Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “So when we welcomed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to the United States and he was counseling us about how God had been kicked out of all life in Russia and that was the principle problem, that the churches were all razed and God was stricken from the public record or the public dialogue, was Solzhenitsyn being some sort of a radical nutjob that should have been shouted down and told: Hey, man, you need to get with the new religion, Aleksandr, it’s called the sexual revolution” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: For those of you that think you should join the editors and writers of many conservative magazines and online blogs and what have you, and that the way to the future is to bail on any principle or any devotion to a tradition or a virtue or something like a literally- and originally-interpreted constitution and republicanism and what have you, and we should just become better managers of the welfare state, we should surrender and embrace homosexual marriages and polyamory and polygamy and pretty soon pedophilia and anything else that comes along, as I have said, you can count me out. I’m not going to go to your party. Don’t invite me to your party because I’m going to be a pooper.
Bruce Frohnen writes about this. Yuval Levin has this new book out, the story of the right versus left, how it all began, and some suggestions about how we can all become better welfare staters. Professor Frohnen is having none of this. He writes about this in part at NomocracyInPolitics.com today.
It is in regard to change as an intellectual construct that Galston (and Levin) misconstrue the very nature of conservatism, and of America. For Galston agrees with Levin that the fundamental division between left and right in modern politics concerns their rival conceptions of political change. According to Levin, and Galston, the left seeks revolutionary change, whereas those on the right oppose swift or radical change of any kind. And, they claim, this conservative aversion to change precludes strong responses to trends of which they disapprove. This is stand-pattism of the variety advocated by Clinton Rossiter in his Conservatism: The Thankless Persuasion, an analysis that was tired and hackneyed even when it was first published in the middle of the twentieth century. It makes Progress the goal of all rational persons.
Mike: Folks, that is exactly what the writers and editors of these conservative publications that I’m always talking about, that is exactly what they are counseling you to do, that you must always be for progress. You’re allowed to look in the past for a little guidance on the progress, but you must always be for progress. Professor Frohnen is having none of it.
It makes Progress the goal of all rational persons. It imposes a liberal vision of social dynamism (or “creative destruction”) on all political actors, thereby eviscerating the very vocabulary of tradition in favor of a set of mental habits assuming maximization of liberal goods as the only sane, or at least decent, choice for all persons.
Levin, and Galston, make much of Burke’s conviction that the wise politician “always considers how he shall make the most of the existing materials of his country.” But the material of the present does not mean everything that currently exists, let alone current trends leading out into the future. Thus, Galston is wrong, if predictable, in attempting to paint as “radical” any attempt to “reverse course” in the face of ever-growing government bureaucracy and public security schemes.
Mike: Professor Bruce Frohnen, then, is siding with yours truly. He’s saying we’re not radical because we want to reverse course; we’re trying to conserve something, trying to bring something back that was worthy and produced great things and great men.
Conservatism does not mean surrender to currently powerful and popular trends.
Mike: In other words, those that are saying: Look, dummy, the politics of today demands that you learn to love the welfare state. Get used to it and just be a critic of it. Just say you don’t think it should be this big, or you want to downsize it, or you want to stop its growth.
If it did, Burke would not have opposed the French Revolutionary Jacobins, the corrupt and corrupting rule of Warren Hastings and the East India Company, or development of an absolutist imperial ideology in Britain. Putting a stop to a revolution may mean conflict, and even war, as Burke so often pointed out. The issue, then, is not speed, nor direction, but of how we understand where (and what) we are, and how we respond to the forces (both internal and external) that move us. Some of those forces must be accepted, some ameliorated, and some openly opposed.
Here it seems appropriate to return to the question of Reagan’s foreign policy. If Reagan (or his advisors) sought to destroy the Soviet Union out of ideological disapproval or zeal, they were acting as ideologues themselves, recklessly risking the national interest in pursuit of a false crusade. And there may have been some of this within the Reagan White House, as there had been for decades among some in the conservative movement. But defense of one’s nation in the face of an ideologically driven adversary certainly justifies vigorous measures—like the placement of nuclear missiles in Western Europe, pursuit of missile defense systems, and other endeavors for which Reagan was roundly criticized in the liberal press before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And what of the Soviet Union itself? Was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn a radical for seeking to “change course” from continued Soviet rule, knowing as he did the horrors of the gulag?
Mike: That’s a great point, isn’t it? So when we welcomed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to the United States and he was counseling us about how God had been kicked out of all life in Russia and that was the principle problem, and was saying Russia, the USSR needed to get back to the kind of life and lifestyle that the people lived before the churches were all razed and God was stricken from the public record or the public dialogue, was Solzhenitsyn being some sort of a radical nutjob that should have been shouted down and told: Hey, man, you need to get with the new religion, Aleksandr, it’s called the sexual revolution, and we’ve got it in spades here in the U.S., baby? Chicks are gonna dig that beard, Alek. I don’t think so.
Was he radical for calling on his nation, and ours, to abandon grand, ideological plans of social transformation, and calling us back to our religious traditions and heritage? One hopes not, for it is attachment to the deep roots of our culture that makes a society not only stable but worthwhile.
And, contra Galston, one may seek significant change in a political structure that has grown corrupt and damaging to a people’s more fundamental social institutions without being a radical. Indeed, if one thing separates the conservative from the liberal, it is recognition of the primacy of family, church, and local association in organizing any truly good life. This being true, a conservative has a duty to defend these associations in the face of transformative, centralizing political programs.
Like all traditions, the American political tradition contains within itself many different elements, strains, and tendencies. And, within the context of that tradition, so long as it remains whole and healthy, even dangerous strains have their proper role. The conservative who forgets his duty to help maintain order and balance within his tradition, who “goes with the flow” of trends-of-the-moment is no conservative. And, while conservative leadership may be sadly wanting in the political sphere, those who seek to maintain social order in the face of political ideology remain “relevant” in all times and places.
Mike: Wow! Read that today.
End Mike Church Show Transcript