Our Half-Full Cup
Conservatives ought not to be overwhelmed by what happens today in our world. Go back through newspaper headlines, and it is clear that folks thought that the world was in crisis and that the end seemed near. These were not the thoughtless conclusions of silly people.
One hundred years ago this month, the world began its long descent into a world war that shattered every optimistic hope of pending utopia that had emerged out of the technological advances in the nineteenth century. Seventy-five years ago this month, the hidden machinations of the two most evil regimes in modern history, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, were coming to a ghastly conclusion that would soon plunge the war into an even bloodier and more morally debased world war.
Is our liberty and are the constitutional protections of a robust Congress in peril today? Yes, but…
“The Road to Dictatorship,” an article in the May 1935 issue of The American Mercury, addressed just the same fear. Nine years later, Ludwig von Mises in his little-known but vital book Bureaucracy was writing about exactly the sort of problems conservatives face today with Obama’s imperial presidency.
Are conservative ideas hounded out of academia and public schools today? Yes, but…
The November 17, 1952 issue of The Freeman includes an article, “Let the Campus Speak,” describing how conservatives were hounded by professors; it includes a young woman who got a “C” in political science telling her father “Daddy, I can get an A in the political science course if you want me to. All I have to do is to throw the teacher’s opinions back at him.”
Are conservatives unwelcome speakers on college campuses? Sure; however…
Jeffrey Hart, fifty years ago, was writing about exactly the same problem: colleges almost never invited conservatives to be speakers on campus. Three decades before that, conservatives were noting with alarm that when college presidents tried to discipline doctrinaire and intolerant Marxist professors, it was the college presidents themselves who ended being fired instead.
Maurice Stanton Evans, even before that, was telling Americans in his book, The Liberal Establishment, that the left held a chokehold on every institution of public education, information, and entertainment. Long before conservatives began complaining about the “mainstream media” with its Orwellian left-think, Joseph Keeley’s 1971 book, The Left-Leaning Antenna, was exposing to all serious Americans just how much the three networks behaved just like wholly owned subsidiaries of a leftist corporate monopoly.
Today, I fear, far too many conservatives think and act as if they were the only soldiers in the war against secular collectivist statism and as if they alone bear the wounds and burdens of combat against this evil. In fact, as Rush Limbaugh tries to remind his listeners fairly often, in the last twenty years conservatives for the first time since FDR took office actually have ways of reaching average Americans with news and analysis. (Rush, of course, was viciously and constantly attacked by the media until its toadies discovered that he had constructed a media organization crafted to resist their venom.)
Today there are conservatives who are able to attack the thought control of public education and academia without being lynched by the left. The outrages of public-school teachers who lecture students on the glories of Obama may find themselves the subject of a Fox News story – again, something new for conservatives.
Our cup as champions of liberty and limited government – the essence that links the various types of conservatives together – is never truly full, and it is never really empty. Liberty must always be defended; there will always be plenty of men who lust for raw political power, or women who are duped by dreamy promises of a safe and comfortable utopia, or young adults who think that all those before them were fools stuck in the past.
More than that, the battles in defense of liberty recur in form and flavor again and again. Any conservative who wishes, self-indulgently, to pine away in his own despair can do so, but that is never the right course to take. The cup today is half-full because of noble and brave people, often forgotten, who cheerfully took up the banner of liberty knowing, as the Talmudist wrote, that “[y]ours is not to complete the task. Neither are you free to desist from it.” Amen.