Left and Right

The Three Failed Utopias of the Establishment Right

By Michael Lind, American Compass, from October, 2020

In March 2016, as Donald Trump was headed toward securing the nomination of the Republican party for president at the Republican national convention in July, I published a piece in The National Interest about the collapse of the establishment Republican agenda.  Today, on the verge of the 2020 election, my essay is as relevant as ever:

…[T]oday’s orthodox conservatism consists almost entirely of radical utopian schemes to revolutionize America and the world. So-called “movement conservatism” or “fusionism” in its present form is, in fact, an alliance of three distinct utopian movements in economics, domestic policy and foreign policy. All three crusades are doomed to fail in the real world.

The first crusade, I noted back in 2016, is the radical economic utopianism of the libertarians:

The conservative economic program doesn’t aim to conserve anything. It seeks to blow up almost all existing U.S. economic policies, whether in the realms of social insurance, regulation or taxation, and replace them with far-fetched and mostly untried voucher and privatization schemes dreamed up by libertarian ideologues…The libertarian right wants to burn American domestic policy to the ground and start over.

The second crusade is the doomed effort of the shrinking evangelical Protestant “moral majority to repeal the sexual revolution of the second half of the twentieth century:

Strictly speaking, the religious right’s agenda has been counter-revolutionary, seeking to restore the sexual norms that prevailed as recently in the 1950s, when abortion was illegal, homosexuals were persecuted as criminals or lobotomized as lunatics, and premarital sex and divorce were scandalous. But a counter-revolutionary movement that has no prospect of success becomes just another kind of utopianism.

Last but not least is the utopianism of the neoconservatives who call for bombing, droning and occupying other countries until they became liberal democracies:

If the word “conservative” means anything at all, it refers in foreign policy to cautious, anti-utopian Realpolitik, the kind symbolized by statesmen like Disraeli and Bismarck and Eisenhower and Nixon. But thanks to George W. Bush and the neoconservative advisers who eclipsed Republican realists like Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft, American “conservatism” came to be identified with the utterly unconservative project of unprovoked wars to topple autocrats in the hope of spreading a global democratic revolution. This radical utopian project…has backfired and spread chaos exploited by jihadists from Iraq to Syria and Libya…Neoconservative democratic revolutionary crusading owes more to the revolutionary mentality of anticommunist socialists in the neoconservative movement and their allies among European social democrats than to the more pragmatic policies of FDR or Eisenhower.

These deranged schemes have been projects of elite conservative apparatchiks, not Republican voters:


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