A Positive Vision for American Conservatism
Progressives have risen to power by constantly going on offense, forcing American conservatives into a rear-guard struggle to defend themselves against relentless personal and political assault for decades. The “critical theory” strategy of condemning to death capitalism, individualism, and America itself has taken a toll, mainly because most conservatives are too bewildered how to effectively argue their ideals without appearing insensitive and uncompassionate.
So most go over-the-top and preach to the choir. Many give up in frustration and refuse to talk to the left. Others assume that everyone except freaks essentially agree with them, and so moderates don’t need to be persuaded with direct, forceful arguments.
Time to turn the tables.
In order to achieve victory in any battle, one must know oneself, the nature of the enemy, and the terrain, as ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu advised. American conservatives know themselves, yet why do they allow themselves to be called “conservatives”?
Contrary to the pretension of Republican candidates, we are not seeking to “conserve” the welfare state. Neither are we seeking to protect the privileges of the establishment, as defenders of an ancien regime. Nor are we corporatists; but rather advocates for free enterprise. Nor do we believe The Constitution is self-enforcing, on the contrary, we see dire need of re-implementing its plan for government.
But the “conservative” narrative kills our appeal with vital younger people who instantly misunderstand our vision for America. No, we are radicals for freedom. And not lawless, anarchic freedom, but ordered liberty.
We are fierce champions for individual rights. What does this mean? A world where everyone can rest easy in the security of one’s person. Where someone can work and earn the fruits of labor without fear of it being confiscated by any person, any group, or any government (without the express justification of financing the protection of that individual and the nation).
We want a world where every single person, no matter what skin color, eye color, ethnic background, place of birth, or whatever particularity is valued as a human being for who he or she is, without exception. No group privileges needed, except one’s membership in the human race, beginning at conception.
Somehow, the left brands this point of view as selfish. Let us address this supposed epithet. If we believe if there is a need for charity, for example, it should be carried out voluntarily by individuals, charity groups, and churches on a person-by-person basis. In this way, individuals can choose to become good citizens, instead of delusionally trying to outsource virtue to government, with the implied threat of prison for refusal, no less.
What is truly selfish, in a pernicious manner, is the entitlement mentality fostered by government bureaucrats, whose jobs depend on dispensing our hard-earned money to those who did not earn it, ensnaring people with dependency and compromising their ability to lead good, principled lives. That is why we oppose it – on moral grounds.
In economic terms, I am yet to see the enterprise or corporation that can pay itself (outside of the Federal Reserve). A business has to provide a demanded good or service to individuals who live in society in order to make a profit. Yet many left-wing groups “pay themselves” through money expropriated (i.e. stolen) by government. Their insufficiently demanded services are almost pure profit, since they thrive on grants and donations. We do not concede that their goals are any more noble than ours; quite the contrary.
In terms of international relations, a brief note is needed. The world is anarchic, and that has resulted in a chaotic struggle for power. We should protect ourselves and our nation with a policy of peace through strength. This view does not require ongoing intervention and nation-building in foreign nations whose people have no proven desire for freedom. We do not seek to make converts at the barrel of a gun, but through the power of our example. And if our enemies hate us for our example, so much more the reason to be strong; and that comes in practice from being just and right.
We are for a society where individuals are free to dissent with one another, to be themselves, to communicate with one another freely, and yes, even to harm themselves and hopefully learn from bad experiences. Radicals for freedom do not advocate vices and destructive behavior, but we do believe it is quixotic to try to protect human beings from themselves, just as it is dangerous to entrust government with such a role.
In essence, we who love America as it was founded are for self-government – the forgotten government. This requires as a minimum the aggressive defense of our gun rights, the cultivation of a steely independence of mind, and voluntarism. The American who loves his country as it was founded is not an atomist, seeking a lonely, isolated world, but rather he desires a society of free association, where someone is not forced to be a part of a group he has no desire to join, let alone finance.
By contrast, what does the left stand for, when stripped of its pollyannish narrative? A world where there is no private property in practice, meaning that the government, acting on behalf of any special interest, can strip you of the fruits of your labor and redistribute them to anyone the politicians deem fit, at any time, for any reason. You being an inconsequential individual, you have no say in the matter.
By extension, while we allow for elections as a means of recourse for holding politicians accountable, we are not advocates for “democracy” as an end in itself. The purpose of democracy is that it is a means of protecting our rights from usurpation. The meaning of democracy to the left is synonymous with corruption: it is a means of building an unscrupulous majority and depriving individuals of their rights and their property.
What else does the left stand for? A place without guns, meaning the government’s agents, or criminals for that matter, can burst into your home for any reason whatsoever with little fear of effective retaliation. Time to lay off the conspiracy theories? A decent twentieth century textbook says otherwise. There are numerous regimes in history who claimed such power and exercised it regularly to snuff out dissent or any perceived threat to the state. We cannot all be so clueless as to fall for the “it can never happen here” effect; on the contrary, we should vigilantly take pre-emptive action as alert citizens.
The left ultimately wants a world without effective opposition – political, physical, and intellectual. Tyrannies must always find recourse to practice censorship in order to implement their plans to “transform” society into something more pliable, something that can be milked for the benefit of oligarchs. Whether we observe the tendentious nature of college courses, the tolerated shouting down of campus speakers, moves to re-implement the fairness doctrine, or Trojan horses for “regulating” (i.e. strangling, as in commerce) the Internet, it is undeniable that many modern liberals secretly desire their opposition to be silenced.
Why is this? The modern left has little to do with liberalism, as it was classically articulated. Progressives agree in principle with Marx, who said, “Peace is the absence of opposition to socialism.” Pick your euphemism for the ideology of the modern left, whether liberalism, progressivism, neo-marxism, or what-have-you, and there are enough real comparisons to socialism to warrant comparison. There may be contrasts, but they are few and relatively unimportant.
We should no longer candy coat who we think progressives are, and make them prove with examples in theory and in practice how they differ from socialists. This is a terrain ripe for the American “right” to present counterfactuals and counterarguments. Successfully branding the American “left” as essentially socialist is death for its movement, that is why so-called progressives blanket deny it and laugh it off.
The terrain, finally, is the media. The New Media format, pioneered by men like Matt Drudge, the late Andrew Breitbart, and now, countless others, represents an existential threat to the Old Media’s ability to define our agenda in the negative. We “conservatives,” or as I like to think of us, radicals for freedom, have always been thought of as being opposed to the left, opposed to socialism, and opposed to progress. Once we understand critical theory, however, we can flip the game on them.
The radical left is not for freedom; it is a counter-revolutionary movement that effectively seeks to restore the state to its historic place of dominating economy, society, and the private lives of individuals. We are the revolutionists in that we stand for the American revolution and its uncompleted, Enlightenment-based vision of emancipating mankind from domination by the entrenched ruling class.
What exactly should we do? Articulate our vision in positive terms. Make the left defend its failed ideology, and force leftists to give examples of their success stories. Theirs will be few and far between, while ours will be many and shining; as is the case of America itself. Understand the New Media terrain, muster our forces there, and make the left fight on the grounds of our choosing. That is how we win. That is how we implement our positive vision for America.