Conservatism that doesn't conserve

R. L. Dabney was a Southern Presbyterian theologian who had remarkable insights into the consequences of ideas. In an article entitled "Women's Rights Women" he chastened Northern conservatism as being wholly ineffective at conserving anything.
This is a party [Northern conservatism] which never conserves anything. It history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting [pretending] to resist the next innovation, which will to-morrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle.
Although he was writing more than a hundred years ago, I couldn't help but wonder if the same will prove true if Tea Partiers are successful in leading the way to elect conservative candidates in November and a conservative president in 2012. Will today's conservative movement be one of expediency or of sturdy principle? Only time will tell.


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