Conservatism; A Contemporary Oxymoron In A World Gone Mad
Jon Matthews, Chairman, Conservative Party, California, March 13, 2018
Let me preface this blog with a short history that led me to create "The Conservative Thinker." In 2007 just prior to the announcement from Barack Obama he would seek the office of the President of our Republic I began what was to culminate into a ten year run on radio. "The Conservative Syndicate" aired its first broadcast from a tiny FM outlet in Orange County, California at KTST-FM, an affiliate of American Radio Network that primarily focuses on teaching the ins and outs of radio broadcasting. The station manager at the time liked my format and offered me a free 1/2 hour every week to expound upon what I was seeing in the political arena. I remained there for about a year and a half and then teamed up with fellow Christian and radio geek Mark Christian who ran Puka Shell Studios in Garden Grove, California. Mark's knowledge and experience as a producer allowed the show to expand first to an hour weekly and then 2 hours. When I decided to change the show into a daily format Monday - Friday shortly after the 2012 election, I set up my own streaming studio out of my home. It was an exciting run, as the show was eventually carried by 9 affiliates globally, reaching approximately 3 million listeners a month in 123 countries. But something happened in 2016 that changed the entire political landscape in America, even more astounding to me than witnessing eight years of Obama attempting to "...fundamentally transform of the United States of America." That change altered my entire outlook and perspective in regard to whether or not America would recover from Obama's assault on American values and exceptionalism. That change was the election cycle that gave us Donald Trump as our 45th President.
One of the first startling revelations I received at the beginning of my 10 year in the radio forum is the lack of willingness by the Christian Church to engage in any real dialogue regarding the advancement of immorality as a civil right from progressive elements hell bent on destroying the very rights that protect their existence and vocation. I witnessed and heard on a far too regular basis from pastors all across California (I should mention I have also been in ministry for 23 years, half of those in some capacity as a pastor that has allowed me some level of access not accessible to the public) that to engage in discourse from the pulpit on the pressing political social issues of our day was taboo. The excuses were varied in their articulation but the three themes generally presented were; 1) fear of government reprisal (IRS) 2) fear of losing congregants, 3) ignorance on what to say. Contemporary Christianity has become a seeker friendly institution where speaking of evil and God's judgment against is now viewed as counter-productive to "saving the lost." Rather than "...creating disciples of all nations" the Church established by Jesus Christ in Matthew Chapter 28 has become a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme where celebrity ministries make virtually millions on their books, tapes and conferences. Millions of "believers" watch their shows and flock to their events looking to receive their share of the Christian blessing and prosperity absent any real effort on their part other than becoming "partners" in this business enterprise. I often refer to this as "The Industrial Christian Complex."
Because of this one of the projects I and a few other colleagues have undertaken is "The Nehemiah Project" a curriculum designed specifically to admonish, exhort and then educate pastors and church leaders on how to articulate social issues at the pulpit from a biblical perspective. You would think this a no-brainer given these issues are about good versus evil, right versus wrong, but in an age where prosperity and blessing are the themes that drive church membership and the subsequent wealth from celebrity ministers that peddle books, tapes and conferences that promise blessing absent one's participation the message and purpose of the Gospel has been all but lost. This is a battle I undertaken since my inception into radio.
The 2nd startling revelation was much more recent as I mentioned above and impacted me so much it caused me to surrender my calling as an armchair quarterback behind the microphone and take a place at the line of scrimmage in the sport of activism. I am speaking of the revelation there exists today a massive lack of understanding by those confessing to be conservatives. Very few who claim the mantle can define what conservatism is much less articulate and defend its principles and values. America has been weakened by the absence of the Church in battle but the war is being lost by those who choose to engage the enemy because they know not how to fight. This has allowed the left and their media lapdogs to successfully restructure the paradigms that for 2 1/2 centuries preserved our "...more perfect union," using deconstructive arguments to redefine what it means to be a conservative, which is the very premise and foundation of which our Republic was established.
Today we watch the news trot out warmongering neocons, globalist establishment operatives and socioeconomic moderates under the guise of conservatism when their views agree with the leftist collective components and white racist nationalists when they don't (which seldom occurs actually). This cross-branding licenses attacks on real conservatives. We are now portrayed by not only almost all of the leftist propaganda machine but a good cross section of the Republican Party as "the extreme element" of the right. We are branded as racists, bigoted homophobes who want to keep women barefoot and pregnant, blacks in the inner cities and Muslims and Hispanics in the countries from which they came.
This is what troubles me. The Conservative movement has no movement. It has no direction because it hasn't yet even figured out the game. It is consistently caught like a deer in the headlights, often left limping off the road after being struck to lick its wounds hoping to be left alone to heal before the wolves smell their blood and pounce. With that I offer this discourse on conservatism. This is a series of blogs on the subject of conservatism.
In a recent article at VOX, Editor-At-Large Ezra Klein recently penned another of his long winded commentaries titled; "What Donald Trump Understands About Conservatism." Here is an excerpt from that article with my response and comments.
“On February 23, President Donald Trump took the stage at the annual CPAC conference, the conservative movement’s premier event, and Trump had, in the past, felt dismissed by its leading lights. It was a slight he had no intention of letting his audience forget. “Do you remember I started running and people would say, ‘Are you sure he’s a conservative?’” Trump said. “I think now we’ve proved that I’m a conservative, right?” Their rapturous response was proof of his claim. Conservatism, writ large, has embraced Donald Trump. He is a conservative. But what, then, is conservatism?
In his book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump, political theorist Corey Robin offers a very particular definition of conservatism. It is, he says, “…the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.” In this telling, the core of conservatism is an attachment to a certain social order and an assault against those who would seek to upend it. Robin writes:
‘People who aren’t conservative often fail to realize this, but conservatism really does speak to and for people who have lost something. It may be a landed estate or the privileges of white skin, the unquestioned authority of a husband or the untrammeled rights of a factory owner. The loss may be as material as money or as ethereal [delicate] as a sense of standing. It may be a loss of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place; it may, when compared with what the conservative retains, be small. Even so, it is a loss and nothing is ever so cherished as that which we no longer possess.’
This is the way Trump is a conservative. On any given day, he may or may not express the policy views associated with the American right — he will muse about raising taxes on hedge funds, or passing gun control into law, or slapping deep tariffs on foreign steel. But Trump always and everywhere speaks for the experience of having power, of seeing it threatened, and of being determined to win it back. His project is not to make America great; it is to make America great again, to return to a past moment when he and the people at his rallies felt like they were winning. This is the core of his conservatism. And there is a reason it is flourishing now.”
POINT 1: Klein shrewdly uses Corey Robin’s assessment on conservatism to deconstruct and then redefine conservatism as an ideology premised on fear of change. Klein generalizes the difference between a conservative and a progressive is how they view the future. Conservatives fear losing their place in society whereas progressives seek socioeconomic equality as the means to eradicate fear. Klein does what the left has become so adept at doing; defining their opposition by terms and conditions that more truthfully apply to them by creating a perverted narrative.
This narrative contends it is conservatives who are not a real Americans (“That’s not who we are”, “Those are not our values”) but because of our “fear” we are; Racists, White Nationalists (Supremacists, Bigots, Homophobes and Neocons (Those who intervene in the affairs of others for power and profit).
The proper political term for this narrative is “creative destruction”. Creative destruction; creating a new ruling class through wealth redistribution by destroying the infrastructure that presently stands. Creative Destruction is the doctrine of collective ideologies and theologies, advanced through community organizing.
Saul Alinsky lists in his book, “Rules For Radicals” lists 13 rules for progressive organizing. Rule #13: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Conservatism is the target. Those who embrace conservatism are the enemies of change and must be polarized, ostracized, exiled and eventually eradicated because they pose a threat to equality.
POINT 2: The reason the left has been so successful in advancing “creative destruction” is their ability to implement “identity politics.”Identity politics isn’t just about Republican versus Democrat. It’s about:·
In other words, it is about progressivism [modern liberalism] versus conservatism. Identity politics has placed America is in a constant defense mode which elicits emotion over reason and in turn has created a massive level of ignorance by those who claim the conservative mantel about what conservatism is what it represents and most importantly how to articulate it. It is ignorance on par with progressivism. Because of this we have the Gruber Theorem: [the stupidity of the American voter] giving us the volatility that divides the country politically, ideologically and even theologically.
POINT 3: So we must answer Ezra Klein’s question; “What Is Conservatism?”
Using excerpts from the American Affairs Journal "What Is Conservatism?" by Ofir Haivry, Yoram Hazony published on May 20, 2017
“The year 2016 marked a dramatic change of political course for the English-speaking world, with Britain voting for independence from Europe and the United States electing a president promising a revived American nationalism. Critics see both events as representing a dangerous turn toward “illiberalism” [lack of classical liberalism] and deplore the apparent departure from “liberal principles” or “liberal democracy,” themes that surfaced repeatedly in conservative publications over the past year.”
MY NOTE: "Classical liberalism" is an ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade. It is premised on the belief of the individual over collectivism.
[PARAPHRASED] “It is now evident these liberal principles contribute little or nothing to those institutions that were for centuries the bedrock of the Anglo-American political order: nationalism, religious tradition, the Bible as a source of political principles and wisdom, and the family. Indeed, as liberalism has emerged victorious from the battles of the last century, the logic of its doctrines has increasingly turned liberals against all of these conservative institutions. On both of these fronts, the conservative and liberal principles of the Anglo-American tradition are now painfully at cross-purposes. The twentieth-century alliance between conservatism and liberalism is proving increasingly difficult to maintain.” [FROM CLASSIC TO MODERN LIBERALISM]
MY NOTE: Modern Liberalism: Also referred to as “social liberalism” Modern liberalism is a combination of social justice and mixed economy. It is the belief government has the responsibility to provide for “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” rather than the individual.
[PARAPHRASED] “Among the effects of the long alliance between conservatism and liberalism has been a tendency of political figures, journalists, and academics to slip back and forth between conservative terms and ideas and liberal ones as if they were interchangeable. And until recently, there seemed to be no great harm in this. Now, however, it is becoming obvious that this lack of clarity is crippling our ability to think about a host of issues, from immigration and foreign wars to the content of the Constitution and the place of religion in education and public life. In these and other areas, America, Britain, and their allies can neither recognize the difficulties ahead nor develop appropriate responses to them without a strong and intellectually capable conservatism. But to have a strong and intellectually capable conservatism, we must be able to see clearly what the Anglo-American conservative tradition is and what it is about. And to do this, we have to disentangle it from its old opponent—liberalism.”
Conservatism is not:
It should now become a little easier to recognize, acknowledge and state Donald Trump is far from a conservative. While Ezra Klein may well be correct in his assessment Trump has hijacked conservatism by showing instances of conservative thought and action, Trump has for the most part represented the very essence of a moderate who interchanges ideology to fit an agenda. Anyone who claims to be a conservative need not become frantic but we do need to answer the call to defend what we conservatives really believe and represent. Only then can we realistically "Make America Great Again."
Jon Matthews is the former producer and host of the "Conservative Syndicate" Radio Show. Jon now serves as the current Chairman of the Conservative Party, California. He also serves as Public Information Officer for the Conservative Party, USA. Jon is Secretary for Eagle Forum Orange County, California Chapter as well as Regional Coordinator for LA County Gateway Cities for Election Integrity Project, California. His upcoming book, "The Day The Music Died; How Apostasy and Communism Are Destroying America" is due to be released this year.