The GOP is at its peak, but conservatism has hit rock bottom

Conservatives believe that human beings are fallible and prone to ambition, passion and selfishness. They (actually, we) tend to become swaggering dictators in realms where we can act with impunity — a motor vehicle department office, a hostile traffic stop, a country under personal rule. It is the particular genius of the American system to balance ambition with ambition through a divided government (executive, legislative and judicial). The American system employs human nature to limit the power of the state — assuming that every branch of government is both dedicated to the common good and jealous of its own power.

Conservatives believe that finite and fallen creatures are often wrong. We know that many of our attitudes and beliefs are the brain’s justification for pre-rational tendencies and desires. This does not make perception of truth impossible, or truth itself relative, but it should encourage healthy self-examination and a suspicion of all forms of fanaticism. All of us have things to learn, even from our political opponents. The truth is out there, but it is generally broken into pieces and scattered across the human experience. We only reassemble it through listening and civil communication.

And conservatives believe that a just society depends on the moral striving of finite and fallen creatures who treat each other with a respect and decency that laws can encourage but not enforce. Such virtues, often rooted in faith, are what turn families and communities into the nurseries of citizenship.