Some of my conservative friends who did not support Donald Trump are nevertheless inclined to gloat over the misery his election has caused among liberals. This tweet from James Matthew Wilson typifies the reaction I’ve been hearing:
After 8 years of liberal hedonist triumphalism, time for a little schadenfreude Liberal media in meltdown over Trump https://t.co/c5ZWOgXJDD
— James Matthew Wilson (@JMWSPT) November 10, 2016
I don’t mean to pick on Wilson, much of whose work I admire. He’s only one of many conservatives having a good time crowing over the defeat of liberalism.
But I can’t join in on the fun. At least these liberals have the good sense to feel their own pain, as John Lennon advised, unlike those conservatives who blithely look past their own ruin to engage in schadenfreude. I imagine them laughing at the damage done to properties along the riverbank as the swollen waters rush the raft they are riding toward the falls.
Conservatives have greater reason to weep than liberals. Progressivism will come back from this defeat stronger than before. The sense that Bernie Sanders might have fared better against Trump than Hillary Clinton did is going to strengthen the left wing of the Democratic Party. Look for Elizabeth Warren to assume a leadership role in the years ahead. Michael Moore senses an opportunity.
Conservatism, on the other hand, has been crushed. We will not see a revival of conservatism as a factor in real politics during my lifetime. All that will remain is what Albert Jay Nock used to call “a remnant,” irrelevant to the national political dialogue. There will be no political party to which it can attach itself. The man who has commandeered the Republican Party and captured the election is as far from being a conservative as a man can get.
What do I mean by a “conservative”? Andrew J. Bacevich’s definition will do nicely for me:
- a commitment to individual liberty, tempered by the conviction that genuine freedom entails more than simply an absence of restraint;
- a belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the rule of law;
- veneration for our cultural inheritance combined with a sense of stewardship for Creation;
- a reluctance to discard or tamper with traditional social arrangements;
- respect for the market as the generator of wealth combined with a wariness of the market’s corrosive impact on humane values;
- a deep suspicion of utopian promises, rooted in an appreciation of the sinfulness of man and the recalcitrance of history.
Does that sound to anyone like a description of Donald Trump? Would it not be easier to fit that definition to, say, Jimmy Carter than to our new Republican President?
Conservatives are the ones who should bemoan the election of such an anti-conservative man. A tear or two, a sad sigh, at least would be evidence that they are still alive, having suffered a devastating loss. Anyone for whom “the permanent things” matter should thank God that those things are permanent. They’ll have to be around for a long time before they receive any notice in the public forum again.