Two smart conservatives on what conservatism is about:
"What do we, as American conservatives, want to conserve? The answer is simple: the pillars of American exceptionalism. Our country has always been exceptional. It is freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth. These qualities are the bequest of our Founding and of our cultural heritage. They have always marked America as special, with a unique role and mission in the world: as a model of ordered liberty and self-government and as an exemplar of freedom and a vindicator of it, through persuasion when possible and force of arms when absolutely necessary. " [from RICHARD LOWRY & RAMESH PONNURU, "An Exceptional Debate: The Obama administration’s assault on American identity", National Review]
I appreciate this statement's clarity in revealing a fundamental flaw with contemporary "American Conservatism." The core at the center of conservatism, according to Mrs. Lowry and Ponnuru, is the assertion that the United States is "freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth." The problem is that Lowry and Ponnuru have no real factual basis for the comparative nature of this assertion (and in fact, in an online response to their critics, they admit it is hyperbole.) Instead of facts and accurate history, what they have is faith that their assertion is true, a desire to believe it is so. And that faith, that willingness to believe something just because it is desirable, that core of conservatism, is pretty much the worse thing about "America" as a nation. "American exceptionalism" is the smiley face sticker covering the black heart of the soul of a nation that has always been about self-righteously enacting the principle that might is right, that those with the most power have the right to take what they want from those with less. It is a faith or belief that some Americans of every generation have had to believe in order to live with the ugly facts of American expansion. Thus, it is acceptable, even providential, to slaughter and/or exile the people who were here when we arrived because "God" gave this land to the white English speakers. Getting rid of the native Americans and taking over their land was not ethnic cleansing, but the "progress" of "Civilization" over "Nature"! And if you build an economy on the backs of forced slave labor, the most evil kind of social exploitation, and oppressed immigrant workers, that's just the natural order of things, justified by either the Bible or "evolution," depending on the audience. And when you provoke a fight with a weaker neighbor and then take almost half their land at the point of a gun, it is an example of "Manifest Destiny," merely the acceptance of what was granted by our benevolent God. The examples that undermine the Conservative's narcissistic delusion of America could pile up of course: the suppression of democracy and the democratic will, the hidden concentration of power behind the corporate form, the harsh centralization effected by the totalization of a money economy, the soft centralization of the consumer culture mass media. But the point is this: Conservatism is based on "American exceptionalism," which is necessarily based on blind faith or willful ignorance, one or the other of which is required for the kind of self-righteousness that enables people to justify immoral, might-makes-right actions. Thus, Lowry and Ponnuru have added to the mountain of evidence that "American Conservatism" is a morally bankrupt cover for the interests of America's ruthless plutocratic ruling class.