I have hectored my fellow conservatives here and there as to how there is no “the” left. There are three “lefts.”
One bad, the “progs.” (Rhymes with trogs.)
Two good, now moving to the right of the right. I’ve written before about how the labor and the ethnic left trend to the right of us right wingers.
When the Teamsters and the French intellectuals condemned cancel culture I took note in The Transpartisan Review. Now the American left’s honest public intellectuals are surging to put things aright in heartening ways.
Join my astonished delight how the Washington Post editorial board warmly endorsed democratic capitalism as “the greatest engine of widely-shared prosperity the world has ever known.” President Biden celebrated that “Capitalism is alive and very well.”
In August, noted here, The New Yorker wrote about how Costa Rica’s public health initiative has achieved better outcomes than ours. Costa Rica surpassed America’s longevity at a fraction of the cost.
The New Yorker did not declare that “the era of big government is over.” It simply extolled a humble yet effective solution. Small can be beautiful. And sustainable.
This was not The New Yorker’s first flirtation with conservatism. Those rootless cosmopolitans sometimes turn up slightly to the right of Newsmax, with articles glowing on traditional values.
Consider Larissa’s MacFarquhar’s 2017 classic, “Where the Small-town American Dream Lives On: America’s rural communities stagnate, what can we learn from one that hasn’t?” To the right of Mellencamp!
Now, Anne Applebaum, writing at the center-left The Atlantic, eclipses the right in pure rightness. While various conservative snowflakes are seeking refuge from cancel culture in safe spaces, whining about progressive microaggressions, claiming victim status, Applebaum, instead, wrote a morally courageous exposé: The New Puritans.
It’s an indictment of the mob rule that too often prevails on “social” (more properly, “antisocial”) media. She reports on lives injured by cancel culture, delivering the most effective indictment of the illiberality of loopy wokeness I’ve yet seen.
Applebaum thus became a consequential champion of constitutional originalist values: freedom of speech, the press and assembly. Apologies for doxxing you, Anne, but in my book that makes you a better conservative than, even, me.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away the word “liberal” connoted a belief that there are certain inalienable rights that even a majority cannot legitimately infringe. Some are enumerated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.
Liberal also connoted not mere tolerance but respect for those whose creeds (excepting hate) differ from our own. Liberal meant conservative.
Getting down to brass tacks, what does conservative mean? Per the New Oxford American Dictionary, a conservative is “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.”
Hey, that’s me!
And yet these traditional values and attitudes are the very ones now being championed most effectively by thought leaders on the liberal left in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic (where editor-in-chief Win McCormack notably provides the key missing analytic for reconciling the “conflict between advocates of classical liberal principles of individual freedom and proponents of classical republicanism, which emphasizes pursuit of the common good”), and, even, yikes!, Jacobin!
Yes, the progs get most of the news limelight. The progs deserve to be, as they say in leetspeak, pwned good and hard.
That said, the progs, though dogmatic and noisy, are the politically least potent faction on the left. The labor left and the ethnic left are bourgeois conservatives. Social democracy is the antithesis of democratic socialism.
See it at the ballot box. Or just ask any Communist, who will confirm this.
Now is not the first time that my beloved conservativism has collapsed as a moral force. William F. Buckley, Jr., in the original mission statement of the National Review, wrote “Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by the Liberals [as progressives then were called], they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.”
I bitterly cling to the conservative brand, even though the well-fed Right plays a role comparable to that played by the well-fed progs for the Left. Why?
I’m for liberty and justice for all. The right trends weak on justice, the left weak on liberty. A Hobson’s choice….
That said, for what it’s worth, per Steven Stills writing for Buffalo Springfield … Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.
Maybe not exactly. But clear enough.
Sometimes the Left gets it right by being even righter than the Right.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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