July 17, 2009
As a self-identified left conservative, opponent of “Victory Culture,” and occasional McGovern revisionist, my point of view is somewhat different than those of Kevin and Richard. From where I stand, belief in the unquestioned benevolence of industrial civilization is hopelessly naive, the “Shining City on a Hill” motif is a dangerous myth and the more eccentric facets of the American Left have been right far more often than many nationalist – and even traditionalist – conservatives.
For these reasons and others, I am far less bothered by attempts to resurrect the reputations of maligned liberal and left-wing figures than I am by the Reagan idolatry and fawning praise for Saint Bill Buckley that are all too common, even on the dissident fringes of right wing politics. Speaking entirely for myself, when I point to certain positives in liberal politicians it is usually to showcase just how terrible the mainstream conservative movement is by comparison. When I note that Al Sharpton has a better understanding of the Constitution than does movement conservative hero Mitt Romney I’m not endorsing Sharpton, just as I’m not endorsing the legacy of Eugene McCarthy when I note that he was better on immigration than nearly any prominent GOP figure over the last fifty years. The contrast is useful precisely because it showcases the utter worthlessness of both parties and the doctrine of total governance that guides both. The Republicans aren’t a lesser evil. In fact they are often a greater evil and are totally unacceptable for the exact same reasons that the Democrats are.
Having said that, there is always the risk that these revisionist perspectives will alienate the “conservatives of the heart” that made up the bulk of the Buchanan brigades. These Middle American Radicals are not inclined to cut McGovernites any slack and they have an admiration for the Gipper that borders on the perverse. Arguing with them on these matters is futile and pointless – and as Richard accurately notes, Carter and his ilk should not be regarded as right wing heroes in the first place.
Still, it is high time that conservatives disassociate themselves from the pernicious myths that have helped to sink the America so many of them claim to love. To the extent that Carter Conservatism is an attack on supply-side statism and “Empire as a Way of Life” it may in fact be worthwhile. But if its goal is the substitution of one carefully cultivated fraud for another, it will in fact be another monumental waste of time.
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