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Although I wouldn’t expect the mass media or the paid publicists of Conservatism, Inc. to have read my books about political reference points, I am deeply irritated by self-advertised authorities flinging around the words “conservative” and “liberal.” According to Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Jonah Goldberg and other” conservatism” experts, the US has been writhing in “liberal” captivity since November 2008. This terror and deceit will drag on, until we elect a Republican as Obama’s successor, at which point we’ll be back in a “conservative” paradise, as we were under George W. Bush. Having just returned from this people’s hero’s library (read shrine) on the SMU campus in Dallas, I was struck by all the earnest-looking senior citizens who were making a pilgrimage to this confusingly misnamed library. The visitors were all impeccably Republican and from listening to their conversations, it was obvious that they thought of themselves and the former president as “conservatives.” That of course means being for military intervention inter-galactically and for fighting for our immortal values, whatever those might happen to be at the time the rumble starts. Most of those statements ascribed to the honored ex-president and placed on panels were about battling those who don’t wish us well or else about reaching out to minority constituencies that typically vote for the Democrats. One could tell which citations came from W’s word processor: those were the quotations that looked elliptical and ungrammatical.
I have just learned that over 70% of Republicans polled by the Bloomberg Politics would happily support W’s younger brother Jeb for president. Jeb is now the most popular GOP presidential candidate without having said anything that could possibly woo the Right. Undoubtedly some of those earnest-looking contemporaries of mine who were swarming all over the G.W. Bush Library in Dallas were Jeb-backers. This would make them “conservatives,” since anyone bearing the GOP brand has an automatic right to the “conservative” label, just as those who are Democrats and will likely be voting for Hillary Clinton are defined as “liberals.” I also learned from “conservative” sources and by listening to Fox-news that Jeb and his friend from Florida Marco Rubio are the best “conservative” alternatives to the “liberal” Hillary. Such pundits as George Will and Charles Krauthammer have warned against nominating someone for president on the Republican ticket who is excessively “conservative,” e.g., someone like Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz who quibbles about gay marriage.
Needless to say, such “conservative” theorists would go bonkers if the Republican electorate did what it will likely not do (unless instructed by the Murdoch media or by local party bosses) and vote for the “isolationist” Rand Paul. Supposedly being “conservative” means voting for moderate GOP candidates who favor an aggressively interventionist foreign policy, say, model presidential candidates like McCain and Romney. Since Senate Republicans have been busily at work helping to draft an amnesty bill for illegals, while Republican federal judges, like John E. Jones in Pennsylvania, have joined Democratic judges in striking down state referenda banning gay marriage, it has become exceedingly hard to determine any significant differences between the two parties on social issues. Emphasis has been shifted elsewhere, e.g., who’s a bigger fan of the Likud Party in Israel, who calls more loudly for school vouchers in chasing after minority votes, who’s going to find a wider “path” toward acceptance for those who entered the country illegally and (lest I forget) which side hates Hillary more. Another made-up litmus test for who’s a “conservative” is who wants to fast-track the latest free trade bill that is winding its way through Congress. Although this bill enjoys the support of GOP donors, it’s not quite clear what exactly makes it “conservative.” Ever since it surfaced, members of the Old Right, led by Pat Buchanan, have been denouncing it. But the bill may be after all “conservative,” seeing that the Murdoch media and CEO’s who throw money at the GOP want it passed.
A few weeks ago my semantic perplexity was increased when I heard Megyn Kelly interview the head of the GOP-website Townhall, Guy Benson, who had just published a book decrying academic intolerance. During this conversation I learned that the interviewee was a proud, practicing gay, the very mention of which caused Megyn’s eyes to light up. It seems that Megyn is a feminist, but of the Republican genus and therefore a “conservative.” Guy is a gay but also someone who “refuses to be pigeonholed,” just as Megyn insists on being both a Republican and a self-conscious modern woman. Despite their shared independent streak, both GOP celebrities praised the feminist and gay activists of the past, who had prepared the way for their lifestyles. My impression while listening to this mutual admiration society was that the participants were doing something like a beer commercial. They were explaining why unlike their unimaginative companions, they are drinking Budweiser instead of Sam Adams or perhaps wearing Brooks instead of Adidas. Their discussion was about name brands and nothing else.
This brings me to the more shocking part of this literary exercise, which is a statement of regret that I did not appreciate Communist “conservatism” sooner. Thirty years ago I was ranting against the Commies with the best of them and viewed these villains as the slimiest and most repulsive foe the Western world had faced since Hitler. Now I am beginning to notice how much more traditionalist the Communist were than our Republicans and Democrats, twin vehicles of a mental disorder that is spreading like the Black Plague in the fourteenth century. The post-World War II French Communist Party maintained traditional gender roles, much to the dismay of then Communist and later critic of the party Annie Kriegel; and it opposed Third World immigration as injurious to the French working class. Communist parties and Communist regimes frowned on homosexual relations and treated them as a telltale sign of bourgeois decadence. In the interwar period the American Communist Party took a position on race relations that one encounters these days exclusively in “race realist” publications. American Communists as well as black separatists called for a separate black region, preferably in the Deep South, where blacks would be able to develop politically and economically, apart from whites.
Mind you, I am not apologizing for the murders and economic inefficiency caused by Communist regimes. I am only noting the good that the Communists caused to happen, perhaps inadvertently. As long as they were our enemies, we had to pretend to be on the right. By the 1960s this phase of our history was ending but it never disappeared entirely. While fighting “godless communism” and its leftist allies and apologists, the US stood for bourgeois, Judeo-Christian principles (never mind that was an invented thing). There was no political or cultural pressure, up until the end of the Cold War, to become feminists or champions of gay rights. And the Communists kept the Cultural Marxists in order, treating them as heretical socialists and deploring their glorification of sexual license and cultural anti-fascism.
It was only after the Communist empire came down that these nuts flooded into post-Communist regimes, while infecting the highly susceptible West with their ravings. Today both of our national parties would make the founders of the Frankfurt School, who labored relatively modestly against bourgeois family culture, blush with shame. I doubt these earlier cultural radicals, some of whom I met, could have imagined how far we would carry their appetite for social experiment. I have just read in the British Daily Mail how neoconservative star and gay activist James Kirchik hijacked a Russian cable news network for two minutes in order to denounce the Russian Duma for passing a law criminalizing “gay propaganda.”
For Kirchik and other contributors to Commentary, including its editor John Podhoretz, gay rights and now gay marriage, are essential elements of our Western heritage. Just recently I came across an impassioned plea for the acceptance of gay marriage in the onetime traditional Christian First Things. Obviously the GOP bosses are calling in their IOUs. Many words come to mind when listening to GOP presidential candidates babble about how eager they are to attend more gay weddings or reach out more passionately to minorities that hate their guts. Moreover, there are phrases to describe Jeb Bush’s opinions about illegal immigrants who sneak across borders “as an act of love” for their children.” “Conservative” or “sane,” however, is not a word that enters my consciousness when I reflect on Jeb’s effusions. Can’t we have a candidate who favors social decency and limiting immigration as an alternative to what our Cultural Marxist duopoly offers? Presumably the answer is “no”?