March 19, 2009
While a large segment of the Alternative Right believes it is time to abandon the term “conservative” altogether, I’m not so sure. From where I stand, turning over an intellectual tradition that includes men like Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet to a movement that regards Sean Hannity as a serious thinker is surrendering far too much. The reputations of these great men should not become the property of neoconservatives or the warmongering faux-nationalists that now dominate the GOP. Efforts to stop this may be futile”or too little too late”but out of respect for our tradition, efforts should be made.
Having said that, there are serious problems with trying to reclaim the mantle of conservatism for those who are actually conservative. In particular the mass media portrayal of conservatism is not likely to change, without a direct attack on the sound-bite culture that allows for even the best of conservative talking heads to mindlessly repeat mantras that our totally devoid of any value or thought.
Though it would not be difficult to comply a much larger list, a good overview of four standard talking points of the establishment conservative movement showcases just how worthless discourse on the modern Right has become”or at least the Right that gets representation on the airwaves:
“Government Should Be Run Like A Business”“While this sentiment, no doubt, rises from the general feeling that spending would be curbed if the State were to be managed more efficiently, the implications of such reasoning have been disastrous for conservatives. So-called “revolutionary” ideas like Supply-Side Economics, have proven to be absent any real value for those looking to limit the size of government. This isn’t surprising. By consistently supporting revenue neutral “reforms,” the GOP and its useful idiots guarantee that government goals and responsibilities will be identical to those of any business”making a profit. If increasing the inflow of funds to the already swollen government is “conservative” I’d like to know how.
“Culture Of Life”“There is no more meaningless phrase in the political lexicon than this, and yet it is almost unimaginable to envision a leading Republican candidate for any office avoiding this platitude when pandering for votes. Forget for a second the wildly inconsistent application of any “pro-life” principles among movement conservatives. Instead ask yourself this”what does promoting a “culture of life” even mean? If the Bush years are any indication, it means using the tax base to further a faith-based Statism in a bizarre attempt to make the government stewards of the family. Again, it is hard to see how standing citizenship on its head or perverting the traditional role of the family qualifies as a “conservative.”
Complaints about “Freeloaders”“Nothing is more annoying than a bunch of bloated blowhards bitching about the underclass and street beggars living off the excess of society. Whether it is true or not it is irrelevant. The fact is that our society is unbelievably wasteful and driven by a materialist mindset which demands its big shots” and wannabe big shots”constantly “upgrade” in all facets of life to keep up with the Jones. One consequence of this is a drop out culture of spoiled brats and lazy bums who are all too happy to skate by on the hand-me-downs of the consumption obsessed. Whining about the existence of such creatures, while feeding their come-what-may attitudes is ridiculous and ultimately only serves to undermine the thrifty habits that will required of more and more Americans as the bottom continues to fall out from under us.
“What Would Reagan Do?”“Movement fixation on the last prominent GOP figurehead to pay serious lip service to tearing down the State is understandable. What is not understandable”or forgivable”is fetishizing a political figure of dubious political relevance in our current environment. That Reagan’s “American Exceptionalism” nonsense is a major problem with the country today should now be evident to everyone.
More importantly, our fortieth president’s willingness to allow the neocons a very prominent seat at the table calls into question his judgment. At the very least treating him as a high prophet of wisdom and clear headed thought is remarkably shortsighted and obscures the problems facing the United States today”many of which we can thank the “Gipper” for.
Whether or not anti-statist politics can be rejuvenated under the conservative mantle remains to be seen. Perhaps blowing up the institutions and building from the bottom is the best course of action. Still, without a full reconsideration of the quips disguised as doctrines listed above, no right wing movement will ever get out of the gate”“conservative” or otherwise.