Guest Notes

Conservative notes

5 May 2016

1:00 PM

5 May 2016

1:00 PM

I’m not going to survive much more of this Republican Primary. It’s not the infighting, the blowharding, or the underhandedness – all of that you come to expect. It’s just the damn whining. Republicans have spent decades trying to figure out how they can cut into the Democrats’ base, namely blue-collar and minority voters. Now here’s Donald Trump, bringing in a record voter turnout. He’s winning with the working class and the ‘poorly educated’ (his words). He’s inspired thousands of Democrats to switch their party affiliation just to cast their ballot for him. And he’s whipped up a contingent of African-American supporters that no Republican in recent memory has come close to. Yet all Republicans do is complain that he’s too much like a Democrat. They wanted to steal votes away from Democrats, sure; but not if that meant doing or saying anything differently. They just wanted a bunch of hardcore Lefties to go to bed one night and wake up lukewarm Righties the next morning. I hate to break it to you, Governor Kasich, but that’s not how it works. If you want to attract Democratic voters to the Republican Party, you have two options: make free markets and traditional values more appealing to blue-collar and minority voters, or make the Republican Party more like the Democratic Party. And since conservatism in the GOP has been as dynamic as a toast sandwich for the last few decades, the latter course was a matter of when, not if. Hence Trump: the Republican that Democrats can get behind because he’s a lot like a Democrat. That’s the reality that pollies on the Right don’t want to admit because then they’d have to rectify the situation, which would take an awful lot of hard work. Conservative opinionators don’t want to admit it, because that would mean admitting their failure to communicate the universal merits of conservatism. Far easier to grumble and say, ‘Well, it worked for Reagan.’ Meanwhile, in the next four years over 50 per cent of voters won’t have been politically conscious when Reagan was alive. I call it Reaganism-Leninism: the GOP elite are hoping that they can embalm the Gipper’s corpse, put it on display in a grand mausoleum, and simply awe the next generation into supporting his principles. Australian conservatives are now facing the same conundrum. The question driving last year’s leadership spill, however you want to dice it, was this: is conservatism still electorally viable? And the answer is no – not because conservatism failed, but because conservatives failed. Tony Abbott couldn’t reinstate something as trivial and self-evidently splendid as knighthoods without creating a media firestorm. ‘But that’s the media’s fault!’, you say? All right, blame the media. But then you have to blame the conservative media for giving Fairfax and the ABC the power to create such firestorms. No matter which way you look at it, we failed. Fairfax didn’t break any laws; Malcolm Turnbull didn’t cheat. They won control of the media narrative and the Liberal Party fair and square. The same is true of all our other pet peeves: Marxist-controlled universities, the LGBT lobby’s stranglehold on corporations, whatever. They all got to where they are today because they outworked and outmaneuvered us. So now we have two options. One, we can borrow from the progressives’ manifesto and try to ingratiate ourselves to their ideology. We can let them dictate the parameters of acceptable opinion and hope they’ll make a niche for us if we offer them a few token conservative supporters – a false opposition. This is the way of Connie Fierravanti-Wells and Peter von Ocelot. Or we borrow from the progressives’ playbook and pursue our convictions with reckless, fanatical abandon. Either we go whimpering meekly to a slow extinction, or we lose our fear of death and content ourselves with truth, which is our only chance of survival. The soldier, Chesterton wrote, ‘must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.’ If he merely clings to life, he’s a coward, and won’t survive. But if he has courage there’s always a chance. Say what you want about the Left, but they have courage. Julia Gillard and Waleed Aly didn’t just appear out of the sky one day. They’re the product of centuries of backbreaking toil. We started with the home field advantage – that is, Western civilization – and have very nearly lost it. The Left didn’t just persevere when the odds were against them, they were born with the odds against them. They convinced a hardcore vanguard that progressivism is worth fighting for even if victory seems impossible – which, until just recently, it always did. Jeremy Corbyn’s elevation to leader in the UK Labour Party is like Cory Bernardi becoming leader of the Liberal Party, the difference being that socialists had the courage and resolve to put their men in power, while we daren’t speak Bernardi’s name without all sorts of qualifiers. (‘He’s a bit out there, of course, but…’) If we’re content to let conservatism die slowly, then stay the course. But if we want conservatism to survive, and maybe even flourish, our only chance is to embrace that suicidal defiance that’s served our opponents so well. Don’t give any one man – Abbott or Turnbull or whoever – the power to make or break the conservative movement. The Left will never be content with their leaders, and neither should we. They’ll never rest on their laurels, so neither can we. Permanent revolution demands permanent counter-revolution. Our aim must be, not to slow the Left’s long march through the institutions, but to fight them at every turn until we’ve routed them completely. Anything less is certain, well-deserved death.

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