I was looking forward to some intelligent debate this week. I was looking forward to well-reasoned arguments that reflected a pragmatic conservative approach to history, but what I found was a bunch of random information, complaining, and anachronism.
Allan C. Carson outlines a rather disjointed history of conservatism and defines conservatism using Barry Goldwater’s famous quote that conservatism attempts “to apply wisdom and experience and the revealed truths of the past to the problems of today.” However, it is seems that much of conservatism (evidenced through these articles) isn’t concerned with problem solving but is defined by reactionary rhetoric, blaming, and complaining. I didn’t find any reasoned arguments in the readings, even among those countering the conservative points. This is probably due to the fact that you can’t reasonably argue against a bunch of ranting. All of these conservative bloggers seemed to be just spewing out a bunch of information with no connecting or coherent statements linking them together. A strong argument is not a bunch of random facts and opinions, and this go for both Liberals and Conservatives! And this is the appeal of Conservativism, for many people, — it isn’t thoughtful or logic driven.
Conservative rhetoric is imbued with inflammatory and impassioned language which distracts from the lack of logical and coherent thought. This could be the reason that religious fervor fits nicely into Conservative arguments. There is also an insane amount of blaming and complaining that goes on in Conservative speech. David W. Almasi’s article regarding the Chavez monument is a ridiculous piece of this kind of pointless blaming. It is fairly well-known that Chavez (and Gandhi) were effective leaders but disturbed individuals, but David W. Almasi turns the endorsed Chavez monument into some sort of scandal, which it is not. A politician made a political move, wow… This is not earth shattering journalism.
The interpretation of history found in these articles is also more inflamed than logical, and seems lacking in critical analysis. Carlson doesn’t acknowledge that what he calls the “notorious 60s” was birthed out of the conservative 1950s, a time he praises as the ideal decade socially, economically, and politically for everyone. However, if the 1950s were halcyon days why were so many privileged white youth and unprivileged non-white groups so equally unhappy with it?
Carlson also states that a neo-conservative is a “liberal mugged by reality,” but this doesn’t really mesh with what I have seen from the Conservative camp. At the heart of Conservative rhetoric is a very narrowly defined concept of reality, or desired reality. This is why Conservatism has been accused of blatant racism, sexism, and elitism. This isn’t to say that Liberals are not guilty of the same thing, especially behind the scenes. In fact, Liberalists are possibly the most covert group of classists and racists currently existing in politics and the professional world; and this is part of the reason that so many working-class people and people of color are turned off by Liberalism. In terms of the Conservative “reality”, the fact that many Conservatives politicians have never personally experienced racism, sexism, homophobia, or classism places these things so far outside their “reality” that Conservative rhetoric starts to purport that they don’t even exist, or if they do exist, they exist as an inconvenience or as a product of overly sensitive individuals. Further these inconveniences, according to Conservatives, in no way are the responsibility of the government or society.
The other problem I had with the week’s readings was that the authors were constantly complaining about generalized things. Generalizing is why so many people, myself included, are turned off by Conservativism. For example, if you want to start attracting black voters, stop putting all black voters in the same category. This was a major problem in Kevin Williamson’s article.
This week’s blog writers also loved to be anachronistic. So much of this reading seemed to be a debate about what historical figures would be Liberal or Conservative today. Kevin Jackson opens his article with arguing against this kind of anachronism then proceeds to do the same thing! The point of this anachronism is to push their own agenda, but to what end? How is this problem solving? How is this engaged and thoughtful politics? So MLK would be a Republican today? Great! Now what?
Perhaps, there is still hope that Conservatives can move away from their angry, generalized, and inflammatory speech, so we can all sit down and have a logical debate. The problems in the world are complex, and a debate about them deserves more than a series of venting and blaming.