In the online version of The Chronicle Review of Education, Corey Robin (10-24-10, in “Why Conservatives Love War”) reminds us, this year is the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of The Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno, et al. Five years later in 1955, Richard Hofstadter added support to their thesis in “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt,” describing that deeply vengeful and violent citizen who claims faith in calm restraint while agitating for policies that “would abolish the very institutions with which he appears to identify himself.” Such persons are prone to “violence, anarchic impulse and chaotic destructiveness.” They delight in war, hoping violent uproar will erupt in the streets. As Hofstadter writes, they show “little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism.”
I insist, real conservatives have usually advocated a most careful circumspection prior to decision, and restraint in pursuit of policies or actions that can bring sudden, big change with unforeseen results. This attitude is a sensible and necessary part of governing. We cannot do without such contribution to rational debate on the floors of legislation in our states and congressional houses. Most governing bodies in the U. S. have two houses, following Ben Franklin’s homely demonstration of cooling hot coffee from his cup into the saucer under it, and back to the cup. Similarly, our governments have vibrated in debate between two attitudes: forging ahead versus restraint.
Last June, Robin notes, Andrew Sullivan blogged about the predatory radicalism that consumed the Republican Party after 9/11 and turned the Bush/Cheney regime into “the perfect pseudo-conservative administration,” which, with its Neo-conservative enablers, pushed for wars and torture while shredding the Constitution and nearly bankrupting the nation. During this time, Sullivan indicates, Tea Party types were supporting all this. He concludes that the typical Tea Party backer is “the opposite of a natural conservative at peace with the world as it is.” [Italics mine, indicating that genuine conservatives have no utopian yearnings for a Golden Age in the past any more than they share with progressives a yearning for a Social Paradise in the future.]
Corey Robin continues: “While the contrast between the true conservative and the pseudo-conservative has been drawn in different ways—the first reads Burke, the second doesn’t read; the first defends ancient liberties, the second derides them; the first seeks to limit government, the second to strengthen it—the distinction often comes down to the question of violence. Where the pseudo-conservative is captivated by war, Sullivan claims that the true conservative “wants peace and is content only with peace.” The true conservative’s endorsements of war, such as they are, are the weariest of concessions to reality. He knows that we live and love in the midst of great evil. That evil must be resisted, sometimes by violent means. All things being equal, he would like to see a world without violence. But all things are not equal, and he is not in the business of seeing the world as he’d like it to be.” Paradoxically, today’s bearers of the “conservative “title draw power and wealth from conflict and the ruin of democracy. They despise democracy and have hoodwinked their lowly, ignorant followers.