Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – I think this is probably the valid question these days: What would a healthy conservatism look for? We’ve been fighting from a defensive posture for over 50 years now. You’ve got to get on the offense here, which is why nullification, interposition, secession, hold-out and the kind of people that are going to practice republicanism who would do nullification and interposition, or would consider rethinking the union, are going to need that virtuous, traditional conservative base. When I say base, I don’t mean base of people, I mean base of thinking, living, acting, a Christian gentleman. Check out the rest in today’s transcript…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: In his column, David Brooks cites Russell Kirk’s ten principles of conservative thought and reflects on how American conservatism has left Kirkian traditionalist conservatism in the ditch.
“The economic conservatives were in charge of the daring ventures that produced economic growth. The traditionalists were in charge of establishing the secure base – a society in which families are intact, self-discipline is the rule, children are secure and government provides a subtle hand. Ronald Reagan embodied both sides of this fusion, and George W. Bush tried to recreate it with his compassionate conservatism. But that effort was doomed because in the ensuing years, conservatism changed.
In the polarized political conflict with liberalism, shrinking government has become the organizing conservative principle. Economic conservatives have the money and the institutions. They have taken control. Traditional conservatism has gone into eclipse. These days, speakers at Republican gatherings almost always use the language of market conservatism – getting government off our backs…”
Mike: I’m thinking of Arnold Schwarzenegger as I said that, his speech at the 2004 RNC. [mocking Schwarzenegger] “When I came to America, I heard Richard Nixon. He was talking about getting America off your back.” Hey, Andrew, that was a pretty good Schwarzenegger, huh?
AG: Man, he has fallen off, though, hasn’t he?
Mike: You talking about with the maid tell-all book?
AG: Since he stepped away from the governorship, just nothing. You hear nothing from him anymore.
Mike: [mocking Schwarzenegger] “That’s because we got the government off your back.” He’s in a movie. He’s in that new Expendables movie. You can’t get rid of the Austrian oak, dude. Unfortunately, he’ll be back, Terminator 4.
AG: I think they might be making a Twins sequel.
Mike: I still don’t know how they did this, but they got him in Terminator 3: Judgment Day. No, what’s the one they just made with Sam Rockwell?
AG: I’m not a Terminator guy, I couldn’t tell you.
Mike: Was it Judgment Day or Redemption?
AG: Wasn’t it Rise of the Machine?
Mike: Yeah, Rise of the Machine. He was in it. I surmised that they took some young bodybuilder and he played the part of Arnold actually walking around and just digitally used Arnold’s head to make him look like the original terminator. There’s no way at 60 years old he looked like that. I bet the maid would back me up on it. [mocking Schwarzenegger] “What are you going to do for me to get all the media off my back?” I’m screwing up a really serious, great story here by telling dumb jokes. Maggie O’Connell is in the other room nodding. I’ll get back to it. Now, returning where I left off. This is Rod Dreher writing at The Imaginative Conservative.
“These days, speakers at Republican gatherings almost always use the language of market conservatism – getting government off our backs, enhancing economic freedom. Even Mitt Romney, who subscribes to a faith that knows a lot about social capital, relies exclusively on the language of market conservatism. It’s not so much that today’s Republican politicians reject traditional, one-nation conservatism. They don’t even know it exists.”
Read the whole thing. Obviously I agree with it completely, especially Brooks’s observation that “the Republican Party has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition.” On that point: I posted the Kirk piece the other day in response to a friend’s request that I explain what I think a healthy conservatism would look like.
Mike: I think this is probably the valid question these days: What would a healthy conservatism look for? We’ve been fighting from a defensive posture for over 50 years now. You’ve got to get on the offense here, which is why nullification, interposition, secession, hold-out and the kind of people that are going to practice republicanism who would do nullification and interposition, or would consider rethinking the union, are going to need that virtuous, traditional conservative base. When I say base, I don’t mean base of people, I mean base of thinking, living, acting, a Christian gentleman. Read all about him with the Earl of Chesterfield and Stonewall Jackson’s maxim books.
On that point: I posted the Kirk piece the other day in response to a friend’s request that I explain what I think a healthy conservatism would look like. If you find yourself frustrated with the intellectually moribund state of the GOP and the movement conservatism, I urge you to buy a copy of the historian George H. Nash’s “The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945.” It’s a highly readable, deeply knowledgeable account of American conservatism over the last few decades. It may shock readers who think conservatism began in 1980 to learn how deep and varied the various schools of conservative thought was – especially Kirk, Viereck, and the Traditionalists. They have all been eclipsed, as Brooks says.
I blame my tribe on the Religious Right for some of this. We allowed the greater part of what we had to offer to the broader conservative movement to consist of making demands about abortion and homosexuality. These were, and are, very important issues, but the idea that Christianity has little to say to contemporary conservatism, and to American politics, beyond strong opinions on these two issues – well, the impoverishment of that vision is radical. That, plus the incorrect assumption that free-market capitalism is always and everywhere agreeable to Christianity and social conservatism has contributed greatly to the rout of traditionalists.
Mike: He’s right. Traditionalists have been totally routed, run out of town. See: Patrick J. Buchanan. That process has to be reversed, but in order to reverse it, who’s going to do it? How are you going to make traditional conservatism appealing to 20-year-olds, 18-year-olds? I would suggest to you that that is exactly what Congressman Paul was doing. I know the stuff about the Fed, but you also have to imagine, ladies and gentlemen, when traditional conservatives ruled the earth back in the 17th and 18th centuries, marijuana was, by and large, legal. Hell, opiates were legal. Cocaine was legal. You can go on the internet and find boxes of cocaine for toothaches. It wasn’t until it became illegal and then it became desired because it was contraband, that drugs became used as they are today. Back in the old Christian traditionalist American world, most people knew that using those kinds of substances on a regular basis was not healthy. God teaches you to care for your bodies. It’s not yours, it’s his. You’re just borrowing it. In order to do that, you wouldn’t do these things. It was part of Christian behavior. Dreher is right about this.
The fusionists – that is, the people who forged the coalition between economic conservatives (many of whom tended to be libertarians) and traditionalists – understood that American conservatism stood for ordered liberty. Not simply order, and not simply liberty. Freedom and virtue were meaningless without each other. Virtue, in a political sense, had to mean something more than the sum total of free individuals behaving well. Virtue had to come from strong families and communities. Robert Nisbet [Mike: I’m starting to read Nisbet’s book The Quest for Community. Unbelievably provocative stuff, and it shouldn’t be provocative but it is.] Nisbet saw all of this in the 1950s, and wrote about it in The Quest For Community.
Ever read that book? Ever read Kirk’s The Conservative Mind? Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences? [Mike: I’m reading Weaver’s Southern Tradition at Bay right now.] These are treasure troves of traditionalist conservative thought and insight – all of it now so alien to what conservatism has become that to read them is like meeting a long-lost ancestor, a rich uncle who offers you an inheritance you didn’t know you had. [Mike: Dreher closes with some advice] Turn off talk radio. Turn off the cable. Quit buying books from flashy Republican Party publicists. Take up the old traditionalist masters – Kirk, Nisbet, Weaver, and their philosophical school – and read. One day, their wisdom may revive American conservatism from the sterility and sloganeering of Conservatism, Inc.
Mike: Rod’s throwing the gauntlet down. I thought I was the only one out here sticking their neck out going, “What you guys are calling conservative is not conservative as I understand the term and what it used to conserve.” That conversation is the one we ought to be having, not about how we can bomb Benghazi, not about how we can help out Bibi Netanyahu, not about we can [mocking] “restore some sanity to the fiscal system.”
We ought to be having conversations — not only should we be having them, we should be hosting them at meetings, at conventions, at parties. That’s what we do at the ReFounding Father Society. We’ve gone from the politics end of it to the learning end of it. I’ve never seen a spike in membership requests and chapter requests like we’ve seen in the last two weeks. It’s absolutely amazing. The great works are great works for reasons. They were read for eons for reasons. They weren’t just read out of convenience, they were read because they produced good results. The crap we read today doesn’t produce good results. It produces the anyone-but-Obama mindset. Yes, Obama needs to go, but develop a cogent, philosophical opinion as to why he has to go and what you want to replace him with, it with. He is a representative of an it.
End Mike Church Show Transcript