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What Is It We Wish to Conserve?


A conservative's task in society is "to preserve a particular people, living in a particular place during a particular time."

Jack Hunter, in a review of this writer's new book, "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" thus summarizes Russell Kirk's view of the duty of the conservative to his country.

Kirk, the traditionalist, though not so famous as some of his contemporaries at National Review, is now emerging as perhaps the greatest of that first generation of post-World War II conservatives — in the endurance of his thought.

Richard Nixon believed that. Forty years ago, he asked this writer to contact Dr. Kirk and invite him to the White House for an afternoon of talk. No other conservative would do, said the president.

Kirk's rendering of the conservative responsibility invites a question. Has the right, despite its many victories, failed? For, in what we believe and how we behave, we are not the people we used to be.

Perhaps. But then, we didn't start the fire.

Second-generation conservatives, Middle Americans who grew up in mid-century, were engulfed by a set of revolutions that turned their country upside down and from which there is no going home again.

First was a civil rights revolution, which began with the freedom riders and March on Washington of August 1963 and ended tragically and terribly with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

That revolution produced the civil rights and voting rights acts, but was attended by the long, hot summers of the '60s — days-long riots in Harlem in 1964, Watts in 1965, Detroit and Newark in 1967, and a hundred other cities and Washington, D.C., in 1968 that tore the nation apart.

Crucially, the initial demands — an end to segregation and equality of opportunity — gave way to demands for an equality of condition and equality of results through affirmative action, race-based preferences in hiring and admissions, and a progressive income tax. Reparations for slavery are now on the table.

In response to this revolution, LBJ, after the rout of Barry Goldwater, exploited his huge congressional majorities to launch a governmental revolution, fastening on the nation a vast array of social programs that now threaten to bankrupt the republic, even as they have created a vast new class of permanent federal dependents.

The next revolution began at teach-ins to protest involvement in Vietnam, but climaxed with half a million marchers around the White House carrying Viet Cong flags, waving placards with America spelled "Amerika" and chanting, "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh — the NLF is going to win."

Well, the NLF didn't win.

It was crushed in the Tet Offensive. But the North Vietnamese invasion of 1975 did. Result: a million boat people in the South China Sea, a holocaust in Cambodia and poisoned American politics for decades after that American defeat.

By the time Vietnam ended, many in the antiwar movement had become anti-American and come to regard her role in history not as great and glorious but as an endless catalogue of crimes, from slavery to imperialism to genocide against the Native Americans.

The fourth revolution was social — a rejection by millions of young of the moral code by which their parents sought to live.

This produced demands for legalized drugs, condoms for school kids, a right to terminate pregnancies with subsidized abortions and the right of homosexuals to marry.

The first political success of the integrated revolutions came with capture of the Democratic Party in 1972, though Sen. George McGovern was crushed by Nixon in a 49-state landslide.

The conservative triumph of the half-century was surely the election of Ronald Reagan, who revived America's spirit, restored her prosperity and presided over her peaceful Cold War victory. Yet even Reagan failed to curtail an ever-expanding federal government.

Did then the conservatives fail?

In defense of the right, it needs be said. They were no more capable of preventing these revolutionary changes in how people think and believe about God and man, right and wrong, good and evil, than were the French of the Vendee to turn back the revolution of 1789.

Converting a people to new ways of thinking about fundamental truths is beyond the realm of politics and requires a John Wesley or a St. Paul.

The social, political and moral revolutions of the 1960s have changed America irretrievably. And they have put down roots and converted a vast slice of the nation.

In order to love one's country, said Edmund Burke, one's country ought to be lovely. Is it still? Reid Buckley, brother of Bill, replies, "I am obliged to make a public declaration that I cannot love my country. ... We are Vile."

And so what is the conservative's role in an America many believe has not only lost its way but seems to be losing its mind?

What is it now that conservatives must conserve?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of <a href=";qid=1318273662&amp;sr=8-1 <file://localhost/view-source/http/ percent3Fie=UTF8&amp;qid=1318273662&amp;sr=8-1> ">Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?</a> To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



6 Comments | Post Comment
We must rediscover the source of what made America a "shining city on a hill." Society reflects the culture begotten of worship. The worship that blessed America with greatness was the Traditional Latin Mass of the Catholic Church. Conserve this worship and America will rise again.
Comment: #1
Posted by: cathy jones
Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:57 AM
"HAS THE RIGHT FAILED" this is not an honest question and will not evoke the right answer. the question that needs to be addressed is will America recognize its need for a moral absolute in Jesus Christ befor it is too late, that is an honest question. Yemini women burning vails in protest to sheria law, dictators toppled in the Middle East, affordable education, no child left behind,Protesting Walls Street, Conservative right, Tea Party. Not one of these movements will change the heart. Sheria Law and the Tea Party are asking for the same thing ORDER and CONFORMITY. true order comes by inner transformation which comes by true brokeness and humility and repentance towards THE moral absolute Jesus Christ.
Your voice, your pen needs to be sharper yet... honest. Morality can never be achieved without a thirst for truth found only in the Person Jesus Christ, may not sell papers, but it will lead the mind to the power of transformation.
The Pope would love to be a "moral absolute" He did not die and rise again granting power to live from the inside out. As a writer you know that truth is when both your thoughts and your words are in harmony. you cannot think one thing and write another, that is not truth. Jesus is the truth the life and the way in thought and Word.
Write exactly what God puts in your mind, that is TRUTH. anything else is posturing, is lifeless.
I read your columns all the time and will continue, keep up the good work and thank you, you are a voice in the wilderness.

sincerely, Jeff Jenkins
Comment: #2
Posted by: jeff jenkins
Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:37 AM
Re: cathy jones
Sadly, most of the "shining city on a hill" went out the window back in 60's when America killed three million Vietnamese whose only sin was wanting to be free of invaders, first French then American (the domino theory long proved false)

What little that was left of the "shining city on a hill" went out the window when America killed 100,000 to 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens whose only sin was being born atop the very large oil reserves which America covets.

Keep in mind that neither of the above ever attacked the USA. In the past 100 years we were attacked by only one nation, Japan.

As long as America is addicted to war, we have no soul as a nation, and the world views us as the threat to peace,
and now our military is in Africa

In the end we are all God's children and should treat ALL people with dignity and respect.

Ron Paul or Obama, you pick
Comment: #3
Posted by: Soothsayer
Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:06 PM
Ah Vietnam. What Stalinesque rewriting of history you like to engage in, Buchanan. Back in the days when we were murdering the Vietnamese and our own kids by sending them there to do the job, i was told that we were fighting in Vietnam to stop the communist block, the USSR and Red China, from taking over Southeast Asia.

Ho Chi MInh said he was simply trying to get foreigners out of his country so that it could be independent and after being rebuffed by the U.S., he sought aid from the only folks who were willing to give it to him.

History shows that was, in fact, all he was trying to do. Neither the USSR or Red China tried to take over once the Vietnamese chased us out. It was all a fiction. Vietnam got to experiment with its "socialist" ideas, which it had every right to do, and later dumped them. They are now just another country, independent, just like the good old US of A.

As for Cambodia, study up a little harder on the facts, Buchanan. Vietnam was the only force in the region that tried to stop what Cambodia did, and it got ZERO help from the U.S. That will forever be a stain on the soul of our country, and trying to hide that fact now when the facts are clear is an even greater sin.

We did the right think in Korea--we didn't really understand what was going on at that time and in fact China really did participate directly in that war. But there was no excuse for Vietnam. First it was a French colony, and then it effectively was a U.S. colony, and all they fought was a good old fashioned war for independence, just like we did many moons ago against England.

Ho Chi Minh came to us first for help and we turned him away. We pretty much invited them to invite in the communists but, while they used them for aid, they never gave up their primary goal of nationalist independence.

Wake up, Buddy. The truth hurts, but it is the truth, and acknowledging it allows us to move on and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Masako
Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:40 PM
P.S. 'Preciate your confronting the question what does it mean to be a conservative. When you do things like that, it makes me think that maybe your are getting closer to effectively managing your meds.

The tea party and all of the other right wing radicals do really need to confront the difference between what they advocate and "conservatism," which is kind of like the difference between the deep blue sea and the deep blue sky--both getting less blue by the minute.

To me "conservative" first and foremost means a person whose priorities are skewed toward preserving a pure environment, a safe world, and a future for succeeding generations. I would expect them to respect God's world and all of his precious creatures, and to be champions of protecting same.

So I find radicals who want to wipe out all of our admittedly weak efforts to protect the environment and all that dwell within it to be utterly UN-conservative. Similarly and admittedly, we don't really know the answer to the cause of global warming, although anyone who can't see that the ocean is rising and seriously wiping out real estate as I write has clearly got a problem with reality.

We have a problem there, and it really could be that the problem is being caused by the fact that we are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at the same time we are plundering rain forests and other mechanisms the planet has to pull them out of the air. Maybe we really don't know the cause, but doesn't a conservative err on the side of caution? Especially when the future of his grandkids and their grandkids and theirs and theirs are at stake?

And doesn't a conservative who really wants to preserve that which is most dear to every truly human being first hew to preserving the well-being of kids who are left out in the cold through no fault of their own by a failed economy?

Those of you who would lay claim to that august moniker "conservative" need desperately to rethink what in the world you are doing to legitimately lay claim to it. For God's sake.

Comment: #5
Posted by: Masako
Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:57 PM

Masako, I have been reading these articles for months and always always always know I'm going to find you on here running your mouth like a petulant brat. Do you secretly have an obsessive crush on Pat Buchanan? What is wrong with you?

Your trolling is obviously not stirring up the response you seem to desire. You don't agree with the guy. Everyone can easily get that by reading just one of your posts. Stop reading his articles if it gets your panties in that much of a knot. It's an opinion piece. Pat is not coming to your home and forcing you to do anything.

Get a life. Get a job. Get something. You're going to have a stroke if you continue frothing at the mouth over conservatives. Run for office instead of running your mouth if you're really that much smarter than everyone else.
Comment: #6
Posted by:
Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:48 PM
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