Thursday, May 27, 2010

Up the Long Ladder

Newly installed Prime Minister David Cameron tapped openly gay Conservative MPs Nick Herbert as the Minister of State for Justice and Home Secretary for Police and Alan Duncan as the Minister of State in the International Development Department.

Duncan and Herbert, were among the first out gay election candidates who currently hold civil partnerships with their longtime partners, they are now some of of the highest-profile and most senior openly gay ministers in any government. Duncan and Herbert join Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s Vice Chancellor, as one of the highest ranking openly gay elected officials.

During the campaign, Herbert took a leading role in recruiting support among the gay and lesbian community in the United Kingdom for the Conservative Party. He underlined a number of advanced positions which his government would support, including combatting hate crimes, a matter he now overseas as Minister of Police, employment non-discrimination and even expanding the current right for same-sex couples to have civil partnerships to full marriage equality.

-from Blog Cabin, the blog of Log Cabin Republicans

Conservatism in the UK seems to be undergoing a transformation. In the run-up to the elections held earlier this month, Conservative Party leader David Cameron lead a party that was more moderate and inclusive than in the past. Dissident conservatives here in the US looked with awe and a bit of sadness. Bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan and E.D. Kain seem to act as if conservatism in America is past the point of no return. It is a movement that is not serious about governing, trapped in an information cocoon, and filled with hatred for gays and anyone not white.

Which of course, can accurately describe some parts of American conservatism and the Republican Party.

But is it too late for reform? And if it isn't, how should it take place?

There are times that I think otherwise, but I don't think it is too late for conservatism to reform. The questions for me is not if conservatism will reform, but who will reform it.

I think the answer to the question is that conservatism will reform when there are enough people who want it to reform. I'm not talking soley about the politicians, but the rank and file, the everyday folk who get sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The thing is, most of the rank and file tend to walk away and give up the fight. Tired of the bigoted and small minded people who tend to be the voice of the American Right, many just give up and leave the Republican Party and conservatism. Why that is? That's the subject of a future post.

American conservatives, both those interested in reform and the Tea Party types, tend to believe in a "Great Man Theory" of history. They believe that somewhere, a great man with charisma will come and make grand change. Republicans tend to think that way with Ronald Reagan forgetting that there was a movement filled with policy wonks and writers who were making changes that helped propel Reagan to the White House.

But history not as simple. Great changes in history came not only from great men, but from civic organizations that were working long before the great man came on the scene. Case in point is civil rights. Organizations like the NAACP were working on striking down Jim Crow long before Martin Luther King joined the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

David Cameron did not just come down from heaven with an idea to create a more moderate Conservative Party. No, it came from reform-minded associations like the Tory Reform Group, that worked long and hard for a kinder, gentler Conservative Party.

I believe that for the GOP to survive in the long run, it has to become more "moderate," to be a more inclusive party and willing to find ways to run a smaller and activist government. But none of this will happen overnight. It will happen when regular people decide to get involved in reform-minded groups and fight for change.

One of the reasons I decided to become a Republican was because of groups like Republicans for Environmental Protection. They have long staked out a lonely voice, but the keep at it, working for a more "green" Republican Party.

So, yes I believe conservatism in America can be saved. But will only change when those who complain the most, get to work.

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