One conservative scholar argues that despite their historic
achievements and victories over liberalism, conservatives have
unwittingly surrendered and allowed themselves to be absorbed into the
liberal movement toward a Utopian society.
National Review’s John O’Sullivan, in a provocative article, reminds us of
Lady Thatcher’s observation that there are no permanent victories in
politics. He notes that “the game of politics continues indefinitely —
but it continues on different ground and under shifting rules.” Instead
of retreating following their losses (conservatives were vindicated by
their Cold War victory and the triumph of free-market economics),
liberals have regrouped and are setting the ground rules for the
political debate, indeed for America’s future.
Liberals are not necessarily doing this by conscious design, but
instinctively. This instinct, earlier identified by Tom Bethell and Joe
Sobran as “The Hive,” has two components. The first is to “support
social trends that foster the disintegration of existing society” and
the second is “the impulse to build on the ruins a new social order in
which traditional relations will be replaced by bureaucratic
management.” But the left has now become even more ambitious. They are
seeking to plan not just the economy, but society as a whole.
O’Sullivan details how this two-pronged liberal instinct of tearing
down society and replacing it with their own social order is played out
in three areas of policy: the economy, social (moral) issues and the
The Economy: While socialism has failed on a global level,
liberals are still intent on government running everyone’s lives. But
they are doing it indirectly through the clever device of regulation.
Under the guise “of protecting consumer health, workplace safety, the
environment and racial or gender equity” they have succeeded in
expanding the tentacles of government through every fiber of our
economy. The government insidiously assumes control, but not ownership,
of business, and thus avoids accountability for the economic
consequences of oppressive regulation, a phenomenon O’Sullivan dubs
“socialism without tears.”
Social Issues: Liberals seek to undermine traditional values
and replace them with their own values to be enforced by further
draconian laws and regulations. For example, by removing the stigma
attached to illegitimacy, they have encouraged births out of wedlock. To
combat the harm caused thereby, they impose further “cures,” such as
safe-sex education and wealth redistribution through welfare. The scary
thing is that these new values are packaged in a traditional wrapper,
which tends to deceive. The guiding principles are that all groups of
people should be treated equally, and no one is allowed to harm another.
The catch is that they redefine “equally” to mean that society should
guarantee equal outcomes, and they redefine harm to encompass even the
idea of being offended, for example, on racial or gender grounds.
The National Question: O’Sullivan makes a strong case that
through such vehicles as multiculturalism, liberals have destroyed
America’s common culture and sense of nationhood and balkanized our
society into a “federation of nationalities.”
And if all of this weren’t bad enough, many conservatives are not
only permitting this march toward Utopia, they are joining the chorus.
He says that four prominent conservative groups: Libertarians,
Supply-Siders, Neoconservatives and future-minded conservatives, are
seeking their own form of utopia and have essentially given up in the
battle to retain America’s conservative roots.
The Libertarians, he says, fail to understand the cultural
underpinnings needed to make capitalism work. The Hope, Growth and
Opportunity schoolers believe that tax cuts and the gold standard will
cure the common cold. Neoconservatives have bought into the notion that
there is no distinct American culture and that this nation is held
together only by a belief in the political ideas contained in the
Declaration and Constitution. The futurists have accepted the
politically correct celebration of diversity and victimhood.
O’Sullivan says the founders of this nation recognized that Americans
were “one people with their own language, culture, laws, and
institutions.” Immigrants, of course, arrived but they were then
assimilated into this English-speaking culture. Liberal media thought
police have conservatives so intimidated that they are afraid to
advocate a distinct American culture for fear of being branded racist,
sexist or homophobic. But America was designed to be a melting pot, not
a race, gender and sex-conscious society.
Many conservatives, says O’Sullivan, long for an America of safe
streets, intact families and caring communities — a Golden Age rather
than a Utopia. In fact, polls show that a majority of Americans fear the
“fraying of America.” But until conservative leaders have the wisdom and
courage to resist the destructive and divisive ideas of liberalism,
America will continue on its inexorable path toward Utopia, and
eventually there will be nothing left for conservatives to conserve.
Note: O’Sullivan’s article was published in 1997, and was adapted
from a speech he gave to the American Enterprise Institute. Whether or
not you agree with him, his arguments are still worthy of debate today.