Thursday, May 18, 2006

Conservatives Just Thinking About Tomorrow... When There'll Be Sun

Christopher Lasch denounces Polyanna conservatives, bringing to mind not only that charming little girl, but also the no-worries theme song from Annie:

Not only do conservatives have no understanding of modern capitalism, they have a distorted understanding of the “traditional values” they claim to defend. The virtues they want to revive are the pioneer virtues: rugged individualism, boosterism, rapacity, a sentimental deference to women, and a willingness to resort to force. These values are “traditional” only in the sense that they are celebrated in the traditional myth of the Wild West and embodied in the Western hero, the prototypical American lurking in the background, often in the very foreground, of conservative ideology. In their implications and inner meaning, these individualist values are themselves profoundly anti-traditional. They are the values of the man on the make, in flight from his ancestors, from the family claim, from everything that ties him down and limits his freedom of movement. What is traditional about the rejection of tradition, continuity, and rootedness? A conservatism that sides with the forces of restless mobility is a false conservatism. So is the conservatism false that puts on a smiling face, denounces “doom sayers,” and refuses to worry about the future. Conservatism appeals to a pervasive and legitimate desire in contemporary society for order, continuity, responsibility, and discipline; but it contains nothing with which to satisfy these desires, It pays lip service to “traditional values,” but the policies with which it is associated promise more change more innovation more growth, more technology, more weapons, more addictive drugs. Instead of confronting the forces in modern life that make for disorder, it proposes merely to make Americans feel good about themselves. Ostensibly rigorous and realistic, contemporary conservatism is an ideology of denial. Its slogan is the slogan of Alfred E. Neuman: “What? Me worry?” Its symbol is a smile button: that empty round face devoid of features except for two tiny eyes, eyes too small to see anything clearly, and a big smile: the smile of someone who is determined to keep smiling through thick and thin.

via Rod Dreher

Lasch's words are a bit hyperbolic, but conservatives wouldn't attract such accusations of free-market messianism if they did more than trumpet tax cuts, low unemployment figures, and a high DJIA at The End of History. The theocons get all the negative press attention while econo-cons get most of their agenda passed, fiscal responsibility budget demands excepted.

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