In the not-too-distant past, self-proclaimed conservatives frequently referenced with admiration Russell Kirk's 1953 opus, The Conservative Mind. The book is widely regarded as helping to spawn the modern American conservative movement.
In the book, Kirk honored 18th-century English Tory Edmund Burke as the hero of conservative thought. Burke argued — most famously in his political tract Reflections on the Revolution in France — that the customs of a people were more trustworthy than the abstract ideals of a person or a group of persons. Ideals become ideologies when conceived entirely in a person's mind, unrelated to a society's experiences and habits. Burke predicted accurately that the French Revolution, rooted entirely in abstract reason and sweeping away generations of custom, would end in violence and dictatorship.
Bringing Burke into the 20th century, Kirk proclaimed in The Conservative Mind that ideology is the enemy of conservatism. Ideology imposes; conservatism conserves. Reform works best when it's connected to a society's customs. Disconnected from those customs, reform is radical, revolutionary and bound to fail.
Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers call themselves conservative. Nonsense. They're as radical as they can be. They believe the abstract ideals of a few think tanks — Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, ALEC — are more trustworthy than the long-practiced customs of Wisconsin's people.
If the Fitzwalkerstans were truly conservative, they would never have swept away by legislative fiat more than a half-century tradition of strong public unions and respect for public workers.
If the Fitzwalkerstans were truly conservative, they would never have proposed slashing more than $800 million from K-12 schools plus $250 million from the UW system in a state with Wisconsin's tradition of support for public education.
If the Fitzwalkerstans were truly conservative, they would never have proposed balancing the budget by requiring "shared sacrifice" only among the poor and middle class in a state with Wisconsin's history of robust public goods and services.
If the Fitzwalkerstans were truly conservative, they would never have proposed killing a host of environmental protections and policies in a state with Wisconsin's long tradition of conservation.
Nobody expects Walker and the Fitzgeralds to be Democrats. But if they were truly conservative, they would fight hard for an agenda that applies their values in a way that respects Wisconsin's customs. Instead, they seek to impose upon Wisconsin abstract ideologies advanced by ultra-right think tanks funded by ultra-right donors.
The result? Huge protests, recall elections, feuds and bad blood all around. And it all could have been avoided, if only the Fitzwalkerstans were truly conservative.
Rings true to me. And you?