Conservative or liberal: What is behind the brand?

Conservative or liberal: What is behind the brand?

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What does "conservative" and "liberal" even mean anymore? What does the brand mean?

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WASHINGTON, May 28, 2015 — According to Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Jonah Goldberg and other “experts” on conservatism, the U.S. has been groaning under liberal captivity since November, 2008. The terror and deceit will drag on until we elect a Republican as Obama’s successor, at which point we’ll return to a conservative paradise, such as we had under George W. Bush.

Although I don’t expect the mass media or the paid publicists of Conservatism, Inc. to have read my books about political reference points, I am deeply irritated by their use of the words “conservative” and “liberal.”

Upon visiting the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (that is, shrine) on the SMU campus in Dallas, one is struck by the earnest-looking senior citizens who make the pilgrimage to this confusingly misnamed library. The visitors are all impeccably Republican, and, from listening to their conversations, it is obvious that they think of themselves and the former president as “conservatives.” That means being for military intervention anywhere and at any time, and fighting for our immortal values, whatever those might be when the rumble starts.

Most statements ascribed to the honored former president and placed on panels are about battling those who don’t wish us well or about reaching out to minority constituencies that typically vote for Democrats. You can tell which citations came from W’s word processor: Those are the quotations that looked elliptical and ungrammatical.

Over 70 percent of Republicans polled by Bloomberg Politics would happily support W’s younger brother Jeb for president. Jeb is now the most popular GOP presidential candidate, without having said anything that could possibly woo the Right.

Undoubtedly some of those earnest-looking people who swarm all over the Bush Library are Jeb-backers. This would make them “conservatives,” since anyone bearing the GOP brand has an automatic right to the “conservative” label, just as those who are Democrats and will likely vote for Hillary Clinton are defined as “liberals.”

“Conservative” sources and Fox News say that Jeb and his friend from Florida, Marco Rubio, are the best conservative alternatives to the liberal Hillary. George Will and Charles Krauthammer have warned Republicans against nominating anyone who is excessively conservative, e.g., someone like Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz, who quibble about gay marriage.

These conservative theorists would go bonkers if Republican voters did what they will likely not do—unless instructed by the Murdoch media or by local party bosses—and vote for the “isolationist” Rand Paul.

Being “conservative” means voting for moderate GOP candidates who favor an aggressively interventionist foreign policy, men like John McCain and Mitt Romney. Since Senate Republicans have been busily at work helping to draft an amnesty bill for illegals, while Republican federal judges like John E. Jones in Pennsylvania have joined Democratic judges in striking down state referenda banning gay marriage, it has become hard to see the differences between the two parties on social issues.

Emphasis has shifted elsewhere: Who’s a bigger fan of Israel’s Likud Party; who calls more loudly for school vouchers in chasing after minority votes; who’s going to find a wider “path toward acceptance” for those who entered the country illegally; and who hates Hillary more.

Another shibboleth for conservatives is fast-track authority for the latest free-trade bill—the Trans Pacific Pact, or TPP—in Congress. Although this bill enjoys the support of GOP donors, it’s not clear what makes it conservative. Ever since TPP surfaced, members of the Old Right, led by Pat Buchanan, have been denouncing it. But the Murdoch media and CEOs who throw money at the GOP want it passed.

A few weeks ago my semantic perplexity was increased when Megyn Kelly interviewed the head of the GOP-website Townhall, Guy Benson, who had just published a book decrying academic intolerance. The interviewee is a proud, practicing gay, the very mention of which caused Megyn’s eyes to light up. It seems that Megan is a feminist, but of the Republican genus and therefore a conservative. Guy is a gay but also someone who “refuses to be pigeonholed,” just as Megan insists on being both a Republican and a self-conscious modern woman. Despite their shared independent streak, both GOP celebrities praised the feminist and gay activists of the past who had paved the way for their lifestyles.

The members of this mutual admiration society were doing something like a beer commercial. They were explaining why unlike their unimaginative companions, they are drinking Budweiser instead of Sam Adams or perhaps wearing Brooks instead of Adidas. Their discussion was about name brands and nothing else.

It is with shock and regret that I realize I did not appreciate Communist “conservatism” sooner. Thirty years ago I ranted against the Commies with the best of them and viewed these villains as the slimiest, most repulsive foe the Western world had faced since Hitler. Now I see how much more traditionalist the Communists were than our Republicans and Democrats, twin vehicles  of a mental disorder that is spreading like the Black Death in the 14th century.

The post-World War II French Communist Party maintained traditional gender roles, much to the dismay of then Communist and later critic of the party Annie Kriegel. It opposed Third World immigration as injurious to the French working class. Communist parties and Communist regimes frowned on homosexual relations and treated them as a telltale sign of bourgeois decadence.

In the interwar period, the American Communist Party took a position on race relations that one encounters these days exclusively in “race realist” publications. American Communists as well as black separatists called for a separate black region, preferably in the deep South, where blacks would be able to develop politically and economically, apart from whites.

Mind you, I am not apologizing for the murders and economic inefficiency caused by Communist regimes. I am only noting the good that the Communists caused to happen, perhaps inadvertently. As long as they were our enemies, we had to pretend to be on the right. By the 1960s this phase of our history was ending but it never disappeared entirely.

While fighting “godless communism” and its leftist allies, the U.S. stood for bourgeois, Judeo-Christian principles (never mind that was an invented thing). There was no political or cultural pressure, up until the end of the Cold War, to become feminists or champions of gay rights. And the Communists kept the cultural Marxists in order, treating them as heretical socialists and deploring their glorification of sexual license and cultural anti-fascism.

It was only after the Communist empire came down that these nuts flooded into post-Communist regimes, while infecting the highly susceptible West with their ravings. Today both of our national parties would make the founders of the Frankfurt School, who labored relatively modestly against bourgeois family culture, blush with shame.

I doubt these earlier cultural radicals, some of whom I met, could have imagined how far we would carry their appetite for social experiment. The British Daily Mail reports that neoconservative star and gay activist James Kirchik hijacked a Russian cable news network for two minutes in order to denounce the Russian Duma for passing a law criminalizing “gay propaganda.”

For Kirchik and other contributors to Commentary, including its editor John Podhoretz, gay rights and now gay marriage are essential elements of our Western heritage. Just recently I came across an impassioned plea for the acceptance of gay marriage in the onetime traditional Christian First Things. Obviously the GOP bosses are calling in their IOUs.  Many words come to mind when listening to GOP presidential candidates babble about how eager they are to attend more gay weddings or reach out more passionately to minorities who hate their guts.

Moreover, there are phrases to describe Jeb Bush’s opinions about illegal immigrants who sneak across borders “as an act of love” for their children.” “Conservative” or “sane,” however, is not a word that comes to mind when I reflect on Jeb’s effusions. Can’t we have a candidate who favors social decency and limiting immigration as an alternative to what our cultural Marxist duopoly offers?  Presumably the answer is “no.”

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