Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My kingdom for a Conservative

Had we noticed, that when a
Federal District Court in
Richmond threw out Virginia's
incongruous prohibition of
matrimony for persons of the
same gender, this was done
over no objection from the
Commonwealth's newly elected
Attorney-General? The names
in that political race are
not important; ambitious law-
yers come and go, and we all
pick up where we left off: a
core tenet of Conservatism,
if ever there were one.

Nevertheless, as readers of
history, you and I will oc-
casionally digress in musing
upon what might have been.
It's true, Virginia's Attor-
ney-General might not have
been elected; and it is my
fate to reside in a voting
precinct likely to have re-
sisted his accession. Read-
ers might enjoy, imagining
with me what might have been,
had his closest rival gained
that office, instead. I have
the authority of that gentle-
man's campaign literature, in-
undating my driveway in those
frosty late October days of
yore, to illuminate our study.
I will forbear to recite his
name. He might have children.
We should call him He, his
most nervously coveted office.

He has earned an A rating 
and endorsement from the
NRA for his solid record
of support for gun owners.

He was instrumental in help-
ing defeat all anti-gun leg-
islation assigned to the Sen-
ate Courts of Justice Commit-
tee this year and in previous

He was chief patron of legis-
lation, enacted in to law this
year, safeguarding the confiden-
tiality of all concealed handgun
permit holders. [Perhaps my fa-

He was chief patron of legis-
lation to strengthen your in-
herent right to self-defense
during a declared state of e-
mergency. [A very close 2nd].

He voted to repeal the pro-
hibition on purchasing more
than one handgun a month.

He is the only choice for
responsible gun owners and
sportsmen. By contrast, his
opponent .. has earned a "D"
.. and he cannot be trusted
to defend your .. rights and
heritage in Richmond.

When we were young, it was
widely trusted that American
Conservatives could not remain
idiots, forever. This straw
of faith, which they endless-
ly ribbed us for grasping, has
tended to weather in the dir-
ection of their pessimism, in
large part because of an ac-
tuarial coincidence on which
they immortally rely.

Children do not live forever.

    And yet is the verdict of well-informed judicious men always
    to be the measurement of man? "Good judgment" is in most
    cases the anticipation of the opinions of others. It is, of
    course, in some degree indispensable for success in any ven-
    ture, but as a virtue it is grossly overrated. The crucial
    shifts in policy which remove injustice, or improve condi-
    tions of life, or even those which realign alliances, are
    seldom made by men renowned for their good judgment. Good
    judgment all too often is the quality discerned in those who
    oppose change until events have either made the change in-
    evitable, or until, after years of injustice and inefficien-
    cy, the older generation of public opinion grudgingly ac-
    quiesces in what the younger demands.

This is Lord Annan, Fellow of Kings, hero of British wartime intelligence, and premier historian of English society in his own time, writing in The New York Review when I was a college boy and there were still 90 days in my brother's duti-ful life. His subject was the latest crop of biographies of a notable Conservative, Winston Churchill; and he was describing why he outlived them all. 

We are entitled to our straw of faith, it seems to me, that we can demand something finer from our ostensible Conservatives, than patronising pretensions to maturity.

Noel Annan
End of the Line
July 10, 1969
The New York Review
  of Books©

Our Age
  English Intellectuals
  between the World Wars
  A Group Portrait
Random House, 1990©

NRA Political Victory Fund
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, Virginia  22030
Vote Mark Obenshain for
  Attorney General on Tuesday,
  November 5!
No copyright asserted


  1. I am still chewing on the "…are rarely made by men renowned for their good judgement". It, and the sentences following are beginning to resonate more and more as I think about them. It is ONE way to look at the idea of 'good judgement'. But that is a very broad term that (as you point out) can be used to defend a quest for social equity, or social inequity.

    I came across an NPR article recently entitled "Good Art Is Popular because It's Good, Right?" And the main premise is that after a certain level of quality in visual art, music, etc., it is essentially chance that makes one work of art much more popular than another. The study attributes this phenomenon to many factors, but the impressionability of the masses, and the ease of pandering to the least common denominator has a strong connection to the demagoguery of which you write. All that to say: we always wonder how conservatism has hung on for this long…and as the quality of the conservative party slides, will it eventually disappear? Then again, McCarthy was hardly the first demagogue…so perhaps we had better hold on to that straw a little tighter.

    1. I'd rather yield to the tendency in your comparison, to change the subject from a theory of justice to one of quality in art, than struggle along in your insight that they are the same subject. But since you point up the irony of conservatism's abdication of quality in favour of holding power - no shit, Sherlock, and may I refer you to a posting of March 29th - I can't suppress the recollection that these same impressionable masses harbour and exalt every quality of art but Quality, to which they lay no possessive claim. They must be fascinating.

      Thank you for this extravagantly interesting comparison. But I have to say, I'm not much worried for American Conservatism's longevity. Yes, you may have missed McCarthy, but my word. We'll always have Texas. And the latest little mutant went to Princeton. Any second, I expect to hear that Governor Christie has embargoed the place, as a hotbed of regression in his own Party.