The Failed Project of Conservatism

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

In building the case for his Jacobite history of the world, Mencius Moldbug addresses “the failed project of conservatism”:

This brings us to the failed project of conservatism, which puts its money in a slightly different place — the proposition that all the concessions made to the W-force in the past are good and necessary, but any further concessions are bad and unnecessary. The Confederate theologian R.L. Dabney dispensed with this quite eloquently:
It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader.

This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its “bark is worse than its bite,” and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it “in wind,” and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip.

No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to donkeys. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

I’m sure Rev. Dabney would have regarded the era of Ingrid Newkirk with great amusement.

However, note how thoroughly hoist on his own petard he is. The proposition that suffrage is a bad idea, period, may not be one you regard as defensible — but it is surely more defensible than the proposition that all men should be able to vote, but not all women. (Or white men and not black men, another proposition of which the Rev. Dabney was convinced. Note that this bastion also proved impractical to defend.)

Leave a Reply