June 11, 2007
Just in time for the primary election tomorrow, I have finished editing the video I took at the fundraiser on May 31, featuring Jimmy Fortune and Robin Williams. (See my June 1 post.) It lasts just under three minutes, and features warm endorsements from Mr. Fortune and Mr. Williams, as well a brief excerpt of the senator himself performing a song he wrote. To view it, just click on the image above. (Apple's QuickTime format.) I am in the process of setting up a YouTube account, and hope to have the video uploaded later today. On the upload page, it says it "may take several minutes," but on the help page it says it "may take several hours."
The heartfelt appeal Senator Hanger makes at the end of the video really makes it clear what this election is all about. He talks about looking out of the best interests of all Virginians, not just those who belong to any particular political party. He pledges to continue defending rural Virginia, and the quality of life we who live here are privileged to enjoy. The more you listen to him, the more you will understand: Senator Hanger gets it. To hear audio clips from Senator Hanger, his wife Sharon, and others, go to his Web site: emmetthanger.com.
Sunday's Washington Post examined the Virginia primary elections, and quoted various analysts who expect turnout to be low. That might help the challengers such as Scott Sayre, many of whose supporters are part of the well-organized "insurgency." The race in the 24th senate district has become highly visible in the past couple weeks, however, so I don't think that will apply here. The Post article identifies main "targets" of the anti-tax movement: Senators Walter Stosch (Majority Leader), Martin Williams, and our own Emmett Hanger. The Club for Growth is identified as a key player in this effort; our own delegate Chris Saxman is a prominent member of that organization. Scott Sayre was quoted as saying Sen. Hanger is a moderate who is not in step with the conservative sentiment of most Virginians, apparently unaware that conservatism is by its very nature moderate.
Beyond the immediate struggle within the Republican Party lies to broader struggle to define the nature of conservatism in America. Several months ago I read Andrew Sullivan's book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back, which scrutinizes the pernicious impact of the Religious Right on modern politics. In case you are not aware, Sullivan is a renowned conservative commentator who recently moved his blog to The Atlantic Monthly. In some respects, his criticisms parallel those of John Danforth, who wrote Faith and Politics; see my Oct. 4 post. [link fixed] Sullivan's primary purpose is to highlight the sharp contradiction between fundamentalism (which is religious) and conservatism (which is political). For the past two decades, those two approaches to life co-existed in relative harmony, thanks to the efforts of televangelists such as the late Jerry Falwell. Now, however, the latent tensions between them are becoming as obvious as night and day.
Sullivan emphasizes that conservatives are essentially skeptical about words and cautious about deeds: "The defining characteristic of a conservative is that he knows what he doesn't know." Fundamentalists, in contrast, are certain that they possess the Truth, and therefore tend to regard any opposing opinions or belief systems as inherently subversive. For them, honest disagreement is impossible, and moderation or compromise is a vice. (Anyone who reads the local SWAC blogs will find this doctrinaire closed-mindedness on open display.) Those who have studied what Jesus said in the Gospels know that the self-proclaimed arbiters of moral correctness (e.g., the Pharisees) were often the furthest from God.
Two months ago, Al Dahler had a very good column in the News Leader along the same lines as Sullivan. He is keenly aware of the intellectual roots of 20th Century conservatism in 18th Century liberalism that underlay the U.S. Constitution, and the perversion of its meaning by many politicians whose only concern is how to win the next election:
Many contemporary religious personalities wrap themselves in conservatism to camouflage their theocratic ambitions. In Augusta County and throughout Virginia, people confound the concepts of political conservatism and religious fundamentalism and often use them interchangeably or in conjunction with one another. Conservatism is a political theory while religious fundamentalism is a set of religious beliefs. The two concepts are not correlative; rather, their intentions diverge. Claiming to be a political conservative and a religious fundamentalist is, in reality, an oxymoron.
Finally, Sullivan emphasizes that "Tradition is not a static entity" for conservatives, whose task when governing is to adjust to social evolution as soberly and as prudently as possible. (Sullivan slips in an argument on behalf of gay rights.) I came to a similar realization about the nature of intellectual conservatism toward the end of my graduate studies at the University of Virginia. In Chapter 2 of my dissertation, I quoted British philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote about striking a balance between continuity and change:
Moreover, to be conservative is not merely to be averse from change ...; it is also a manner of accommodating ourselves to changes, ... For, change is a threat to identity, and every change is an emblem of extinction. ... And it is by some such subterfuge of conservatism [defending identity in the open field of experience] that every man or people compelled to suffer a notable change avoids the shame of extinction.
In other words, true conservatives do not cling to the past at all costs (as a reactionary would), but rather seek to preserve what is good from the past, and dispense with what is no longer practical. Emmett Hanger knows what is good about life in the Shenandoah Valley - Blue Ridge Mountain region, and as a genuine, thoughtful conservative, he is determined to preserve it.
UPDATE: Multiple spelling corrections. Obviously, I've been in a hurry!
I would like to acknowledge the prompt technical assistance from the folks at Blog Net News in getting my RSS feed back online last night. Just in time!
After tomorrow, depending on who wins the GOP primary, there may be increasing attention to the Democrats' nominee for the 24th district senate seat: David Cox. Cobalt6, a new Democratic blog in this area, has a profile on him. (That's where I got that quote by Grover Norquist yesterday.)