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Posted by on May 15, 2016 in 2016 Elections, Featured, Politics | 17 comments

I Shall Not Mourn The Death of America’s “True Conservatism”

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Something that called itself “The Conservative Movement” died with Ted Cruz’s Presidential election campaign a few weeks ago, and I’m glad.

While I know this will cause pain to some of my friends gripped in the madness of so-called “True Conservatism,” it was always a fable. A serious-minded conservative who never bought the “True Conservative” madness is Ross Douthat, who describes it well in the New York Times:

True Conservatism likes to portray itself as part of an unbroken tradition running back through Ronald Reagan to Barry Goldwater and the Founding Fathers. It has roots in that past, but it’s also a much more recent phenomenon, conceived in the same spirit as Bushism 2.0 but with the opposite intent.

If Bushism 2.0 looked at George W. Bush’s peaks — his post-Sept. 11 popularity, his 2004 majority — and saw a model worth recovering, True Conservatism looked at his administration’s collapse and argued that it proved that he had been far too liberal, and that all his “compassionate conservative” heresies had led the Republican Party into a ditch.

Thus True Conservatism’s determination to avoid both anything that savored of big government and anything that smacked of compromise. Where Bush had been softhearted, True Conservatism would be sternly Ayn Randian; where Bush had been free-spending, True Conservatism would be austere; where Bush had taken working-class Americans off the tax rolls, True Conservatism would put them back on — for their own good. And above all, where Bush had sometimes reached for the center, True Conservatism would stand on principle, fight hard, and win.

Yes that was the fable. To a “T.” And it has been a consistent loser at the polls for decades, especially once you realize Ronald Reagan was no “True Conservative,” even if he used some of its trappings as part of his image.

So perhaps it’s time to admit it, now that it’s been so thoroughly trounced: “True Conservatism” was always a fantasy, and we should be happy to see it go. That’s why I very much hope my friends caught up in it, whether they be Christian or modern-day atheists who just like the mythology: I hope they finally see it was always a mythology.

Yes, there’s the regressive Left and “Social Justice” crowd, and postmodernism and all the Utopianists are still out there and still a threat. But America’s “True Conservatives” didn’t always give the best or most coherent answers to the radical left because they were caught up in too many fairy tales of their own to have their feet planted in reality, and they thought winning elections was how you save the world.

Just for the record? America’s Founders were often hypocrites and sometimes scoundrels. Reagan was massively imperfect and was never a “True Conservative” doctrinaire. Barry Goldwater and his ilk also wouldn’t have liked a lot of what Reagan did–and still less what people spouting his name have often done.

I don’t write as an anti-Reagan man. I admit Reagan to have been both consequential and great. Who like all consequential and great men was terribly flawed and imperfect. Those who constantly invoke his name are invoking prayers to a false idol. (Which was not a status he ever sought, so far as I know.)

The same is true for America’s founders. All of them. “Constitutional Conservatism” or “True Conservatism” was a fairy tale. Not a single one of the founders ever governed that way. A hint would have been those who selectively quote people like James Madison without quoting his contemporary critics who said he was full of crap–and were proven right once he was elected.

The deification of the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and the others, along with the likes of Goldwater, Buckley, and Reagan (all of whom I admire by the way) far exceeded anything at all they or their contemporaries or their immediate progeny would have accepted. The founders especially often hated each other, and until the day they died the framers were arguing over what they wished they could have changed in a Constitution they didn’t really like! Including Jefferson and Adams both, who thought the Republic would fall because the Constitution was so poorly designed and had so many hopeless internal contradictions and unintended effects.

In almost two and a half centuries no President (no not even Fabled Reagan Himself) or Congress has approached that document the way Ted Cruz or any other self-proclaimed “Constitutional Conservative” says we should. Guys like that have been showing up in Washington with those words on their lips for generations now, and when they get there they all fail to deliver because it can’t be done: their variety of “Constitutional Conservatism” was always a sentimental idea, never anything real or practical.

This phony “True Conservatism” has lost at the polls more often than it’s won for decades. And even when it does win, occasionally, what it delivers isn’t what was promised. It starts to look a whole lot like this old cartoon people of a certain age will remember:

Better get a new hat, guys. Seriously. Real conservatism starts with acknowledging the limits of elections in the first place.

You know why Glenn Beck’s media enterprise has finally collapsed? He was selling false history, false mythology, raising the US itself to deity status. One might almost call it idolatry. That vision, Glenn Beck’s vision, was of an America that never existed, and never will exist.

And by the way no, there is no Special Providence for the United States. Yes, God bless America–and when America finally falls, as all countries do, may God bless whatever comes next. The things that truly are eternal will remain. In 2000 years, I doubt the United States will exist, but things which are eternal will exist and will still matter far, far more than the fact that the USA was ever even here.

And if the thought of the USA fading away bothers you, I have to ask why. You weren’t, like, thinking America was God or something, were you?

It’s not an entirely unserious question you know.

To dejected True Conservatives: get over it, and snap out of it. Life isn’t about getting True Conservatives elected. In fact, the elections don’t matter. They’re a freak show anymore, with power players controlling the media we get to see and what the candidates even can say to get elected. Even if Cruz had won, the story would be the same. Ditto if Sanders or some other fool got in.

When you put your energy into politics rather than doing what you’re supposed to, starting with loving and caring for your family and your fellow man, you’ve already got distorted politics. And it always ends exactly like this classic song by The Who:

To Hell with the elections. To Hell with the government. What are you doing to make the world a better place today?

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  • Quite a different style and theme, and quite interesting and provocative.

    Thanks, Dean.i

  • Markus1

    Our political parties are focused on achieving control of the government rather than any virtuous goals. Sen. McConnell in 2009 stated that his number one priority was making Obama a one term president; he did not say that he wanted to make the US a better country or to represent the people of Kentucky. Thus we get a lot of yelling and chest-pounding about Obamacare which for all of its faults and virtues grew organically out of Bush’s Medicare D law, was based on a conservative think tank blue print, and had been beta tested by Mitt Romney. On economic issues, no one mentions that Reagan ran large deficits and Clinton had a balanced budget. On social issues, no one talks that teenage pregnancy rates and abortion rates are a lot lower than during the previous generation.
    I have the feeling that the parties are like carnival barkers beating a drum to get us into their tent. The GOP is nationally in the minority, and thus they are beating their drum the loudest.

  • KP

    Dean, good to see you contributing again here at TMV.

    You are cutting edge and I appreciate your advocacy.

    I hope they finally see it was always a mythology.

    Spot on.

    What are you doing to make the world a better place today?

    Exactly.

  • JSpencer

    Well heck! I was sure there would be something there I needed to take issue with! Darn…

  • Brownies girl

    Holy cow, what a great column! Way to go, Dean.

    In 2000 years, I doubt the United States will exist, but things which are eternal will exist and will still matter far, far more than the fact that the USA was ever even here.

    I’m guessing a lot less than 2000 years for the US to exist — more like 50-75 years, if things keep going the way they are. But I take heart in your thought that “things which are eternal will exist and will still matter…” Hope you’re right, tho, at my age, I sure as heck won’t be around to check up on it.

    You also write:

    What are you doing to make the world a better place today?

    Am gonna surmise that this isn’t just a *rhetorical* question. For myself, I’m doing a lot of volunteering these days, political-wise and church-wise; trying to be much kinder to folks I disagree with (which is tougher than I’d have believed it would be before I started), and I always vote, no matter what. And I make it a necessity to forcefully speak up when I think things are going awry in my country – but only when I’m backed with provable facts. Lots of other stuff too, which I won’t go into.

    Anyway – glad you asked that question — it should give people food for thought. Please keep submitting Dean — this is a great column. Glad to see you back. All best to you — and to the US too. BG

    • SteveK

      [quote] I’m doing a lot of volunteering these days, political-wise and church-wise; trying to be much kinder to folks I disagree with (which is tougher than I’d have believed it would be before I started), and I always vote, no matter what. And I make it a necessity to forcefully speak up when I think things are going awry in my country – but only when I’m backed with provable facts. Lots of other stuff too, which I won’t go into.[end quote] (sorry what the new format makes quotes overbearing)

      Thanks Brownies girl I agree and I like you list of ‘Do’s’… Many are on my ‘Do List’ too. It takes a Village you might say. 🙂

      My biggest change is now I stand up to, and push back on misrepresentations and lies made by friends and relatives. In the past, for the sake of peace and tranquility, I’d just let their rants and ignorance slide… No more, now I’m responding.

      And I’ve learned two positive things from this.
      1) It’s easy… 30 seconds on Google will give you a ‘Snopes’ or ‘Wiki’ link that usually quotes what they’ve said (almost verbatim) followed by a tag marked ‘FALSE’.
      2) People (friends / relatives) you really care about and that really care about you take this much better than you might expect.

      Life IS good.

      • SteveK

        Reply to self in lieu of ability to edit

        (sorry what the new format makes quotes overbearing)
        was supposed to read…
        (sorry BUT the new format here makes quotes overbearing)

        • Bob Munck

          new format here makes quotes overbearing

          When I get time I’m going to see if I can use Stylish to override TMV’s formatting and fix that problem. Stylish is a browser plug-in that supports substituting your own style sheets (formatting instructions) for whatever a web site uses. I also want to get rid of that horrid gray navigation bar that comes blasting down from the top of the screen with “FRONTPAGE AUTHORS & EDITORIAL STAFF …” on it. On my laptop it covers a full third of the screen. Unfortunately there’s no way to use Stylish to support the much-needed EDIT function.

          • SteveK

            Let us know if stylish works (and as I’ve tried it before please share the code 🙂 )

            I’d always thought quotes were meant to reinforce a comment not completely overpower it… But then I’m not the journalist here so what do I know?

  • Elections don’t matter? To Hell with the elections? To Hell with the government?

    It is one thing to say that there is no such thing as a true conservative. It is another thing to lash out at elections in general.

    • You are absolutely right, Mr. Robertson.

      Elections do matter.

      Just look at the German 1933 elections.

      • SteveK

        [quote] Just look at the German 1933 elections. [end quote]
        Or all the “Political Capital” given President Obama earned in his re-election.

        Unfortunately elections matter to many OIYAR… ATRW (And The Republicans Win)

        ‘I have political capital. I intend to spend it’ – George W. Bush 2004

        ‘The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.’ – Mitch McConnell 2016

  • JIM SATTERFIELD

    I think that as long as the United States is willing to evolve with the reality of the world then it just might continue to exist. I’ve considered one of things that William F. Buckley is known for writing in the Mission Statement for the National Review to put on full display the fatal flaw in American conservatism.

    “It is not that, of course; if NATIONAL REVIEW is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

    When that is your philosophy you should fully expect the high speed train that is the world since the end of World War II to slam into you hard and the train will win.

  • dduck

    Bravo Ross. Five stars from this not-conservative, semi-Republican, pro-choice, former gun lover, smaller/better government loving American.

  • SteveK

    O.K. What did you do with the real Dean Esmay… Who is this new guy?

    Anyhow, I have to agree with the other comments here, excellent, well thought out article Dean… Thank you.

  • timothywunderly

    $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did

    ===============>>>>> http://www.worknow88.com

  • Davebo

    Great post Dean. It appears you’ve had an epiphany of sorts during your down time. Congratulations.

    When you put your energy into politics rather than doing what you’re supposed to, starting with loving and caring for your family and your fellow man, you’ve already got distorted politics.

    Very true. There’s nothing wrong with putting some energy into politics but as in all things, moderation is the key.

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