How the Era of Republican Revolution in the 18th century Provide Insight into American Conservative Thinking

In this four picture gallery, I demonstrate the danger and confusion created by the confusion of Republicanism and Conservatism. I have written once, that there is an irony to the Republican Party’s anti-liberal zealotry. Sam Tanenhaus, an editor of The New York Times Book Review, speaking with Isaac Chotiner of The New Republic in a 2007 article Conservatism v. Republicanism explained William F. Buckley. “…Buckley has written that if the Republicans want to be a governing party they need to adjust, that it can’t just be an ideological movement, that Republicanism and conservatism need to fuse in some sense.” Perhaps, Buckley means by Republicanism, the already existing habits of the Republican Party then. In whatever way William F. Buckley meant it, this is not possible. The voting and thinking patterns of “Republican voters,” or “Conservatives,” the Identitarian Right and Trad-Cons 13 years later today are proving this even more.

I stated in The Irony of an Anti-Liberal Republican Party, that in the old 2007 article (Conservatism vs Republicanism from The New Republic), we are told the conservative movement and emergent Religious Right in its early history did not even like the Republican Party. “It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right,” evangelist Billy Graham told Parade magazine in February 1981. The magazine that Billy Graham founded recently called for Trump’s removal from office, keeping in line with this attitude. So, the conservative movement entered the Republican Party by means of an alliance between Southern Evangelicals and the adored Californian Conservative, Ronald Reagan. Mike Pence, after accepting the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2016, captured the thinking of the contemporary Republican voter when he said, “I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

But what is in a word?

Everything…especially when you’re misusing a word however you want to.

“Kirk himself was unequivocally traditionalist (…) it is surprising that young libertarians claim a thinker who declared, “Conservatism is not simply a defense of ‘capitalism.’” (…) The essential traditionalist, Kirk declared that “we need to guide ourselves by the moral traditions…bequeathed to us by our ancestors.” Such a statement is hardly in line with contemporary libertarian libertinism on issues like narcotics and homosexuality. A devout Catholic, Kirk held that divinely ordained natural laws transcend all human affairs. Moreover, he rejected the liberal Enlightenment ideas of human perfectibility and utopian individualism. Following a great tradition of conservatives, Kirk believed that liberty requires order, a reversal of the characteristic libertarian view.” (A Young Appreciation of the Old Right)

Everything Kirk said is no different from the republican and liberal tradition, except for one thing.

Conservatism is not simply a defense of capitalism, because it is an intellectual tradition, a heritage itself. It is not possible to fuse Conservatism and Republicanism, if Conservative tradition is the rejection of the liberal Enlightenment ideas. Our nation is a product of these ideas. The Republican tradition itself, has ample room of philosophy regarding the concept of individualism without Conservative tradition, to show us what individualism has come to be and mean. In truth, Liberal and Conservative politics today is overly simplistic, moving us in one extreme to the other — the former representing democratic progress (supposedly) and the other, conserving traditional values. Republicanism itself does not have this limitation. Such confusion has contributed to ideological subversion and stagnation. The American Right claims the American tradition, yet want to reclaim the Old Right. The young Conservatives are asking, where is the “real Conservatism?” They are confused. What we think we know about what team we ought to be on under the ‘Right and Left’ dichotomy, ought to be abandoned for the time being here. Discovering more about the history of Republicanism shows how much an obstruction and drag our party animosities have become for the Americans. Our answer already exists, but our confusion has made us vulnerable. In The Era of Republican Revolution, this is the “Old Right,” which did not found this country and were the enemies of the republican revolutionary movements — hating all radicals, Deists, the German Illuminati, &c. The tricks and limitation in Conservative thinking seeps into our modern politics, which is fundamentally at odds with it (see Alan Watts on The American Spiritual Settler Movements).

“Similarly, others on the left argue that requiring politics to be based on reason tilts the playing field in favor of the elite. This is historically true as well, and politics based on money does the same thing. But that is reality. The fact, again, is that democracy needs the citizenry to be educated, and the skills of reason are the foundation of democratic education. Democracy cannot be established in any other way. Aristocratic rule is not reinforced by the use of reason. The situation is quite the reverse: in order to fight off democratic values, conservatism must simulate reason, and pretend that conservative deception is itself reason when it is not. Many conservative pundits, George Will and Thomas Sowell for example, make their living saying illogical things in a reasonable tone of voice. Democracy will be impossible until the great majority of citizens can identify in reasonable detail just how this trick works.”

Philip E. Agre, What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

Click on the picture for a better visual.


FURTHER SUGGESTED READING

Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz Anti-Liberal Zealotry Series

  1. Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part I: Our Immoderation
  2. Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part II: The Crux of Deneen’s Critique of Liberalism
  3. Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part III: Locke and the Liberal Tradition
  4. Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part IV: Classical and Modern Lessons of Moderation
  5. Anti-Liberal Zealotry Part V: Rediscovering Liberalism

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