Wednesday, September 28, 2022

What Does Fidelity to Our Founding Principles Require Today?

From Michael Anton, at American Greatness, "If historicism is false, then the American system can be lost. Tyranny can recur. But do conservatives see this?":

We’re all political people here, right? So we all know Senator Pat Geary? No?

He’s the Nevada senator portrayed at the beginning of “Godfather II.” He tells Michael Corleone, “I intend to speak very frankly to you—maybe more frankly than anyone in my position’s ever talked to you.” He tries to blackmail a mob boss and later ends up in bed with a dead hooker. I believe he was also a Democrat. So just about the only thing I have in common with Senator Geary is that I intend to speak very frankly to you.

What does fidelity to our founding principles require today? Let me begin to answer that question with a quote—perhaps a familiar quote to some or most of you. But it’s apt, and there’s always a chance some of you haven’t heard it, and/or that others can use a refresher.

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types—the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.

Those words were spoken by G.K. Chesterton, a Brit, in 1924. He was speaking of the British Constitution, not ours. But the words strike me as especially apt to our situation.

What have our conservatives conserved? But before we answer that—hint: almost nothing—let’s first ask: what were they supposed to conserve? What do they say they are conserving in all those fundraising letters they send out that have been netting them hundreds of millions per year for most of my lifetime?

First of all, the physical territory of the United States. OK, so far so good. That at least has been conserved. And given conservative support for the military and our posture during the Cold War, it’s at least plausible that conservatives had something to do with that.

Second of all, the people. Are they doing so well?

We actually have declining life expectancies in America. We’re the only nominally “first world” country that can say that. China, with a per capita income one-fifth of ours, recently passed the United States in life expectancy.

Birth rates here have crashed. Deaths of despair—opioids, alcoholism, and the like—are soaring. Religiosity is down. Marriage is down. Divorce at least isn’t up from its 1980 peak, but it’s still endemic.

You might say that conservatives are not at fault for all this—fair enough. But their stated purpose is to conserve—and it’s rather evident they’ve failed to conserve these aspects of decent human life. That’s before we even get to demographic transformation, one of those things that is both not happening, and it’s great that it is.

Third, I would say, is the American way of life. Some of that is covered in what I just said. But there are others, for instance the total unaffordability of housing, especially for younger people. It’s impossible for average earners now to buy, except in the very cheapest markets, which also happen to be where there are the fewest opportunities.

We may add to this deindustrialization, the decline of the middle class, wage stagnation, falling standards of living, and the increasing necessity of a college degree in the job market—at a time when colleges teach less and less, charge more and more, and vacuum up middle class wealth to enrich what are effectively hedge funds with bad schools attached.

Fourth—and certainly not least—is the American regime itself. Have we conserved that? Does it function as it was designed to do? As a political scientist, and as a historian of sorts before that, I find the question laughable. If any of you want to make the case that we still live in the founders’ regime, go ahead.

Meanwhile, I will tell you some of what I see. A giant, unaccountable, unelected fourth branch of government that does what it wants without input or supervision from the people, and that usurps executive, legislative, and judicial power. Rights are routinely trampled. Two-track justice—one standard for friends of the regime, another for its enemies—is now the norm. Just last week a man killed with his car a teenager for the “crime” of being Republican. He’s already out on bail. Meanwhile there are still dozens of January 6 protesters in pretrial detention for ridiculous noncrimes such as “parading.”

The Justice Department, FBI, CIA—all the security agencies—are out of control in attacking American citizens. The FBI is now doing SWAT raids for misdemeanors. Earlier this month, the president of the United States gave a speech calling half the American population enemies of the state. I could go on.

What is conservatism’s response to all this? What is the response of “the weasels, compromisers, mediocrities, and losers of the Republican-conservative-libertarian establishment”? Those are not my words, but I like them. They sum things up concisely, accurately, and vividly.

Conservatism’s response is to get angry. But not at any of these abuses or the people who commit them. No, rather it gets angry at people like Mollie Hemingway, Julie Kelly, and Heather Mac Donald (and others) who point out these outrageous abuses.

Conservatives have long believed that the noblest thing they can do is “police” their own side. The Left of course never does this. The Left works overtime to ensure that its people are excused of murder, arson, and rioting. Meanwhile, the conservatives eagerly seek the death penalty for their own over parking tickets.

Now, am I saying we should be like the Left? A little. We ought to be more loyal, for instance. I am not saying we should excuse arson and rioting—but that’s moot anyway since our side doesn’t do that, walking through doors held open by the Capitol Police notwithstanding.

For “conservatives,” the most heroic act of the 20th century was not D-Day or the moon landing but William F. Buckley, Jr. purging the Birchers. Hence, they’re always on the lookout for more purges. Whole careers and institutions are now made of this. Think of the Bulwark and the Dispatch—of Bill and Steve and Jonah and David and Kevin. All of these “conservatives” are now character assassins out to destroy the lives of anyone even a click to their right, many their former friends.

One thing I’ve noticed is that conservatives really get mad when you point out that people who treat you like enemies are, in fact, your enemies. Finally, the conservatives find a backbone, and righteous indignation! To refer to someone libeling you, trying to cancel you, calling for your “extirpation” and even assassination as an “enemy”? How dare you! Civility in politics above all else!

What explains this? Let me give you another quote, this one from a movie. Try to hear this in your head with Robert DeNiro’s accent:

I’m sorry, but he knew about our gettin’ hit on three big machines in a row and he did nothing about it. That means either he was in on it or, forgive me for saying this, he was too dumb to see what was going on. Either way, I cannot have a man like that workin’ here.

The operative phrase here being “in on it,” i.e., part of the operation to ensure that the Right is forever feckless and useless, and to destroy anyone on the Right who scores real points against our anti-conservative, anti-liberal, anti-American and—brace yourselves, I’m just going to say it—increasingly anti-white regime.

Actually, this is what gets the conservatives most upset: noticing that the regime is all of the above. Quoting the Left’s own radical words back to them makes conservatives apoplectic. Not with rage, exactly. I don’t think they have enough thumos for rage. But with a kind of terror. Oh no! He said it! Now they’ll really get mad! Let’s not rock the boat! Peace above all! ...

You gotta keep reading.