President Obama thinks he can get away with anything. I’m starting to agree, and the reason for my agreement is the tepid, inept spinelessness of those in the “opposition” party. If you’re waiting to hear somebody mistake John Boehner and Mitch McConnell for actual men, I hope you brought some light reading and a couple bologna sandwiches.
My question is this: What has happened to the Conservative movement in America? And, why does so much of what the “conservative” party does have so very little to commend it as conservative? Helping me out with answers to those questions is the wonderful book, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, by George H. Nash.
One particular piece of this fascinating history I’d like to share with you. But first, some movie talk.
For my money, the best thing about the six-episode Star Wars epic is the slow but certain descent to the Dark Side of the Force that happens to the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader character. It’s my favorite part of the whole series, because in contrast to the rest of the monstrous sh’bang, that one sub-plot seems well-conceived, thoughtfully written, and passably well-acted. Watching young Anakin rise and mature and then begin his inevitable spiral around the drain over the course of the last three movies (parts 1-3) is like watching a horrible car wreck in super-slow motion.
What I particularly like about it is that they didn’t merely have him freak out and become homicidal for no good reason. At the very core of Skywalker’s dreadful transformation was, surprisingly, love. A manic love, granted. He loved the princess with an incredible intensity and then his love drove him to greatly fear losing her. And fear did him in.
My friends, I suggest that is a decent parable for what has happened to conservatism in the United States. Manic love courted fear of loss, and that fear found ways to justify going over to the dark side.
Back to Nash’s fine book. Nash documents the leading movers and shakers in 20th Century American conservatism. What I want to highlight is his insightful division of post-WW2 conservatism into three factions.
First there were the fiscal conservatives, who tended to be libertarian in their governmental theory. Then, there were the traditionalists, forerunners to our modern “values voters,” the social conservatives. Last, there were many whose motivating philosophy was the opposition to Communism.
Long story short here, they all honestly loved their country, many with a Skywalker-esque intensity. And at some point they were all able to see that the greatest threat to their country was Communism. Fear is a really fine motivator, second only to pain, for most people.
So the fiscally conservative libertarians and the socially conservative traditionalists wound up handing over the reins of the movement to the anti-Communists. We don’t care what you have to do to keep us safe—just do it, and, if you could, it’d be nice if we didn’t have to know about it.That’s really the long and the short of it.
Sixty or so years later and we can pretty much draw a straight line back to there. The anti-Communists won the hearts and minds of the fearful competing factions and have come to dominate. Only they’re called Neo-Cons now, with different enemies in their sights, and they’re responsible (by agreeing with the Democrats, if nothing else) for every war we’ve been in since the second “Big One.” And they’re the ones rattling sabers against Iran even now.
An additional reason to lament this is that being anti- something is not a great, cohesive philosophy from which to govern a nation internally. Ultimately, this is where we get RINOs from, and this is why the GOP offers as much resistance to radical left-wingism as a wall made of mac n’ cheese. As long as they’ve got funding for their wars, and power to call those shots, all the other stuff is merely annoying to them. They’ll give away anything at all in order to keep fingers on triggers.
Fear will do that to a fellow. Ask Anikan.