Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “It’s not Red Sox Vs Yankees, it’s Conservationists Vs Liberationists.”
Conor Friedersdorf has an interesting post at The Atlantic website. It operates under the title, “What Parts of the New Deal Do ‘True Conservatives’ Want to Scrap?” I can answer that question in three notes. How about the whole thing? How about we start with Wickard v. Filburn? How about that, Conor? If we can eliminate Wickard v. Filburn, then we can eliminate Congress’s alleged power to micromanage every living soul and every living soul’s activities under the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Conor Friedersdorf has an interesting post at The Atlantic website. It operates under the title, “What Parts of the New Deal Do ‘True Conservatives’ Want to Scrap?” I can answer that question in three notes. How about the whole thing? How about we start with Wickard v. Filburn? How about that, Conor? If we can eliminate Wickard v. Filburn, then we can eliminate Congress’s alleged power to micromanage every living soul and every living soul’s activities under the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8. He is referring to a piece posted at National Review Online from editors Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru who:
. . . have published a smart, overdue warning against ‘apocalyptic conservative politics,’ a term they defined for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention.
“It is a politics of perpetual intra-Republican denunciation,” they write. “It focuses its fire on other conservatives as much as on liberals. [Mike: Sounds like they’ve been listening to this show.] It takes more satisfaction in a complete loss on supposed principle than in a partial victory [Mike: They have been listening to this show.] let alone in the mere avoidance of worse outcomes. It has only one tactic—raise the stakes, hope to lower the boom—and treats any prudential disagreement with that tactic as a betrayal. Adherents of this brand of conservative politics are investing considerable time, energy, and money in it, locking themselves in unending intra-party battle.”
They challenge the mistaken premise that guides this approach to politics:
“That premise is that the main reason conservatives have won so few elections and policy victories, especially recently, is a lack of ideological commitment and will among Republican politicians. A bigger problem than the insufficient conservatism of our leaders is the insufficient number of our followers. There aren’t enough conservative voters to elect enough officials to enact a conservative agenda in Washington, D.C.—or to sustain them in that project even if they were elected. The challenge, fundamentally, isn’t a redoubling of ideological commitment, but more success at persuasion and at winning elections.”
These are hard truths that movement conservatives need to hear. In bearing the bad news, National Review exhibited both courage and deep respect for its audience. The Economist explains the article’s importance at greater length. Kevin Drum notices what it stopped short of saying. But who cares what those liberals think anyway? National Review’s audience doesn’t.
The magazine has its share of independent-minded readers, but insofar as the NR audience is going to be persuaded about whether to react openly or angrily to the piece, they’re much more likely to factor in the opinion of RedState‘s Erick Erickson [Mike: I’d ask the question why.]
He hated the article. His biting critiques are sometimes analytically sound, but not this time. This is mostly name-calling and question-begging. But one thread is worthy of comment. Erickson begins by quoting something William F. Buckley wrote in 1955 (emphasis added):
“Conservatives in this country—at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is serious question whether there are others—are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is dangerous business in a Liberal world,…
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“Conservatives in this country—at least those who have not made their peace with the New Deal, and there is serious question whether there are others—are non-licensed nonconformists; and this is dangerous business in a Liberal world, as every editor of this magazine can readily show by pointing to his scars. Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.”
Says Erickson, “National Review, over the last several years, have made it clearer and clearer that they now speak mostly for the well-fed right and not for conservatives hungering for a fight against the leviathan. They have made their peace with the New Deal, moving beyond Buckley. For that matter, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and most of the defunders have largely made their peace with the New Deal. [Mike: You’re gonna pay for that one, Erickson. Don’t you dare take down Ted Cruz, buddy. Teddy and the Cruzers will come after you. Trust me, I know.] And still National Review is too timid to join the merry band of defunders themselves too timid to approach the parameters under which William F. Buckley started his charge.”
Do you know what I suspect, dear reader? That 95 percent of movement conservatives have made peace with the New Deal, but dare not admit it, sometimes even to themselves; and that self-appointed tribal enforcers are happy to exploit the doublethink on this subject by opportunistically trotting out the accusation—Why, these RINOs made peace with the New Deal!—as if none of the conservatives who they consider to be icons would dare make peace with any of it.
Mike: Then there’s more on this about how Reagan made peace with the New Deal and because Reagan did it then it’s good for everyone to do and it must certainly be healthy and conservative. Fresh on the heels of attending the Free Enterprise Institute breakfast yesterday and listening to Russell Kirk’s widow, who I would think has an inside track on the conservative thought process and what Russell Kirk thought made up a late 20th century and now 21st century conservative, and then having listened to Gleaves Whitney, who gave the keynote, who has studied Dr. Kirk’s work and others, listening to Whitney try to apply that to today, I’d say what Friedersdorf and Lowry and Ponnuru and most of the rest of these people are talking about is not conservative. They are and most make the assumption that conservatism is a purely political exercise.
I will now say for the 150 billionth and second time that it is not. If you read and study any of that thought process or any of the great thinkers of the great conservative awakening, which happened shortly after World War II, you’re going to come to the same conclusion. This is where the problem lies, or where the challenge lies, in educating people and convincing them that their rabid pursuit of political success and political gamesmanship and partisanship dressed up and packaged using the term conservative is going to produce heartache and misery. It’s set up for that. You’re setting yourself up for it.
He [Whitney] broke down the political part of this process into two groups. The two groups are the conservationists, that would be you conserve types, and the other group are the liberationists, the liberals. The liberationists, by definition, are almost always going to be the ones that are going to propose.
If life is a series of adjustment made on the fly, there are very few times when we adjust what it is that we do and ratchet anything back. Nobody wants to go back to 1990. You can’t convince anyone to go back to 1950. You could try but you’re probably not going to win, much less trying to convince them to go back to 1932 before FDR took office and the New Deal reared its ugly leviathaned head. Almost anything that happens that is legislatively done is going to be, in some fashion, liberal or progressive, because it’s altering the current, which is why conservatism is not set up for and doesn’t seem to be adequate to the task of politics.
Whitney explained this yesterday in a manner that I have never heard anyone explain it at this speech that I had. As I said, I hope that Winston publishes this speech that he gave, both in written form and in the video and audio. He broke down the political part of this process into two groups. The two groups are the conservationists, that would be you conserve types, and the other group are the liberationists, the liberals. The liberationists, by definition, are almost always going to be the ones that are going to propose. It is the job of the conservationists then, if your conservatism has a political role, to compare what it is that the liberationist wants to do with the past, and what the good things are, the permanent things you’re trying to preserve, and to see whether or not there is an agreement or compromise between the two. In the aspect of using the dirty word compromise, I think that those that say if you’re not willing to do that then you can’t get anything done, and those that say if you compromise at all, compromise means you can’t be conservative, I don’t think you could be more wrong if you tried to be more wrong, using the formula that I just laid out for you. The liberals or the liberationists are always going to propose. They’re never going to stop.
Actually, Edmund Burke, the great conservative thinker from England, who could have been a founding father had he decided to leave parliament and join Washington and company, because he was at the same time, Burke would have been in the conservationists camp. I think if you study a little bit about Burke’s career and some of the things that he wrote about and that he said, you get a little bit better of an understanding of the two roles. Burke said that in order to have self-government, you have to have both.
You people out there always screaming and hollering [mocking] “If we could just get rid of these liberals,” you’re never going to get rid of the liberals. You’re never going to get rid of the liberationists. It’s just not going to happen ever. That is a utopia that is not going to exist. Utopias don’t exist, and if they do, they’re dangerous. The pursuit of utopia is dangerous. It’s what gives you Hitlers and Maos. You’re always going to have the liberationist who’s always going to be trying to change things. We would hope in the future that there would be fewer of them than there are today. That may be a laudable goal and something to shoot for. In order to do that, you’d have to do what? You have to change the culture. You have to change the way people think about things.
It is then left to the conservationist to say no. It is left to the conservationist to consider whether or not what the liberationist is saying, number one, is it something that we ought to do? Is it something we ought to be tinkering with? Is it something we ought to be considering? Is it a transcendent or a tradition or an institution that has proven worthy throughout centuries of producing good so we should just leave it alone? That’s the job of the conservationist. Folks, that’s our role. That’s what we do. The nonstop complaining with the black clouds over our heads telling us we’re miserable failures at it is not going to improve the situation. If you want to improve it, leave the politics behind and start concentrating on the culture and the scale of the endeavor.
All the speakers brought up scale yesterday. I am happy and overjoyed to see the use of that term enter more and more of our discussion, because scale is an argument that the conservationist can win. Scale is important. It matters in every human endeavor, and it certainly matters in government. It’s an argument that you can win. The liberationist is not going to win the scale argument if he thinks the scale is hunky-dory right now, which is kind of funny. You would think the liberationist would be all about the individual and would say, [mocking] “We can’t have 309 million people, one blob of people all marching to the beat of the same political drummer.” That’s not going to happen.
End Mike Church Show Transcript