Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Conservatives Lament the Failures and Excesses of Conservatism

Andrew Sullivan has a new book out. To give him some credit, Sullivan is one of the few conservatives who has at least partially come to his senses in recognizing the catastrophes his chosen administration has foistered through Katrina and Iraq.

But in the book he apparently* reasons that this conservative administration has failed because it has failed to be guided by conservative principles.

Sullivan may be right in arguing that there is a genuine conservatism that this conservative administration has ignored and thus degraded.

But I have a hard time believing that Sullivan and many newly aware conservatives are just now recognizing the influence of authoritarian Christianism in their midst and of the rise of authoritarianism within conservatism more broadly.

The Republican Party's conservative base has amply been on display for the better part of the last four decades, it's authoritarian impulses plain for all to see, celebrated even. What has Sullivan been thinking the Republican Party was doing as it nominated anti-right-to-privacy judges, called for criminalizing abortion, and demanded a re-assertion of religion in public life? What does Sullivan think the gravitation towards the Republican Party by every authoritarian religious leader since the 1960's means? What did he think the intentions of Dobson, Falwell and Robertson were? Did he mis-underestimate their influence or did he not recognize their influence? Did he think they weren't serious?

And what of Sullivan's Catholicism? It's hard to come to any other logical conclusion that conservative Christianity is authoritarian in nature, given its demand that its institutions, holy book and papal leader be regarded as infallible, completely authoritative and unquestionable.

In any event, maybe Sullivan can construct a competent, more benign version of conservatism that hasn't ever existed. Sullivan seems to want a return to Reagan-Thatcherism but their import for governance wasn't any less draconian than than what their current day, reigning descendants are pushing now. Human rights and civil liberties were as equally outcasts then as now.

Anyway, welcome to our world, Andrew.

*I'm on a no-hard-back book kick so probably won't actually read this book until it comes out in paper back--book reviews will have to suffice.

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