Our political parties today are growing increasingly antithetical to one another. While Democrats embrace radical visions for the future, conservatives advocate for the abdication of their nonsense (censorship, political correctness, leftist indoctrination, Western hatred, white guilt/racism, etc.).
Conservatism is not a philosophy inherent to the Republican Party, as liberalism is not intrinsic to the Democratic Party. In the 1950s, one could be a Democrat or Republican, and you’d have to ask a few more questions to determine whether one was a liberal or conservative. Both parties had their left-wing and right-wing factions.
But contemporarily, these nuances no longer seem to exist. While these distinctions require themselves to be fleshed out more, our aim here is to address the abandonment of liberal values from both parties.
First, one must resolve a common misconception between liberalism and leftism.
Liberalism vs. Leftism
In political discourse— whatever remains—these two terms are often conflated to mean one and the same. People will take to Twitter to condemn the freedom-hating “liberals” and deranged “leftists,” as though there is no difference between the two.
This obfuscated distinction is exemplified in the Democratic Party, perhaps because the more moderate Democrats have given way to their extreme leftist counterparts. Progressives have come to dominate the party, reducing the moderates’ influence in politics, a power grab recently resulting in a congressional standoff.
However, despite this indistinction, liberalism and leftism are fundamentally opposed. While liberals are certainly leftist on many issues, the philosophies undergirding the two denote varying core beliefs. The liberal tradition, home to John Locke and J.S. Mill, two fathers of liberalism, is predicated upon individualism. It is no surprise that these two were Englishmen, as England has a rich tradition of individualism. England is the home of the Magna Carta and Common Law—these two concepts differentiated the country from the rest of Feudal Europe beginning in the 10th century and onward.
King John signed the Magna Carta on June 15th, 1215. It established the principle that everyone is subjected to the same law, where the individual’s rights were not lightly trampled upon; the king was also subject to this law. Common Law, another distinct feature of English society, was contrary to Roman Law, to which much of Europe adhered. Common Law saw the court system as an empirical arbiter of law where precedence, rather than deduction, determined right from wrong.
In this way, the concept was fundamentally conservative, in that it relied upon the tradition of the society, as opposed to a codified set of rules, to determine what was just; on the other hand, it was liberal, insofar as it was empirically elastic to make way for fair hearings and rulings; in other words, the cultural heritage of the society and experience of the individual were dually significant to England. (See “What Makes the West Great“).
America adopted these values in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, embedded the concepts into the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and went onward to conserve the colonies’ rights from perceived tyranny and open the gates of freedom to the rest of the world.
However, much of America’s history has been tainted with revisionist history and infiltrated by those in the pursuit of destroying the country’s social fabric and liberal character.
Who are these infiltrators, and how are they achieving their ends?
Leftism, by contrast, subverts the role of the individual by supplanting it with the collective. It features two classes of society: those who exploit and those who are exploited; those who oppress and those who are oppressed; those who are dominant and those who are dominated and marginalized. Its social justice and progressivism suggest collective activism to offset social inequities caused by these perceived social and economic disparities.
In other words, while liberalism advocates for equality, leftism advocates for equity. While liberalism acknowledges that inequality does not necessitate inequity, leftism believes inequality to presuppose inequity. All social inequity, therefore, can be corrected scientifically, progressively, and collectively. The social significance of the individual is absent, tossed away, rendered socially extinct, and considered one of the plagues that have benefitted the “oppressors.”
Unsurprisingly, given leftism’s embrace of collectivism and concern for social equity, it has found an accomplice within Marxism.
Leftism & Marxism
In the 20th century, it took “New Left” academics like Herbert Marcuse, dubbed the movement’s father, to impose their Marxist utopia upon America through “Cultural Marxism.” Marcuse was one of the Frankfurt School professors who developed Critical Theory in the 1930s. During WWII, he was a notable employee who prepared reports on Nazi Germany in the agency that would later become the CIA. Ironically, after studying Nazi Germany, Marcuse believed the United States to be “totalitarian” and advocated for “repressive tolerance.” Repressive tolerance was the belief that, in the name of liberation, the people must not only suppress certain voices of disagreement but actively be fed slanted information that promoted the right kind of indoctrination. He writes:
“To enable them to become autonomous, to find by themselves what is true and what is false for man in the existing society, they would have to be freed from the prevailing indoctrination (which is no longer recognized as indoctrination). But this means that the trend would have to be reversed: they would have to get information slanted in the opposite direction, that is, toward the self-styled conservatives, to the political Right—these anti-democratic notions respond to the actual development of the democratic society which has destroyed the basis for universal tolerance.”
Cultural Marxism is today coined as a “far right-wing antisemitic conspiracy theory,” according to Wikipedia. Still, as any sociology student knows, the curriculum is composed of deliberate criticism against Western Civilization, often authored by Marxists like Marcuse, that advocate and promote Marxism and the deconstruction of the West.
One NYC university, The New School for Social Research (NSSR), a leftist haven falsely proclaiming intellectual diversity, has committed itself to the same values of the Frankfurt School:
“Its commitment to progressive values, academic freedom, rigorous scholarship, and critical theory in the tradition of the Frankfurt School lies at the heart of The New School’s history and draws upon the vital legacy of the University in Exile…
Today NSSR continues to attract distinguished and socially active faculty who challenge long-held theories and push scholarship and social discourse in new directions. NSSR remains true to the idea of a school of free inquiry for students and faculty of different ethnicities, religions, and geographical origins who are willing to challenge academic orthodoxy, connect social theory to empirical observation, and take the intellectual and political risks necessary to improve social conditions.”
In fairness, The New School has always been a university for activism; its values and intentions are not hidden. Their role is to indoctrinate students in the leftist curriculum, which they expediently call “critical thinking.” Free thought and debate were never given to dissidents within their walls but were empty phrases that respected those deemed “marginalized” according to their theories.
Today, they are not alone in this mission, as universities across the country have become dedicated to social activism sponsored by their activist education.
Where Liberalism is Rejected, Conservatism is Rejuvenated
The left’s rejection of liberalism has often resulted in the conservative’s attempt to save the falling pieces necessary to a functioning America. This attempt has led the Republican Party to chirp the same tune for decades. Notably, during the 1992 Republican National Convention, Patrick J. Buchanan gave his famous “culture speech.” As Buchanan conceded the nomination, the differences in subject matter between him and Republican nominee George Bush were stark.
While Bush was economically oriented, only touching upon cultural issues to criticize the left for having disagreeable opinions, Buchanan set forward a vision for the future.
“My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what,” Buchanan resounded. “It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”
In reality, disillusionment with liberal values has both sides weary. Conservatives have lost so much ground in the culture war because of the inability to position themselves offensively; their action is reactionary only.
In his new book, Speechless, Michael Knowles documents conservative lawyer Richard Kelner’s column in the Wall Street Journal, where he critiques Bush’s commencement address. Kelner chastised “his fellow right-wingers ‘for waging our phony war on political correctness.’”
In response to politically incorrect intolerance, conservatives presented themselves as the true stewards of tolerance and liberality. But conservatives’ minds were not entirely ‘open’ either.
“‘We sought—and still seek—ascendency,’ Kelner reminded the Right… Kelner believed conservatives needed to articulate a substantive vision for the culture rather than simply criticize the Left’s rhetorical strategy.”
While Republicans have embraced liberalism, insofar as advocating for limited government, free markets, and individualism, the populist faction of the conservative movement renders these concepts as libertarian perversities. New conservatives of this sort have adopted Buchanan’s cultural vision and Kelner’s attitude.
Conservatives today are rejecting to pick up these liberal premises in the absence of their supposed liberal counterparts. As the country faces threats from the left’s increasing power, like governmental overreach, a decaying cultural fabric, and corporate oligarchy growing around the partisan technology companies who control our media, conservatives have embraced stronger state governments, a protectionist economy, and a cohesive social fabric with clearly defined moral standards.
But not all conservatives have received the memo. Some of the most notable conservative think-tanks without question or hesitation defend liberalism. Here’s an image from PragerU:
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Think-tanks like PragerU disregarded, conservatives today have adopted a sovereign vision for the United States, whereby we sustain our status as a super-power and reject globalism, which was brought on by the free market mindset. These conservatives understand what the left has always understood: that power is relational and should be wielded for one’s pursuits, lest another undesirable hegemonic structure takes its place.
Conservatism has, therefore, embarked on a new path that has abandoned the liberal touting Republicans—the Romneys and Cheneys. It has set out to act upon its own behalf.
However, liberalism is not entirely abandoned in this new conservative movement. Within these communal forts where these conservative ambitions thrive, the liberal disposition is alive. Florida exemplifies this in its strong state government motivated to rid itself of mandates, stop the spread of Critical Race Theory, fight back against big tech, and cultivate a sense of unity. Within a state like this, one can enjoy the fruits of liberalism, in the form of individual choices, self-expression, and speech, without repercussion and sanction.
Despite the rejection of liberalism from both sides, it might just take conservatism to bring back the dawn of liberal values, where individuals may once again be free from the compulsion of centralized power and the collective tyranny of leftist ideology currently marching on through the institutions.