Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some Problems On Our Right

I have since as far back as I can remember been associated with the Right by those who know me. That was primarily because of my archly conservative nature compared within my family and circle of friends. Still, because of familial influences, I considered myself a liberal politically up to 1972. I knew of one vocal conservative in high school, and that was from a distance. My exposure to Right thinking was pretty much limited to warnings from my Dad about using my common sense. What more need be said for the well-rounded (not!) early 60s secondary education on Long Island?

It was in my freshman year at Michigan when the first Teach-Ins were staged that my conservative nature began to kick back in to affect my political viewpoint. But even after witnessing those early Viet Nam war protesters and how quickly they turned viciously anti-liberal on anyone who dared question them earnestly, I was slow to associate their behavior with what liberal politics was becoming.

That was mostly because I was somewhat oblivious to the blow-hards. The presence of the Right on any campus stage was almost non-existent except for the engineering students in general who would turn up for student votes in large numbers and set-back the hopes of the radicals, who were mostly from the school of Literature, Science and the Arts. That is when they weren't "professional students" like Tom Haydn (Did he ever earn a degree?) and others in his chapter of SDS. The campus Leftists would mostly rejoin after every student defeat of whatever anti-war, anti-American resolution they tried to foist with the threat ( I can still hear her raspy whine today) "oh, we will educate you." (It is now too apparently clear what it was they were planning to take over -- everything linked to education. Too bad I was unaware back then of C.S.Lewis' lecture Men Without Chests.)

I started to write simply what is to immediately follow, and decided to fill in the above background first. Go figure how my own mind works. It surprises me constantly. I guess this is the price I ask of my readers if I'm going to write more material.

Some problems I identify on the Right.
  • Too calm for our own good. Almost always arguing with a calm facade when it takes thoughts like that expressed by Michael Savage (but too polite or fearful to admit it) to drive many people to act against even the worst affronts by the Left. The Right needs less "country-club rules of behavior" Republicans and more street fighters to be installed in GOP leadership if the GOP is to mean anything. God grant us far less Bushes and at least one more Reagan.
  • The Right's kowtowing to the mythical political center voter. Provide leadership and the Right will shift the center to the right rather than letting radical Leftists dictate the march. The Political Center is hardly middle politically since even yesterday. It is left of last week, and widely left of last year. The term Progressive was used for self-description by left-leaning Republicans even before the Dems abandoned their Liberal label (because by their owning it they had made it a dirty word) to try and gain some ground under Progressive (before they brought a pejorative sense to that word too). The Right needs to strip much if not all of the authority it has allowed its Progressives because they keep forcing the party to move Left and thus allowing the middle to shift left. WTF are you saying Pascal? I am saying that our society is being dragged left because the Dems and the GOP Progressives are constantly placating the Left fringe. And then they have the balls to call progressive their stupid responses to anecdotal hardships both real and staged, and their cowardly giving into interest group tantrums and threats of even wilder antisocial behavior. Or is it really stupid and cowardly? I think that perception most heavily depends on which side of the tax bill and liberty infringements you are sitting on. It is hardly news that both government lovers and corporate financiers gain when the central government grows. But the depth of the corruption brings on more corruption because govt's vast inefficiencies guarantee that the bulk of the largess and power will go to the providers of whatever service yesterday's radicals had been given the microphone to ask for. The perpetual charade of responding to radical demands is insane only to the taxpayers, not to the taxers. We are funding our own long term destruction for the short term feather-bedding of those whom we allow to run our institutions.
  • Who today on the Right, in a notable leadership position, is arguing consistently at all the last highlighted segment of my last point? It is maybe the biggest problem of the Right that I do not know of a single one.

Regarding that last point. C'mon you allegedly brilliant writers on the Right out there: show me how wrong I am.


  1. Thanks Og. But I think it's too early to say it's nicely effective. Let's pray that one or more of our better writers will help broadcast these failings out so they can't be ducked any longer. If we hear Progressives on the Right still getting away with calling themselves conservatives, we have failed.

  2. Pascal;

    I think your major points are covered by a lot of what Rush preaches -- especially the notion that Republicans appeal too much (and to no good effect) to so-called "moderates."

    I am minded of the doctrinal line from WFB -- what is not explicitly conservative in culture or public policy will inevitably become liberal.

    I do however have some sympathy for those who find Savage, Coulter, et al hard to swallow. I think a lot can be garnered from the notion that you don't so much capture success as you attract it -- by being a more-attractive person. The shrillness of some of our more colorful characters can be off-putting. And a lot of what made Reagan so attractive was his equanimity, optimism, and good humor.

    Of course, I need to work real hard on that myself. Heh.

    I think it might be an interesting dialectical exercise for conservatives to steal the "progressive" tag from the Left. After all, their policies are in reality retrograde -- feudalist, even -- while ours are representative of true progress... toward the enhancement of individual lives.


  3. Mark,

    All good points you've made. I gotta remember to come back to your comment to use as launch point for a rant that's been brewing in my skull about progressives and progressivism as it now stands.

    I'm not advocating Savage and Coulter as leaders we follow. I consistently look at them more as riding point on the various frontiers of political confrontation. (And I think you already know that from my comments at your site, but my new readers might not, so you make a good point). They dare cross where most of us fear to tread. It is the rare frontiersman who alone gets to reclaim territory from the encroachers on civilization -- they need the rest of us to learn from their efforts.

    So maybe it is wise to convince our brothers to think of them more as drill sergeants who train our brains not to fear to go where our generation has never gone before. Savage himself has long said not to take him too seriously (psychological nudity). I've known men like him who take an avuncular approach to children they are fond of. "But you go and do what you want. Starve yourself if it makes you happy. Let's see if I care."

    Their reconnaissance informs a good leader so he need not travel their same course to be effective. More. Their work so defines an asymptote that thereafter our leader needs only to make a few moves in a direction before the bulk of us get the message.

    Yes Reagan was likable and marked with equanimity, but even Reagan knew when he needed to show he'd brook no nonsense -- "...I'm paying for this microphone..." -- from friend or foe alike. We know he laid down the 11th Commandment, but it was his willingness to send his claws and fangs to visit its transgressors that made it stick during his administration.

    And finally. Let's combine Buckley's doctrine and your suggestion that we reclaim the progressive tag. We should not need to steal what is rightfully ours in both theory and practice. But first we gotta come up with a more accurate label for the cloister of self-righteously self-labeled "progressives" on the Right.

    When Reagan said that our problems didn't stem from us living too well but from our Government living too well, it was a unifying theme not carried forth by a leader since JFK. That theme has been drastically eroded since Newt ventured onto the same idea. But the message needs to alter to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Reagan's message today would add "and from globalist forces incrementally [another meaning for progressive] stealing our sovereignty."

  4. Harvey Mansfield on thumos (roughly translated Greek for "moral passion," with an added sense of "energy") is a good place to start.

    The left lives on thumos, of course, and since the world isn't perfect and never can be, there's a natural advantage there. (Neither do I think conservatives are by nature very "progressive"---it's a failing and a flaw.)

    The things that conservatives are genuinely thymotic about---marriage & family, God and country, the freedom to pursue our personal excellences (and this would include economic freedom), well, these are precisely the things that the left has negated to the point of derision, and have used politics to dismantle.

    (Done a real good job of it, too.)

    If conservatives are to drum up a little thumos of their own, it'll have to be for those. We're a bit uncreative in the "progress" department, and tax cuts can fan up only so much passion.

  5. Tom;
    I listened to and simultaneously read Professor Mansfield speech. I have extracted 5 paragraphs upon which I hope to comment further. So thank you.

    Og, you oughta check it out since I'm sure you'd love to comment on it too. It's so full of stradles, dichotomies, paradoxes, conflicts, complications, etc, that confront a well-meaning person, potential leader, it would give you a great chance to cut the Gordian Knot -- so to speak -- all over again. IOW, our country's better intelligentsia could use some of your approach visited upon it. LOL

    I intentionally referred to the Right more than to conservatives as a bloc for the reason you mention. The Right now includes more than just conservatives, thanks be to the unhinged Left ejecting its old allies it no longer has any use for. Classical liberals the earliest vitims, Blacks and pre-invasion Mexicans maybe the latest, all have a place on the Right. So there is some subpartisan rangling going on that often works to the advantage of the Left when there's no Reagan type around. Tocqueville warned that the tyrants would work to create dissension, so let's add need of cohesive leadership to our list of problems on the Right.

    For instance, the Right could raise thumos by making us all see red over all our autonomous self-interests being targeted for slavery. A combination of "When they came for the trade-unionists I didn't protest because I wasn't a trade unionist" with "we must all hang together lest we all hang separately." Making it viscerally unacceptable to be caught between the Left/Islamists and the globalist Statists. They all, one way or the other, aim at progressively stealing away everybody else's freedom before they turn on each other.

    Someone who can make you feel safe that your classical liberal stance carries more meaning amongst even the most stuck on the status quo conservatives than anything our adversaries are trying to foist upon us.

  6. You aptly note our best defense against leftism: that like any ideology or "unity" movement, they tend to eat their own. That, and since they're powered by thumos, overindulging in it sends sane people to the exits.

    A TVD epigram is, choose your enemies; let everyone else be your friend. My avowed enemy, for philosophical reasons alone, is leftism/collectivism. I choose to try to work it out with everyone else.

    And so, I'm easier on liberals, strictly speaking. Their best impulses are communitarian, and social conservatives are communitarian as well, but in a sense of ethos, not materialism. Still, we have enough in common.

    So, as a political party at least, the GOP should be proud of, tolerate, and encourage dissent, so that the "everyone else" can be our friend and ally.

    I don't quite know how the dynamic of personal freedom plays out as a thymotic tool, since everybody has their own priorities and therefore different empheses on the most important freedoms. It's a structural philosophical problem, which is why the dynamic effectiveness of tax cuts plays better than arguments for their cosmic justice.

    Glad you liked the Mansfield. I've been puzzling over thumos for awhile---it's obviously the driving force behind politics, especially democratic ones. Mansfield, as a classicist, neo-Platonian, and yes, putative Straussian, speaks the language of the most basic things, and gets a lot of things definitively right here.


View My Stats