WARREN D. GOLIGHTLY
Conservatives generally make up the most economically successful classes in society.
This position gives them a great stake in political outcomes. Conservative thinkers such as Russell Kirk emphasize stability and view tradition, norms, and laws as the conservators of freedom and civil society.
The conservative Hamilton admonished the liberal Jefferson: “Your people, Sir, are a great beast!”
The founders designed a Constitution reflecting their fear of unbridled populism. They established the Electoral College, indirect election of senators (initially), a “checks and balances” system with three independent branches of government.
Yet recently, conservatives appear to have opted for populism.
We now witness appeals to culture wars and division. Xenophobic, anti-immigrant rants are inserted in speeches. The vulnerable and marginalized are subjected to demonization and derision. Racism and police brutality rear their ugly heads. Civil unrest is aggravated by heavy-handed tactics. Clumsy paramilitary operations of dubious legality or surreptitiously unleashed in the dark of night.
The conservative Edmund Burke observed, “We can have civil liberties only to the extent we practice moral restraint.” There is now the absence of moral restraint in high places. The pretense and posing as strong is often unmasked by displays of weak character.
The Founding Fathers were influenced by the Enlightenment, an intellectual approach imbued with rational analysis. Today, science is sidelined if it causes any discomfort for the narrative promoted by politicians.
Facts are no longer relevant as any unpleasant truth is dismissed as fake news. Evidence-based solutions to problems are swept aside to promote candidacy over candor.
Thomas Hobbes posited a “social contract” where some liberty is handed over to government authority in return for the benefits of domestic peace and protection. However, currently, it appears the government itself is disturbing the peace and leaving many to feel not only not protected but actively threatened. Thus the social fabric becomes torn and frayed.
Toward the end of this century, historians are likely to look back at this time with the question: Why did the conservatives destabilize America?