Thoughtful conservatives will realize that this fact makes it dangerous for them to engage in maneuvers that try to narrow the GOP's appeal to militant conservatives only. Conservatism should be the beating heart of the Republican Party, but the party must also reach out to incorporate people who are not necessarily ideologues but are sympathetic to conservative views in a general way.
For the future, conservatives can, I think, be confident that their viewpoint will be represented in the national debate. For conservatism is essentially an analysis of social problems from the standpoint of a particular understanding of human nature. As long as that understanding continues essentially unchanged, the ways of dealing with those problems will remain basically unchanged.
What is that understanding? Conservatives believe that people are designed to pursue their own best interests, and that the job of society is to make sure that, as far as possible, the pursuit of those interests conduces to the benefit of society as a whole. Happily, it tends to do so, and this is what makes possible "the good society."
So, I am basically an optimist for the future of the United States. Historically, its deepest roots are moral, grounded in the Anglo-American religious tradition. When we act as a nation, we tend to act in that tradition, respecting what we recognize as its obligations. The result is that our actions have generally been just and courageous. We have not always lived up to our highest ideals, but we have seldom slipped far below them. It is impossible to know what challenges will confront the United States in the years ahead, but there is reason to believe that we have within us the resources to meet and overcome them.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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