Jan 20, 2013
The January 2013 issue of Commentary asked 53 writers and conservative leaders What is the Future of Conservatism?
This is part of the response from Jay Leftkowitz:
Conservatives are in danger of falling out of touch not only with America. They are falling out of touch with their own principles. In the mission statement of National Review in 1955, William Buckley articulated the magazine’s creed: “It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty, and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly.” It is high time for conservatives to return to these core principles.
Conservatives should rethink their social agenda as well. James Madison explained inThe Federalist Papers that our Constitution is designed to keep the federal government out of our personal lives: “The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.” That is not to say that conservatives must abdicate their moral voice on issues of life, death, and personal responsibility. But they should wage those battles in the conservative way, using private institutions and the power of persuasion rather than the coercive powers of the state. And to the extent legislation is appropriate, it belongs in statehouses rather than the halls of Congress. Since when does being a conservative require Washington to dictate how people conduct their private lives in Sioux City and Miami, much less mandate the same standards in both venues?
Beyond making the case for smaller and less intrusive government, conservatives must demonstrate that they believe in an inclusive America. This year, 71 percent of Hispanics, 93 percent of blacks, and 73 percent of Asians voted for Obama. The year 2011 marked the first time more minority babies were born in America than were non-Hispanic white babies. Immigration reform is the ideal place to start, since welcoming more immigrants is consistent with conservative principles. The people lining up around the world to come to America are pursuing the same dream that the parents and grandparents of today’s white establishment had when they left Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. While a conservative immigration policy should certainly include measures to tighten our borders and perhaps require national identification cards (as in many other nations), it might also take steps to ensure that the millions of undocumented aliens who are an essential part of our economy can fully partake in the fruits of our nation.
Social issues are often better addressed from the pulpit than the ballot box. We can not turn to the government to solve all of our problems or address all of our moral issues and remain a free people.