The crisis of establishment conservatism
In light of the current conservative disappointment with President Bush, and of the continuing dilemma of establishment conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, who, despite their unhappiness with the president, always pull back from serious criticism of him, I’m reminded of what Ram Dass (the former Harvard professor Richard Alpert turned guru) once said about sex. He said that from the ordinary, selfish perspective (and remember he was writing in the context of the liberated Seventies), there are three types of people: those whom we desire; those who are competitors for those whom we desire; and those who are irrelevant. It’s a reductive, unpleasant way of looking at life, but I think it illuminates the crisis of establishment conservatism.
For people like Limbaugh, as for Ram Dass’s swingers, there are three alternatives: to support the president, and thus to be part of the action; to oppose the president, and thus to be an obstructionist and even an anti-American; or to be irrelevant. As Rush sees it, if he stopped supporting the president, he would become irrelevant. He would become like, well, like me, someone off to the side, not part of the action, powerless. It would be a form of death.
In my view, of course, the only way for us to get out from our current unbearable politics is to criticize it, to take a principled stand against it, to cease being a slavishly loyal member of the president’s team. If enough conservatives had done that, we would have had a real conservative politics now, instead of the distracted impotent conservative politics that we actually have.