One of the worst aspects of conservative “activism” is (a) the dominance of beltway pundits and their utter disconnect from the “tea party” crowd, and in particular the beltway’s contempt for the latter’s untutored and more tribal and culture-focused conservatism and (b) the right’s divisions and internal enmity, which prevents practical coalition building against a common enemy: liberalism, its welfare state, and its numerous toxic cultural organs.
Conservatism is a simple and widely held view, which need not be philosophical, strictly speaking. It takes nothing more than a recognition that life used to be more orderly and civilized, where such awareness comes from living memory and things easily discovered in books and conversation, coupled with contempt and hostility to those who seek more, similar changes.
Our forbears who opposed Soviet Communism had a similar problem, which is at once encouraging and sobering, when we take account of the longevity of the Soviet regime. Consider this passage from the Age of Delirium, which chronicled the later years of the Soviet Union:
[T]here was moral political unity in the Soviet Union but not behind Marxism-Leninism. The unity existed behind the desire to live according to an idea and to force all others to do likewise. It was the drive towards unanimity that explained some of the negative characteristics of the dissident milieu, which was permeated with rumor-mongering and intrigues and divided by intolerance and sectarianism. . . .
The ideological atmosphere of Soviet society was reflected in relations between people who concerned themselves in any way with politics. Among such people–and this category included the majority of the unofficial intelligentsia–friendship almost always had connotations of comradeship and its demands for uncritical idealization. The intensity fo these friendships was evident among dissents who formed an extended family on political grounds, virtually living at each other’s houses, exhibiting photographs of each other, and interesting themselves deeply in each other’s personal affairs. It went without saying that this type of friendship became insupportable if there was the slightest change in the political outlook of the parties. Under those circumstances, a disagreement between friends was understood as a betrayal, and the closest friendship could turn into the most unforgiving enmity, with people suddenly waking up to and expatiating at length about the repulsive and despicable personality traits they had overlooked for years when the object of such an attacks was a close and valued friend.
What can we learn from this? First, we should not indulge in foolish and petty infighting, particularly with those such as libertarians who have no constituency, natural or otherwise. Yes, we should disassociate from those who would raise a false flag, such as neoconservatives, who have to some extent undermined real conservatism from within and diverted it to unnatural ends like endless Mideast Wars or conflict with Russia or open borders. But we should spend more of our time and energy where the utterly disreputable politics of the far left is ascendent and also unpopular, such as immigration and health care.
Let’s learn from the relative success of our ideological adversaries at home. How did they proceed? Most notably, the Left advanced for many years on many fronts, slowly chipping away at the status quo with the lever of common American principles, such as equality and due process. But they always have upped the ante upon success. Consider the dramatic change in sexual mores and the rules regarding the same. First, they argued for a constitutional right for birth control for the married. Then the unmarried. Then abortion. And now we are seriously debating gay “marriage.” This is a slow motion cultural revolution.
Under the successful leftist campaign, the newspapers, media, universities, political fundraising, and public schools all have been put to work to discredit our past, expose (and distort) its alleged flaws, replace our former authorities, destroy our economic independence, take away our guns, distract us with sensation and materialism and a lack of tribal unity, and generally move step by step towards their goals. (By contrast, the right has won back the right to bear arms through a similar strategy in reverse, focusing activism and money state-by-state.)
In other words, the left’s biggest triumphs have not been through symbolic violence by extremists far in front of the cultural mainstream–like the work of the Wobblies or Haymarket Square bombers–but rather the drumbeat of Gloria Steinem, Boasian anthropology, Freudian psychology, Keynesian economics, the haggiography of MLK, and the leaderless ideology of diversity and multiculturalism. And the culmination: a culture defined by the values of Hollywood, the crony capitalism of Wall Street, and the Manchurian presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.
Something like this in reverse is the answer, and, like the Left’s successes, will depend on some luck, circumstances, public relations and intellectual efforts nationally, and a certain degree of organizing locally. The stated goals of the left must be exposed, as must their bad faith. While there are many obstacles, there is much to work with for conservatives seeking national renewal, not least the dissatisfaction with Obama’s fiscal profligacy, his (and the neoconservatives’) open borders extremism, the Democrats’ excessive concern for America’s black minority, their contempt for our economic independence and historical freedoms, their lack of patriotism and their lack of hatred for our enemies, their hostility to Christians and rural Americans, their dominance by unrepresentative and hostile minority factions, and much else. In other words, we need to hack away at the Left on those fronts where there is a majority, or at least strong plurality of support, rather than indulging in silly fantasies of revolutionary violence, the creation of a new pagan or quasi-scientific right wing that is anti-Christian (i.e., against 80% of the country), or the Rockefeller Republican strategy of compromise with our enemies, who will only respond by asking for more next time around.
That all said, arguing with crazies or getting caught up in distractions like the cult of Charles Johnson (the erstwhile militant neocon at LGF) or crackpots on the neo-nazi movement is a big waste of time. Let’s instead speak to normal people on those areas where we agree and cooperate today, even if we must part ways and have smaller, more manageable disagreements about finer points of policy and strategy, tomorrow.