Think about it. Modern American conservatism appears to consist of a gradual drift away from (hysterical rejection of?) the very social theories and cultures of which the guardians of conservatism were once a part. As so often happens with extremists, they tend to blame their opposition for the very extremes they were once associated with. The left in America (hardly left by most developed nations' measure) are therefore condemned as "socialists" and "communists, " the very "evils" these conservatives embraced before pivoting 180 and calling themselves conservatives. Makes a kind of nutty sense, doesn't it!
Allen Guelzo, seen as tilting somewhat to the right himself, teaches history at Gettysburg College. He also teaches a course for the Teaching Company about "The American Mind." In the full description of the course (available on CD, DVD, etc.) is a neat, compact description of the arc of modern American conservatism from the 1930's onward.
Conservatism: The origin of a distinctively American brand of conservatism is linked to the arrival of émigré European intellectuals after World War II. These thinkers found allies among former American communists, who had turned away from socialism; traditionalist Roman Catholics; and Southern agrarians.
Here are the horrors they've left behind, neatly packaged in the summary: emigres, Europeans, intellectuals, communists, socialism.
Here are their latest friends: former communists, traditionalist Roman Catholics, and (bless their hearts!) Southern agrarians.
What an awful mix of resentment, defensiveness, and muddled thinking these conservatives have embraced. It's a mating of two utterly distinct cultures -- one educated, somewhat isolated, and sodden with an intellectuality born of self-justification, and the other under-educated, isolated, and feeling left out.
The engagement party probably took place almost exactly three years ago in June 2007 when a boat pulled into the harbor of Juneau, Alaska and Sarah Palin was the new, eye-catching governor.
... Shortly after taking office, Palin received two memos from Paulette Simpson, the Alaska Federation of Republican Women leader, noting that two prominent conservative magazines—The Weekly Standard, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr.—were planning luxury cruises to Alaska in the summer of 2007, which would make stops in Juneau. Writers and editors from these publications had been enlisted to deliver lectures to politically minded vacationers. “The Governor was more than happy to meet these guys,” Joe Balash, a special staff assistant to Palin, recalled.On June 18, 2007, the first group disembarked in Juneau from the Holland America Line’s M.S. Oosterdam, and went to the governor’s mansion, a white wooden Colonial house with six two-story columns, for lunch. The contingent featured three of The Weekly Standard ’s top writers: William Kristol, the magazine’s Washington-based editor, who is also an Op-Ed columnist for the Times and a regular commentator on “Fox News Sunday”; Fred Barnes, the magazine’s executive editor and the co-host of “The Beltway Boys,” a political talk show on Fox News; and Michael Gerson, the former chief speechwriter for President Bush and a Washington Post columnist.
By all accounts, the luncheon was a high-spirited, informal occasion. ...Jane Mayer, New Yorker
Bill Kristol is not only known for his outrageous and doomed prognostications but for his ties to the family that just about epitomizes "emigre European intellectuals." His father was famously the "godfather of neo-conservatism."
Just a reminder.
Later we might take up the issue of "evil spawn," okay? (And you thought those plumes of oil in the Gulf are just about our worst problems!)