Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The mystery of the lost conservative (soul)

Barring a miracle, or, more accurately, a veritable flood of miracles, the Republican Party in 2008 will end up wearing George W. Bush around its neck as igniomouslly as the Ancient Mariner wore the Albatross.

That is, unless they can fin some way of distancing the Republican party from Bush and his disastrous policies....


They're already doing it. But there is more, in fact, much more to it than a simple campaign ploy.

Let's start the journey by looking at this from yesterday's Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory:

This cry of victimization was the principal theme at the so-called "National Review Institute conservative summit" held this weekend, at which one conservative luminary after the next paraded on stage to lament that the unpopular President and rejected GOP-controlled Congress "abandoned" conservatism and failed for that reason.

As usual, Glenn granulate does an excellent analysis of this rather weighty subject. (Let's face it, discussing political philosophy in depth isn't exactly front-page material for newspapers these days because it actually requires "thinking" and as we all know, "thinking" is hard work.)

While Greewald notes that this theme of victimhood is becoming the favorite theme of Republicans today, that one of the early pioneers of Bush-bashing by "real conservatives" was done by none other than Conservative Blogger par exella'nce, Andrew Sullivan. Glenn takes a little excursion into a review of Sullivan's book, The Conservative Soul which eventually brings us to these points:

One of the principal flaws of Sullivan's book is that it speaks of "political conservatism" in a way that exists only in the abstract but never in reality. The fabled Goldwater/Reagan small-government "conservatism of doubt" which Sullivan hails -- like the purified, magnanimous form of Communism -- exists, for better or worse, only in myth.

He goes on here to a phrase which eventually trips a trigger with me:

All of the attributes which have made the Bush presidency so disastrous are not in conflict with political conservatism as it exists in reality. Those attributes -- vast expansions of federal power to implement moralistic agendas and to perpetuate political power, along with authoritarian faith in the Leader -- are not violations of "conservative principles." Those have become the defining attributes of the Conservative Movement in this country.

But conservatives have to perpetuate the myth, so Sullivan critiques the Bush administration in terms of its "infidelity" to "conservative principles" to wit:

Sullivan's general critique of the Bush administration, and his specific complaint that it has fundamentally deviated from the abstract conservative principles to which people like Lowry (columnist and talking-head Rich Lowry)profess fidelity, is both accurate and persuasive. Along those lines, Sullivan cites the borderline-religious belief in tax cuts, depicted not as sound policy but as a moral good, to be pursued "unrelated to any empirical context of consistent rationale," and thus imposed even in the face of suffocating deficits and the virtually unprecedented expansion of government spending.

What seems so strange to me is that Republicans and conservatives in this country still persist in the myth of the principles of the conservative movement. It is the banner under which they rally the troops for each and every election cycle.

But the conservative principles which they profess to represent are a lie.

The real conservative principles the use of the power of government to implement their moralistic and/or religious ideals, the absolute power of their chief executive, unfettered capitalism (bordering on crony capitalism) free market economics. All of those principles would be roundly defeated by the voting populace so they have to tell the noble lie of "conservative principles" to get elected.

This rang a bell for me, and that was the concept of the noble lie discussed and adopted by the great Professor of Political Science (and father of present day Neocons) Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago. His disciples included, Wolfowitz, Pearle, Rumsfeld, Cheney and even William Kristol. (actually Kristol and Wolfowitz were students of one of Strauss's students who called himself a Straussian) The so-called noble lie is necessary, because, obviously, if the voters knew the real conservative values, the Republicans would never get elected. Here's what Strauss had to say about "noble lies" (according to Wikipedia ):

Noble lies and deadly truths
Strauss noted that thinkers of the first rank, going back to Plato, had raised the problem of whether good and effective politicians could be completely truthful and still achieve the necessary ends of their society. By implication, Strauss asks his readers to consider whether "noble lies" have any role at all to play in uniting and guiding the polis. Are "myths" needed to give people meaning and purpose and to ensure a stable society? Or can men and women dedicated to relentlessly examining, in Nietzsche's language, those "deadly truths", flourish freely? Thus, is there a limit to the political, and what can be known absolutely? In The City and Man, Strauss discusses the myths outlined in Plato's Republic that are required for all governments. These include a belief that the state's land belongs to it even though it was likely acquired illegitimately, and that citizenship is rooted in something more than the accidents of birth. Strauss has been interpreted as endorsing "noble lies;" myths used by political leaders seeking to maintain a cohesive society. [1] [2] [3]

So the myth of "conservative principles" is still part of the neocon culture and is being played out today in preparation for the rise of another neocon to the Presidency......another "noble lie" so we can be told more "noble lies" Are they giving us more myths so we can have a "cohesive society"? (In Republican image of course)

Not if I can help it.....

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