Alan Jacobs asks a question here that he does not answer. That question concerns whether he is a conservative or not.
“So is there any sense in which I might plausibly be called a conservative? I don’t really know; I’ll leave that to others to decide.” With such a kind invitation, how could I turn away? The answer is yes, Jacobs is a conservative. The three touchstones he sets out are a consistently pro-life position, a commitment to subsidiarity, and a respect for tradition.
To be fair, he offers some evidence to the contrary — he thinks, for example, that Obamacare was at least an attempt at something well-intentioned, and not, for example, what it was, which was the largest assault on the principles of subsidiarity in the history of mankind. But this just means that he is a conservative who is not being cynical enough. But such things take time — conservatives like to age in the cellar, like so many fine wines, with a thin layer of dust on their rounded upper part.
There was another sense in which Jacobs was not being conservative, and that was in his disdain for labels. But labels are cool, especially when they drive unlabeled progressives frantic. But however much fun they are, labels still create some questions we must answer.
Where do I get off calling myself a conservative? First, since this is not yet a subject of regulation, I can do what I want. But how do I field the questions that come my way afterwards? I couldn’t get an invitation to speak at CPAC if the salvation of my soul depended on it, which it fortunately doesn’t, I don’t smoke cigars with fat cats on the golf course, I don’t want to bomb Syria back into a different part of the stone age than the one it currently occupies, and I have nothing but contempt for crony capitalism — what I like to call crapitalism.
Look out at the great mass of those who would self-identify as conservatives, and for all kinds of reasons. They might be appalled at the disdain for human life that the abortion mills display, they might have had a course in college that convinced them that you can’t spend what you don’t have, they might be driven by a deep affection for fly-over country, corn dogs and everything, and on a big trip to the city they may once have stumbled onto a gay pride parade, the one that made Uncle Wayne say “what the hell?” from the back seat of the station wagon. Conservatives are people, which means that they can be lost. They can be scattered over the hillside, like sheep without a shepherd. Not only can they be, but they have been.
I am a conservative because I have been given a message for conservatives. Do you want your country to be saved? There is only one Savior. Do you want light for a dark generation? There is only one Bible. Do you want repentance for a nation hellbent on self-destruction? There is only one giver of repentance, and He has only done it when those who refused to name Him have repented of that in the first instance.
I am a conservative because I know the difference between sheep that are scattered, and the wolves who scattered them.