George Will, who never met a toupee he didn’t like, is one of a few old white men that I would really enjoy not having to listen to or read. Why can’t he be like his compatriot Thomas Sowell, and just go away already? I mean, I wouldn’t mind him showing up, in his ridiculous toupee and pomposity, in a Ken Burns documentary, hashing out warmed-over historical facts or baseball nonsense.
As a pundit George Will hasn’t been relevant in decades, yet for some reason, since he’s been a beltway insider for those same decades, he’s foisted up on some “republican intellectual” pedestal along with resident ghoul Charles Krauthammer and evangelical clown Cal Thomas.
All of these beltway intellectuals weren’t the biggest Trump supporters, and don’t look to change their minds any time soon. But there is a reason for this disconnect, and not only because they’re out of touch with society at large. George Will surmises this reason is because “real” conservatism was “[…]soiled by scowling primitives whose irritable gestures lack mental ingredients.” He also calls them “vulgarians”, my stars!
Curiously, he then adds that conservatism was “susceptible” to hijacking. Which is odd considering the previous sentence in which conservatism was “soiled” by said primitive vulgarians? This may just be a semantic quibble on my part, but it’s worth noting, nonetheless.
Though it is worth noting that he didn’t imply that Republicanism was soiled or hijacked, merely conservatism.
It is after the opening condemnation of modern conservatism that Mr. Will dusts of the corpse of William F. Buckley for a history lesson on the founding of “modern” conservatism.
But what’s odd in this retelling is that you soon realize how little conservatism and the Republican political beast have changed in the near seven decades since Buckley’s grand gift of conservatism.
To say that modern conservatism has been “soiled” by primitives and vulgarians is absurd. They are merely the latest, most recent chaff that was scooped up to keep the Republican Party relevant in the modern era. Last time it was TEA Party-er’s, Evangelicals, Religious Right, White People…wait this list is redundant. This has been the same lot of wedge issue voters that has been tapped, and yet now it is seen as unpleasant?
George Will need not look very far within his own sphere to see that the vast majority of the conservative pundits were more concerned with “winning” no matter the cost than actually believing the ideology taking hold and sprouting grand political fortunes. I’ve yet to read that Trump shook the United States to its core with the core principles of conservatism and that is what led him to victory. No, it was the tired whore of populism that won him the day. The ennui laden pendulum of the electorate wearily mumbling “Well, we gave a Democrat a turn at the wheel, why not the Republican”. How many election campaigns have been run on the notion of changing how things are run in Washington D.C. or making America great again? This is not a new concept by far.
To Will, Buckley infused “[…] conservatism with brio, bringing elegance to its advocacy and altering the nation’s trajectory while having a grand time.” Which is where conservatism has largely stayed in the past seventy years? Fox News is essentially just that quote writ large.
Along with that brio came the eventually dimming of the bulb as “Buckley’s conservatism” tried to impart the greatness of the robber baron ideology to the unwashed, under-educated masses. How can George Will then be surprised that in the constant grasp of populism and shoveling of a smaller and smaller pile of political chaff wouldn’t lead to the rise of Trump and the primitive vulgarians?
This is more amusing when you realize that Will played a part in the hastening of this rise with his support for Ronald Reagan, who approaches sainthood status amongst conservatives on a near constant basis. Who better represents the conservative populism more than the Reagan administration?
To say nothing of the tenants of “Buckley’s conservatism” that has remained unchanged since their inception. Will wants to act as though the ideology has moved on from some of the more…problematic…elements, but that would be false. Modern conservatism is still just a racist, nationalistic, sectarian and puritanical as it was when it was infused with Buckley’s hot tightrope walk between elitism and populism. Which is where I supposed George Will thinks himself to be as well? To cool to be called a racist? He’s pondering on the greater thoughts of the day?
Are these faux conservatives that have soiled and hijacked conservatism any less because they tore of the mask of populism and elitism and just let the core tenants hang out in the open? Why mask your hatred with stuffy words and philosophizing on the current state of things? How many ways can you say that “the other” is taking and taking from them and then be upset when they connect the dots then do something about it come election time. For good or ill, it doesn’t matter to the vast Republican Party, they just want to win, and ideology be damned.
Funnily, Will has plenty of blame to throw around, even going so far as to credit a Buckley autobiographer Whittaker Chambers, for using the book to infuse conservatism “[…]with a sour, whiney, complaining, crybaby populism. It is the screechy and dominant tone of the loutish faux conservatism.
Doesn’t George Will’s entire column read like that though? Pissing and moaning like a giant baby about Buckley’s conservatism’s loss of innocence to a puerile orange political monster that he helped create? That if only modern conservatives were high-minded we wouldn’t be in this situation.
This article reads more like a conclusion came to in search of reasons as to the “Why?” when it is so readily apparent how modern conservatism go to this point. At the very least it is an example of the failure of the ideology’s supposed intellectuals, like George Will, to disseminate the virtues of Buckley conservatism. But instead, the ideology is lost to the notion of winning at all costs, so don’t expect a return to that “infectious cheerfulness and unapologetic embrace of high culture” that Will kept alluding to.