Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Conservative Disadvantage

We conservatives are at a certain disadvantage vis-a-vis our leftist brethren. We don’t seek the meaning of our lives in the political sphere but in the private arena: in hobbies, sports, our jobs and professions, in ourselves, our families, friends, neighborhoods, communities, clubs and churches; in local road races and chess tournaments and tractor pulls; in the particular pleasures of the quotidian round in all of their scandalous particularity.

Above all, we conservatives do not seek any transcendent meaning in the political sphere. We either deny that there is such a thing, or we seek it in religion, or in philosophy, or in meditation, or in such sorry substitutes as occultism. A conservative who denies that there is ‘pie in the sky’ will certainly not seek ‘pie in the future.’ That brand of lunacy is left for the leftists. A conservative could never write a book with the title, The Politics of Meaning. Politics for a conservative is more like garbage-collecting: it is a dirty job; somebody has to do; it would be better if nobody had to do it; and we should all lend a hand in getting the dirty job done. But there is no meaning, immanent or transcendent, in garbage collecting and sewage disposal: it is something one gets out of the way so that meaningful activities can first begin.

I’m exaggerating a bit. To write is to exaggerate. Too French! Delete! But I’m exaggerating to make a serious point. We conservatives don’t look for meaning in all the wrong places. And because we don’t, we are at a certain disadvantage. We cannot bring the full measure of our energy and commitment to the political struggle. We don't even use the word 'struggle.' We are not totally committed to defeating the totalitarians who would defeat us.

But we won the last round anyway.