The morphing of America’s conservative movement into something much darker has been going on for a long time. I still recall my youngest son’s response, over twenty years ago, to a colleague who’d invited him to join the local branch of the Federalist Society. He declined, explaining that he didn’t look good in brown shirts…
Even then, the trajectory was clear. Today, the fascists are coming out of the closet.
Last week, The Federalist published an essay that was certainly forthright: it was titled “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservative.” Here’s the lede:
Why? Because the conservative project has largely failed, and it is time for a new approach. Conservatives have long defined their politics in terms of what they wish to conserve or preserve — individual rights, family values, religious freedom, and so on. Conservatives, we are told, want to preserve the rich traditions and civilizational achievements of the past, pass them on to the next generation, and defend them from the left. In America, conservatives and classical liberals alike rightly believe an ascendent left wants to dismantle our constitutional system and transform America into a woke dystopia. The task of conservatives, going back many decades now, has been to stop them.
A “woke dystopia” is presumably a country that extends those “individual rights and freedoms” to citizens who were previously denied them. The author is rather clearly horrified by the prospect of allowing women and LGBTQ+ citizens to participate in society on an equal basis.
After all, what have conservatives succeeded in conserving? In just my lifetime, they have lost much: marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years, the First Amendment, any semblance of control over our borders, a fundamental distinction between men and women, and, especially of late, the basic rule of law.
The rest of the essay is a call to abandon notions of limited government (which is not the same thing as small government, a distinction which seems to elude the author) in favor of acquiring and weaponizing the power of the state to “stop the Left.” The author wants the Right to use the power of government as “an instrument of renewal in American life — and in some cases, a blunt instrument indeed.”
And how would that instrument be deployed?
To stop the disintegration of the family might require reversing the travesty of no-fault divorce, combined with generous subsidies for families with small children. Conservatives need not shy away from making these arguments because they betray some cherished libertarian fantasy about free markets and small government. It is time to clear our minds of cant.
In other contexts, wielding government power will mean a dramatic expansion of the criminal code. It will not be enough, for example, to reach an accommodation with the abortion regime, to agree on “reasonable limits” on when unborn human life can be snuffed out with impunity. As Abraham Lincoln once said of slavery, we must become all one thing or all the other. The Dobbs decision was in a sense the end of the beginning of the pro-life cause. Now comes the real fight, in state houses across the country, to outlaw completely the barbaric practice of killing the unborn….
Drag Queen Story Hour should be outlawed; that parents who take their kids to drag shows should be arrested and charged with child abuse; that doctors who perform so-called “gender-affirming” interventions should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked; and that teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.
There’s much more, but the cited paragraphs are illustrative. The message is unmistakable: government should be used as a weapon against anyone who differs from the author’s theocratic/nationalistic/paternalistic worldview.
The author is not some rogue essayist invited by the magazine to provoke a discussion; his name isJohn Daniel Davidson and he is a senior editor at The Federalist.
Actual conservatives–including Bill Kristol– have responded negatively. As one blogger wrote:
Davidson’s “restorationists” could probably be better described as “revanchists,” as they not only want to restore lost territory but also to “retaliate” against those who have torn apart the glorious world he imagines we once had.
It’s an explicitly authoritarian vision. The word “democracy” never once appears in the essay, and references to the concept only refer to events in the past…
Once in power, the revanchists should forget all about the (alleged) conservative idea of “small government” and instead learn to love Big (Brother) Government, inserting it deeply into private life.
Dobbs was just the beginning.
The blogger went on to compare Davidson’s explicit goals to the elements of fascism, and to confirm the fit.
In eight days, Americans will either vote Blue–or vote to buy brown shirts.