Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast wrote how conservatives are on the wrong side of history on just about everything. Apparently we don't even like sliced bread.
Consider the great political earthquakes throughout history and imagine the contemporaneous—not retrospective, as we are seeing in these phony paeans to Mandela, but in-the-moment—conservative posture. The conservative position was wrong nearly every time—not just wrong, but often morally shocking from our later perspective.
Do you support the American Revolution? I should hope so. You would not have, however, had you been a conservative in 1785. American Loyalists, perhaps 20 percent of the white population of the day, were devoted to king and crown for mostly the usual reasons: They were older, better established, had more money, were scared of change.
How about the abolition of slavery? I reckon you’re on board with that. Well, Lord knows you wouldn’t have been if you’d been among the 1860 conservatives who started a war over it (and whose apologists today insist the Civil War was not about slavery).Over at the federalist, David Haransyi took him to task. For instance on the Revolution:
Indeed, a revolution led by the American gentry hit all the touchstones of the modern American Left: lower taxes, muskets, individual liberty and unfettered economic activity.While I assumed he would simply roll his eyes and take to countering the inanity of each charge, he took a different tack. Indeed he appeared to start out that way:
Do you oppose fascism? I should hope so. You would not, however, had you been a liberal in 1920s when the American Left was busy praising this new ideology of coercion and statism emerging in Europe.
Do you oppose communism? I should hope so. But if you would not have, however, had you been a liberal in 1920s and 1930s. Not only would you be rationalizing but often celebrating the oppressive regimes that were murdering tens of millions of people in the name of “progress.”
Do you oppose needless war and bloodshed? I should hope so. But you would not, however, had you been a liberal in early 20th century, as you would probably have voted for a bitterly racist president who embroiled America in the one the most illogical, consequential and bloodiest conflicts in mankind’s history.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, and so on.
It does can confusing, though. Does the racism of the early progressive movement count? How about the nihilism of the 60s Malthusian? Remember the America Firsters! Forget Japanese internment camps. It must take a selective memory to always — “always” — find yourself on the right side of history.This is true and we on the right are just as guilty of it. There are two problems, one are those who inaccurately or simply are ignorant of history, the "doomed to repeat it" crowd. But there are also those who know plenty of history but wrongly attribute the time and culture of the past to today.
It's very easy for us to correctly point out that the KKK was founded by southern democrats, but is it useful? Do any of us really believe that the modern left is ready to put on sheets and start lynching blacks? Moreover, we do know that much of the left DOES believe the right is ready to don said sheets and grab a burning cross. Do we want to employ the tactics and muddled thinking of the left?
Whatever the history of the labels of "left" and "right" that doesn't really affect what the current liberal and conservative movements are for and against NOW. Indeed as David pointed out:
Now, it would take considerable effort to untangle the muddled revisionism of Tomasky’s piece. For starters, it rests on the idea that American philosophical divisions have remained static for hundreds of years.Now he does dismantle many of the historical tropes that Tomasky points out:
But let’s just take the inane insinuation that conservatives would support slavery if only they had an opportunity. It was the flourishing of classical liberalism that helped bring about the end of slavery around the world – for starters. And these days actual ‘liberals’ like Adam Smith, John Locke and Frederic Bastiat are extolled by libertarians (“kookoos” who peddle, according to Tomasky, an “overrated” intellectual consistency) and many conservatives, but rarely by the modern American Left.But more importantly, he looks at what the left is today and what are they trying to accomplish versus what conservatives are trying to accomplish. The question really is, what policies and laws are we enacting now and are they successful? And are we even defining the terms "Left" and "Right" by standards we can all agree with? Even Tomasky can't even seem to be accurate on that:
But while Tomasky’s understanding of conservatism is misleading, his definition of liberalism is humorous: liberals are people, he explains, “who weren’t happy with things the way they were and saw they had to change, and who have been on the side of personal liberation and de-concentration of political power. Those people are virtually by definition liberals and reformers and radicals.”
(Good to know those who advocate reforming Social Security, Medicare and abortion laws will find ourselves on the right side of history.)Exactly. We also embrace change if we feel that the change will work. Tomasky wants to use association to invalidate your beliefs and we conservatives love to play that game too. The point isn't to show how Kennedy was actually very conservative on taxes, for example, so ha ha, you're entire world view is invalid. The point is to show how lower taxes benefit the economy. That is a conservative position, the opposite is a liberal position, as defined currently in the modern world. Perhaps it was different 50 years ago. Perhaps it was even more different 100 years ago. That's not what it is now.
Just because you find out someone you find vile in history did something you liked, that doesn't mean everything you believe in is invalid nor does it mean that you support the horrible things that person in history did. Just because I am against Mussolini fascism, doesn't mean I don't want trains to run on time. And if I do want trains to run on time, I am not Mussolini nor do I support fascism.
The right side of history is not determined by who was labeled "left" or "right" at the time, but by who did what things that benefited mankind. History will figure it out in time, we just have to adopt those things that worked. The left gets very selective or downright lies about who was on what side. The programs like Social Security were enacted in a very different way at a very different time than what the country is now. People who were for or against it then are nothing like the people who are for or against it now.
We'll never beat the left by playing their games and by their rules. The solutions we offer have to stand on their own. They are good solutions, but we have to work hard to show it to the masses.
They are good reads in contrasting thinking. Tomasky has the typical leftist thinking of a child while Harsanyi takes a much broader and more mature approach rather than playing tit-for-tat.