A reader writes:
Your sixteen theses are compelling individually and damning in aggregate. But wouldn't it be simpler just to say: 'I cannot support a movement'?
Earlier this year, you noted that the "really interesting conservative icons I revere - Hobbes, Hume, Burke, Oakeshott and Hayek come to mind - show that liberal strains are intrinsic to sophisticated conservatism," praised "their lack of political monochrome," and wrote of your own desire to "embrace these various strains, sometimes one, sometimes another, in response to a fluid world and an evolving soul." That suggests, to your credit, that your disquiet with partisan loyalty and movement solidarity runs deeper than any particular policy disputes.
You list your choices in the last seven presidential contests - and six of them would have represented the defeat of the incumbent party. You illustrate the post with a pair of individual portraits, but they're not Reagan and Thatcher - they're Burke and Oakeshott. Your post, in short, makes the case for the integrity of principles and ideals, and for those who articulate them. And the history of your allegiances suggests that as parties and their leaders betray those ideals in the messy business of politics, you tend to hold them to account and join your voice to the opposition.
I agree with your theses. But I suspect that if you were to try, you could compile sixteen sins of the progressive movement. Which is not to suggest a mindless equivalence. After eight years of excess in one direction, a corrective is clearly needed. But in time, I suspect, the pendulum will swing. And I'll be disappointed and surprised if, within fewer years than might now seem likely, you're not declaring your general disgust with the Democratic Party and calling for a change in power. That's the nature of a fluid world, after all, and an evolving soul.
Yes, and that's also, by the way, why I have always felt very uncomfortable in a gay "movement". "Virtually Normal" was an attempt to apply an Oakeshottian approach to the emergent social reality of a large number of openly gay citizens. Only Kenneth Minogue understood this of the reviewers. And my own dismay at movement politics has made it impossible for me to really become a political actor in the gay community. A political writer and critic and speaker maybe. But I do not do campaigns or organize or fund-raise or seek coalitions or all the other necessary and useful tasks of movement politics.