American Conservatism, b. 1955, d. 2020?

  
Via:  Bob Nelson  •  2 months ago  •  15 comments

By:   William Kristol (The Bulwark)

American Conservatism, b. 1955, d. 2020?



Is American conservatism as we've known it dead?

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original I know of no "traditional conservatives" here on NT.

There are some TrumpTrueBelievers TM , but they have no notion of policy beyond blind obedience to whatever President Trump commands.

There are quite a few members who are here just to argue. Most take the Trump's side of any argument, but not all. 

There are several TrumpApostles TM - people who find interest in espousing the Trump line, without ever really believing in either the man or his words.

There is no one who defends conservative policies... because no one knows what "conservative policies" are today. At their Convention, the Republican Party officially acknowledged that their platform would be "whatever Trump says".



S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



original Is the Republican party salvageable? Is it worth trying to save? These questions have sparked an interesting discussion, one that raises important issues involving the relationship of principle and prudence, of compromise and accountability, of balancing the past with the future.

But what is the Republican party—or any political party? It is, in large measure, a vehicle for certain ideas.

For a couple of generations, the Republican party has been the vehicle for American conservatism. So saving the Republican party probably only makes sense if American conservatism is worth saving.

Is it?

That's a big question. And it will have to be confronted after November 3. But it can't hurt to at least turn it over in our minds now.

If modern American conservatism can be said to have been born in 1955, with the founding of National Review , it may be said to have effectively died—committed suicide?—in 2020.

Not in 2016. Four years ago, lots of conservatives opposed Donald Trump and viewed his primary and general election victories as a fluke.

Not in 2017 and 2018, when reasonable conservatives could still have believed that Trump might be hemmed in by "the guardrails of democracy." After all, many of those guardrails were provided by conservative figures and ideas both inside and outside of the Trump administration.

Not even in 2019, when the Mueller report finally arrived and reasonable conservatives could have talked themselves into believing that it was imprudent to get all worked up about something that hadn't quite delivered a proverbial smoking gun.

But in 2020 the question of how conservatives were to deal with Trump came to a head. The guardrails clearly had not held. The stakes were raised from abstract ideas and future threats to reckless mismanagement that cost the lives of 200,000 Americans. Judgment—real, definitive judgment—was finally demanded of conservatives.

But it turned out—it had already turned out, in the last half of 2019—that most conservatives—whether elected officials or political donors or commentators—had no interest in helping to find a conservative challenger to Trump for the Republican nomination.

It then turned out that—with very few honorable exceptions—there was no support for impeachment of the president for his renewed clear violations of the Constitution. Worse still, there was not even support for chastisement among Republican members of Congress or the people who make up the conservative movement. Instead of rebuking Trump, conservatives actively defended him.

And then, when the Democrats selected Joe Biden, the most moderate imaginable nominee, vanishingly few conservatives were willing to desert Trump. Even if only to sit out the election, let alone support Biden.

So perhaps we need to acknowledge that it has come to this: Real, existing conservatism as it exists in America in 2020 is an accomplice to, an apologist for, and an enabler of Trump's nativist, populist, unconservative, and illiberal authoritarianism.

This authoritarianism is as far from Burke as from Hayek. As far from a concern for liberty as for virtue. As far from American greatness as from American decency. And "conservatism" now rides along with this authoritarianism in a nicely cushioned sidecar.

Maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. After all, there were always elements in American conservatism which carried these traits. Many of us believed that they had been, over the decades, suppressed or expunged. But that turns out not to have been the case. Instead, they were merely dormant, ready to emerge and be exploited by an able demagogue in tune with the times.

And perhaps every political movement has a natural lifespan: Modern American conservatism was born in 1955, peaked in full flower in the 1980s, and then aged, mostly gracefully, for three decades. Until it could easily, if suddenly, be pushed aside in its dotage—forced, or induced, to surrender to its younger and stronger, if disreputable, distant relative.

In sum: 2020 was the year in which American conservatism as we have known it for three generations was weighed in the balance, and found wanting.

What next? A revived American liberalism that rescues and incorporates what was admirable in American conservatism? A new political vehicle—a new institution or set of institutions? A New Center or a New Party of Freedom, to step up to the task?

Or perhaps from the ashes of a Trump defeat, the old American conservatism—suitably updated, of course—might be reborn?

That would be a pleasant thought. But conservatives know that in the real world it is rare for a phoenix to rise from the ashes. Most of the time, the aftermath of a conflagration is . . . just ashes.

72 William Kristol is editor-at-large of The Bulwark.



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Bob Nelson
1  seeder  Bob Nelson    2 months ago

I would worry if Kristol ever got close to power again - he led the neo-conservatives who masterminded Gulf War II. But he looks a long way from power, and his commentary on conservatism in America today is spot-on.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
1.1  Greg Jones  replied to  Bob Nelson @1    2 months ago

Conservatism is not dead yet, but has become irrelevant.

Welcome to the new reality....Trumpism!

 
 
 
devangelical
1.1.1  devangelical  replied to  Greg Jones @1.1    2 months ago
Conservatism is not dead yet

... the funeral was in the early 80's, at least for those whose memories go back further than 01/20/2009.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
1.1.2  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Greg Jones @1.1    2 months ago

How do you define Trumpism? 

I define it as "blind obedience to Trump". 

 
 
 
r.t..b...
1.1.3  r.t..b...  replied to  Bob Nelson @1.1.2    2 months ago

Trumpism...when fear and ignorance, a latent and insidious sentiment as our society attempted to progress into the 21st century was given voice and normalized through daily commentary uttered in words and policies instituted only meant to divide. 

 
 
 
devangelical
1.2  devangelical  replied to  Bob Nelson @1    2 months ago

kristol was banished from the current cult of personality autocrats when he first spoke out against their demigod. he's irrelevant to the brain washed, er,.... the real suckers and losers that make up the present rabid cult of personality.

 
 
 
evilgenius
2  evilgenius    2 months ago

They tried to define what a modern Republican Party looked like after Obama's 2nd term win. It became a struggle between the Established Right and the Alt+Right and the Alt+Right was better funded and better organized. One good thing about this populist movement is that it eats it's own in it's ongoing purity test. Another good thing is that the next generation of leaders will come along and redefine what the Party should be. 

The Democrats must take note - they too are facing purilogical Progressives. The Progressives are beating the establishment left in primary after primary. Like the far right, the far left does not want to "fix the system". They want to burn it down and start from scratch. An idea that only works at a bloody cost.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
2.1  Greg Jones  replied to  evilgenius @2    2 months ago
The Progressives are beating the establishment left in primary after primary. Like the far right, the far left does not want to "fix the system". They want to burn it down and start from scratch. An idea that only works at a bloody cost.
True. That's why Biden will lose.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
2.1.1  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Greg Jones @2.1    2 months ago

Do you have anything substantive, Greg? 

 
 
 
evilgenius
2.1.2  evilgenius  replied to  Greg Jones @2.1    2 months ago
That's why Biden will lose.

All indicators outside the Trump cheering bubble say otherwise. Objective analysis at this time shows a Trump only has a slim chance at another electoral win. Were the election held today I'd predict a 319 to 219 win for Biden.

 
 
 
Gordy327
3  Gordy327    2 months ago
For a couple of generations, the Republican party has been the vehicle for American conservatism.

It seems in more recent years, it's been a vehicle for regressivism. The more society progresses, the more vehemently opposed to it certain conservative elements become. It's almost as if they want to go back a couple of decades. Or perhaps centuries. It's hard to argue that some people are threatened by various progresses or changes. It's an odd mentality to say the least.

 
 
 
r.t..b...
3.1  r.t..b...  replied to  Gordy327 @3    2 months ago

Exactly this. Yearning for a post WWlI Ozzy and Harriet sitcom, where suburbia became the bastion of all that is good, all that is American. 
As comfortable as an easy chair, reclining in knowing this life is accepted while ignoring all those who may not enjoy the same. Well, times they are a ‘changin’ and for the better for those that believe America stands for so much more than keeping to the status quo, regardless of the comfort it may afford too many, at the expense of even more. 

 
 
 
Gordy327
3.1.1  Gordy327  replied to  r.t..b... @3.1    2 months ago
Yearning for a post WWlI Ozzy and Harriet sitcom, where suburbia became the bastion of all that is good, all that is American. 

It wasn't good to everybody.

America stands for so much more than keeping to the status quo, regardless of the comfort it may afford too many, at the expense of even more.

Some people seem to want to maintain a certain status quo. The problem with that is, it runs the risk of turning from status quo into stagnation.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.2  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  r.t..b... @3.1    2 months ago
Ozzy and Harriet sitcom

They forget that it was fiction. 

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.2  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Gordy327 @3    2 months ago
been the vehicle for American conservatism.
It seems in more recent years, it's been a vehicle for regressivism.

 I think you're saying the same thing as the article.

 
 
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