Posted by: jackslife | May 5, 2009

John Ford, Law, Order and Conservatism

David Brooks has an article up today about the lost traditions of Republicans as the party of community and civil order.  Rod Dreher has a follow-up post that throws in a little Wendell Berry action.  I’m going to quote the same segment of the article that Rod has –

Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.

They would begin every day by reminding themselves of the concrete ways people build orderly neighborhoods, and how those neighborhoods bind a nation. They would ask: What threatens Americans’ efforts to build orderly places to raise their kids? The answers would produce an agenda: the disruption caused by a boom and bust economy; the fragility of the American family; the explosion of public and private debt; the wild swings in energy costs; the fraying of the health care system; the segmentation of society and the way the ladders of social mobility seem to be dissolving.

But the Republican Party has mis-learned that history. The party sometimes seems cut off from the concrete relationships of neighborhood life. Republicans are so much the party of individualism and freedom these days that they are no longer the party of community and order. This puts them out of touch with the young, who are exceptionally community-oriented. It gives them nothing to say to the lower middle class, who fear that capitalism has gone haywire. It gives them little to say to the upper middle class, who are interested in the environment and other common concerns.

The Republicans talk more about the market than about society, more about income than quality of life. They celebrate capitalism, which is a means, and are inarticulate about the good life, which is the end. They take things like tax cuts, which are tactics that are good in some circumstances, and elevate them to holy principle, to be pursued in all circumstances.

This has been an area of constant frustration for me over the last few years.  I feel like conservatives should be supportive of strong families and communities, but these seem to have become an after thought for modern Republicans and conservatives.  Lip service is payed to the concept of family, but that seems to extend only as far as gay marriage these days.   These issues have traditionaly been a focal point for conservatives, as much a part as the free market and business.  Our country’s health is directly impacted by the health of her communities.  I would like to see a renewal of this idea within the Republican party, and in conservatism in general.


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