Conservatives can be divided into (1) pessimists, who think the trend is down, down, down, and (1) optimists, who think things aren’t so bad. The pessimists point to things like Grutter, Lawrence, and the business-as-usual attitude of most mainstream conservatives to those decisions. The optimists point to things like practical limitations on the power of government, the increasing availability of conservative outlets, and what they see as decisive victories on some issues.
To discuss the question in a more focused way requires an idea what would constitute success. Here’s a proposal I made to a conservative discussion group:
- The liberal left is a movement that intends to re-create the human world as a rational machine for the maximum equal satisfaction of actual human desire. In line with that movement the only permissible public goals are prosperity, security, equality and the like. Further, human institutions other than transnational bureaucracies and world markets must be deprived of ultimate authority.
- On that view, true success would mean establishing traditional goals and institutions that left/liberalism excludes from the public sphere—e.g., religion, the family, the nation, the good, beautiful and true as traditionally conceived—as legitimate objects of public concern. Only that would constitute a fundamental defeat of left/liberalism. By that standard, conservatism has failed. The authorized public sphere today is purely liberal, and becoming more radically so.
- A more limited sort of success would involve the fostering of non-governmental settings for non-liberal goals and institutions to exist, assert their objective authority, and carry themselves forward. On that front conservatism has had some limited success—homeschooling and the establishment of some conservative publications and a few somewhat countercultural educational institutions are examples. To some extent talk radio also resists aspects of left/liberalism.
- Still, on the whole the tendency is toward Gleichschaltung—the coordination of all aspects of life in the interests of the new order. Examples would include the worldwide penetration of mass culture into all aspects of life, the extension of civil rights and anti-harassment law to make political correctness a duty in almost all settings that are not utterly private, and the centralization, ideological uniformity and propagandistic nature of mainstream religion, mainstream education, mainstream entertainment and culture, and the mainstream press.
- If the foregoing is correct, what we are seeing is the ongoing triumph of left/liberalism, accompanied by some conservative grousing and footdragging, along with the development of conservative ghettos that face an uncertain future in a world that won’t leave things alone to go their own way.
Queries, for anyone who wants to comment:
- Is the foregoing analysis correct? Are we losing or winning, and why?
- Are there ways in which conservatives could be more effective in winning larger victories?
- What are the victories conservatives should be trying hardest to win?
- Is the total capture of the public sphere by left/liberalism less of a catastrophe than it might seem, since the public sphere is likely to become increasingly corrupt, powerless, and in the end irrelevant to how people carry on their lives?