Editors’ note: Last fall, the Buckley Program sponsored an essay contest open to student Fellows and others within the Yale community. The topic question, tied to our annual conference, was “What is a 21st Century Conservative?” Judged by three Yale professors, the following essay was written by Dimitri Halikias, a rising junior in Ezra Stiles and Operations Director of the Buckley Program. He won the first-place prize of $1,000.
Following Mitt Romney’s defeat last November, liberal and conservative pundits alike rushed to call for a radical rethinking of the Republican Party platform. They charged that conservatism has grown outmoded, with nothing left to offer an increasingly secular, liberal America of the twenty-first century. These criticisms are not without their merit, and they remind us that while it remains committed to absolute moral principles, conservatism as a political theory must remain firmly grounded in reality. Even the most ancient of truths require modern articulations. The project of the twenty-first-century conservative, therefore, is to promote the transcendent principles of human flourishing and virtue, but to do so in a society that can and must continue to evolve. But relying upon such platitudes alone is the mark of progressive or postmodern thought, not conservatism. Modern conservatives must not be afraid to recognize the clear battle of the day—the defense of the bedrock of civilization and culture: the family.