The Ugly Fashion of “Conservatism”
William F. Buckley’s stated goal in founding The National Review was to make conservatism “shoe” in the United States. That was his weird, Yalie term for “fashionable,” or “hip.” This is ridiculous on its face because no real conservative ever cared a whit for being fashionable.
Conservatives love the ancient, the traditional, the fustian. The modal image of a modern conservative would be Prince Charles, who is never fashionable. He has likely owned the same sport coat for forty years. The same tie, too.
This illustrates the peculiar quandry of any “conservative” in the United States. What to conserve? The United States Constitution is a monument to western liberalism, at least in concept, if not in execution.
The problem now is that Buckley was sickeningly successful.
It is now possible to become rich, famous, and influential, despite being hugely stupid, so long as one loudly denominates one’s self a “conservative.” That the term has become entirely meaningless as a result is no impediment. It’s an advantage.
We may call this the Rush Limbaugh Rule: any stupidity becomes acceptable in the United States if some putative “conservative” chooses to take it up.
Or the Ann Coulter Rule. You choose.
Limbaugh illustrated this problem a few years ago by calling a young woman a “slut” on his radio show after she spoke publicly about why it is important for health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. Prince Charles would never call a woman a slut in public. Limbaugh did spark a backlash and boycott with his decidedly not conservative comment, but he seems to be surviving it.
Ann Coulter loudly endorsed Donald Trump for president before equally loudly renouncing her support when he did what any thinking person knew he would do — fail entirely to stick to a position that Coulter approved of. Coulter can at least claim to have advocated a genuinely conservative policy idea — that of severely limiting immigration to the United States.
This idea clearly contravenes the deeply liberal impulses and policies of the United States. For our first one hundred years, we had no restrictions on immigration at all. From the Chinese Exclusion Act in the late nineteenth century through the National Origins Quota system of the 1920s, immigration policy became increasingly restrictive and racist, that is, conservative.
Then, during the fabulously liberal 1960s, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform Act, which eliminated the National Origins Quota system, thus allowing a significant increase in immigration, first from Asia, and later from Africa.
As if to prove how fashionable “conservatism” in its degraded, US manifestation has become since, Donald Trump’s signature, stupid, “conservative,” conservative policy proposal, insofar as Trump had anything that qualified as a policy proposal, was to restrict immigration severely with such idiotic, blunderbuss devices as a wall at the Mexican border and an outright ban on admitting Muslims into the country. Both ideas more or less obviously violated the more distinctively liberal provisions of the Constitution, but Trump neither knew nor cared, in good, fashionable, “conservative” fashion.
This was not a hugely fashionable set of ideas. It did not win a majority of the popular vote in 2016, but such are the archaic mechanics of our political system that he still gained the presidency.
Despite consistently having an approval rating below 50%, still Trump remains fashionable enough, and his supporters loud and pushy enough, and thoughtlessly uniform enough, that they have made such “conservative” practices as picking on members of visible minority groups at random in public, holding rallies for white supremacists (always a “conservative” favorite), sending suspicious packages to the president’s supposed enemies, and shooting up synagogues, fashionable.
Trump has done a yeoman’s job of preserving the very “conservative” impulses of racism, sexism, and anti semitism alive and well in our great nation, giving vent to the lingering, deep seated supremacist urges that civil rights legislation in the fabulously liberal 1960s at least tried to combat, not without some success.
All the while, we continue to get a calorically deficient diet of stupidity from the likes of various “conservative” voices such as our favorites, Limbaugh and Coulter, but now also her openly transgender doppelganger, Caitlyn Jenner, conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Alex Jones, Negro buffoon Ben Carson, fellow blonde Megyn Kelly, Charlie Sykes, Geraldo Rivera, bomb thrower Newt Gingrich, and Trump council [sic] Rudy Giuliani.
All dumb as posts, which was already obvious long before they sealed the verdict by becoming toadies to the stupidest president the Republic has yet seen, Donald Trump.
It’s the American way, now, anyway: call yourself “conservative,” turn the volume up to eleven, and you will have a loyal, adulant audience of stupid followers.