I spent my college years spying on the enemy. It wasn’t on purpose; that was just how it worked out.
“Enemy” is a bit too strong of a term, maybe, but I was a conservative* Christian surrounded by liberals, and I was focused on graduating with a meaningful degree to go earn money and build a family.
When you want to graduate from a college where virtually the whole administration is bordering on communist, you keep your thoughts to yourself. This has an interesting effect though; people assume you agree with them, and they leave you alone. They don’t stay quiet, though. It’s safe for them to speak around allies. And so, unintentionally, I spied.
It’s been long enough that the Woke-ism of modern liberalism hadn’t fully ripened into poisonous fruit, but I think I still have a fairly good grasp of the liberal worldview, and while it isn’t the purpose of this post to get deeply into it, I think outlining it will help create some contrast.
The modern liberal thinks he is basically good, that most people are basically good, and that the problem is “out there” (in institutions). He thinks he can go out and fix the world; he’s got a plan and, if he does more than party, he’s got some lofty ideals. He’s going to spread his ideals as far as he can. He’ll create art, he’ll write news stories, he’ll run for office, he’ll teach (or indoctrinate) children at public schools. He’s obsessed with getting the rest of the world to just accept the obvious truths contained in his rarely defended far-left worldview.
And then there was myself. I wanted to be left alone. My goal was to make it through school to get married and have kids and buy a house and develop my hobbies. I enjoyed arguments and wanted to change people’s minds, but I was always on the defense; it was defending this life I wanted to live from attacks that inspired me to read until I could win debates.
In the past year or two, I’ve become convinced of two things: first, that the desire to live quiet lives focused on God, family, church, friends, and neighbors is profoundly good and what we should all really want. And second, that this desire is why conservatives lose.
The First Weakness
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that we abandon what is profoundly good. Consider an analogous situation. Imagine two politicians running for governor of your state. One is a 60-year-old small business owner who has never been involved in politics but thinks there’s some corruption to clean up and runs on the platform that we need fewer dumb laws. The other is an ambitious career politician who is, naturally, the incumbent, and who campaigns on an endless spending spree.
Knowing nothing else, which of these two politicians do you vote for? The first wants to become governor reluctantly. The second lusts for the office. I should hope it’s pretty obvious that when it comes to power, we should strongly prefer people who get it reluctantly. Like the One Ring, while it is dangerous for anyone to carry, it is unquestionably less dangerous if it is carried by someone who has no interest in using it.
Here is the conservative conundrum, then: conservatives ought to engage in culture and politics despite a strong desire to avoid both and retreat to quiet indifference. We ought to run for office, and campaign for good candidates (without swearing allegiance to particular parties). We ought to do these things because we don’t want to do them.
The first weakness then is that we don’t want to sit in boring meetings, do boring election work, or research boring things like candidates. Without overcoming this good desire just enough to do these things in spite of it, conservatives will lose. We cannot afford to retreat. We can’t even afford to merely defend.
The Second Weakness
The ascendancy of the insane left (think AOC and modern campus culture) was not the result of some spontaneous change in the West. The radical Marxists who left Europe and settled in New England had a long vision in mind, and they possessed something conservatives, ironically, don’t have. They had an abundance of patience.
It seem strange that radicals would be more patient, but it does make some sense. Conservatives don’t think about things like cultural revolution. We think about vacations with our families and what we do when we retire. We don’t think about the upcoming protest season. We think about the next project at work and how we can make some money with some side business out of our garage.
The radical left has been focused on revolution while everyone else reacts with short-lived outrage at each new foray into insanity (a significant number of Americans think there is no meaningful distinction between men and women) and then quickly finds ways to accept it. Conservatives complain, but that’s all we do.
The second weakness is a lack of patience.
The Third Weakness
Every major form of media and culture is dominated by the radical left. Since politics is downstream of culture, and since culture is just religion made public, that means the dark death cult governing us is really a result of the dark death cult in our hearts.
The third weakness for conservatives is that we tend to avoid getting involved in the culture. We see that it’s evil and have no desire to contribute. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Any Christian art is relegated to Christian bubbles, and Christians have a low view of art, if we are going to be honest with each other.
So What Do We Do?
You wouldn’t go wrong reading this, to start with, but I can outline a basic idea here.
First, conservatives need to get involved in local politics. We need to meet and talk about and run for school boards and county commissions; the sorts of things we’d schedule unnecessary dental work to avoid. It’s good that we don’t want to do these things. It’s bad that we don’t do them anyway. The far left does “community organizing”. I haven’t thought of a replacement term, but conservatives would do well to get loosely organized, too. Churches should be involved in this, but this year has demonstrated that many churches are very sick, and not with a virus.
Second, conservatives need to make plans. Ambitious plans not made in ambition. We need to figure out what effect we want to have fifty years from now and work toward it. A significant amount of this work will be done in how we raise our children, and so Christian fathers must take this work very seriously. But it will not be limited to the home. The organizations we build with fellow Christians can help here.
Third, conservatives need to build culture. We need to encourage the building of culture. We need to have our children read the classics and become part of the living Western tradition. CS Lewis recommended reading two old books for each new one, and I’m not one to take CS Lewis lightly. Mike Rowe is right that kids don’t need to be forced to college to succeed in life. Still, I think he’d agree that an education in the good, the true, and the beautiful is still important.
As I haven’t spent long trying these things, I can’t vouch for them personally. I believe they are reasonable, and recent history shows that their basic form was successful by the radical anti-God left. We shouldn’t try to use them to push an equally anti-God right (the sort that turns churches into political institutions). But I think we ought to use them to rebuild where we can; creating strong families, strong churches, strong villages, and breaking down oppressive federal and state governments until they resemble their constitutional forms.
* I don’t define “conservative” in the muddy, soft, secular way it often gets defined. The name of this blog is a hint.