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Week of: January 21, 2001

The Consciousness of a Conservative

by F.R. Duplantier

Conservatives can't win the culture war unless they have a culture.

Know Sales
Conservative politicians must learn how to sell their ideas better, or get used to losing. Conservatives should know this. Champions of the free market should appreciate the art of salesmanship. In America people are free to choose; to get them to choose what you're offering, you have to sell them on it. Having a superior product is not enough; you have to convince your prospects of its superiority, and its indispensability. As my old pal Erik Johnson, the scourge of ideologically correct incompetents, is wont to say, "We have the best product in the history of the world -- freedom -- but the enemies of freedom do a better job of packaging." That's got to change. Defensiveness and stodginess are wholly inappropriate for a message as true and vigorous as ours. Let's give that message the medium it deserves!

Thoughtless Persons
How discouraging is the ideophobia of the average American! There's no denying it. Every thinking person encounters it, with sadness, daily. A lover of ideas simply cannot understand how anyone could reject the exaltation he experiences. He knows that no joy on earth compares to the sudden discovery of a new idea, or to the unhurried contemplation of old and cherished ones. It's not the "imposition of values" that motivates him, but a generous desire to share the thrill of inquiry. Why, then, do the eyes of friends and family members glaze over when the opportunity to entertain a genuine thought confronts them? How can they tune out all but happy chatter? Why do they insist that wit and wisdom never interrupt banality? Why are they determined to be subhuman?

Cultureless Conservatives
Whether we're fighting a culture war or not, the real problem with conservatives is that so many of us don't even believe in culture. We don't read fiction, we don't go to movies, we don't listen to music, and we don't buy art. No, we pore over newspapers and policy journals, we watch apocalyptic documentaries on our video machines at home, we tune in to talk radio, and we decorate our walls with campaign posters. We have no culture to speak of, because politics is our culture. With no interest in genuine culture, we are oblivious to the neo-traditional renaissance going on all around us. Maybe it's time for the defeatists among us to step aside and make way for the visionaries.

Can't-Do Spirit
A caste of spiritually impoverished individuals exists in the United States, and it's in our interest as well as theirs to do what we can to restore meaning to their lives. What can we do? Stop helping them? Leave them alone? Let them take care of themselves? That would be better than what we have been doing, but it's not the answer. It's not the helping that hurts, but the way we help: without judgment, without expectation. We've got to start expressing our disapproval for unacceptable behavior; we have to demand reform. It's a simple matter of respect. Even a dog can be trained. How, then, can we deny this capacity for improvement to a fellow human being?


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