In an wonderful essay, Conservatism and the Culture , the late Robert Bork writes:
“True conservatism,” we are informed, requires that we be at the center of American culture. That would be a liberal panacea. If their opponents are careful to stay in the center while liberals pull from the left, the center will continually move left and “true conservatives” will, by definition, be bound to move with it. This is a liberal ratchet and a recipe for the destruction of any effective conservatism.
How true. Exhibit A, the latest of two articles appearing in the Australian in which Abbott distances himself from the Catholic Church’s position on IVF. The motivation, according to Kerr and Maher, is
to pre-empt further expected government attacks on Mr Abbott’s attitude to women and perceptions that he is a conservative Catholic.
This is not merely disgraceful but also a self-defeating political strategy setting aside this specific issue. As Bork implies, every time conservatives or libertarians are attacked by those on the left as ‘extremists’, who often themselves hold opinions regarded as extreme by the centre, and we defend a meek position because we are either or both unwilling to attack our critics or defend our own considered position, we slowly and inexorably cede every position we hold between the centre and the right. And as we continually do this the centre inevitably moves more leftward, and the left’s strategy becomes ever more easier to accomplish. This must stop. The strategy of continual accommodation has failed. It has become ever harder to defend positions, cultural, economic, moral, and political, that only a generation ago where accepted as the common currency of voters, and as our common inheritance.