It’s about losing faith in the ability of my tribe’s leaders to deal with changing conditions non-ideologically. It’s about coming to see that many of us in the conservative camp have become more concerned about holding on to power than in being true to what we profess — and admitting it when our principles or dogmas don’t account for what we’re observing in the real world. And changing course. Instead, we’ve become in many instances ossified in our thinking and quick to demonize critics, both inside and outside the conservative movement, as heretics. ~Rod Dreher

I do wonder about this last part, or at least in the way it is phrased here.  Are conservatives generally hung up on denying that their principles and dogmas are not matching up with the real world, or have they instead allowed an entirely different set of claims to become the defining features of what they, as conservatives, are supposed to believe and it is these replacements that seem to accord so poorly with real life? 

This is an extension of what I was saying in the last post: the departure from the conservatism that Kirk called the “anti-ideology” to something like a “conservative ideology,” which means for all intents and purposes the substitution of revolutionary ideals and goals for those of traditional conservatism (though they will occasionally be dressed up by Straussians who use the word prudence almost as obsessively as neoconservatives talk about “resolve” and “will”).  Just as abstract, revolutionary ideas have failed in the past, because they do not accord with human nature or the realities of social and political life, they are failing again, which should be a vindication of the old conservatism and proof not that “conservative principles” have gone awry or failed to measure up to the tests of reality or that conservatives are too loyal to those principles in spite of contradictory evidence but that they have already not been sufficiently loyal to them.  

A stubborn attachment to these revolutionary notions has taken over many in the movement and the GOP, so Rod is right to describe an ossification of thinking taking place, but the revolutionary doctrines that many have embraced in recent years lend themselves to such ossification by dint of their own inflexibility and intolerance for the variety and complexity of the world.  Once you commit yourself to the wild notion not only that all men everywhere want to be free but also that we will make it so, prudence, realism, restraint and caution have no meaning anymore–you have abandoned the conservative mind once you say things like this, if Kirk’s description of that mind has any validity at all. 

This is not intended, as it usually is intended, to score another hit against the anti-conservative nature of neoconservatism, as that point has been made many times and more ably than I will be able to do right now, but simply to state definitions clearly and to use words in a way that has some recognisable relationship to reality.  I think it has been that separation of words and realities that has particularly plagued the conservative movement for the last five years, which has led them to champion, apparently without irony, the virtues of secular modernity, the Enlightenment, revolution, equal rights and individual choice not only in opposition to Islamic fundamentalism but as good, worthy things in themselves.  In the last five years, almost every trope of what Beneton calls “equality by default” has become a “conservative” slogan, if it wasn’t already, and the President now mouths the words of Marx and Lenin (”ideological struggle”) while condemning jihadis as the new fascism just as a Marxist would.  It is surely no surprise, then, and not really Mr. Bush’s fault, if the old communist Stephen Schwartz, writing in the neoconservative Weekly Standard, approves of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and cites their fight as a parallel with our own in Iraq. 

Conservatism, if it stands for something in the political realm, stands firmly in opposition to the principles of 1789, yet it is the sorry state of affairs that finds almost all modern “conservatives” preaching violent revolution in the name of the Rights of Man.  It is this, far more than the mere servile apologies offered on behalf of the administration, that is truly depressing.