The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.

Wonder what it's like to be a conservative today? It's a lonely place, my friend. Tuesday night I watched the election with my brother. The two of us sat in his living room, tense, hopeful, resigned. We know the country is changing. That doesn't mean it's good.

At 9 I said, "He's done for, isn't he?" and he replied with a monosyllabic "Yep."

On the way out I gave him a hug. "It's you and me against the world," I teased him.

"Sometimes it feels that way," he said.

For those of us who are conservatives — and in reality, there are many of us still — there's a calm and profound sadness this week. Wednesday morning, my friends at the coffee shop next door greeted me with gentle camaraderie. One of them is a long-time educator, a former superintendent, the other an entrepreneur who sold many years ago. One squeezed my hand in silence. The other, always the gruffer of the two, said matter-of-factly, "That's the end of it."

He wasn't talking about the election.

On Facebook, acquaintances I like very much are crowing success and sagely mocking our sense of mourning. "Don't worry, it's not the end of the country," they say — and it's probably true in the sense that they mean it. A place named America continues to exist, and might keep afloat for a while.

Out there are my friends and millions of others I'll never meet. Well meaning, cheerful, and utterly blind to the flow of ideas and consequence. They don't understand that the place is built on a specific piece of knowledge and that the fact of their vote is the proof that the knowledge is lost.

Samuel Adams said, "If Virtue & Knowledge are diffus'd among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security."

The philosophical definition of virtue is a certain interior stoicism and mental toughness — action chosen through careful reason, a spartan austerity inside and out, a public orientation toward good. It's nothing so trite as "nice."

We don't have that virtue anymore, and we are enslaved, happily, voluntarily, almost ecstatically so. People whose daily lives are ever more tightly yoked to one another, even by a still relatively benign government, aren't free. People who labor under the burden of massive debt aren't free. People whose activities are endlessly monitored and moderated, even for their own good, aren't free, although they can be made to think they are.

"I can still do whatever I want," you say, but if I pressed you, you couldn't reasonably prove why it should be so.

Once we were a nation led by Washington and Lincoln. Humans here fought and died for timeless truth, for principle and for the natural dignity of man. "Meh," you say, I know.

On Election Night I watched people weep in the street and wave tiny flags to undermine those same principles, for someone to feel our pain, to lessen our burdens, to grant us a favor, to have a tattoo and pink hair. Worse, it's a struggle we find equally noble. We think the two things are the same.

"Times change," you say. They do, but where the flow of ideas leads us does not.

Recriminations about the candidate will abound, but the country was presented with a decent man with an ideal skill set for the problem at hand, and we voted on ideology instead. No conservative candidate could have won with an electorate so thoroughly steeped in a wild perversion of the principles and ideas it was founded on, and no electorate with virtue and knowledge could be so easily diverted from the core ideas it depends on to continue.

On Tuesday, Dick Polman wrote conservative ideas are "just not very popular." It was intended as the highest insult. To be cool, to be relevant, to be right, is to be one with the masses, nothing more or less. That's not news to us. We're just filled with quiet grief and despair, on behalf of even our most liberal friends. Polman's words are all too true.

Lisa Morgey lives in Pitman, N.J., and runs a small screen-printing business.