On Conservatism
0 comment Wednesday, June 11, 2014 |
I'm not exactly a 'crunchy con', but I find Rod Dreher's blog interesting. On his 'Crunchy Con' blog, he mentions the current issue of The American Conservative, calling it a 'must read', covering as it does the future of the conservative movement.
The issue contains mini-essays on conservatism by a number of contributors, including Dreher.
They were asked to respond to these questions:
  • Are the designations "liberal" and "conservative" still useful? Why or why not?
  • Does a binary Left/Right political spectrum describe the full range of ideological options? Is it still applicable?

  • The excerpts cited by Dreher, from a number of writers, seem to illustrate one problem among conservatives today; there is a lack of agreement on basic principles, and a lack of a common orientation, except perhaps opposition to the worst excesses of the left, and the general leftward trends of our society.
    Heather MacDonald, for example, complains that the non-religious conservatives are marginalized, and that the religious conservatives are guilty of triumphalism.
    In contrast, Claes G. Ryn says that modern conservatism neglects the spiritual aspect. Ryn says that conservatism must get rid of its current obsession with politics, and focus instead on preserving 'the good, the true, and the beautiful.'
    Among the best quotes, in my opinion, were those from Ross Douthat, who notes that conservatism too often does not stand for a set of principles as much as it simply says 'no' to liberalism.
    ...conservatives have ... well, a host of goals most of them in tension with one another. ... Lilberals, on the other hand, dream the same dream and envision the same destination, even if they disagree on exactly how to get there. It's the dream of Thomas Friedman as well as Karl Marx, as old as Babel and as young as the South Korean cloners. It whispered to us in Eden, and it whispers to us now: Ye shall be as gods. And no conservative dream, in the 400 years from Francis Bacon until now, has proven strong enough to stand in its way.'
    John Lukacs (who considers himself a 'reactionary', but seen by others as a paleocon spokesman) also notes the dislike of liberals as being central to what is termed 'conservatism' today, thus devaluing the name 'conservative.'
    He further says that 'a conservative who fails to protect and to conserve is nothing but a radical loudmouth of a bad sort.'
    Amen to that.
    [This previous post of mine dealt with 'conservatives who have stopped conserving.']
    In this discussion of Lukacs' book, 'Democracy and Populism, Fear and Hatred', he reveals his idiosyncratic ideas on 'right-vs.-left', conservative and progressive, populism vs. nationalism. I don't necessarily agree with many of his categorizations; for example, he states that right=hate, left=fear. There is some truth to the latter, but reading many of the screeds by the leftist demagogues of the day (Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Molly Ivins, Robert Jensen, even the pathetic Ward Churchill) it's hard to avoid concluding that hate is the driving force behind much of today's left.
    Lukacs, in his End of the Modern Age, complains that conservatives 'care not for the conservation of the country, and of the American land.'
    As with so many other issues, the situation he describes may be another example where the usual Republican position is simply to oppose the Democrat/liberal position. If Democrats and other liberal leftists fuss about environmental issues, Republicans seem simply to react in knee-jerk opposition, and deny that there is a problem. For instance in the current borders crisis, neither side has spoken up about the enormous environmental damage done by illegal immigrants in border areas or the much larger problem of environmental degradation caused by the surging population, almost all of it immgrant-driven. The Democrats won't touch the issue because it would be (gasp!) racist, and the Republicans because they disdain 'tree-hugging' -- and besides, it would be, you know, racist. Their stance has locked them into denying that overpopulation is a problem, or that our environment does need protecting.
    In short, left and right in America seem locked in a kind of death-dance; each side seems to feed off the excesses of the other, and more and more, to define themselves only in relation to each other.
    And as long as both sides embrace certain liberal themes like egalitarianism, universalism, America as 'a nation of immigrants', a proposition nation with no fixed culture and heritage, the idea of 'choice' as a primary value, and the increased role of government -- there is no real choice to be had. The Hobson's choice between the two parties is leaving many citizens alienated, angry, and frustrated, and looking for an alternative which preserves what is good, true, and valuable in America. Neither party at present does so.
    For this reason, I no longer feel defined by the label 'conservative', as it has been so hopelessly co-opted. The word is hopelessly associated with many people whose views and goals are foreign to my own, and at odds with traditional America.
    What, in the final analysis, does 'conservative' mean to most people? To most people, it means Rush Limbaugh, President Bush, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, or Ann Coulter.
    Most of these people have little in common with many Americans who call themselves 'conservative' - - so there is a need for a re-naming, or perhaps a re-claiming of conservatism by the real conservatives among us.
    Still, discussion of conservatism is absolutely essential, and it's heartening that some people are opening up a discussion, however tentative.