Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hijacking the Conservative Movement

Nowadays, in startling contrast to my youth, it’s very fashionable to claim to be a conservative. Back in the Sixties, conservatism was still rather a fugitive thing, and the fashion was liberalism or even radicalism. By the late Eighties, liberal had become “the L-word,” and liberals were looking for a less alarming euphemism, such as progressive. As I say, the change is startling.

But have things really changed that much? Or is the change really superficial? I’m afraid the latter is the case. The airwaves are clogged with the clamorous voices of talk radio, or “squawk radio,” as I like to call it — people claiming to be conservative, though they don’t sound much like the great conservatives I grew up admiring: Bill Buckley, Frank Meyer, James Burnham, Russell Kirk, Willmoore Kendall, and Barry Goldwater, to name a few.

In fact many of today’s so-called conservatives seem to me to be liberals without knowing it, no matter how much they say they detest liberalism. Rush Limbaugh, to name only the most audible of them, seems to have no real philosophy, no awareness of conservative literature outside journalism. His premises are hard to distinguish from liberalism’s. Apparently he equates favoring war with conservatism. He likes big government just fine, as long as it’s shooting something. He says the Republican Party will save Social Security and Medicare, huge liberal programs which a real conservative thinks shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Sometimes, after listening to him for a half hour, I want to beg him, “Rush, how about equal time for real conservatism?”

Well, just what is “real” conservatism? This is an old question, much debated. Dictionaries define it in such terms as “preference for tradition” and “resistance to change,” but these are too general to take us very far. After all, nearly everyone wants to preserve some tradition and opposes some kinds of change, and people we call conservatives often want to do away with certain traditions and bring about important changes.   (more...)

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