But what should conservatives do? Declare themselves to be “classical liberals,” which many are? That seems a bit academic.
Whatever the case, new terminology should and must be found. And whatever it is, it should be forward looking. Virginia Postrel seemed on the right track when she titled her book (way back in 1999) The Future and Its Enemies.
Conservatives and libertarians — whatever they are now called — should market themselves as the party of the future. Respecting the Constitution is important, but something more than that is necessary. With the Constitution as its only guide, it’s easy to tarnish conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans as the party of old white men because, well, as brilliant as they were, the Founders were just that — white men. (Yes, some of them were not old, but that’s a distinction without a difference when you’re talking about something that occurred over two hundred years ago.)
This new terminology should concentrate too on a certain kind of pragmatism. It should help end the pompous and self-satisfied exclusionism with which some like to define others as being in or out of a movement, as happened this year at CPAC.
And remember, whatever name is chosen now need not, and most likely will not, be permanent. In the brilliant words of the nineteenth century libertarian socialist designer William Morris: “Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about it spite of their defeat, and when it comes out not be what they meant, other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.”
(Don’t miss Next Generation’s members-only coverage of CPAC 2013 — featuring former Congressman Allen West and Michelle Fields. Click here to learn more.)