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The New Fusionism, Just As Pointless as the Old Fusionism

In the new fusionism of the pro-life social conservatives and the foreign-policy neoconservatives, a number of traditional issues seem, if not to have disappeared, then at least to have gotten muted along the way. Where exactly is tax reform and social security and the balanced budget in all this? Where is much concern for economics, which once defined the root of Amer ican conservatism?

Perhaps they are missing because, however important, they do not bear hard on the immediate question of social defeatism--on the deep changes that might reawaken and remoralize the nation. The one thing both the social conservatives and the neoconservatives know is that this project comes first.

The angry isolationist paleoconservatives are probably right--this isn't conservatism, in several older senses of the word. But so what? Call it the new moralism, if you like. Call it a masked liberalism or a kind of radicalism that has bizarrely seized the American scene. Mutter darkly, if you want, about the shotgun marriage of ex-socialists and modern puritans, the cynical political joining of imperial adventurers with reactionary Catholics and backwoods Evangelicals. These facts still remain: The sense of national purpose regained by forceful response to the attacks of September 11 could help summon the will to halt the slaughter of a million unborn children a year. And the energy of the pro-life fight--the fundamental moral cause of our time--may revitalize belief in the great American experiment. ~Joseph Bottum, First Things (courtesy of Orthodoxy Today)

Instead of "new fusionism," I might suggest the moniker: "unholy alliance." But that might be all together too angry and 'neoconfederate'. I am grateful that Mr. Bottum could at least admit that his brand of "conservatism" hasn't much to do with anything that went by that name in the past. There is not much point in trying to explain to someone at First Things why remaining true to the older conservatism of the New Conservatives, the Old Right, a panoply of great American and European figures before them and the entirety of the Western tradition is important, but it might be worth trying to explain for the sake of explaining it to honest evangelicals and conservatives who have been drawn into this "new fusionism" more by habit than by substantial agreement.

Holding to the convictions of our predecessors is not just for our own little exercise in maintaining our convictions and affirming our identity as the last bastion of Christian civilisation, valuable as those things might be. Speaking as a paleoconservative, I believe we hold to these convictions first because we regard them as true and honourable (and view the contrary convictions as false and disreputable), and second because we cannot conceive of a sane and normal society existing that does not embrace them in some large measure. Third, we endorse a humane and decent society in which local loyalties, personal attachments and natural affinities prevail, rather than the tawdry and cheap lure of frenetic activism for abstract causes, materialism, mass consumption, emotionalistic megachurch Christianity, messianic ideology and chauvinistic, vicarious violence in which Americans define themselves by the number of foreign peoples they have attacked. Those are some of the main characteristics of the constituent parts of the "new fusionism," representing as they do the cultural and political rot of the country masked by vapid invocations of "freedom," amorphous "faith" and a "patriotism" subverted and twisted by the lie of America as the "proposition" or "universal" nation. These are the things from which conservatives must flee, if they are to rediscover their bearings and achieve any work of conservation, much less restoration.

We are keeping the flame lit, so to speak, in the (perhaps vain) hopes that much of conservative American might someday wise up and return to a more profound understanding of their own vague leanings. At the very least, we are seeking to cultivate a good and humane life ourselves and construct something lasting amid the wreckage of our civilisation. The "conservatism" pushed by neocons is simply surrender to everything pernicious and destructive in modern society for the sake of wielding temporary power. If that is what most "conservatives" in this country desire, our appeals will have no meaning for them and never could have done. I suspect that such a hollow and disgusting creed is not for most Americans, however, and I have some small hope that they will wake from the feverish dream of the last many years of neocon dominance to demand real principles dedicated to the maintenance of consecrated, good order. Perhaps they are already too servile and debased to desire good order, but that good order is worth pursuing even if the mass of "conservatives" continue on their path to perdition.

Fourth and finally, we hold to these old convictions because each new "fusionism," whatever the intentions of the Frank Meyers of the world, is a corrupt bargain that entails that the traditionalist and Christian members of the alliance give up 95% of what they want to their secular, globalist and interventionist fellows in exchange for the latter suffering to grant them a place at the table and an occasional appointment or rhetorical tip of the hat to keep them quiescent.

As for being angry, I suppose we sometimes can be, but who wouldn't be a bit irate at the sight of the beautiful country of their ancestors being transformed into a giant trough for traitors, swinish interlopers and opportunists?

Daniel Larison | August 05, 2005



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