No, this isn’t about Kubrick movies (fond of them though I may be), but about the political discussions I have with my best friend (apart from Mrs. Mondo), Maj. Mad Dog, Esq.
As I’ve mentioned before (and doubtless will again), the Mad Dog and I are essentially political opposites — he’s a Euro-style Social Democrat, while I’m more of an anti-Statist man of the Right. Neither of us really fit into our work environments, either — he’s in the military (hardly a hotbed of Progressivism), and I’m an academic. We talk politics often, although we know we’re starting from different sets of assumptions and values. In a way, we’re kind of an embodiment of the so-called Culture Wars.
And it’s that topic that has engendered our latest discussion. Over at The American Culture, Sam Karnick discusses what I think are essential differences between Progressivism and modern conservatism (a.k.a. classical liberalism). I posted a link to it on another site, and the Dog argued that the Right (as embodied by Fox, for example) is inconsistent in its stance toward individual rights.
I’m willing to give at least one cheer for that position — I agree that the Right is inconsistent, but I believe that this stems from the fact that the Right isn’t monolithic. In fact, we’re a pretty intellectually/philosophically diverse group in a number of regards, and have been since the early days of post-WWII American conservatism. While George Nash’s excellent book offers full details on this business, suffice it to say that there has always been conflict between, for example, social conservatives and the anti-Statist Right. Remember, National Review cast out the Birchers and Whitaker Chambers dissed Ayn Rand.
In a way, this ties in to the epistemic closure misnomer/meme that a number of folks in the blogosphere have been trying to make recently. The argument (that debates over the nature/direction of conservatism indicate closedmindedness in the dextrosphere) simply ignores the fact that we’re always examining our core assumptions and negotiating the conflicts, and we always have been.
In this regard, Jonah Goldberg has pointed out that the Progressive camp may in fact be more closeminded than the Right. For example, progressives seem to think that when and where the government can do good, it should do good. That’s settled. On the other hand, I can and do see instances on the Right where, where even though we know something is a bad thing (drug abuse, for example), some of us believe it isn’t the State’s place to interfere.
So where am I going with all this? I think the answer is that it’s a mistake to see a conservative and assume he or she is necessarily a tea partier, member of the religious right, or apologist for Corporate America. We’re not a monolith — we’re people. That’s something we could all stand to remember from time to time.