Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Post-Conservative Conservatives

Well here's an utterly depressing thought from New York Times columnist, David Brooks:
It used to be that American conservatives shaped British political thinking. Now the influence is going the other way.
Not quite certain how that's supposed to work, given that--as of David Cameron's leadership of the Tory party--conservatism has simply ceased to exist in Britain.

But I guess that's Mr. Brooks' point: that, to the extent that "[British] Conservatives have successfully 'decontaminated' their brand," they have shaken off the very thing that distinguishes them from their New Labour opponents. The irony is lost on him that this terrifying political homogenization has been accomplished amid endless lip-services paid to that monolith of postmodern credulity, diversity.

(For a very good illustration of this phenomenon in action see that prize fop, Boris Johnson, give his acceptance speech after the London mayoral race. Notice that he apologizes for his conservatism both to the "vast multitudes" who voted against him, and to those who voted for him. It's like he's just entered rehab or something!)

This is such a fascinating state of affairs: that the right has actually got to the point where it earnestly accepts the most fatuous of leftist lines, that 'the thing that's wrong with your point of view is that it's wrong.' We run around, a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off, trying desperately to make amends for this, without once thinking: Hang on! No it isn't!

But let there be no doubt that the face of conservatism as presented by David Cameron's Tory Party is a thing for all people to run screaming from. Peter Hitchens, vox clamantis in deserto, has been tireless in his insistence that David Cameron is the true "heir to Blair"--that is, that Cameron's principle has no political or ideological allegiance, but that it is naked opportunism. Conservatives in particular would do well to bear in mind that, to the extent that "conservative"--in the current reckoning--is interchangeable with "bad"; that, to take an example, Tony Blair's only mistakes as Prime Minister were made as a consequence of his shifting right; that if this brazen opportunist, Cameron, takes power, his inevitable failures will not be blamed on his taking his cues from that prince among hollow men, Blair, but still on his (ostensible) political affiliation.

Conservatism, of itself, is not the problem here. It is the knee-jerk perception of it by hysterics, idiots and, of course, self-seekers.

Changing the American brand along Cameron's lines may, in the minds of some American right-wingers, accomplish the self-mutilation they feel necessary to satisfy the Gods of public opinion. But they do so, not because of any flaws that exist in conservatism, but because they themselves have ceased to be conservative.

David Brooks suggests that if the American right doesn't go down this path that it might end up spending "a decade or so in the wilderness." Well that, no doubt, would be unfortunate. But so long as the voice crying therefrom remains true to its principles, then conservatives will have done everything that they can in a world overwhelmingly hell-bent on its own undoing.