Edmund Burke and Why Our Infighting Is Failing Our Values

Regardless as to where you fell on the 97th District nomination process? This is a total class move by Chris Peace. Most folks would do virtually anything to claw their way back into power… some folks value different things.

I’ve refrained from throwing in on the ups-and-downs of this and the actions of State Central Committee, mostly because even “liking” a comment on either side drew the immediate ire of the opposing side… which is never a good place to be as a party.

Edmund Burke is a name that conservatives enjoy utilizing. Very few have read what he actually believed — why he supported the American War for Independence and viscerally opposed the French Revolution. The answer is rather simple: Americans were defending their natural born rights; the French were usurping power to create “rights” through law. When you read John Adams praising the British constitution? Or when Burke defends the British parliamentary system over its peers? This concept of consensus over coercion, process over partisanship, and civility over witticisms was the very thing that Burke et al. were trying to preserve in the face of the Jacobins.

Today, we have a good number of Jacobins in American politics in all sides — mostly on the left, but their tactics are infiltrating the Republican Party as well. How many times have we seen one personality hijack our party processes in the name of “principles” only to ditch the party and leave us financially weaker, less civil, more partisan? This cashing out of the public trust only ends in moral bankruptcy…

Yet in the British House of Commons, one can be thrown out for any breach of the rules of decorum, and the British constitution — unwritten yet observed — consists of an emphasis on fair play, decency, decorum, and an unwillingness to allow personalities to rise above and hijack the system for personal gain no matter what the justification.

We have lost this in the Republican Party of Virginia.

Burke’s genius was to emphasize party over personalities. This is what kept the Dantons and “little Robespierres” at bay; these Burkean “little platoons” that we once called unit committees, VFRW units, YR and CR clubs. They frowned upon those voices pushing -isms of every type and smiled upon their neighbors; they rejected calls for division for the sake of party unity; they understood that the political left in this country isn’t as strong as all of us… and that division and hard feelings worked in their favor.

Some folks argue that we can walk right up to that line without crossing it… and that is the game of politics today. It’s a stupid game, because it gambles with the future.

Over the last five years, we have seen our majorities in the House of Delegates dwindle from supermajority to a slim one vote margin. The Virginia Senate is jeopardized. We have lost three representatives (VA-10, VA-05, VA-02). We have precisely zero statewide candidates.

We have Democrats who paint themselves in blackface, who stand accused of rape, and who stand on a pile of dead babies only to scold the political right in this country as haters, bigots and racists.

The Democrats are showing their face cards: full-on Bernie-style Medicaid expansion, abortion up to birth (and beyond?), college debt forbearance, higher taxes to feed the bureaucracy that is failing our inner cities and public schools. Republicans continue to throw money in to the maw of the very government that teaches our children how to hate our values… and we expect a restoration? How?

Our party infrastructure failed our candidates in the 97th District, robbing us of a narrative and feeding the dysfunction that has plagued RPV since at least 2003. We aren’t helping our unit chairs, we aren’t building our unit committees, we certainly aren’t helping our candidates, and worst of all we haven’t hit rock bottom.

Burke knew that party infrastructure was important if conservative values were to survive the Jacobin left (and frankly, the Jacobin right). If I could wave a magic wand over Virginia Republicans, it would be to snap people out of the myth that the guy in the same foxhole as you is the enemy. That’s foolish and we know it. Heck — even the Democrats aren’t the enemy.

So what is the enemy? The system the Byrd Machine created — that’s the enemy. Their legacy of Massive Resistance and keeping working class people down is the enemy (and given Northam and Herring’s fondness for blackface, don’t tell me it’s been expunged from the ranks of Virginia Democrats). The system of public education underserving our kids and teaching them to hate our values is the enemy. Colleges and universities taking healthy 18 year olds and feeding back worthless 22 year olds trained in disciplines our economy doesn’t need is the enemy. This culture that says it is easier to celebrate mediocrity rather than achieve excellence is the enemy.

…but the enemy isn’t us. Or at least, shouldn’t be.

The ghost of Dick Obenshain still lives, my friends. But is he smiling upon our work?

For myself, our party processes really are the beginning and end of any solution moving forward. We have to create a culture of camaraderie and excellence again, one that supports our communities rather than gets sucked into the false dichotomy of the media cycle. Our neighbors are not substitutes for what is going on at the national stage. Give 1776 a watch this Fourth of July weekend… would that every unit committee adopt this sort of consensus and willingness to laugh at themselves, yet remain united in the task of preserving human freedom.

Hopefully we will figure it out before Virginia becomes New Jersey, which if we lose the House of Delegates? We will… and name the last time conservatives ever took back a liberty lost? Burke understood the stakes; we should as well.

Happy Independence Day, folks. We have work to do.