What is wrong with American conservatism? Hardly anything at all. From tax to immigration to judicial philosophy, conservatives are beginning to set the agenda of public debate. Whole stretches of popular culture are objectively conservative – talk radio and the blogosphere, for example.
While there is no dispute as to which tradition belong “The Incredibles” and “The Passion of the Christ,” I would venture that “South Park” and “The Simpsons” are conservative-cum-libertarian. They lampoon liberal elites and regularly slaughter the sacred cows of political correctness, diversity, multiculturalism and radical environmentalism.
“There is now in this country a conservative movement – and I include libertarians in this movement – more passionate and agreed in substance on what needs to be done than I can recall. All that is wrong with [American] conservatism is that it lacks a conservative party. The problem with the [Republican Party] and its associated media is that its function has been less to advance conservative interests than to neutralize conservative opinion” – a function evinced by the Bush immigration betrayal.
The thesis above belongs, almost to the word, to my good friend, the illustrious Sean Gabb, director of communications at the Libertarian Alliance of Britain. The object of his calculated contempt, voiced in a speech given at The Royal Society of Arts, however, was the British Conservative Party. Considering that the Republican Party is every bit as corrupt, incompetent, tyrannical and treacherous, I’ve substituted “American” for “British” and “Republican Party” for “Conservative Party.”
As far as political representation goes, American conservatives and libertarians find themselves in the same pickle as their English cousins, who’ve been led into an ideological latrine by the Conservative Party and its enablers in media. But thanks to a deep-seated affinity for basic conservative principles, the base in both places is disinclined to linger in that malodorous spot for long.
When all is said and done, ordinary American conservatives worry about the growth in the size and power of government under Bush. They fret over mass immigration and the national identity and debt. Keeping what they earn and being able to secure life and property – with firearms – is still a priority. When plied with enough ale, conservatives will increasingly admit their jingoism is a function, not so much of their devotion to W’s Wilsonian wars, but of their patriotism, (unreciprocated) loyalty to the party they believed represented them, and a visceral loathing of the left.
Yes, left-liberals are a singularly charmless lot – in the U.S., Britain and everywhere else, for that matter. In Gabb’s assessment, the left’s “aim is to construct a new order in which – whatever its proposed merits – we shall have been stripped of our historic liberties and our national identity.” It is faced, however, with a paradox. Although the left has a tentacular grip on societal institutions, “It must rule a nation that, so long as it remains a nation, is strongly conservative.”
How has the Republican Party and its media lickspittles reconciled this paradox? Why, by reinventing themselves as the “Quisling Right.”
“A Quisling Rightist is someone who calls himself a Conservative,” observes Gabb. “When standing for office, he implies promises without making them. If pressed, he will make promises that he has no intention of keeping. If elected, he will make firm declarations of principle and argue over inessentials. His conservative politics are purely symbolic. Where essentials are concerned, he will do nothing to challenge the continued domination of the left. In return for this, he will be invited to the best parties and allowed endless time in the media. … He will be allowed income and status. He will earn this by systematically betraying those who trusted him to stand up for all that they held most dear this side of the grave.”
The Republican Quislings have contributed greatly to the convergence of left and right. What we have now is a cartel, the traditional ideological differences between the political parties having been permanently blurred (both Democrats and Republicans, for instance, see merit in wars for democracy, limitless immigration, and a massive expansion in Medicare and other entitlements). If anything, antitrust laws ought to be deployed, not against business, but to bust this two-party monopoly, which subverts competition in government and rewards the colluding quislings with sinecures in perpetuity.
As the reign of the Bush backstabbers draws to an end, we find ourselves “with still fewer of our historic liberties and still less of our national identity.” This being so, Gabb counsels against voting for the party that has broken all its promises so far. I agree; there is no reason for conservatives to vote for the Republican Party. “We in the conservative movement might as well vote for a party that says what we believe. That party will not win either, but at least our votes will be counted and recognized as a clear statement of opinion.”
To press the point, Gabb adds a Parthian shot: “If I must be destroyed, let me be speared in the front by someone who looks me in the eye and calls himself my enemy. Far better this than be garroted from behind by a supposed friend.”
Related special offer: