Headline: David Frum: The Republican Party Needs to Embrace Liberal Values
Sub-headline: Classical liberal values have disappeared from the right and are now disappearing from the left. Someone needs to adopt them. Why not the GOP?
David Frum like the ‘good’ Neo-Conservative engages in the methodology used by Leo Strauss: fill the rhetorical space with an overload of ‘information’ that seems but does not have relevance to the topic addressed. Its a key exercise of the Straussian Method of obfuscation, as opposed to explication, as the sine qua non of the rational argumentative endeavor.
Earlier this year, Patrick J. Deneen of Notre Dame University published a short, fierce polemic titled Why Liberalism Failed. The book, which gained respectful attention across the political spectrum, argued that liberalism had not delivered on its central promises:
The liberal state expands to control nearly every aspect of life while citizens regard government as a distant and uncontrollable power … relentlessly advancing the project of “globalization.” The only rights that seem secure today belong to those with sufficient wealth and position to protect them … The economy favors a new “meritocracy” that perpetuates its advantages through generational succession … A political philosophy that was launched to foster greater equity, defend a pluralist tapestry of different cultures and beliefs, protect human dignity, and, of course, expand liberty, in practice generates titanic inequality, enforces uniformity and homogeneity, fosters material and spiritual degradation, and undermines freedom.You can read those words, appreciate why somebody might believe them—and still categorically reject them as false and dangerous. The advanced democracies have built the freest, most just, and best societies in human history. Those societies demand many improvements, for sure—incremental, practical reforms, with careful attention to unintended consequences. But not revolution. Not the burn-it-all-down fantasies of the new populists.
That ‘respectful attention’ that Mr. Frum makes reference to proves to be a function of the pervasive Frum myopia:
Headline: The anti-democratic thinker inspiring America’s Conservative elites
Sub-headline: In his new book, the Catholic writer Patrick Deneen launches an attack on pluralism – and the Conservative establishment is cheering
Since the election of Trump, writers of all stripes have been lining up to pen liberalism’s epitaph.
On the left, the pernicious effects of neo-liberal economics has been denounced, while on the right, liberalism’s cosmopolitanism, which has no apparent regard for nation, religion or family, has been decried.
The left’s answer has been to demand more social democracy to combat galloping inequality, while the right has called for the return to traditional values, anchored in the “community”.
American conservatives, especially among the country’s powerful Catholic minority (which includes six of the nine supreme court justices), have found a new champion for their cause in the Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen. His latest book, Why Liberalism Failed, has been critically acclaimed throughout the conservative press, with the prominent Harvard legal scholar Adrian Vermeule, himself a recent convert to Catholicism, declaring it a “triumph”.
Rising inequality, the degradation of the environment, decreasing living standards, increasing loneliness, the destructive polarisation of our political world – Deneen blames liberalism for all the ills currently afflicting society. Surprisingly, he does not attribute these ills to the failures of liberalism, but to its success.
Like many conservatives, Deneen sees liberalism not simply as a theory about how to conduct politics, but as an all-encompassing ideology, like fascism and communism, that extends to philosophy, society and the economy. And it is an ideology that has won – which is why, in Deneen’s view, everything that is wrong with the world can be blamed on it. If liberalism is the cause of all our troubles, then the answer, according to Deneen, is to get rid of it altogether.
To make this argument work, Deneen lumps together all the various ideas and movements that have been associated with the term “liberalism”, whether they are compatible or not – from classical “check-and-balances” liberalism to New Deal progressivism, from neo-liberal economics to liberal identity politics. What ultimately unites all these strands, in Deneen’s eyes, is rampant individualism, which has been a bugbear for conservatives dating back to the French revolution.
Instead of individualism, Deneen says the future lies with radically decentralised, local communities where the true meaning of culture might be found again. By culture, he means “a set of generational customs, practices, and rituals that are grounded in local and particular settings”.
Deneen never spells out exactly what these local communities might look like, but it’s clear that what he wants, in reality, is a return to “updated Benedictine forms” of Catholic monastic communities. Like many who share his worldview, Deneen believes that if people returned to such communities they would get back on a moral path that includes the rejection of gay marriage and premarital sex, two of Deneen’s pet peeves.
Then look to the cast of Republican characters, and their fellow travelers, that meet the standard of ‘Liberals’ as defined by Frum: Ben Shapiro and Jordan B. Peterson, who attacks the Marxist Post-Moderns, and their legatees, the Student Left of the present. Who then frames the whole of his politicized pseudo- psychology in the archetypes of Carl Jung! Not to speak of Randian Paul Ryan as a self-proclaimed Liberal.
What follows this is more of the political cliches, of this political moment, as refracted through the ubiquitous Frum self-serving myopia, or is he ,more pointedly, the natural inheritor of the Straussian mythomania?