This was originally written as a reply to something Bud said on a previous post, but I got sufficiently carried away with it that I thought I’d turn it into a separate post…
Bud says my definition [of the word “conservative”] is 19th century, seeming to imply it’s hopelessly passé, but here’s the thing: As he also notes, people who call themselves “conservative” use it to mean very different things. That means the definition is up for grabs, and my version is at least as valid as anyone else’s. I assert that it is far MORE valid, as it is the correct one. Precedent is on my side.
Tradition, of course, is something that true conservatives embrace. When you read the word, try to imagine it being pronounced as Maggie Smith does on “Downton Abbey” (our dialect coach on “Pride and Prejudice” told us to use her as our model). A couple of episodes back, she said the word with such emphasis that she practically whistled on the “sh” sound — “trah-DISH-shun.” Hear, hear, I thought. Quite right. Capital, capital…
Anyway, observe the dowager countess — SHE is conservative. (Although she seems to possess an adaptability that her son does not.)
Another way to look at it is the way I did in this 2008 column, “Give me that old-time conservatism,” which I essentially wrote to defend John McCain from the so-called conservatives in his party who disapproved of him. An excerpt:
By now some of you think I have it in for all things “conservative.” I don’t. I just grew up with a different concept of it from that which has in recent years been appropriated by extremists. I grew up in a conservative family — a Navy family, as a matter of fact. To the extent that “conservative ideas” were instilled in me, they weren’t the kind that make a person fume over paying his taxes, or get apoplectic at the sound of spoken Spanish. They were instead the old-fashioned ones: Traditional moral values. Respect for others. Good stewardship. Plain speaking.
And finally, the concept that no passing fancy, no merely political idea, is worth as much as Duty, Honor and Country.
Note the capitalization of virtues, which was me, as editorial page editor, demonstrating that I didn’t have to follow AP style when I didn’t bloody feel like it. It was a way of deliberately evoking an older style of writing, a traditional style, of visibly rejecting the tyranny of modernity. When I read that now, I think, hear, hear. Quite right. Capital, capital.
Bottom line, I consider myself much more conservative than these radicals running around with their snake flags railing against the very existence of one of our bedrock institutions, our government.
Imagine me “harrumphing” now.