The Campaign Spot

Simultaneous Good and Bad News: Conservatism Is Not All-Consuming

A Campaign Spot reader responds to the pep talk in today’s Morning Jolt and notes . . .

Re: your comment in today’s Jolt that the left has been working diligently for the past forever to advance the ball. . . .

When I was spending a lot of time at the Tennessee State Capitol while running a state-based free-market think tank in the 90s, a veteran conservative state legislator told me how to tell the conservatives from the liberals at the legislature. Check the parking lot at 4:30 in the afternoon, he said, quitting time for state employees. All the conservative legislators and staffers hit the door at quitting time. Why would anyone with any sense want to spend any more time than necessary doing the government thing? Eight hours of trying to slow down Leviathan was enough for one day.

Conversely, the liberal legislators and staffers generally remain hunkered down in their offices and cubicles long past 4:30. He noted that, for the liberals, it’s not a job but a calling and the opportunity to expand government and do the people’s work isn’t limited to 8-5. Funny thing, I noticed that he was right; the lights were burning in the liberals’ offices long after the conservatives’ offices had gone dark. And was that the muffled sound of demonic laughter I heard as I passed their offices?!

Government may be, perhaps, the only job where you’ll find a strong liberal work ethic.

Obviously, there are many, many hardworking staffers for conservative lawmakers. But perhaps what this reader witnessed in the Tennessee state legislature is a manifestation of a point Jonah makes often (although for some reason, I can’t find the columns where he’s made this point): Conservatism isn’t supposed to be an all-encompassing philosophy that addresses every aspect of life. It recognizes that there are portions of life beyond the reach of government policy, and as such, the personal isn’t political. So conservatives will spend a significant portion of each day away from the political arena, and probably not be eager to maximize the time spent in that arena.

Similarly, there’s an oft-quoted point about the high ownership rate of hot tubs and Jacuzzis among libertarians. Libertarians are less likely to get involved in a political campaign, join an organization, and be a devoted activist for many reasons, but high among them is that they would rather be left alone and enjoy their hot tubs. Those who see government — and perhaps even politics itself — as a necessary evil that distracts from the real good things in life will always be tougher to motivate and keep motivated than those for whom enacting their goals through the political system is their life’s mission.


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