The first impulse is to moderate. With “compassionate conservatism” and “affirmative access” and “faith-based initiatives,” President George W. Bush tried to show a redemptive conservatism that could be activist against the legacy of America’s disgraceful past. And it worked electorally by moderating the image of conservatives as uncaring disciplinarians. But in the end it was only a marketer’s ploy — a shrewd advertisement with no actual product to sell.
What drew me to conservatism years ago was the fact that it gave discipline a slightly higher status than virtue. This meant it could not be subverted by passing notions of the good. It could be above moral vanity. And so it made no special promises to me as a minority. It neglected me in every way except as a human being who wanted freedom. Until my encounter with conservatism I had only known the racial determinism of segregation on the one hand and of white liberalism on the other — two varieties of white supremacy in which I could only be dependent and inferior.