Friday, June 26, 2009

Aligning conservatism with our modern world

Republicans have been quick to recognize the practical benefits of technology, but slow to grasp its political implications.


As the internet exploded into the mainstream over a decade ago, it was widely assumed that it would accelerate the fragmentation of society. Instead of watching the same television shows, attending the same movies, and patronizing the same stores, tech-savvy and self-reliant consumers would retreat into their own online spaces and express their individuality. Libertarianism would flourish.

In reality, Web 2.0 has had the opposite effect. Social networking sites, online chat and discussion forums, blogs, and peer-to-peer sharing have strengthened social bonds, not dissolved them. As never before, interconnectedness and interdependence are central facts in the lives of young people.


In this context, excessive rhetoric about individualism and personal freedom is not just inappropriate; it’s insane. It’s no coincidence that Republicans are getting slaughtered in densely populated urban and suburban areas, filled with students and young professionals who are intimately involved in their communities, offline and online. They are repelled by swaggering calls to go it alone, to sink or swim, to believe that they alone determine their own destiny.

What is true in spacious America is doubly true in crowded Britain. This is why British Conservative leader David Cameron endlessly repeats that “we’re all in this together” and “there is such a thing as society.” After the economic revolution of the Thatcher era, Tories were viewed as the wrecking crew, as uprooters of communities and enemies of social cohesion. In truth, conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are still trying to reconcile economic liberalism with respect for tradition and continuity. Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Cameron’s modernization agenda has been the enormous effort to recast his party as champions of social responsibility. [...]

It goes on to describe how the Brits are attempting to bond conservatism with this new demographic, the "Facebook/Twitter generation", and how in the US Obama has already done so. Could it be true that American conservatives, while being savy about the technology itself, really have yet to fully understand it's implications?

It remains to be seen if what British conservatives are doing will have any success, but if it does, there may be some lessons there for American conservatives. Even if it doesn't work for the Brits, there still may be some lessons there for us. If the Grand Old Party doesn't connect with the current electorate, we may indeed need a Grand New Party.

I'm very much an individualist, but there are some things we all have to cooperate on; none of us lives in a vacuum. As technology increasingly makes our world inter-connected and interdependent, the need for cooperation becomes unavoidable, and that's not lost on the young people who are on the cutting edge in embracing these technologies.

The article goes on to offer some very conservative ideas about how this cooperation should be approached and even embraced and advanced. IMO these ideas don't diminish conservatism in any way, and are at least worth considering, as our Brave New World continues to evolve. The conservative way involves a lot more freedom and multiple choices, and I'll take that over the authoritarian big government Big Brother way any day.

1 comment:

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.