“Our commitment to democracy means that Liberalism will maintain its historic dominance over our minds, and that conservative thinkers will continue as well-kept but increasingly restless hostages to the American tradition.” Liberals will always set the tone for public life, he argued, leaving conservatives with the thankless task of fighting liberal reforms and then adjusting to them after they have been adopted.
Condescending with a bit of the automatic snigger that phonies reserve for sincere patriots. So what else is new?
Sam Tanenhaus's book is something new in publication, but the same old drivel. Despite the fact that every poll by every pollster on the spectrum from infra-red to ultra-violet consistently comes up with the same percentage: 35% of Americans polled consider themselves "conservative" and 20% consider themselves "liberal." Yet p.o.s. Tanenhaus insists:
....the conservative movement collapsed under the presidency of George W. Bush, and that Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 marked the beginning of a new liberal era in American politics. Tanenhaus is not altogether certain as to the causes of this collapse, at times suggesting that conservatives undid themselves because they were corrupt and unprincipled in their pursuit of power and at others suggesting that they lost the support of the American people because of their devotion to right-wing “orthodoxy.” The one thing about which he is certain is that he dislikes conservatives—intensely and unremittingly so, judging by the rhetoric deployed in this book. Tanenhaus says at various points that conservatives are out to destroy the country, that they are driven by revenge and resentment, that they dislike America, and that they behave more like extremists and revolutionaries (“Jacobins”) than as genuine conservatives. In this sense, he has resurrected the liberal literature about Sen. McCarthy and “the radical right,” and sought to apply it to contemporary conservatism as if nothing of importance had happened in the meantime.
Why do conservatives allow themselves to be defined by such bottom-feeding pondscum-eaters as Tanenhaus? He takes great books like Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism and Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man and uses the usual reductionist shell games to convince an entrenched elitist minority of self-anointed "gatekeepers" that they are the only game in town. In a classic case of projective dishonesty, S**T suggests, in Piereson's words, that by opposing an avalanche of unread, unthought-out Democrat splurging like some binge-and-purge bulemic,
"the right is the main source of disorder and dissension in contemporary society and the instigators of the long-running culture war that has divided the country"
Piereson easily refutes the straw men that resentment specialist Tanenhaus throws up as arguments, in a book written breathlessly immediately after the Obama victory before the entitlement Won ran up a $9 trillion spending binge.
It is certainly true, as Tanenhaus says, that conservatism as a political doctrine has its flaws and weaknesses, which are magnified when it is judged in the immediate aftermath of a lost election or in isolation from alternative approaches to public life. When judged in relation to liberalism, however, modern conservatism takes on a more favorable outlook. Many of the sins Tanenhaus attributes to conservatives—overly zealous attachment to principle or ideology, unwillingness to adapt to change, impatience with popular opinion—are on display as much or more among liberals. If Tanenhaus or anyone else wishes to see liberalism in action, he might venture on to an elite college campus where only liberal and leftist views are permitted peaceful expression, or out to Sacramento or up to Albany where liberal Democrats, long in control, have spent their states into near bankruptcy. The liberal faculty and public employee unions that control those institutions and jurisdictions have not exactly distinguished themselves for their far-sighted and open-minded leadership. As for New York and California, the public employee unions that control the Democratic party, and thereby the state governments, have exploited the prosperity of recent decades to build up huge government establishments that will no longer be affordable in the forthcoming era of austerity, especially as taxpayers and businesses flee to other states like Texas and Florida that have followed more conservative paths. As California and New York unravel, voters will undoubtedly turn to conservatives to restore levels of growth and prosperity sufficient to fund their social programs and educational systems. Liberals will come to understand that in order to fund their programs, they will have to tolerate conservatives and conservative policies. That will be a hard and painful lesson for liberals to learn. If conservatism is dead, in short, then so is liberalism, and much else besides.
Conservatism, moreover, is now a permanent and enduring aspect of American political life, supported by millions of Americans and defended by a large network of writers, journals, and think tanks. There is, however, a more important reason for its enduring appeal among Americans. Conservatism in America deploys the principles of tradition, reason, and orderly change in defense of liberal institutions—the Constitution, representative government, liberty and equal rights, the rule of law. It is generally the conservative, not the modern liberal, who emphasizes the inspired example of the founding fathers, the words of the Constitution, and the sacrifices made to build free institutions. If it is true that liberals want to overcome the past, or apologize for it, then conservatives want us to remember, to learn, and to build constructively upon it. That may be a challenging task in a culture of short memory, but it is far from a thankless one.
When Piereson admits that "conservatism as a political doctrine has its flaws and weaknesses," he does something that the triumphalist autistic solipsists on the left cannot do. Look reality in the face without projecting their hypertrophic big government philosophy into the frame.
New York and California now have their bloated irretrievable deficits firmly in place and a gigantic parasitic state apparatus requiring constant injections of tax monies to sustain the nepotistic hordes of corrupt Democrats. A parasite like Rangel is only one example of the crap-pie CA & NY taxpayers are going to have to swallow. TX & FL will benefit, and the bloated caterpillars of the Dem states will never graduate to flutter like a butterfly.
Mark Steyn asks the question:
Driving north out of New York the other day, I heard a caller to Mark Levin’s show discuss his excellent book Liberty and Tyranny. The word she kept using was “inevitable”: The republic felt exhausted, and there was an “inevitability” to what was happening. A quarter-millennium of liberty seemed to be about the best you could expect, and its waning was—again—“inevitable.”
Oh yeah, and it's "inevitable" that Tanenhaus's book will be on the Remainder shelf within three months, while Liberty & Tyranny will still be selling a thousand a week.
Demography is destiny.