Reactionaries typify pessimism; we consistently and clearly see the timeful truth of the Latins’ sic transit gloria mundi. Leftists devote themselves to their delusions of progress; theirs is the lot of the optimist. It is humorous, therefore, to meet a radical Puddleglum, but that is what we find in an interview by Thomas Rogers on Salon: “How conservatism conquered America.” Rogers asked Corey Robin about his new book, The Reactionary Mind, wherein Robin notes that the American Right has won every battle that it has fought.
Now that you have cleaned up your spilt beverage and wiped the computer screen of splattered drink and saliva, let us ask how someone even as bonkers as an unreformed Marxist could state such. First, it is possible that Robin strategically lies in order to shift the balance of politics. The history of American politics for over a century has been a slide leftwards, which moves the centrist, moderate mainstream to the ideological area once occupied by the previous generation’s radicals. Leftists see such a movement as a necessary historical process, and conservatives have facilitated it through what View from the Right calls the Hegelian Mambo. There, Lawrence Auster notes:
. . . Since the left has become so extreme that it no longer supports national self-defense against our mortal enemies, conservatism has been reduced to the support of national self-defense against our mortal enemies. That which is not actively or passively treasonous is “conservative.”
The stated willingness of “conservatives” to abandon all conservative principles except for the principle of keeping ourselves alive is perhaps the greatest example so far of the Hegelian Mambo (a coinage invented by VFR participant Matt in this discussion, as a corollary of the Unprincipled Exception). In the Hegelian Mambo, as the left become more left, the right, in defining itself in opposition to the ever-more threatening extremism of the left, and not in terms of unchanging principles of its own, abandons its prior positions and moves ever further leftward itself. Thus, for example, at the rate we’re going on the life-style front, in ten years’ time a conservative will be a person who disapproves of sexual intercourse between humans and animals, and in fifteen years’ time a conservative will be a person who disapproves of marriage between humans and animals. The moderate position will be to support civil unions.
Robin could be following this well tread leftist path by calling the Right’s continual losses victories. Doublespeak and ceaseless deception help to maintain the illusion that the radicals have not been successfully transforming America for generations.
Second, it is possible that Robin speaks sincerely because he allows perfection to be the enemy of the good, or, more appropriately in this case, he allows his aim of social desolation to be the enemy of mere civilizational decline. The revolution that the Left has achieved pales in comparison to the Marxist utopia after which Robin and his ilk yearn. Therefore, in that we still have marriage, in that most Americans still cling to their “heteronormative” instincts, in that white people still breathe, we know that we have not yet reached the Promised Land. The Right has won, in Robin’s eyes, because Americans have not yet completely thrown off the shackles of natural law.
Third, ideologues thrive on struggle. They find meaning in the Great Fight. Robin might find it psychologically pleasant to imagine that his army is temporarily defeated, that his people are oppressed for the time, but that soon dawn will come again. As the Left privileges victims and the oppressed with special virtue, worth, and wisdom, relegating oneself to such status ever remains a temptation for the righteously self indulgent.
Fourth, success and power bring responsibility. If Robin admitted that his radical cohorts now controlled most of the government, the educational establishment, the non-governmental organizations, and the media, then he would have to ask why the happy times have not arrived. Leftist policies are ruinous, inhuman, and destructive; yet, Leftists always blame the problems that their ideas cause on their ideological enemies. They cannot learn.
Aside from Robin’s bizarre claim that conservatives have won their battles, the interview is interesting, and Robin freely exhibits the leftist drive for totalitarian control:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton famously asked why it is that these guys were so resistant to the franchise to women in the public realm. She argued it’s because they didn’t want to give up power in the home and I think she was absolutely right. There’s something about the intimacy of control in the private realm — the home and the workplace — that has always been central to conservatism. After the 2010 elections the first thing they did was to go after labor rights, and not just in Wisconsin. Something like the order of 35 states have some version of the Wisconsin plan. The Times just had a piece on the onslaught on reproductive rights, also in about 35 states.
The left as a whole segregates the issue of reproductive rights as if it’s separate. But it is absolutely critical and central to the conservative project because it is about man’s control over women in the home. Go back to the French revolution and Louis de Bonald, who is one of the great theoreticians of the counterrevolution — he was obsessed with the liberalization of divorce because he saw a connection between the emancipation in the family and of women and the whole revolutionary project.
Robin is absolutely correct that the issues are related; de Bonald had profound insights into the destruction that the Left would cause. Yet, Robin sees it in terms of competitive power. For him, there is no order, no proper spheres, no natural duties and responsibilities—simply Hobbesian war of all against all. Somehow, given this amoral and nihilistic outlook, the Left curiously privileges equality and then seeks to bring about the “justice” of equality in society.
Of course, conservatives who object to governmental intrusion into the private sphere do so because they stand against such justice; they want to keep their womenfolk in bondage, you see. Decent people obviously realize this, and that is why there is no good reason for the state not to intrude upon the private sphere in whatever manner appropriate to expand “social justice.”
This comes, without shame, from the folks who repeatedly whine that the state cannot legislate morality! It makes me ask whether Leftists are incorrigible liars or simply mad from their lifelong abuse of logic.