Lazy Sunday LXXIX: Forgotten Posts, Volume III

Lazy Sunday is rolling on with some more “Forgotten Posts” (check out Volume I and Volume II).  Again, the criteria for selection is pretty loose—I scroll through my archives and find posts I don’t link to very often, or which I’ve largely forgotten that I wrote.  Even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

This week’s selections come from June 2019.  The summer is always a slow month for new; ergo, it’s a slow month for blogging.  But with a self-imposed daily post requirement, I’ve gotta come up with something.  Here’s a taste of those somethings:

There’s another Lazy Sunday in the books.  Speaking of books, I’ll be cracking them pretty hard this week, as school resumes this Thursday.  It’s going to be an interesting year.  Wish me luck.

In the meantime, enjoy your Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction

Yesterday was the last session of the Summer 2020 History of Conservative Thought course.  This summer marks the second run of the course, and it was a fantastic class.  I had three young men enrolled, all quite eager to dive into the material.

I try to avoid lengthy lectures in HoCT, giving the basic background information and scaffolding necessary to put the readings into context.  I want the works to speak for themselves, and for the students to the do the heavy lifting of sussing out meaning and the author’s ideas.  Each week students wrote a short essay or answered a few different guided questions, then we would come in and discuss the material.

With this summer’s group, that model worked very well, as two of the young men in particular loved to plunge into discussions and ask questions.  One of the students was concurrently taking a colleague’s popular Terror and Terrorism course, which leads off each summer with the French Revolution.  That always dovetails nicely with our discussion of Edmund Burke, as we read several excerpts from his Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Burke comes on the heels of our discussion of Russell Kirk’s conservative principles, and helps frame the early portion of the course in the Burkean tradition.

In July, we left the nineteenth century and began looking at the modern conservative movement, with a heavy emphasis on William F. Buckley, Jr., and the notion of fusionism.  Buckley’s National Review catches a good bit of flack on the Right these days, including from this blog, but it truly shaped conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century.  Before National Review, conservatism was a disorganized, disunited hodgepodge of various ideologies, movements, and issues—it was, as Lionel Trilling put it, a “reactionary impulse,” a grumpy attitude about the way things were, but without a cohesive understanding of how to combat the dominance of New Deal liberalism.

For all its noodle-wristed hand-wringing and desperate virtue-signalling today, National Review created the modern conservative movement by giving conservatives their voice, their publication.  It also gave conservatism a politically viable platform of issues that could win in national politics.  That focus on nationalism certainly cuts against the Kirkean/Burkean mold of organic, ordered liberty, but it was the reality of post-war American political life.

We ended with another mid-century conservative, but one fitting far more into the spiritual and moral mold of Burke and Kirk, and far less in the neoliberal and materialist mold of Buckley-style fusionism:  Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, which I consider one of the greatest books ever written.  Indeed, I’m a bit of a Weaver fanboy, as he’s been featured twice on my Summer Reading Lists, first in 2016 for Ideas Have Consequences, and again in 2020 for his collection of Southern Essays.

For the course, we just read the “Introduction” to the book, which I try to read every August before school resumes.  It reminds me why I teach, and what is at stake.  Reading Ideas Have Consequences—first published in 1948—today reads like prophecy fulfilled.  Weaver’s core focus on William of Occam as the source of modernity and its related ills might seem a bit far-fetched, but that’s merely the germ from which the analysis of modernity’s fallen view of the world grows.

The real heart of Ideas Have Consequences is the abandonment of the transcendental—of God—in favor for navel-gazing particularism, a constant focus on lower, material concerns.  Unbound from any obligation to or belief in a transcendental moral order, men are left adrift in a world full of isolation, alienation, confusion, and meaninglessness.

I’ll let the rest speak for itself.  Here is 29 July 2019’s “Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction“:

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Populism Wins

A major lesson of the 2016 election was that the neoliberal consensus of the prior thirty years was not the panacea its advocates claimed.  Trump’s candidacy was premised on the notion that the national government should work for the interests of the nation’s people, not on behalf of globalist concerns and aloof cosmopolitan elites.  Government could be reformed to strengthen the nation, rather than operating as the piggy bank for and protector of internationalists.

It’s interesting to reflect how entrenched the assumptions of neoliberalism were prior to 2015-2016.  When Trump began his historic campaign, virtually no one on the Right was talking about tariffs, other than Pat Buchanan (and a long essay on the necessity of a trade war with China that Oren Cass wrote for National Review in 2014).  The outsourcing of jobs overseas was assumed to be a short-term sacrifice that would result in more efficiency (ergo, lower prices on consumer goods) and more skilled jobs here.  We were a “nation of immigrants,” so we’d better throw the doors wide open.

With Trump’s election, a long-dormant populist wing reemerged, consisting both of conservative Republicans and disgruntled Democrats.  Tariffs became an important foreign and domestic policy tool.  A trade war with China soon began, and the United States renegotiated the NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada.  Manufacturing jobs began returning to the United States, and immigration laws began to be enforced (so long as those Hawaiian judges didn’t get in the way).  The economy, rather than contracting as the free trade hardliners warned, grew exponentially, and even now is recovering at a remarkable clip after The Age of The Virus temporarily sidelined it.

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TBT: Conservative Inheritance

With the Summer 2020 session of History of Conservative Thought in full swing, I’ve been reviewing the Summer 2019 archives pertaining to the course.  Among the various class summaries and overviews of great conservative thinkers, I came across this short essay, “Conservative Inheritance.”

I’d largely forgotten about it, which is a shame—I think it might be one of my better analytical pieces (although you, dear reader, will be the ultimate judge).  I go back to the dominance of “Rooseveltian liberalism” following the Second World War, and how conservatism morphed into a political program that largely accepted the premises of that liberalism, but acted as something like the more cautious junior partner—“a tapping of the brakes, not a full stop or reversal” of liberalism.

The debate over what exactly is conservatism has grown thornier and more immediate over the last year.  There is a sense among the intellectual Right that the prevailing orthodoxy of Buckleyism is inadequate and outmoded, that it can’t really address the problems of our age and culture.  Indeed, this essay explores the idea that conservatives essentially abandoned the culture in favor of political victories.  The sad commentary on that decision, which made sense in the 1950s and 1960s, is that our political victories are hollow.  Without the culture, political victory merely forestalls progressive dominance for a season—the brakes are tapped, but the machine doesn’t stop.

These are sobering but necessary ideas to consider.  I spoke with a friend on the phone earlier in the week; he claimed that traditional conservatives and Christians have lost the culture wars.  I prefer to think that we’re losing the culture wars, but that there is still hope of a rear-guard action or some kind of renewal.  Either way, it’s an uphill battle, a Pickett’s Charge.

With that, here is June 2019’s “”Conservative Inheritance“:

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Lazy Sunday XXXIII: Virtue Signalling

Hard to believe that in sixty-four days, we’ll have reached one year of daily posts here at The Portly Politico.  In that time, I’ve done my fair share of exposing one of my least favorite activities:  self-righteous virtue-signalling.

So, what better way to signal my virtue in exposing virtue-signalling than by feature virtue-signalling for today’s Lazy Sunday?

Without further ado, here are my selfless, virtuous contributions:

  • Self-Righteous Virtue-Signalling Lives On” – This post looked an egregious National Review piece by Nicholas Frankovich in the wake of the Covington Catholic situation.  That seems like a distant memory now, but it was one of my battles in the never-ending culture wars.  The issue was that Frankovich, in his zeal to show to a Left that hates him that conservatives can gang up on themselves, threw innocent children under the bus.  Disgusting.
  • The Leftist Pantheon, Part I: Environmentalism” – This piece looked at Scandinavian eco-troll Greta Thunberg’s environmental apocalyptism.  Thunberg is the victim of environmental education indoctrination, in which everything we do is somehow destructive to Mother Gaia—one of the Left’s many neo-pagan gods and goddesses.
  • Tom Steyer’s Belt” – I love to rant about television commercials.  Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has a series of them he runs on Hulu, in which he’s wearing a ridiculous belt that makes him look like the old hippie he is.  This dumpy, stoop-shouldered elite tries to jazz up his look with some multiculturalism by wearing a Kenyan belt—sartorial signalling at its worst.
  • The Dirty Pierre” – Mitt Romney is the Establishment Republican King of Virtue-Signalling now that John McCain, the loathsome Arizona Senator and necromancer, is dead.  His “Pierre Delecto” Twitter account, which Romney used to defend himself against online detractors, rather than being a man and doing it as himself, is a despicable, cowardly example of a man who wants the Left to love him.  They never will, Mitt!

That’s it for this week!  It’s a muggy Sunday in South Carolina—typical Halloween weather for us.  D’oh!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Support Milo

I hold a soft spot in my heart for conservative gadfly and Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.  I recall fondly his heyday in 2015-2016, when he championed free speech in the Babylon of Progressivism, Berkeley, California.  I still wish President Trump would appoint him White House Press Secretary—it would be must-see TV every day.

Behind the flamboyant, cartoonish homosexuality and the over-the-top trollery, though, is a talented journalist and writer; indeed, Milo’s work is some of the best long-form journalism I’ve ever read.  His writing, like his public speaking, is engaging and well-researched:  he really checks his facts and his sources, while still delivering that withering Coulterian death strike upon his unfortunate target.

Unfortunately, even fewer Americans will have the opportunity to read his work, as he’s apparently sold his website, Dangerous.com.

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TBT: Self-Righteous Virtue-Signalling Lives On

The capacity of human beings to be busybodies never ceases to amaze me.  Aristotle wrote that “man is by nature a social animal,” and he is a political animal as well.  As such, virtue-signalling and puritanical social policing are probably here to stay, whether we like it or not.

Still, I’m always struck by how willing people are to butt into others lives—not just the curiosity of gossip, but the desire to control other people’s behavior, and even thoughts.  I’m all about enforcing social norms through the soft power of culture, and even I don’t want to hassle people.  I think hard drugs and prostitution should be illegal, sure, but only because those do demonstrable harm, physically, mentally, and spiritually, beyond the individual partaking in them.  Otherwise, I’m more than willing to let people make their own mistakes, and to believe whatever kooky nonsense they’d like, so long as I’m afforded the same courtesy.

Maybe I’m not the best spokesman for a laissez-faire social life, but a broadly Jeffersonian-Jacksonian, rural outlander mentality should apply to our daily lives:  you chase your squirrels, and I’ll chase mine.  Often the very last thing I want to do is to give someone else a hard time about their lifestyle, beliefs, or the like, so long as they’re not forcing their insanity on me.

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