The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

The fight for conservatism’s promise

This weekend, two articles about conservatism’s promise caught my attention. In one, Charles Krauthammer wrote a moving eulogy to Irving Kristol, one of America’s great conservative thinkers. In the other, Peter J. Boyer profiled Pat Toomey and Jim DeMint’s fight for the soul of the Republican party.

In his prolific career, Kristol edited the magazines “Commentary,” “The Public Interest,” and “The National Interest.” He contributed regularly to the Wall Street Journal, taught at New York University, and served on the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, he received the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Perhaps his greatest contribution to American political life is how he mentored and guided a younger generation of conservatives. Krauthammer was one of these; another, David Brooks, paid tribute to Kristol in his New York Times column last week.

Kristol was undoubtedly conservative. He stood for capitalism during the time of state planning. He defended the family during the tumultuous period of free love and sexual liberation. He understood the enduring power of institutions and cautioned against their thoughtless destruction.

But he was also far more pragmatic and far less unreasonably dogged than those who have bastardized his intellectual legacy and claimed the conservative title. He accepted the New Deal and acknowledged that institutions evolve. He didn’t try to freeze society in time, but cautioned slow and reasoned change over thoughtless iconoclasm.

I have to admit that I have only a brief familiarity with Kristol’s ideas and writings. His passing has inspired me to delve further into his work; I hope it will do the same for many others.

Pat Toomey is a longshot candidate for one of Pennsylvania’s two seats in the United States Senate. He is challenging Arlen Specter, the longtime Republican turned Democrat. His prospects look bleak.

Toomey is unabashedly conservative. When he was in the House of Representatives, the Christian Coalition and the American Conservative Union gave him perfect ratings.

But he believes that social conservatives shouldn’t be able to dominate the party. “It never occurred to me that someone who is pro-choice can’t be a good Republican,” he told The New Yorker.

Instead, the party should embrace people with different beliefs, Toomey argues. It should drop its devotion to social and neo-conservatives and return to its fight for small government and personal autonomy.

Today’s conservatives have a lot to learn from Kristol and Toomey. These two men offer an alternative to the discredited George W. Bush brand of conservatism. Their philosophy is based on sound economics, constitutionally-constrained government, and personal freedom.

Barack Obama is only half the cause of Obamamania; the other half came from people like Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill O’Reilly, and Ann Coulter. Their anti-intellectualism, their overreaching, their disdain for the law and human decency, did as much for the Democratic party as any Democrat did. Thanks to them, the GOP has become a shrinking minority and looks more and more out-of-touch with traditional American values.

The Republican party has a long tradition of standing up for free markets, free trade and free people. It has stood for the primacy of the law, for government constrained by the Constitution and restrained by elections. It has been a forceful opponent of arbitrary bureaucracy and inefficient economic programs. It should return to those roots.

The first step all conservatives should take is to go to the library and check out some of Irving Kristol’s work. The second should be to pay attention to Pat Toomey’s message. Maybe then they’ll get their party back on the right track.

Nathaniel French is a junior theater studies major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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