Henninger on the Great Guy Theory of History

Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal has a scathing commentary (also in video) on the fall of Charles Rangel and what it says about Congress:

The House ethics panel’s document, “In the Matter of Charles B. Rangel,” available on the committee’s website, is a 41-page summary of why people are disgusted with Congress and Washington. And Albany, Sacramento, Trenton and Springfield….

The committee document on Mr. Rangel is an unpleasant read. Press accounts can’t do justice to the cumulative impact of paragraph after paragraph describing a political life disconnected from the original, basic bargain.

Conservatives have been pointing out the self-aggrandizing and fundamentally corrupt nature of Congress for decades, but nothing has been done about it. It just keeps getting worse.

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Gintas writes:

“Conservatives have been pointing out the self-aggrandizing and fundamentally corrupt nature of Congress for decades, but nothing has been done about it. It just keeps getting worse.”

Any time you say something like this, I remember the words of R.L Dabney in his essay, “Women’s Rights Women”:

It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

LA replies:

I believe a reader presented this quote before, with the same result of astonishing me. Because this is identical, not just in ideas, but even in phrases, to something I have been saying for years. My original inspiration was something Rabbi Mayer Schiller said to me in the 1990s, which I then built on (though perhaps my building was also copied from Schiller, though I don’t remember that). But perhaps Schiller in turn had been inspired by Dabney, or perhaps he had been inspired by some other conservative who in turn had read Dabney.

By the way, I was in continual telephonic and other contact with Schiller from 1993 to 1999, when, without explanation, he ended all contacts with me. He apparently ended all his contacts with other conservatives at the same time, though I’ve heard that he keeps writing under a pen name.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 05, 2010 10:10 PM | Send

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