Conservative Inc. and the Republican Party are struggling to come to terms with what the neocons did to the movement and the party, particularly the Bush years. The “new” conservatism was supposed to do all the things Reagan failed to do by appealing to a broad audience on liberal terms. Instead, it turned the GOP into the Democratic Party circa 1975, with endless wars of choice in the Middle East. The latter is a debacle from which the country may never emerge.
Anyway, The American Conservative is featuring a long essay from somepne named Brain Patrick Mitchell. He is some sort of political thinker slash theologian, pushing a new political theory. His “new” contribution to the hyphen party is ethical-conservatism,. which is different from other conservatism because it is ethical. That sounds a lot like the Bush compassionate-conservatism of a decade ago. It actually starts out on an interesting footing
The modern age is an age of anarchy, an era of habitual rebellion against old ways and existing order in the name of liberty, equality, enlightenment, and progress. It began as a rebellion against religious hierarchy, burgeoned into a rebellion against political monarchy, and finally boiled over in a rebellion against social patriarchy, leaving in its wake a new civilization endlessly at war with civilization itself.
Raised to rebel, the modern, anarchistic, progressive personality is always impatient with the world as it is and ever insistent that it change to suit him. Believing himself innocent, he blames others for the suffering he sees, indicting Society, Civilization, the Church, the State, the Establishment, the System, the Corporations, or the Man for crimes against the People and the Planet. Consistent with the age’s Luciferian culture of grievance justifying rebellion, the progressive lives passionately and impulsively as the hero of his own personal revolution, in which anything that stands in his way—that limits his autonomy, inhibits his self-expression, frustrates his ambitions, convicts his conscience, offends his sensibilities, or denies him satisfaction—can be condemned as unfair, unjust, intolerant, and therefore intolerable.
That’s some fine writing and a rare attempt to take an honest look at the people cult running America since the end of World War II. I don’t agree with his analysis, but I don’t think he is too far from the truth. It is rare to see an attempt to understand the Left on its own terms so that’s encouraging, even if it misses the mark.
This is the spirit riling the two competing passions of our age, libertine individualism and envious egalitarianism. Both deny the moral relevance of the objective other to the subjective self. Both insist on the self as the point of origin and reference for all definitions of goodness, truth, and justice, in effect replacing the First Person of the Holy Trinity with the selfish first person—the singular “I” in the case of individualism, the plural “we” in the case of egalitarianism.
This is where this type of analysis falls down the stairs. The writer sets up a false dichotomy and then uses it as a launching pad for his own opinions that he thinks are unique and different from whatever else is kicking around today. It has always struck me as a get out of jail free card. If you can dismiss current reality, you’re free to indulge in whatever you like. Libertarians tend to do this by pretending Left and Right are two sides of the same coin, when they are right there with them.
That said, I’m all in favor of rejecting the left-right model of describing political thought in the modern age. That is nothing more than a tarted up version of the Left’s us-versus-them world view. It is how you end up with Hitler on the Right, alongside Burke and Reagan. Somehow we are to believe that the polar opposites are Hitler on one end and Marx on the other. The truth is that all of these sects are the sons and daughters of the marriage of Rousseau and Hobbes.
The one thing I think he needs to explore more deeply is the Left’s impulse to destroy for the sake of destruction. He gets into it a little, but can’t seem to bring himself to accept that it is destruction for its own sake. The old 1960’s rallying cry of “burn, baby burn!” is instructive. There are no rallying cries from the Left that bring images of anything other than destruction. Whatever Utopian fantasies are at the start of the movement, the end is always about pulling the roof down.
It’s what makes all of these attempt to slap a new coat of paint on the Baby Boomer Conservatism pointless. White Americans are throwing in the towel on their race and culture. People who stop having children are saying it is better to have never been born than to carry on the traditions of their age. You’re not turning the tide with ten point plans and clever tax reform proposals. At least this brand of hyphen philosophy gets a little closer to the truth.