Defining conservatism down
I want you all to read this from self-styled “conservative” Bret Stephens. Just so we can get our bearings when it comes to the political spectrum. Because as I’ve been saying, with each losing “compassionate conservative” / moderate election cycle — wherein our centrist technocrat, pushed as the only “electable” or “serious” candidate by the RNC establishment, gets painted as an extremist right winger — the ranks of those who get to call themselves “conservative” merely because they meet the standards for centrism the left has tethered to technocratic mush grows, and it is these people who then presume to lecture “other conservatives” from their now actualized stance as a contemporary conservative opinion leader.
— Even though 30 years ago we’d have called them not “conservative, ” but rather “Democrats.”
Beyond that, I won’t go too deeply into addressing Stephens’ points, because they are part and parcel of a clarion call for how liberating it can feel — and how lessened the burden is on you to defend them — when you simply surrender your principles, acceding to the left’s ability to control the narrative and to effectively shame you into accepting the contours of their ideological worldview.
It is a call for comfortable assimilation into the leftist paradigm, a call for embracing your subjecthood and then living as existentialist heroes — knowing the war is lost, but trying for small victories from time to time to sustain a sense of purpose.
As far as particulars go, Stephens’ piece is an Iowa cornfield of rhetorical fail, stuffed with straw men that are then sneered away by a twister of converging hot air. From his ridiculous assertion that conservatives (and what he means here are social conservatives) are “obsessed with what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms” and a revulsion toward gays to his off-handed romanticism about the beauty of the Spanish language and the casual indictment he proffers about his fellow conservatives’ hatred for Latinos, who, as the canard he repeats goes, are absolutely and almost inherently, by way of culture, steeped in American values — “religiosity, hard work, personal stoicism and the sense of family obligation expressed through billions of dollars in remittances,” as Stephens would have it — even though there is really nothing intrinsically American about being, as an identity group, one of the biggest consumers of government services and welfare, Stephens offers up the traditional RINO litany of complaints about how it is that conservatism is what’s at fault for the failure to elect RINO Republicans. The difference being that today we’ve moved the entire political spectrum so far left that he and, say, Bill Kristol, pretend they are offering critiques of conservatives as conservatives themselves.
But the answers are still the same: embrace the amnesty movement that will provide countless new generations of reliably welfare-state voters, because that’s how we can prove that we like Latino’s, too (even though Reagan, having provided amnesty, never won the Latino vote, nor did Bush or McCain, who were both advocates of amnesty); keep your mouths shut about abortion, because even if you truly believe it to be the murder of a child, not everyone agrees with you, and who wants to have their noses rubbed in the fact that they may be advocating for murder-on-demand?; don’t defend the institution of marriage from any kind of traditionalist standpoint, because to do so would mark you as conservative, and conservatives need to learn to be conservative unconservatively; don’t run wacky candidates like, say, Michele Bachmann, because, you know, cuckoo!; and always accede to whatever the prevailing leftist narrative is on science, otherwise it is quite obvious that you are invincibly stupid and can’t be elected, and besides, you’re making Bret Stephens look bad for having to associate with you. Which, while it’s his job, doesn’t mean it has to be so unpleasant.
Happily, I think Stephens will get his wish, and this is the tack and tone the GOP will take toward conservatives going forward — though as I say, they’ll pretend the advice is coming from conservatives. Stephens, like Mitch Daniels, wants a “truce” on the “social issues,” as if these social issues don’t themselves have implications in the area of law or the economy (an easy example is that “comprehensive immigration reform” would create a dependency magnet, and the fact that Stephens admires the beauty in Borges’ writing isn’t going to help already overburdened local service providers from going bankrupt). Bill Kristol can’t really see the harm in raising taxes on millionaires — even though that position effectively embraces the already Marxist notion of progressive taxation, as well as leads to a usurpation of liberty, one in which it is declared that the government is in a better position to know how to spend the fruits of your labor than are you.
And these people wish to call themselves conservatives — and lecture us on conservatism as if we really are nothing more than the simple-minded racist bitterclingers the left has cast us as?
Fine. They can have that label, too. I’ll just go with constitutionalist / classical liberal. Social conservatives, who argue for policy from positions of personal morality without imposing them on us, instead allowing the electoral and representative system to play out — these people are also welcomed. And the GOP can go get stuffed.
Which is why I noted that I’m happy they’re taking this tack at this time. Because that means they’re over. Unless they can start bringing in Democrats with all their pandering. And even then, all that secures is a one party system of Statists and their bureaucratic armies.
And that center will not hold.
(h/t I Callahan)