Conservatives: Keep Calm and Carry On

February 4, 2014

It is political sport to write endlessly (and often gleefully) about perceived schisms in the two major parties. Following are but a few examples of recent such articles:

Scenes from the Republican Civil War,” Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast

The Democratic Party’s Civil War,” Jacob Heilbrunn, The National Interest

The GOP’s Growing Divide,” Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

The Emerging Democratic Divide,” Josh Kraushaar, National Journal

Republican Party seems as divided, angry as ever,” Steve Peoples, Associated Press

Angry Liberals in America,” Daniel Greenfield, The Jewish

The parallelism of these headlines is comic, but also revealing: Discord sells papers and draws viewers. And such headlines are sure to continue, because comprehensive unanimity within political parties is as likely as Harry Reid joining the National Federation of the Grand Order of Pachyderm Clubs.

Political successes almost invariably are transient, and partisan discord is inevitable. Contention and politics are intertwined, not necessarily because the contenders are obnoxious but because convictions run deep. Thus, competition becomes rigorous and “civil wars” break out.

In 1937, a persistent has-been named Winston Churchill wrote a book called, Great Contemporaries. In his chapter on Spain’s King Alfonso XIII, Churchill penned this: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because, as has been said, ‘it is the quality which guarantees all others’.”

Conservatives need to remember Churchill’s admonition. We stand for principles immune to erosion and beliefs too resilient to be abandoned. Grounded in divine revelation and affirmed by our consciences, they are bequests to us not from any state or politician but from our Creator.

Political victories usually are both impermanent and incremental, but the ongoing nature of our struggle is a poor reason to walk away from it. To do so is merely to hand over the future of the country to those with an agenda we can never accept and a program we must never endorse.

Within three years of the publication of Great Contemporaries, Churchill became Britain’s Prime Minister. He was followed by the socialist Clement Attlee, and decades later by Margaret Thatcher who was succeeded a few years after her tenure by Tony Blair. Wins, losses, ups and downs. But if the struggle for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is worth anything, we must be undaunted by defeat and undeceived by victory.

Courage, in pursuit of the right and good and true, eternal things whose relevance to public policy is constant, is what counts.