Think of a political trend which conservatives dislike, such as feminism. The typical approach of conservatives is to attack the outward manifestations of this trend, which in the case of feminism might include the masculinisation of women or the effeminacy of men.
These conservative attacks never seem to be really effective. Feminism marches on oblivious as do all the other political trends opposed by conservatives.
This isn't surprising. If you look at the origins of a political trend like feminism it goes like this.
Item 1: The fundamental liberal principle that individuals should be self-created by their own reason and will.
Item 2: Our sex is not created by our own reason and will. Therefore, society may not be organised around the fact of sex.
Item 3: Women are encouraged to adopt traditionally masculine social roles and vice versa.
As stated above, conservatives typically attack item 3, the end product of the liberal process. However, because liberals accept item 1 they will continue to believe that item 3 is the right thing to do, no matter how much conservatives ridicule it, and no matter how much it goes against the personal instincts and preferences of liberals themselves.
An important part of what conservatives need to do is to target item 1. Perhaps conservatives could stress in opposition to the liberal principle something like the following:
Reason and will are gifts which are not ends in themselves but are a means by which individuals can elevate themselves to the higher part of their given nature.
This principle is not sufficient in itself as it doesn't fully delineate the limitations of individual will and reason. However, it does suggest that the task of individuals is not to remove all impediments to individual will and reason, but to learn how best to use reason and will within a given set of conditions.
(First published at Conservative Central 05/07/03)