The Bankruptcy of U.S. “Conservatives”

The queen of stupid, faux, U.S. “conservatives,” Megyn Kelly has announced that she will demonstrate for all to see the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of U.S. “conservatism.” She plans to devote time on a major national news network to an interview with right wing whack job extraordinaire Alex Jones. To do so is despicable, reprehensible, inexcusable, pick your pejorative adjective. It is also the apotheosis of U.S. “conservatism.”

There are no real conservatives in the United States. As we have noted repeatedly here, the terms of political debate being “liberal” and “conservative” dates to the Glorious Revolution of late 17th century England, when the English decided firmly against having a Catholic king, so they chased off James II in favor of thoroughly protestant William and Mary. Even though they had beheaded Charles I earlier in the century, still they were happy to have some intellectual justification for defying a king, given their mostly unbroken history of monarchy dating back to the Norman conquest of 1066, over 600 years before, and into the misty reaches of pre-history with the myths of King Arthur.

The conservatives in this debate defended the divine right of kings to rule without objection from the populous. English philosopher John Locke said that was a silly idea, arguing instead that legitimate political authority emanates from the governed, who retain ever the right and responsibility to evaluate their governors and change them if they so desire. Roughly one hundred years later, Locke’s ideas would have a huge impact on the men who started the American Revolution — the Declaration of Independence is a veritable primer on Lockean political theory — and who then wrote the United States Constitution. No good conservative could tolerate the defiance of the king that the Declaration declared and embodied, so they left, for Canada, or back to England if they could.

Because it is a social contract among “we the people,” and because it is a highly Lockean social contract, the U.S. Constitution is a distinctively liberal document. This fact puts U.S. “conservatives” in a bind because the obvious place for many of them to hang their claims to be “conservatives” is on a robust defense of the Constitution — a distinctively liberal document.

There are more or less intellectually respectable solutions to this dilemma, but first one has to recognize that the dilemma exists. Such is the utter bankruptcy of U.S. “conservatives” that most of them fail even to realize the bind they are in.

There was a time in the history of western civilization — if such be not too much an oxymoron — when conservatives were great defenders of tradition and keepers of the culture’s intellectual substance and procedures. Jesuits, the most conservative arm of the Catholic Church, which is arguably the oldest institution in western culture and still unrepentantly conservative, with its continued devotion to an absolute authority figure whom one should not argue with, in theory, anyway, are perhaps the best example of a group of conservatives consciously preserving an intellectual tradition.

At its best, this is a general impulse to preserve cultural traditions in whatever form, which no historian could deprecate. Not Jesuits, but Benedictine monks from St. John’s monastery in Minnesota have contributed significantly to the preservation of ancient Islamic manuscripts that nearly fell to the wantonly destructive impulses of radical Muslims in Timbuktu. Note: real conservative Christians investing energy in preserving ancient Muslim texts. Not whining about the non existent threat of sharia law. This is conservatism in its original and finest sense.

Instead of bruiting stupidly about a non existent plan to defeat “radical Islam,” a group of people took concrete steps where they could to prevent some such Muslims from destroying their own cultural tradition without regard for ownership or lack of obvious connection to that tradition, because traditions are inherently valuable and worth preserving. One could much more easily articulate a reason why real conservatives in the United States, were there any, would want to preserve the cultural traditions of their own nation, which would obviously include its political and legal traditions.

Far from preserving those traditions, the notionally “conservative” Party, the Republicans, have now saddled the Republic with a President who is woefully ignorant of those political and legal traditions and employees staff who are equally ignorant.

The so called president has recently publicly jousted with Megyn Kelly, but they are ultimately on the same side of the ideological fence. Both are, within their respective domains, avatars of all of the harm that “conservatives” have inflicted on the United States since 1968, when Richard Nixon first used dog whistle racism to lure disaffected Democrats into the Republican Party, thus wedding our “conservative” party to the noxious idea that white people should ally to prevent lazy black people from enjoying federal benefits at their expense. Trump betrays precisely zero understanding of how to be president of the United States and Kelly, as she now demonstrates with her willingness to waste her time and that of anyone who bothers to watch by interviewing a man who seems to delight in feeding the absolute worst impulses of his fellow citizens on national television, betrays precisely zero understanding of how to be a journalist.

Kelly and Trump have in common that they owe their positions to the culture of celebrity that “conservatives” sometimes claim to deplore, but actually rely heavily on in their pursuit of public policy that is actually quite harmful to their primary constituents. It makes a perverse sense that Kelly would interview Jones, since Kelly, like it or not, will always be the chief vacuous blonde from the network of vacuous blondes, Fox News, where she first won fame and fortune. Fox News and Alex Jones played critical roles in encouraging ordinary Americans to support the retrograde Republican agenda by feeding them full of ridiculous conspiracy theories and gross distortions of actual news to instill fear and susceptibility to the worst sorts of reaction.

So we should not be surprised that, even having left the viper’s nest of fake news that is Fox News, Kelly takes her values, or lack of them, with her to her new job, and proves ever willing to plumb new depths of intellectual and moral bankruptcy for U.S. “conservatives.”

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