In this article, I outline the way that Western conservative political forces can heal the fracture between the mainstream and the side stream. I started this discussion in The Fracturing of Western Conservatism. For some time, I have followed from a distance the concerns raised by the side stream of conservatism and the issues encountered by the mainstream of conservative thought. I hope to draw out three key issues that need to be addressed to unite and sustain conservative political action in the West.
First, mainstream conservatives need to listen to their constituencies on the divisive effects of immigration and multiculturalism. Societies are enriched by other cultures but they can also divided when cultures clash. In Australia, the Census of Population and Housing of 2011 revealed that 26% of Australia’s population was born overseas. Australian culture has inevitable been changed by this trend and some parts of Australian society have through this become unrecognizable. In the UK, UKIP’s increasing popularity has been partly due to the Conservative Party’s refusal to act on the electorate’s concerns over the pace of immigration. Though they only managed to win one seat this May, they did have third highest amount of votes. This debate concerning culture must not be hijacked by racists and bigotry, but nor can conservatives ignore it. Thus, other conservative forces would be wise to act on the issues surrounding immigration and national identity in order to avoid the same problems faced by the British Conservative Party.
Second, mainstream conservatism has neglected the conservative electorate’s emphasis on order and stability. In Australia, law and order are not subjects addressed by national or individual states’ political debates, despite considerable cause for concern. In reaction to recurring violence in Sydney’s popular nightlife areas, the state government reacted with a whole range of new laws, including the “one punch” law which states that anyone who causes a fatality due to a single strike will receive a minimum eight-year jail term. For many young conservatives this law was well overdue. However, the national government went further by introducing lockout laws which limited Sydney’s nightlife, even for those not involved in violent altercations. And conservatives wonder why young people don’t vote for them…
Third, many young people’s support of conservatism is prevented by conservatives’ rejection of same sex marriage and refusal to accept the scientific consensus on climate change.
A clear example of this are the fifty-seven Republicans in Congress who are appealing to the Supreme Court to redefine marriage as solely heterosexual for the entire nation. To attract young people, the Western Conservatives have to stop protesting against same sex marriage because this alienates same sex couples and arouses ire from the majority of young people who feel that inclusion is vital to the cohesion of society. In addition, this denial of the scientific consensus on climate change confounds a generation who have grown up educated in the scientific method. Conservatives should accept the science behind climate change, but see the free market and targeted research, rather than greater taxation, as the solution.
If conservative political parties are to regain the trust and leadership of conservatives across the world, such issues have to be addressed. It will require a new outlook that taps into the wishes of its constituency and will need to demonstrate a genuine desire to act on cultural change, law and order and include the interests of young people. Lack of action on these issues is what the side stream of conservatism is protesting against. Appeasing all the demands of this side stream would be a mistake but ignoring them would be fatal.
Sources and Further Reading:
#Zeitgeist’s original post on Western Conservatism
The NSW government describes the ‘one punch’ laws
US News reports on Republicans’ requesting Supreme Court reject of same-sex marriage
ABS depicting the percentage of Australia’s population born overseas
The Telegraph on the UK Independence Party
North Carolina passes an ‘opt-out law’ for government officials
Australian Liberals voice their opposition to the gay marriage bill
Business Insider considers British Conservatives, Marriage Equality and David Cameron