Monday, February 11, 2008

The 2008 CPAC Conference: These kids are alright

While appearing as a panelist at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I was heartened to see so many young conservatives in attendance.

I was not swept with nostalgic sentiment for my youth as a nascent Reaganite, though those days were filled with excitement and exploits – a few of which can be recounted in polite company. What struck me was the prescience of modern conservatism’s intellectual founder, Russell Kirk. Today, as this generation of young conservatives embarks upon their service to America, I hope they will be inspired and guided by Kirk’s caution to my Generation X conservatives, many of whom did not heed his wisdom:

“…all ideologies work mischief. I am fortified by a letter from an influential and seasoned conservative publicist, who applauds my excoriation of young ideologues fancying themselves to be conservatives, and of young conservatives fondly hoping to convert themselves into ideologues. This latter correspondent agrees with me that ideology is founded merely upon ‘ideas’ – that is, upon abstractions, fancies, for the most part unrelated to personal and social reality; while conservative views are founded upon custom, convention, the long experience of the human species. He finds himself confronted, from time to time, by young people, calling themselves conservative, who have no notion of prudence, temperance, compromise, the traditions of civility, or cultural patrimony.”

Again, he is talking about my Generation X conservatives.

Read on . . .

“‘The woods are full of these creatures,’ this gentleman writes. ‘The conservative ‘movement’ seems to have reared up a new generation of rigid ideologists. It distresses me to find them as numerous and in so many institutions. Of course, many are libertarians, not conservatives. Whatever they call themselves, they are bad for the country and our civilization. Theirs is a cold-blooded, brutal view of life.’

“Amen to that…

“The triumph of ideology would be what Edmund Burke called ‘the antagonist world’ – the world of disorder; while what the conservative seeks to conserve is the world of order that we have inherited, if in a damaged condition, from our ancestors. The conservative mind and the ideological mind stand at opposite poles. And the contest between those two mentalities may be no less strenuous in the twenty-first century than it has been during the twentieth. Possibly [these words] may be of help to those of the rising generation who have the courage to oppose ideological zealots.”

Unlike so many of my own generation, I trust the inspiring youths of this rising generation of conservatives will take Kirk’s advice to heart; fulfill their noble role in our troubled world; and redeem our tortured times. For while daunting, I know they will embrace and transcend the challenge in the virtuous spirit of Rupert Brooke’s verse:

Now, God be thanked,
Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth,
And wakened us from sleeping….

To learn more about Russell Kirk read The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot or visit

- Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI) is chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

No comments: