Winning or Losing in Context
Long before September 11, even before the 2000 elections, it seemed to me that our culture, and therefore society and government, was moving toward the right. This is not to say that I expected, or desired, a loss of the broad principles of fairness, mutual respect, and mutual responsibility that drove the leftward lurch. However, liberal policy assumptions are increasingly exposed as fantasies, liberal prescriptions as poison, and liberal demands as tyranny.
These specifics aren’t critical to my intentions with this post, but it might be helpful for me to offer some respective examples:
- An America that disarms itself through military erosion will not “lead by example” and thereby defuse the human tendency toward aggression.
- Throwing money at those in need will not boost them toward autonomy; rather, it will mire them in a pernicious dependency.
- Constricting our language and tipping scales on behalf of minority groups will not, despite the sheen provided by euphemism, lead to a utopian equality of outcomes and good will.
Again, we can (and do) debate these matters at length, but what I’m suggesting is that, from my perspective, the trend was toward Americans’ learning from the excesses of the last century and reapplying discarded principles from our heritage (cleansed of the detritus, such as legitimized racism and institutional misogyny, that had lingered from less enlightened days). Indeed, I expected — and still expect — the next socio-cultural war to be between libertarians and social conservatives.
Both of those terms I treat broadly, the essential distinction between them being that libertarians (including “moderates” as a less intellectually rigorous subgroup) acknowledge liberal error when it comes to economics, national security, and a handful of other, mainly process-based, matters, but they do not believe, or will not believe, that a similar bill will come due from the liberal approach to social issues. They hope to correct matters of money and military, but they wish not to lose sexual license (which, by extension, requires that abortion remain an option and that marriage be defined essentially as a sexual coupling) and other forms of liberty that come more easily when unencumbered by traditional morality (such as the quest for immortality via embryonic stem cells and freedom from the decrepit, as with euthanasia).
Forgive my wide drift, here, but the point to which I’ve been heading is one inherently tied up with broad worldview, and it is this: The trends that were leading toward conservatism have not abated. Arguably, the Bush Administration delayed them. Arguably, September 11, with the intensity of focus that it created, distracted from them. Certainly, members of the GOP sought prematurely to capitalize on (and distort) them. But the trends remain; the bills are still coming due; and we should be careful not to mistake that which arguably delays and distracts — and to clutch it — as if it were that which we’re increasingly finding ourselves to want.