Elephants on the Rampage

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Conservatives and Republicans have failed to uphold “authentic conservatism” over the years, and a return to conservatism is needed to provide a balance to the American political system, a late Utah State University professor and Brigham Young University student argue in a new book.

Brent Gilchrist, a political science professor at USU who died in September, and BYU law school student Sara Jarman co-authored “Elephants on the Rampage: The Eclipse of American Conservatism.”

While Jarman emphasizes the election of Trump — who brought a “populist nationalist movement” in his campaign — is not a focus of the book, it does provide good context for arguing conservatism is needed in politics.

“Whatever the political leanings are of yourself and those around you, we should all respect and value authentic conservatism as a necessity in our own political arenas, local, state and national,” the book’s introduction states.

In an interview with the newspaper, Jarman talked about the definition of “authentic conservatism” — an idea founded by English politician and philosopher Edmund Burke.

“He saw what happened when movement politics took over and wanted to create a counterbalance — an idea more moderate in nature,” Jarman said. “Authentic conservatism is moderation; the idea of being thoughtful, contemplative, not as rapid and fast in terms of making change like progressives on the other side.”

Jarman said Republicans are typically thought of as conservatives, but recently that element of their party has “been lost over the years” — like with the creation of the Tea Party movement and culminating with the election of Trump, “who is not really indicative of anything typically conservative.”

“Conservatives have gradually become more and more movement-based,” Jarman said. “We were concerned about that and wanted to bring them back more to where they were, as a stabilizing force.”

Jarman said balance is crucial to American politics, and that means both progressives and conservatives need to uphold their values.

“We believe in a two-party system; you have to have both sides in order to get to the best solution,” Jarman said. “The Republicans aren’t performing their duty as a conservative base — they need to reassess what they’re doing, or there needs to be another conservative element introduced.”

As for Democrats, Jarman said there’s “in-party strife” — undoubtedly evidenced by some Democrats’ view that Sen. Bernie Sanders would have been a better choice for party nominee over Hillary Clinton — but “they still maintain their progressivism.”

Jarman maintained that although she wrote a book about the GOP, she does not hold a bias against conservatives or the GOP.

“I’m sure everyone has an inkling toward a certain way — whether they realize it or not — but I would say I value conservatism and its role and place in the political system,” Jarman said.

Numerous public officials are praising the book.

That includes Dan Liljenquist, a former Republican state senator who unsuccessfully ran against U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch for the Senate nomination in 2012, who knows Jarman.

“Sara’s efforts to define conservatism — delineating the measured, deliberate conservatism that resists change and serves as the counterbalance to our society’s worst populist instincts from the more radical conservatism that seeks to return to a minimalist, 1800s style of Constitutional governance — is an important contribution to the debate over the future of the Republican Party,” Liljenquist wrote in an email.

Matthew Holland, the president of Utah Valley University, was a colleague of the late Gilchrist and had a chance to read over parts of the book before it was published. In an email to the newspaper, Holland praised Gilchrist.

“He was unfailingly thoughtful and deeply committed to scholarship that could speak to some of our most foundational issues in very real world ways,” Holland wrote. “I am so pleased that this book could be finished and produced posthumously. It is a wonderful tribute to a great scholar and friend.”

“Elephants on a Rampage” will come out in hardback Jan. 20. It is currently only available in e-book format until then.

People can buy the book through Amazon until then, at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M7UFJRN.

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Twitter: KevJourno


Kevin Opsahl is a staff writer and features editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at 435-752-2121 ext. 1016 or by email at kopsahl@hjnews.com

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