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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Conservatives and the Mainstream Consensus

And so what happens now?

The fundamental problem of conservative leadership is that while conservatives win elections, the liberals have won the culture war leaving a thin pale imitation of conservatives as the opposition. By successfully changing the consensus, conservatives have been split into moderates who have watered down the conservative message until it is crowd pleasing but virtually meaningless and radicals who have no hope of being elected and whose very existence is exploited to further batter the moderate conservatives into further watering down their message.

America, Israel and England teeter on the precipice of new elections, yet as dissatisfied as we are with our current leadership, the potential conservative opposition that has made gains in the polls offers little hope. Perhaps that is because John McCain, Benyamin Netanyahu and David Cameron are a long way from what either of the three countries really needs. They excel at rhetoric but the primary reason that actual conservatives and patriots would vote for them is that they are the alternative to the liberal side, however pale that alternative might be.

They are all compromise candidates who fear to genuinely address the real problems their countries face, but the compromise is not within the party, but the national political cultures. In a system where campaigns are increasingly won by seizing the middle ground and credibly is earned by one candidate out-"moderating" to other candidate, conservatives have learned to speak softly and keep the big stick in a closet somewhere out of sight and take it out occasionally at election time or dinners to reminisce fondly about the way things used to be.

Today even conservative political victories are primarily toothless because they rule in the shadow of a social consensus crafted by the left, one which makes certain views and policies unacceptable. George W. Bush spent a major portion of his administration being demonized for such innocuous things as using military tribunals to try captured terrorists while Netanyahu was all but brought down by opening a tunnel to tourists that enraged the Muslim hordes. Both represent the way in which conservatism has been backed into a corner by the shrill hysteria of the political terrorism of the left.

Liberalism has insisted on crafting its own social consensus out of thin cloth and has succeeded by imposing that consensus on the country with the consent of a terrified conservative political class more interested in winning short term political victories than securing a long term political future.

Conservatives have successfully marginalized liberal candidates only by accepting liberal positions as mainstream while portraying their opponents as radicals for taking positions that are further to the left. But like the mirage of an oasis in the desert, the radical positions of yesterday become the mainstream positions of today, as each such attempt by conservatives to seize the middle ground, legitimizes yet another wave of liberal positions, once again redefining the social consensus to make the formerly radical, mainstream.

In this way, election after election conservatives have won office and lost their values, held onto power and lost their beliefs. It is no wonder that Churchill is thought to be a mythical figure when living in an age when no party leader would dare speak or think the way that he did. By their political cowardice, conservatives have created a world order in which Sherlock Holmes is a more plausible figure than Churchill.


  1. Anonymous28/2/08

    Thin pale imitation is an apt description of what has happened to conservatives.

    Slightly OT but...I can't recall offhand which side threw the first salvos but McCain's assertion that Al Quaida was in Iraq before the US invasion was extremely tepid. And as tepid as his remark was, Obama's counter claim that al Quaida wasn't in Iraq until the US invaded while very questionable was nevertheless delivered with greater force and committment,

    McCain has to overcome his slow-paced delivery style and come on a whole lot stronger than he is.

    Keliata from work

  2. Who are the radicals on the right? What are their positions? Can we name names and specify what these radical positions are?

    I'm curious because during Lincoln's day, abolitionists were considered radicals. Today, who would not be for abolition of slavery in the U.S.?

    So I ask, what are these radical positions? Who holds them?

  3. "By their political cowardice, conservatives have created a world order in which Sherlock Holmes is a more plausible figure than Churchill."

    Perhaps they should have read the Boy Scouts Handbook. Rule #10 says a Scout is brave. "He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear and has to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him."

    Sadly, conservatives would see that as a lovely fictional thought, and so would liberals, come to think of it.



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