Glory Can Be Reclaimed
First Things Interim Editor James Nuechterlein cautions American conservatives against undue pessimism:
As [First Things founder] Fr. [Richard] Neuhaus never tired of reminding us, the first thing to be said about public life is that public life is not the first thing.
Which suggests that we should be as wary of dystopian despair as we are of utopian enthusiasm. Politics provides neither final victories nor final defeats. Conservatives need no instruction in the dangers of inordinate optimism, but they might need some help with its opposite. The notion, widespread on the right, of an America irredeemably alienated from its founding principles and but a half step removed from abject capitulation to collectivist schemes has lost touch with where we are and with conservatism’s own best tradition of seeing things whole.
Political conservatives who have not cut themselves off from Burkean sobriety will know better than to give in to the fantasy that all is lost or that the apocalypse looms just beyond the horizon. They might even, if they attend to the historical record, come to understand that it is liberals who have more to despair of than they do. But perhaps it is unrealistic to imagine that conservatives could so uncharacteristically succumb to hope.
It may be difficult to believe, from where we now stand, but the same is true even within Rhode Island. Human society is a long-term project, and whichever way the momentum happens to be heading during a particular era, it is never fruitless to tug the rope in the right direction.