You Guessed It!

02.21.13

Who are Today's Rigid Ideologues?

Read Rod Dreher's words very, very carefully. And please, someone, try to explain how he's not 100 percent correct. I'm waiting.

When I was in college, and first became a conservative, it was the liberals who had a reputation as rigid, doctrinaire, snide, and off-putting. I’m generalizing, but in those days, liberals were the ones who were far more likely to be brittle, who weren’t willing to look around and adjust their prescriptions to changing circumstances, who seemed disconnected from the world as it was. It seemed to me that liberals had emotional and ideological touchstones in a bygone political and cultural era, and they dealt with changing times by insisting on greater ideological purity in the ranks.

Whatever else 1980s liberalism wasn’t, it wasn’t attractive. It seemed outdated and exhausted, both in terms of substantive policies and in terms of the way it presented itself to the public. I began my college career as a liberal, and it slowly began to dawn on me that I didn’t really believe in liberalism so much as I couldn’t stand Reagan and the people who loved him. I spent my freshman year fuming over the fact that my dad and all his friends were Reagan Democrats living in false consciousness; it never once occurred to me to wonder why it was working-class men had ceased to identify with the Democratic Party, and whether or not liberalism had anything wrong with it. My side was losing, but we found it easier to blame the fools who voted for Reagan, or to blame Reagan for being such an accomplished liar, than to examine ourselves and our own beliefs. (When I did begin to do that, my liberalism, which was primarily attitudinal, faded away.)

This is pretty much the case with conservatism today, I’m afraid. We could argue, and should argue, over what the policies of conservative government should be today; that’s not my point in this blog entry. My point here is that there is no creative ferment on the Right, no breathing space, few places where new ideas can emerge. All the energy on the Right seems aimed at hunting down the heretics within. That, and making life as hard as possible for the opposition, not because they have something better in mind, but as an end in itself.