Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Conservatism on Tap"

I'll be the featured speaker at tomorrow evening's Washington D.C. "Conservatism on Tap." My topic: "Is There a Conservative Tradition in America?" The drunken debauchery will be begin at 7 p.m. at the District Chop House.

More information here.

If I actually get some words down on paper, I'll post my thoughts here.


Stephen MacLean said...

Looking forward to reading your comments...

One school of thought is that the American polity is grounded in the liberal Enlightenment thinking of Locke et al., so that its conservatism—unless somehow altered by radical thinking—will always be somewhat cut off from the older European traditions that are usually characterised as conservative.

icr said...

What is this "America" in the post-modern era? That is, what is it aside from the world's most powerful military, a rapidly fading dollar and a geographical expression?

If only Willmoore Kendall were alive today. Demographics changes aside, his "American people" seems to vanished:
Still, who were the "People?" In Basic Symbols, Kendall provides his most systematic answer to this question. Americans were a Christian people, from the Mayflower Compact to the Founding and beyond. Whatever the differences between the overtly religious symbolism of the Compact and the secular terms of the Founding, Kendall was certain that the meaning of the "basic symbols" (or principles) of the American tradition persisted throughout the nation's history, even before it became a nation in the late 18th century. Specifically, Americans were a "moderate" and "virtuous" people who set up political arrangements that defied radical and extremist politics. Kendall argued that this stable character of Americans, evident as early as the Mayflower Compact, informed the development of stable institutions which in turn discouraged faction and fanaticism from threatening the polity.
What was Kendall trying to tell us? What were his central teachings? I will list some that are highly interrelated.
(1) He told us to trust the American people. He always loved America and in his later years he came to love its political institutions and procedures. That is one theme that permeates most of his works dealing with the American system and his critiques of the proposals for reform offered by the modern American liberal. The three articles that best reflect this are “Dialogues on Americanism,” “Deadlock,” and “How to Read Richard Weaver: Philosopher of ‘We the (Virtuous) People.’”

Sam Francis, in his excellent piece for the February, 1986 issue of World and I, posits that, for Kendall, the American ideology could be discerned by its "way of life as it actually lives it." Francis brings it home:

...it is true that the persistent theme throughout most of his work is that the locus of political virtue in the United States resides in the American people and is expressed in their majority will through the deliberate processes of the constitution...It was in terms of its...public orthodoxy...that Kendall defined conservatism...the disposition...to defend and preserve its political institutions and government. (He)...expresses a sense that the American polity is basically sound and faces no challenge...that cannot be met within the framework...of (its) traditional political institutions.


Well, maybe there's a remnant of all that in the Tea party movement.