THE CONSCIENCE OF AN EX-CON
Limited government? Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Big Jess Helms and the rest, for all their hyperventilated rhetoric, couldn't even defund the National Endowment for the Arts. George W. Bush used to speak of "growing the government responsibly." Now it just grows.But, wait, there's more on the real problem with the conservative movement (neocon or otherwise):
Civil liberties? Like limited government, this commitment now resides with the libertarians, a pert little faction composed mostly of people who, when told about something going on in the world, reply, "Yes, but how would it work in theory?" Blessings on the American Civil Liberties Union for its activism and its questioning, and on some right-libertarian single-issue groups. But that's just another way of saying that, like downsizing Leviathan, upgrading freedom is no longer a significant conservative concern.
Seriously lower, majorly simplified taxes? Ask Steve Forbes.
A foreign policy that does not presume the world is ours to remodel and redeem as we please, and that our resources of coercion and control are limitless? Conservatism once cherished a sense of modesty, disdaining attempts to root up societies and force people to be free. But now, according to the imperial conservatives, history begins again with us. The Beltway catchphrase du jour: "Hard Wilsonianism." Perhaps they should study Mr. Wilson, and the mess he made, a bit more closely.
A cultural commitment to tolerance, appreciation of difference and an inviolable private realm? Why are we even asking this question?
After 30 years, I realized why. Deep down, these people - these people who can be so gracious and so decent in their personal lives - believe that they’ve been deprived of their proper place at the center of the universe. Deep down, they know that, were the world right, everyone would be like them, or at least aspire, or pretend to aspire, to be like them.The Brat Pack, a phrase we hereby adopt for use by Libertarian Jackass & Friends in deriding the young, "hip" conservatives: Goldberg, Lowry.
Or be compelled to be like them.
Some hate. Others stop at ressentiment. Many would deny that they feel either. But the bitterness of The Sneer too often belies them.
So what went wrong with conservatism? A complex question amenable to a simple answer. It went wrong because it failed and it succeeded. Culturally, it failed utterly to march the country back to an idealized past that never existed. Politically, it failed to implement its traditional agenda.
But it also succeeded. It became Important. Until Reagan, until Gingrich, until the big-money think tanks and media stars, conservatism saw itself as, and was, a minority movement. It still is. But that minority now disposes of a high-viz elite, serious cash and real power.
Power corrupts. It corrupts especially when you’ve got it, but can’t seem to accomplish what you set out to do, and you've jettisoned your ideals somewhere along the way, but can't quite face the fact.
So what's the future of conservatism? It's still fractionated, of course, but this time into sects and subsects of increasingly ugly demeanor. The Birchers and the militias were peripheral. These are not.
Intellectually, there's a two-tier star system. Call it the Senior Usuals and the Brat Pack, a mess of younger pundits and "public intellectuals" not nearly as profound or as clever as they like to think they are, but adept enough at telling the media and the funders what they want to hear the way they want to hear it.
Finally, he claims that "Buchananism" (which attracted the Jackass from a young age after watching Pat take on Bush I) has the "right questions, wrong answers." Maybe, but I'll accept any questioning of the biggest government in the history of the world, something both the right and left fail to make an attempt at presently. Look at this hilarious post from Yglesias as evidence: "I, on the other hand, am quite sympathetic to the aims of the war, given a general description."