Calling It Reactionary, And More CPAC Thoughts

--I've written this before, but I think this is a good time to bring it up for discussion: the current wave in movement conservatism -- best encapsulated by CPAC keynoter Glenn Beck yesterday -- is not conservative, but reactionary. That is, it wants to rip asunder America's current social and political fabric, and attempt to re-instate conditions as they once were long ago. I don't mean this in the typical, vague sense of conservative nostalgia for the good old days. As I wrote in discussing last year's mega-selling books by Beck and Mark Levin:

They are also both far more reactionary than conservative. Conservatives generally oppose large-scale upheaval and disruption of the existing culture, especially on the basis of academic theories about how to reorganize society to make it "better."

No such concerns for Beck, who wants to make society better by completely upending the status quo and tearing down most of the governmental infrastructure built up over the past century — if not since 1776. Conservatives once pictured the 1950s as the good old days; Beck's image at least pre-dates the Industrial Revolution.

Levin calls only for reversing the Great Society and the New Deal. Beck explicitly demands the undoing also of the Progressive Era reforms of the early 20th century: public education, environmental protection, and progressive taxation, just for starters.

Yesterday, thousands of conservative insiders and activists gave Beck a standing ovation as he declared the last century of Progressivism the enemy, and a cancer to be eradicated. Can we not start calling this reactionary ideology?
--A major part of this reactionary rhetoric is the insistence that the US is plunging headlong into tyranny, with the government stripping away individual rights and liberties. This was a major recurring theme in CPAC speeches. Newt Gingrich yesterday said that the right's slogan should be "2 + 2 = 4," as it was for the resistance in Soviet-sphere Poland in the 1980s, in reference to Camus's The Plague and Orwell's 1984. Beck, in other settings, has said that after a year of Obama/Reid/Pelosi rule he doesn't recognize America anymore due to the loss of liberty. Now, I admit I take a different view of the government's role in rights than they do: I believe that the government protects liberties by ensuring that individuals have the means and opportunity to pursue what they wish; for example, that one doesn't really have the liberty to pursue a career of one's choice if one doesn't have the means to get an education (or if one grows up without shelter, or adequate food), so the government must help provide access to those means. But that aside -- what exactly are these rights and liberties that the government has taken away in the past year? What do Beck and Gingrich, and Mitt Romney with his "neo-monarchy" babble, and so on, imagine people are now no longer allowed to do that they were free to a year ago, or five years ago, or 25 years ago?
--Glenn Beck boasts that, when he couldn't afford college, it never occurred to him to ask for help, or a handout, from the government; instead, he gave himself a free self-education by reading library books. This is a big part of his explanation of why the government should stand aside and let winners succeed and losers fail: if you provide help to losers, they remain losers, rather than encouraging them to work hard. I wonder, how does he imagine those free library books were available for him to get this free self-teaching he boasts of? What does he suppose is the vast moral difference between the government providing free books to give people the opportunity to educate themselves if they are so motivated, and the government providing college financial aid for that purpose?
--Which brings me to something about today's wave of movement conservatives that really bugs the living crap out of me, which is this whole notion that common sense and working things out in your own head are equal to, or superior to, academic education. I admire Beck for what he did to better himself, but sitting alone with his self-selected library books (not to mention, people sitting alone with Beck's TV show and other self-selected media), he simply did not get the same level of education about, say, history or economics or political philosophy, as people who have engaged in academic study and discourse with other learned people -- people who might challenge your assumption that your "free self-education" at the library was not government-assisted. That doesn't mean that everyone with an economics PhD is always right, and everyone without a college degree is always wrong -- just that there is some value to the institutionalized education, and it drives me crazy when people are so utterly disdainful of it.

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Talking Politics Archives