INCITE
Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Saturday, March 27, 2004

 
The Crisis of Conservatism
Written by: Answerman

The more I think about it, the more September 11 looks to be a turning point for the worst in the tumultuous history of American conservatism. For most of my life, conservatives of many different stripes in the United States have banned together in an uncomfortable unity. This common front was largely due to the menace of international communism, and it frayed considerably in the 1990s, with libertarians, paleoconservatives, and neoconservatives going their separate ways. Still, these internecine quarrels were largely at the level of the conservative intellectual elites; right up and through the 2000 election, your average American conservative still considered himself part of something at least akin to a unified movement, and considered that movement to be aligned with the Republican party. No more.

September 11 brought conservative differences on critical issues such as immigration, interventionism, and accommodation of the welfare state from the think tanks and policy magazines to local politics and the concerns of the average conservative. Some of the most bitter policy quarrels I have seen over the past couple of years have been between different strains of the old conservative movement (these strains are not limited, by the way, to the three I identified above; American conservatism has become a quite complex and fractious creature). Foregin policy is no longer an academic game like it seemed to the unconcerned in the 1990s, where the price of getting it wrong was spending too much money in Haiti, or accidentally bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Now foreign policy is quite literally about life and death, and not surprisingly, non-interventionist paleocons and recklessly-interventionist neocons have become mortal enemies. At the same time, the long-simmering immigration issue has reached the tipping point, as we stand merely a few years away from a demographic and cultural catastrophe brought upon us by the open borders lobby. When the catastrophe was visible but more distant, the stakes weren't as high; moreover, immigration itself has become a life-and-death issue in the context of Islamic terrorists and the ease with which they enter this country to do us harm.

Foreign policy and immigration are the key issues of difference among conservatives that have become so fundamental and irreconcilable since September 11, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg in that they are symptoms of deeper ideological differences. The Patriot Act, for instance, has raised to the fore differences between traditional conservatives and libertarians on so-called ''civil" liberties issues. And affirmative action, political correctness, and racial profiling divide different wings of the old Cold War conservative coalition.

I actually have a proposal for averting this continuing separation and increasing animosity among conservatives of different stripes in the face of the ever-more-powerful liberal menace (let us not forget the simple point made by both Sam Francis and Paul Weyrich -- American conservatism has been defeated on every issue of importance to it over the past two generations, no matter what the goofy neocon revisionists try to tell you). But I need to think things out a little more and would like to make a different, simpler point today.

The most striking thing about conservative discord since September 11 is how separated leading national conservative policymakers and thinkers have become from the public on whose support they rely. On most of the critical long-term issues -- race, immigration, the asinine neocon version of a "New World Order" -- leading Republican politicians and leading so-called conservative publications such as National Review and the Weekly Standard differ fundamentally with their constituents and readers. Regardless of one's views on any of these particular issues, the fact remains that this ever-widening gorge between the movement leadership and its rank-and-file members can only do harm, and given the age we live in and the nature of the liberal opposition serious harm at that, to American conservatism and America itself.

The Bush administration and the ahistorical former Trotskyites who have hijacked it had soon better realize the harm they're doing in fawning over men like Tony Blair -- an unabashed supporter of the welfare state, racial preferences, global government, and coddling of criminals -- while issuing ridiculous Ayn-Rand-style edicts against men like Pat Buchanan -- a true conservative who, despite his significant failings on economic issues and foreign policy, remains a positive and important figure within the increasingly technocratic and leftward leaning conservative movement. These essentially left-wing functionaries who have invaded the upper ranks of American conservatism must be stopped, but in stopping them, we cannot resort to a reactionary populism whose time, if it ever truly existed, is long past.

COMING SOON: how I propose to do all that.


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