Guest Column

Welcome to the New Conservatism

The practitioners of this New Conservatism are people from all walks of life and from across the modern political spectrum

By Bruce Guthrie

The New Conservative is politically active in the tradition of Classical Conservatism by seeking to bring about public policy based on self-evident and proven principles. It’s the people showing up to Library Board meetings calling for the officials there to maintain the status quo and practices that have served the Flathead County Library System since its inception. It’s the letter writers appealing to our Flathead County commissioners to populate the Health Board with scientists and public health experts, as it has over the decades, to provide the best policies and practices for the well-being of the citizens of our community.  

New Conservatives practice the conservatism of the Founding Fathers who asserted that the governing practices of the previous 150 years were just and proper. They pushed back against the changes in practice brought on by the British government in the 1760s. New Conservatives aver that the long-held practices and traditions that have served our communities faithfully in the past will do so in the present and the future. They wish to see the hard work and expertise of local public servants like their neighbors who sit on boards, oversee elections, and provide countless hours of public service honored with the respect that it is due.  

An example from recent history of the principles that New Conservatives are calling for a return to, comes from the efforts to eradicate smallpox. Many people of a certain age bear a scar as evidence of society’s trust in science and the policies recommended by public health experts. When I received my smallpox vaccine in 1969, the disease had already been eliminated in North America but was still subject to the Intensified Eradication Program conducted by the World Health Organization because it was still prevalent in other parts of the world. Vaccination was necessary as a shield and as part of an ongoing worldwide project. One might say that smallpox was defeated by the cooperation of governments around the world with the doctors and scientists of the WHO, but that would not be enough. It took the parents of the world, like mine, to engage in the process of participatory citizenship for the disease to become a memory of a bygone era. What is different about our modern era that makes a concerted effort against COVID-19 impossible to mount? The New Conservative calls for a return to the time when Americans understood their civic responsibility as a necessary counterweight to their personal freedoms.

New Conservatives see revolutionary and radical practices masquerading as patriotism and wrapped in ideological rhetoric for what it is: demagoguery that threatens the very fundamental mechanics of how our beloved Democratic-Republic has functioned for over 200 years. The United States is the manifestation of the greatest innovation in governing that humankind has ever concocted and the very backbone of the success of that Grand Experiment are local servants and the continuity of the institutions in which they serve.

It’s curious to see the practitioners of this New Conservatism because they are people from all walks of life and from across the modern political spectrum. Old labels of “Conservative” or “Liberal” values, largely devoid of meaning anymore, have been set aside as people come together to preserve the integrity of our cherished local institutions. 

Bruce Guthrie lives in Kalispell.

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