“conservative intellectuals recognize no distinction between analysis and advocacy, or between the competition of ideas and the naked struggle for power.”
By Charles Lemos
“We want our country back!” is a cry often heard these days coming from the tea-party set and fringe conservatism. […] In the interview, Mr. Tanenhaus says that far from signifying a resurgence of conservative ideals, the Tea Party protesters and shock jocks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh spell the doom of the conservative movement.
This exchange at the start of the interview is rather telling.
BILL MOYERS: So, if you’re right about the decline and death of conservatism, who are all those people we see on television?
SAM TANENHAUS: I’m afraid they’re radicals. Conservatism has been divided for a long time — this is what my book describes narratively — between two strains. What I call realism and revanchism. We’re seeing the revanchist side.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean revanchism?
SAM TANENHAUS: I mean a politics that’s based on the idea that America has been taken away from its true owners, and they have to restore and reclaim it. They have to conquer the territory that’s been taken from them. Revanchism really comes from the French word for ‘revenge.’ It’s a politics of vengeance.
Projections by the Census Bureau suggest that the Hispanic population will increase from 15% of the population today to almost a third by 2050, almost tripling in size from 47 million to 133 million. By contrast, the non-Hispanic white population is expected to remain relatively steady numerically, barely rising from 200 million to 203 million. And given current trends by 2030, the white population in the US will actually start to decline in numbers for the first time in US history.
While some of this conservative angst is based on racist and xenophobic attitudes, much of it is also based on declining economic fortunes. And here is there is a serious disconnect, perhaps attributable to manipulation by GOP elites or perhaps due to sheer ignorance. Conservative politics and ideology, tied mostly to Republican administrations, have tended to espouse unregulated, unfettered, free markets and a tax structure that favor that top 10% of Americans and especially the top 1% income segment at the expense of the bottom 90%. This conservative crowd expresses skepticism, if not an irrational fear, of government even though history shows that policies espoused by progressive administrations, tied mostly to Democratic administrations (though I’d include both the Roosevelt and Eisenhower administrations in this lot) that expanded the role of government were the ones that expanded the middle class and introduced social safety programs that benefit most Americans.
One of the most overlooked realities of the American political economy is that while GOP preaches unregulated, unfettered, free markets, in truth, the GOP has used government as an ATM for the rich and powerful.”
The New York Review of Books: Podcasts
September 10, 2009
Garry Wills on the Death of Conservatism
Garry Wills speaks with Hugh Eakin about the end of the age of Buckley, the rise of right-wing radicalism, and the crisis facing the American conservative movement.
Conservatives: The Tanenhaus Taxonomy
By Garry Wills
An intellectual autopsy of the movement.
By Sam Tanenhaus
“The right, which for so long had deplored the politics of “class warfare,” had become the most adept practitioners of that same politics. They had not only abandoned Burke. They had become inverse Marxists, placing loyalty to the movement–the Reagan Revolution–above their civic responsibilities.In 1995, the time of Gingrich’s ascendancy, Kristol buoyantly spelled out the terms of revanchist strategy: “American conservatism is a movement, a popular movement, not a faction within any political party.[…]” Kristol does not consider whether purists might be expected to maneuver at all or even to modify their views–for the good not only of the party but also the larger polity.
Kristol went on, in this essay, to extol the contributions of two movement subgroups, the neoconservatives and the evangelicals. It was of course this alliance that most fervently supported George W. Bush during his two terms and remains most loyal to him today.
By their lights, they are right to do so. Bush, so often labeled a traitor to conservative principles, was in fact more steadfastly devoted to them than any of his Republican predecessors–including Ronald Reagan. Few on the right acknowledge this today, for obvious reasons. But not so long ago many did. At his peak, following September 11, Bush commanded the loyalties of every major faction of the Republican Party.”
“And then there was Iraq, the event that shaped Bush’s presidency and, by most accounts, brought both him and the movement to ruin. It was also the event most at odds with classic conservative thinking. It is customary even now to say that the architects of the Iraq occupation failed because they naively placed too much faith in democracy. In fact, the problem was just the opposite. So contemptuous of the actual requirements of civil society at home, Bush’s war planners gave no serious thought to how difficult it might be to create such a society in a distant land with a vastly different history. Those within the administration who tried to make this case were marginalized or removed from power.”
The End of Conservatism, Again
Dr. Russell Arben Fox