Burke and electability

From Mere Orthodoxy:

Jesse Norman, a Conservative member of parliament, distilled from Burke seven core principles of conservative reform. Burke believed that statesmen should act:

  1. Early, forestalling problems before they are fully felt;
  2. Proportionately, in order to mitigate unintended consequences;
  3. Successively, building on the work and lessons of what’s come before;
  4. Steadily, allowing for those affected by change to adjust;
  5. Consensually, avoiding wasteful conflict that hinders a lasting impact;
  6. Coolly, aiming for a rapport with other leaders; and,
  7. Practically, making sure that each step is achievable.

Could you find a conservative party in the west today that actually believes that? That genuinely acts as though it believes that?

The Conservatives in Canada get part marks here. In a number of areas – trade, foreign affairs, and a few others that don’t come to mind right now, they do seem capable of running matters quietly and competently.

The more visible face of the party is a different story. The omnibus legislation, the ham-fisted maneuvering in committees, the stonewalling in the House of Commons, the relentless self-serving advertising for the “Economic Action Plan”, the crudely scripted soundbites, the muzzling of the backbenches, and more, all combine to give the party the well-deserved image of the’ nasty party’. And your average partisan, faced with this list, will likely shrug and say “they all do it.”

Indeed they do. And horrifying though it is to imagine, perhaps this is what the people want. They say they don’t, they say they want better, nicer politics, but deep in the bowels of the party headquarters the strategists know better. On left and right, the far greater appetite is for clamorous moral melodrama, not calm, careful governance. The people want someone to wage war on their behalf against imagined foes, against poverty, against drugs, against racism, against unfairness in all its forms. As Mencken observed, “democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”