This commentary by Robert Lewis Dabney is a century old, but it could easily have been composed by any remotely attentive observer of the conservative movement today.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Recently, during an email exchange with a friend, himself a veteran student of the American conservative movement—or what I not so affectionately refer to as “Big Conservatism,” or “the Big Con”—my interlocutor remarked that he was genuinely skeptical that the United States would be any different than it is right now in the absence of those Republican politicians and their apologists in the so-called “conservative media” who style themselves opponents of the left.
I had no answer, for neither can I discern the difference that it could make if the Big Con disappeared from the scene tomorrow. The following thought-experiment should suffice to make the point.
Suppose an alien from another planet descends upon the Earth and enrolls in a course that, for present purposes, we’ll just call “American Politics 2019.” Here, our alien learns that in America there exists two national parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, the former representing the interests of those citizens who tend to be more “liberal” or “left-leaning,” the latter those who are “conservative” and more “right-leaning.”
And, of course, our alien is fed all of the standard ideas associated with “the left” and “the right,” ideas gathered mostly from the platforms of both parties, but also from professional partisans in Washington D.C. and the various national media.
Now, imagine our alien’s surprise when, upon completion of his course, he spends some more time in America and realizes the following:
(1)Not only have tens of millions of preborn human beings been killed in their mothers’ wombs since the Supreme Court of the United States declared decades ago that the country’s Constitution affirms “a right” for a woman to “abort” her “unborn” child; Democrats—mainstream Democratic politicians, including presidential candidates—now openly, happily, insist that women have the right to commit to kill their babies even as conservatives continue to insist that they are “pro-life.”
The death rate, in other words, among the preborn climbs unabated as the rule proscribing abortions after the first trimester is revealed to be the strategic ploy that it had always been for leftists as they maneuvered to normalize filicide.
(2)The national government is more consolidated and centralized than it has ever been at any time in American history. The Constitutional design ratified by America’s Founders, one enacting a union of sovereign states with a federal government, has been subverted with such frequency and shamelessness that it is all but nonexistent.
The government envisioned by the men who framed and ratified the Constitution is now a government, i.e. precisely the sort of centralized government that the Founders were at pains to prevent from coming to fruition.
(3) “Affirmative action,” along with “abortion,” is the law of the land: Not only is it the case that the sorts of race-based preferential treatment policies with which the label of “affirmative action” was originally associated remain endemic; the nomenclature of “affirmative action” now extends as well to those policies designed to advance the interests of, not only other non-whites, but women, gays, and the trans-gendered.
(4)So-called “same-sex marriage” has been declared as a Constitutional right.
(5)Trans-genderism has been normalized. Gender is now “assigned” at birth, for gender is “fluid,” and the idea, heretofore accepted by the human race, that there are two and only two genders—male and female—is now regarded as a product of “binary” thinking, which in turn is treated as bigotry.
(6)Silicon Valley, i.e. “Big Tech,” routinely and with ever-greater frequency demonetizes and de-platforms conservatives.
(7)Mainstream Democratic politicians, and Democratic presidential candidates, call for for American blacks.
(8)Mainstream Democratic politicians, and Democratic presidential candidates, self-identify as “socialists.”
(9)Conservative speakers, irrespectively of how innocuous, indeed, insipid, their views, need a strong security detail for when they attempt to speak on college campuses. Intimidation and outright violence have become the standard operating procedures of leftist student disruptors demanding a “safe space” beyond the reach of the “white supremacists,” “fascists,” and “Nazis” invited to campus by the Young Republicans Club.
(10)Despite having control over both chambers of Congress and the White House, Republicans under President Trump failed to repeal the “socialist” policy known as the Affordable Health Care Act, or “Obamacare,” because they could not agree on a socialist policy of their own with which to replace it.
(11) “Antifa” has grown and as a matter of course engages in nothing less than urban guerilla tactics against those who it demonizes as “fascist” non-persons. In some instances, it has assumed control of whole cities (like Portland, Oregon).
(12)Untold numbers of peoples from other countries on a daily basis pour across our southern border. Most of these are guilty of entering America illegally. But it is now considered “racist” to insist that the government fulfill its Constitutional duty and protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country by enforcing its borders.
(13)Monuments to white men, including members of the Founding generation, who, up until just the last so many years, had been heralded as great American heroes have been desecrated and razed for being monuments to “white supremacy.”
We can continue endlessly in this same vein. The point, by now, should be obvious. Our hypothetical alien would suffer a dizzying case of cognitive dissonance as the talking points that he imbibed in his crash course clashed violently with the reality that he witnessed for himself, the reality that, in this place called America, .
Our alien would discover what Dabney noted long ago, that Big Conservatism has not only resoundingly failed to conserve a single thing of value but, because of this failure, it has aided and abetted the left in the latter’s long march through the institutions that have defined America and the West.
Our alien would discover what my friend learned much earlier on in his career as a scholar of the American conservative movement. He would learn that even if those in the Big Con admitted tomorrow that they were leftists by any other name, even if they abandoned altogether the pretense of being members of an opposition party, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference, for things would be just as they in fact are at the present moment.
Jack Kerwick [send him mail] received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture.