So about half the blogs I read are conservative; I tend more to the milblogs and libertarian-conservatives than to the red-meat folks (I thought Robert Stacy McCain’s reprise of Jeff Goldstein’s full-throated whine about how unfair liberals are was as lame as the original), who I find as unattractive in their own way as the netroots crowd I have so little respect for.
And it’s interesting to watch the tone of the conservative blogs shifting as Obama proves himself to be vulnerable – less competent than he showed in his campaign, struggling to match postpartisan rhetoric with partisan hardball politics. They’re getting their backs up, and I think that’s kinda nice – I believe in dialectic, and in the power of strong debate to shape good policy.
But – what I’m seeing in this rising tide of conservative confidence is relatively stupid chestbeating.
Look, I consider myself to be pretty darn close to the political center. I like liberty, but also like clean air. My political allegiances are unsettled at best right now, and I’d bet a pretty decent dinner at a trendy LA restaurant that a lot of American’s are today as well.
Events could drive us one way or the other – Obama could have a massive failure in the Middle East, or we could see a string of successful terrorist attacks in Europe that peeled our allies away from us, or there could be real peace between Israel and it’s neighbors. Obama’s fumbling with the financial system could trigger a massive collapse, or could work beautifully and we could suddenly return to stability. But I’ll bet that things are not so completely clarified for us, and that we’ll continue our uncertain ways for the next few years.
So what do the conservatives do? I’ve talked to Andrew Breitbart, who thinks (with some legitimacy) that middle-aged white guys wearing power ties occupy far too much of the mindshare of the conservative movement. Sure, I’ll buy that.
But conservatism needs two things in a big way right now. The first is to have some plans; what – with some meaningful exactitude – would conservatives do about the straights we are in right now? About the financial crisis, about the global recession, about the challenges of globalization which – as Neil Stephenson famously said “…has taken historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would call prosperity.” Yes, the free markets improve overall prosperity, but what do you – as conservatives – propose to do about the ‘decent jobs’ that are gone and not coming back? And I get it that the answer is ‘nothing’ – but then what’s the case for conservatism for the family in Fresno or in Tacoma that isn’t participating in the global information/financial elites that globalization has truly created?? About the crisis between the West and Islam? About the rise of China and the demographic decline of Europe?
The second is to remind people why liberty matters. It seems on a gross level that the modern conflict between liberalism and conservatism ought to be between freedom and fairness, and that ideal society is the one that manages balance both. (think Weber) But right now, everything that’s being discussed is class envy and real insecurity.
Someone needs to stand up for liberty, and do it in the context of real societies, not Heinlein’s loonies. It’d be nice to see conservatives take up that mantle.