Its always rewarding, at my breakfast time, to do some exploring of the morning newspapers. What caught my attention today, with the proviso that all the Big Name’s of political comment are on vacation? was Janan Ganesh’s latest essay in The Financial Times:
Headline:A defeat for Donald Trump is not a defeat for autocracy
Sub-headline: Voters are rejecting the president’s incompetence, not his authoritarianism
Here is what passes for political thought: rhetorical hair-splitting, name dropping, political yarn-spinning, self-congratulation, and an absence of the application of brevity. That might have rendered his essay to a couple of more insightful paragraphs? My patience level at the breakfast table is dependent on my coffee consumption.
I made the mistake of going to the New York Times web site. And Bret Stephens’ essay on that Conservative Monument Edmund Burke.
Headline: Why Edmund Burke Still Matters
Sub-headline: He reminds us it’s hard to respect democratic political institutions while disdaining the founders of those institutions.
The political virtue of Burke, as presented by Stephens, is that he is the antidote to the active Rebellion against the established order. The New Democrats, Neo-Conservatives and a Republican Party, that surrendered to the Tea Party Reactionaries, that produced Trump and Trumpism, are by means of Stephens’ political necromancy the stand-ins for a Rational Political Order?
Burke is then presented, in his usual guise, as the Great Crusader against The French Revolution, as an expression of its inherent murderous political nihilism. Is their not just a troubling bit of inconsistency, in Stephens self-presentation, of being Burke’s representative in the political present. When he was an active member of the Neo-Conservative Coterie’s hysterical war mongering, in both Afghanistan and Iraq? What were the costs in lives, of these two baseless attacks on sovereign states by the American Military Juggernaut?
Read Stephen’s last two paragraphs. The notion that the American political provincial George F. Will could write, much less conceive, a magnum opus, ‘The Conservative Sensibility’ is comic. Also featuring some critical caveats , that ‘we’ haven’t quite reached the very point of crisis, but ‘we’ are close to its edge.
Because Burke champions a different concept of liberty than the one most Americans cherish, it may be easy to dismiss his teachings as interesting but ultimately irrelevant. George Will, in his magnum opus “The Conservative Sensibility,” speaks of Burke as a “throne-and-altar” conservative of little relevance to American experience. Whatever else might be said of events in places like Portland or Seattle, it is not the storming of the Bastille, and wokeness isn’t Jacobinism — at least not yet. The time to write “Reflections on the Revolutions in America” is still a ways off.
A ways off — but ever more visible on the horizon. To read and admire Burke does not require us to embrace his views, much less treat him as a prophet. But it’s an opportunity to learn something from a man who saw, more clearly than most, how “very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions.”