The government is rapidly making policy changes that deal with marriage, guns, the military, immigration and nearly every other facet of our public and private lives. These changes are taking place rapidly because Republicans seem to be giving into the demands of Democrats. These developments illuminate the need for conservatism and its role in balancing the liberal desire for rapid change. This is not to say that the Democrats should be abandoned and their policies discarded, however. What it is saying is that if one party is able to make policy without regard for the minority party there is a risk to the system. This commentary simply argues for the importance of a conservative party without arguing for its superiority.
Without a conservative party a liberal party will continuously alter the existing order. Liberals, regardless of nation or party, believe in the perfectability of man and use the government to institute reforms that will hopefully lead to a perfect man and a perfect society. To accomplish this task everything that has been done, and everything that is now being done, must be overturned until we get to the perfect. Liberals follow in the footsteps of Jean Jacques Rousseau and the French Revolution. Conservatives, regardless of nation or party, favor a traditional order and therefore follow in the footsteps of Edmund Burke and the American Revolution.
Conservatives recognize that if reform comes it must be slow and incremental so as not to disrupt the individual or society in a way that will induce backlash or wandering. Liberals are content to overthrow the whole thing and start from scratch. Conservatives temper the liberal desire for reform which helps to maintain the balance within a society that is required for a peaceful and productive existence.
The problem is not with the change necessarily but with the nature and rapidity of the change. If you have ever worked for a company that changed management you might know the feeling. When new management comes in and introduces immediate changes there is backlash among the employees who have been there for a long time. The same thing happens with rapid government reform. Our understanding of what to expect and what is expected of us is disrupted with abrupt and radical change. This unsettles the existing order as well as the individuals within it to the point where society’s order is thrown into question. If these sorts of changes are instituted on a regular basis the existence of the society is put at risk.
A liberal agenda places the desires of the individual above the natural order whereas conservatism wants to see individuals flourish within a just political order that is established through tradition that coincides with natural law. This is why conservatives can be for both individual liberty and traditional order. The role of conservatives is to temper the pull towards unbridled individualism and equality in order to make sure that if change occurs it is done slowly and responsibly.
In The Conservative Mind Russell Kirk wrote, “we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilization escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite.” The U.S. is in dire need of conservatives who can articulate this idea both through rhetoric and policies. If such a voice cannot be found our politics risks losing its counterbalance to progressive reform.
The founders of this nation recognized the need for competing interests in order to provide an equilibrium that is absent in a one party system.