Is conservatism winning or losing badly?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. Is the foregoing analysis correct? Are we losing or winning, and why?
  2. Are there ways in which conservatives could be more effective in winning larger victories?
  3. What are the victories conservatives should be trying hardest to win?
  4. 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?

10 thoughts on “Is conservatism winning or losing badly?”

  1. 1. I believe your analysis

    1. I believe your analysis is correct. We’re losing badly because: a) there aren’t enough of us; b) we are scattered, divided, and unorganized; c) our convictions are too often vague and inexplicit due to religious nominalism; d) conservatives, by nature, are not political activists and therefore do not devote enough time to politics.

    2. Barring the mass conversion of our fellow countrymen, I don’t see any large victories in the near future. I do think realistic progress can be made towards rebuilding a tolerable social order — on a small scale in various localities — if traditional Christians ever get serious about it.

    3. See #2.

    4. One may hope.

  2. 1. Yes. In most areas,

    1. Yes. In most areas, conservatism is losing ground daily, and not just through the courts. American culture is slowly taking its lead from Europe.

    2. Well, we’d have to garner control of much of the major media in order to be more effective, and I don’t see that happening. Widening the appeal of alternative media could always help as well, but I don’t know how far that can be taken.

    3. Conservatives should be fighting hardest on the abortion issue, because that’s one are where the left has not been gaining ground over the past thirty years. We’ve also had some policy successes. We should also try to hold the line on gay marriage if possible.

    4. No. The public sector greatly influences the way people live. We’re too interconnected for it not to matter.

  3. Welcome back.

    1. We are losing.

    Welcome back.

    1. We are losing. The reason is legal and illegal immigration, which fuels the power of the Democratic Party. The bleeding from this wound must be stopped. Imagine if all the immigrants after 1965 and their descendants were suddenly sent to heaven. The Democratic Party’s positions today would have little appeal outside of traditional Democratic Party strongholds. It would be merely a local party.

    2. Yes. They must create a competitive media to counteract the corrosive liberal media. The liberal ideas must be countered at every level in the media: news, advertising, magazines, newspapers, books, libraries, television, and film. The last two are the greatest corruptors. They dominate the free time of most people. They are hypnotic, and the points of view they preach are imprinted on the minds of the viewers, especially the young. It seems that some external force has blinded conservatives to these facts. The best explanation of why no group of conservative promoters has stepped forward is God has been blinding conservatives. Much of what conservatives do about it is merely to gripe. Rush Limbaugh is a good example. Rush (bless him) gripes incessantly about the liberal media but has not used his great fortune to build a conservative media. A wealthy person could start a closely held media corporation and there would be millions of conservatives eager to buy (or invest if you will) stock in such a corporation.

    3. The most important victories would be first in immigration reform and second in creating a purely conservative media.

    4. The catastrophe is huge. I don’t understand the rest of the question.

  4. 1. Is the foregoing analysis

    1. Is the foregoing analysis correct? Are we losing or winning, and why?

    We are losing, so far. The key to seeing the sources of the problem is to study the demographics of voters and a lot of socio-political History.

    2. Are there ways in which conservatives could be more effective in winning larger victories?

    One way would be to lower the divorce rate, in my opinion. People who are married and singles who want to see the divorce rate go down tend to vote Republican in the USA. Unfortunately, the marriage movement is leaning toward supporting the very advocacies that have done the most to increase the divorce rate for more than 150 years—advocacies for feminism and effeminacy in men.

    …not leading to any statement that most men who were divorced by their “independent” wives were innocent before their divorces, or that men should routinely receive sole custody of children in custody suits.

    But in divorces where abuse, neglect or infidelity cannot be proven by a reasonable body of evidence, why not have parents who want frivolous divorces set free by themselves, without breaking family or family resources for them? If children were to be reared more often by parents who refuse to support our divorce culture, wouldn’t they be more likely to stay with their own marriages, someday, rejecting romanticisms that promote divorce?

    The high divorce (and now resulting higher cohabitation) rate is not the only cause, but it may be a great part of the cause and momentum of the rise of left liberalism. Individuals who are or desire to be “independent” from their spouses will do what feels good to themselves.

    3. What are the victories conservatives should be trying hardest to win?

    Conservatives’ greatest victory would be to shut down many social (social engineering) programs. This would ensure a larger conservative vote, because fewer people would receive funding/propaganda from such programs. One example would be domestic violence shelters (feminist re-education centers) as they are—run by people with degrees from university programs like Womens’ Studies (socialist, “gender gap” instigating, etc.).

    Another major victory would be to shut down the same hate-mongering programs in universities. Without them, we could much reduce socialist propaganda being pushed out into society by them.

    4. 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?

    As the public sphere becomes more saturated with propaganda from the left, our government will become more aggressively intolerant of conservatism, as we saw with exaggerations about “militias,” talk radio supposedly supporting those militias (Clinton, hinting against Rush Limbaugh), more legislated imprisonments without due process, more aggressiveness in the national polls (e.g., Florida during the 2000 Election) and so forth.

    If the divorce/cohabitation rate goes up more, we are likely in for a very long term domination in government by the left with various kinds of dissenters being criminalized and discarded.

    Romanticism as a whole is much more of a threat to conservative government than its sub-agenda of homosexual marriage. We should be looking for what caused us to move away from love as a giving thing involving family loyalty, and toward romantic love, even after marriage. From some study, I’ve found that industrialism was not the main cause. The History of Quakerism, Unitarianism, spiritualism, mysticism and stoicism might yield a few hints. Influences from “Inner Light” beliefs (those that see scripture as being “secondary” or uninspired) have affected every church on our planet to some extent or other. The same beliefs, BTW, started long before the Reformation and were persistent at affecting Judaism even before Christ.

    It is my best guess that conservative heads will be severed by our opposition regardless, eventually, but that we should “fight the good fight” until then.

  5. Come on fellow viewers.

    Come on fellow viewers. Someone is actually interested in what you have to say. If it is silly, then at least our sponsor will know his Website appeals to the mostly silly, and he can change it.

  6. My somewhat unreflective answers:

    1) Yes,

    My somewhat unreflective answers:

    1) Yes, the analysis is correct; we are losing; the major reason why is our own tendency to cling to earlier forms of liberalism. Liberalism was a secularist response to the wars of religion: an attempt to stem the violence and tyranny brought on by the destruction of the medieval checks and balances. Liberalism never actually worked in some mythical period in the past, though. Physical and spiritual violence have only increased as a result of it. So first and foremost we need to repent of it utterly; without that repentance we are hoisted on our own petard.

    2) I have no idea what it would look like specifically, but it would have to entail both a realistic, pragmatic recognition of where we are now and an unequivocal repentance from liberalism. Either one taken in itself is a very high bar; taken together they look impossibly large. But a trickle of water carved the Grand Canyon (that is, what is practical is sometimes surprising given a long view of things) so I lean toward unequivocal repentance as the first consideration.

    3) Whoever said abortion was right, in the sense that we should be working to stop the current Holocaust. However, if we sell our souls in order to do so — “politics is the art of the possible” is the refrain often heard — then we will simply feed the next, even larger Holocaust. An example of this having occurred in the past is the alliance with Stalin.

    4) No, it is every bit the catastrophe that it seems. Evil is always parasitic, and Our Lord always wins in the long run. Recognition of that fact ought not inspire complacency or unwarranted optimism about the interim.

    • Traditionally I agree with
      Traditionally I agree with the Republicans on many issues, yet they have become so corrupt and ineffective in recent years that I now vote for third parties. That being said, do you think conservatism is a sign of maturity? Young people overwhelmingly support Democrats, and the old usually vote Republican. Some say people usually become more conservative when they age, but why do you think this is? Is it because that many come to the realization that while welfarism, socialized medicine, affirmative action, and federalized education may sound good on the surface, in reality they don’t work over time in America?

  7. Yes, conservatism is losing badly.

    Yes, conservatism is losing badly. And yes, although some of us would have described the situation in different terms, Mr. Kalb’s analysis seems correct.

    In the US, after Lawrence v. Texas, where is that powerful, well-publicized campaign for the Marriage Amendment? Without Google, one might be hard-pressed to learn anything about it at all.

    At sites like Turnabout, the temptation may be to assume that establishment conservatives, represented by politicians and the well-known journals of opinion, have never understood the philosophical bases of the problem. And yet, in terms of the issues about which we care most, that establishment has deteriorated a great deal in the last ten years. Why? A decade ago, in National Review, it would have been unthinkable for journalists to argue that homosexual marriage is inevitable, and that conservatives primarily concerned with the culture wars had better just become reconciled to it. For me, the first hint of this change was the establishment’s reaction to the symposium on “End of Democracy?” in First Things in 1996.

    As to Mr. Kalb’s fourth query, one thinks of some of the paleo-libertarians who seem to think we virtuous few can live independently of the bureaucratic state and corporations. Relatively few people have the entrepreneurial, enterprising qualities to make this work.


  8. The gates of hell will not prevail..
    I am more hopeful than many I guess.
    I think liberalism will prove itself unsustainable and will collapse, from a combination of internal apathy and Mohammadian agression.

    The next century will be bloody but the Church spread by the blood of her martyrs and will endure. Europe has rejected Her largely and America won’t be far behind but Africa and South America as well as Oceania are burgeoning over with converts. There are some hereasis here and there, liberation theology is still strong in S. America but those too will be overcome in the long run.

    It may take 300 years, as it did in the period between the collapse of Rome and the rise of the H.R.E. but it will happen, truth endures.

    I guess that’s the advantage of being a Catholic, I know that no matter what happens to me or this country the Church will endure, it has been promised by the Lord of History and as long as she endures civilization can be rebuilt, even stronger.

    I think of the day when truth guides the policy of states and the lives of men and we have the benefit of technology in medicine, transportation and communications, it will be a good day

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