So here’s what we do, gang

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

Advice for conservatives in the Age of Obama.

1. What is, is. Don’t waste valuable time with rehashes of how wonderful things used to be, or would be right now, if only…! A romantic streak informs conservatism: a dreamy connection to realities unglimpsed because they are dead or yet unborn. Don Quixote was a conservative. We can honor his idealism without wishing to replicate his practice. The realities of the present are the ones that need wrestling with. Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States. Instead of whining, cringing, or foretelling disaster, let us figure out what to do. I think in part that means …

2. Make the most of things. In life, you take the bad with the good, in measures determined by accident, circumstance, or divine intent. That’s everybody, including the Democrats, who today drive garland-bedecked chariots over their fallen conservative foes. It isn’t in the nature of things that worldly projects follow purely upward or downward courses. They waver; they wobble. Our liberal adversaries, in other words, won’t always get their way. They will get it less often, the more often conservatives stand ready with attractive, well-designed alternatives.

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3. The exercise of power tends to sober. It sobers conservatives; it sobers liberals. Barack Obama will find in due course he doesn’t even want to enact the whole mysterious and wonderful agenda he outlined to us over so many months, on grounds that said agenda looks in some ways less desirable or realistic than when originally advertised: for instance, the promise to spend untold billions on universal health care.

4. One positive consequence of defeat is the opportunity it presents to the defeated: namely, to fall back and rethink. Obviously something went wrong. What? I like Gen. Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell’s assessment of the circumstances under which the Japanese expelled his allied command from northern Burma, in 1942: “I claim we took a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma, and it is humiliating as hell … we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it.” Yessss, sir! We don’t have to agree overnight on what “caused” the Republican/conservative rout; but, unexamined, the underlying problems would fester and stink, leading to deadlier, smellier problems. Just how did economic disaster occur on the Republicans’ watch? Wasn’t economics supposed to be the GOP’s long suit? Who blew this thing, and why?

5. Now that we’re to have a black, or more properly, a biracial president, let’s consider how this may help us all. I might have preferred, due to his demonstrated (not just asserted) strengths of intellect, character and understanding, to have blazed that trail with, say, Mr. Justice Clarence Thomas. What is, is; what isn’t, isn’t. The “isn’t” in our national life — and it needs fixing — is the number of blacks who reside outside the American mainstream. Segregation was more than unfair; it was stupid and stultifying. It signified that all we could think of to do with a tenth of the U. S. population was separate and isolate. Isolate — and therefore alienate — a tenth of our people? Doesn’t it make more sense to help those same people contribute to their and our society? The same with Hispanic immigrants (leaving aside the question of who’s legal and who isn’t). If we’re to be a tri-racial nation, let’s make it work.

6. “O put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man; for there is no help in them.” So the Psalmist asserts. The conservative who thinks the good life equates to good policy in government is, um, gravely mistaken. Good policy is better than bad, but it gets you, and your country, just so far. First come the things of the heart, and the conscience.

7. Laugh anyway. A sense of joy in the face of the worst is the conservative secret weapon. Leave anger to liberals, who rarely get a joke not directed at Bush. They’ll go nuts. And you’ll laugh even more.