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Tuesday, May 24, 2005



the rightwing reaction to the mccain coup that ended the confrontation in the senate has been "exercised", in the words conservative blogger stephen bainbridge. via andrew sullivan:

I find these reactions not only short-sighted but also surprisingly unconservative. They reflect a willingness to put possible short-term partisan gain (and I emphasize the word possible) over both principle and long-term advantage.

What is a - arguably the - basic conservative principle? Russell Kirk taught:

Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. ... Burke’s reminder of the necessity for prudent change is in the mind of the conservative. But necessary change, conservatives argue, ought to he gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.

... In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

... Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries.
The filibuster is a profoundly conservative tool. It slows change by allowing a resolute minority to delay - to stand athwart history shouting stop. It ensures that change is driven not "merely by temporary advantage or popularity" but by a substantial majority. Is it any wonder that it has usually been liberals who want to change or abolish the filibuster rule?
one of the incisive observations that can be made as a result of all this majoritarian radicalism is the disingenuousness of calling the republican party "conservative" -- particularly the fascist/protestant alliance to which men like bill frist and george bush answer to.

it really is a reincarnation of fascism -- by which i mean, the employment of the trappings of the old as a mask for radical reinvention. mussolini invoked the rebirth of the roman empire and a return to western civility; but what he truly meant to do was bring the introverted, narcissistic nietzschean ethic of conflict to politics and the nation -- an escape from the limitations of law and tradition in order to not just conserve but reconstruct and rebuild. for all the teutonic mysticism which hitler used in nazi ideology, his program was intensely, painfully progressive. to rebuild it sought to tap the chivalric ideal, the self-indulgent spiritual nobility that was the soul of german romantic individual writ large, but combine it with the cult of technology as a vehicle to total emancipation. fascism was thoroughly electrified with the postmodern desire of emancipation, of escape, of flight -- from history, from objectivity, from the war -- into the ideal and the self. in the rejection of the civilization of centuries before it, to manifest the ideal necessitated embracing change -- the faster, the better.

similarly, even as it calls for constitutional originalism and cites the reinvented intentions of the founders, american neoconservatism is seeking to abandon all limitations on the will to power wherever it finds them -- in the press, in the judiciary, in international treaty and now in the senate. it finds ready allies in reductive protestant fundamentalists, who play their own analogue game in claiming fealty to the bible but constructing personality cults around charismatic men who reinterpret the book along the lines of the introspective, emancipatory ideology they invent. both are characterized by the rejection of the empirical for the pursuit of the introspective, heroic and noble -- to slip the limitations of the material for something greater and more perfect but ultimately self-defined. consequently, the common ground between all fantastic utopians of totalitarianism -- the refusal to brook any compromise of the vision, which is personal and therefore inviolate -- has been very fertile for cooperation.

the upshot is that the party of conservatism isn't conservative anymore. we have cast ourselves adrift from history. america is now without a party of christian compromise, as the ostensibly humble adopt the language of war and selfishness, even as we demand -- demand! -- complete freedom.

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