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by Christopher Chantrill
October 09, 2005 at 1:13 pm
THE CONSERVATIVE argument over the nomination of Harriet Miers to be associate justice on the Supreme Court is just like the Allied argument in the fall of 1944.
After the breakout from Normandy the British General Montgomery wanted to end the war by getting his Army Group 21 into Germany first with a bold left hook through the Low Countries. The American General Patton had the same idea. He wanted to end the war by getting his Third Army into Germany first with a bold right hook across the Rhine. But their boss, General Eisenhower, chose to advance towards Germany on a broad front, and rejected the high-risk plans of his subordinates. Ever since, military experts have criticized Ike for his timidity and lack of imagination.
In the Supreme Court battle, its the hot-shot Federalist Special Forces that want to assault the vital liberal citadel, the Supreme Court, in a daring coup de main. But President Bush has decided against such a risky scheme. He has chosen the Eisenhower strategy, and nominated Harriet Miers to the court. The Special Forces guys are fit to be tied.
But how smart is the ruthless coup de main strategy? Citadels cannot be successfully held or defended unless you have infantry all around them. That was the lesson of the Belgian fortresses in 1914, and the same lesson applies to the Supreme Court in 2005. Republican presidents have successfully infiltrated conservatives into the court time and again. But because conservatives on the court are surrounded by a liberal legal culture they find it very difficult to hold out against the endless siege of liberal opinion. Most of them give up.
The conservative raiding strategy for the Supreme Court is not a strategy, it is a tactic. The only way to achieve a conservative court for the long term is to change the legal culture of the United States. That, of course, is a much bigger, and much harder task than the decisive tactics of the coup de main. It requires conservatives to win the argument of ideas not just in economic policy and in national politics, but in the moral-cultural sector as well. It is with the moral-cultural sector that conservatives have their big problem.
F.S.C. Northrop pointed out 50 years ago that Anglo-Americans are fighting the battle of ideas with the seventeenth-century ideas of Locke and the eighteenth-century ideas of Burke while our opponents are fighting with the cultural ideas of the twentieth century, the precipitate of two hundred years of German philosophy. Look at the great cultural edifices of the present era. Compulsory education comes from Prussia. The research university comes from Prussia. Social insurance and pay-as-you-go pensions come from Imperial Germany. Modern science comes from Kants idea that we cant know things-in-themselves, only appearances. Modern psychology? Its German.
All these themes come together in the central article of liberal faith that a creative life is a Life, while a life of creating children is a cop-out.
This revolutionary program also took on the noble project of Anglo-American constitutionalism and irradiated it with postmodernism, an invention of French poseurs, its true, but founded on German ideas. Middle-class constitutional democracy wasnt about the rule of law or a high-minded separation of powers, they said, it was a cunning bid for power. All knowledge was a narrative of power, an apology for the ruling elite and its shameful path to power.
Conservatives think that all this is ridiculousa politically correct fantasy that no sensible person would consider for a moment. The trouble is that sensible people do believe it. Not only do they believe it, they proselytize it throughout the culture: in the government schools, in the elite universities, and above all in entertainment and the arts. Conservatives cannot easily hold the Supreme Court until they conquer and hold the cultural territory around it.
Conservatives must master the German canon. Then we can use the liberals weapons against them. Could it be, we could ask as conservative postmodernists, that the whole liberal narrative of the last centurythe noble government programs for education, health, pensions, environment, even perhaps civil rightsamounts to nothing but a crude apology for power?
Conservatives will be able to dominate the Supreme Court when and only when we have cured liberals of their cultural confidence.
To do this, we need a conservatism rooted not just in the ideas of the founders, but expert in the ideas of the German tradition, the ideas that were used to marginalize us over the century of socialism from 1850 to 1970 and in the culture to this very day. Then we will win the culture war not in bloody confirmation battles in the United States Senate but in the way recommended by the great masters of strategyby defeating our adversaries without even the need for battle.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel