Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Imbecilization Of Conservatism


Andrew Coyne was not impressed with what Stephen Harper did to conservatism. And he's not impressed with what Donald Trump is doing to it. Both men, he writes, merged populism with conservatism. The two concepts really have little to do with one another:

The great blurring in our time is the collapse of conservatism into populism, most notably in the Trump takeover of the Republican party, but also visible in the style and rhetoric of the Harper government. Last week’s Manning Centre Conference seemed to confer respectability on the merger, as did the conspicuous embrace of Trump, and Trumpism, at the same week’s Conservative Political Action Conference south of the border.

Modern conservatives divide the world into  Us and Them:

Of late, the number of Thems has expanded. They threaten Us not only from the right but from the left: not only Big Business, but also Big Labour, or Big Government and its apparatus, bureaucrats, activist groups, lawyers, and so forth. When fused with nationalism, populism acquires a whole catalogue of additional Thems: refugees, Muslims, immigrants of all kinds. 

And, to make matters worse, modern conservatives have become Know Nothings:

Skepticism of received opinion has curdled into automatic rejection of anything experts know or believe, or that the media reports: an ordinary alertness to the ways a reporter can get things wrong or the leanings of a particular outlet has been replaced by a childish belief that “the media,” all of it, is engaged in a one-sided conspiracy to deceive the public, of which any story the reader does not like is taken as evidence. In its most extreme form, this becomes indistinguishable from lefty post-modernists who reject the very idea of truth; the populist dismissal of any argument that originates with a member of the “elite” is akin to the left’s “white male” sneer as ways of denying standing to an opponent.

Conservatism -- true conservatism -- rejects both these tenets:

At bottom, modern conservatism is rooted in the idea of a society composed of individuals of equal worth and dignity, each the unique intersection of any number of different intermediary group affiliations, and as such transcending all of them: bound together, that is, by their common uniqueness. There is no Us and Them in such a vision of society, and conservatives should reject a politics based on such divisions, whether it comes from the right or the left.

Modern conservatism has been set adrift from its moorings. It's simply not what it pretends to be. Like its most visible representative -- Mr. Trump -- it's a fraud.

6 comments:

Kirby Evans said...

Coyne has some of this stuff right. But like many rightwing pseudo intellectualso, he really shouldn't delve into the so-called lefty, "post-modernist" realm. It is an area that even his one remark here demonstrates that he doesn't even vaguely understand.

Owen Gray said...

Coyne will never give the left credit, Kirby. But, to his own credit, he won't be hosed by the foggy nostrums of many of the spokesmen for modern "conservatism."

The Mound of Sound said...


Coyne's latter day epiphany is interesting, Owen. Is he about to switch polarity? It's a common affliction. We're all pretty dissatisfied with our political representation. We can no longer avoid this great chasm that's opened up between the populace and those we've elected to represent us.

Steve said...

I would rather be ruled by the first 420 names in the phonebook than the US congress. That was William F Buckley's tag line. (more or less) The sad fact is it is true. The problem is our politicians are dropping the ball so hard its breaking the floor. The Ontarion liberals are a case in point. They are so incompetent and alledgedly corrupt that there is no choice but to change horses, but the NDP offer me nothing, Patrick Brown makes me think of the British TV series the Prisioner, where he is forced to be Premier despite the fact he does not know what to believe.

WE NEED ELECTORIAL REFORM NOW, lets stop with these medieval systems.

Owen Gray said...

That's an interesting question, Mound. There are times in history when the ancien regime crumbles. That seems to be happening in lots of places these days.

Owen Gray said...

You're echoing what the Mound of Sound says, Steve. There is lots of dissatisfaction in the air these days.