Is David Brooks a Conservative?

John ArmstrongPolitics

One respondent suggested, in commenting on my blog this week about columnist David Brooks, that he is most certainly not a real conservative. This type of argument is easy to make, so long as you define the word "conservative" by a definition that has little to do with the standard definition of the term in political use. Brooks actually defines himself by Edmund Burke, who is the gold standard for the word so far as I can tell. Most writers and thinkers always go to Burke in defining what really constitutes political conservatism in English/American tradition. Brooks is not a libertarian, nor a right-wing conservative or a Patrick Buchanan isolationist. He is a standard historical conservative in the primary sense of the word. For those who are open and interested you can hear the lecture I wrote about on the Wheaton College radio station. I encourage you to listen if you are interested. You may also view the presentation if you have the right tools on your computer. You be the judge. Do not let me, or anyone else, convince you by wrangling over this label unless you have first heard the man for yourself. His explanation of how he became a conservative is both enlightening and insightful. Liberal, libertarian or conservative? The labels are just labels but they do have a point of reference when used properly. And by the way, listing issues and checking them off one-by-one is not how we should define an overall political philosophy. By this standard I suppose I am all over the map and thus cannot use any historical label for what I actually embrace as a political philosophy. And just for the record, Ronald Reagan is not the final standard for a conservative view of government on every issue either.

For another great demonstration of my point check out the great article in the current issue of the National Review by Allen Guelzo on Abraham Lincoln, whom Guelzo argues was a very "conservative" president. I believe he is absolutely right about Lincoln but then there are a load of people who will argue against this passionately, especially if they defend the South's position in the conflict. President Obama argues that Lincoln was a liberal progressive but Guelzo puts this argument to rest, at least in my view. Guelzo, who teaches Civil War history at Gettysburg College, is one of our foremost living Lincoln scholars and a man I much admire and respect. I have had the joy of spending time with him and cannot commend his several books on Lincoln too highly. He is also a trained church historian and a committed Christian.