Sir Edmund Burke is often cited as the founder of modern conservatism. In fact, Russell Kirk starts his profound work “The Conservative Mind” by profiling Burke.
So what does Burke say about who should govern, how they should govern, and what constitutes liberty?
He says: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
In other words, as conservatives, we believe in electing people for their judgment and abilities – not to succumb to our popular, and sometimes ravenous, whims.
On governing he advises “All government — indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act — is founded on compromise and barter.”
This is pretty self-explanatory, but Burke is saying that compromise and coming to consensus on major issues, in, yes, a “bipartisan” way is positive. Compromise should be a goal, not derided.
And of liberty, he believed: “But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”
In other words, don’t let passion overcome reason. Don’t let anarchy overcome judgment.
In 2008, liberals in this country embraced “Hope” and “Change” – they allowed their emotions and passions to sweep them away in the cult of personality.
These insatiable passions have given us government intrusion into our banking system, our automotive industry, our energy sector, and, yes, our health care.
To a certain extent, since the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, some conservatives have also been on a trajectory propelled by an equally fervent zeal.
Some conservatives want immediate and rapid change in government spending, services, and structure.
There is nothing wrong with this enthusiasm and energy – but it has to be matched with prudence and judgment.
This week, with Rick Santorum dropping out of the race, Republicans are likely to nominate Mitt Romney for president. All throughout the campaign he was derided as a RINO.
Yet here is a man who managed to govern liberal Massachusetts as a conservative; here’s a man with the intellectual capacity to govern our nation with sobriety and stability.
The shared conservative goals of limited government, promotion of the free market, and fiscal responsibility need to be the backbone for conservatism. But they also have to be implemented with prudence and judgment, lest conservatives never get elected again.
Burke would applaud the modern conservative enthusiasm, provided it was tempered with a little, well, conservatism.
And in this era, where the left keeps moving further left – conservatism is exactly the remedy we need – with all hands on deck for the effort.