There was always a yin-yang thing to conservatism. Its hard-headedness and philosophical realism about human nature and the limits it imposes on utopian schemes appealed to some and repulsed others. For those who see politics as a romantic enterprise, a means of pursuing collective salvation, conservatism seems mean-spirited. As Emerson put it: “There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact.” That’s what Ben Shapiro is getting at when he says “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” The hitch is that the reverse is also true: Feelings don’t care about your facts. Tell a young progressive activist we can’t afford socialism and the response will be overtly or subliminally emotional: “Why don’t you care about poor people!” or “Why do you love billionaires!?”
.. What Is Neoconservatism?
Here’s the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia page for neoconservatism:
Neoconservatism (commonly shortened to neocon when labelling its adherents) is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among liberal hawkswho became disenchanted with the increasingly pacifist foreign policy of the Democratic Party, and the growing New Left and counterculture, in particular the Vietnam protests. Some also began to question their liberal beliefs regarding domestic policies such as the Great Society.
.. The first neocons were intellectual rebels against the Great Society and the leftward drift of American liberalism (The Public Interest, the first neocon journal, was launched in 1965. It was dedicated entirely to domestic affairs, not foreign policy). Unable to reconcile the facts with the feelings of liberalism, a host of intellectuals decided they would stick with the facts, even if it meant that former friends and allies would call them mean for doing so.
.. The Harrington essay that cemented the term “neoconservatism” in American discourse was titled “The Welfare State and Its Neoconservative Critics.” In other words, the original neoconservative critique wasn’t about foreign policy, but domestic policy.
.. According to William F. Buckley, the neoconservatives brought the rigor and language of sociology to conservatism, which until then had been overly, or at least too uniformly, Aristotelian. The Buckleyites (though certainly not folks like Burnham) tended to talk from first principles and natural laws and rights. The neocons looked at the data and discovered that the numbers tended to back up a lot of the things the Aristotelians had been saying... The idea that neoconservatism was primarily about foreign policy, specifically anti-Communism, further complicates things. Part of this is a by-product of the second wave of neoconservatives who joined the movement and the right in the 1970s, mostly through the pages of Commentary. These were rebels against not the welfare state but détente on the right and the radical anti-anti-Communists of the New Left (National Review ran a headline in 1971 on the awakening at Commentary: “Come on In, the Water’s Fine.”) Many of those writers, most famously Jeanne Kirkpatrick, ended up leading the intellectual shock troops of the Reagan administration.
It is certainly true that the foreign-policy neocons emphasized certain things more than generic conservatives, specifically the promotion of democracy abroad. In ill-intentioned hands, this fact is often used as a cover for invidious arguments about the how the neocons never really shed their Trotskyism and were still determined to “export revolution.” But for the most part, it can’t be supported by what these people actually wrote. Moreover, the idea that only neocons care about promoting democracy simply glosses over everything from the stated purpose of the First World War, the Marshall Plan, stuff like JFK’s inaugural address (“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”), and this thing called the Reagan Doctrine... And then there are the Joooooz. Outside of deranged comment sections and the swampy ecosystems of the “alt-right,” the sinister version of this theory is usually only hinted at or alluded to. Neocons only care about Israel is the Trojan horse that lets people get away with not saying the J-word. Those bagel-snarfing warmongers want real Americans to do their fighting for them. Pat Buchanan, when opposing the first Gulf War in 1992, listed only Jewish supporters of the war and then said they’d be sending “American kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown” to do the fighting. Subtle... In his memoir, Irving Kristol, “the Godfather of the Neoconservatives,” argued that the movement had run its course and dissolved into the conservative movement generally.So today, neoconservatism has become what it started out as, an invidious term used by its opponents to single out and demonize people as inauthentic, un-American, unreliable, or otherwise suspicious heretics, traitors, or string-pullers. The chief difference is that they were once aliens in the midst of liberalism, now they are called aliens in the midst of conservatism. And it’s all bullsh**... The editor of American Greatness, a journal whose tagline should be “Coming Up with Reasons Why Donald Trump’s Sh** Doesn’t Stink 24/7” opens with “Neoconservatism is dead, long live American conservatism” and then, amazingly, proceeds to get dumber... A bit further on, he asserts that “for years, neoconservatives undermined and discredited the work of conservatives from Lincoln to Reagan . . .” This is so profoundly unserious that not only is it impossible to know where to begin, it’s a struggle to finish the sentence for fear the stupid will rub off. Does he have in mind the Straussians (Walter Berns, Robert Goldwin, et al.) at that neocon nest the American Enterprise Institute who wrote lovingly about Lincoln at book length for decades?
And what of the scores of neoconservatives who worked for Ronald Reagan and helped him advance the Reaganite agenda? Were they all fifth columnists? Or perhaps they were parasites attaching themselves to a “host organism,” as Buskirk repugnantly describes Kristol?
He doesn’t say, because Buskirk doesn’t rely on an argument. Save for a couple of Bill Kristol tweets out of context, he cites no writing and marshals no evidence. Instead, he lets a wink, or rather the stink, do all of his work. He knows his readers want to hear folderol about neocons. He knows they have their own insidious definitions of what they are and crave to have them confirmed. Bringing any definition or fact to his argument would get in the way of his naked assertions and slimy insinuations... American Greatness ran a piecefloating the idea that Trump’s “covfefe” tweet just might have been a brilliant piece of historically and linguistically literate statecraft. That’s actually plausible compared to the idea that Trump is Moses saving conservatism from a “a purified strain of backward idolatry.”
.. Who is in conflict with the best principles of America: the magazine that for 23 years lionized the founders, Lincoln, and Reagan or the website that rationalizes literally anything Donald Trump does — from crony capitalism to denigrating the First Amendment to paying off porn stars — as either the inventions of his enemies or a small price to pay for national greatness? Not every contributor to American Greatness is dedicated to the art of turd polishing, but that is the site’s larger mission.
.. Trump’s sense of persecution is as contagious as his debating style. Facts are being subordinated to feelings, and the dominant feelings among many Trumpists are simply ugly. And even those who have not turned ugly see no problem working hand in hand with those who have. And how could they, given who they herald as their Moses.
Steve Bannon doesn’t do subtle. So it’s no surprise that there’s nothing subtle about the new movie President Trump’s onetime political guru has produced to energize the Trump base for this year’s midterm elections.
It’s entitled “Trump at War,” and it’s an hour and 15 minutes of pure Trumpian adrenaline. It opens with a series of shots of Trump supporters being attacked by angry opponents, shifts to outtakes of Trump supporters proudly accepting the “deplorables” label bestowed by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, runs through a long series of angry ripostes at Trump detractors and praise of administration policy moves, and closes with dire warnings of the need to vote for Republicans in 2018 to head off efforts by liberals to impeach the president.
Mr. Bannon previewed the film for some Republican supporters in Dallas recently, but the big premiere is scheduled for Sept. 9—chosen because it is the second anniversary of the speech in which Mrs. Clinton used the “basket of deplorables” phrase. The location? The very club in Manhattan where Mrs. Clinton made the speech, which has been rented for the occasion.
.. Republicans face a Democratic party whose activists appear exceptionally motivated—to campaign, donate money and turn out in November.
Republicans need something to match that fervor. That something is the Trump base—and the best motivating tools are anger and fear.
.. In this case, that means specifically the fear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, New York prosecutors and a Democratic Congress will conspire to kick Mr. Trump out of office. That’s why Republicans are talking about the specter of impeachment, not Democrats. Democrats know impeachment talk is a surefire way to motivate the other side.
.. Right now, independent voters are hard to read. Their sentiments have been shifting around a lot in Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling in recent months. As a general rule, they have a low regard for Mr. Trump personally and appear weary of the atmosphere of constant crisis around him. But the polling also indicates they increasingly like how Republicans are handling the economy, appreciate the GOP tax cut and think the party is changing the way things work in Washington.
That leaves moderate Republicans, of whom Mr. Bannon says simply: “We need RINOs.”
.. More conventional Republicans may be disdainful of Mr. Trump personally, but they also think the tax cuts, deregulatory policies and judicial nominations they like are imperiled if he goes down.
.. For the Trump base, impeachment talk is a source of outrage. Soft Republicans dislike it for less emotional, more practical reasons.
Fox News contributor says the critics of President Trump have become unhinged.
And a backlash against liberals — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing — is going to get President Trump re-elected.
People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.
.. Liberals dominate the entertainment industry, many of the most influential news sources and America’s universities. This means that people with progressive leanings are everywhere in the public eye — and are also on the college campuses attended by many people’s children or grandkids. These platforms come with a lot of power to express values, confer credibility and celebrity and start national conversations that others really can’t ignore.
But this makes liberals feel more powerful than they are. Or, more accurately, this kind of power is double-edged. Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be. In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.
In fact, liberals may be more effective at causing resentment than in getting people to come their way. I’m not talking about the possibility that jokes at the 2011 correspondents’ association dinner may have pushed Mr. Trump to run for president to begin with. I mean that the “army of comedy” that Michael Moore thought would bring Mr. Trump down will instead be what builds him up in the minds of millions of voters.
.. Some liberals have gotten far out ahead of their fellow Americans but are nonetheless quick to criticize those who haven’t caught up with them.
.. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women.
.. Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.
.. This judgmental tendency became stronger during the administration of President Barack Obama, though not necessarily because of anything Mr. Obama did. Feeling increasingly emboldened, liberals were more convinced than ever that conservatives were their intellectual and even moral inferiors.
.. college campuses — which many take to be what a world run by liberals would look like — seemed increasingly intolerant of free inquiry.
.. It was during these years that the University of California included the phrase “America is the land of opportunity” on a list of discouraged microaggressions.
.. Champions of inclusion can watch what they say and explain what they’re doing without presuming to regulate what words come out of other people’s mouths. Campus activists can allow invited visitors to speak and then, after that event, hold a teach-in discussing what they disagree with. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states had to allow same-sex marriage, the fight, in some quarters, turned to pizza places unwilling to cater such weddings. Maybe don’t pick that fight?
.. Liberals can act as if they’re not so certain — and maybe actually not be so certain — that bigotry motivates people who disagree with them on issues like immigration.
.. Without sacrificing their principles, liberals can come across as more respectful of others. Self-righteousness is rarely attractive, and even more rarely rewarded.
.. many liberals seem primed to write off nearly half the country as irredeemable.
.. But it is an unjustified leap to conclude that anyone who supports him in any way is racist, just as it would be a leap to say that anyone who supported Hillary Clinton was racist because she once made veiled references to “superpredators.”
Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America.
the other day, EJ Dionne praised a piece by Ramesh and me on the need to criticize Trump. I responded:Thanks.
That’s fine and I agree (and have been). But I think liberals should also think about how they invited the backlash that Trump rode. There’s plenty of blame across the ideological spectrum.
My tweet elicited a torrent of question-begging, self-righteous bilge from liberals who couldn’t imagine that liberals have any role in the mess that we are in. Assaults on free speech, the constant mockery and condescension from the commanding heights of Blue America, the refusal to consider any reasonable reforms to immigration, Hillary Clinton’s dynastic entitlement and contempt for “deplorables,” and the pushing of identity politics seem always to be noble do-goodery without a smidgen of overreach.
.. Michael Anton, who penned “The Flight 93 Election” back when he was hiding behind a pen-name, articulated very well in an exchange with me what millions of conservatives believe to be true:
The old American ideal of judging individuals and not groups, content-of-character-not-color-of-skin, is dead, dead, dead. Dead as a matter of politics, policy and culture. The left plays by new rules. The right still plays by the old rules. The left laughs at us for it — but also demands that we keep to that rulebook. They don’t even bother to cheat. They proclaim outright that “these rules don’t apply to our side.”
.. I disagree with Anton’s prescription — to surrender to identity politics and cheat the way our “enemies” do — but I cannot argue much with this description of a widespread mindset. Many on the right are surrendering to the logic of the mob because they are sick of double standards. Again, I disagree with the decision to surrender, but I certainly empathize with the temptation. The Left and the mainstream media can’t even see how they don’t want to simply win, they want to force people to celebrate their victories (“You will be made to care!”). It isn’t forced conversion at the tip of a sword, but at the blunt edge of a virtual mob.
.. Kevin Williamson’s views on abortion put him outside the mainstream. And he was fired from The Atlantic merely for refusing to recant them.
Meanwhile, extreme views on the left are simply hot takes or even signs of genius. Take the philosopher Peter Singer. He has at least as extreme views on a host of issues, and he is feted and celebrated for them. He is the author of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on “Ethics.” He holds an endowed chair at Princeton. He writes regularly for leading publications. And he argues that sometimes it’s okay to kill babies, as in his essay “Killing Babies Isn’t Always Wrong.” “Newborn human babies,” he writes, “have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.” He cutely asks whether people should cease to exist. (He ultimately and grudgingly answers “No.”) Oh, he also argues in favor of bestiality.
And he’s been profiled favorably in the pages of The Atlantic.
This tribune of the common folk and their earnest ways allegedly preyed on the unprotected.
.. There is another reason Republican and conservative women should rise up. It has to do with the victims Moore chose.
Who were the girls he targeted? Interestingly, this tribune of the common folk and their earnest, believing ways allegedly preyed mostly on the unprotected. He chose young women he could push around. Some came to him at his law office, bringing with them all the problems of broken America—child-custody fights, violent divorces, bounced checks. They worked at Red Lobster, at a mill, on the night shift at Sears.
A thing about predators, from the men of the Catholic Church sex scandals to the man cruising the mall, is that they never prey on the protected. They don’t prey on the daughter of the biggest family in town, the child of the man who owns the factory or the local newspaper. They tend to prey on kids with no father in the home
.. Often the victims had had brushes with the law. Predators can smell that: It means no one will believe them if they talk.
Roy Moore targeted the deplorables. They were people with no sway, no pull. Some of them, in the presidential election, voted for Donald Trump.
Democrats need to recognize a profound voter shift that has been under way since 1968 and is centered on cultural issues.
Three statements in recent years illustrate why former Democratic voters have abandoned their party.
- First, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign remark that small-town Americans “cling to guns and religion.”
- Second, Michelle Obama’s statement, also in 2008, that “for the first time in my adult lifetime I am proud of my country.”
- Third, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 characterization of Trump supporters as “deplorables”: “They are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”.. Alienated by street and campus riots and disorder, these voters bought into the Nixon/Wallace law-and-order themes. Some also were attracted to their message that Great Society programs had overreached...They opposed the Vietnam War. But they were mostly interested in cultural and lifestyle issues—“
- amnesty and
- abortion,”as Republicans called them, picking up a line that turned out to have originated with McGovern’s first running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton. Those Democrats gave short shrift to jobs, economic growth, public safety and other traditional voter concerns... The answer to this crisis does not lie in cries of black victimization by police or other authorities. It lies instead with tangible, practical programs like those we launched in the 1960s. We purposely sought bipartisan sponsorship in Congress and enlisted labor, business, academic and other support in society more broadly... Many probably sensed that chaos and fumbling would follow. By their lights, it was an acceptable price to pay to rid themselves of leaders who had forgotten them.
..Congressional Democrats are right to begin construction of an alternative agenda. But as they do so, they must recognize that most Americans are not racist, sexist, ignorant or opposed to alternative lifestyles. Most largely accept the cultural and social changes of the past half-century. To recapture traditional Democratic voters, and attract new ones, Democrats must learn empathy for those who believe they are being mocked for
- working hard,
- going to church,
- serving in the military, and
- trying to instill moral standards in their children.
.. do not view them as cultural inferiors to be manipulated in campaign years. President Trump is not our problem.