I explore whether we are seeing a reversal of Left and Right on the matter of patriotism, here.
It may indeed be the case of a rejuvenation of pre-Reagan conservatism, drawing deeply from the works of such authors as Kirk, Weaver, Niebuhr and other “pessimists” (or, I would submit, Realists) may doom any such New/Old/Paleo conservatism to irrelevancy in the American narrative. However, if some of its basic message has remained the same, times have decidedly changed. Faced with a collapsing economic system, the undoing of the American-led Post-World War II global consensus, the growing evidence of environmental and moral depletion all around us, the message of conservative realism may be ripe for a re-hearing and reassessment. Everywhere people are realizing that the message of optimism - don’t worry, be happy, and pay for it tomorrow - was in fact a message of deception, duplicity and fraud. Neither the mainstream Left nor Right appear capable of speaking meaningfully to the import of this moment. Ironically, the very moment that the Left has re-connected to its message of “liberal faith” may be the very moment when that faith is proven to be too much evidence of things unseen. In the meantime, a critique of the American narrative - combined with a reconsideration of “Another America,” a tradition of localism, community, self-government based in limits, a culture of memory and tradition, undergirded by faith and virtue - may have found its moment. For starters, its heroes are more likely to be the likes of the Anti-federalists (see Bill Kauffman’s book on Luther Martin for a start) than the triumphalist narrative of the Founders and their creation of an empire of liberty. Its cultural heroes are more likely to be the Waltons rather than the celebrity flavor of the month (I can’t recommend enough a re-viewing of this series, now more than ever, courtesy of Netflix. We have been watching it with our children for some months, and it is salutary and decent beyond description). I speak here of a revival of patriotism, alright, but a patriotism based in places and folkways, not abstraction and expansion. Thus, perhaps not the sort of patriotism we are used to, but one of noble lineage and one that will need good storytellers to begin to displace an otherwise broken and tinny narrative that now should be discarded.