Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Bigger Task for Conservatism

Powerline contributer Steven Hayward asks today "How Did the Left Get the Drop on Us" after the resounding conservative victory of the Reagan years? His answer is that we conservatives assumed we had won the victory of the big ideas and just needed to work out the details.

And it was easy to argue against socialism and its totalitarianism during the Cold War rather than against the amorphous and contradictory mess of the welfare state.

I would disagree with this line. I have always felt, going back to the Reagan years, that conservatism needed a much broader and deeper foundation than the Reagan revolution provided. I felt that, without a strong moral/cultural movement, the Reagan revolution would lack staying power. Even so, I have been surprised by the ease with which the left has rolled back the culture and economics of the Reagan years.

In retrospect, the success of the revanchist left is not so surprising. Educated people, the ones that write and talk, are all raised in a liberal culture and really know nothing other than the platitudes they learned in their student years and that roll forth from the media and the New York Times and NPR. The average educated person has never encountered "conservative" ideas and has no basis for critiquing, e.g., the politicization of mortgage credit that led to the Crash of 2008 and the conversion of the banking industry into a regulated industry by Dodd-Frank. Nor could they possess the knowledge that an administrative-bureaucratic initiative like Obamacare would be bound to fail, because Hayek.

Also, the collapse of conventional Christian religious belief has left a hole that had to be filled by something. People that don't believe in God don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

That is why I have been interested in books like Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform by William G. McLoughlin, who argues that every period of political reform in the United States has been preceded by a religious revival or Awakening. That is why my bible is The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism by Michael Novak, which argues for what I call a Greater Separation of Powers between the political sector, the economic sector, and the moral/cultural sector of society. That is why I believe in the late Andrew Breitbart's dictum that politics is downstream from culture.

That is why I have written my American Manifesto, to imagine the possibility of an America after the collapse of the welfare state.

But what I have not been able to imagine is a religious movement to counter the secular religion of political correctness that has rolled over America and the west since the end of the Reagan years. We all know what political correctness is about; it is a reformulation of the totalitarian culture of Marxism based on race, sex, and economic identity rather than the pure economic class conflict of the original Marxian program. It uses all the tools of religion, from the building of an orthodoxy of correct opinion to the hounding of heretics with its Social Justice Warrior Inquisition; it is religion in everyting but name.

I have analyzed society into three parts, with my Three Peoples theory, and I have posted a dire warning to all those that trade their birthrights for a mess of pottage as the "little darlings" of the ruling class. But what I do not see is the moral/cultural or religious awakening that could challenge the PC culture and then move into a great reform era to end the cruelty and injustice of Big Government.

Obviously the Trump phenomenon in the US and the rise of nationalist parties in Europe reflect the bankruptcy of our current transnational ruling class with its foolish conceit that it can rule without the political advice and consent of ordinary people and can mix the world's peoples together and remain in control of the ensuing cultural mashup. But this neo-nationalist movement seems to be political rather than cultural, so it ignores the Breitbart dictum that politics is downstream from culture. Indeed, all observers agree that the Trump phenomenon is populist, a mere rebellion of the people against the ruling class, rather than a revolution in thinking.

Possibly the moral/cultural movment is already aborning, and staring us in the face, and we cannot see it because we are blind to it, being old and set in our ways.

And probably nothing will change until the present ruling class runs out of other peoples' money. After all, the French Revolution could never have happened without the Bourbons running out of money to fight against the Brits in the Second Hundred Years War. And the Bolshevik Revolution would never have happened without the Romanovs running out of money in World War I. And the Reagan revolution could never have happened without the stagflation of the Carter years.

But who can wish for revolution? It is grand to imagine the humiliation of today's rulers, but not to experience the reality of revolution and armed teenagers in the streets.

So there is no alternative to plugging away, trying to imagine a cultural and moral and religious awakening that will inspire the American people to reject the soft totalitarianism of Obamism and the conceits of left-wing activism.

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