Unsolicited Advice for the Republican Party

by Mark T. Mitchell on April 21, 2013 · 40 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Politics & Power

GOP

Hidden Springs Lane. It is clear that the GOP is in disarray. The recent CPAC conference only served to highlight that the Republicans are bereft of ideas. Railing against “big government” and championing a bellicose foreign policy have proven both ineffective and contradictory and for good reason: small government at home and an empire abroad are mutually exclusive. The insistence that party leaders toe a strict line of orthodoxy or risk being ostracized (witness the Chuck Hagel confirmation) suggests a level of brittleness that is disheartening. Why anyone still listens to John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Grover Norquist, or Bill Kristol is a mystery.

Demographically the party caters to an aging population. The fact that entry into the party leadership requires one to genuflect at the altar of Ronald Reagan indicates a complete failure of political imagination. Reagan was elected more than thirty years ago. While his name still warms the heart of cold warriors, he means little to anyone under thirty-five. Reagan himself would surely look askance at this reverence and suggest that political leaders today need to consider how 2013 is different than 1980 and creatively seek to apply conservative principles to new and continually changing circumstances.

A question that is rarely asked but should be painfully obvious is this: why do self-identified conservatives seem so uninterested in conserving ? To ask the question is to put a finger on a tender spot right at the heart of the problem.

To be sure, some conservatives might point out that they are interested in conserving traditional marriage or American hegemony or perhaps some abstract notion of freedom. But even when these things are named, the language and the disposition is less about conserving and more about fighting. “We’re going to fight for family values” is not the same as doing the hard work to cultivate good things so they can be preserved.

In short, the language of conserving—of stewardship—is foreign to many conservatives. Thus, we have a significant group of people who call themselves conservatives but who have lost the inclination (as well as the practice) of conserving. Recovering this disposition is a key component to revitalizing American conservatism. Here are several specific suggestions.

1. Reclaim the language of stewardship. Years ago the right ceded concern for the environment to the left and anyone who expressed serious  concern for preserving the natural world was deemed suspicious. Conservatives should be leaders in conserving natural resources, natural places, and the flora and fauna therein. Chanting “drill, baby, drill” suggests an appalling disregard for the natural world and a petulant demand for a way of life that is not sustainable.

2. Stewardship must extend beyond the environment to include the preservation of culture, communities, and institutions. We have inherited many good things from prior generations who sacrificed much on our behalf. Part of stewarding an inheritance is to pass it on intact, and perhaps even improved, to the next generation. Stewardship, then, requires attentiveness to the past even as it conscientiously prepares for the future. Stewards think in terms of generations yet unborn even as they care for things handed down from people long dead. In this light, our national debt represents a colossal failure of stewardship, for it is literally taking resources from our descendants to satisfy our current desires.

3. Effective stewardship of a place or an institution requires that we learn to speak in terms of proper scale, for individual actions as well as policies are effective only to the extent that we can properly comprehend problems in concrete terms. In this light, it is no surprise that railing against the abstraction of “big government” has proven ineffective. Reagan was wrong. Government, per se, is not the problem. The trouble is institutions that have exceeded a scale that is suited to human flourishing. To be sure, a bloated, centralized government is a problem, but so too is the centralization of economic power. Conservatives need to see how the two pathologies are connected and deal with both simultaneously. If they do not, their efforts will continue to be futile.

4. Politically, conservatives must champion a recovery of federalism, which has been so badly damaged in recent decades. Socially and culturally, conservatives should explicitly reorient themselves toward local communities. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in local culture, local food, local democracy, and local economies. However, these sensibilities have found far more traction on the left than the right. In fact, many so-called conservatives denigrate these things as crunchy, hippie, lefty nonsense. This represents a serious failure to grasp how conservatism is necessarily tied to the local and that the resurgence of localism presents conservatives with a tremendous opportunity.

If self-professed conservatives learn to speak and act in terms of stewardship and human scale, they will find a constituency that is young, vibrant, and profoundly conservative.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Maureen April 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Amen. While I would identify myself as conservative in many aspects (think FPR) the GOP tends to nauseate me. So Mark Mitchell for President. . .except that I wouldn’t wish that job on anyone, especially on someone with an intact moral and political conscience who writes great blogs!

avatar Hans Noeldner April 21, 2013 at 9:14 pm

A beautiful (and wonderfully terse) diagnosis! Thank you, Mark.

avatar Tim April 22, 2013 at 12:23 am

Great points. I’d throw in, how about conserving the social fabric, solidarity, cohesion? Self-identified conservatives — especially those who, when they say conserving really mean fighting — typically do not, so far as I can tell, care much about those things. But the entire binary, conservative vs liberal/progressive construct can be dropped by the side of the road, if you ask me (and you didn’t, but since you’re dishing out unsolicited advice I assume you can take it). Where we live, among our neighbors, as opposed to in the abstract realm of political discourse, no adults are against progress and no adults are against conserving.

But I like where you’re going. Let’s all try a little harder, when we say “conservative” to mean conservative — to strive for clarity. And in our quest for clarity, and if we have to accept binary concepts and have a two-party system, how about we really clarify things by starting a Corporatist party — one party to represent all the corporations. We could even let them pool ALL their money. At least the rest of us would know where we stand — and would discover we’ve actually got a lot in common, like our humanity.

avatar Chris Schumerth April 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for this. It makes me think of a related, but sort of opposite, problem. I get so frustrated with my young and self-proclaimed “liberal” friends who rail on “conservatives,” while also advocating and living a life of gardening, buying and selling at local farmers’ markets (not to mention, arts and crafts), and preparing/eating food with others. I’m like, “That’s a conservative idea/choice/life!” It is about conserving something old. But yes, that Republicans are so confused about what is conservative is part of the problem.

avatar Gregory K. Laughlin April 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm

“Reagan was wrong. Government, per se, is not the problem.”

The second part of this quote is absolutely correct. The first part, however, shows the same historical amnesia which the author is addressing. Reagan never said government per se is the problem, nor did he govern under such a philosophy. What he said was, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” And that was true. The problem is that far too many have forgotten his qualifier, “In this present crisis.” Admittedly, Reagan himself is somewhat guilty of causing this amnesia in that his rhetoric was often hyperbolic. His actions were usually more restrained and nuanced. In his absence, however, it is the hyperbole of his rhetoric and not the restraint of his actions which is most widely remembered and held up as the ideal. Nonetheless, it would be helpful if the author here noted the qualifier in Reagan’s quote because that qualifier makes all the difference in the world.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell April 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

@ Mr. Laughlin: point taken.

avatar David Smith April 23, 2013 at 6:49 am

Much as the proper adjective “American” has been stretched to the breaking point in actually being a useful description of anything in particular, so has the term “conservative”. About the best it can do these days is describe a mere caricature that bears increasingly little resemblance to the thing itself.

avatar Joseph R. Stromberg April 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Don’t condemn Mark Mitchell to the presidency. It is the White Whale and turns anyone who seeks it into Captain Ahab, who was an early unitary-executive theorist and proto-neo-conservative.

avatar John Médaille April 23, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Good advice, but the Party cannot take it. For too long they have been too dependent for funding on the crony capitalists who are themselves dependent on big government. It is not the size of gov’t that bothers them, but the idea that somebody other than themselves might derive some benefits. Ironically, Citizens United many have done more damage to the Republican Party than to the Democrats; unlimited funds leads always to unending corruption and fawning servility. Thus the four points must point to profit or they cannot be part of the party. Point 1 is beyond their comprehension. Point 2 they are willing to do, for a price; they will preserve culture to the degree that culture can be commodified, and no further. Point 3? Isn’t bigger always better? Especially when it means bigger subsidies and more immunity from the law when you screw up and wreck the economy. Point 4, locality, well really! Haven’t they put a WalMart in every locality?

avatar David Smith April 25, 2013 at 6:53 am

Brilliant, Mr. Medaille!

avatar David Naas April 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I might suggest here that a re-reading of both Clinton Rossiter’s “Conservatism in America”, and Russel Kirk’s “The Conservative Reader” would be most salubrious.
Of course, if you can find them.
I think they might be buried under Glen Beck’s latest outrage, Ann Coulters recent destruction of straw dogs, and Dick Cheney’s memoirs.
Excellent article, excellent comments.

avatar Lisa April 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm

You read my mind. I was at CPAC and not long after that the word “stewardship” came to mind and I discussed this idea with my husband. Well written and nice to know that I was onto an idea that others share.

avatar Mike Fournier April 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm

I think you miss the point. The party leadership does not genuflect at the altar of Ronald Reagan. That may be how they got there, but once in the ‘establishment’, they are more interested in maintaining power than in fostering any type of values. The new ‘Tea Party people’ have been doing this, with the exception of Marco Rubio, who now with stars in his eyes has succumbed to the illusion of power.

avatar John Haas April 27, 2013 at 10:19 am

A good post that’s marred by an addiction to cliches: “. . . a complete failure of political imagination. . . . his name still warms the heart . . . should be painfully obvious . . .” and, lastly, “vibrant.” Ugh. Blogging, I know, has unique demands it makes of the writer, but writing is still writing because reading is still reading. All the annoying things Strunk and White urged us to avoid when we used typewriters don’t get magically transfomed into charms because they’re in pixels.

avatar John Haas April 27, 2013 at 10:26 am

I should say, however, the content of the post is much-needed and well-put, and, as usual, John Médaille’s comment reminds us why he deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

avatar Josh Cooney April 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

“If self-professed conservatives learn to speak and act in terms of stewardship and human scale, they will find a constituency that is young, vibrant, and profoundly conservative.”

No, you are wrong. Conservatives will only attract a young constituency if they remain silent on matters of race, class, and sex.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I have come late to this thread, so if you have persevered to make it this far, hello, and I hope that you’ll keep reading. A few minutes ago I was basking in the spring sun on my front steps, reading Mr. Mitchell’s post after I had printed it (I hate reading text online). As I read, I kept nodding yes, yes, yes to the sentiments in the piece. I leaned back my head to think with the sun on my face, and I saw a sky striped with con-trails. Then I noticed that much of the ambient noise in my neighborhood was coming not from ground level but from the little single-prop airplanes about a thousand feet above the children playing in my back yard. I couldn’t help but wonder where all of those people were going on such a beautiful day.

As for me, I haven’t been aboard a plane since the spring of 2000, but I am fortunate to work only five minutes from home, so air travel is not my lifeline. My situation makes me very happy because I hate traveling regardless of the kind of vehicle that takes from my home. Two centuries ago I would have waved goodbye to my friends as they headed west, returning to my porch rocker to finish reading the weekly broadsheet from Boston. My life now, however, is made possible by the blessings of circumstance. After college, I was lucky to find a job in the town of my upbringing, and I have no desire to leave; however, if circumstances were to change, so would my residence, and I would have to board a plane and go where the work is. Unlike Wendell Berry and other wealthy gentleman farmers, I am local because I am lucky. I get a warm feeling sitting outside my blue raised-ranch beside the daffodils in pleasant weather, American flag luffing in the breeze. I am local, but I cannot afford localism. When I need a wrench, I would love to go to Mr. Hammer’s Hardware store and buy one, but he charges $11.99 whereas Home Depot will soak me for only $5.47. My income makes me choose the box store. And those Walmart ads comparing their grocery prices to those of Stop & Shop? They’re true. When people complain to me about the evils of Walmart, I reply that there is no greater good than saving my family $83.97 on a week’s worth of food and cleaning supplies. (I neither work at Walmart nor hold investments in the company, so please trust the sincerity of my words). Although I both love and respect the sentiments in Mr. Mitchell’s post, I believe nonetheless that localism as a deliberate lifestyle is a hobby for the well-to-do. Most people cannot afford the boutiques, the mom-and-pop stores, the food co-ops, or their own beef cattle. For those who can, I bear no resentment toward them, but I do resent the high-minded notion that if we all try really hard, we can reform the world so that we all live in quaint little hobbit holes with tea brewing over glowing hearth. Romanticism is nice, but it is not life, and, for all of its flaws, that is what the Republican Party understands.

avatar John Médaille April 27, 2013 at 4:42 pm

One question, Mr. Cote: Do you think your purchase of a hammer should be subsidized by the federal government? By your neighbors? By people who are not your neighbors but are nevertheless your “brethren”?

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Mr. Medaille,

If Home Depot is subsidized by the government, then everything is subsidized by the government. I simply take my hard-earned money, go the the store that has the best prices, and buy my goods. If you perceive Home Depot as a form of hammer welfare, you must be materially blessed indeed. I think that you missed my point.

avatar John Médaille April 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm

No, in fact, the subsidies do not work out equally. The box stores could not exist without a highly subsidized transportation system. If WalMart had to bear the full costs of the system, they would go broke in a week. It is a poorly designed distribution system that would make no sense without subsidy. And indeed, that is only one of the subsidies.

The mistake is in equating price to costs. Price only reflects the costs that the seller has to bear, but excludes (by definition) the externalities and the subsidies. These are real costs, but they are borne by parties no connected to the transaction.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Good luck getting to the local hardware store without government-subsidized roads. You live in a rarefied world if you believe that even the arteries of commerce should be completely privatized. I admit that I am probably out of my element to try to argue economics with a man who has published a book on distributism with ISI, but I still need a hammer at a good cost, so to Home Depot I will go. Now excuse me while I tune in to the NASCAR race on FOX. This week, short-track racing in Old Virginia. Go, Dale, Jr.!

avatar John Médaille April 27, 2013 at 9:24 pm

The problem is not whether the gov’t builds them, it’s who pays for them. There is no reason for the freeways to be “free,” since the costs can easily be allocated to the cost-causers. No rational economic system is possible if prices do not reflect costs. If long distance freight is subsidized, you get more of it, and the long distance has an advantage–a gov’t granted advantage–over local production.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Let’s just buy our hammers at our preferred suppliers.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 27, 2013 at 10:35 pm

And no one makes hammers in my town, so they must be shipped to the stores. Trucks do the best job of carrying freight, and they require highways. You can blame Eisenhower, I guess, but I don’t mind paying taxes for the interstates. Even my local church benefits from the current system. When it recently purchased a new air-conditioning unit, it dealt with a big distributor whose prices were low, saving the parishioners hundreds of dollars. Did the church sell out to government-subsidized corporate cronyism? I don’t know, but I like what one church member quipped while she and I chatted after Mass: “Air-conditioning has saved many a soul.”

avatar dave walsh April 28, 2013 at 5:18 am

Mr. Cote, I don’t know if I agree with you exactly – this, for example, you write “When I need a wrench, I would love to go to Mr. Hammer’s Hardware store and buy one, but he charges $11.99 whereas Home Depot will soak me for only $5.47.”
I have not seen that sort of price difference between the local and big box stores myself, unless you are talking about a quality difference. A wrench being a tool, I would advise you to spend the extra money and get a well-made tool that will last you a long time. I have gotten some cheap tools at a big box store and they did not last very long. Which meant I had to replace them. That can get expensive.
But that’s not my point. There’s some research on the differences between communities dominated by big corporations and communities served by vibrant smaller businesses, and you are right, I think, based upon what I have read. In an area dominated by big corporations our options are pretty limited. There’s not much chance for entrepreneurship, and if the big box job goes, so do we. If we get to stay in our home town it’s often more a matter of luck rather than our hard work or skill or intelligence. We really are dependent upon the corporate big shots.
Communities that have thriving small businesses have the sort of community Professor Mitchell is talking about. Question is how to get out of the dependency rut you mention, and find a way to live the sort of life you want to live. It’s a very tough question to answer. But – and this is my point – the fact that it seems so difficult is not a reason to forfeit the attempt, is it?

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 28, 2013 at 6:33 am

Despite our differences, there is hope for our country when two people log on to FPR before 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Anyway, in my town, a small store named Benny’s thrives literally across the street from Walmart. Both stores offer a splendid variety of widgets and whachamacallits at decent prices, and my neighbors and I like to gather outside our homes and compare the establishments. When I was a kid, Benny’s was our Walmart, and this day when I visit that store I am transported to my halcyon days by the smell of bicycle tires. Walmart’s presence across the street has does nothing to change that experience except to win my business for a few items, namely plants and a vacuum cleaner. Walmart used to be one little store in an Arkansas town; three cheers to its founder and his successors for their dream come true. Horatio Alger would be proud.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 28, 2013 at 6:37 am

Lots of typos in my previous post. I’m lousy at the keyboard this early in the morning.

avatar David Naas April 28, 2013 at 10:47 am

The first “tragedy of the commons” is that the commons tend to get trashed in the absence of common decency. The second “tragedy of the commons” is that someone always tries to privatize them for greed’s sake, in the absence of common morality. I think Burke would have no problem with the state providing the infrastructure necessary for the social and economic systems to thrive.
This mania (mania — a symptom of OCD) for privatization and the smallest conceivable government is Not, repeat NOT an article of conservatism, but of Libertineism. Humans are not atomic individualists, but communal beings. (Anyone ever been conceived or born without the cooperation of other human beings? Minimaly, we all have parents, for good or bad.)
So this problem of “subsidized roads is a non-starter for me. The Faithful may find such interesting, and I note that Purists of all stripes tend to hater, or at least despise, Walmart. There are a lot of people who cannot afford to pay the prices charged at other stores, and who, when tghey did, lived on a lower material plane. (Of course, for the relatively wealthy, aesthetics matter more than economics. Even philosophy based on *snobbish* aesthetics.)
I find this discussion diverging radically from the main argument of the essay which initiated it, so is the nature of internet comboxes.
Many of y’all are masters of debate, and can argue for great lengths in support of your various propositions. May I, as an unskilled amateur ask the great question of William James — “What good is it?”
What do you accomplish by proving yourselves right, or Right, to your own satisfaction? How does this advance the causes you supposedly espouse?
Frankly, I read much which is irrelevant to the cause of renewing the USA’s social dynamic. (Really, chiding a person for buying a hammer at a BigBox Store? How futile. Y’all *must* be rich to aford such shenannigans.)

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 28, 2013 at 11:18 am

If I understand you correctly. Mr Naas, I owe you my thanks.

Incidentally, I seek beauty in my life as much as wealthy people do, which is why I have daffodils in my yard and choose to write in the narrative mode. I blog on two sites: here and over at the Imaginative Conservative. “What good is it?” Well, writing is fun, and most of the people both at FPR and IC help to make it so. My son is calling me from the back yard; he wants to play catch. Have a great day.

avatar Chris Travers April 29, 2013 at 8:42 am

@Mr Naas

If I understand Medaille, he is not so much suggesting privatizing the freeways so much as having the highways paid for through usage tolls. I think this is a good model and I will give you a possible parallel for somethign that works very well in many (rural Republican-leaning) parts of Washington state: Public Utility Districts.

In Chelan, my electricity is generated by the county. I use the electricty and I get a bill that reflects the county’s cost in generating what I used. There’s no reason we couldn’t have state governments run their own toll road systems and turn this over to the states.

There are two fundamental questions here and they are somewhat severable.

The first is who controls the infrastructure. I am of the opinion that any piece of infrastructure which is a natural monopoly and also not a mere luxury (cable tv is in theory different than phone line but the lines have recently been blurred) really should be controlled by the public sector, on the most local level possible. This means that not only should roads be public sector but that telephone lines, power lines, and the like really should be too. To hold otherwise is in essence to outsource governmental functions to private corporations, as we currently do with telephone companies (highly regulated and necessarily so because they are natural monopolies, but if telephone service was separated from control over the lines, the amount of regulation required would be far less).

The second is whether access should be free of charge or not. This is where the questions of subsidies come in. But it is entirely separable from the question of whether the infrastructure should be run by the government or private corporations.

From other discussions with Mr Medaille I would be indeed quite surprised if he was really proposing privatization in the sense of handing control over the roads to private corporations.

avatar Gregory K. Laughlin April 29, 2013 at 9:20 am

@Chris Travers,

I’m not opposed to tolls, but aren’t freeways already being paid for by users via the various fuel taxes. I assume the major over-the-road freight haulers already pay more than anyone else for the use of the freeways. The more you drive, the more you pay in fuel taxes. So, while I don’t oppose tolls, I think freeways may already be in a broad sense paid for by the users.

avatar David Smith April 29, 2013 at 9:50 am

Mr. Cote brings up some good points; it is indeed where most of us live. We are all so deeply embedded now in the corporatocracy that has engulfed our nation and its communities that it is probably well nigh impossible to entirely extricate ourselves from it. Businesses and corporations are not evil because they are successful and big – good for them! – but when the system is set up so that they are subsidized at any point by the government, then we’re on the road to abuse and evil. Yes, I exist as both an individual and as an individual designed to live in a community (not a collective!). But part of my obligation to the community is that I bear my individual responsibilities in order to contribute to the welfare of the most basic of communities, my family, and then in concentric circles outward toward the greater community of my extended kin, town, state, etc. When businesses and corporations are subsidized by meddlesome government at any level, at some point, whether resources are extracted from me or my neighbor, evil occurs. My neighbor should not be forced to pay for something for my benefit or is my responsibility and vice versa.

If the economy is heading for a collapse/reset, as I fear it is, much of this mercantilisitic subsidization will have to cease. Fuel prices will skyrocket, for example; no longer will Wal Mart be able to carry cheap food and produce from distant California, let alone Chile’! We will of necessity be forced to look to ourselves, our communities, and localities in order to make do. Of course this scenario is not without a great deal of pain; unfortunately, whenever we get off track from Reality this is inevitable. AAARRRGGHH!!

avatar Tim Holton April 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

No one who uses tools much bases their purchasing decision entirely on price. Mr Cote says no hammers are made in his town. Nor is anything else, in all likelihood. Which means no one there or practically anywhere in America approaches consuming from the point of view of a manufacturer or craftsman and recognizes quality– a thing well-made. If you plan on using the hammer much at all, Mr Cote — and perhaps, like most Americans, you don’t — you want to consider its durability. (And people who use tools will also consider the degree of pleasure in their use, but I fear we’re far from a context in which broaching “pleasure” and “labor” in the same breath would be admissable.) A decently made hammer, cared for by its owner, will last at least a lifetime. If you don’t have the cash, buy a used one at a flea market. Even if it’s 50 years old, it’ll probably outlast your brand new Home Depot purchase. Save yourself and your children the extravagance of buying a new one every few years.

Furthermore, because the makers of hammers are remote we’re oblivious to what may well be the Dickensian conditions in which they toil–conditions “cheap” for the factory owners and middlemen up the chain, but extremely costly to the laborers. In these ways, as well as those touched on by Mr Medaille and Mr Walsh, cheapness is expensive.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Mr. Holton, et al:

I use a hammer, and so do most Americans–at least everyone in my neighborhood does. My Home Depot hammer is still going strong. So much hostility from some readers, and so little understanding. I used the hammer image (or the wrench, which was my original example) as a symbol, which people at this site should understand. Why do my sentiments ignite tempers? Why the indignant tone? If my purchasing an actual hammer at a box store bothers you as much as your words suggest, then you are simply unfriendly and probably live more in your head than in the world. I have enough cash to live a happy life, thank you very much, and a few lovely things are made in my town. A glass-blowing shop about three miles from my house is doing a brisk business, and hand-made clothes can be purchased about five miles away. Now I know why America is strewn with gated communities. I apologize; I will no longer trespass on this very private ground.

Regretfully,

Ken

avatar Tim Holton April 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Ken–
I sincerely apologize. I didn’t mean my remarks to come off as in any way personal. You have raised issues that are far from peculiar to your own purchasing habits, and it is those issues I was addressing. Didn’t mean to paint you with a too-broad brush. Don’t recall where I got it, but it’s a lousy brush anyway. I am very, very pleased to learn that your town still has some craft industry and that you and your neighbors still use hammers. But I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that there has been a cataclysmic decline in the nature and role (if not quantity) of manufacturing and making in this country, as well as the kind of retail commerce that has historically been key to the social fabric, and it is those problems, not you, that raised my indignation. But I should have been more clear.

Finally, this is not private but public ground and I regard you as just as entitled to it as I.

avatar Kenneth A. Cote, Jr. April 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thank you, Tim. I really love this site and appreciate the work of Professor Mitchell and others. I also agree that the quality of our country is declining in many ways, and I will admit to a certain pang of conscience whenever I walk into a big chain store. I think my comments were driven by the conflict between that pang and my need, and everything has become so politicized that neither I nor anyone else can make a move without some protest from some quarter of the population. Ultimately, however, you and I love this country dearly and, speaking for myself, worry about it to the degree that many people worry about more immediate matters. Therein lies our common bond.

Take care,

Ken

avatar Rob G April 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Not directly related to the subject at hand, but I believe it’s worth noting that in our area on Easter Sunday the malls were closed, grocery stores had limited hours, but good ol’ Wal*Mart was open all day long.

Christ is Risen! Wal*Mart is open!

It may be a small thing, but multiply it by a million and you begin to see how consumerist capitalism undermines community and tradition.

avatar Dan Lynch April 29, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I wonder, Mark:

How do you see the Occupy movement? For the most part, it’s considered to be on the leftward side of politics by most people I know.

But could it also be a conservative movement, by the standard you set fourth in this essay?

avatar Mark T. Mitchell April 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Dan,
That’s a good question. The Occupy Movement is/was such an unformed and badly articulated movement that most conservatives dismissed it out of hand. But with all that, I think the Occupy folks (at least the thoughtful ones) were animated by an intimation that something is deeply amiss and that one aspect of the problem is an incestuous relationship between Wall Street and the Federal Government. On that point they were spot on. I’m not sure that critique necessarily makes them conservatives, but conservatives should be able to sympathize with the sentiment even if they disagree with the tactics and the silliness on the fringes.

avatar D.W. Sabin May 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Conservation, an allied root of “Conservative”, allied to the notion of “sustainability” is really a rather simple concept. It is, alas, antithetical to the Corporate interests who have bought the lapsed republic. The fact that confusion is strewn about is un-surprising.

T.R. was a progressive, something anathema to our current crop of crusaders but there needs to be a crusading effort at bringing this depauperate republic back into a sustainable zone. Conservation, of family, home, crops, environment are fundamental needs. This is , like all conservation efforts that ultimately bear fruit….a bottoms up rather than top-down effort.

Governments are never good at this because they are habitually insulated from reality. This lack of reality must be penetrated by those who insert themselves into government and who can withstand the seductions of it.

The GOP has this ability in its DNA. It may have forgotten it.

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