Features of conservative history IV: the ugly contest

As everybody knows, the American conservative movement is composed of three groups:  social conservatives (also called “religious conservatives” or “traditionalists”), libertarians, and nationalists (or “hawks”).  Notoriously, these three groups share no common principles, so any “‘fusionist” ideology attempting to unite them is bound to be incoherent.  This situation has led to two reoccuring types of articles on the Right-blogosphere.  First, there are the horrified realizations that large parts of the movement don’t share the author’s fundamental commitments.  No matter how many times this article gets written, each new version imagines it’s revealing something shocking.  Second, there are the calls to ditch one or two of the movement’s three legs, because doing so will supposedly make the movement more popular.  So, for example, the libertarians think “Our ideas of individual freedom and free enterprise are actually quite popular.  We’re just being dragged down by being associated with those mean, judgemental Christians.  If we get rid of them, we’ll win the respect of the liberals and young voters.”  Meanwhile, the social conservatives think “Our commitment to morality and the common good could really get across if only we could cut ourselves off from these greedy capitalists.  After all, what has Wall Street to do with Jerusalem?”  The foreign policy hawks think “America’s move to the Left wouldn’t be a problem for us if we could just rid ourselves of the Christians and the free-marketers.  After all, we’re the ones who want to defend and promote America’s leftist way of life by force of arms.”  People who write these articles always think they’re being bold and brilliant, but in fact the argument is entirely academic.  The three legs of the American Right never chose each other; they were chosen by the American Left.  The American Right is a coalition of groups that have nothing in common except that they represent things that have been slated for eradication by the all-conquering Left, be it orthodox Christianity, the patriarchal family, state non-interference in civil society, or absolute national sovereignty.  No group can leave the coalition, because there is nowhere for them to go.  Nor can the three groups stop being associated with each other, because it is the Left and not the Right that decides that they should be associated.  (Consider how hard, and with what futility, the Right has tried to disassociate itself from fascism or from Ayn Rand.)  The only choice on the Right is whether the three groups will cooporate, fight, or ignore each other.  Now, I don’t say that we should automatically befriend anyone disfavored on the Left, but we shouldn’t imagine that criticizing that group will win us any respect from our enemies or any popularity with the mainstream.

It is as if during the Middle Ages there had formed a coalition of heretics, pagans, adulterers, usurers, and Jews to fight the authority of the Catholic Church.  No member of the coalition would have anything positive to do with any other.  In fact, each would despise the others more than it despised the common enemy.  Only direst necessity could drive such an alliance into being, and indeed the Middle Ages lacked the social control mechanisms available today, so only today do such bizarre groupings come into being.

From time to time, some subgroup on the Right–the “liberaltarians”, say, or “social justice Christians”–will break off and try to work with the Left.  They offer to surrender on policy A, hoping that liberals will thereby be more open to policy B (e.g. support public health care and feminism and hope that liberals will be so impressed that they’ll reconsider their support for legal abortion).  The liberals accept the capitulation on A and then demand further capitulations on B or C.  Why shouldn’t they?  The liberals are operating from the position of strength.  The negotiating group then splits in two.  Some give in on B and C and become, essentially, liberals.  The rest spend a generation claiming to be the reasonable Center, aggressively hurl anathemas to their Right and Left, and then finally come to accept reality and migrate back to the Right.  One shouldn’t feel sorry for these misguided souls, however.  Former associations with the Left actually increase one’s standing on the Right, because it proves you’re not an “extremist”.  So, for example, ex-communists are considered more authoritative anti-socialists than people who were able to see the wickedness of socialism all along.

Every time the Republican Party loses an election, we get another round of the ugly contest.  Which group is it, people ask, that is making the Right so unpopular?  Who’s the ugliest?  Who do we have to get rid of?  Although I have no use for libertarians or militarists myself, I think this question is pointless and will remain so as long as liberalism remains the dominant ideology of the Western world.

2 Responses

  1. Very astute observations, Bonald!

  2. […] profession seem to be liberal-controlled.  The second because conservatives are always playing the ugly contest against each other to try to crawl out of the scapegoat class.)  Presumably, white-dominance will […]

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