A leadership void

These are the first three paragraphs of an op-ed by Carter Clews at the Americans for Limited Government blog:

Every day in Washington’s political citadels, a new coalition triumphantly announces its emergence as the self-anointed savior of the increasingly moribund conservative movement. Or, some old organization “re-invents” itself and declares that it is now ready to lead as never before.

Most boldly proclaim their unbridled affection for the “New Media.” And some even demonstrate an admirable aptitude for digitalizing prose and pressing “Send.”

All of which is fine – as far as it goes. The problem is, it doesn’t go far enough. In fact, much of it at this point in time is dangerously going in the wrong direction. And the conservative movement desperately needs a few good men – and at least one good woman.

While the remainder is well worth the read, I’m going to take a slightly different angle on this and look at it in more literal terms.

I’ve alluded to this in some posts, but I keep a “Blog Ideas” folder on my e-mail, which is where I put items that I think would be good kernels for posts. It makes sense to me because most bloggers get their ideas from the lead news stories and I’m trying not to be a pack follower, instead looking for a little different angle on issues.

The op-ed I’m citing is a case in point. Certainly the Daily Grind e-mail report reaches a fair number of people, but nowhere near the number who read CNN, Fox News, or other websites looking for items worth commenting on. On the other hand, Americans for Limited Government (who puts out the Daily Grind) is one of about twenty groups and organizations represented in a sampling of items I’ve used over the last three months – I keep those in an “items used on monoblogue” folder for future reference.

And while all those groups have differing pet issues on the political spectrum ranging from limiting government to energy to taxation to even something I used which was put out by Barack Obama’s campaign, for the most part I include them because they also align fairly well with my common-sense conservative worldview. They may have a little bit different take than more mainstream commentators and I like stuff that’s off the beaten path.

However, all those different voices out there create the cacophony which proves Clews’ point, and at times they’re standing at odds with each other. This occurs most with social issues, where some conservative groups who advocate for Constitutional bans on abortion and gay marriage run afoul of other conservatives who look at limiting government as a top priority. That libertarian concept takes a dim view of social engineering, no matter how well-intentioned.

The argument Clews makes is quite correct, particularly in noting where many heretofore unknown groups develop an instant savvy for the “admirable aptitude for digitalizing prose and pressing ‘Send.’” It is both the boon and bane of the internet age, and the inverse of the old saw about too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

A generation ago, leadership in the conservative world was extremely well-defined: at the political level there was Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, William F. Buckley was the erudite intellectual head, and religious leaders like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were heroes of the socially conservative set. In the succeeding years time has taken its toll on that generation of leadership with only Thatcher and Robertson remaining among the five.

In the post-Reagan era, the Right became the inverse of one of Reagan’s best-known quotes, moving away from his bold colors to the most recent President Bush’s pale pastels of “compassionate conservatism”. With its titular leader having abandoned the ideals of limited government, movement conservatism in Washington has all but withered and died on the vine after huge election losses in 2006 and 2008. It’s painfully obvious there’s much work to be done to restore these ideals, and some very bad times and political policies to be endured before we’ll have a crack at bringing the sanity of limited government back to America.

Few of us conservatives are politicians; the extent that I am a politician is the office I hold, which solely concentrates on Republican Party affairs and only happens to be on the ballot once every four years. While I plan to run for and win re-election next year, it’s not going to significantly change my outlook or my work if I’m eighth or lower in a seven-seat race – I’d just have to go to the state GOP conventions as a guest. Losing a Congressional seat which should have gone to the conservative Andy Harris to the more liberal Frank Kratovil – now that did some damage to the overall cause.

But even that damage is not undoable. Conservatives who are well-informed and educate the great unwashed about the proper way to look at political affairs – through the prism of limited government with clearly defined and separated powers – have an opportunity to influence the political process from without. I’m certain that’s what each and every group who pops their items into my e-mail box is attempting to accomplish. (The fact that they also have a budget to make and need to do it by soliciting donations seems only to be a necessary evil.)

Like any group of the like-minded, conservatives are starving for leadership. While we’re not quite asking for a “mutual pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” some of these disparate groups need to work a little less on soliciting donations and a little more on educating and nurturing the leaders who will be the next Reagans, Thatchers, Buckleys, Falwells, and Robertsons in their chosen areas. It is with those leaders we return to the way things ought to be.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.