The Conservative Transpartisan Role
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
People often note that transpartisan meetings attract mostly people from the left but few conservatives. Even though a number of ‘conservative’ leaders are transpartisans (Grover Norquist, Hernando de Soto, Rich Tafel, Bill Shireman, Ralph Benko, Michael Ostrolenk, and others), they are minority participants in transpartisan gatherings.
The issue matters in relation to the Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix, which features each quadrant – including two on the right (freedom and order) – holding part of the truth. This may be troubling because it may mean that the conservative quadrants are not well understood, and this may obstruct recruitment of conservatives to the transpartisan cause.
Quick thoughts. Many conservatives think they represent only the past and they (sometimes desperately) advocate going back. They see disaster going forward. They stand as sentinels against a worse future and see no conservative role for moving toward a better future. They are wrong. The freedom- and order-right must combine with the efforts of the freedom-and order-left, for the future to be successful rather than a disaster.
Two order-right qualities are important for the transpartisan vision. First is the insight that private relationships are crucial to the social and cultural changes the left cares most about. Reducing conflict over ‘differences’ and promoting real equality between people happens in personal engagement. Distant government actions affect personal engagement peripherally. It will take more than ‘arm-waving’ from the Oval Office to reduce racial intolerance. Personal relationships and communication across differences, bringing people together as human beings, will promote real change.
Religious or spiritual values, also coming from the order-right, are important, understanding that we live in a connected world. Efforts to change that world mechanically, by commands (e.g., from government or concentrated corporate interests) will often come to nothing – or worse.
The freedom-right promotes freedom, which is essential for engaged, conscious relationships. The public policy challenge is how to reform institutions and promote leadership for voluntary, engaged relationships for the greater good.
It is essential that transpartisans emphasize these values from the freedom-and order-right and integrate them with the values from the freedom- and order-left. This will help conservatives to see the indispensable role they play in moving toward a better future.
Searching for answers will be one of The Transpartisan Review’s major objectives.