It isn’t just DougJ. I simply can not take any more of this narcissistic self-referential babble about the nature of conservatism:
Conservatism is “formless” like water: it takes the shape of its conditions, but always remains the same. This is why Russell Kirk calls conservatism the “negation of ideology” in The Politics of Prudence. It is precisely the formlessness of conservatism which gives it its vitality. Left alone, the spirit of conservatism is essentially what T.S. Eliot calls the “stillness between two waves of the sea” in “Little Gidding” of his Four Quartets. Conservatism is both like water and the stillness between the waves—the waves are not the water acting, but being acted upon; stillness is the default state of conservatism:
I am so sick and tired of these “esoteric” discussions about the flawless, formless, and timeless beauty of conservatism. It is utter nonsense. We got unchecked “conservatism” the past eight years, and instead of water, it felt more like urine, as they pissed all over us. Conservatism brought us an expanded surveillance state, intervention into a man’s marriage, unchecked budgets, war of aggression, torture, a rejection and mockery of both science and the rule of law, the unchecked executive branch, and on and on and on. The conservative standard bearers are now Sarah Palin and Eric Cantor and Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber.
After getting hammered in two national elections, the rehabilitation of conservatism takes the form of these flowery paeans about the timeless wisdom of an ideology that is the “negation of ideology.” What a load of gibberish. At what point will these clowns realize that they sound like the Soviet apologists in the late 80’s and 90’s who wanted to tell us that communism didn’t fail, it just wasn’t properly implemented?
For all my excitement over Sarah Palin, there is a part of me that can’t commit to voting McCain-Palin yet. Last week at this time I was almost certainly not going to vote for McCain. Now I’m likely to do it. But what holds me back is what Clark Stooksbury speaks to in this post:
Dreher is free to vote for McCain to spite the Kos Kretins; but he will also be voting for war with Iran and pointless brinksmanship with Russia, funded by another mountain range of debt. A McCain vote also gives a ringing endorsement to the last eight years of unnecessary war, torture and incompetence. In other words, it is a vote to cut off his nose in order to spite his face.
That’s very succinctly and accurately put. If I vote McCain in the end, it will have to be in clear sight of these things, and with the faith that the risks that Clark rightly points out I’ll be taking are worth the rewards of a Palin ascendancy. In truth, as much as I like Palin, especially for the enemies she’s made, I don’t know that I can affirm the reward justifies the risk of a McCain presidency.
Anyone who gets excited by the idea of rule by Palin isn’t fit to drive a motor vehicle, let alone be at the forefront of a political movement. Don’t be fooled by the reformation efforts by Frum and Dreher and Douthat and the rest of the crowd of snake oil salesmen, because when the chips were down in November 2008, they still all saddled up and went to battle for a know-nothing ignoramus from Alaska and her geriatric side-kick. The country was in a tailspin, brought on by their party and their ideology (and formerly mine), both of which had been proven by that point to be bereft of ideas and solutions, and yet they still went to the voting booth and chose more of the same.
They chose to go down with the ship. Can’t they stay drowned?
*** Update ***
From the comments:
The “conservatism” that Sullivan is always going on about is a philosophical construct, not necessarily a political one. A philosophical construct that he has carefully crafted after many years of introspection and study*, and one that has little to offer in purely political terms; at least, not nowadays. If anything, Sullivan’s now more of a “libertarian” in his specific policy recommendations, after having disavowed his deranged love affair with militaristic big-government imperialism**.
The philosophical ideal of “Burkean conservatism” [Reliance on monotheism and other traditional institutions for social stability while very, very gradually modifying the existing system is preferable to any “radical” popular change based on ideology, due to a prudent fear of societal collapse and the blood of innocent people running in the streets] is not the same thing as the political ideal of American “conservatism” [which seems to me to be a bizarre amalgamation of anti-tax sentiment, frontier individualism, nationalism, corporate interest, anachronistic cultural sentiments (e.g., racism, sexism), and biblical fundamentalism].
Note well that there may be policies that one would support based on one’s philosophical conservatism that align with one’s political “conservatism” (e.g., voting against “redistributive” progressive income taxation, maybe), but the two are uneasy partners at best. In fact, the past eight years have shown the more honest philosophical conservatives that the Republican party under W. Bush was tremendously radical (in the philosophical sense) and sacrificed most notions of Burkean prudence for the sake of their political ideology.
That would be great if they (Sullivan excluded) didn’t keep trying to find excuses to marry philosophical conservatism with movement conservatism and modern brain-dead Republicanism.
*** Update ***
For the record, I’m not “mad” at Sullivan at all. I’m mad at the people who keep wanting to pretend that there is some sort of connection between the discussion above and the current Republican party and what is “conservative.” Sullivan has done an admirable job pointing out the distinctions. Others have not.
Most of all I’m mad at myself for all the stupid political decisions I supported and for supporting the GOP far longer than I should have. I’m mad at myself for denigrating the people who repeatedly said the war in Iraq was a bad idea and I dismissed them and mocked them.
I’m mad at the current messes we are in and my part in getting us there. I’m mad at my own stupidity. Hell, I open my archives from anywhere from the start of this blog until 2005-2006 and I am mad at what I read.
Also, Dreher apparently jumped off the Palin bandwagon late in the game:
The best case that can be made for John McCain is that he would serve as something of a brake on runaway liberalism. But the country would be at significantly greater risk of war with the intemperate and bellicose McCain in the White House. That was clear months ago, but his conduct during the fall campaign—especially contrasted with Obama’s steadiness—has made me even more uneasy. His selection of Sarah Palin, while initially heartening to populist-minded social conservatives, has proved disastrous. Though plainly a politician of real talent, the parochial Palin is stunningly ill-suited for high office, and that’s a terrible mark against McCain’s judgment.
As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.
While it is foolish to look forward to a decisive electoral defeat for one’s side, I can’t say that the coming rout will be a bad thing. The Right desperately needs to repent, rethink, and rebuild—and only the pain of a shattering loss will force conservatives to confront reality. Not only must there be a renewal of our political vision and message—and this time, dissenters from within the Right must be heard—but there must also be a realization at the grassroots that we have long given too much importance to politics and not enough to building cultural institutions at the local level.
Maybe I’m just being completely unfair and lashing out foolishly like I am prone to do, but at the same time I hardly think it is a profile in courage to oppose Palin after she has “proved disastrous.”
At the same time, maybe this is precisely the conversation conservatives need to have. I keep saying they should regroup and rethink, and then when they do it, I jump all over them, make all sorts of hot-headed proclamations and bad faith accusations and act like a total jerk. Most of all, though, I’m just depressed about the current state of the GOP. Even if there is merit to these conversations, the base isn’t listening.