A lot of old-school Democrats say that they didn’t move to the right, they stood still while their party moved leftwards.
My position isn’t quite the same. As I was becoming more conservative, the GOP, which I’m a registered member of, has become more liberal.
For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that Republican voters are far more conservative than Republican politicians. I still believe this, but manifestly it’s not as true as I thought it was, or Republicans would not have been so wildly enthusiastic about Sarah Palin. When she was chosen as running mate I assumed that my fellow Republicans would be as dismayed as I was. I woke to discover that in the blink of an eye, Republicans had become people who approved of working mothers and the results of working mothers: unwed teenage daughters pregnant by hard-partying high school drop-outs, sons enlisting in the Army to help themselves get off drugs, etc. For the record, I here predict that the younger Palins will be delinquent teenagers too, when they’re old enough. Aren’t we supposed to be the party that oppresses women? Have our standards so diminished that our idea of a good mother is one who doesn’t kill her children in the womb?
While Republicans were convincing themselves that motherhood can be achieved in half an hour of quality time a day, I was burrowing into learned books by dead white men. This does not make me unique among Republicans (though I am now a Republican only by the technicality of my voter registration). I doubt the elected officials are true intellectual traditionalists, but many of the voters read Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk and Aristotle.
Nonetheless, too many of us are reading only Ann Coulter and Mark Steyn. This is not a dig; I read and admire both of them. But they are nonetheless modern conservatives. One would think that people who by definition value tradition would be more aware of tradition.
The fact remains that most of the things I would like to see done in this country, and in the world, are not even on the table. Only the most eccentric “wingnuts” favor any of them. Even the ultra-conservative fora I frequent are full of people who shout down the more radically conservative proposals with, “That would be nice, but there’s no way that’s going to happen, so stop dreaming.”
At the dawn of the 20th century, no one could have known how much the world would change before its end. Certainly the contemporary trends would have seemed to offer little encouragement to those who dreamed of egalitarianism, socialism, feminism, and secularization. Similarly, we cannot be sure that the 21st century will simply continue on its current course. The world could change just as radically in this century as it did in the last.
The change won’t be in the direction I want, however, unless the ideas I subscribe to are in circulation, being discussed and debated instead of left in quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for dusty old books.
So here I am going to dust off the concepts in those cobwebbed tomes and bring them to the attention of the 21st century. Very little in this blog will be original, but it will be shocking even to many conservatives. A century ago, my opinions would have been boringly conventional. Today, they would probably qualify me for committal, definitely qualify me for dismissal, and in a few years will probably also qualify me for incarceration.