Why Conservatism Is Dying

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Do not miss Samuel Goldman’s detailed autopsy on the death of conservatism. It is 100% right and 100% required reading.

The classical liberalism I have tried to describe is characteristically skeptical of executive power, particularly as an instrument for renovating constitutions whether written or unwritten. The reactionary tendency, by contrast, sees a strong executive as the only viable weapon against managerialism [i.e. the encroachments of the unconstitutional administrative state]. This analysis has become a central feature of the theoretical case for Donald Trump. His combativeness, unpredictability, and indifference to expert opinion are seen not as defects of character but as tactical advantages over the bureaucracy…

Having failed (along with many, indeed most political observers) to accurately predict the outcome of the election, I hesitate to offer forecasts of the development of conservatism…So I will conclude by sketching a scenario that I regard as plausible, if far from certain. It involves the comprehensive Trumpification of “official” conservatism. That would mean the ascendance of certain reactionary features, including demotic style and an emphasis on executive power.

Goldman, with self-conscious irony, wants us to accept that prospects for saving conservatism are “hopeless” and simulteneously “remain determined to make them otherwise.” However, I do think it’s time to start discussing the death of conservatism as a practical certainty. I am increasingly convinced that the marriage can’t be saved. If there is hope, it lies elsewhere.

Nonetheless, those of us who used to belong to conservatism (back when there was such a thing) continue to exist as a somewhat coherent group. In that light, I think the future of American politics largely hangs on whether this can be done; this seems to me one of the more necessary conditions for doing it.

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