It might be time to move from ancient Greece to 18th century Britain so as to remake the acquaintance of Edmund Burke, the acknowledged father of modern conservatism. As much as he disliked change for change's sake, Burke counseled that "We must all obey the great law of change ... the most powerful law of a nature." "All we can do, and that human wisdom can do," is to insist on "a gradual course" that accommodates varied interests. "We compensate, we reconcile, we balance." We do the best we can to smooth down the jagged corners of change, to keep our ideals and institutions intact.
An intraparty knockdown, drag-out is likely to commence the process: conservatives of one sort or another beating up on conservatives of another sort. Rand Paul libertarians against Karl Rove "realists," budget-cutters against economic growth types, each set of characters touting its claim to pre-eminence and respect.
Among the likeliest bones of contention: gay marriage, which Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio have endorsed just in the last couple of days. I do not know the means of transforming a historic institution, more religious than secular, from one thing to another thing. Burke would not have approved. Neither, in all conscience, will scores of millions of Americans in the event wish turns politically to reality throughout the nation.
The times before us -- all of us, not just Republican conservatives but Americans of all stripes and none at all -- are perilous, as well as consternating. The shape of the old principles grows harder and harder to discern.
Say what any of us will about the Growth and Opportunity Project and its objectives -- it invites us to an essential task: figuring out what's essential in our national life, then figuring out, amid all dangers, how to keep it looking bright.
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