There was a time when National Review was the foremost conservative magazine in the United States. It was founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley with a mission statement that included (and can be summarized by) the phrase, "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop." This is terrible given that it assumes defeat. Instead of yelling at the left, “Stop,” a better goal for conservatives would be to actually stop them.
As bad as merely yelling "Stop" is, National Review does not even live up to it. Like a reader ignoring Batman's timeline shift as he remains in his twenties for eighty years, so too does National Review expect readers to pretend they have consistent values. In 1996 they published an article comparing homosexuality to necrophilia. In 2015, less than twenty years later, they published their nominally conservative case for gay marriage. Either the first or the second claim was wrong, but given how much they differ, they cannot be said to be based on a consistent principle or ideology.
National Review’s faults are further evidenced by their recent article "A Better Way to Fight Critical Race Theory." What is author Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s better alternative to banning it? Teaching it in public schools.
While I hate the conservative trend of responding to whatever the left does rather than being proactive, I am choosing to focus on critical race theory (CRT) because Woodson's article is baffling. There can be legitimate criticisms made of the push to ban CRT: Such legislation might not prevent teachers from teaching CRT. Is it prevalent in the states banning it, or only in states that will never forbid it? Will this legislation embolden its teaching in the states that don't restrict it? Much of the legislation presented thus far has been shoddily crafted.
However, Woodson does not use any of these reasons. He simply says that banning ideas is bad. Rather than dismissing this idea as absurd, the government must spread the left's propaganda for them because of “the free competition of ideas,” as Woodson phrases it. If he were arguing against banning it from private schools specifically, his point would make more sense, but government-run schools are not the “free market of ideas,” as some conservatives allege. Instead, Woodson takes the position many establishment Republicans profess: “Socialism” is when the government does something besides destroy foreign countries or give money to corporations.
Woodson continues, "At the end of the day, critical race theory is just that: a theory. And it should remain solely a theory in our schools." Really? We are supposed to present this evil theory to our youth and tell them to form an opinion on it - a theory about which Woodson admits, "Most of its proponents insist that all black people are perpetually oppressed victims, and all white people are our oppressors."
Perhaps even more bizarre is that he advocates for the presentation of CRT to students without comment on its merits, like he claims we do with the teaching of fascism. Public schools do not teach students about fascism as an ideology; they merely teach them that it is bad and that fascist states governed Italy and Germany during the Second World War. This is why Antifa ascribes the fascist label to Trump and right-wingers broadly, whereas conservatives may tell you that members of Antifa are the real fascists. Neither of these claims is true, and very few members of either group would be able to define the term “fascism” correctly if asked.
National Review is hardly the only facet of the conservative movement with this problem.
American conservatism largely assumes defeat is inevitable and merely seeks to slow the decline; however, in recent years, it has largely relegated itself to "owning" the left for being hypocrites while the left beats them at every turn.
Take, for example, Dinesh D'Souza's documentaries portraying Democrats as the real racists, or Donald Trump's Platinum Plan, which would have given a half-trillion dollars, not to poor communities, but to black communities specifically. Political commentator, author, and Twitter troll Michael Malice frequently notes, "Conservatism is progressivism driving the speed limit."
Ideological predecessors to contemporary conservatism also have a history of defeatism. The Cold War's Domino Theory and Containment Strategy can be summarized as thus: "We must stop each communist revolution because we will not be able to flip communist countries back." Since some countries will eventually fall, following this theory to its logical conclusion would imply that a communist world is inevitable. This Cold War philosophy is not dissimilar from the beliefs of those conservatives who constantly shift their positions in a meek attempt to slow what they perceive as the leftward march of history.
Many online right-wingers call anyone with hope naive. They see how far left America has gone; they observe that conservatives have been losing for decades; and conclude that all hope is lost. I don't see it this way. Examine the Cold War once more. The Communist Bloc collapsed. The opposite of the Domino Theory happened: once one communist country collapsed, many followed like dominoes. It is possible for, as the late Andrew Breitbart said, "a center-right nation to fight for its soul." Perhaps we are no longer center-right, but that does not mean we should stop fighting. We can still win, and we can still save our country, as long as we do more than yell at the destroyers to "Slow down!" //
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