Ongoing Debate Over the Word ‘Conservative’ | Beaufort County Now | Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online ponders the meaning of an important term. | john locke foundation, ongoing debate, conservative, meaning of conservative, november 19, 2020

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Ongoing Debate Over the Word ‘Conservative’

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the John Locke Foundation. The author of this post is Mitch Kokai.

    Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online ponders the meaning of an important term.

  • Twenty-five years ago, I met Scott Morris, when we both worked at The Weekly Standard. He asked, "What kind of conservative are you? What is the basis of your conservatism?" I attempted a couple of answers, which did not satisfy him. Scott was an intellectual, who had studied philosophy, including over in Oxford.
  • Finally, I said to him, "Look, Scott, I'm a simple fellow: I just hate the Reds. Hate, hate, hate the Reds." He laughed and laughed, and let me off the hook, for a while.
  • I had made a serious point, however. George F. Will says that the first thing a conservative is, is anti-Left.
  • His friend William F. Buckley Jr. traveled the country for more than 50 years, giving talks. Most of these talks had Q&A periods. The most frequent question he got was, "What is a conservative? Can you define 'conservatism'?" WFB always had trouble with this, believe it or not. He often said that conservatism was more of a mindset, or disposition, than a doctrine or program.
  • George Will has titled his most recent book "The Conservative Sensibility." He also asks a basic, mandatory question: "What are conservatives trying to conserve?" His answer, for American conservatives, is: our Founding. ...
  • ... First come rights — our natural rights — and then comes government. It is the job of government to secure our rights.
  • George Will is not everyone's cup of tea, of course, because no one is. (Neither is the Founding.) I know people on the right who insist that Will is not a conservative at all. I know others who think that Will is the living, breathing embodiment of conservatism. "Your mileage may vary," as I see on social media.
  • Conservatism has long been a house of many mansions, and maybe too many.


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