The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.
Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.
This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. That’s its only advantage, as far as I can tell. None of its programs actually works, after all. From statism and income redistribution to liberalized criminal laws and multiculturalism, from its assault on religion to its redefinition of family, leftist policies have made the common life worse wherever they’re installed. But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.
I very much like the idea of a conservatism that tells it like it is and the hell with the consequences. Would that it were so.
But the very notion that in 2007, a putatively serious writer can link the American conservative movement with truthtelling, of all things, is so ridiculous that I think it must be some kind of twisted performance art.
It's lots of fun shooting fish in a barrel (yes, Alice Walker sucks and multiculturalism is feelgood crap) and setting up PC strawmen and then knocking them down, but it's not very good exercise; to get a real workout, you need to be punching the heavy bag.
The first conservative to step up to the plate and offer honest, no-holds-barred and damn-the-consequences talk about, e.g., one or more of the following will win my heart:
- How the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are going, and what "victory" will look like there.
- Science and the public sphere (stem cells, evolution, energy policy, global warming, etc.)
- Entitlement programs, most notably the ones created by the current "conservative" administration and how we're going to pay for them.