A key contribution of neoconservatives to the conservative movement launched by Bill Buckley in the middle of the last century was the assertion that conservatism is a means justifies the ends ideology. Unlike the Left, the Right will accept less than optimal outcomes as long as they are the result of a just process. Further, conservatives are not reactionaries, instinctively defending order. Instead, conservatism is the defense of liberal processes against the assaults of the illiberal Left.
One reason that these former members of the Left and the emerging new Right found agreement is they both agreed with Edmund Burke on key points. One was Burke’s description of revolution. The liberals who would go on to become neoconservatives did not see themselves as revolutionaries. Like their new conservative friends, they viewed themselves as defenders of liberal order and the liberal process that is contained in and constrained by tradition and institutions.
In his observations about revolutionary France, Burke noted that revolutions seek to cut themselves off from the past. The desire for an entirely new beginning must lead to a repudiation of the past. This divorce from the historical timeline means they have no sense of themselves and their place in history. This is the source of their inherent instability, and why they become murderous. For those who see themselves as defenders of liberal order, this is what makes revolution dangerous.
The other broad area of agreement between these former leftists and their new friends on the Right was on institutions. Burke’s great contribution to the Anglo-Right is his defense of institutions and traditions as constraints on power. Traditions give meaning to daily life, but they also play a key role in shaping the people. The voluntary associations like churches, clubs and so on maintain and nourish the social capital of the people and provide a balance to sovereign power.
Even today, you hear the legacy conservatives talk about Edmund Burke as their ideal conservative stateman. Yoram Hazony, the ultra-Zionist political theorist, named his think tank “The Edmund Burke Foundation”. Modern neoconservatives like Ben Shapiro love quoting Edmund Burke. It is one of the few things upon which traditionalist conservatives agreed with the former leftists. They saw Burke’s philosophy as the center of their understanding of conservatism in a liberal society.
The idea that conservatism is the defense of the existing processes has had a powerful impact on the arc of American society. By elevating process over ends, conservatism built into their defense of tradition and order vulnerabilities that the radicals have been able to exploit for generations. In other words, the very nature off conservatism as the bulwark against radicalism has as part of its design a set of contradictions that must always lead to its retreat in the face of the radical onslaught.
The first of those is the unequivocal defense of process over results. What this has meant, in practice, is the conservative defense of every radical gain. Once the Left can find a way to warp the process to support their ends, they turn their opponents into the most strident defenders of this new order. Abortion is the obvious example. Once the radicals changed the law through the courts, the conservatives agreed that it can only change again through the courts.
This has been the motivation for conservatives to get as many of their judges on the court as possible. The trouble is, in order to be a conservative judge, one must pledge to defend precedent and the traditional functioning of the courts. It is why every conservative judge nominated to the high court must sit in front of Congress and swear to never question the precedents used in support of Roe v Wade. It is why this current court will defend radicalism against all challenges.
The other vulnerability that the radicals have exploited for several generations is that the conservative fetish for means over ends prevents them from questioning the morality of radical goals. Since Marx, the central claim of radicalism is that they are trying to achieve a more virtuous and moral society. Because a just society is such a worthy goal, it justifies radical measures, including violence. Those who stand between now and the better world deserve what they get.
By focusing solely on the means in which political goals are achieved, the conservative must accept the morality of those ends if they are the result of the liberal process, which is the root of their political morality. This is why the “conservative case for…” is an internet meme. Since compromise is always the goal of Burkean conservatism, the first step is in figuring out jhow radical goals can fit into the conservative process. If trannies can be the result of the liberal order, trannies are conservative.
More important, this myopia means the Right can never question the morality of the Left’s stated goals. In fact, they are allergic to it. You see this with the reaction to the Critical Race Theory issue. Conservatives recoiled in horror when it was pointed out that CRT is explicitly antiwhite. The idea of addressing the morality of radical ends is anathema to the conservative mind. Instead, they had to frame it is bad process in pursuits of a worthy goal.
Edmund Burke wrote from the perspective of a man standing on the walls of an old social order looking out over Europe struggling to maintain order. His defense of the British social order was perfectly rational, especially in contrast to the horrors that were unleashed by the French Revolution. Like the social order he once defended, the Burkean conservatism is no longer relevant. The current order is inherently immoral and at odds with anything that a man of the Right should defend.
Further, Burkean conservatism prevents the actions required to overthrow this current order and institute a new moral order. If one is prevented from declaring the current state of things immoral and the goals of its champions as grossly immoral, then there is no way to fight the gathering darkness. If the preservation of the West and the people that make it possible must be sublimated to an abstract process, then conservatism can never conserve anything. It is part of the problem.
This is why the first order of attack for the dissident is conservatism. As long as people are willing to accept “well we have to respect the election results” as an excuse for not opposing evil, there is no escaping the gathering darkness. It is only when the opponents of radicalism commit to its utter destruction through any means necessary that the tides of war will change. That necessarily requires consigning Edmund Burke and his followers to the ash heap of history.
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