anticipating ross douthat, Brittney Cooper, conservatism, Cosmos, David Brin, GOP, Jacobin, leftism, liberalism, neo-paleo-classical liberalism, pluralism is not leftism, radical, red-baiting, scapegoating
Liberalism, classic 19th century liberalism, is being promoted by scientifically-minded Republicans as a way to pull their party back from its strange precipice of millenarian, racist insanity. The best parts of conservatism itself, an historically-aware aversion to risk, has been scuttling around under other labels for most of the past 50 years. Terms like “moderate”, however, have given over to “sane”, then to “former”. For those trying to resurrect the best of both conservatism and liberalism among the Fox Generation, leftism has become the third wheel they can distinguish themselves from, usually with cheap insults.
The problem is that like liberalism and conservatism, leftism also plays a vital role, and for the past thirty years that role has also fallen to ruin.
Leftism, at its best, organizes society against injustice, fighting the visible wrongs that society allows. At its worst leftism prosecutes a radical Jacobin urge toward revenge. At best, liberalism reforms onerous rules for individuals and applies those rules more equally in society as a whole. At worst, liberalism becomes a coöpted structure of rhetorical justifications propping up the authoritarian rule of establishment elites, the “most equal” individuals. Conservatism, at its best, argues for trying out new reforms in limited ways, risking as it were only a hidden corner of the upholstery. At its worst, conservatism throws itself wholeheartedly into radical, reactionary oppression of anything not aligned exactly with the long-established institutions of the ruling regime.
The worst of all three go together in a mutually supporting soup of discursive shit: the worst of liberalism uses caricatures of radical leftists and reactionary conservatism to label itself the responsible “third way”. In return the worst of conservatism and leftism portray liberals as venal if not explicitly corrupt and uncaring of What Really Matters. All three isms have their place and their dangers. Any public figure who cannot express the urge toward the best parts of all three impulses should be actively frustrated in their attempts to gain and exercise power.