One of the paradoxes—there are so many—of conservative thought over the last decade at least is the unwillingness even to entertain the possibility that America and the West are on a trajectory toward something very bad. On the one hand, conservatives routinely present a litany of ills plaguing the body politic. Illegitimacy. Crime. Massive, expensive, intrusive, out-of-control government. Politically correct McCarthyism. Ever-higher taxes and ever-deteriorating services and infrastructure. Inability to win wars against tribal, sub-Third-World foes. A disastrously awful educational system that churns out kids who don’t know anything and, at the primary and secondary levels, can’t (or won’t) discipline disruptive punks, and at the higher levels saddles students with six figure debts for the privilege. And so on and drearily on. Like that portion of the mass where the priest asks for your private intentions, fill in any dismal fact about American decline that you want and I’ll stipulate it.Keepers of the status quo? In the political sphere, that would be the Vital Progressive Center, still peddling Governance By Wise Experts in a form that either of the Roosevelt presidents or Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson would recognize, and they'd recognize in the formulations of Hillary Clinton precisely the strategies that they were "fighting" for back in the day.
Conservatives spend at least several hundred million dollars a year on think-tanks, magazines, conferences, fellowships, and such, complaining about this, that, the other, and everything. And yet these same conservatives are, at root, keepers of the status quo. Oh, sure, they want some things to change. They want their pet ideas adopted—tax deductions for having more babies and the like. Many of them are even good ideas. But are any of them truly fundamental? Do they get to the heart of our problems?
None of it has worked particularly well, and the dysfunction that the "do your own thing" crowd brought with them contributes to the "litany of ills." That's the cultural dimension of the Democrat coalition (although I will argue that coalition is fracturing) and that's where the opposition to the Wise Experts and the freakazoids can claim to be conservative: it's a movement that seeks a restoration of a state of good repair in the political and popular culture.
If conservatives are right about the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual; if they are right about sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”; if they are right about the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia; if they are right about societal norms and public order; if they are right about the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society; if they are right about the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions; if they are right about the necessity of a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere—if they are right about the importance of all this to national health and even survival, then they must believe—mustn’t they?—that we are headed off a cliff.If all that matters, as the thesis of the article appears to be, is who sits in the Oval Office, then, yes, "conservatism" as the court intellectual sees it has been "losing since 1988." But the coalition that was winning from the early 1970s until the end of the Cold War was a coalition united on the objective of rolling back Soviet Communism. Which it did, while fighting the domestic fellow travellers at the same time. The current set of secular challenges are neither as serious (on my more cranky days, I perceive the jihadis as beneficiaries of Nagasaki Syndrome) nor as easy to unite around (recreational drugs! unisex bathrooms!) And yet, conservatives (in the sense of limiting government) have given the self-styled progressives ownership of the non-stimulus stimulus and the two lies for the price of one health reform and the "kick me" foreign policy whilst stopping Our President from committing any more excesses and making resistance easier in several of the states. I think the court intellectual, despite his insistence on Trump or Crash, gets it.
But it’s quite obvious that conservatives don’t believe any such thing, that they feel no such sense of urgency, of an immediate necessity to change course and avoid the cliff.
But we can probably do better than we are doing now. First, stop digging. No more importing poverty, crime, and alien cultures. We have made institutions, by leftist design, not merely abysmal at assimilation but abhorrent of the concept. We should try to fix that, but given the Left’s iron grip on every school and cultural center, that’s like trying to bring democracy to Russia. A worthy goal, perhaps, but temper your hopes—and don’t invest time and resources unrealistically.There's more. Stop enabling dysfunction, you'll get less of it. But it's a start.
The essay rated almost all the airtime on Rush Limbaugh's Wednesday show, to rave reviews and enthusiastic callers. There's the usual category error (all about the presidency) plus recognition that something else -- that fracturing of the gentry? -- at work.
What this column is really about is a shaming of Never Trumpers who proudly and loudly proclaim -- conservative intellectuals -- it's a infinite audience that's being targeted here. It's not you, folks. It's conservative intellectuals, the think tankers, the people that rely on fundraising and donations and the magazine types. I'm not naming any names and he doesn't do so, either, but he's written for that audience, and he's basically calling them out for their holier-than-thou attitude about Donald Trump.It's possible to be #NeverTrump #NeverHillary, but I wish Gary Johnson knew enough about history to explain that there were things to do to lift the siege of Leningrad that involved partnering with Russia and no troops in Karelia.
Because the whole point of this is this guy's opinion. He is every bit the intellectual conservative of those he's criticizing. The point of this whole piece is that Donald Trump's the only hope, that conservatism no longer applies. We're way past that. Conservatism, as has been applied the last ten years, what do we have to show for it? We have a bunch of midterm election victories, but nothing done with them.
And if you're really serious about how bad things are but you can't find yourself to oppose Hillary Clinton, then you're worthless. That's what this is essentially saying, but in 10 pages. It's great.
At Red State, Ben Howe reacts to the essay and to Mr Limbaugh's continued cheerleading for The Donald, by pointing out that the conservative brain trust overpromised and underdelivered.
Every single year, every single congress, every single president, the story remains the same: government grows, the economy bubbles up and bursts, and the "have nots" bear the burden of the fallout from that bubble while the wealthiest are protected by the DC elite. Then they start creating programs and initiatives that put a bubble around the old bubble and the problems get pressed into a can and kicked down the road.Plus comprehension. It takes something to beat something, even a bundle of late nineteenth century ideas pushed by a flawed candidate.
It's not because a Hillary Clinton presidency or a Donald Trump presidency won't be disasters. They will be.The cult of the presidency is killing the Republic. Perhaps in its end, no matter whose hand is on the Bible in January, will be the beginning of the rediscovery. That's what Robert Tracinski seems to be thinking.
It's because it is time to break this cycle. Not out of some sense of tiredness, or election fatigue. It is precisely because we are at a tipping point that the cycle must be broken.
We can not be slaves to a 4 year election cycle any longer. We have reached a point where otherwise intelligent people are suggesting that if you don't vote for the narcissistic, power-mad, uncontrollable, spoiled, dangerous, non-conservative, blowhard liar, that democracy is dead.
Personally, I think prognostications of total doom are exaggerated, which is part of the reason I’m not so eager to risk crashing the plane. But if things are really that bad, I suggest that the solution lies, as it usually does, outside the realm of politics. If we’re so rotten we got Trump as our political savior, then our most urgent necessity is to work on becoming less rotten.Emergence is messy. But perhaps November will be the first stirrings of a restoration.
Which, come to think of it, is good advice in any case. Moral reform movements have succeeded in the past, quite often and quite spectacularly, and this year is conclusive proof that we’re in need of some moral reform. After November, maybe people will even be interested in hearing about that.
Mona Charen is also having none of the Flight 93 metaphor.
There is much decay in America. Government, best represented by an IRS that targets Americans for their political activism and an FBI that declines to hold high officials to the same standards as ordinary ones, is corrupt. Government is also sclerotic and headed for insolvency -- with the approval of both major-party candidates. The courts are making social policy without even a pretense of constitutionality. Race relations are getting worse. The press is dominated by mindless infotainment. Men are dropping out of the labor force. The internet has unleashed the most feral appetites of the human soul -- from child porn to anti-Semitism. Manners are fraying.That state of good repair is going to require a lot of work.
But first, turf out the people who created the disrepair. And here there's surprising agreement that the gentry ought be tossed out. At The American Conservative, here's Daniel McCarthy.
Resistance to the bipartisan establishment keeps growing, and even if Trump loses to Clinton in a landslide, he has carried the rebellion further than ever before by winning a major party’s nomination.Read the whole thing. Governance by Wise Experts has failed. Whether the gentry will be turfed out and replaced by the yeomanry remains to be seen.
Since the Cold War ended, U.S. politics has seen a series of insurgent candidacies. Pat Buchanan prefigured Trump in the Republican contests of 1992 and 1996. Ralph Nader challenged the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party from the outside in 2000. Ron Paul vexed establishment Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012. And this year, Trump was not the only candidate to confound his party’s elite: Bernie Sanders harried Hillary Clinton right up to the Democratic convention.
What do these insurgents have in common? All have called into question the interventionist consensus in foreign policy. All have opposed large-scale free-trade agreements. (The libertarian Paul favors unilateral free trade: by his lights, treaties like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are not free trade at all but international regulatory pacts.) And while no one would mistake Ralph Nader’s or Ron Paul’s views on immigration for Pat Buchanan’s or Donald Trump’s, Nader and Paul have registered their own dissents from the approach to immigration that prevails in Washington.
Here is John Atcheson of Common Dreams, seeing something similar at work. "People have had it with the politics of privilege, and the favoritism of the elite, by the elite."
But "had it" is not the same thing as "new order for the ages" and secular orders are emergent.