Hauenstein Center examines “The Conservative Mind at 60”
Gleaves Whitney www.kirkcenter.org
Patrick Center November 11, 2013 | WGVU If you’re going to talk about political conservatism it begins with a book written by Russell Kirk. “The Conservative Mind” was published 60 years ago in 1953 and it provides the blue print for post-World War II conservative thought.
Hauenstein Center director, Gleaves Whitney, "It was a book that a lot of people looked to for conservative principles and Kirk was influenced in turn by an Anglo-Irish parliamentarian named Edmund Burke who wrote a very, very perceptive book about the French Revolution in the 1790s. And he saw where the radicalism of the French Revolution was taking the country, it led to regicide, the cutting off of the head of the king and the queen. He said this kind of order that was brought about really sent the country into a kind of chaos. But I have to be quick to add that both Burke and Kirk were very moderate in their understanding of how the political process works. They understood that politics is the art of the possible. I don’t think they would have cottoned to some of the extremists that we hear on either the left or the right today. I also remind people Kirk was quite unconventional. He supported Eugene McCarthy in 1968. He was reluctant to support Nixon in 1960. He was against Mr. Bush’s first Persian Gulf War in 1990. So, I think there are some misunderstandings of who conservatives actually are or what they actually believe.”
Whitney tells us conservatives have a commitment to the Constitution which he says was made to slow down government with its checks and balances and three branches of government leading to an arena of competing ideas.
“Conservatives also always understand that politics is the art of the possible. A political leader has to have the temperament to conserve the best but an ability to reform where necessary.”
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