Conservatism and Reality
Here's a bracing piece. Money quote:
The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don't have to lie. I don't have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don't have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don't have to say that everyone's special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don't have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don't have to pretend that Islam means peace.
Oooh. Shock me some more. The core argument of the essay is that conservatism looks unflinchingly at reality and tries to defuse the illusions - the "white lies" - of the left. As an abstract concept, I'm in complete agreement. As I argue in The Conservative Soul, conservatism is based in part on the notion that building politics on reality rather than on dreams is more likely to make the world a slightly better place than the well-meaning alternative. But then when you read the entire piece, you realize that in its dogmatic insistence on the inarguable truth of various contentious ideas, it is the opposite of what it claims to be. Take this glib series of assertions:
Because it depends on indeed is defined by describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence he's not crippled, dear, he's handicapped; it's not a slum, it's an inner city; it's not surrender, it's redeployment leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.
Look: I understand the issue here. Political correctness is a new form of sanctimonious etiquette. I don't like it either. I'd probably end up as cranky as Mickey if I lived among the Hollywood left. In my time, I've argued for fundamental differences between men and women, aired "The Bell Curve," was a skeptic of the mythology around Matthew Shepard and generally rubbed many liberal nerves the wrong way. But the point of all this is to find reality, and to be open to be proven wrong as well. It is not to assert a new form of dogma. Nor is it a way to find excuses for cruelty, bad manners or bigotry. I see no conservative reason to refer to people with physical handicaps as "crippled"; I see no real distinction between a slum and an inner city (but I was and am for welfare reform); and I find the attempt to describe the excruciating problems in Iraq as a choice between "surrender" or "victory" to be little short of moronic.
This, moreover, is not conservatism. It is faux-conservatism. Shock-jock conservatism. Or conservatism calcified into an ideology that has become very difficult to disentangle from arrogance, ignorance or just plain old prejudice. The job of conservatives is to filter fact from ideology. And that includes filtering facts from the ideology that now passes among so many for conservatism itself.