The uniform view of the cultural Left—which includes everything that counts as mainstream from the standpoint of our bureaucracies of truth—is that nods by Republican leaders toward traditionalist cultural concerns prove that the GOP has been hijacked by fundamentalist wackos. That’s not rhetoric and spin, things really look to them that way. It’s clear from scholarly discussions and judicial opinions, for example, that the elite bar, a thoroughly mainstream part of our ruling class, is literally unable to conceive of a legitimate ground for publicly distinguishing homosexual couplings from any other sexual connection, including marriage.
The situation makes it impossible for any conservative cultural movement to make headway in public life, and in a bureaucratized and publicity-drenched age public life is everything. That’s why the cultural Right never gets anywhere. The “culture war” is an aspect of the politics of rationality, and the Right loses all the battles because the professional rationalizers are employed by the Left.
So what to do?
- Clarify the rational grounds of traditionalist and antimodernist views, and push them in season and out of season. When basic points are at issue, there’s no substitute for fundamental thought, clarity and persistence. Make the fundamental irrationality of liberalism and the impossibility of being an intellectually fulfilled atheist evident to anyone with the slightest intellectual independence and interest.
- Don’t accommodate, confront. A system of accommodation that goes beyond a temporary modus vivendi has to be based on a shared understanding of what’s reasonable, and that is specifically what is lacking with respect to liberalism and opposing views. To traditionalists, liberal rationality—the view that the moral and political world is composed of desires, resources and techniques—is defective to the point of fraudulence and inhumanity. Whatever liberals view as a reasonable accommodation will always involve surrender by traditionalists on basic points like value relativism. Never lose sight of that.
- Theory is important, but it doesn’t hang in the air. Liberal theory is the flip side of the dominance of rationalized formal institutions like world markets and centralized and supposedly value-free bureaucracies throughout social life. To oppose such things we need to do everything possible to reduce bureaucratic domination of social life, particularly education and intellectual life. Debunk the experts, fire the bureaucrats, abolish formal education requirements, throw “education presidents” out of office, oppose everything imperial, and decentralize, decentralize, decentralize. And whenever relevant do what we can to encourage nonbureaucratic alternatives to market relations, such as traditional family and religious connections.
The foregoing amounts to paleoconservatism—a mixture of intellectualism, populism, traditionalism, libertarianism and localism. It seems to me that such views and Catholicism complement each other. Catholicism is I think most at home with a layered scheme of society that doesn’t centralize sovereignty and authority in a single place. To do so would create a this-worldly competitor to the Church as a transcendent universal principle of unity. And in the absence of a single this-worldly principle of unity and authority men need something else to look to to maintain social coherence. It’s hard to think of anything that could serve the purpose as well as a universal Church.