WASHINGTON--Every nation needs an intelligent and constructive form of conservatism. The debate over the health care bill, which mercifully came to a close on Sunday night, was not American conservatism's finest hour. In its current incarnation, conservatism has taken on an angry crankiness. It is caught up in a pseudo-populism that true conservatism should mistrust--what on Earth would Bill Buckley have made of "death panels"? The creed is caught up in a suspicion of all reform that conservatives of the Edmund Burke stripe have always warned against.
In response to Michelle Cottle’s complaint about Barack Obama’s devotion to golf, Paul Krugman quotes H. L. Mencken’s comment about former Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith: “The Al of today is no longer a politician of the first chop. His association with the rich has apparently wobbled and changed him. He has become a golf player…” Then there is conservative theorist Russell Kirk’s comment about Dwight Eisenhower. Asked in the late 1950s whether he agreed with the John Birch Society’s charge that Eisenhower was a communist, Kirk replied that Ike was “not a Communist, but a golfer.”
Travel westward along Massachusetts Avenue, down from Capitol Hill, and you will run into Edmund Burke. He seems to be hailing a cab, hand raised high, fingers parted, his whole form tense with the attempt to seize your attention; but in fact he is in mid-expostulation. This is the torsion of argument. The bronze statue, a copy of a late nineteenth-century one that stands in Bristol, which Burke immortally represented in Parliament, is eight feet tall, and was presented to Washington in 1922 by a British organization devoted to Anglo-American comity.
It's high time Americans start learning about the conservative movement. For whatever reason, we can identify feminists, Islamists, environmentalists, abolitionists--but very few of us know that conservatism, a coherent ideological movement, even exists. For example, when you open up the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition and look up "progressivism," you get: In U.S.
In the last years of his life, William F. Buckley Jr., who died on February 27 at the age of 82, broke with many of his fellow conservatives by pronouncing the Iraq war a failure and calling for an end to the embargo on Cuba. He even expressed doubt as to whether George W. Bush is really a conservative—and he asked the same about neoconservatives. To Buckley's liberal admirers, these sentiments suggested that the godfather of the Right had, like Barry Goldwater, crept toward the center in his old age.
In the long march of the conservative ascendancy, Folk Songs to Bug the Liberals, the 1964 LP by the satirical conservative quartet the Goldwaters, was only a blip. Four Tennessee college students put on "AuH2O" shirts and recorded an album of songs like "Down in Havana," "Barry's Moving In," and "Row Our Own Boat." They dropped out of school to warm up crowds before Goldwater campaign appearances. The record reportedly sold some 200,000 copies. The Goldwaters were never heard from again.