Is conservatism national or constitutional? | EGG

Reprinted from Law and freedom

Over the past four years or so, national conservatism has become increasingly important on the American right. Always a mighty force in Europe, this brand of conservatism is relatively new to the United States. Perhaps that is why the meeting of scholars who adhere to national conservatism amounted to convenient declaration of principles signed by a number of prominent right-wing thinkers, journalists and activists. Unfortunately, the result of their efforts is not inspiring. To misquote Edmund Burke: “While I am happy to find that the far right in America has principles, I cannot congratulate them on that fact, as I have now seen those principles myself.”

The statement of principles is written in soft and unassuming language, bracketed in mostly unobjectionable categories (after all, what reasonable person really takes offense at rejecting imperialism or upholding the rule of law). However, upon closer reading of the details of the document, it becomes clear that this is not just a polite statement of truths that we sometimes need to be reminded of, but instead a complete rejection of the constitutional order of America.

The first moment of the statement, to give thoughtful readers a serious pause, begins under point 3: “The National Government.” The authors of the statement clearly and rightly emphasize the importance of the idea that power in most cases should be closest to those who are affected by it. After all, this is democracy. The statement also truthfully notes that in recent decades this common-sense approach to politics has been left to the discretion of the nation and that if we are to rebuild the nation, we must devolve more political decision-making to local communities and colleges. , hospitals and so on.

However, as soon as the authors complete this eloquent defense of the American Madison system, they prove that they do not really believe a single word of it, declaring: immorality and corruption, the national government must intervene vigorously to restore order. In short, when local government does not support the principles of national conservatism, it is quite normal to suppress states and auxiliary institutions in order to force them to do so.

What things might make them want to take over states and auxiliary institutions? The rest of the statement gives us some important information. For example, under the harmless principle 8 “Family and Children”, the authors of the statement rightly point to the disintegration of the modern family – the growth of child poverty, the increase in the number of divorces, domestic violence, etc. Their diagnosis of the causes of this exciting phenomenon is more problematic. Claiming that family breakdown is partly caused by “radical forms of sexual promiscuity and experimentation”. A not-so-subtle attack on the recent legalization of same-sex marriage. Such a view ignores the extent to which social collapse is more often the result of oppression and poverty than legal recognition of a normally stabilizing force in society. The national conservative outlook on the subject also suggests the frightening possibility that they will not hesitate to impose certain moral views on sexuality, abortion, and the family, using the full power of the federal government, rather than the constitutional channels of schools, states, and churches.

Under Principle 7, Public Research, National Conservatives advocate for more public college research that can help guide policy. A laudable goal, most of us can agree. Although this is quickly followed by an attack on the globalist trend of colleges and states outright that “such institutions do not deserve the support of taxpayers … Educational policy should serve the obvious national need.” In short, colleges that support the views of the national conservatives should receive funding, and those that do not agree with them should not. Basically, it’s wrong for liberals to shut down conservative spaces on college campuses, but it’s good for national conservatives to do so.

This approach fundamentally misunderstands the essence of the American constitutional order. The framers of our constitution were well aware that there was little hope for a nation of our size and diversity to agree on what constituted immorality or decay. This central understanding of liberalism is that, after centuries of bitter struggle over religion and morality, it is better to leave most of these issues to the discretion of individuals and the communities to which they belong. The Constitution takes this vital truth and makes it the centerpiece of our political order. It leaves it up to states and individuals to decide how they should live, and thus makes it possible for many different forms of religion and morality to flourish. As Dennis Hale and Mark Landy summed up in their touching protection liberalism: “The genius of liberalism is that where it does not provide answers, it creates a space in which citizens can find their own answers. That’s why it’s called myself-government, after all, the citizens will govern their I first, and then manage your community.” As the founders were well aware, when we insist on nationwide answers to hotly contested moral questions, we end up in an endless political war. This state of affairs is good for the partisan agitators, but not conducive to the healthy and peaceful society that, after all, the National Conservatives want to establish.

The typical national conservative response to this argument is that this may be the case in theory, but in practice the federal government imposes leftist moral views on conservative institutions and individuals with great regularity. The federal government may have overstepped its bounds at times, but to argue that it is imposing a radical leftist agenda is to misunderstand the situation. The Constitution gives the courts and Congress the power to intervene in local affairs and people’s lives if doing so will end discrimination or a violation of due process. It’s the Fourteenth Amendment. This does not give the state the right to define morality in any broader terms. Of course, it is possible that national conservatives are supporters of private or state discrimination, but then their issue can hardly be with the left, it is with the constitution.

However, it cannot be denied that the political left has been overzealous in using the federal government to impose its view of the world—whether through Great Society programs that attempt to change American culture, or their persistently unsuccessful attempts at federal overhaul of American education. and healthcare. However, the national-conservative solution to this problem seems to be trying to beat the left at its own game: use the same pernicious methods, but simply reverse the ends. This is not a path to lasting improvement, and will do little more than give the left more tools to achieve its goals once it regains political power.

At the heart of the national conservative statement of principles is not just a hatred of left-wing liberalism, but of liberalism in its broadest sense. In making this statement, they seem to have forgotten that America is a liberal nation with a liberal constitution. Those who understand this fact make the controversial argument that we must overthrow and destroy the current American regime in order to save it. To accept a national conservative formulation of the problems and the solutions they forbid is to accept the destruction of the Constitution. In the end, it means coming to terms with the destruction of what makes America great.

Tyler Seek

Tyler Seek – Ph.D. PhD in American Politics and Political Theory at the University of Virginia.

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