“Conservatism is America’s longest-dying political movement” claims R. Emmett Tyrrell in his newest book "After The Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road To Victory." Yet, says the old warrior, it is also poised and fated to ultimately win the culture war.
As one would expect from the one and only RET, it’s quite a read.
He details the obituaries: the 1950s (when the movement was just coming together), 1964. 1974, 1992, 2006, and 2008. As long as conservatism has been growing, it has repeatedly been pronounced dead. Next he notes that just before 2006 it was the Liberals who were having obituaries written for them--in 1994, 2000, and 2004—a little noted fact.
But, as Bob quotes from the longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer, “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” By the Bush years the pols were spending wildly and giving only lip service to true conservative principles. Some conservative media darlings were too often merely opportunists, mouthing our principles whilst looking for the next lucrative gig.
In its’ infancy, “conservatism” was but a small group of erudite and engaging intellectuals with a beef. It was far from a racket. It was a great cause focused squarely on limited government and personal liberty. Always this cause has been up against the statists, the so-called liberals (who are not, in fact, very liberal at all). So Tyrrell designates them Liberals--large L. And because said Liberals dominate our media and political culture, they have been in a great position to publicly declare our doom.
Throughout this period, Tyrrell rightly contends, the fact is that Liberals were the ones in decline, moving from being the dominant political movement to third place behind conservatives and moderates or independents. In fact, conservatives now outnumber them 2 to 1, according to Gallup polls.
Liberals, he observes, are different from conservatives to the point that they are almost a different species, possessing the “political libido” of a nymphomaniac (at times that of a sex offender) as conservatives have always had a very restrained “political libido.” The result? Liberals over-politicize as with healthcare where they have taken on the majority of the American people and caused actual violence to ensue. In stark contrast, when conservatives had an opponent of abortion in the White House, Ronald Reagan would not think of forcing the issue on the divided Republic.
Tyrrell’s explanation as to why conservatives have a milder political libido is to be found in his definition of conservatism. Borrowing from the British conservative political philosopher, Michael Oakeshott, Tyrrell defines conservatism as “A temperament to delight in life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness—the pursuit being as John Locke put it, the acquisition and exchange of property.”
Whereas conservatism starts as a temperament, Liberalism starts as “an anxiety.” Reality makes them anxious and leads them to create ideological constructs, for instance, affirmative action, color based or gender based society, redistribution of the wealth. Those are the true ideologues.
What has held conservatives back since the political movement took over the country in the 1980s (though Tyrrell demonstrates that conservatism continues to shape the political mainstream) is the Liberal domination of culture, in Tyrrell’s typically clever coinage, the “Kultursmog.”
And incidentally you won't want to miss Tyrrell's shots at those conservatives who advance in the Kultursmog by sniping at other conservatives. Of Christopher Buckley he says in part, 'He [Christopher] would be Bill's loving son and a louse....In an era of cheap celebrity, Christopher calibrated that such revelations will ensure a few more moments of fame. Britney Spears and Paris Hilton probably make similar calculations.'
But—good news! Today, with an ever-growing “old-school” conservative counter culture in place (including unprecedented assets such as their own television, talk radio, additional magazines, think tanks, blogs, etc), can and likely will beat the Liberals in the real culture war.
With the Liberals alienating the average American with an increasingly astonishing brazenness and a conservative counter culture capable of defining conservatives independent of the Kultursmog, Tyrrell’s got his marker squarely on conservatives’ resurgence—and victory--in the years ahead.
All in all, a good book at a critical time from a good man who edits a great magazine and to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. Read it, then ride to the sound of the guns!