failed miserably. In America, conservatives have been trying to maintain the gains made in the Revolution and subsequent writing of the Constitution. Being a Constitutionalist solves many of the problems we have had with the Leftward movement of our national politics over time. The Constitution offers a set of fixed principles, that none the less can be changed if enough of us can be convinced to change it. If it were adhered to by everybody, most of our nation's problems would be manageable.
Not to be thwarted by anything so minor as a dusty 200 year old document written by men who couldn't possibly survive in today's fast paced hustle and bustle world, the Left has turned the Constitution into a "living, breathing" document that can be bent, folded, stapled and mutilated as needed to sanction the latest most up to date fad. PETA is suing to grant some killer whales human rights. How avant guarde! How very Left, the idea that rights are granted by men. How stupid. Yet unless we assert some fixed principle why this is a stupid idea, it too will become the law of the land.
So, I come, at last, to where I am. The Constitution meant what it said when it said it, and it means the same things today that it meant when it was written. The original intent of the Constitution can be researched and understood, and this is the method that should be used. By these standards, a huge number of subsidies, entitlements, transfer payments, and laws should be stricken from the books. Does that sound radical to you Mr. Goldberg? Maybe it is, but I can look myself in the mirror each day knowing that I can argue from principle, rather that just saying to the Left "slow down." We need to have rock solid and unchanging principles if we are ever to turn back the current slide into fascism and a police state.