The Disappearance Of “c” and the Young Cons

June 20, 2009

I know I’m a bit late to this, but I’ve been ruminating on something that was said in the Conor/Riehl debate… As Conor later summed it up:

As best I can tell, Dan thinks that Ronald Reagan was a conservative, that people who favor an economy free of government interference are conservatives, and that religious conservatives who dissent from the Club for Growth orthodoxy are perpetrating a fraud if they call themselves conservative. Never mind that these folks don’t actually hide their supposedly heretical views, and are very upfront about where they stand on any specific matter you ask them about. They are still somehow being duplicitous or at least misleading if they invoke the c-word as a general descriptor.

Seconded. But on top of that, there’s another aspect of Riehl’s definition that’s worth exploring.  If the meaning of “conservative” is to be explicitly political, and any variance from that political definition is duplicitous, then the door is closed, not only to political reform, but also to the broader cultural sensibility  that supposedly underpins the political dimension.  That kind of small “c” conservatism, the conservatism that calls our attention to the small inescapable givens of life, must of necessity have a larger field than politics. This is because there is no simple political answer to the questions we face daily, be it how we treat ourselves, our families, our surroundings, our traditions, or those we are in community with.  Conservatism at its best is about how we square these questions with the big picture, but denying their complexity by over-politicizing them them drains the politics of ideas and the ideas of vibrancy.  This all but guarantees a hidebound ideology, not a vital force in the culture.

So if we’re looking for an explanation for the horrendous Young Cons, this would actually be a good place to start.  Making a conservative piece of culture in America is hard for a lot of reasons, but under the current conditions, when the movement has fatted itself on Happy Meal talking points, it shouldn’t be surprising that the best it can come up with is basically more of the same.

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3 Responses to “The Disappearance Of “c” and the Young Cons”

  1. […] H.C. Johns: If the meaning of “conservative” is to be explicitly political, and any variance from that political definition is duplicitous, then the door is closed, not only to political reform, but also to the broader cultural sensibility  that supposedly underpins the political dimension.  That kind of small “c” conservatism, the conservatism that calls our attention to the small inescapable givens of life, must of necessity have a larger field than politics. This is because there is no simple political answer to the questions we face daily, be it how we treat ourselves, our families, our surroundings, our traditions, or those we are in community with.  Conservatism at its best is about how we square these questions with the big picture, but denying their complexity by over-politicizing them them drains the politics of ideas and the ideas of vibrancy.  This all but guarantees a hidebound ideology, not a vital force in the culture. […]

  2. […] In a similar vein, H.C. Johns is spot on: If the meaning of “conservative” is to be explicitly political, and any variance from that […]

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