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Should Conservatives Become “Competent Liberals”?

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On December 25, 2012 @ 2:22 pm In The Point | 10 Comments

That’s what the Berkowitz essay in the Wall Street Journal really asks. Forget the fight and let’s begin making the other side’s agenda work. It’s not exactly a new idea. It’s the old new idea that the Republican Party has run on all along. An idea of conservatism that seeks to conserve whatever radical structures and laws have been imposed on it.

In these circumstances, conservatives must redouble their efforts to reform sloppy and incompetent government and resist government’s inherent expansionist tendencies and progressivism’s reflexive leveling proclivities. But to undertake to dismantle or even substantially roll back the welfare and regulatory state reflects a distinctly unconservative refusal to ground political goals in political realities.

Conservatives can and should focus on restraining spending, reducing regulation, reforming the tax code, and generally reining in our sprawling federal government.

So long as they don’t focus on it too much. The new conservatism is Clintonism. Our new conservative models are Third Way movements.  And we can even look at the UK where conservatism now means making some cuts while adopting most of the left’s social policies while being in a coalition with the left.

The new conservative is really a competent liberal, or pretending to be.

The second entrenched reality, this one testing social conservatives, is the sexual revolution, perhaps the greatest social revolution in human history…

Divorce, while emotionally searing, is no longer unusual, legally difficult or socially stigmatizing. Children, once the core reason for getting married, have become optional. Civil unions for gays and lesbians have acquired majority support and same-sex marriage is not far behind.

These profoundly transformed circumstances do not oblige social conservatives to alter their fundamental convictions…

Yet given the enormous changes over the last 50 years in the U.S. concerning the ways individuals conduct their romantic lives, view marriage, and think about the family—and with a view to the enduring imperatives of limited government—social conservatives should refrain from attempting to use the federal government to enforce the traditional understanding of sex, marriage and the family.

We are not at a point in history where conservatives enforce traditional morality, but where we resist the enforcement of progressive morality.

Berkowitz seems to think that there is some middle ground in this regard, that a reality can be passively accepted with no consequences. He suggests that conservatives will still be able to maintain their convictions and promote traditional values. He might want to ask Swedish conservatives about that.

Social mores are a political vehicle for the left. Neutrality is not an option. The left is not interested in some kind of libertarian sexual revolution based on the values of individual choice. The left uses revolutions in all spheres of human activity as a means of destroying existing institutions and replacing them with its own totalitarian approaches to doing things.

The left is not interested in conservative and progressive value systems living side by side. It is intent on the one destroying the other, first through a culture war, and then legislatively. Preemptive surrender will not change that.

Furthermore even if the left were willing to play ‘live and let live’, which it is not, fiscal conservatism is not detachable from social conservatism. A society without families, without marriage and parents, is a society that is dependent on the state and will constantly look for more and more from the state.

You can’t sell conservatism to people who without government subsidies fear ending up on the street with their children. You can’t sell conservatism to single women who count on the government being there if they get pregnant, not their boyfriends. You can’t sell conservatism to young people who have been taken care of by the state all their lives. You can’t sell conservatism to the elderly who hope that the state will take care of them because their children won’t.

Fiscal conservatism alone doesn’t work. Neither does social conservatism. You can’t slice it down and expect to have anything worth talking about.

Conservatism is not about any single policy, it is about an approach to the whole society. Without holistic conservatism, all that remains is the triage conservatism that is forever retreating and fighting to present a sensible modern face against the rushing progressive tide.

If you assume that progressive trends are inevitable and irresistible, then you have already lost and are adapting to living under the occupation. But nothing is inevitable. Human social movements can be and are manipulated and changed all the time. That is how the left did it. That is how we can do it too.


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