The modern conservative movement was crafted out of a ruinous and tattered nothingness. For much of American history, conservatism was an anti-intellectual, fraught coalition of conspiracy theorists, foreign isolationists and anti-immigration hawks. William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Yale firebrand, ignited a new coalition of anti-communists, libertarians and social conservatives of the so-called silent majority to form an intellectually impressive and cohesive resistance party to the ever-expanding Washington bureaucracy. The movement had its first ideologically representative candidate in Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, whose 1964 Republican nomination was a triumph of the party’s conservative faction. After Goldwater’s shellacking in the general election, Buckley pressed forward with his TV debate program, “Firing Line,” where he continued the mission of the movement. He invited leading progressive ideologues onto the program, where stalwarts like Norman Mailer, Saul Alinsky and Noam Chomsky were given room to exchange their governing philosophies with Buckley, whose prose and articulate vision gave conservatism an air of national legitimacy. Buckley’s alliance of Cold War hawks, cultural conservatives and economic libertarians forged forward and finally saw its ideals embodied in the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, who rode no-nonsense anti-communism, cohesive market liberalism and staunch social moralism to a sweeping victory in the Electoral College and a definitive popular vote win.
Conservative speaker Tomi Lahren, standing on the shoulders of a movement crafted by the intellectual likes of Edmund Burke, Milton Friedman and Bill Buckley, spat down on the philosophy these men devoted their lives to when she said last week that the principles of small government are incongruent with calls for the protection of unborn children. Nary has a conservative worth his intellectual weight envisioned anarchy to the point of an abdicated rule of law, or a denial of the state’s role in protecting basic, God-given freedoms. The religious right, which represents the third prong of the Republican coalition, is attracted to the conservative movement in large measure because of its commitment to encouraging a virtuous populace that acknowledges basic truths about the value of life.
Whatever you think of abortion, there is a large plurality of the American population that genuinely believe the act is tantamount to murder. PEW Research on the topic indicates that 44% of the American population believe having an abortion is “morally wrong”, with 37% believing the act should be illegal in all or most cases. Many view the issue with the supreme importance most rational folks would if they themselves believed the procedure was a killing rather than a simple removal of a clump of cells. Lahren, a face of conservatism for many millennials, cackles the typically cryptic charge of “hypocrisy” at the moral foundations of a movement whose proponents make up much of her base of support. Meanwhile, “The View,” the program devoted to aiding middle-aged women in their quest to feel bad about themselves, gobbled up Lahren’s admission to throw red meat to their audience of trained seals to hoot and holler in support of a woman’s supposed right to kill her unborn child. The entire optic was terribly ugly, and it gives the clear impression that conservatives have no principles. While such might be the case for Lahren, conservatives ought to know better than to tarnish the moral doctrines underlying the quest for individual liberty for all. While the simplest rebuttal to Lahren’s claim is to debunk it on it’s face- there’s nothing inherent in a principal commitment to small government that abdicates said government from protecting the life of innocents- the larger concern is her complete blindness of basic conservative thought. The conservative movement has a fundamentally distinguishing approach to learned knowledge and tradition. Tradition is viewed with a degree of reverence- after all, the hackneyed notion begins, things are the way they are for a typically legitimate purpose. This foundational point of view is the guidepost of conservatism, and is its main demarcating feature in a principle sense from progressivism. Lahren’s willingness to ominously disavow the conservative consensus of over fifty years of scholastic effort says more about her own politics and less about a macro level Republican hypocrisy. Right is right and wrong is wrong; no legitimate credulity ought to be given to the pie charts of American surveyors or the merciless faux outrage of a panel of once popular actresses. Whatever one’s abortion stance, the truth remains that Lahren’s stuttering charge of hypocrisy does not diminish the sincere beliefs of her fellow American citizens.